Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amid Doklam Standoff, Chinese Submarines Spotted Near Indian Coast

Staff, Times Now,
15 August 2017
Forays into the Indian Ocean by Chinese submarines is on the rise. On April 22, a Yuan class diesel-electric submarine was spotted in the Indian Ocean. This is one of the more modern and dependable Chinese submarines; they have a reputation of being "quiet."
The Yuan class boat visited Karachi on May 26 and left on June 1 and then, again on July 11 for six days. Karachi is perhaps a natural destination for a Chinese submarine as Pakistan is a close ally. In recent times, Sri Lanka has not been keen to host Chinese submarines or as the Lankans say, submarines from any countries. The submarine was also accompanied by a PLA vessel.
The official reason for the presence of the PLA Navy has been "anti-piracy" missions. But surely, a submarine, and one as advanced as this one, isn't the best way of fighting pirates off the coast of East Africa.
The Chinese submarine was also spotted near the Indian coast. Intelligence sources say it was about 300 nautical miles off Kanyakumari.
The presence of the Yuan class boat comes while the Indian and Chinese armymen are involved in a face-off in Doklam. The eyeball to eyeball moment has stretched for two months now. In the past Indian and Chinese troops would have less worrying faceoffs; just waving flags at each other and sometimes, ‘wrestling’ with each other. But there are about 3000 troops on both sides in Doklam and no diplomatic solution is evident. Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis have failed, so far.
There is also increased activity in other border areas. The Chinese troops had entered Barahoti in Uttarakhand but that was dismissed as just ‘soldiers coming in and going out.’ There is also an indication of increased activity by Chinese air force fighter planes in the airfields of Tibet, but there is usually a spike with the onset of summer.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense Confirms Construction of 2 Advanced Attack Subs

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
15 August 2017

The Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed the expected delivery date of two new Project 636.3 Kilo-class (aka Vashavyanka-class) diesel-electric attack submarines in a August 14 statement. “Two Project 636.6 Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines named Petropavlovsk-Kanchatsky and Volkhov will be added to the Russian navy by the end of 2020, provided that their in-plant and state tests go well,” the statement reads.
As I reported earlier this month, the two new submarines are destined for Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The two boats were laid down at the Admiralty shipyards in Saint Petersburg on July 28 in the presence of Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov. The first submarine will likely be delivered to the Pacific Fleet in 2019 with the second boat expected to arrive in the Russian Far East the following year.
“The decision to accelerate the construction of Kilo-class subs was partially made due to delays in the Project 677 Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine program,” I reported earlier this month. “Although, the Russian Navy expected to operate three Lada-class subs by the end of 2018, so far only the lead boat of the class has entered service and is currently undergoing operational testing.”
The Project 636.3 Kilo-class is an improved variant of the original Project 877 Kilo-class design (nicknamed “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy). The updated version is slightly longer in length, and features improved engines and noise reduction technology. Project 636.6 boats are also extremely quiet. Among other things, the sub features a special anechoic coating applied on the outer hull surface to reduce noise emanating from the boat’s interior. Furthermore, the sub’s main propulsion plant is isolated on a rubber base preventing vibrations that can be picked up by enemy submarines.
The submarine’s range is over 7,500 nautical miles and it can stay submerged for almost two weeks. It can operate for up to 45 days before needing to be resupplied. However, the sub still lacks an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. Russia has so far not successfully tested an AIP system aboard a submarine. According to experts, the first AIP system for Russian subs will not be available for testing until 2021-2022.
The improved Kilo-class can fire both torpedoes and cruise missiles, launched from one of six 533 millimeter torpedo tubes. Project 636.3 Kilo-class subs have been primarily designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare. However, over the past two years, Project 636.3 subs have repeatedly attacked land targets with M-54 Kalibr (NATO designation: SS-N-27A “Sizzler”) cruise missiles in Syria.

