Qatar Navy's New Submarine - About M23 SRL
Slowly, more information about the submarines being built in Italy for the Qatari Emiri Navy (QEN) are coming out. The EUR 190 million deal is for two submarines plus a training system. I suspect that some level of training support may also be included.
The deal was originally reported in February 2020as relating to Italy's main defense shipbuilder, Fincantieri. A MoU (memorandum of understanding) was signed with Fincantieri in Janurary mentions the "the supply of cutting-edge naval vessels and submarines."
However it was unlikely that Qatar was buying a Fincantieri design, which tend to be full-size subs. I initially I speculated that one of Italy's three special forces type submarine builders, Drass, CABI Cattaneo, or GSE Trieste were the actual builder. It has since emerged that GSE are the builder, but under a spin-off company called M23 SRL.
GSE (Giunio Santi Engineering S.R.L. ) has spun-off its military submarine business into a new company, M23 SRL. M23 is based at the same factory in Ciserano, Bergamo, Italy. The new company is reported to have 22 employees.
Google Earth satellite image of the M23 / GSE factory in Ciserano. The arrow points to part of the GSE 30 meter long submarine.
A luxury civilian submersible outside the Ciserano factory in December 2017. The building on the right is the factory.
At this point there are very few details available about the submarines themselves. They are known to have a 200 kw diesel engine, 70 kw electric motor and sonar.
The largest submarines built by GSE to date are 30 meters long. Actually, possibly slightly smaller since the factory itself is only about 30 meters long. That civilian vessel, for Venezuela, was over 5 meters in diameter and designed to carry 8 passengers. It is unclear whether this project was ever completed, but it is indicative of the scale of the Qatari submarines. These are not dry combat submersibles like the Button 5.60 / UOES3 (User Operational Evaluation System-3) that GSE built for the US Navy.
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My expectation is that the new submarines will be 23 meters long, and were designed around 2017. This in keeping with the company's name and also a reference number given in some Italian government documents. MIDGET AUTONOMUS SUBMARINE P / N M232017023.
GSE, previously known as Maritalia, has a long tradition of innovation, in Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) and unique hull construction. So it is very hard to guess exactly what these submarines will look like. For sure, GSE designs are always interesting!
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