Fernando Formoso Freire is Director India, Business Development & Commercial Division, Navantia (SEPI Group). Prior to his current role, he led Navantia’s Logistic 4.0 within the framework of the Digital Transformation Plan from 2017 until 2019, and was Logistics and Operations Director. Master in International Integrated Logistics, from University of Barcelona.
In an interview with Ajit K Thakur, Editor, Raksha Anirveda, Fernando eloquently talks in detail about his company’s bid for Indian Navy’s P-75I project, S-80P Submarines, success in international programmes among others.
An excerpt of the interview:
RA: Recently in June 2020, Department of Defence, Australia signed a Strategic Agreement with Navantia Australia, recognising Navantia as a Design Authority for four classes of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships. What are these four classes of ships?
FF: Under the Agreement Navantia Australia will work towards establishing a digital ship as a means to enhance the service level for four classes of ships designed by Navantia for the RAN: the Hobart class air warfare destroyers (DDG/AWD), the Canberra class Landing Helicopter Docks (LHD), Landing Craft mechanized (LCM), and Supply class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment ships (AOR).
Far from becoming a ‘black-box’ concept design solution, ‘know-how’ and ‘know-why’ is transferred to the RAN through this agreement to ensure that the design integrity, configuration control, upgrades and modernisation of Navantia designed ships and supplied systems and equipment are fully supported from Australia. This represents a significant milestone in the development of the sovereign capability of Navantia Australia and strengthens Australia’s naval shipbuilding and sustainment industry. This initiative has been described as ‘the largest, most valuable transfer of capability in the history of the Australian defence industry’.
This path that Navantia is walking alongside the Royal Australian Navy is based on mutual trust and high interaction between the respective organisations and it is the model which we would like to establish and implement in India.
Through the agreement, Australia will have greater ability to incorporate local technologies into existing ships, providing global export access opportunities for Australian companies. The local development and management of Navantia ship designs offers substantial opportunities for the Australian industry.
RA: Navantia is into the area of manufacturing frigates, aircraft carriers/ amphibians, submarines, patrol vessels among others. Currently, what programmes Navantia is pursuing with or without private sector tie-up for Indian Navy?
FF: India is a strategic market for Navantia where we have been present for many years. We expect to continue our participation in India through future projects as a key player within the Make in India initiative.
At this stage, Navantia has already taken part in several Navy programmes in India, for example in the Scorpene Submarines built by Mazagon Dockyard Limited. As well as the tender for the P75(I) submarine project, Navantia is currently participating in the tender for the design and local construction of four LPDs, in partnership with the Indian shipyard Larsen & Toubro.
In the future, considering Navantia’s broad portfolio, we are willing to explore our engagement with local shipyards for other future Indian Navy´s tenders. Navantia’s success in international programmes has always been based on the good performance of proven designs; existing vessels built for the Spanish and other international navies. At present, we are working on new projects that could perhaps be of interest to the Indian Navy: five 3.000 t Avante2200/Alfa3000 corvettes for the Saudi Navy, five 6.000 t F110 frigates for the Spanish Navy and two 19.500 t Auxiliary Oiler replenishment ships (AOR) for the Australian Navy. The most recent award to Navantia, dated July 2020, is a submarine support and rescue vessel specifically designed to operate with the S-80P class submarines.
RA: The competition has intensified for Rs 45,000 crore six conventional submarines building programme, which is the single largest ‘Make in India’ project with Naval Group (France), TKMS (Germany) and Rosoboronexport (Russia) and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (South Korea) in fray. As Navantia is competing in the programme, kindly update on the progress so far and about the prospects of Navantia emerging as a winner?
FF: We have great respect for the other companies competing in the P75(I) project, however, none of them has an existing sea proven submarines that can fulfill the P75(I) requirements without needing a substantial redesign and development phase.
There are examples in the industry where significant efforts have been made to transform existing submarine designs, either enlarging or shortening, changing diameters, etc, which have resulted in serious technical issues, long delays and significant cost deviations.
It is precisely here where Navantia can make a difference, as the S-80P class, our reference submarine for P75 (I), is in its final construction and testing phase. The S-80P is a ready-to-go 3.000-tonne submarine with a next generation Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. The construction of the first of the four S-80P submarines is progressing well, and we shall be launching the first unit in the first quarter of 2021, entering into service by 2022.
Navantia has experienced and overcome the complexity and difficulties involved in the design of a submarine the size of P75(I), from concept design through to detailed design. This is a differentiation point with respect to more conceptual designs proposed for P75(I). At this time, we can provide a ready-made robust S-80P design developed with the support of a very reputed submarine designer, Electric Boat, that turns out to be very close to the Indian Navy requirements.
Nowadays, we continue to work with the Suppliers and the Strategic Partners selected for this project, MDL and L&T, to be better prepared for the next stage that is expected before the end of 2020. We remain very enthusiastic and truly believe that the S-80P is an outstanding product which makes the selection of Navantia a sensible low-risk choice.
RA: Navantia has set examples by doing 100 side meetings and submitting 500 RFIs for P75 (I). This shows the dedication of Navantia while working towards P75(I) project as well as boosting Government’s Make in India programme. Any other contribution towards Make in India boost?
