Monday, 26 December 2011

Russian subs stalk Trident in echo of Cold War 

Russian submarines are hunting down British Vanguard boats in a return to Cold War tactics not seen for 25 years, Navy chiefs have warned.

A specially upgraded Russian Akula class submarine has been caught trying to record the acoustic signature made by the Vanguard submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles, according to senior Navy officers. 
British submariners have also reported that they are experiencing the highest number of "contacts" with Russian submarines since 1987.
If the Russians are able to obtain a recording of the unique noise of the boat's propellers it would have serious implications for Britain's nuclear deterrent. Using its sophisticated sonar, the Akula would be able to track Vanguards and potentially sink them before they could launch their Trident D4 missiles.
Within the past six months, a Russian Akula entered the North Atlantic and attempted to track a Vanguard. The incident has remained secret until now.
It is understood that the Russians stood off Faslane, where the British nuclear force is based, and waited for a Trident-carrying boat to come out for its three-month patrol to provide the Continuous At Sea Deterrent.
While patrolling in the North Atlantic, there are a limited number of places the Vanguard is permitted to go and it is thought that the Akula attempted to track it on several occasions.

Navy commanders are understood to have ordered a Trafalgar-class hunter-killer submarine to protect the Vanguard. A recording of the Akula was made by the Trafalgar submarine's sonar operators.

"The Russians have been playing games with us, the Americans and French in the North Atlantic," a senior Navy commander said.

"We have put a lot of resources into protecting Trident because we cannot afford by any stretch to let the Russians learn the acoustic profile of one of our bombers as that would compromise the deterrent."
REPORT - Isreali Jets and Submarine strike in Sudan

Sudanese Media:             Israeli helicopters also involved in multiple attacks on targets

Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and possibly a submarine were involved in multiple attacks on targets in Sudan last week, according to local news outlets.
The reports say that Israeli jets hit targets in the eastern part of the African country, near its border with Egypt, last Thursday. They allegedly hit six Land Cruiser jeeps and killed four people. An earlier strike took place last Sunday and reportedly involved Israeli helicopters. A truck was targeted. Some reports say an Israeli submarine was also spotted at the same time.

However, the Sudanese army spokesman, Col. Al-Sawarmi Haled Sa'ad, said that the military's air defense array gave no indication that the country's airspace had been breached.
Arabic news outlet Dar al-Hayyat on Sunday reported “conflicting information” coming out of Sudan regarding alleged Israeli air strikes. It said that the governor of Sudan’s Red Sea District recently received notification from several citizens in the region that the IAF had raided smuggler convoys, in Abu Thabaq in the disputed Hala’ib triangle.

Also according to al-Rakoba, on December 15, Israeli Apache helicopters landed on an island east of the Red Sea port of Mohammed Qol. 

Israel does not comment on whether reports of overseas actions such as these are accurate.
December 26th - On This Date

1915 HMS E6 On 26th December 1915 HMS E6 left Harwich to carry out an anti-submarine patrol in the North Sea. As the submarine neared the Sunk Light Vessel she was signalled by a patrolling torpedo boat to keep clear. E6 continued on her course and within view of the torpedo boat struck a mine and disappeared.
1939 HMS Triumph Whilst on patrol North East of Heligoland on 26 December 1939, HMS Triumph hit a drifting mine which blew eighteen feet off her bows fully exposing her six internal and two external torpedo tubes. Although all the tubes were loaded, none of her warshots exploded. Unable to dive she was escorted back to Rosyth by Hudson aircraft where repairs were carried out.
1942 Unrivalled HMS Unrivalled sinks the Italian auxiliary submarine chaser O 97/Margherita with gunfire about 5 nautical miles north of Mehedia, Tunisia.
1943 HMS Sickle HMS Sickle sinks two Greek sailing vessel with gunfire east of Mykonos Island, Greece.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

HONOLULU, Hawaii 0 December 24th 2011


Retired Rear Adm. John M. "Jack" Barrett, who served in Hawai'i, was instrumental in the development of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park and was a founding director of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association, died Saturday at his home in White Salmon, Wash. He was 89.  

Kristin "Kiddy" DeCoster, who also helped develop Bowfin Park, said Barrett was a good man who cherished all the volunteers who worked to create and maintain the park. "When we started the submarine park, it was nothing but weeds and junk cars," DeCoster said. The park, next to the USS Arizona Memorial, attracts thousands of visitors a year. It is there that Barrett prevailed over opposition to placing 51 memorials to lost submariners and subma- rines, DeCoster said.

American nuclear submarine nearly rammed ship near Canada coast

(as previously reported in Submariners World)


A report in America's Navy Times has now revealed an October incident in which the nuclear-powered USS Kentucky nearly smashed into a freighter near the state of Washington in the United States.

The near miss in the Juan de Fuca Strait - between Washington and British Columbia - was averted when a ship's alert captain spotted the submarine's periscope sticking out the water.

The USS Kentucky is also equipped to handle ballistic missiles.

A report from Canada's CBC news said the submarine was changing course 'to avoid a trawler' when it positioned itself in the freighter's path.

The report also claimed that nobody inside the vessel had any idea that they were heading towards the ship.

