Most recently, two new Invincible-class submarines have been launched by the Republic of Singapore Navy, the Impeccable and the Illustrious.

All navies in Asia want to have powerful submarines, because they allow small navies to have enough power to put pressure on larger adversaries. This is no exception for countries in Southeast Asia. Most recently, two new Invincible-class submarines have been launched by the Republic of Singapore Navy, the Impeccable and the Illustrious. These are among four Type 218SG submarines built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems for the Singapore Navy.

Singapore has invested quite heavily in the navy in the last 10 years. They own a fleet of surface warships and submarines that can be said to be the most modern in the region. The first submarine – RSS Invincible, was launched in February 2019, is undergoing sea trials. The RSN plans to have all four submarines in active service by 2024.

The Invincible class submarine, formally classified as the Type 218SG submarines, was built by Germany-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The Type 218SG is an extensively-customised derivative of the export-oriented Type 214 submarine, with specific design characteristics drawn from Type 212 submarines. They feature several capabilities – including a substantial level of automation, a significant payload capacity, enhanced underwater endurance and superlative ergonomics.

Designed for operations in Singapore’s shallow and busy tropical waters, the Invincible-class submarine features an X-shaped stern rudder for more precise manoeuvres, and propulsion systems based on fuel cell technology. This allows it to stay submerged for about 50% longer than the Archer-class submarines, the predecessors of the Invincible class.

The Invincible-class has a length of 70 m and a beam of 6.3 m, with an overall displacement of about 2,000 t when surfaced and 2,200 t while submerged. It has an estimated speed of about 10 knots while surfaced and 15 knots while submerged. Extensive features of automation – such as a “Combat Management System” which allows the crew to operate the submarine on three 4-hour shifts, thus allowing greater periods of rest during protracted underwater deployments. The high-level of automation also reduces the crew complement to just 28.

Current details about the Type 218SG’s armament are scant; however, it is understood that the submarine features eight 533 mm and two 650 mm forward-firing torpedo tubes – which may be used for firing heavyweight torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and for laying naval mines. The Type 218SG is reported to have a greater ordnance payload than the previous Singapore’s submarines, owing to its much larger size.

The Singapore Navy currently has four diesel-electric attack submarines in service, including two Challenger-class and two Archer-class submarines, both built by Sweden. Singapore’s willingness to spend nearly $900 million for each new Invincible boat clearly shows its determination to strengthen its navy, as well as to deal with future security challenges. The Challenger and Archer, on the other hand, are both more than 20 years old and it’s time to retire them.


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