Saab, Damen Shipyards Agree To Export Expeditionary C-71 Subs; Astrolight Joins NATO DIANA

Saab and Damen Shipyards have agreed to export the advanced Expeditionary C-71 submarines. Arnout Damen, CEO of Damen Shipyards, and Micael Johansson, CEO of Saab, made the decision this week to export the submarine together.

The submarine has been developed for the Royal Netherlands Navy to replace the current Walrus class. The agreement doubles the long-term prospect of employment and income for the Netherlands Naval Cluster with the replacement of the Walrus submarines by Saab-Damen.

Saab and Damen have been working together since 2015 to build, modernize, and maintain the new expeditionary submarine for the Royal Netherlands Navy. This project is so much more than delivering four submarines.

Given the current geopolitical developments, Dutch strategic autonomy is vital in strategic projects like the submarine replacement. The Dutch Naval base is the single remaining self-sufficient defense industry cluster in the Netherlands DTIB.

The two companies have now also agreed to offer their advanced Expeditionary submarines to Canada. A country in the initial phase of a similar process to replace their diesel-electric submarines.

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This offers the Netherlands government a strategic best choice in line with its Defence Industry Strategy 2018, several Parliamentary Letters on this topic, and the important National Sector Agenda for the Maritime Industry.

The expeditionary submarine is based on the successful, proven, and future-proof design of the A26 submarines. It incorporates the latest capabilities and technologies, while the modular design allows room for customizability as well as new technologies as they develop, ensuring relevance for decades to come.

Through Saab’s business area Kockums, Sweden has a long tradition of producing world-class submarines. For this new expeditionary design, Saab is working closely with Damen Shipyards and a range of Dutch suppliers and is supported by the United Kingdom. Four countries currently operate submarines and submarine technology designed by Saab: Sweden, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.

Damen Shipyards Group – From The Horses’s Mouth

Damen Shipyards Group has been in operation for over ninety-five years and offers maritime solutions worldwide through the design, construction, conversion, and repair of ships and ship components. By integrating systems, we create innovative, high-quality platforms that provide our customers with maximum added value.

Our core values are fellowship, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, and stewardship. Our goal is to become the world’s most sustainable shipbuilder through digitalization, standardization, and serial construction of our innovative vessels and the use of circular materials.

Damen operates 35 shipyards and 20 other companies in 20 countries, supported by a worldwide sales and service network. We deliver in the region of 100 vessels per year, with a total production value of over 3 billion euros. We offer direct employment to approximately 12,500 people. In all that we do, our aim is to ensure a positive impact on the local environment and society.

Astrolight Joins NATO DIANA To Accelerate Innovation In Defense Technology

Astrolight, a pioneering technology company dedicated to facilitating space-to-Earth and ship-to-ship laser communications, has joined the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), which will advance its dual-use laser communication technology in the defense sector.

The focus will be on facilitating tactical communication between navy ships. The company plans to develop a product for optical communication between ships so that they can communicate without using conventional radio systems.

Today, Astrolight is already conducting a project with the Lithuanian Naval Flotilla. Justinas Žukauskas, Lieutenant Commander of the Lithuanian Navy, highlighted that the Navy initiated the proposal to develop this technology in response to the evolving demands of the operational environment in the Baltic Sea. It aims to establish alternative communication systems tailored to the unique requirements of Lithuania’s naval vessels.

“The upcoming prototype signifies a pivotal addition to our technology, introducing alternative communication methods through laser technology while simultaneously addressing the crucial imperative of reducing electromagnetic signatures for heightened operational stealth. Moreover, this technology holds potential for adaptation in the land domain as well,” added LCDR Žukauskas.

Astrolight specializes in free space optical communication, a secure and high-bandwidth communications technology that enables two distant objects to communicate using laser beams. Leveraging the optical spectrum’s significantly higher frequency, Astrolight’s space-to-ground laser communication terminals ATLAS offer enhanced security and speed compared to traditional radio frequency systems.

As part of the partnership with DIANA, Astrolight will collaborate with NATO and other defense stakeholders to adapt its laser communication terminals for terrestrial applications. This collaboration will enable Astrolight to utilize its dual-use technology further, expand its product portfolio, and tap into new markets within the defense industry.

DIANA provides startups like Astrolight with access to a network of experts, resources, and funding opportunities to help them develop and commercialize innovative technologies for defense applications.

“As a commercial company specializing in the development of dual-use telecommunications technology, our partnership with NATO DIANA is pivotal in transitioning our expertise into the defense sector,” said Laurynas Mačiulis, Astrolight co-founder and CEO. “The participation in DIANA’s program involves guiding us through defense-specific requirements and facilitating our understanding of the nuances associated with this market. It also encompasses adapting our space-developed product for terrestrial applications, with a primary focus on enabling laser communication between navy ships.”

Further, DIANA is a prestigious accelerator program focused on advancing innovation in defense technology and strategies within NATO. Leveraging its acceleration program and test center network, DIANA supports startups that can address NATO’s specific challenges, including energy resilience, undersea sensing and surveillance, and secure information sharing.

“We’re delighted to have Astrolight as part of DIANA’s first cohort of innovators,” said Dr. Tien Pham, DIANA’s Chief Scientist. “Laurynas and his colleagues are working on exciting prospects to improve secure communications on the ground and in space. As part of DIANA’s program, Astrolight receives training, funding, commercial advice, and much more to grow its technology. We’re looking forward to seeing what the team achieves in the months and years ahead.”

Looking ahead, Astrolight will continue to develop its space-to-Earth optical connectivity solutions as Mačiulis reiterates that there is still a lack of bandwidth for making data collected by satellites accessible.

“Our planet’s satellites are amassing unprecedented amounts of data about Earth, yet our ability to download this information is severely limited by outdated technology,” said Mačiulis. “By leveraging optical communication systems that are more than 10 times faster than traditional radio communications, Astrolight aims to bridge the connectivity gap between space and Earth, and this way unlock the full potential of satellite data for the benefit of humanity.”

The company plans to finish certifying its prototype space-to-Earth laser communication terminal ATLAS-1 this year, with an in-orbit demonstration mission scheduled for early 2025. The next steps involve undergoing an environmental test campaign to ensure that ATLAS-1 can operate in the harsh conditions of space.

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