Monday, July 17, 2017

Electric Boat 'Hiring Frenzy' Gives Economic Boost To Southeastern Connecticut

Stephen Singer, The Hartford Courant
16 July 2017

Nearly complete, the USS South Dakota faces west from the cavernous construction hall of Electric Boat, as if ready to be pushed into the Thames River and out to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
On a recent afternoon, workers behind three-story high staging were welding together modules and connecting piping and cable systems to form the submarine that will be home to a crew of about 130.
The din of grinding, drilling and pounding signals the front edge of a wave of thousands of workers to be hired to build two submarines a year, delivering a powerful boost to southeast Connecticut's economy. With more than $8 billion for submarine design and construction for years to come moving in legislation in Congress — the measure passed the House Friday — retail, real estate and other businesses are anticipating a strong impact.
"It's going to be huge," Debra Chamberlain, a real estate agent at William Raveis in Mystic and former president of Connecticut Realtors, a statewide industry group, said of expected home sales. "We were the last one in the downturn and we'll be the last one out."
Dorothy Streeter, owner of Ken's Tackle Shop in Groton, said business has been "pretty decent" and in conversations with customers, she sees more EB workers. "They seem to be coming from all over the country," she said.
In southeastern Connecticut, where global military strategy is local, the construction of two submarines a year has been an elusive prize for years when just one submarine was built annually. A third is now being designed as production is planned for the new Columbia class.
Submarines are getting new attention as Congress and the Pentagon look for ways to face down threats from China, Iran and Russia. Undersea warfare had been sidelined by drones and helicopters that fought U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We have so many man-hours," Bob Saran, a 37-year painter at EB, said as he recently headed in for the second shift at the Groton boatyard. "They're pushing people."
Faced with demand to build more submarines and replace retiring baby boomers, EB is halfway to its goal of hiring 2,000 workers this year, with about 1,200 split evenly between Groton and Quonset Point, R.I.
To account for attrition and new work, EB, which now employs more than 15,000 workers, will need to hire between 14,000 and 20,000 to reach 18,000 employees by 2030.   
In Connecticut, which is muddling through a slow-growth economy and lackluster job expansion, state officials are welcoming a manufacturing trifecta expected in the coming years: submarine construction at Electric Boat, a ramp-up at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Sikorsky to build heavy-lift Navy helicopters in Stratford and Pratt & Whitney, the jet engine subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., which is working through a backlog of orders to meet demand for commercial aircraft.

Housing Picks Up

Among the most frequently cited benefits of Electric Boat hiring is rising home sales and rental housing construction.
Expectations had been lowered after the housing crash that ushered in the recession, Chamberlain said. EB engineers are buying homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, significantly less than the $700,000 homes bought by higher paid Pfizer Inc. researchers, she said. In a shift by Pfizer, many jobs have left for Cambridge, Mass.
Still, competition is picking up among buyers vying for houses.
"What we're seeing is the return of the multiple bid," Chamberlain said.
In New London County, 312 single-family homes sold in May, up 20 percent from May 2016, according to the Eastern Connecticut Association of Realtors. The median price was $223,750, a 3 percent increase.
And homes were snapped up more quickly, staying on the market 67 days on average, down from 90 in May 2016, the realtors group said.
New London issued 178 more residential and commercial building permits in the 2016-2017 budget year over the previous year.
In Groton, several housing projects are in the works: an apartment building with 22 units under construction, permits for construction expected soon for a 19-unit town house rental complex and planning approval granted for construction of 147 rental units in three buildings.
Kevin Quinn, Groton's manager of inspection services, credits EB's hiring of "a lot of young engineers" who prefer to rent than own.
Kris Ruetz, a test engineer at EB, and his girlfriend chose from a wide-open housing market and bought a Norwich home with 5 acres. They looked from Westerly, R.I., to Old Saybrook "and everywhere in between," he said.
"I felt it was a buyer's market," said Ruetz, who moved from Holland, Mich., and a job at a nuclear plant set to close next year. "We had a lot to pick from."