The CBC News article, quoting Navy Times, adds that submarine commander Joseph Nosse was fired on October 19 for 'inadequate leadership'.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Navy Marks 25th Anniversary of USS Chicago

Posted December 24th, 2011 - John Browne
The 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Chicago was celebrated at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Among the events that marked the anniversary of the submarine was a visit by the members of the 721 Club of Chicago, the successor to the commissioning committee for USS Chicago. The Club has, over the years, provided support and contact with the submarine’s crew and their families. This included contributions for the USS Chicago Wives’ Club, holiday gifts for children of the crew, and the sponsorship of an annual holiday party for submarine officers and crew, among others.

Cmdr. Nick Tillbrook, Chicago commanding officer, shared: “It is a great honor to have the 721 Club here for our 25th anniversary and to be able to continue our strong relationship with this
 organization… Their support of us for all these years means so much to us. Knowing that our service and dedication to our nation is much appreciated by great Americans such as them motivates us to perform that much better.”

Among the activities that the 721 Club was invited to participate in was spending a day at sea on the USS Chicago. The guests were given a briefing on general safety procedures, and received a basic overview on the mission and history of the USS Chicago. They learned about life aboard the submarine, and were able to enjoy a meal on mess decks and observe submarine operations from the control center.

721 Club treasurer Chris Harnack shared: “It is an honor to be aboard USS Chicago and amazing to see the abilities of the crew operating such a complex ship… It is also great to see their appreciation for what the club represents to them and how we support them and their families.”

U.S. nuclear sub nearly hit freighter near B.C.

December 25th - On This Date

1914 E32 Submarine HMS E32 laid down
1917 P512 Submarine HMS P512 launched
1941 HMS H31 HMS H-31 sunk by mine in Bay of Biscay

In December 1941 news was received of a possible break out from Brest, by the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen. In expectation of this eight submarines were sent to the area but although the breakout did not take place, H31 failed to return. The submarine had sailed from Falmouth on 19th December. She was requested to signal her position on the 24th but did not do so.
1944 HMS Tudor HMS Tudor sinks two Japanese sailing vessels with gunfire of the west coast of Burma.
1947 HMS Sea Dog Scrapped at Troon
December 25th - On This Date

HMS P48 HMS P48 sailed from Malta on the 23rd December 1942. Two days later she was attacked and sunk through depth charging by the Italian torpedo boat Ardente north west of Zembra Island in the Gulf of Tunis.
1943 HMS Torbay HMS Torbay damages a sailing vessel with gunfire off Cape Stavros, Crete, Greece
1944 HMS Sirdar HMS Sirdar sinks a Japanese vessel with gunfire off Surabaya, Java, Netherlands East Indies.
1944 HMS Terrapin and HMS Trenchant HMS Trenchant and HMS Terrapin sink the Japanese auxiliary minesweeper Reisui Maru. They also claim a fishing vessel and three coasters.
1944 HMS Tudor HMS Tudor sinks two Japanese sailing vessels with gunfire of the west coast of Burma.

Divers steal from Holland 5 submarine off Sussex coast

The Holland class of submarines were the first to enter service in the British Navy 

Thieves have targeted a historically important submarine wreck lying in the English Channel, it has emerged.

English Heritage said divers stole the torpedo tube hatch of the Holland 5, which sank six miles off Eastbourne in East Sussex in 1912.

The theft was discovered during a licensed dive by the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) and confirmed during a dive last month.

The NAS described the wreck as a "remarkable piece of naval heritage".

Sussex Police and English Heritage have appealed for help to catch the perpetrators, who may have struck up to two years ago.

Mark Beattie-Edwards The Nautical Archaeology Society
Experts said a group of people would have been behind the theft but that the hatch carried very little monetary value.

Police said removing the hatch and accessing the site without a licence was illegal under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

The Holland class of submarines were the first submarines to enter service in the British Navy following extensive trials, English Heritage said.

The class of submarine became obsolete in the early 20th Century and in 1912 the Holland 5 was destined for scrap.

'Personal collection' It was being towed to Sheerness in Kent when it foundered and sank six miles off the coast near Eastbourne.

The wreck remained undiscovered until the mid-1990s when it was found by chance by a diver, according to the NAS.

Ministers granted protection of the wreck in 2005 to prevent it from being damaged by unauthorised interference from divers.

Mark Beattie-Edwards, of the NAS, said: "These things are not recovered for their monetary value.
"They are taken as an item for someone's personal collection somewhere.

"The weirdest and strangest things sometimes have great interest for people."

Southern Bound: Danger runs deep in submariner's tale

Riveting. That’s the best word to describe the white-knuckle tension and drama that Don Keith delivers in “War Beneath the Waves: A True Story of Courage and Leadership Aboard a World War II Submarine” (NAL Caliber, $24.95). Keith, a former broadcast journalist and an award-winning author with an interest in military affairs, writes in an engaging, you-are-there style calculated to bring the reader to the edge of his seat.
In “War Beneath the Waves,” Keith relates the saga of the USS Billfish, a relatively new submarine in the fall of 1943, and her young lieutenant, native Alabamian Charles Rush. While on patrol off Borneo, the Billfish was detected by Japanese ships and came under a sustained depth charge attack. As the explosions wracked the vessel, her inexperienced captain came unhinged, and Lt. Rush assumed command, saving the vessel and her desperate crew.

