South Africa has found a novel use
for its new Type 209/1400 class submarines; catching poachers. It works like
this. South Africa owns two islands (Marion and Prince Edward), some 1,800
kilometers to the south, nearly half way to Antarctica. The islands are
uninhabited (except by scientific researchers),and surrounded by valuable
fishing grounds, which are for the use of South African fishing boats only.
Keeping the poachers out has proved to be a problem. That's because of the
weather. It's raining 90 percent of the time, overcast and windy. Very windy,
with 15-20 foot waves. The temperature is chilly all the time. A very nasty
part of the world.
African patrol boats could not safely, or adequately, patrol the area. But it
was known that foreign fishing boats would wander in, drop their nets, quickly
fill their holds with a very valuable catch, and be off. This is where the new
subs come in. Subs, even diesel-electric ones that spend most of their time on
the surface, are better able to handle nasty weather. Moreover, subs are
stealthy, and can get close to foreign ships illegally fishing and collect
evidence. The government can then sue
and collect a lot of money, not to mention discouraging other poachers. The sub
has a sonar that can detect, and track, ships at long distance. And the high
tech periscope can detect heat, and has night vision.
Africa subs are also quite good at more conventional pursuits. One of
them, SAS Manthatisi, recently
distinguished itself during exercises with a NATO/South African task force. The
sub avoided efforts by surface ships and aircraft to detect it, and proceeded
to "destroy" several NATO ships.
because of money and personnel shortages, only two of these subs can operate,
with the other one basically just sitting in port with a skeleton crew. That
one is also undergoing maintenance, so the crew shortage is not a total loss.
Africa only received its first Type 209 sub two years ago. The second one
entered service a year ago, and third one arrived recently. The German built
Type 209 is one of the more widely used diesel-electric subs in the world. The
South African boats displace 1,300 tons, are 183 feet long, have eight torpedo
tubes and carry 14 torpedoes and a crew of 36.
African Navy needs $1.2 million each year to operate each Type 209 boat. The
government has not been providing enough money to cover all those costs. To
make matters worse, the expanding oil industry, and high tech sectors of the
economy, have been tempting experienced officers and NCOs to leave the
submarine service. Currently, an experienced submarine petty officer earns
about $13,400 a year. Civilian jobs offer two or three times that. The navy
needs about a hundred submarine sailors to provide full time crews for the two
boats it has in service. Another fifty qualified sailors are needed for the
poacher patrol is a success, the government may be motivated to provide the
cash needed to keep all three boats in service. There are 59 Type 209 boats in
service worldwide, in a dozen different navies. South Africa had previously
operated 860 ton French Daphne class boats. The new Type 209 boats cost South
Africa $285 million each.