'Hiring Frenzy'

Mark Oefinger, Groton's recently retired town manager, said the region benefits from the certainty that comes with Navy planning calling for an increase in attack submarines to 66 from 48 and production, unchanged, of 12 ballistic missile submarines.
"There are very few businesses in the world that can tell you with some assurance what it will be doing in 10 or 20 years," he said.
Electric Boat has already been on a "hiring frenzy," he said. It's been staffing a former Pfizer campus in New London, which houses 3,000 engineers and designers for the Columbia.
To train workers ready to be hired by EB and small manufacturers a network of vocational schools and colleges has organized worker recruitment, education and training programs.
The Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline, a state-federal labor partnership to train manufacturing workers, has drawn nearly 4,000 responses, or more than eight times the 450 slots available over three years for manufacturing training, said John Beauregard, president of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board.
Unemployed or underemployed workers are taking an interest in training in machining, pipefitting, welding and other vocations, he said.
Sharon Hansen, an unemployed financial analyst experienced in woodworking and car maintenance, is switching careers and studying at Quinebaug Valley Community College's manufacturing technology center in a program intended to prepare students for EB. She was one of eight students at a recent introductory class on metrology, the study of measurement, and reading blueprints.
"To stay here," the Niantic resident said, 'you've got to reinvent yourself or move. It's time for me to reinvent myself."
Despite the emphasis on shipbuilding, workforce training funding would be cut in President Trump's proposed budget, according to Connecticut's congressional delegation. Three national programs budgeted at nearly $2.7 billion is jeopardized by a proposed 40 percent reduction.
"We should be expanding that type of investment," said Rep. Joe Courtney, whose district includes Electric Boat.
Courtney, a Democrat, expects "tremendous amount of pushback" in Congress against cuts in spending for training. "Eastern Connecticut isn't the only place where they're seeing a boost in manufacturing demand," he said.
Hiring to fill manufacturing jobs has not been easy. Robert A. Mongell, president and chief executive officer of Micro Precision Group, an Electric Boat supplier in South Windham making equipment that pressurizes ships, said hiring to add to his 70 workers is difficult.
Aerospace is going through a similar boom and is "soaking up a lot of people," Mongell said. Electric Boat, too, is a big competitor for skilled labor.
And the loss of manufacturing jobs in Connecticut — down 16 percent from before the start of the recession, to about 156,000 — has prompted young people to pursue other professions, he said.
"It's been a generation that's been lost," Mongell said.
The Norwich-New London labor market is growing as the state's economy gradually improves. Between May 2016 and last May, the most recent month for which statistics are available, employment increased 2.1 percent, or more than 2,500, to 122,058 jobs. It was a modest increase, but the area's unemployment rate fell sharply, to 4.8 percent in May from 6.9 percent in 2014.
In the local economy that includes other industries such as tourism and the casinos, durable goods manufacturing accounts for a "good chunk" of employment, said Andy Condon, research director at the state Department of Labor.
"Eastern Connecticut has been perhaps the hardest hit in the recession," he said. "When you see a recovery like that, a full point over the year or more, that's good news. That's a decently strong recovery."
Nearly 450 Connecticut companies that build submarine parts and systems — hydraulic valves, software development, control valves and other components — received $514.1 million in purchase order awards in the past five years, according to the Submarine Industrial Base Council. That represents about 3 percent of the $18.7 billion nationally for more than 5,000 suppliers that contribute to submarine, one of the most complicated machines ever designed that includes 1 million or more parts.
Eastern Connecticut has weathered numerous downturns, but employment and business levels have changed at different times, providing the benefits of diversity.
For example, employment at Mohegan Sun has fallen to 7,142, down nearly 30 percent from 2008 due to a slow-growth economy and rising casino competition in the Northeast. Pfizer Inc. has shed more than 3,000 jobs in the region — but remains steady at about 3,000 — following its move to Cambridge, Mass.
And Electric Boat in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., employed as many as 28,273 workers in 1976 and fell to as few as 9,103 in 2000, nine years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
"We've been very fortunate," said Tony Sheridan, president of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. "Growth and security have slipped back and forth between EB, Pfizer and the casinos."
Saran said that with fewer workers now than when he began at EB in the early 1980s, deadlines and spending are tight. "We've got to watch the budget," he said.
One thing is unchanged over 37 years, however.
"They wanted the submarines," Saran said.
Legislation for the federal government's budget year beginning Oct. 1 provides full funding of $1.9 billion for the Columbia class program and $6.4 billion for the Virginia class.
"Submarines are the strongest, stealthiest, most survivable weapons platform out there," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The spending proposal is a "very powerful shot in the arm" that also advances U.S. defense policy, he said.
The rise in manufacturing in Connecticut may finally end a dry spell when skills training sputtered, said Stephen LaPointe, director of the manufacturing technology center at Quinebaug Valley Community College.
"It's a perfect storm right now and unfortunately, they turned the manufacturing switch off for a long time," he said.