As anyone who has watched “The Caine Mutiny” knows, there are clear lines of authority and protocols that operate aboard U.S. Naval vessels, and one officer seizing control of a ship, no matter what the circumstances, is a potentially fraught act. Nonetheless, combat often requires extreme measures, and Lt. Rush forcefully banished any doubts when he took the helm that memorable day. The captain, to his credit, realized it was for the best, and the two men came to a private pact — Rush kept mum about the incident, and the captain left the submarine service as soon as they returned to port. The full story did not become public until decades later after the captain had died, and Rush was awarded a Navy Cross in 2003.

In recognition of the fact that submarine service is a special calling, the Navy limits it to volunteers only, and anyone who wants to transfer out at any time is allowed to do so, no questions asked. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict who will crumble under pressure and who will continue to do his job — just because someone wears the captain’s bars, it’s no guarantee that he will be the best leader when the situation deteriorates. That was the case when the Billfish shook and shuddered from the explosions and her captain sank to the floor, incapacitated and muttering prayers.

As to exactly what a depth charge attack feels like to those forced to endure it, Keith leaves nothing to the imagination. First, he explains, “there is the telltale kerchug! of the depth-charge barrels as they hit the water in a circle around where the enemy captain believes the submarine to be. That is followed at once by the increased clack and whine of his screws as he pulls away to avoid the blow of his own ordnance. Then a sharp click! — so much like the pop of a nearby lightning strike — that indicates the charge’s fuse has reached the depth where it was instructed to detonate the ash can’s powerful explosions.” If the blast is close by, “the hunted vessel might buck, sway, and slide violently sideways or tilt its nose downward or upward. Light bulbs pop. Meter faces shatter into spiderwebs. Pipes tear loose from their clamps. Personal items and tools slide along the deck or spring from shelves. Dust and cork shower down from overhead like flour from a sifter. Leaks spray seawater all over a compartment with a high-pitched hiss. Water starts to seep in from myriad unseen places.” The only wonder is that every man jack on the Billfish didn’t react as the captain did.

As the dive officer, Rush was plenty busy during the 15-hour attack, and because he wasn’t in the conning tower with the captain, it was some time before he knew what had happened. When he climbed into the tower, he was stunned to see that the sub had taken no evasive action but rather plowed forward in a straight line, making it an easy target for pounding. “I have the conn.,” he declared and immediately ordered the helmsman to sharply reverse course, which finally threw off the relentless pursuit.

“War Beneath the Waves” is battle narrative at its very best and yet more evidence, if it’s needed, that the men and women who don the uniforms of this nation’s armed services are sometimes tested to the limits of human endurance. That Lt. Rush and the Billfish’s brave crew rose to the challenge is amply proven in these pages.
Submarine Escape Training - Groton
 A student practices exhaling from 15 feet below to the surface of the tower Tuesday with an instructor next to him to ensure nothing goes wrong.
Groton - Standing near the bottom of a 40-foot tower of water, a young Navy recruit described how he would travel to the top.

Seaman Ryan Straughan, wearing an inflated suit the color of an orange highlighter, told the instructor that he would exhale or breathe normally in the water.

"What do you never, ever do during sub escape?" asked the instructor, Jason Saiz.

"Hold your breath," Straughan correctly replied. Doing so could cause his lungs to overinflate.

A series of accurate answers in the verbal quiz, preceded by multiple briefings, earned Straughan the right to climb the ladder at the bottom of the tower into the escape trunk, similar to the one on submarines that officers and sailors would use to escape in an emergency.

The Naval Submarine School is home to the one-of-a-kind trainer for the U.S. Navy, used to build a sailor's confidence in the escape equipment on a submarine and in his own abilities to use it should he ever need to.

Two U.S. submarines, the Thresher and the Scorpion, sank in the 1960s killing both crews. The Kursk, one of the most advanced vessels in the Russian fleet, sank in the Barents Sea in 2000.

The Kursk disaster prompted the U.S. Navy to review its escape training, equipment and procedures, and then abandon the previous training method used in Groton - non-pressurized training conducted in a pool.

Students climbed out of an escape trunk and jumped into a pool to simulate surfacing, never feeling the buoyancy of their suits or traveling up through a column of water.

Construction began in 2005 on a $17 million trainer in Groton, and the submarine school formally opened it last fall. The tower holds 84,000 gallons of water, is 20 feet in diameter and 40 feet high. The suit worn by the students is designed for escapes in water up to 600 feet deep.

Frank Gorham, the submarine escape program manager and a retired master chief master diver, hopes the students will never have to use what they learn in the two-day course.

But if they do, he said, "we've given them the best training possible."

Safety precautions taken

Straughan and his classmates took the course this week as part of Basic Enlisted Submarine School. Nine of the 24 students passed the first day's tests- a medical screening, classroom instruction and clearing their ears inside a recompression chamber- and moved on to do the pressurized training in the tower on the second day.

While waiting his turn, Straughan said to the friend next to him, "Dude, this is like the most fun day I've had in the Navy."

"You told me that like 10 times," Fireman Apprentice Eric Schnackenberg, 22, of Iowa, said to him.

"'Cause it's true," said Straughan, a 20-year-old from Louisiana.

Inside the dry escape trunk, Straughan held on to a handle with his right hand and plugged a tube from his suit into the air supply.

His suit inflated. Water began to fill the chamber.

Once the pressure inside equaled to the pressure at the bottom of the tower, the hatch opened. The air that was trapped escaped to the surface as a large bubble.

An instructor guided Straughan through the hatch and into the tower, where two other divers were waiting. For safety reasons, they hooked Straughan onto a wire that ran to the surface.

