by Luca Peruzzi
To meet the operational requirements of future underwater warfare platforms, the Naval Group unveiled at Euronaval 2018 exhibition the SMX 31 Electric submarine concept, designed to operate in contested and adversary-controlled waters. Conceived as a stealthy platform with a 70 meters length, 13.8 meters beam, 9.7 meters height and a 3,400-tonnes submerged displacement, the SMX 31 presents an hydrodynamic shaped hull with advanced coating to reduce acoustic signature and the absence of the sail with mast-mounted sensors contained in the hull. It features externally mounted electric rim drive propulsors on both sides of the hull near the stern to maximise internal space and enable an aft weapons/unmanned underwater vehicles area.
With a completed departure from current underwater platforms, the SMX 31 design features a completely electrical propulsion and power generation package with high-capacity lithium-ion batteries and the two rim-drive propulsors, offering a maximum speed of around 20 knots and a submerged endurance of 30-to-45 days depending on situation.
To maintain its stealthiness, the SMX 31 is equipped with deployable communication buoys up to the surface to remain at depth up to 100 meters while maximum depth is greater than 250 meters.
The whole combat system and platform management system is fully integrated, benefiting from the latest developments in terms of artificial intelligence, thereby allowing the crew of just 15 members to focus on high added value tasks in order to conduct complex operations.
The future underwater design features torpedoes and unmanned launching tubes and lock out tube in both bow and stern hull areas, with the capability to operate heavy-weight torpedoes, wired-connected small UUVs, torpedo-shaped UUVs and AUVs, with a load of between 16 and 46 heavyweight weapons.