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Singapore navy launches second and third Invincible-class submarines

Named Impeccable and Illustrious, the new Type 218SG submarines are expected to be delivered from 2023.

Singapore navy launches second and third Invincible-class submarines

Illustrious, one of the Invincible-class submarines launched by Singapore on Dec 13, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Vanessa Lim)

KIEL, Germany: With a smash of champagne bottles against their hulls, two new Invincible-class submarines were christened by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) on Tuesday (Dec 13).

Named Impeccable and Illustrious, the submarines are the second and third of four customised Type 218SG submarines built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

The first - Invincible - was launched in 2019 at a ceremony also held at the TKMS shipyard in Kiel.

Tuesday's ceremony was officiated by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Following a long-standing naval tradition, the two submarines were launched by a lady sponsor, Mr Lee’s wife Ho Ching.

The ceremony was also witnessed by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and defence chiefs from Singapore and Germany.

In an address, Mr Lee emphasised the importance of submarines in helping Singapore - as a maritime nation - keep open its sea routes for the movement of goods and materials.

The country is highly reliant on free and unimpeded maritime trade for prosperity and survival, he said.

Mr Lee also thanked TKMS and the German Navy for their support and sharing of expertise, noting the growing defence relations between the two countries.

“The submarines being launched today are a tangible manifestation of our close and productive cooperation,” he said.

“Our collaboration on this strategic capability underscores the depth of partnership and trust between our navies and our defence industries.”

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that Mr Lee and Chancellor Scholz reaffirmed Singapore and Germany's "longstanding and excellent bilateral ties" - in particular, in defence and economic cooperation.

They also discussed how Singapore and Germany could work together as strategic partners to address global challenges, including supporting free trade, enhancing supply chain resilience, and strengthening economic linkages between the two regions.

"In this regard, the two leaders stressed that ASEAN-EU relations and cooperation were of strategic importance," said MFA.


Designed for operations in Singapore's shallow and busy tropical waters, the Invincible-class submarine features an X-shaped stern rudder for more precise manoeuvres, and propulsion systems based on fuel cell technology.

This allows it to stay submerged for about 50 per cent longer than the Archer-class submarines.

The 70m-long submarine also has a higher payload of eight torpedo tubes, and can travel at a surface speed of more than 10 knots - about 19kmh - or more than 15 knots when submerged.

Each boat is manned by a crew of 28, and built with customised operator consoles to suit the smaller frames of RSN personnel.

All crew members also have their own beds to sleep in, as opposed to the "hot bunking" practice of having those on different watches share the same bed. There will also be spare beds to accommodate additional personnel.

Each bunk will have a media entertainment system similar to those found on commercial planes.

Unlike the current Archer-class and Challenger-class submarines, which require crew to go through common spaces to get to the showers, the Invincible-class submarines include ensuite facilities to ensure privacy for future female submariners on board.

MINDEF previously said that the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the delivery of the first new submarine, which was originally expected to be in 2021.

At a media briefing on Sunday, the ministry said the submarines would be delivered to Singapore from 2023, after a series of sea trials.

A fourth submarine - Inimitable - remains under construction.


A training suite for crew members of the new Invincible-class submarines will also be operationalised by 2024.

It will help hone team combat competencies and let the crew practise steering and diving procedures among others. 

A virtual procedural trainer is also part of the suite. During a media demonstration, reporters were shown how this allows crew members to familiarise themselves with the submarine's layout without physically stepping into one.

“What we have, essentially, is a digital twin of the submarine right next to actual training of procedures, operations as well as the maintenance of systems,” said Commander of the 7th Flotilla, Colonel (COL) Fong Chi Onn.

“This trainer provides the actual physical and tactile hands-on opportunities for critical platform training in a safe environment ashore, without having to go on board."

Source: CNA/vl(jo)


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