One gave Straughan an OK sign. He said his name, rate and "I'm OK!"

The instructor gave a second OK sign. Straughan yelled "Hooyah!" The instructor let go.

Straughan shot up 37 feet through the water. Two divers were waiting at the surface; one grabbed hold of his suit.

"I'm OK," Straughan yelled. After he was unhooked from the wire, he climbed out of the tower and stood on a line for 10 minutes.

Two Navy doctors and the Navy divers working as instructors monitor the students for any physiological problems, including numbness, weakness or changes in coordination and thinking.

The most common injury is ear pain caused by not clearing their ears properly under pressure. The most dangerous is overinflated lungs, since a resulting gas bubble can travel to the brain or heart and cause a stroke or heart attack.

A hyperbaric chamber is near the top of the pool in case of an emergency, but it has not been needed.

Annually, about 3,000 sailors go through the training. The class is not a requirement, since it would be difficult to bring everyone back to the school for the course, but most new recruits take it, along with many officers and senior sailors who return to the school for additional instruction.

After, Straughan said he was nervous that he would not be able to clear his ears. Students wear nose clips since they cannot reach inside the hood to pinch their noses.

Once Straughan realized the technique was working, he said it was "just excitement from that point forward."

"You're just cruising," said Straughan, who plans to be a sonar technician on a submarine.

Seaman Apprentice Nicholas Flanagan, who also practiced an escape in the tower, said he was nervous at first, but the instructors gave such explicit instructions multiple times that he felt comfortable it would go well.

Flanagan, 19, of Minnesota, said his confidence in his ability to get out of a sinking submarine before the training was about a "two."

"Now I'm a nine," he said, "maybe a 10."

Friday, 23 December 2011

December 24th - On This Date

1914 E32 Submarine HMS E32 laid down
1917 P512 Submarine HMS P512 launched
1941 HMS H31 HMS H-31 sunk by mine in Bay of Biscay

In December 1941 news was received of a possible break out from Brest, by the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen. In expectation of this eight submarines were sent to the area but although the breakout did not take place, H31 failed to return. The submarine had sailed from Falmouth on 19th December. She was requested to signal her position on the 24th but did not do so.
1944 HMS Tudor HMS Tudor sinks two Japanese sailing vessels with gunfire of the west coast of Burma.
1947 HMS Sea Dog Scrapped at Troon
Italian Submarine Service - Badge Design

Present Design

Italy established a submarine service somewhere between 1889 and 1896. The history of Italy's submarine badge is very complex. Italian military personnel purchased their badges from private vendors so many versions exist. Additionally, during part of WW-II, part of Italy had surrendered while Mussolini (RSI) had control of northern Italy, and both were issuing similar awards. The northern sailors removed the crown of their awards which were associated with the monarchy. After the war many governments followed each other in quick succession, often with variations on their awards. Many experts argue over the actual issue dates. I am not an expert but will try to provide examples of known awards.

It appears the original metal badge was issued in 1918 for Petty Officers and enlisted only for the appointment duration. At some point the badge lost the crown, or perhaps some variations did not have a crown. Many versions, restrikes and copies have occurred over the years, including handmade, solid fill, versions with blue enamel fill (available in the early 1950's), and lightweight chrome plate (modern and possibly WW-II issue).

Italy issued various badges before WW-II. One of the nicest was the Spanish Civil War award: "Distintivo del Sommergibilisti Legionari", a sub with 2 guns on crossed halberd, crossbow, and matchlock musket. The fiction behind this badge was that these Italian submariners (and their subs) were all volunteers in the Spanish Foreign Legion. This thin subterfuge was used to circumvent the League of Nations Non-belligerency Resolution in regard to the Spanish Civil War.

The Italian Navy Submarine Honor badge was instituted in 1941 to award submarine personnel for special service. These badges were granted for life to those who accomplished four years of duty (minimum of 3 month war time, war time counts 4:1) or five years of peace time duty. These badges existed with the Royal crown. Italian submariners which became members of the RSI probably would have removed their crown. Badges issued for the same purpose after the war may have a Mural crown (representing the Republic which was voted in 1946). Copies and restrikes have been reported. Many miniatures, official and otherwise have been reported.

During the war, a series of WW-II combat awards were instituted 11 July 1943, and the submarine award was a basking shark riding a torpedo overlaying a soft rope diamond and anchor. Three awards were given: bronze for 18 months assigned-1000 hrs underway/1 engagement; silver for 30 months/3000 hrs/3 engagements; and gold 48 months/5000 hrs/6 engagements. After the initial surrender of Italy, the sailors remaining in the south retained the crowns, while the RSI authorized the awarding of the badge without the Royal crown. It is unknown if the combat awards authorized by the RSI were ever issued. This award was possibly reissued in the early 1950's minus the crown. However, the original dies with crown are still available and restrikes and copies do occur. The Italian Navy also had midget submarines that conducted combat missions in WW-II, and perhaps there were some associated badges.

In the 1970's or 80's, a senior officer badge is reported with a reversed swordfish and slightly larger than the enlisted badge. In the 1980's, an officer badge is reported of a smaller size, no crown. Miniatures and lapel pins of this badge are reported. In the 1990's, a badge with a short/flat crown was instituted, the 3 cm version for 5 or more years of service in submarines and the 1.5 cm version for less than 5 years service. The large silver pin pictured is the enlisted badge, worn on the left sleeve. There is also a gold version of this large badge, possibly for submarine veterans.

