Submarine arrives in Simon’s Town
Apr 8, 2006
South Africa’s new submarine, S101 arrived at the naval station in Simon’s Town yesterday (Friday, 7 April 2006) after a 49-day voyage from Germany, where the submarine was built.
Under the command of Cmdr Gary Kretschmer and a South African crew, the type 209 S101 sailed from Kiel in Germany in the company of her escort vessel, the combat support ship SAS Drakensberg. S101 was commissioned on 3 November 2005 and is the first of three similar type 209-1400 diesel-electric submarines ordered by the SA Navy (the 1400 refers to the boat’s displacement). She was built by the submarine consortium consisting of HDW, Nordseewerken Emden and MAN Ferrostaal.
SAS Drakensberg and S101 en route for South Africa – picture courtesy SAN. Click image to enlarge
On arrival in Simon’s Town it was announced that S101 is to be named SAS Manthatisi, which is derived from the name of a Batlokwa chieftainess. South Africa’s Daphne class submarines were also named after prominent women from South Africa’s history – Maria van Riebeeck, Emily Hobhouse and Johanna van der Merwe.
On 24 January, while undergoing her final sea trials off Norway a ‘technical problem’ occurred causing S101 to return to Kiel – it is understood this was the result of water ingestion while snorkeling to recharge batteries and could easily have resulted in the loss of the boat. In addition to her crew S101 had a German technical team on board at the time.
It appears that the boat was running submerged and trimmed for a fast dive while snorting with only the snorkel above the surface to avoid radar detection when a wave swamped the snorkel. The safety device on the snorkel failed to engage and according to some reports failed to retract properly and then imploded under the water pressure as the boat dived.
Meanwhile the engines switched over from diesel to electric power, but there is usually a short lag as this happens during which the diesels can suck out some of the oxygen remaining in the submarine, and with the loss of power and the submarine trimmed for depth the boat began to dive further.
S101 on training exercises in European waters – picture courtesy SAN. Click to enlarge
However quick action and good training by the submarine’s captain and crew saw the tanks being blown and the submarine shooting back to the surface. Once back on top and the hatches opened the diesel engines were restarted and S101 was able to return to Kiel, with everyone on board no doubt a little shaken but much the wiser for the experience.
It was reported afterwards that the German observers on board were impressed with the way in which S101’s crew handled a potentially dangerous event, and said so to the extent that they were prepared to go to sea with the South Africans again.
In April 2003 a Chinese Ming-class submarine no.361 had a similar problem in the Yellow Sea when it dived out of control, leading to the loss of all 70 on board. Included among those who died on board were a number of observers.
It is now believed that the Ming class boat also experienced a technical problem with its snorkel, when a ball valve that is supposed to seal off the air intake when a wave washes over failed to engage. The diesel engines continue sucking air but now from the inside of the submarine, and for some reason the crew was unable to shut them down in time, leading to oxygen starvation and their asphyxiation.
SAS Manthatisi will now undergo a further 12 or more months of extensive training before the crew are considered combat ready. The second submarine, S102 is expected to sail for South Africa in about 12 months time.
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