The Isaac Peral was redesigned to solve buoyancy problems and is now too large to fit in its own port.
The country that brought you the Spanish Armada is having hair-tearing problems with the latest submarine to join the fleet. The Isaac Peral, the first in class of a new generation of Spanish Navy attack submarines, is too large to fit in its future port. The submarine was enlarged after a design flaw introduced doubts it could reliably rise to the surface.
The Spanish Navy ordered four S-80 diesel electric attack submarines in 2003, to replace the aging, Cold War-era Agosta class. The new, fully modern submarines were designed with air independent propulsion, allowing them to stay underwater longer than other diesel electric submarines. The S-80s are armed with six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes capable of launching German DM2A4 Seahake guided torpedoes, American Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.
The S-80 was saddled with problems from the start. Spain’s economy took a severe downturn during the late 2000s, and the country’s defense budget was put under strain. In 2013, ten years after the first boat was ordered, authorities detected a critical flaw in the design: The submarines were 75 to 100 tons heavier than anticipated. The submarines could dive but there was some question as to whether they could reliably surface again. According to the BBC quoting the Associated Press, the problem was the result of someone involved in the design process placing a decimal point in the wrong place. The problem was not discovered until the ships were under construction.
The shipbuilder, Navantia, immediately suspended construction of the subs and called in U.S. submarine builder Electric Boat to solve the buoyancy issue. EB recommended the shipyards lengthen the S-80s by thirty feet, stretching it from 232 feet to 265 feet, add a pressure hull ring to support the new length, and increase their displacement from 2,200 tons to 3,100 tons.
Now, fifteen years after the submarines were ordered there is a new problem: The first submarine, Isaac Peral, is too large to fit in its port at Cartagena. Authorities say the port will have to be enlarged and dredged to fit the updated design. It’s odd that Spanish authorities are suddenly discovering the problem considering the submarines were actually built in Cartagena and everyone involved has had five years to ponder the ramifications of enlarging the sub’s design.
Now that the problems are solved the S-80s are expected to enter the fleet at a relatively fast clip of a submarine a year. The problems continue, however. As a result of the redesign, the submarines are thirty percent above budget. All because of a misplaced decimal point.