Decrepit Dolphin Secretly Repaired

December 23, 2011: Israel recently revealed that one of its Dolphin class submarines (that entered service in 1998-2000) had secretly spent nearly two years in an Israeli shipyard. The sub was partially disassembled and its engine and plumbing was cleaned and upgraded. Hull cracks were repaired and various other items were fixed. The boat, which entered service in 1999, is now expected to remain in service until 2030. 
  The three older boats have all been earlier upgraded to include larger fuel capacity, converting more torpedo tubes to the larger 650mm size, and installing new electronics. The fuel and torpedo tube mods appear to have something to do with stationing the subs off the coast of Iran. Larger torpedo tubes allow the subs to carry longer range missiles.
The larger fuel capacity makes it easier to move Dolphins from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Although Israel has a naval base on the Red Sea, Egypt, until recently, had not allowed Israeli subs to use the Suez Canal. So the Dolphins were modified to go around Africa, if they had to. But now the Egyptians, who are also feuding with Iran, frequently allow Israeli subs to use the canal. Larger fuel capacity also allows the subs to spend more time on station off the Iranian coast. Currently the Dolphins can stay at sea for about 40 days (moving at about 14 kilometers an hour, on the surface, for up to 8,000 kilometers). Larger fuel capacity extends range to over 10,000 kilometers, and endurance to about 50 days.
Israel equipped its new Dolphin class submarines with nuclear cruise missiles in 2002. Israel also fitted their 135 kilometer range Harpoon missiles with nuclear warheads. These missiles are fired from the sub's torpedo tubes. The 1,625 ton Dolphins can carry 16 torpedoes or missiles and have ten forward torpedo tubes (four of them the larger 650mm -26 inch- size). The Dolphins are considered the most modern non-nuclear subs in the world. The first three cost $320 million each. All have a crew of 35 and can dive to a depth of more than 200 meters (660 feet). The Dolphin design is based on the German 209 class subs, but has been so heavily modified that it is considered a different class.
The Israelis have developed a cruise missile, which is has a range of 1,500 kilometers and carries a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead. The objective of deploying nukes on subs is to further enhance deterrence to any nation launching a nuclear strike against Israel. If one of the Dolphins is always at sea, even a first strike against Israel would not prevent a nuclear strike by submarine launched nukes.
Meanwhile, Germany has agreed to pay 20 percent of the cost of a sixth Dolphin class submarine for Israel, which was ordered earlier this year. Two more are under construction, and will arrive in the next two years. The sixth one should arrive in 2015. These new Dolphins cost about $650 million each.
The three Dolphins under construction have a fuel cell based (AIP, or Air Independent Propulsion) system which enable them to stay under water for over a week at a time. The Dolphins are also very quiet, and very difficult to hunt down and destroy. The first three Dolphins didn't have the AIP system.

US Navy readies Switchblade UAV for submarine missions

The Navy plans to launch AreoVironment's small, expendable Switchblade unmanned aerial vehicle from a submerged submarine during a naval exercise next year in the Pacific Ocean.,
The service awarded a sole-source contract to Raytheon to provide five sets of submerged launch vehicles (SLV) for the UAVs in support of the RIMPAC 2012 exercise. The SLV with the folding-wing Switchblade inside is ejected from the submerged submarine's trash disposal unit and carried to the surface, where it is launched.
Raytheon received the sole-source award because of its continuing work for the Navy's Submarine Over the Horizon Organic Capabilities program the company has been working on since 2007.
 North Korea - Will they strike with Submarines ?

North Korea’s mini-submarines and Soviet-era artillery may pose a greater threat to Asia than its nuclear program as Kim Jong Un seeks to cement support among generals three times his age in the world’s fourth-largest army.

While questions remain over whether Kim will inherit his deceased father Kim Jong Il’s control of the totalitarian state, he heads a country whose so-called military-first policy has kept it on combat alert since the Korean War ended in 1953. It terms a trade embargo over its nuclear weapons program “vicious sanctions of the enemy,” and has repeatedly assaulted the South.

“We’re still some ways away from North Korea being able to point a nuclear weapon at someone in any meaningful way,” Alexander von Rosenbach, U.K.-based senior analyst of armed forces at IHS Jane’s, said by phone. “There is a risk of a surprise attack to bolster the regime’s credentials.”

Strikes last year that killed 50 South Koreans demonstrate the risks posed by more than 250 long-range artillery installations along the world’s most fortified border in reach of the Seoul area and its 23 million citizens. The U.S., China, South Korea, Russia and Japan have failed to convince the regime to drop its nuclear-weapons program in eight years of talks.

Global Consequences

“North Korea’s military forces retain the capability to inflict lethal, considerable disruption to the ROK with significant corresponding regional and global economic and security consequences,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a report last year, referring to South Korea. “North Korean forces are postured to conduct limited attacks or kinetic provocations against the Alliance, with little or no warning.”
Last year, North Korea shelled an island in the Yellow Sea, killing four South Koreans, and was blamed by an international panel for sinking the Cheonan warship, in which 46 sailors died. North Korea has one of the world’s largest fleets and more than 30 guided-missile patrol boats, according to a 2007 paper from the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

While North Korea has twice detonated a nuclear device, the country doesn’t have the technology to deploy one, said analysts including retired U.S. Admiral Bill Owens, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has lived in Beijing and Hong Kong for the past five years.
“I don’t think they have the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon,” Owens said in a telephone interview.

