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SUBMARINES – thyssenkrupp Marine Systems Canada

SUBMARINES – thyssenkrupp Marine Systems Canada


tkMS is asking Canada to consider the 212CD submarine for CPSP

Canadian Patrol Submarine Project

Replacing the Victoria-class Submarine

The Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) four Victoria-class submarines are showing their age, although they are expected to remain in service well into the 2030s. Mindful that the Canadian procurement process is typically a long and arduous process, the Department of National Defence (DND) has created the Canadian Patrol Submarine Project (CPSP) to look into replacements for the existing sub fleet.

It’s been reported that the RCN is readying itself for the purchase of up to 12 new submarines at a cost of $60 billion, according to National Defence and industry sources. The Navy is pushing for the acquisition of the submarines to be included in the upcoming Defence Policy Update (DPU).

When it comes to replacing the Victoria-class submarines, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems Canada (tkMSC) President & CEO, Rick Gerbrecht, has a helpful suggestion for the CPSP. Rather than starting from scratch, the Canadian government should consider purchasing proven Type 212CD diesel-electric submarines from thyssenkrupp Marine Systems of Kiel, Germany. After all, Type 212CD (Common Design) submarines have already been purchased by Germany (four) and Norway (two) for their respective Navies. The Type 212CD is the newest generation of the tkMS Type 212A submarine, which is already in service with the German and Italian Navies. 

As for tkMS’ relevance to the Canadian defence market? The current tkMSC is the result of a 2019 merger between thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Canada’s ATLAS ELEKTRONIK. Former ATLAS ELEKTRONIK leader Gerbrecht remains at the helm of tkMSC, which has continued operations at a office/factory located in the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich, British Columbia. This factory is Controlled Goods Program and Facility Security Clearance accredited, and has been approved to work at the NATO SECRET Level. 

With tkMSC’s Canadian base of operations and its longstanding relationship with the RCN, plus tkMS’ significant support of NATO country Navies and its modern manufacturing facilities in Kiel, Germany, tkMSC/tkMS has “the commitment, capability and capacity to ensure the success of the CPSP,” Gerbrecht told CDR.


The tkMS Type 212CD is the kind of advanced submarine solution that balances the need for cutting-edge equipment with cost-effective, reliable, and proven technology. And although the Type 212CD is built upon the Type 212A platform, it is definitely a step-up. 

For instance, the Type 212CD’s surface displacement is about 2,500 tons compared to the Type 212A’s 1,524 tons. At 73 m in length, the Type 212CD is nearly 30% longer than the Type 212A’s 57.2m. The Type 212CD is also nearly 50% wider at 10m, in contrast to the Type 212A’s 6m width. 

The reason the Type 212CD is so much larger than the Type 212A is due to its larger outer hull. TkMS has expanded the outer hull’s size to make this submarine less visible to active sonar, thus increasing its stealth.

Modernization efforts at the tkMS Kiel yard are nearing completion


According to Rick Gerbrecht, the RCN announced its high-level requirements for the CPSP during NAVY OUTLOOK this year. The event was hosted in April 2023 by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) 

Asked whether tkMS has any concerns about meeting the CPSP’s high-level requirements, he answered, “None. The requirements are well understood and our appreciation concerning the unclassified concept of operations are very similar to the requirements we have squarely satisfied for other Navies who operate in temperate waters.” 

In fact, the Type 212CD meets these requirements quite nicely. “This is because our submarine’s evolutionary design embraces engineering and innovation to provide stealth and acoustic management within the full spectrum of water conditions around the world,” said Gerbrecht. “Submarine design therefore needs to be optimized for a concept of operations to support what is commonly understood as the ability to penetrate ‘anti-access area-denial (A2/AD) zones’, which requires a full suite of capabilities. This is why navies continue to work with tkMS. We offer the collaborative solution space that is recognized for success in domestic and expeditionary operations. This includes the need for extensive covert transit to the operational theatre and then, getting down to business.”


The federal government’s propensity for using military equipment for multiple decades, followed by spending many years procuring replacements, means that any equipment Canada buys must be tough enough to go the distance. 

These realities beg a very important question: How durable are tkMS’ submarines? Are they built with enough robustness to keep functioning during a very long lifespan with the RCN? 

Yes, they are, Gerbrecht replied. “I am extremely proud to acknowledge that some of our platforms have entered 40 plus years of service with Navies and one customer is approaching 50 years of employment,” he told CDR. “This speaks to our demonstrated superior management in parts and sparing, and the continuing strength in the integrity of our supply chain partnerships despite the global challenges being experienced today.” 

That’s not all. “We are providing integrated services support in more than 20 countries today and this includes the transfer of technology to permit customers to exercise full independence in their life cycle management,” said Gerbrecht. “This is a lengthy commitment by tkMS to operate with unity of purpose with the end user. This demonstrated commitment translates into the ability to support our customers for as long as they determine their operational life cycles to be.” 

“The fact that tkMS is the preferred supplier supporting over 70% of NATO’s non-nuclear submarines is the proof of this close industry-to-Navy relationship,” he observed. “Beyond that, we are now supplying platforms to allies of NATO including customers in the Indo-Pacific. Our most recent delivery of tkMS Type 218 submarines to Singapore is a case in point.”

