ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri showcased at IDEX its latest S800 light submarine, designed for covert operations in shallow-waters and said to have grabbed the attention of Pakistani and Gulf region customers.
Based on the larger S1000 submarine, the S800 is smaller in size, 51 meters in length and 10 meters in height, but has similar capabilities and is fitted with many of the same technologies. It can accommodate 18 crew, operate in depths down to 250 meters and has a submerged endurance of 7 days without needing to surface.
Retired Rear Admiral Marcellino Corsi, a senior consultant for Fincantieri, touted the boat’s knack for secrecy. “Its dimensions and hull characteristics operationally make it the most suitable strategic asset for supporting Special Forces Operations, providing the ability to release and recover two chariots in fully covert missions,” he claimed.
Normally, the first customer to experiment with Italian shipmaker’s products is the Italian Navy. In the case of the S800, however, as the Marina Militare does not have a specific requirement to operate smaller submarines, the vessel will be trialed by the first export buyer. According to a company representative, both Pakistan and Gulf countries have shown a serious interest in the platform.
This comes amid a significant regional trend in recent years, where Arab states are increasingly looking to expand their naval capabilities, especially as tensions with Iran are rising. According to a recent Nuclear Threat Initiative report, as of February 2023, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy commands a submarine force of 19 to 27 vessels, which have given it substantial submarine capacities. Pakistan has also gone on an upgrading spree to increase its subsurface fleet, and the country previously purchased several Cosmo-class MG110 midget submarines from Italy back in 1988.
The S800 is equipped with five torpedoes rather than six like the S1000. It has an automated platform control system with 4 ‘X’ stern rudders, which are configured in a way that increases propeller efficiency and provides higher maneuverability. The quiet operation of its fuel cell system further allows the acoustic signature of the submarine to be kept at a minimum, a critical feature during the types of missions it’s meant to perform.
A Fincantieri spokeswoman estimated it would take roughly four years to make the first S800.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 24 clarify the estimated build time for the new S800 submarine, according to Fincantieri.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.