The world of midget submarine construction in Italy is notorious for its secrecy. The first public photographs of the new submarines may be shown during a presentation to the Italian parliament on May 17. It was built by CABI Cattaneo, a well-known special forces submarine manufacturer.
Two tiny submarines are currently being built for the Qatari Emiri Navy by an Italian shipyard. Although that much can be taken as reality, typical reporting provides few more facts.
The submarine purchase is part of Qatar's Emiri Navy's overall modernization and development. Qatar has been investing a lot of money in new naval ships. Fincantieri is constructing four "Doha Class corvettes and patrol boats". Comparable to the Kalaat Beni Abbes class of Algeria, a flat-deck amphibious transport dock is also planned.
The little submarines will provide this typically modest fleet with a new capability.
They announced that they are working on two midget submarines alongside another company for a foreign buyer. While not explicitly stated, this corresponds to the Qatar agreement.
The submarine's look, which includes a sleek teardrop hull, shoulder-mounted hydroplanes, and no sail, seems to validate what some observers had suspected. M23 S.R.L. must be the other Italian corporation involved. It is a new submarine manufacturer in commercial terms. This firm is a spin-off from GSE Trieste's military section, a well-known submarine builder.
GSE is the company's founder and a well-known naval architect. Santi's designs have a long history of creativity. Under the Maritalia brand in the 1980s, he built AIP (air-independent propulsion) mini-submarines. Some used a special tubular design called Gaseous Oxygen Stored in the Toroidal Pressure Hull (GST). Steel pipes were welded together to make the hull, which was made up of a circle of steel pipes. Traditional construction was both more expensive and less adaptable.
The two firms share a plant in Ciserano, Bergamo, Italy, some 100 miles from CABI Cattaneo's headquarters in Milan. The submarine depicted in CABI Cattaneo's presentation is quite similar to the GSE Trieste family.
The submarine's specifications have not been made public. However, it's probable that the company's name, M23, contains a hint. The new submarine maybe 23 meters long. The maximum estimated size is around 30 meters. Significantly, these submarines appear to be equipped with at least two torpedoes. Nothing else could explain the two bumps on either side of the rounded nose.
The submarines will very certainly be equipped with a significant Special Forces capability. A door between them could be for a large-diameter payload tube.
Of course, the image created by CABI Cattaneo should only be used as a guide. It is missing the propeller (screw) and does not include deck elements such as masts or access ports. The presentation used publicly available third-party graphics to highlight some sensitive work created by the corporation in the spirit of secrecy. The visual is a stronger suggestion for Qatari submarines.