UAE, Saudi Arabia Want To Get Submarines

ABU DHABI: There is a growing market for submarines in the Middle East, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia both having expressed their intention to purchase them, assuming a threat perception in the region.

According to Achille Fulfaro, Middle East naval executive for Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and general manager of Etihad Ship Building, these deals could come through “in the near future,” and the two military powers of the have expressed interest in the acquisition of small to medium submarines.

The submarine threat was deemed to be high, so a deterrent anti-submarine vessel has already been acquired by the UAE navy. Fulfaro said: “One of the critical issues of the region is the anti-submarine issue and this is the reason why we delivered to the UAE Navy a highly developed anti-submarine warfare vessel last year.”

He expected discussion to proceed to the acquisitions of submarines, next. He said: “We assume that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in the near future, will start with deep discussions regarding their submarine fleet.”

Describing these discussions as “very sensitive”, he said: “We need to create in the country specific skills and know how to manage such an important fleet,”.

UAE and Saudi government representatives could not be contacted for their comments at the moment, though UAE Naval Commander Rear Adm. Ibrahim al-Musharrakh had said last year the navy wants submarines to combat threats.

Speaking at the Gulf Naval Commanders’ Conference in Abu Dhabi last November, Musharrakh had said: “There are many different options for combating the threat of submarines in the region, for building the capacity and the capability to acquire submarines is something that is still under process and will take a long time. What we need is something within reach that we can use to counter the threat now; in the long term, you will probably see naval forces in the region acquiring submarines.”

It was in November itself that the German Bild newspaper had quoted German government sources in saying that Saudi Arabia wanted to buy five German submarines and more than two dozen more in the future. It also talked about German-made Type 209 submarines, and the cost was estimated at $3.4 billion.

Fulfaro said the requirement is for submarines in the 300-1,000 metric tons region.