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Delivering Effect in the Underwater Battlespace: South Africa's Submarine Force

by Captain Andre de Wet

Andre de Wet is Senior Officer Submarines in the South African Navy. In this article, he describes the threats to South Africa's maritime security and the technology that its navy is seeking to take on board its submarine force. Frequently the question is asked about how South Africa intends utilising its newly acquired submarines. Gone are the days of focusing submarine operations purely on intercepting a convoy and sinking the main body. Although the Republic of South Africa (RSA) will always prepare to counter the conventional threat, the peacetime roles for submarines are being developed in order to ensure that, with the limited resources available, the submarines can add value to the collective efforts in protecting the maritime security of the country. This article will provide an insight into the challenging underwater battlespace, the limited assets available to the Navy to perform its international obligations, an insight into threats to the maritime security of the RSA and the technologies that are being developed to ensure that the submarine force of the RSA can deliver effect. executed in the maritime zones of the RSA. In addition, the Prince Edward Islands, which are situated 500 nautical miles to the southeast, also belong to the RSA. Within this vast area lie South Africa's maritime zones, signed into law by the country's President on 11 November 1994 (Maritime Zones Act No 15. of 1994), to cover the territorial waters, contiguous, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf. Combined, this is a total area of 1Mkm2.

South Africa's maritime zones cover a total area of 1Mkm2

Within each of these layered zones, the South African government has a specific maritime responsibility. In the territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the coastline), South Africa has total sovereignty that is counter-balanced by the right of foreign shipping to innocent passage. In the contiguous zone South Africa may enforce specific national legislation with respect to customs, immigration, health and fiscal issues. In the EEZ, which includes the continental shelf, the rights and obligations of South Africa are confined to exploration, exploitation and protection of the marine resources. Maritime Assets South Africa is a member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and also the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO). As a subscriber to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), and being a signatory to the convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), South Africa is morally bound to observe these normative international guidelines. Performing the above-mentioned tasks with the limited amount of assets available is the biggest challenge to the South African Government. It is worth noting that South Africa has neither Coast Guard nor any Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft that can assist in performing the RSA's maritime responsibilities. The task of protecting the maritime security of the RSA has largely been allocated to the South African Navy jointly assisted by agencies such as the Marine


With the limited resources available, the submarines can add value to the collective efforts in protecting the maritime security of the country

The Battlespace South Africa is geographically located on the southernmost tip of the African continent. It is strategically situated along one of the vital sea routes of the world where three vast ocean masses ­ namely the South Atlantic, the Indian and the Southern oceans ­ meet. The coastline stretches from the Orange River mouth (which separates South Africa from Namibia) in the west, to the Mozambiquean border in the east ­ a total distance of 1600 nautical miles. Two significant currents, namely the Benguela and Agulhas, have a significant influence on the way submarine operations are planned and


Threats to the RSA's Maritime Security The national security of the RSA has been compartmentalised into different sectors of which maritime security is one. It is widely recognised that any threat to the maritime security has a ripple effect ultimately affecting national security. The following non-conventional threats to the maritime security of the RSA have been identified: · Illegaltradeingoodsandhumantraffickingenteringand leaving the seaports of South Africa. · Poachingofmarineresourcesbytrawlers,fishingvesselsand divers. In most instances utilising illegal methods such as gill nets and blasting. · `Seabased'tradeindrugsinexchangeformarineresources conducted by large organised crime syndicates. · PiracyalongtheCapesearoute. · Weaponsmuggling.

Future focus will be on spread spectrum techniques in order to improve both the effectiveness and security of the communications [South African Navy]

Technologies to Counter the Threat In order to counter the threat the following technologies will aid in ensuring that the submarines can deliver effect: Sensor Data Processing. With an increase in sensors and sensor bandwidths, the combat systems operators suffer from information overload particularly during high-stress operations ­ a prime example of where technology causes a problem that must be fixed with newer technology. The focus of this technology is to present multiple sensor data in a processed format for easy interpretation by the operator. The demand to provide real-time and accurate information will become increasingly important in the future electronic battlespace.

Coastal Management Services, the Parks Board and the South African Police. As part of a Strategic Defence Package for the RSA, the SA Navy acquired three German-built 209-class submarines. These submarines are currently being assessed in order to develop doctrine and determine the real capabilities and limitations in the African Underwater Battlespace. It can be argued that the 209-class submarine is old technology and that the submarine doctrine would reflect the old way of thinking. However, the platform has been outfitted with arguably the most modern combat system currently available on the world market for a conventional submarine. This will give the Navy new technology that should ultimately result in a new way of thinking, which will be reflected in its doctrine and the aspiration for improved submarine technology.

