The competition for the replacement of the 4 Dutch Walrus submarines is approaching the end

After several undecided years, the replacement of the Royal Netherlands Navy's Walrus submarines has reached a crucial milestone with the publication of Letter B.

Like many European countries, the Netherlands severely neglected its armed forces after the Cold War ended in the early 90s. Thus, the Dutch defense effort rose from 2,4% of GDP in 1990 to barely more than 1% in 2015. Even after having made the commitment to reach the 2% threshold in 2014 within the framework of the NATO summit in Cardiff, Amsterdam devoted only 1,4% of its GDP to its armies in 2021.

In fact, many modernization programs for Dutch military equipment had to be postponed, spread over time and even cancelled, especially since the country, a partner in the JSF program, saw its military budget largely punctured by the acquisition of the 38 F -35A, order increased to 46 then 52 devices later. This was particularly the case for the program aimed at replacing the 4 Walrus-class submarines that entered service with the Royal Netherlands Navy between 1992 and 1994, and whose planned withdrawal was to take place from 2023.

Launched in 2014, this program initially aimed to replace the 4 vessels by 2025. However, in 2018, Letter B, i.e. the precise specifications distributed to the selected manufacturers, had still not been sent. This was finally sent in December 2019 to the 3 main European manufacturers in this field: the German TKMS, the Swedish Kockums and the French Naval Group.

The Royal Netherlands Navy operates 4 Walrus-class submarines which entered service between 1992 and 1994
The Royal Netherlands Navy operates 4 Walrus-class submarines which entered service between 1992 and 1994

Since then, between the consequences of the Covid crisis, then the upheavals caused by the war in Ukraine, the subject had more or less remained frozen, even if the three manufacturers have regularly communicated to showcase the strengths of their respective models in this competition.

It is also indisputably the war in Ukraine, and the return of tensions with Russia, particularly in the North Sea, which today allows this program to take a long-awaited step.


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