There’s A New Holiday In The Spanish Navy

Via Ace, we learn it’s called “Cinco de Sub

“In the era of total CAD and CAM, is it even possible to come up with a fundamentally flawed design ? Turns out, yes. This a fascinating engineering SNAFU. Spain’s newly built submarine is 100 tons too heavy, which means it is unable to float.”

I suppose I should find it amazing that given the Spanish Government’s financial situation they have invested so much in such a vanity project that has gone way over budget.

But I don’t. That’s what governments do.

26 Responses to “There’s A New Holiday In The Spanish Navy”

  1. Skyler says:

    I say kudos to Spain for trying to modernize their military without relying on the US or others. Not every effort by man succeeds. Lets hope they learn something.

  2. Mr. Bingley says:

    I think one thing they may have learned is that it can be painfully expensive trying to re-invent the wheel.

  3. JeffS says:

    The software and the hardware don’t do the designing. Human beings do. The computers do what they are told to do. In that sense, computers have not changed one wit since ENIAC was built: they are high speed idiots.

    This error likely comes from a lack of experience, a failure to check ones work, or a combination of both. In a fashion, that’s an error due to vanity.

    The first being, why build up an industrial capability when you don’t have much industry in the first place? This sounds like another one of those economic “stimulus” projects idiots have been pushing these last few years.

  4. Syd B. says:

    Skyler, perhaps what they’ve learned is, next time, get help from the Americans. The use of the word, “flaw”, seems grossly inadequate to describe building a boat that doesn’t float. Its like electing a President that doesn’t govern.

  5. Skyler says:

    Why build an industry? Wow. They have high unemployment. They need jobs. They have a lot of potential in Spain, they just need to get a viable industry.

    And I think history has shown that when a nation relies exclusively on other nations for its defense, they get pushed around a lot.

    This was a big mistake in execution, but not in concept.

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    They certainly need the jobs, Skyler.

  7. Syd B. says:

    I’m not suggesting that they simply have the US build it and they buy it. I’m saying that before they spend a boatload (sorry) of money that they don’t have, on a boat that doesn’t float, maybe they could have had American engineering up front. A little expertise could have prevented a turd on the bottom of the ocean, or more likely, a gigantic flower pot in dock.

  8. leelu says:

    Sounds like someone forgot to run the design by the mass properties group.

    Or, they were using an Etch-a-Sketch(tm)…

  9. Syd B. says:

    “This was a big mistake in execution, but not in concept.”

    Conceptually, building a $$$multi-billion sub, something the country had never done before, at a time where they were on the verge of financial collapse, was a big friggen mistake. The shitty execution was a very unfortunate and maybe even predictable consequence

  10. Skyler says:

    The last time the Spanish government relied on foreign sources for armaments, Franco and company overthrew them. Britain and France coerced the rest of the world into an arms embargo. Spain was forced to rely on the USSR to charge them outrageous prices for slightly obsolete weapons and then instead delivered only a portion of the order and substituted antiquated junk.

    I don’t blame them one bit for wanting some independence in the matter.

  11. Skyler says:

    Spain has a lot of problems, no doubt. Last I was there their laws required that anyone who held a job for a few years was guaranteed it for life, so there was great reluctance to hire anyone, and people remained in the same job for decades with little movement into better positions. They do have problems. But I like it there and I always wish them success.

  12. Syd B. says:

    Skyler, Spain is a wonderful country to visit and the people, for the most part, are a delight. I would not say the same of all countries I’ve visited. The worst place I’ve ever been to was Turkey. Spain, like many European countries, is suffering from decades of Socialism, a collection of unsustainable policies that is perpetuated by lard ass takers and a shortage of hard working makers. (sound familiar) To a large degree, immigration policies have had a slow but fully predictable impact on this imbalance. (sound familiar) It seems if you’re a lard ass in your home country, you’ll be a lard ass in your new one, especially if the government gives you shit. (sound familiar)

    Bottom line: I share your admiration for Spain, but as usual, its the government that is causing them to sink – just like their sub.

  13. JeffS says:

    Skyler, are you actually suggesting that increased military construction, a tax payer funded matter, in an areas where they have zero professional experience, is actually a good idea for a nation on the verge of financial collapse? As a sort of economic stimulus package? If so, color me astonished.