Northrop Grumman to Demonstrate Autonomous Networked Unmanned Vehicles

Stephen Carlson, UPI
16 August 2017

Northrop Grumman will demonstrate autonomous unmanned undersea and unmanned surface vehicles at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at the Naval Surface Warfare Center this week.
The demonstration will coordinate multiple undersea and surface autonomous vehicles alongside an aerial vehicle to collect targeting data for enemy seabed infrastructure, followed by an undersea vehicle engaging the target.
The unmanned vehicles will be operated by a single management command and control in accordance with the Navy Common Control System requirements.
"Executing undersea strike with existing technology using multi-domain autonomous platforms equipped with networked sensors and advanced mission management for command and control provides significant offensive and defensive capability in the maritime environment," Northrop's undersea warfare director Jeff Hoyle said in a press release.
Previous demonstrations last year showed undersea vehicles providing targeting information for air-dropped weapons, but the current exercise will apply toward engagement by the undersea vehicle directly in a test environment.
ANTX is an annual three-day event designed to test new technology with academic, industry and Navy participants.
Networked unmanned vehicles autonomously coordinating their data-sharing and movements is a key part of future strategy for the Navy, as well as other services. Networks of drones could be deployed for sea mine hunting, clearing underwater obstacles, and detection of enemy submarines and other threats.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why U.S. Stopped Building One of Best Subs Ever Made

Kyle Mizokami, Scout
6 August 2017
The Seawolf-class submarines were envisioned as the best submarines ever built. Designed to succeed the Los Angeles–class attack submarines and maintain.

The Seawolf-class submarines were envisioned as the best submarines ever built. Designed to succeed the Los Angeles–class attack submarines and maintain America’s edge in the underwater domain, the class suffered from cost overruns and the collapse of the Soviet Union. While still some of the best submarines ever built, they were built at reduced numbers. In many respects, they are the F-22 of submarines: widely considered the world's best, but costs made wide their wide usage a major challenge.
In the late 1980s, the U.S. Navy was faced with a crisis. In 1980, the Soviet Union had received information from the Walker family spy ring that the Navy could track its submarines through excessive propeller noise. As a result, the Soviet Union went looking for advanced Western machinery to make better propellers. In 1981, the Japanese company Toshiba sold propeller milling machinery—now relatively common nine-axis CNC milling machines—to the Soviet Union via the Norwegian Kongsberg Corporation.
By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union’s new machinery began to make itself felt. The new Akula-class submarines had a “steep drop in broadband acoustic noise profiles”. One government source told the Los Angeles Times, “the submarines started to get silent only after the Toshiba stuff went in.” On top of running silent, the Akula class could
dive to depths of up to two thousand feet—while the U.S. Navy’s frontline submarines, the Los Angeles class, could dive to only 650 feet.
To combat the threat of the Akula class, the U.S. Navy responded with the Seawolf class of nuclear attack submarines. The Seawolf submarines were designed with HY-100 steel alloy hulls two inches thick, the better to withstand the pressures of deep diving. HY-100 steel is roughly 20 percent stronger than the HY-80 used in the Los Angeles class. As a result, the submarines are capable of diving to depths of up to two thousand feet, and crush depth estimates run from 2,400 to 3,000 feet.
At 353 feet, Seawolf subs were designed to be slightly shorter than their predecessors, by just seven feet, but with a twenty percent wider beam, making them forty feet wide. This width made them substantially heavier than the subs before them, topping the scales at 12,158 tons submerged.
The Seawolf submarines are each powered by one Westinghouse S6W nuclear reactor, driving two steam turbines to a total of 52,000 shaft horsepower. The class was the first class of American submarine to utilize pump-jet propulsors over propellers, a feature that has carried over to the newest Virginia class. As a result, a Seawolf is capable of eighteen knots on the surface, a maximum speed of 35 knots underwater, and a silent running speed of about 20 knots.
The Seawolf class is equipped with the BQQ 5D sonar system, which features a twenty-four-foot-diameter [9] bow-mounted spherical active and passive array as well as wide-aperture passive flank arrays. The submarines are being refitted with TB-29A thin-line towed array sonar systems [10]. Rounding out sonar systems is the BQS 24, for detection of close-range objects such as mines.
The ship’s original combat data system was the Lockheed Martin BSY-2, which uses a network of seventy Motorola 68030 processors—the same processor that drove early Macintosh computers—and is now being replaced with the AN/BYG-1 Weapons Control System.
The submarines were designed to be true hunters, and as a result have eight torpedo tubes, double the number of earlier submarines. It has stores for up a combination of up to fifty Mark 48 heavyweight torpedoes, Sub-Harpoon antiship missiles, and Tomahawk missiles. Alternatively, it can substitute some of this ordnance for mines.
The resulting submarine is according to the U.S. Navy ten times quieter over the full range of operating speeds than the Improved Los Angeles submarines, and an astonishing seventy times quieter than the original Los Angeles–class submarines. It can run quiet at twice the speed of previous boats.
This formidable increase in performance came at formidable increase in cost. The total Seawolf program was estimated at $33 billion for twelve submarines, an unacceptable cost considering the Soviet Union—and the threat of the Akula and follow-on subs—ended in 1991. The program was trimmed to just three submarines that cost $7.3 billion.
The extreme quietness of the Seawolf class gave the Navy the idea of modifying the last submarine, USS Jimmy Carter, to support clandestine operations. An extra one hundred feet was added to the hull, a section known as the Multi-Mission Platform [11] (MMP). The MMP gives Carter the ability to send and recover Remotely Operated Vehicles/Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and SEALs and diving teams while submerged. It includes berthing for up to fifty SEALs or other attached personnel. Carter also features auxiliary maneuvering devices fore and aft for precise maneuvering in situations such as undersea cable tapping and other acts of espionage.
The Seawolf-class submarines are outstanding submarines, but the Cold War mindset at the time of development accepted high performance and consequently high costs to meet a high-level threat. The post–Cold War Virginia class forced the Navy to rein in costs while still producing a progressively better submarine. While unsuccessful as a class, the tiny Seawolf fleet is still a very useful part of the U.S. Navy submarine force, giving it capabilities not even the Virginia class can match.