Birth From War

North Korea is a legacy of World War II, which ended Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula, and the Cold War. The Japanese surrendered to U.S. forces in the south and to Soviet troops in the north. The Soviet Union then installed an anti-Japanese guerrilla leader, Kim Il Sung, as head of North Korea. Kim invaded the South in June 1950, starting a war that ended three years later without a peace treaty.

Before his death in 1994, Kim authorized operations that included a 1983 assassination attempt on South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan in Myanmar that killed more than 20 people, the bombing of a Korean Air flight that killed all 115 on board, and the kidnapping of at least 13 Japanese to serve as language teachers for North Korean spies.

Kim Jong Il succeeded his father and stepped up the country’s missile and nuclear-weapons development, while continuing provocations against South Korea.

‘Lot of Harm’

The history of attacks “shows a lot of potential for causing damage, particularly if they aren’t concerned about the international consequences of their actions,” said Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “They haven’t really got a high-tech army overall, but that doesn’t mean it can’t cause a lot of harm.”

North Korea is estimated to have 1.2 million troops and another 7.7 million in reserve, according South Korea’s 2010 Defense White Paper. It also has 70 submarines, including an undetermined number of Yeono-class midget subs, compared with South Korea’s 10.

The Kim regime allocates a third of its budget to maintain 1,700 aircraft, 800 naval vessels and more than 13,000 artillery systems, according to the American military, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea. The U.S. estimates that the Pyongyang government has enough plutonium for a half-dozen nuclear devices and sells ballistic missiles for cash.

Land Mines
The 4 kilometer (2.5 mile) wide, 248 kilometer-long demilitarized zone is sown with a million land mines. The waters off the coast near the border are claimed by both sides and any military provocations from North Korea would probably revolve around such disputes, said Gary Li, head of marine and aviation forecasting at Exclusive Analysis Ltd., a London-based business advisory firm.
“The submarine force would be a likely candidate for any action,” Li said. “It would remain covert and you can deny responsibilities. They have the advantage of telling their own people one thing and telling the world another because they can keep the two separate.”

Kim Jong Un, thought to be in his late 20s, was made a four-star general last year and promoted to a senior position in the Workers’ Party of Korea. He hasn’t taken his father’s place as head of the National Defense Commission, a position designated as the “supreme leader” of the country, according to its constitution. Kim Jong Il, who state media said died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, took three years after his father passed away before assuming the country’s highest posts.

Low Morale

North Korea’s capabilities are limited by obsolete weapons, low morale among soldiers, reduced training and issues with command control, Dennis C. Blair, then director of National Intelligence, said in a 2010 annual threat assessment.

“Pyongyang relies on its nuclear program to deter external attacks on the state and to its regime,” Blair said. “Although there are other reasons for the North to pursue its nuclear program, redressing conventional weaknesses is a major factor and one that Kim and his likely successors will not easily dismiss.”

North Korea, which conducted nuclear test explosions in 2006 and 2009, said Nov. 30 that construction on a light-water atomic reactor and production of low-enriched uranium is “progressing apace.” While work is nearly complete on the outside walls of the building, the plant may not be operational for two or three years, according to an analysis of satellite photos on former U.S. nuclear negotiator Joel Wit’s website,

U.S. Targets
No public information can verify that North Korea possess operational nuclear weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. North Korea wants to develop ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets in the continental U.S., according to the Pentagon.

More than 70 percent of North Korean forces are within 100 kilometers of the demilitarized zone established at the end of the Korean War. Even so, its constitution calls for “peaceful reunification” of the peninsula.
North Korea conducted more than 1,400 major provocations and violations of the demilitarized zone from 1953 to 2003, according to U.S. military estimates. State media regularly threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”

The U.S. is pledged to defend both South Korea and Japan, where almost 40,000 troops are stationed. Japan, which has strengthened its defense capability after North Korea sent a missile over the island nation in 1998, this week announced the purchase of 42 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

“The risks we face over the next several years stem from Kim Jong Un’s weakness, not his strength,” said Marcus Noland, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington and the author of “Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas.” “You can imagine other military provocations like the ones we’ve observed over the last 18 months toward South Korea.”
Submariners World the Blog of Submarine Veterans Lounge on Facebook

December 23rd - On This Date

1915 G2 Submarine HMS G2 launched
1941 Varangian Submarine HMS Varangian laid down
1942 Tally-Ho Submarine HMS Tally-Ho launched
1941 Untiring Submarine HMS Untiring laid down
1943 Strongbow Submarine HMS Strongbow completed
1939 HMS Pandora Sunk (details unknown)
1941 U-79 German submarine U-79 was sunk by HMS Hasty and HMS Hotspur south of Crete.
1941 HMS Torbay HMS Torbay torpedoes and further damages the Italian destroyer Aviere at Navarino harbour. The Aviere was already grounded.
1942 HMS Seraph HMS Seraph tries to ram the Italian submarine Alagi about 40 nautical miles north-east of Bone, Algeria.
1943 HMS Sportsman HMS Sportsman torpedoes and sinks the Bulgarian troop transport Balkan south of Moudros, Lemnos Island, Greece.
1944 HMS Thorough HMS Thorough lays mines in the Strait of Malacca.
1949 HMS Vigorous Sold for scrapping.
1949 HMS Ultimatum Sold and subsequently scrapped at Port Glasgow.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Why Australia needs Nuclear Submarines

Buying American  Virginia Class SSN's is a possibility

The Australian Government is courting disaster with its approach to this country’s largest-ever defense program, the purchase of new submarines. The government seems determined to spend over $30 billion designing and building in Australia 12 new submarines that will almost certainly have serious flaws, will be delivered late, will be unnecessarily expensive and will be inadequate for our defense needs.