    One would think Spain could just increase production of the conventional weapons they already know how to build, and can easily sell, instead of venturing off into la la land, like a bunch of socialists.

    Oh, wait……

  14. Skyler says:

    No JeffS, but I was responding to the suggestion that they should not develop an industrial capacity. Defense is not make-work, it is a necessary expense. It is a primary purpose of government and as such it makes a lot if sense to ensure that they have the ability to create their own weapons.

    I’m not at all suggesting that there aren’t other motives, or that other systems might have higher priority, but it is not absurd for them want to fend for themselves and be wary of other nations’ promises to help.

  15. JeffS says:

    No, Skyler, it’s not silly. But they are not just building an industry, they are building the capability, expertise, and knowledge base to support that industry. And they just happened to pick a weapons system that is far more demanding than any other weapons systems currently in use on this planet.

    There’s a big difference from expanding or improving an existing capability (e.g., building on the automobile industry to produce armor vehicles) to developing a brand new capability (i.e., submarines).

    It seems to me (and others here) that the Spanish have bitten off more than they can chew, especially when the economy sucks. Perhaps they’ll work around the matter, and fix the design. That’s hard to say.

    But their judgment is most certainly questionable. Which leads me to opine that this was a good idea badly executed, and that solving it rationally may not be their first priority.

    Because, as an engineer, I can safely say that this problem could have been avoided by a simple free body diagram. Or a check of maximum buoyancy capability against gross weight.

    That this error made it all the way through construction to operational testing leads me to believe that some swabbie checked the figures and told the designers that they were idiots. And rightly so.

  16. Kathy Kinsley says:

    The problem is they need the infrastructure first. They need the good engineers, etc. Start small, think big. But first, get the little things fixed. Start with small factories, making things Americans are ‘too good for’ – but will buy if you export them to us. (Make a few things the Chinese will buy, too, just to be safe.)

    And do it by backing entrepreneurs, not by cheering on the local government.

  17. Skyler says:

    Yeah, it’s kind of like NASA crashing a Mars probe because of a mix up between metric and English units. This is one of the problems with relying on computer design and not doing enough physical modeling.

    It reminds me of when people stopped using slide rules. Many engineers complained that the newer engineers didn’t have good sense about the values of computations and too easily accepted errors.

  18. Mr. Bingley says:

    Yep, I think that’s exactly right, Skyler; I was thinking of that Mars probe too.

  19. Syd B. says:

    The difference between the Mars probe and the 100 ton overweight problem in Spain is that NASA possesses the technical knowledge and experience to attempt what many would consider impossible. Sure, mistakes are made, but their track record over decades of mammoth accomplishments is extraordinary. Spain, on the other hand, clearly did not know what they were doing from the outset of the ocean bottom sub project. A hundred ton error is not an oversight, rounding up error or a miscalculation. I don’t even believe it was an engineering debacle. It was incompetency, probably starting low on the ladder, but exposing even more inept bungling up stream. Its like assembling a BBQ without reading the instructions until you realized there were serious looking parts left over when you thought you were finished. Don’t ask how I know.

  20. JeffS says:

    I don’t even believe it was an engineering debacle.

    It is, Syd, for the reason that Skyler notes: “Many engineers complained that the newer engineers didn’t have good sense about the values of computations and too easily accepted errors.”

    I became an engineer during the time when slide rules were going out, calculators were coming in, and computer based design was on the rise. Many engineers simply do not understand the need to check your assumptions AND your work. I’ve watched many engineers (young AND old) blindly rely on computer models and calculators, with bad results. Politicians, alas, do exactly the same.

    In that sense, it is indeed incompetency.

  21. Skyler says:

    Sure it was incompetence. There is no question about that, and they deserve ridicule. But that doesn’t mean the policy of building their own weapons platforms is wrong.

  22. nightfly says:

    JeffS – so, the engineering is settled? =P

  23. JeffS says:

    Sure sounds like it, ‘fly!

  24. Mark Reardon says:

    Oddly enough, the first Los Angeles class submarine was too buoyant to sink. They had to add lead down the keel line to turn it into a submarine.

  25. Mr. Bingley says:

    Maybe we can get them to mate, Mark…

  26. tree hugging sister says:

    Ask Boeing how that whole “We can put it in the air without ever testing a REAL components/plane” thing is going…

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