The U.S. Military Might Soon Have More Submarines And F-35s

Dave Majumdar, National Interest
15 July 2017 

The House of Representatives has passed the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act by a margin of 344-81. The bill will significantly boost the Pentagon’s budget—authorizing more submarines and aircraft, particularly the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The bill will now go to the Senate, which will likely take up legislation later this month.
“This bill takes the necessary steps to begin to rebuild and reform our military, including billions in additional funds to begin to close the dangerous readiness gaps our troops are facing,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said in a statement on July 14.
“In addition, it gives our troops their biggest pay raise in eight years, which they are entitled to under the law.  It beefs up missile defense at a time when the threats continue to increase.  It increases end strength to provide our services the personnel they need to complete the missions we send them on. The bill also makes major reforms in acquisition and services contracting.  And it continues to support the DOD audit in FY 2018.”
The bill significantly boosts the U.S. Navy over the President’s budget request.
“While the stage was set for the 2018 to be a starting point on the path to a 355-ship navy, the budget we received fell far short,” Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces said in a statement emailed to The National Interest.
“I am proud to say that working in a bipartisan way, we produced a better budget than the one that came over from the White House. Among other things, the bill explicitly makes it the policy of our nation to achieve a 355-ship Navy and adds five new ships in 2018 to get us moving to the larger fleet that both the Obama and Trump administrations have signaled we need. This bill demonstrates if our defense leaders and the administration will not prioritize the national goal of growing the fleet, we will.”
The HASC paid particular attention to the Navy’s rapidly shrinking attack submarine fleet, which is projected to fall well below the required number of vessels by 2029.
“This bill continues that effort, and responds to years of strategic analysis by the Navy and Congress as well as a chorus of testimony from our top military commanders stationed overseas that we need more attack submarines, as fast as possible, to meet growing demands around the world,” Courtney said.
“Building on the current two a year production rate of Virginia class submarines, this measure helps the Navy to go even higher in the next block contract by authorizing up to 13 attack submarines between 2019 and 2023. We have laid out an aggressive but realistic plan to build as many as three submarines a year for the first time in decades, and I look forward to continuing to work with my committee colleagues, the shipyards and the Navy to make this a reality.”
Key Highlights of the bill:
Submarines
Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes $6.2 billion for the Virginia class submarine program. Of the total, $3.3 billion supports two submarines in 2018, in line with the current block IV multi-year contract.  The measure also includes multiyear procurement authority for 13 Virginia-class attack submarines for the next five years at a minimum rate of two submarines per year and a possible three submarine build rate in 2020, 2022, and 2023. To support this increased production rate, the mark authorizes $2.9 billion in advanced procurement funds, $943 million more than the budget request, to prepare for the increased work.
Columbia Class Submarine – fully supports the $1.9 billion requested for the development and design of Columbia class submarine, which will replace our fleet of Ohio-class SSBNs. Of the total, about $1 billion is authorized in research and development, $843 million in shipbuilding funds to support continued detailed design of the submarine, and other development efforts through the Office of Naval Reactors in the Department of Energy.
National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund – The measure continues Courtney’s ongoing efforts to support and expand the NSBDF to provide the Navy with a greater range of tools to manage the construction of the new submarine. Specifically, the bill expands “continuous production” authority providing in last years NDAA to include a greater range of components. The bill also authorizes nearly $90 million to utilize two authorities Courtney worked to include in NSBDF: continuous production of missile tubes and advanced construction activities on the first Columbia class boomer, SSBN-826.
Submarine Maintenance – the bill includes report language reflecting Courtney’s serious concerns with the Navy’s management of its ship and submarine maintenance workload. Congressman Courtney has raised these concerns in committee and in discussions with the Navy as it has seemingly moved away from the “one shipyard” policy in recent years. In particular, the language notes the impact on the USS Boise, a submarine that can no longer operate undersea due to an extended delay in its repair availability in the public shipyards, and the need to fully utilize private sector shipyard capacity to address submarine maintenance shortfalls. The language requires the Navy to develop a comprehensive plan to eliminate the maintenance backlog, including more fully utilizing capacity at private sector shipyards like Electric Boat.
Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement
Joint Strike Fighter –authorizes 87 F-35 aircraft, 17 more than the budget request.
Long Range Strike Bomber – supports the continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
Blackhawks – authorizes 53 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, five more than the budget request.
CH-53K – supports continued development of the new Marine heavy lift helicopter, as well as the procurement of four aircraft.
KC-46A Tanker – authorizes 17 KC-46A tanker aircraft, two more than the budget request.
However, while the bipartisan NDAA is an improvement over the President’s original request, it does not undo the damage caused by the 2011 Budget Control Act—also known as sequestration.
“Nothing in this bill, however, resolves the pressing need to resolve the looming threat of the budget control act,” Courtney said.
“We will make the investments that our nation needs in defense and domestic priorities if we do not find a bipartisan solution to this challenge. A great nation can and must do both, and it is time for this chamber to do its part.”