How could the government get itself into such a bad position? Some key decision-makers have failed to appreciate that Australia now faces a much more demanding security future. As the Pentagon’s recently released annual report on China’s military development makes clear, Beijing’s surveillance, missile, air and naval developments are transforming the strategic balance in the Western Pacific. Indeed, by 2025 China’s military power will be predominant in parts of our region.

There’s also a need to take account of China’s much more aggressive recent military operations, especially in disputed areas of the South and East China Seas. Australian security planners should do everything in their power to negotiate peaceful resolutions of these issues. They would, however, be naive to neglect strong investment in defense capabilities that can deter coercion against us in the 2025-2050 timeframe.

Advanced submarines offer special strategic leverage in the more demanding security environment that’s in store. The best submarines are highly survivable in intense military operations and have the potential to force the leadership of even a major power to pause and think carefully before attacking Australia or our key interests. They are one of only two or three military capabilities that carry this game-changing leverage. So, while Australia will always need some surface warships, armored vehicles and transport aircraft, the truth is that advanced submarines offer unique strategic advantages for us in the troubled times ahead.

All this means we need to get the new submarine program right and do so quickly. Australia has three main submarine options. The government currently favors designing and building our own unique, rather large, diesel-electric submarines, essentially a Collins Mk 2. Second, we could purchase much smaller diesel-electric submarines that are currently in production in Europe. Third, we could purchase or lease from “hot” production lines advanced nuclear-propelled submarines from the United States or Britain.

Designing and building a Collins Mk2 would probably eventually deliver a class of the largest diesel-electric submarines in the world. However, given that the government has yet to launch even preliminary design work, the first of these boats couldn’t be delivered until at least 2028 and more likely 2035-2040. Because they would be a completely new design, they would inevitably experience technical problems, would probably possess some unreliable systems and we should expect them to have relatively low availability. As these Australian-designed boats would be “orphans,” they would also be expensive to maintain and update.

12 Months ago Vladimir Putin visited Sevmash, a major shipbuilding company in Russia. His visit was timed to coincide with a significant addition to Russia's strategic nuclear naval forces.
In the last few days, the company has released two strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) - the overhauled K-407 Novomoskovsk and the newly built K-550 Alexander Nevsky.
The Novomoskovsk is part of Project 667BDRM and the Alexander Nevsky is part of Project 955. These two types of submarines will form the basis of strategic nuclear naval forces in the foreseeable future.

The Alexander Nevsky is the second submarine of its project to be built by Sevmash. The first, the Yury Dolgoruky, took 11 years to build, from 1996 to 2007, and is now undergoing the final stage of testing. The Alexander Nevsky was built in six years, starting in 2004. Construction of the Vladimir Monomakh started in 2006 and is currently in progress. It is scheduled to be commissioned in 2012. The St. Nicholas is also being built. Work began on a fourth submarine in 2009 and should take five years to complete.

This trend of shorter submarine construction times has been made possible by the resumption of regular funding of defense contracts and newly established industrial cooperation. Vladimir Putin had also identified minimizing construction times as a goal. Ideally, the construction of SSBNs should take four to five years, and these timeframes appear to be achievable.

The main problem with the Dolgoruky, the Nevsky and similar missile submarines is the missiles themselves. Ongoing tests of the Bulava have not been been terribly successful. The next launch of the Bulava will take place in coming weeks on board the Yury Dolgoruky. If it is successful, it will be the third successful launch in a row, which will mean that the major issues involved in the production of Bulava missile can be resolved.

A total of eight Project 955 SSBNs are to be built in the next 10 years. Starting with the hull of the fourth submarine, missile submarines will be based on the improved design of Project 955U. Based on available information, the first submarines manufactured under the project will carry 20 missiles instead of 16.

The Novomoskovsk: Proven reliability
Unlike the modern submarines of Project 955, the upgraded submarines of Project 667BDRM were tested and adopted by the fleet a long time ago - in the second half of the 1980s - and they represent the latest stage in the development of the large Project 667 family. Currently four out of six of the Project 667 submarines have been re-armed with Sineva missiles - an improved version of the previously tested R-29RM missiles. Two more submarines will be re-equipped with Sineva missiles in the next three to four years.

Sineva missiles have a much larger range than the basic R-29RM missile (over 11,000 kilometers versus 8,300), greater accuracy and a more advanced set of tools to penetrate anti-missile defense. The standard version of the missile is equipped with four warheads with a capacity of 100 kilotons each. Additionally, these missiles may be equipped with new generation sub-kiloton warheads having a yield of several dozen tons of TNT, which enables pinpoint targeting.

Project 667BDRM submarines with the new missiles will remain in service for another 15-20 years, making them, along with new Project 955 submarines, the foundation of strategic nuclear naval forces for the near future.