FF: On April 21, 2020, Navantia organised an online conference which was the kick-off to the indigenisation activities for P75(I) and an in depth analysis of the Indian Industry capabilities. 200 professionals from 150 different companies, the majority being Indian suppliers, participated in the conference, where Navantia informed about certain areas with no Indian supplier identified, and the plan to submit 500 Purchase Technical Specifications (PTS) within the following months. Despite the COVID-19 situation, the online event proved to be a very effective solution, and included more than 130 side meetings.
At present, all the areas with no Indian supplier are covered, and only three months after the meeting, more than 250 PTSs and more than 1000 RFIs had been released to Indian suppliers, covering approximately 80 per cent of the cost items for the submarine.
Navantia is a supporter of the Make in India initiative, which is a reminder to us of our very own story. Some 40 years ago, Navantia purchased the design of a frigate from the US, outfitted with American equipment. Nowadays we are warship designers and cooperate with international navies in several projects, with an important participation of the Spanish supplier industry.
Beyond the already mentioned Strategic Agreement with Navantia Australia, another recent example of Navantia’s openness to activities that contribute to the creation of new industries, develop capacities, and the progressive acquisition of industrial skills, is the effort made towards ‘Vision 2030’, an initiative taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where Navantia has recently created a Joint Venture with SAMI (Saudi Military Industries, who have a 51 per cent share) to develop, integrate and commercialise their own combat system, known as HAZEM, a derivative of Navantia’s CATIZ combat system. The newly created company called, SAMI Navantia, was awarded in September 2019 a €975 million contract to supply and integrate the combat system of five Avante2200/ Alfa3000 corvettes for the Royal Saudi Naval Force.
With respect to the following steps with P75(I), the cooperation with the Indian Strategic Partner and suppliers continues to develop. In particular, the work with suppliers is through the interaction with Navantia engineers to evaluate the responses to the RFIs, and also indirectly through the existing S-80P suppliers able to indigenise equipment items using Indian materials or fabrication and assembly in India. Navantia shall closely follow such initiatives and contribute as facilitator. Also, we shall be evaluating the sustainment requirements of equipment items to ensure that they can be maintained from India. The above areas shall be the indigenisation focus from now on.
Another initiative to boost cooperation with India is linked to Universities. We are in the process of signing a tri-lateral cooperation agreement with a University in India and the Polytechnic University of Cartagena in Spain. Navantia shall finance the participation of Indian students in a specific course oriented to submarine construction. The students shall spend 60 per cent of their time in Spain at our submarine shipyard in Cartagena, so that they can continue cooperating with Navantia upon their return to India, and help in the interaction with local suppliers through Navantia’s office in Delhi. The remaining time shall be spent at the Cartagena University, where they will receive classes on submarine construction.
Also, we bring to the table a unique on-the-job-training opportunity for the Strategic Partner and Indian suppliers which will contribute to the progressive acquisition of industrial skills. This is through the construction of the S-80P submarines in Spain, as Navantia currently has four units in different construction phases, from the forming of the first sections to Sea Trials. This will allow splendid opportunities to visualise in the same location, the full construction cycle of the S-80P submarine, with lots of commonalities with P75(I), taking advantages of lessons learnt for better efficiency of the tasks to be performed in India.
Finally, I would like to emphasise that Navantia is fully committed to India’s P75(I) project, and willing to provide the required “Know How” and “Know Why” through a Technology Transfer program to achieve permanent design, construction and maintenance capabilities in India, leveraging previous successful Transfer of Technology experiences in Australia, Chile, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
RA: Navantia has adopted a new industry model Navantia 4.0. Kindly explain the concept. How it is contributory to the shipbuilding industry as a whole?
FF: 4.0 technologies are applied to four areas branded as ‘Smart’ by Navantia: Smart Shipyard, Smart Ships, Smart Sustainment and Smart Naval Base. Such services are developed based on 14 enabling technologies: artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, 3D manufacturing, new materials, bid data analytics, Internet of Things, Blockchain, modeling and simulation, cloud storage, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), augmented reality and 5G.
Under the category of Smart Shipyard, Navantia implements robotic welding, use of drones and autonomous vehicles, robotic process automation and the use of virtual reality tools in workshops.
Smart Ship services include Digital Twins and Integrated Services Systems (ISS), leveraging information from Integrated Platform Management Systems (IPMS).
The Smart Naval Base services include Through Life Support Facilities (TLSF) and Land Based Test Sites (LBTS), consisting in supporting testing of software and hardware of any platform system connected to Navantia’s IPMS for upkeep, upgrades and updates, the Navantia training system and the EOLO through life support tools.
Smart Sustainment includes a Data Center, a shore-based laboratory for smart sustainment, Navantia Playback center, and data repository designed to provide playback capability to the IPMS and Predictive Maintenance.ARGOS 21 is an automated tasks & analysis system to optimise the maintenance analysis tools and machine learning. Additionally, Predictive Maintenance software is used based on thermography, vibration and lube oil analysis.
