By Tom RiddleThe South African Navy (SAS) is expected to start construction of new submarines in the coming weeks, with the government saying the cost of the project is set to be more than $30 billion.
The new submarines will be capable of operating in the South Atlantic, and will have the capacity to carry a total of 24 diesel-electric submarines, and an additional 20 diesel-hydraulic submarines.
SAS has said the submarines will have a maximum range of 600 nautical miles, which would be the largest ever for a submarine, but there is no exact timetable for the new vessels to be operational.
One of the big questions is what will happen to the existing fleet of two older submarines, the R-60 and the S-70.
The two were built in the 1960s and have been in service for 20 years.
Both are out of commission, with both due to be decommissioned by 2025, meaning that the R50s and S-71s will likely remain in service until that time.
At the moment, there is a debate about whether to replace the R60s and the R70s with more modern submarines, as well as the S70s, which are also out of service.
But the government has said that the new submarines are part of its strategic submarine programme, and that they will be built in partnership with the United States and Britain.
“The new submarine fleet will be designed to meet the needs of our nation and provide the flexibility to meet emerging security challenges,” said the defence minister, Paul O’Connell.
“These submarines will also provide the necessary capabilities to enhance the defence capability of the South African defence forces in the future.”
The submarines are expected to be able to operate at night, and also at sea, but they will not be able use the type of radar that is used for submarines.
They will be able only to detect and engage threats at ranges up to 10,000km.
Although there is speculation that South Africa may soon seek to buy a submarine from the US, the country does not currently have any plans to do so.