Midget submarines ‘ideal for GCC needs’ amidst rising regional tensions

MIDGET submarines would be a “perfect fit” to protect the shallow waters of the Arabian Gulf amidst rising regional tensions.

These smaller submarines can dive in waters as shallow as 15 metres and offer a strong deterrent to a possible aggressive force, said Drass managing director Sergio Cappelletti.

He told the GDN that Bahrain’s geographical location and size meant that having a conventional fleet of submarines was unsafe and not cost-effective.

“One of the most important things is the capability to adapt the technology to a special strategic situation and geographical environment,” said Mr Cappelletti.

“What I believe is extremely important to notice first of all is to acknowledge that the shallow water of the Arabian Gulf is not suitable for the operation of a conventional submarine because it wouldn’t be safe to dive.

“A submarine that navigates itself is also a liability rather than an asset because it’s extremely vulnerable.

“Another important consideration is that a part of defensive policy of countries like Bahrain – but also like Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – the strategy is deterrence and defensive, protection of their own country.

“We appreciate that the policy is to be safe and not represent a threat to anyone.

“For this reason, representing deterrent force is important because it’s cost-effective and not the scope to offend anyone, but does have the scope to create a potential threat to someone who intends to represent an aggressive force against the country.”

Mr Cappelletti was in Bahrain as part of a navy tour with the Italian naval frigate ITS Carabiniere.

His company designs and manufactures midget submarines, which he said was a more cost-effective solution to the Gulf as all six states face financial setbacks with the fall in oil prices.

“The midget submarine is an important development because it represents a severe threat for an overwhelming surface fleet,” he explained.

“If a country like Bahrain, which has a limited number of nationals and citizens, and defend theoretically against an antagonist with an overwhelming number, they cannot use brute force, they have to use technology, bravery and strategy.

“Midget submarines operate undetectable by surface ships and can carry heavy torpedoes that can be effective over big ships or large ships.

“The automation we developed also allows the midget submarines to be able to operate with just nine people versus the 40 or 50 of a conventional submarine.

“We also believe this is a key element because it’s not cost-effective for Bahrain to create an underwater fleet where you have to employ hundreds of thousands of people.

“For the cost of a standard conventional submarine, you could manage six to 12 midget submarines, which is an entire fleet.”

Mr Cappelletti also said that he was highly impressed with Bahraini and Gulf defence forces during the tour.

“What I have learned on my tour with the Italian ship is admiring the level of growing awareness in the armed forces in the GCC,” he added.

“In the 70s and 80s, the countries were prompted to procure by the main worldwide players and were more inclined to accept suggestions that were in the interests of the defence industry rather than the national interest.

“What has been very impressive for me is how the new generations of the decision makers are extremely skilled and prepared and can distinguish between the interest of the defence industry and of the country.

“(I believed) I would have found difficulties in convincing (officials), but instead I’ve found a warm reception.”

The Italian naval frigate was moored in Mina Salman as part of a visit aimed at strengthening co-operation and developing relationships with countries in the region. The frigate is on its South-East Asia and Australia naval campaign and left Bahrain last week for Doha.

Since its mission started in December 2016, it has visited Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Oman and Kuwait.