Adding up the parts – A26

Building the next generation of submarines is best described as putting together a giant high-tech puzzle. Thanks to modular based design and building, the A26 will be one of the world's most flexible, cost efficient and future-proof submarines.

The A26 submarine is subdivided into several units called modules. Each module is independently designed and built, enclosed and equipped with everything that the unit needs. The different modules are then tested and deployed outside the submarine, ready to be assembled at the right time.

A modular built submarine is a revolutionizing concept; a water vessel that changes its form to accommodate new technical advances or particular defence capabilities. Its key benefit being that it provides an amazing degree of operational flexibility, future-proofs the vessel and contributes significantly to cost-effective construction and assembly.

“The A26 will be known as the disruptor. In the future people will talk about how we built submarines before the A26 and after the A26”, says Gunnar Wieslander, Head of Saab Kockums, leading the world’s most modern submarine program. 

The A26 can at any point during its operational lifespan of 30 to 40 years undergo changes in functionality by adding or removing sensors, payloads, engines or crew cabins. When it comes to adding hardware the A26’s hull has predefined joints where new hull sections can be plugged in. As a result the A26 can become both longer and heavier.

Prepared to meet future demands and requirements

Modularity offers several benefits, one of the most important being flexibility. Previously a submarine was designed for its era, purposely built for the needs and threats of that particular time. This however meant that by the time it was designed, built and delivered it was almost considered obsolete. The A26 will be operational well into the 2050’s. During this time the world will change and we simply can’t anticipate which skills and technologies a submarine must master in 20 years. But with a modular design we can over time bring new abilities to the submarine. The entire system is designed to easily accommodate performance improvements and new functions, effectively by plugging in a new module or upgrading a system.

Alongside making the submarine future-proof the modular design also offers flexibility in terms of customization. The A26 can relatively easily and cost-efficiently be adapted to meet different national requirements. This is made possible by building each module with a well-defined interface, for example power supply and cooling, allowing for these system to remain unchanged when new equipment is plugged in.

“It’s a fine balance between standardization and customization. On paper, we’ve already developed several versions of the A26 where we for example have added an extra sensor mast or Stirling engine to fulfil different customer requirements. Thanks to the modular design the different versions of A26 are still very similar, which enables collaboration between different nations, sharing cost and recourses,” says Per-Ola Hedin, Head of Overall System Integration at Saab Kockums. 

Build it smarter, makes us faster

The modular concept also speeds up the actual production as construction activities become less serial and more parallel. Different modules can also be built simultaneously on different sites or even in different countries, facilitating co-operation and “a local-build” opportunity for customers.

When it’s all added up, we can safely say that the A26 is the most modern submarine program the world has ever seen.

Find out more about the next generation of submarines A26