Turkey Sends Ships And Submarine To Monitor Drilling Vessel Near Cyprus

Staff, Reuters
13 July 2013

ISTANBUL - Turkey has sent two ships and a submarine to monitor a drilling vessel in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the military said on Thursday, in a move likely to increase tension with Cyprus after reunification talks failed last week.
The drilling work, a contractual obligation between Cyprus and France's Total (TOTF.PA), comes a week after the collapse of talks to reunify the divided island nation, split between ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara has said it will take measures against Cyprus for engaging in gas and oil exploration around the island. It says that hydrocarbon resources in the waters around the divided island should belong to both sides.
The military said it had deployed the frigates and a submarine to the eastern Mediterranean to "guarantee the security of oil transportation".
Another frigate was dispatched to monitor a drilling vessel off the coast of Cyprus, it said.
Turkey's energy and foreign ministries are working together to plan steps against the Greek side's unilateral steps, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, without giving details on what those steps might entail.
The "West Capella" drilling vessel, which was contracted by France's Total (TOTF.PA) and Italy Eni (ENI.MI), moved into position to start exploring for gas this week.
Turkey, which invaded Cyprus's north in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup, says the island's internationally recognized government has no jurisdiction to explore for hydrocarbons.

Navy Skipper: Military Needs More Subs, Help With Fixing Crumbling Bases

Carl Prine, San Diego Union-Tribune
12 July 2017 

The Navy needs more submarines and the military could use more money to fix crumbling infrastructure.
That was the message Wednesday to members of the San Diego Military Advisory Council from Capt. Howard Warner III, a career submariner and the outgoing commander of the Navy’s sprawling base at Point Loma.
Speaking at his base’s Admiral Kidd Catering and Conference Center, Warner took the audience back in time to World War II, noting that the German navy commissioned more than 1,000 submarines to starve out Great Britain — and failed.
“And yet we have 50-odd submarines for the entire planet,” said Warner, pointing to America’s fleet of attack submarines. “So that’s something to think about when we know that numbers do matter. We recognize fiscal constraints and national security priorities and where we’re going to go as a nation.
”Certainly, sensors and weapons have extended the footprints of our attack submarines, but in the end — much like all the toys we play with — I think we probably need more.”
Warner served as executive officer aboard the attack submarine Key West, firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at enemy targets in Iraq, before taking command of the sister sub Bremerton in 2008.
Two years later, Warner’s submarine conducted a “SINKEX” by firing a torpedo into the former amphibious warship Anchorage, turning it into a reef off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Warner assumed command of Point Loma in 2014. The Navy has not announced his next assignment as his three-
year tour ends next month, but he’s widely considered within the military as one of the brightest underwater strategists of his generation.
The Navy’s underwater arsenal includes attack submarines that hunt enemy warships, ballistic missile boomers that maintain America’s deterrence against an enemy’s first-strike nuclear attack, guided-missile submarines and an increasing fleet of submerged drones.
Fourteen nations rimming the Pacific Ocean deploy a total of 309 submarines, with 63 more under construction.
And competitors are gaining against the U.S. Navy. Cold War shipyards launched three to four new American submarines every year, but those subs are being decommissioned around the same rate now. Meanwhile, the industrial base can sustain only a pair of replacements annually.
Often overshadowed by San Diego’s large stable of surface warships, five Los Angeles-class attack submarines are homeported at Point Loma and two more are slated to join them by 2021. It’s part of an ongoing pivot of America’s military power to the Pacific Ocean.
But Warner said Point Loma also is often overlooked. He pointed to the more than 70 tenant commands at his base, a facility that includes Submarine Squadron 11, the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command and Space and Naval Warfare Systems — better known as SPAWAR.
