The saga began in 2013, when it was discovered that while the new ships would submerge, coming up again was likely to be a little … er … problematic. As you can imagine, this would have done little to enhance crew morale.
A new, Spanish-designed submarine has a weighty problem: The vessel is more than 70 tons too heavy, and officials fear if it goes out to sea, it will not be able to surface.
And a former Spanish official says the problem can be traced to a miscalculation — someone apparently put a decimal point in the wrong place.
. . .
The Isaac Peral, the first in a new class of diesel-electric submarines, was nearly completed when engineers discovered the problem. A U.S. Navy contractor in Connecticut, Electric Boat, has signed a deal to help the Spanish Defence Ministry find ways to slim down the 2,200-ton submarine … the preference has been to extend the length of the submarine’s hull, perhaps by 5 to 6 metres, to increase buoyancy.
Otherwise, the weight of the submarine would have to be reduced, and … the Spanish Navy would not want to compromise features such as the combat system or an air-independent propulsion system.
There’s more at the link.
The lengthening option was chosen, and is now almost complete – only for a new problem to emerge.
The newest problem will force Spain’s government to soon announce a budget increase for the project. Each of the four new submarines will end up costing almost $1.2 billion, nearly double the initial budget, according to El País.
After the buoyancy problems were discovered in 2013, the submarine was redesigned and lengthened by about 33 feet. But the changes did not properly take into account the size of the docks in Cartagena.
Now, the port will need to be dredged and reshaped — an overhaul that alone will cost about $18.6 million, according to the newspaper. The submarine project has other issues, and engineers have still not settled on the design of its propulsion system, according to El País.
Again, more at the link.
And all that – a doubling of the project budget, plus the additional cost of modifying the submarine docks in Cartagena, probably amounting to well over two billion dollars in all – is the result of a misplaced decimal point. Costly mistake, that . . . but by no means unprecedented. Just ask NASA, which “lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched“; or the European Space Agency, which lost one of its Mars probes due to a mix-up in how to measure computer sensor readings. Neither of those mistakes were as expensive as the Spanish submarine project, but both were still due to miscalculations.
The devil, as always, was – and remains – in the details . . .