Nigeria is missing out in efforts by countries across the world to build and launch submarines to defend themselves against foreign aggression.
The Global Fire Power (GFP) ranking on submarine strength data through 2016 showed that 40 out of the 105 countries analysed currently have submarines. But Nigeria, which ranks 83, has no submarine yet, while South Africa came first in Africa with three.
According to the data, United States leads with 75 submarines, North Korea follows with 70, China has 68 and Russia came fourth with 60 submarines.
To make Nigeria launch itself into the comity of nations with submarine technology, the navy has commenced preparations to make the Federal Government purchase one between 2021 and 2022. But the current economic downturn may be an obstacle.
The Director of Information for the Nigerian Navy, Commodore Christian Ezekobe told The Guardian that Nigeria currently has no submarine but that a move to purchase one is part of the Revised Nigerian Navy Transformation Plan (R-NNTP).
“We were supposed to have it as early as 2021-2022 but you and I know that with the economic realities of today, that may not be feasible, but it is still in the pipeline,” he said.
But Ezekobe claimed that the lack of submarine power does not deter the navy from fully launching an offensive against any external aggression, saying they are well equipped with other combat ships and technologies that can serve that purpose.
“We have ships with underwater, surface and air capabilities. So, that is not a problem. More so, the trench within the region is key. You recall that we are a hegemon in this region of West Africa, so that is not a problem. But for national prestige and deterrence, we still need submarines in the future,” he said.
The global submarine payload and launch systems market is forecast to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.44 per cent between now and 2020.
A new report by Research and Markets tagged “Global Submarine Payload and Launch Systems 2016-2020” shows that many countries are modernising their naval defence units by manufacturing submarines, surface-mine countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUVs) and other combat and tactical UUVs.
“Advanced undersea warfare will be a key trend for market growth. The defence strategies of most countries rely significantly on their undersea warfare. Stealth submarines and UUVs have emerged as the most viable means of gathering intelligence.
“Therefore, undersea warfare is an important element of current and future military operational plans. The submarines and other undersea vehicles have enhanced their stealth and lightweight characteristics due to extensive research and development, wide use of technology and high-fidelity training. The transition from traditionally manned submarines to new unmanned submarines has changed the degree of naval warfare,” the report reads.
Experts are forecasting that rising investments in submarines would be a key driver for market growth. From about $17.57 billion in 2015, the global submarine market is projected to witness 3.47 per cent growth during the forecast period, to reach $20.97 billion by 2020.
A maritime expert, Lucky Amiwero, told The Guardian that it is imperative for the Federal Government to purchase submarines even in the midst of economic challenges because not doing so may be more costly.
“We have to take all necessary steps to get it, not one and not even two. We are not having it because we have failed in our planning system and focus while corruption has worsened the matter.
“It is just like a Nigerian Air Force not having an aircraft, the Nigerian Navy must also have a ship and then a submarine that can go underwater,” Amiwero said.
The United States last month took delivery of another submarine that is sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and planned to be named after her home state – Chicago.
Submarine builder, General Dynamics Electric Boat, based in Groton, Connecticut, delivered the submarine after nearly five and a half years of construction.
The first lady will be involved in the life of the submarine and the lives of its sailors and their families. It took thousands of shipyard employees in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia and submarine supply businesses nationwide to build the $2.7 billion submarine.