Submarines are key to nuclear capability
By 2020, the Russian Navy will have a total of 14 ballistic submarines from Projects 955 and Project 667BDRM. They will carry 244 ballistic missiles and about 1,000 warheads, which will make up approximately half of Russia's entire strategic nuclear arsenal in terms of the number of delivery vehicles, and two-thirds of the number of nuclear warheads. This means that for the first time in Russian history, the submarine fleet will form the foundation of Russia's strategic nuclear forces. This imposes a great responsibility on the rest of the fleet's forces, which must ensure the battle-readiness of missile submarines and protect them from possible attacks.

Great responsibility also rests with the Navy's support system - in order for the "strategics" to effectively perform their tasks, they have to regularly sail out to sea and stay there most of the time. In order to keep such a schedule, large-scale investments in infrastructure will be needed, from educational centers to maintenance plants that will keep the submarines in a state of constant readiness.

A base for new SSBNs is being built in Vilyuchinsk, on the Kamchatka Peninsula, where the Pacific Fleet's nuclear submarines are based. Investments in infrastructure may be just as costly as the submarines themselves (the Dolgoruky and Nevsky cost about 25-30 billion rubles each), but due to heavier use of these submarines, the cost will be recouped many times over.

Iran to mass produce new submarine
 Iranian Navy Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Gholam-Reza Khadem Bigham

Bigham also unveiled a submarine simulator dubbed Tareq which has been designed for pedagogical purposes, adding that the mobile simulator would soon be off the assembly line and used in the waters off Iran's northern coasts.
Iran's navy plans to launch assembly lines for submarines capable of covering long distances across the ocean and to deploy more warships in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian Navy's Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Gholam-Reza Khadem Bigham said on Friday that submarines and other vessels of various classes and capabilities are under construction in cooperation with the Defense Industries Organization, Fars News Agency reported.

Bigham also said the port town of Jask has been chosen in line with the aim of creating more harbors in the country's southern waters. More military establishments are being set up there to host more naval units, he added.

"Soon another fleet [of warships] will officially start its activity in Jask … and another subsurface fleet will be assigned to the [Western coastal] region of Konarak."

The admiral said the Islamic Republic's military doctrine is a defensive one and we have designed our defense systems, which are under construction and will be deployed in the region, based on our familiarity with the region and the enemy.

He said the domestically-built Jamaran destroyer has been employed in the ongoing patrolling and monitoring missions in the Northern Indian Ocean.

"One of the navy's prime missions is to monitor trans-regional fleets because any one of them can be a potential enemy for the country," he explained.
Arihant N-Sub to be ready in 2012

India's indigenous nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant will be ready for deterrent patrols in 2012, completing the nation's capability to deliver strategic weapons from land, air and undersea. Navy Chief Nirmal Verma said at his annual press conference in New Delhi that the Arihant, which was a top secret project till its launch at Visakhapatnam last year, will be ready for operational patrols by 2012 and the project itself was making good progress. “We have a declared policy of no-first-use...but we have Arihant. It is there. We have a triad in place now, but we have to use it as effectively as possible. We will have Arihant going within two years and there is progress in the project, despite some hiccups," he said when asked to react to nuclear weapons that Pakistan is amassing in recent years.

The nuclear triad, he said, would be complete only when India has strategic nuclear missiles that could be launched from land, air and sea. “You are absolutely right. It is a triad only when you have a strategic weapon on the platform. Yes, it (nuclear triad) is there. When it (Arihant) is commissioned and goes to sea it will be on deterrent patrol. The triad would be there when Arihant is commissioned," he said. Explaining the hiccups in the project, he said there were some delays with regard to indigenous equipment that would be fitted on the submarine. "But I think we will be within time and commission the vessel by 2012," he added.

On strategic nuclear deterrence, he said India had taken "a whole lot of action" and that explained the construction of INS Arihant. "We have Arihant, fortunately, one can talk of now. This option is there. We have the triad in place and the idea is to use it as effectively as possible," he added. India had formally launched INS Arihant in July last year and it would be the first in the series of three nuclear-powered submarines that India is building indigenously with some help from the Russians.

It already possesses or is in the process of possessing a family of nuclear-tipped missiles including the Agni series, Prithvi variants, naval missile Dhanush, and submarine launched Sagarika. Asked about media reports from Russia openly talking of India leasing its Akula-II 'Nerpa' nuclear powered submarine for 10 years, Verma refused to say anything. The reports have said that India was getting the Nerpa by March next year and would operate it for 10 years to train its naval personnel to work on the nuclear-powered submarine fleet it is building starting with Arihant.

In the late 1980s, India had operated another Russian nuclear submarine by christening it as INS Chakra for about three years, again on lease. Verma said the Scorpene submarine project, currently under construction at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) to build six submarines, would be completed and the vessels inducted into the fleet by 2015. The government, he said, had also given approvals for six more conventional second line of submarines to be constructed partly with MDL and the Visakhapatnam-based Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) that Defence Ministry acquired from the Shipping Ministry last year.

“For the last 17 years, we did not construct an indigenous submarine and for the first time we took up Scorpene construction. That's why we have had some delays in some equipment for the project. But with the second line of submarines, it will help us to reduce the gap (in the fleet)," he said. The Navy currently operates 15 conventional submarines, but these are soon approaching their obsolescence stage. Of the existing fleet, 10 are Kilo class submarines, four HDW submarines and the last belongs to the Foxtrot class. He said India hopes to begin construction of indigenous submarines and the idea of building the Scorpene and the second line of vessels was to develop that capability for future exploitation, as envisaged by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999.