“Isaac Peral’, the new king of the seas

The Spanish Navy receives the S-81 submarine from the Navantia company

Last summer, the Tramontana reached the end of its operational life. The submersible of the S-70 series was laid up at the Cartagena Arsenal while nearby, at Navantia, the S-81, the first submarine of a new series that is taking giant steps forward with respect to its predecessors, was being completed.

The years of delay did not prevent Cartagena from celebrating in style on 30 November an event with one of the most important milestones in the recent history, not only of the Region of Murcia, but also of Spain.

After 18 long years of arduous construction that have made it the most complex technological project in the history of the country, Navantia was finally able to deliver the S-81 ‘Isaac Peral’ submarine to the Navy, the first of the four of the S-80 class to be completed and which places our country at the forefront of military submersibles. The vessel has been sleeping at the Arsenal Militar base since then, where it will begin a strict schedule of tests that will culminate in the summer when it will begin an ‘endurance cruise’.

The Isaac Peral has a length of 80.8 metres, a beam of 11.68 metres and a draught of 6.76 metres. It is designed to operate autonomously and with great stealth for long periods of time, and has a crew of 53 people, six of them women, headed by Commander Manuel Corral.

The Isaac Peral will be able to carry out anti-surface and anti-submarine missions, operations at various depths and evacuation of civilian personnel. Intelligence gathering and deterrence tasks will also be among its future tasks.

The delivery of the S-81 became an essential moment in the recent history of the Navy and a moment of pride for the entire institution. During the delivery ceremony, which was also attended by the Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, Admiral Antonio Piñeiro, explained that “the arrival of the ‘Isaac Peral’ means that Spain has industrial autonomy and has taken an unprecedented technological leap forward”.

Robles stressed the “giant step” that this submarine represents. “Today is an important day for Spain”, said the minister, who expressed her “infinite gratitude” to the city of Cartagena “which has lived this whole process with enthusiasm”.

If anything was highlighted during the ceremony, it was the S-80’s technological leap forward compared to its predecessor, the S-70, as it will have an integrated platform control system and a combat system which, while increasing its degree of automation, significantly reduces the number of people needed to operate the submarine. In addition, the ‘Isaac Peral’ will incorporate state-of-the-art missiles with a range of 200 kilometres.

Another of the submarine’s most outstanding capabilities will be its ability to remain submerged. A feat which Robles praised on more than one occasion during his visits to the port city to check on the progress of the work.

As a symbol of Cartagena’s historic links with the submarine weapon and the Spanish Navy, on 28 November, the mayoress, Noelia Arroyo, presented the crew of the S-81 with the keys to the city, as well as a reproduction of the combat flag that the submersible invented by the Cartagena-born Isaac Peral used to fly in 1889.

The new ‘Isaac Peral’ will also be a reference in its electric propulsion, as was the invention of the Cartagena-born sailor two centuries ago. In the case of the new submersible, it will have a revolutionary propulsion system that will allow it to remain under the sea for up to three weeks without the need to go out to periscope level, thus increasing the main characteristic of a submarine: not being detected.

The Spanish shipyard’s interest in launching a submarine of its own design – the previous one, ‘Scorpene’, was shared with France – began in the 1990s, although it was not until the early 2000s that work began, intensifying between 2010 and 2012, but not without problems. An excess of weight that put the submersible’s buoyancy at risk made it necessary to rectify the design in 2013. Nevertheless, the ‘Isaac Peral’ has managed to successfully pass all the tests it has been put through, both navigation and immersion.

This milestone allows the shipyard and the Navy to glimpse the success of the project despite the delays and capital increases it has suffered. In this new situation, Navantia is strengthening its product catalogue in order to be competitive in the market. So much so that the company is currently involved in four projects to export the S-80. These are the tenders launched by Canada, India, Poland and the Philippines. The most advanced is India, where the Spanish company is on the short list of favourites for the construction of six submarines, which would be built in the Asian country from a design based on the S-80.

In 1888, the submarine ‘Peral’ was the first electric-powered submersible equipped with torpedoes. Now, 135 years later, it will be its big brother, the S-81 ‘Isaac Peral’, which will become the most advanced submarine and the one to incorporate the latest generation of missiles. This will be followed by new milestones with the arrival of the S-82, scheduled to be launched next year for delivery to the Navy in 2026, the S-83 and the S-84, the next in a series that has already made history.


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