Nuclear-concerned Norway wants to give iodine tablets to citizens

Staff, The Local
8 August 2017

NORWAY -- The presence of nuclear submarines along the coast of Norway means an increased risk of accidents, according to Norwegian authorities.
Maritime visits such as those from the 172-metre-long Russian sub Dmitry Donskoi, the world’s largest nuclear submarine currently sailing off Norway’s coast, are no longer a rare event, according to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strÃ¥levern, NRPA).
The Russian vessel can carry up to 200 nuclear warheads and is powered by two nuclear reactors.
“We have seen an increasing number of nuclear submarines off Norway’s coast – both visiting allies and Russian submarines patrolling off the coast all the way to Great Britain,” NRPA section manager Astrid Liland told NRK.
Increased numbers of nuclear submarines along the coast of Norway increase the risk of radioactive accidents, say authorities, who have now decided to assess the viability of distributing iodine tablets to parts of the population.
“An accident of this kind with a nuclear-powered submarine could actually occur anywhere along our coast,” Liland said to NRK.
A study group has been assigned to analyse how iodine tablets, sometimes used as a preventative measure against thyroid cancer in children and young adults after nuclear accidents, can be made available to that group, as well as to women who breastfeed.
For the tablet to have any effect, it must be taken within hours of any exposure to radioactive iodine.
43 crates containing a total of three million iodine tablets are already being stored at a depot in Oslo as one of Norway’s nuclear contingency precautions.
These tablets could be distributed to municipalities in the relevant areas.
Nuclear submarines are not the only reason for the Norwegian authorities’ increased concern over radioactive accidents.
Aging nuclear power plants across Europe as well as increasing tensions between Russia and the West also concern Norwegian authorities, writes NRK.
The Dmitry Donskoi sailed through Danish territorial waters in July as part of a joint exercise between the Russian and Chinese navies.

Sea, Air, Land and Space Updates

Jack Viola, Real Clear Defense
8 August 2017

Sea state:

Russia has laid down the hulls for two new diesel-electric submarines to be deployed in the Pacific. The Varshavyanka-class subs, due to be completed in November 2019, are ‘primarily designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare’. Submarines have become an increasingly important element of the Russian Navy since its rate of shipbuilding slipped behind that of other powers in the region, particularly China. Its existing surface ships are predominantly Cold War remnants.
China and ASEAN have adopted a framework for negotiation for a code of conduct in the South China Sea (SCS). The framework seeks to build on the 2002 Declaration of conduct for parties in the SCS and was hailed by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi as ‘really tangible progress’ in SCS negotiations. Many pundits do not share Mr Wang’s optimism and see the adoption as a time-buying measure from China. The adoption comes after Vietnam’s ‘kowtow to Beijing’ over drilling activities in the South China Sea last week.
The Chinese flotilla that conducted joint drills in the Baltic with the Russian Navy has now docked in Finland. The Finnish defence minister welcomed the arrival as a sign of Finland’s ‘friendly relations with China’.


