The South African Navy's submarine force is unable to operate all of its new Manthatisi-class submarines because of funding and people problems. The Navy has taken delivery of two submarines of this class with a third scheduled for delivery in May 2008.
The Navy is, reportedly, able to keep only one of the Manthatisis-class boats in service at this time. Because of this, some government officials have called for cancellation of the third submarine. However, at this stage of the program the refusal to accept the third unit could lead to very high cancellation costs.
The Navy has launched a recruitment drive to replenish its ranks, according to senior naval officers.
The South African problem is similar to that being faced by the Australian Navy, which in 2007 reportedly had only two of its six Collins-class submarines ready for sea. The lack of available crews for the other submarines is part of a hemorrhage of trained personnel from the Australian Navy, which has a nominal strength of just under 13,000 men and women. The loss of highly trained submariners has been especially difficult for the Navy, which is losing trained personnel to high-paying civilian jobs.
(The Australian Navy procured six diesel-electric submarines of the Collins class between 1996 and 2003, although their entry into service was delayed several years because of software integration and systems problems. Those submarines are armed with U.S. Mark 48 torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.)
The Manthatisis-class submarines are German designed and built Type 209/1400 undersea craft with a submerged displacement of about 1,600 tons. Each submarine is armed with 8 21-inch bow torpedo tubes and can carry 14 torpedoes. At this time there are no provisions for the submarines to launch anti-ship missiles, which are being provided to numerous Third World submarines.
Last fall the Manthatisis participated in a NATO exercise. Reportedly, she escaped a task group of six ships hunting the submarine while (theoretically) sinking all of the "hunters."
The new South African submarines are intended to replace the Navy's French-built Daphne-class submarines. Three of these 1,040-ton submarines -- the first South African undersea craft -- were delivered in 1970-1971. One of the trio has been laid up in reserve to compensate for the first deliveries of the Manthatisis-class submarines.
South Africa, with some 4,700 active naval personnel, also has four modern, German-built missile/anti-submarine frigates, seven Israeli-built missile craft, and a large number of mine, patrol, and auxiliary units.-- Norman Polmar