The Spanish frigate F110 project incorporates many of the above smart functionalities, and will be the first to implement a Digital Twin of the vessels, which will provide a real ship “avatar”, that allows to visualise the ship’s state and condition from a shore base, even thousands of miles away, using digital communication resources. Also, this project is developed under a new platform Siemens NX, ensuring processes end-to-end, and data integrity.
All the above solutions and the lessons learnt by Navantia in the implementation of digital technologies are offered to the Strategic Partner and to the Indian Navy for consideration and gradual adoption through the P75(I) project.
RA: S-80P submarines, as per Navantia claim is the most modern conventional submarine in the world. How is it different from the offers of the other companies in P75(I) competition?
FF: Stealth and armament are the two main factors to categorise conventional submarines.
The principal stealth capabilities proposed by Navantia for P75(I) shall be achieved through a combination of cutting-edge Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), same as that for the S-80P, and Lithium-Ion Battery (LIB) systems now under development, which will contribute to a very low signature. The use of Albacore-type hull forms, normally used in nuclear submarines, is implemented by first time in a conventional submarine. Finally, the design is suited to incorporate an ecoic tiles to absorb the sound waves of active sonar, reducing and distorting the return signal, and devices for reduction of the electromagnetic and electric signatures.
Navantia’s AIP system named ‘BEST’ (Bio-Ethanol Stealth Technologies), is based on an onboard revolutionary hydrogen generation system from standard bio-ethanol which avoids highly processed consumables. Bio-ethanol is readily available worldwide, in particular India. The AIP reformer has been developed in cooperation with the Spanish company Abengoa, and the fuel cell has been developed by Collins Aerospace, well known for their work with NASA. The AIP system has been subjected to extensive endurance and testing at a land base facility in Spain, and can support the submarine up to three weeks underwater in low-speed patrol mode.
With respect to new technologies to be implemented for P75(I), such as Lithium Ion Batteries, Navantia is also very enthusiastic, and after years of study of this technology, has awarded SAFT, one of the LIB industry leaders, a contract to cooperate into an R&D project named ‘BALIT’ for the development of last generation of Lithium-Ion batteries for submarines, that are aimed to deliver 20 per cent more energy density than last-decade Lithium battery technologies. BALIT will consider Navantia’s P75I design for the Indian Navy as a baseline design for implementation of the new batteries. BALIT aims to develop and integrate prismatic Lithium Manganese Iron Phosphate (LFMP) cells. These batteries provide higher energy density and discharge voltage than other LIB technologies developed during the last decade, combined with excellent safety performance and greatly increased thermal stability, significantly improved overcharge tolerance.
LFMP LIBs life cycle profile is superior than other technologies in the market thanks to their excellent structural stability, close to lithium iron phosphate, significantly superior than ternary material; excellent high temperature cycling stability, superior than Lithium ion manganese oxide, and outstanding electrochemical performance under low temperature.
Another advantage of this type of prismatic batteries is that they shall be compatible with the future solid state batteries, permitting easy replacement by such technology when available.
The combination of Navantia’s BEST AIP system, together with next generation LIB systems is complementary, since LIB systems are ideal for maximum speed combat scenarios. Long underwater patrol periods, combined with high speed possibilities bring conventional submarine tactical capabilities to a new level.
Regarding armament, the S-80P is provided with powerful attacking capabilities using heavy weight torpedoes, submarine launched anti-ship and cruise missiles, and also mines. The capacity to launch submarine cruise missiles (SLCM) is unique for non-nuclear NATO submarines. All of these weapons are integrated into a combat system designed by Navantia and supported by a sonar suit supplied by Lockheed Martin and Spanish company, SAES.
RA: With which Indian company you would be partnering for the six conventional submarines project, if Navantia secures the bid?
FF: We hold excellent relations with both the Strategic Partners (SPs), L&T and MDL, and we have signed MoUs specific to the P75(I) project.
The relationship with MDL commenced with the Scorpene project, in which we still have an involvement, and make regular trips to India engaging with the yard. During DefExpo, Navantia and MDL signed a MoU to explore possibilities of cooperating into the P75(I) project. A similar MoU was signed afterwards with L&T.
Navantia and L&T also hold a close relationship, as we have worked together in the last years in the preparation of the proposal for the India LPDs, which is still in force. This cooperation continues for the P75(I).
We are therefore pleased and honoured to be working with both SPs for the P75(I) at this stage, and hopeful to be selected by them to progress in this exciting project.
RA: Overall impact on Navantia production line following the emergence of Covid-19. How the company is coping to overcome the scenario?
FF: As in any other company, the COVID19 outbreak has had an impact in Navantia´s operations. The priority in Navantia has been to protect the health of its employees, subcontractors and customers and we have taken the necessary means to ensure a safe environment. The results have been very successful with no health issues even in the hardest moments. The production activities were reactivated according to the new reality brought by the virus, and we are nowadays working at similar levels to those prior the COVID-19 outbreak. Time-schedule impact to projects during the lock-down and subsequent post lockdown period, where efficiency was affected due to the social distancing requirement, are being minimised through the activation of recovery plans and adaptation of the work processes to the new reality until a vaccine becomes available.