Ostrobothnia-class Design Work Needs Extra Time

By Lauri Puranen

Exactly two years ago, procurement contracts for Ostrobothnia-class multifunctional corvettes were completed in Turku with the Laivue 2020 project. The signing of the agreements was the starting point for the Defense Administration’s long-term cooperation with Rauma Marine Constructions (RMC) and the combat system supplier Saab Ab. Although the focus of my own work is currently on the preparation of the HX project, I have also been closely following the progress of the second strategic project.

We have always known that building the Ostrobothnia class is a challenging project. The design work of any battleship is a very demanding entity, especially when done in the so-called. from a clean slate and involves several actors. In Finnish conditions, a high-performance battleship that meets the requirements of future naval defense means a combination of efficient, partially tailored weapon and sensor and command systems, agility, and combat resistance, and, of course, the ability to operate in year-round conditions. Precisely because of the challenge of the project, a lot of time was set aside for the design of the ship – more than two years. According to the original schedule, shipbuilding was scheduled to begin within 2022.

In addition to the design work, during the last couple of years, numerous procurements have been prepared for the class of ships and implemented well in advance due to the long delivery times they require. In addition to the previously decided procurement of a combat system and surface and anti-aircraft missiles, the German RENK AG will supply ship-class gears and power propulsion systems, General Electric (USA) will supply gas turbines, and diesel generators will be supplied by MAN Energy Solutions SE (Germany). The Finnish Koja Marine supplies air conditioning to the ship class and Furuno Finland Oy is responsible for the implementation of the Ostrobothnia class navigation system.

It has now been confirmed to the yard that the ship’s design work needs extra time. The estimate of the design delay notified by the yard to the customer is 6-12 months. The consequences of the yard’s announcement for the construction and commissioning of the vessels are currently being investigated. While all parties will remain committed to managing schedule risks and the repercussions of the delay, the delay is also likely to shift to the completion and deployment schedule. However, efforts will continue to be made to adhere strictly to the original deployment schedule so that the new squadron will be completed in 2028.

Of course, Korona has brought its own challenges to all aspects of life and society and is certainly one of the factors behind the delay. For the defense administration, however, things appear to be such that a pandemic alone will not explain the prolongation of the planning phase.

As a subscriber, we have repeatedly expressed our concern about the delay that has arisen. The design of a modern and technically advanced warship from large lines to details is undeniably a demanding entity, but from the customer’s perspective, the design delay should have been avoided with wider design shoulders.

From the point of view of the customer, i.e. the Defense Forces, the situation will become more difficult if the delay begins to affect the Navy’s plans to use and dispose of the rest of the fleet’s departing fleet. The Hämeenmaa class and the Rauma class are already at the end of their service life and their service life cannot be extended indefinitely. Extending service life is also a cost issue.

Although the delay came already in the negotiation phase of the agreements, the current delay is manageable from a defense perspective, and there is still some room for maneuver. From now on, it is vital that there is no further delay and that it can even be caught up. Close and transparent co-operation between the Defense Administration and the RMC and adherence to the agreed agreement will be key to achieving this goal. It is in the interests of all those involved in the project and, more broadly, national defense.

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