For the first time in a quarter century, the world’s
fleet of submarines is growing. Yet turbulent political waters and shifting requirements mean many
sub manufacturing projects are struggling to stay on
schedule, within budget and in scope.
The greater demand for submarines in the US$51
billion industry is being driven by existing fleets
aging out of commission, countries’ changing strategic threats, surging global trade (supported by
secure shipping routes) and the desire for new technologies, according to IBISWorld, an Australian
At least 17 countries have confirmed they are
creating or expanding their fleets, according to The
Wall Street Journal. (Countries closely guard mili-
tary plans, which makes tracking the exact number
of projects impossible.) Iran has announced project
plans to develop its own conventional subs as a
supplement to those it bought from Russia in the
mid-1990s. China’s expansion of its nautical fleet,
including nuclear-powered subs, has sparked a wave
of submarine projects across Southeast Asia. Indo-
nesia, Singapore and Australia have all launched
initiatives to expand their fleets, while Vietnam is
sponsoring a project to build a submarine armed
with attack missiles capable of reaching China’s
It’s an ever-shifting cycle: As one country’s
portfolio of defense projects evolves, those in other
countries react. And that impacts defense contractors and military project practitioners tasked with
managing and meeting project requirements.
When a submarine project hits a setback, the schedule delays and cost overruns tend to be mammoth.
Those troubles can draw international attention.
A 19-year, £ 10 billion program to create seven
submarines in the United Kingdom has been
plagued with technical problems, delays and cost
overruns. In 2014 alone, the program ran £87.5
million over budget. With just two subs com-
Workers attend a ceremony
to launch the Russian
Stary Oskol in 2014.
Source: The Wall Street Journal