The economic sanctions on Qatar have forced Doha to consult the International Civil Aviation Organization about accessing flight paths over international waters. Qatar has been unable to fly in airspace belonging to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt or Bahrain since June, when they cut ties with Qatar.
Russian jets were intercepted flying close to Estonian airspace on Tuesday, just hours after US vice president Mike Pence visited Estonia and pledged support to the Baltic States in overcoming ‘aggression from your unpredictable neighbor to the east’. Russia sent two MiG-31 jets and an aircraft carrier into the region, for reasons that remain unknown.
Romania plans to acquire 36 F-16 fighter jets in the next five years, as part of its US$11.6-billion defence upgrade. The plan also involves purchasing a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, missile launchers, and other vehicles and equipment.
The US is proceeding with plans to sell 12 A-29 Super Tucanos to Nigeria, a deal that was halted after the Nigerian Air Force mistakenly bombed a refugee camp. The deal will proceed in an effort to help defeat Boko Haram, on the understanding that the fighter operators will also be trained in ‘human rights and the law of armed conflict’.

Rapid fire:

The cause for the crash of a Tiger helicopter in Mali last week that left two German soldiers dead continues to remain unclear. The Australian Army is probably watching closely, as it already has a list of issues with its own 22 Tigers, including running ‘seven years late in achieving final operating capability (FOC) and only then with a series of caveats’.
As we’ve observed before, the battlefield of tomorrow is being studied intensely. Captain Ted Taber from the US Army School of Infantry says that infantry ‘requires a capability beyond the reach of its infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and 7.62mm machine gun’. Here in Australia, Major Troy Mitchell looks at the potential of (and need for) an Australian amphibious strategy that ‘enables anticipating, preparing, and organizing for forward power projection to support national interests and security’.
Armies from 28 countries have taken to Siberia: Russia is staging the third International Army Games, which began last Friday. Russia sees the games as an ‘opportunity to demonstrate that Russia has international partners’ despite cooling relations with the West. Commander-in-Chief of Ground Forces Salyukov claims that invitations were sent to NATO members, but Greece was the only one to accept and participate.
Video footage of an obstacle course for tanks? You’re welcome.

Zero gravity:

The US Department of Defense has been investing in various Silicon Valley satellite technology startups, through its Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) branch. These public–private investments could potentially assist in defence of the US mainland in the case of a North Korean missile strike. DIUx has been actively supporting the development of new technologies and companies since August 2015, serving a similar role to the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Such partnerships are often mutually rewarding. NASA backed Space X in a private–public arrangement under its previous administrator, Mike Griffin (also previously president of In-Q-Tel). Space X is now valued at $21.3 billion. Australia should consider developing its own DIUx—or its own In-Q-Tel, as Brendon Thomas-Noone argued on The Strategist.
More information has emerged about Russia’s latest ICBM, the RS-28 Sarmat. The new weapon improves on older Russian ICBMs, with additional penetration aids and the ability to withstand a first strike. The Russian media has claimed that the weapon is a replacement for the SS-18, a huge ICBM given the NATO codename Satan (video). Experts in Washington believe the weapon is more likely to be a replacement of the SS-19, a significantly smaller missile (video). This news comes as a shock for those among us who thought SS-18 referred only to next year’s spring/summer fashion collections.

Russia’s arms sales weaken China in the Indo-Pacific area

Emanuele Scimia, Asia Times
8 August 2017

CHINA -- Recent joint naval exercises conducted by Russia and China in the Baltic Sea caused considerable alarm to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But despite all the hype around the alleged expansion of military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow, there is no sign the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination – the highest level of diplomatic relationships for the Asian giant – is evolving into a full-blown formal alliance.
As Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments senior fellow Toshi Yoshihara put it, speaking to Asia Times: “Sino-Russian military drills are mostly about political signaling, even though Chinese naval reach will increase as Beijing maintains a permanent presence in the Indian Ocean.”
During a visit to Finland on July 27, which coincided with the end of the drills in the Baltic waters, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sino-Russian military exercises were not aimed at any third country, noting that
Moscow and Beijing did not establish military blocks or military alliances.
Putin was right, though some might be tempted to think that he simply offered platitudes. China and Russia are not allied, and the most striking evidence of this comes from Moscow’s arms sales to rivals of Beijing in Asia.