Warner’s headquarters of about 800 civilian and uniformed staffers provide services and security to more than 25 times as many workers and military personnel on the base, becoming the “strategic backbone” for submarines and warships that depend on Point Loma, he said.
“You’ll hear discussions about how our No. 1 resource is our people. But in my opinion, we can’t in good faith state that people are our No. 1 resource as we steadily erode benefits and privileges, all in an effort to literally save a penny on the dollar of a much, much larger budget,” he added.
Highlighting the string of awards won by his staffers for safety innovations, environmental stewardship and delivering superior community services, Warner said Point Loma’s staffers toiled during the past three years of whittled or flat Pentagon budgets to keep pace with operational demands by finding “a thousand ways to get to yes.”
“We have a mantra at Point Loma that we don’t reward people for doing more with less,” Warner said. “I’ve been at the Pentagon twice, and doing more with less was probably the biggest mistake that we ever did at the Department of Defense, rewarding people for doing more with less.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011 — better known as the “sequestration” deal designed to slice $2 trillion from the federal spending deficit — disproportionately hurt the armed forces. Lawmakers sought to slice about $454 billion in defense spending by 2021.
The blunt nature of the cuts has often meant leaner funds for maintaining bases.
Warner said Point Loma could use a little more help — replacing the antiquated, disorganized and costly communication lines veining the base; erecting a nerve center that gives commanders an “operating picture” of everything from vehicle counts at the facilities to the amount of electricity being used; and energy independence, with bases like Point Loma making and storing much of their own power so they don’t rely on the civilian grid.
Warner called for real solutions backed up by federal funding to fix the “eroding infrastructure of our military bases,” instead of more studies about the problem.
“I’ve had studies of studies done on my base,” he said. “I’ve had studies done in my first year of command and they came back and studied us again. Not a surprise — same conclusions.”

Scourge of Sneaky Russian Spy Submarines As Soaring Number Of  Vessels Spotted 'Lurking' Off Faslane

Stephen Stewart, Daily Record
12 July 2017

Soaring numbers of Russian naval ships have been caught in British waters – including submarines “lurking” near Faslane .
And a foreign affairs think tank fear the Russians are trying to track Britain’s nuclear-armed Vanguard subs to obtain their “signature”.
The Henry Jackson Society said the “alarmingly regular” contacts show “a worrying picture of the revival of Cold War Russian habits of probing our defences by sea and, especially, by air”.
In one incident in August 2010, a Russian Akula-class Typhoon sub stood off Faslane “waiting for a Trident-capable Vanguard-class submarine to leave the port”.
Dr Andrew Foxall, director of the society’s Russian Studies Centre, pieced together official air
intercept statistics and media reports of naval contacts, which are not recorded by the Ministry of Defence, and found a rise in Russian intrusions in UK territory.
The report said: “Russia’s submarines, which lurk off naval bases in Scotland, seek even … sensitive information: the ‘acoustic signature’ made by the UK submarine fleet, including the Vanguard submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles.
“If Russia were able to obtain a recording of the ‘signature’, it would have serious implications for the UK’s nuclear deterrent: Russia would be able to track Vanguards and potentially sink them before they could launch their missiles.”
There were 12 reported Russian naval approaches in UK seas between 2013 and 2016.
There had been just two in the previous seven years. More than half of the 43 reported contacts by air and sea between 2005 and 2016 occurred in the most recent three years. Dr Foxall added:
“There is a troubling picture of close encounters and emergency scrambles perpetuated by an aggressive Russian government …these Russian activities are best understood not in isolation, but rather as a part of the Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy toward the West.”
An MoD spokesman said: “We keep all threats under constant review and have robust security measures in place to combat them.
“This includes RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft, a Royal Navy warship held at
continuous high readiness and the ultimate guarantee of our security, the nuclear deterrent.”
The Russian Embassy said: “Perhaps the UK military would be best placed to comment. We do not hold the Henry Jackson Society in very high regard.”