: Rick Gerbrecht showcases the SeaSpider anti-torpedo torpedo


Canada is a country whose defence procurements must come with a host of benefits attached for vendors to win the bids. So besides providing non-nuclear submarines that are advanced, reliable, and affordable due to not being ‘one offs’, what else does tkMS have to offer the RCN? The answer to this question is a wide range of benefits. 

“I will tackle my response in two parts,” said Gerbrecht. “Firstly, as just stated, we are the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for over 70% of non-nuclear submarines in NATO service today, demonstrating that our customers have chosen not to procure ‘orphan’ solutions. As a result, our ongoing association with NATO provides a whole host of customer benefits to our military customers including user working communities, NATO stock number nomenclature, plus qualification and certification according to widely recognized NATO Standing Agreements (STANAGs) and Military Standards (MilStd).” 

The payoff? “What this means for new NATO customers is the ability to immediately become a member in an expansive experience-based community where concepts of operations, procedures and knowhow are both established and can be exchanged via sanctioned security protocols,” Gerbrecht explained. “This user community facilitates the potential sharing of infrastructure, and personnel exchange programs to support operator/maintainer proficiency — including the ever constant and critical requirement to produce members of the command team. This is force multiplication at its fundamental stage, which is why our repeat customer base recognizes the value in operating a submarine within a community of similar designs with a wide-range in performance.” 

“Secondly, underwater defence technology is progressing rapidly — manned and unmanned vehicles and systems alike,” said Gerbrecht. “As presented to our customers during SUBCON (Submarine Conference) 2019 in Kiel, an important key factor, along with the ability to fully understand requirements, is our approach to involve the customer early in any design reconciliation phase. Operating as a collaborative Joint Design team enables ‘trade-off decision-making’ to optimize capabilities now and define margins for future technology insertion later.” 

Based on tkMS’ results to date, this agile methodology has proven its worth for protecting customer-defined project time schedules. Meanwhile, “our heritage dates back over a century, and this means experience and proven metrics,” he noted. “We have therefore concluded transfer of technology and knowhow to permit nations to initiate and grow their national shipyard skill sets over time — providing an impressive set of lessons learned to the benefit of our customers.”


As one of the world’s busiest and most successful submarine builders, tkMS has a very full order book. However, the company has the capacity and the will to take on new orders and fulfill them on time as well. 

“We are currently at ‘full load’ when it comes to engineering in the development and design of two new classes of submarines in succession,” said Gerbrecht. “This capability is unique in the market, which is why we are on track for both projects’ meeting critical phase milestones in parallel. Better yet, the bulk of engineering work for these two programs will be completed, by our estimate, as the CPSP program transitions from the Options Analysis to the Definition Phase. Therefore, our proposal would offer CPSP considerable leverage from these two ‘fresh and relevant’ reference programming achievements.” 

At the same time, tkMS is investing in itself to be able to do more for its customers going forward. “Our Kiel shipyard is completing modernization this year with our 250 million Euro self-investment in production infrastructure upgrades and footprint expansion,” he told CDR. “In parallel, we have acquired a second shipyard (Wismar) in the vicinity of Kiel. This shipyard is being prepared for additional submarine production employing lessons learned from the Kiel upgrade program. With this additional infrastructure, an experienced workforce in place, and in-house combat management system (CMS) and weapons production, we are positioned to support the CPSP build schedule whatever it may be. In other words, we can surge capacity to support a new program build such as CPSP. Not too many folks can make this claim.”


Compared to tkMS in Germany, Canada’s tkMSC is not big. “Currently we are a small business with less than 10 employees,” said Gerbrecht. “But we have full access to the resources, procedures and guidelines of the tkMS Global Group. This relationship enables our company to grow and pursue opportunities without incurring the risk such growth potential would usually create in a small independent company.” 

This being said, tkMSC and its parent company are already major supporters of the RCN. For instance, the RCN’s two Joint Supply Ships now being built are using a design based on the tkMS Berlin Batch II (Class 702 Combat Support Ship). At the same time, tkMSC and the tkMS business unit Hagenuk MarineKommunikation are supplying HF radios and NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence) antennas to Canada’s new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships. 

“We are also the supplier of the ASW Underwater warfare modelling at the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre in Halifax,” Gerbecht said. “Our OSPREY III Post Mission Acoustic Analysis system in service at ADAC Halifax is in partnership with our business unit, SonarTech Atlas in Australia. The ATLAS ELEKTRONIK ‘SeaFox’ mine disposal vehicles will be entering into service with the RCN next year.” 

Additionally, “our premier development program with Canadian partners is the munitions section of the world’s most mature torpedo killer known as SeaSpider,” said Gerbecht. “The European Defence Agency (EDA) has approved this ‘Anti-Torpedo Torpedo’ for project status. The project aims at bringing a developed anti-torpedo torpedo demonstrator to the production ready design, with a qualified effector and a proven functional chain. We are progressing with the dual development of the Rocket and Warhead sections with Magellan Aerospace, Winnipeg. SeaSpider will be fitted in tkMS Submarines. We also have the ODIN underwater warfare toolset in service with the Canadian Armed Forces’ Maritime Warfare Centre to model ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) environments according to RCN requirements, while our SeaFox Mine Disposal Vehicle is part of the Remote Minehunting & Disposal (RMDS) solution being delivered to the RCN.” 

Clearly, tkMSC and tkMS have proven their commitment, capability and capacity to support the RCN in its many vital missions. Doing the same for the CPSP won’t be a stretch.

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief


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