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Saab Global

How big climate impact does a submarine have? Life Cycle Analysis of a generic submarine

3 min read

In an ongoing business development project at Business Area Kockums, the climate impact of a submarine during its total lifetime is being studied in a Life Cycle Analysis or Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is an established method that looks at everything from raw material extraction, manufacturing processes and use, to waste management and recycling, including transport and energy consumption. 


The project identifies which activities have a large environmental impact, so-called “hotspots", and thus should be prioritised for future improvement measures. This includes construction, operation and maintenance, possible lifetime extension and scrapping. 

Johanna Nordgaard, Head of ILS (Integrated Logistic Support)

Johanna Nordgaard, Head of ILS (Integrated Logistic Support), project leads the work.

“We are currently developing a model and a method to review which hotspots have a design impact, without compromising the robustness of the submarine or its capabilities. We review the EU regulation as well as other regulations and conventions that may affect design or recycling of the submarine and its systems. “

An initial estimate is made together with PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) experts, based on the submarine's main groups. The estimate is based on a generic submarine of between 1500-3000 tons that has a lifespan of up to 30-50 years with overhaul periods of between 8-10 years. The content and depth of the assessment will be developed during the work. ​

"This project has a long-term perspective. We protect democracy and our environment, the sea is sensitive. And what will life be like for the next generation of submariners? We have to keep that in mind when we develop our submarines because, after all, they have a lifespan of more than 30 years. What drives me is that we should do something good! We have to protect the sea and future generations", says Johanna.


PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) –  specifies calculation rules and data for products. PEF allows comparison of products between manufacturers as well as for internal comparisons.​​

The PEF method includes at least eight different categories that have an impact on biodiversity (e.g. climate change, eutrophication (freshwater), eutrophication (seawater), eutrophication (land), acidification, water use, land use, ecotoxicity freshwater).

LCA (Life Cycle Assessment or Analysis) - methodology to evaluate environmental impacts in a comprehensive and objective manner using a multi-criteria and life cycle perspective. 

LCA enables: identification of the most important environmental challenges for a product and its so-called "hotspots" (materials, processes, steps in the life cycle) that contribute most to the product's overall environmental impact.