South Korea Gets New-Age Submarine To Counter North

Staff, The Australian
11 July 2017

South Korea has received its most advanced submarine to counter North Korea’s underwater combat capabilities as the US said it would crank up pressure on China to ensure that it implemented sanctions against the North over its missile tests. The delivery of the 1800-tonne Yu Gwan-sun submarine at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering shipyard on Geoje Island near Busan in southeastern part of the country was marked with a ceremony by the South Korean navy. The submarine, which the South Korean navy plans to deploy in December, is named after well-known independence leader Yu Gwan-sun, and is the sixth and most sophisticated in the Jang Bogo-II class that was launched in 2008. The North is believed to have a fleet of at least 80 submarines. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said while the US wanted to avoid conflict, it was determined to halt North’s nuclear drive. “The fact that they launched an ICBM test is hugely dangerous not just for us, but for so many of our friends in the world, and we’ve got to put a stop to it,” Ms Haley told CBS.
Ms Haley told the UN Security Council last week that the US planned a new resolution that would ramp up sanctions on North Korea but also ensure that existing measures were enforced. China is North Korea’s main ally and the US has become increasingly frustrated at what it sees as Beijing’s failure to ensure the existing sanctions against the regime of Kim Jong-un are fully implemented. “It will be very telling based on how other countries respond — whether they want to hold Kim Jong-un’s hand through this process or whether they want to be on the side of so many countries who know that this is a dangerous person with the access to an ICBM,” said Ms Haley. “So we’re going to fight hard on this. We’re going to push hard not just on North Korea, we’re going to push hard on other countries who are not abiding by the resolutions and not abiding by the sanctions against North Korea. “And we’re going to push hard against China because 90 per cent of the trade that happens with North Korea is from China, and so while they have been helpful, they need to do more.”

Chinese Threat Looms Large As Annual War Games Start

Hari Kumar and Ellen Barry, NEW YORK TIMES
11 July 2017 

NEW DELHI — The navies of India, Japan and the United States began a set of war games on Monday with a particular target: submarines capable of sliding unannounced into the deep waters of the Indian Ocean, silently taking positions near the Indian coastline. It is not a mystery whose submarines are at issue. Last month, the Indian Navy announced a plan to permanently station warships to monitor movement through the Strait of Malacca, where many Chinese vessels enter from the South China Sea. And in recent weeks, navy officials here have reported a “surge” of Chinese military vessels entering the Indian Ocean. Routine maritime exercises have long served as a gauge of India’s uneasy relationship with China, prompting a shrug or a blast of condemnation, depending on the circumstances. The annual series of naval exercises, known as the Malabar series, began in 1992. This year’s event was the largest to date, and the first to feature carriers from all three navies. The games are unfolding under tense circumstances, nearly a month into an aggressive standoff between Chinese and Indian border forces in the Himalayas. On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi took the unusual step of warning its citizens to be especially cautious traveling in India for the next month. Against that backdrop, the influx of Chinese warships into the Indian Ocean is another indicator of Beijing’s displeasure, said retired Adm. Anup Singh, who has overseen the exercises in the past. “They are deliberately upping the ante in order to flag their posture to people who are concerned,” Admiral Singh
said. “The Indians, the Japanese and the Americans. So they deliberately do it as a pinprick.” Though India’s Navy is dwarfed by China’s, India holds a strategic advantage in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, which stretches 470 miles to the northwest of the Strait of Malacca, a “choke point” connecting the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. This position, which could be used to put pressure on Chinese supply lines, is an increasing focus of cooperation between India, the United States and Japan. Monday’s China Daily, an English-language government newspaper, referred apprehensively to the maritime exercises in an editorial, noting that the Indian Ocean is one of China’s main conduits for trade and oil imports. “It is China that should feel ‘security concerns,’” it concluded. China’s submarine fleet has expanded rapidly in recent years. The country has assumed control of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, finalizing plans to sell eight submarines to Pakistan, and opening its first overseas military logistics supply facility in Djibouti. For Indian leaders, who for centuries have focused on contested northern borders, this has required a sudden shift in attention to 4,700 miles of southern coastline, along which much of the country’s security and energy infrastructure is concentrated. “This is a tectonic shift in India’s security calculus, that it has to protect its southern flank,” said Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research. One response, he said, would be “a concert of democracies to rein in these muscular activities.” Both Japan and the United States have expressed eagerness to team up with India on its maritime frontier.

