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'Uniquely Singaporean': Navy launches 4th Invincible-class submarine in Germany

 'Uniquely Singaporean': Navy launches 4th Invincible-class submarine in Germany
Singapore launched its fourth Invincible-class submarine, the Inimitable, in Kiel, Germany, on Monday.
PHOTO: Mindef

KIEL, GERMANY — On a cold, snowy morning in the bustling German port city of Kiel, Singapore launched its fourth Invincible-class submarine — the Inimitable.

Built by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and German manufacturer thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (tkMS), it is part of a four-submarine fleet that replaces the Navy's Challenger- and Archer-class vessels. 

The first submarine, Invincible, was unveiled in 2019, while the second and third — the Impeccable and the Illustrious — were launched in December 2022, also in Kiel. 

On Monday (April 22), the Inimitable joined the family at a launch ceremony at tkMS' shipyard, which AsiaOne attended. It was officiated by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.

In keeping with naval tradition, a new vessel is always launched by a female civilian, known as a lady sponsor.

On this day, SM Teo's sister, Teo Swee Lian, an independent director at HSBC, did the honours — by activating a mechanism that broke a champagne bottle onto the Inimitable's hull. 

It is believed that the act brings good luck and protection to the vessel and its crew. 

Also gracing the ceremony were Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius, Chief of German Navy Vice-Admiral Jan Christian Kaack, tkMS CEO Oliver Burkhard and RSN's Rear-Admiral Sean Wat. 

In his speech, SM Teo emphasised the importance of Singapore's submarine capability, noting that close to 90,000 ships account for a third of global trade that pass through local waters each year.

"The RSN plays an important role in ensuring the safe and secure passage of ships through the waters around Singapore," he said.

"Our new submarines will enhance the RSN’s ability to fulfil its mission of protecting the sea lines of communication in our region. All countries stand to benefit when our seas are safe and secure." 

SM Teo recounted the milestones in Singapore's submarine journey, which dates back to the late 1980s when Singapore introduced the refurbished Challenger-class vessels. 

A decade later, the Archer-class submarines were unveiled, with automated systems and air-independent propulsion. 

'Uniquely Singaporean'

"Now, with the help of our German friends, we have delivered a submarine which is uniquely Singaporean — specially adapted for our waters and fitted with advanced digital systems," SM Teo said.

Burkhard, who also gave a speech, said: "The submarines built in this project are the most modern conventional [ones] the world has ever seen. They belong to a new, state-of-the-art generation and are also the largest submarines built in Germany to date."

So what makes the Invincible-class submarines — formally classified as Type 218SG submarines — so special?

Unlike their Challenger- and Archer-class counterparts, which were acquired from the Swedish Navy, the Invisible-class vessels are built to operate in Singapore's shallow and busy waters.

"The submarines are part of the Singapore Navy's modernisation efforts to keep pace with navies both regionally and around the world," Lieutenant-Colonel Xander Lim, head of operations and training at the submarine project office, told AsiaOne.

They are more manoeuvrable and can stay underwater for longer periods of time. 

Each submarine is 70m long, weighs 2,000 tonnes when surfaced, and requires a 28-member crew to operate. 

Taking into account the average Singaporean height, some buttons and valves in the new submarines are now more accessible. The older submarines were designed for taller operators. 

Following its launch on Monday, the Inimitable will undergo a series of sea trials before making its way to Singapore by 2025. 

The Impeccable, which landed on our shores in July 2023, will be commissioned later this year.

SM Teo said that tkMS will continue its partnership with RSN and ST Engineering to provide technical training and in-service support for the submarines. 

ALSO READ: SM Teo visiting Germany to officiate launch of Singapore's 4th Invincible-class submarine

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