Sweden’s Saab certainly thinks so. Saab plans to be a big player in the diesel-electric submarine business. As the WSJ explains here, submarines have a unique value in defending a country.
For the first time since the Cold War, the world sub fleet is growing. Driven by changing strategic threats, surging global trade and new technologies, countries are buying or upgrading subs, even as some scale back on land and air equipment.
Stealth makes subs particularly appealing to countries feeling threatened by larger rivals. Vietnam is buying its first subs, from Russia, while Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea are expanding their fleets—a response, in part, to China’s expansion of its navy with ships including its first aircraft carrier and large nuclear subs.
Iran has said in state-controlled media it is developing conventional subs to enhance its Russian-built fleet. Firm numbers aren’t available—countries guard their military plans—but at least 17 nations have made public plans to create or expand sub fleets.
Submarines are unique among large military equipment for their ability to defend a country, project power and protect themselves. Aircraft carriers embody awesome strength but are expensive and vulnerable. Ground-based aircraft can reach far but require support ranging from refueling planes to spare parts.
In a shift, there is new demand for subs powered by diesel engines and electricity, not just for those with nuclear reactors. The Cold War’s end spurred cuts in the global fleet of diesel-electric submarines, to 256 last year, compared with 463 such vessels 15 years ago, according to London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.