The Dutch Ministry of Defense has shortlisted three companies for the €2.5bn ($2.77bn) programme to replace the Walrus-class submarines used by the Royal Netherlands Navy.

The MoD has issued a B-letter for the Walrus-class replacement programme that will involve the procurement of four new submarines.

In a press release, the ministry stated that Spanish shipbuilder Navantia is now out of the competition.

The remaining companies in the competition are Naval Group, Saab, and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

The Royal Netherlands Navy intends to acquire a long-range, conventionally propelled submarine that can operate for a long time.

The MoD said: “In the next phase, the requirements, award criteria and weighting factors are determined, based on factors such as best boat for the best price, risk management and the elaboration of national security interests and strategic autonomy.”

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The government hopes the programme will deliver significant opportunities for the Dutch industry in the design, construction and maintenance phases.

The Dutch Navy has been using the Walrus-class boats since the 1990s. The existing submarines are expected to reach the end of their service life in ten years.

The contract award to the winning bidder is expected in 2022. All four submarines are expected to enter service with the navy by 2031.

The Netherlands State Secretary for Defence Barbara Visser said: “This maritime power makes the submarine one of our most important weapon systems. The Dutch submarine service is highly regarded worldwide with the Walrus class.

“That is why the Netherlands wants to replace the ships now that the end of their life is approaching. Nato is also pushing for this. Submarines are an important and much-needed niche capacity.”

Navantia proposed a solution based on the S-80 submarine design for the Dutch programme.