Modern drive to systems connectivity requires a digital link between a submarine and another surface vessel or submarine

Above Water Communications. Owing to changed mission profiles the importance of improving communications with submarines is increasing. While in the past submarines operated on their own during a mission, the requirements have evolved into joint military and interdepartmental missions for the RSA, the South African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and United Nations. During these missions extensive exchange of data needs to take place between the submarine and the operational commander. For this purpose submarines need far better connectivity than either their culture or equipment have previously allowed. The operational need is a communications buoy that can be deployed at depth and speed able to receive and transmit High Frequency and Super High Frequency communications. Underwater Communications. Hydro-Acoustics (Sonar)

The question that remains to be answered is what type of effects the submarines can deliver in the vast sea area

Inherently, a submarine force does provide an operational commander with command and control, firepower, sustainability, mobility, protection and intelligence functions. The question that remains to be answered is what type of effects the submarines can deliver in the vast sea area previously described. Understanding the specific threats to the maritime security of the RSA will provide an answer to the effects required.



Swarm Technology. This technology is based on using a swarm of small, inexpensive agents distributed over a large area. Although a single agent only has limited intelligence, the combined network of agents in the swarm forms an entity displaying intelligent behaviour. IMT is currently studying ways of using swarms deployed from a submarine. This is supported by work performed in developing miniature sonar, communication and propulsion systems for use in a distributed swarm. High Resolution Imagery. The 209-class submarine is fitted with an optical mast with various modes of providing imagery. Distributing the imagery to an operational commander ashore has remained a challenge, coupled with the ever-improving quality in digital camera technology. The operational requirement is to provide the imagery to an operational commander in a rapid and near real-time condition. Conclusion The South African Navy with its limited resources has undertaken to ensure that its maritime security is enhanced. Submarines will contribute to ensuring that the operational effects of control, protect and deter are attained.

IMT is currently performing evaluation of covert surveillance techniques using an AUV [South African Navy]

has proved to be the only effective means by which to communicate under the RSA's territorial waters. Traditionally, underwater communication is performed with analogue underwater telephone systems, but the modern drive to systems connectivity requires a digital link between a submarine and another surface vessel or submarine. Although digital acoustic communication has been achieved in the past, the data rate and communications distance was insufficient in order to satisfy the operational requirements. The underwater environment is highly dynamic and requires special attention with respect to adaptive processes being employed to make the communications reliable in the changing environment. The Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) in Simon's Town has experimented with a variety of methods to perform digital communications at an extended range, also in shallow water. Future focus will be on spread spectrum techniques in order to improve both the effectiveness and security of the communications.

RUSI Defence Systems last covered submarines in Volume 9 No. 2, October 2006. The following articles were published: Submarine Requirements for the Global War on Terrorism Commander David Kelly, US Navy Delivering Flexible Effect from Underwater Commodore Mark Anderson, MoD UK Future Submarines Murray Easton, BAE Systems Submarines

The network of agents in the swarm forms an entity displaying intelligent behaviour

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). Due to the emphasis on littoral warfare and the poorly surveyed coastal waters around Africa, it is vital for the South African Navy to perform surveillance of an area before force deployment. This task can be performed from surface vessels. The future requirement is to be able to conduct these operations from a dived submarine. IMT is currently performing evaluation of covert surveillance techniques using an AUV. The aim is to have a system that will provide video data from a camera as well as bottom data from the sidescan/bathymetric sonar transmitted in real time to the submarine launch platform. This data should make it possible for the submarine to enter very shallow water areas with a high confidence level.

German Submarines: Capabilities and Potential Captain Raimund Wallner, MoD Germany Advanced Submarine Maintenance Andreas Lörinc, FMV Sweden The RUSI Journal has also covered submarines recently: Delivering Submarine Capability: At Sea with HMS Tireless Gavin Ireland, August 2008 Maximising the Potential of UK Maritime Forces in Peace Time Jeremy Blackham and Gerry Paulus, April 2008 Up Periscope: The Expansion of Submarine Capabilities in the Asia-Pacific Region Andrew Davies, October 2007 The Royal Navy at the Brink Jeremy Blackham and Gwyn Prins, April 2007



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