The South China Sea’s defense market:

A number of countries that have overlapping claims with Beijing in the South China Sea are important customers for Russian defense manufacturers. Among them, Vietnam is by far the largest buyer of weapons produced in Russia.
Last January, the Vietnamese navy completed the induction of six Russian-built Kilo-class submarines designed to operate in “green” (shallow) waters against enemy surface and underwater vessels. Hanoi has also shown that it could deploy its Russian-made K-300P Bastion-P coastal defense system on some of the larger islands it controls in the disputed Spratly chain.
As well, Russia is expected to deliver two more Gepard-class frigates to Vietnam by the end of the year. It has already supplied the Vietnamese naval forces with high-speed Svetlyak-class frigates and Tarantul-class missile corvettes.
Further, Hanoi ordered 64 Russian T-90 main battle tanks last month, is discussing with Moscow the acquisition of four S-400 Triumf missile defense systems, and was offered MiG-35 fighter jets to replace its retired fleet of MiG-21 aircraft.
Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia are intensifying defense ties with Russia too. In July, Moscow signed a deal with Kuala Lumpur to modernize Russian-produced MiG-29 fighters in service with the Malaysian air force.
For its part, the Philippines is not currently a recipient of Russian arms systems, but it is seeking a loan from the Kremlin to buy them in the near future. In May, during a trip to Moscow by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the Russian government appeared ready to meet Manila’s demand and urged its Southeast Asian counterpart to submit a weapons wish list, according to media reports.
In contrast to Malaysia and the Philippines, Indonesia has generally maintained a low profile in the South China Sea. However, Chinese claims to waters around the Indonesian archipelago of Natuna, and related fishing rights in the area, are a source of concern to Jakarta, which is turning in part to Russia to improve its defense capabilities. In particular, the Southeast Asian nation will buy 11 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and could acquire the Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine.
Arming India:
India remains the top destination of Russian-manufactured weapons amid continued tensions between New Delhi and Beijing in the Himalayan region. The two Asian powers are currently skirmishing along the border dividing the Indian state of Sikkim and the Donglang (or Doklam) Plateau, an area controlled by China but claimed by Bhutan.
India started negotiations to buy five S-400 batteries last year. New Delhi is also in an advanced stage of discussions with Moscow for the purchase of four Grigorovich-class stealth frigates and will jointly produce Kamov-226T light helicopters with the Russians.
Last July, at the MAKS air show in the Moscow region, the chief executive of Russia’s Rostec Corporation, Sergey Chemezov, told Indian media that cooperation between India and the Russian government on the T-50 PAK FA fifth-generation fighter jet was moving forward – the two parties still disagree on key components such as the aircraft’s engine.
In addition, Russia is poised to lease a second Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine to India after the INS Chakra and is negotiating the sale of 48 Mi-17 military transport helicopters to the Indian Air Force.
Indo-Russian defense cooperation is also focused on joint development of advanced arms systems like the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack supersonic cruise missile. New Delhi is now developing an air-launched version of the BrahMos (the BrahMos-A), which is designed to be mounted on to its Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters.
It is said Russia and India might start marketing and selling BrahMos cruise missiles in third countries, with Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore being indicated as potential purchasers in Southeast Asia.

Brothers-in-arms sales:

Common aversion to the US for its meddling in what Russia and China view as their own geopolitical domains – the former Soviet space for Moscow and the China Seas for Beijing – keeps the Sino-Russian strategic partnership going.
China is making the best out of a bad situation. It probably believes Russia’s arms sales to India and Southeast Asian nations are not changing the military balance in the Himalayas and the South China Sea at the moment. The Kremlin in essence uses the same argument to justify its transfer of weapons to countries that are at odds with Beijing.
Thus tactical contingency is prevailing in China against strategic calculus. However, this could be a mistake by Beijing. Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to a perilous low, but in their competition to place arms orders with India and Southeast Asian countries the two powers are separately contributing to the weakening of China’s position in the Indo-Pacific region.
Paradoxically, the US and Russia have become “brothers-in-arms sellers” to Beijing’s potential enemies. And Malaysia’s recent adaptation of its Sukhoi Su-30 combat aircraft to drop US laser-guided bombs gives the best snapshot of this accidental Russian-US collaboration.