Last month, the United States agreed to sell India 22 advanced surveillance drones, which could be deployed to the Strait of Malacca and used to track Chinese naval movements. The drones can be used in concert with the American-made P-8I Poseidon surveillance aircraft, which are already staged on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Indian government has signaled that it is willing, after many years of resistance, to expand security infrastructure on the archipelago. In May, a wildlife board approved the creation of missile testing and surveillance facilities on Rutland Island, a project first proposed in 2013. Last year, Japan became the first foreign government allowed to build infrastructure on the archipelago — a 15megawatt power plant. But it is eager to break ground on a range of other connectivity projects, said Darshana M. Baruah, a research analyst at Carnegie India. When Mr. Modi visited Japan last year, the two leaders agreed on a
plan to develop “smart islands,” as part of a set of projects in sensitive frontier areas. This week’s naval exercises will involve the United States’ Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier; India’s I.N.S. Vikramaditya, a Russian-made aircraft carrier; and Japan’s JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier, as well as 13 other warships and submarines. Japan is participating for the second year in a row. A decade ago, China was infuriated when the three countries teamed up with Australia for naval exercises, applying immediate diplomatic pressure that prompted Australia to withdraw. This year, Australian military officials asked for their country to take part as an “observer,” but India rejected the idea.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Emmanuel Macron Aboard France's Le Terrible Nuclear Submarine

Staff, BBC
4 July 2017 

During the visit to the submarine, "Le Terrible", off the Brittany coast, Mr Macron reportedly took part in a simulated missile launch.
France will be the sole EU nation with nuclear arms after 2019, when the UK is expected to leave the 28-member bloc.
Meanwhile, the new French government easily won its first confidence vote.
The cabinet led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was backed by 370 MPs in the lower house, with only 67 voting against.
Mr Philippe set out proposals for public spending cuts and labour reforms - a move condemned by the trade unions, who have threatened protest strikes in the autumn.
On Tuesday, President Macron was taken by helicopter to "Le Terrible" submarine in the Atlantic, about 300km (186 miles) off France's coast.
Mr Macron's office later published a photo, showing the president being lowered on to the submarine.
Mr Macron stressed the importance of France's nuclear deterrent, describing it as the "keystone of security".
The reported missile launch simulation was part of the president's day-long visit to nuclear weapons facilities at the Ile Longue base, near Brest.
It is home to the country's four nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarines.
France maintains a fleet of nuclear-armed submarines and strike planes, and has about 300 operational nuclear warheads.
Support for the deterrent is deeply rooted in French society and history, ever since it became a nuclear power in the 1960s, correspondents say.

China's Submarine Dream (And Nightmare for the U.S. Navy):  'Hunt for Red October' Subs

Dave Majumdar, The National Interest
6 July 2017 

If China’s rim-driven pumpjet propulsion technology works, it would be a significant advance for the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s undersea force.
In a recent article that appeared in the South China Morning Post, Beijing claims to have developed such a silent propulsion system—which some have compared to the so-called caterpillar-drive in Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October.
With vastly improved acoustical performance, a new generation of advanced Chinese nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) could add another dimension to Beijing’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities.
Further, new Chinese ballistic missile submarines hiding inside their heavily defended ‘bastions’—like the Soviet boomer fleet before them—would be much more difficult to detect and eliminate, greatly enhancing Beijing’s strategic nuclear deterrence.
But that’s only if China can build an operationally relevant rim-driven pumpjet propulsor—American naval analysts are mostly convinced that the new Chinese silent propulsion system is a science project that may never make it to sea.
“If it is well-built, a rim-driven pump jet would be a quieter propulsion system than traditional propellers, and could be quieter than shaft-driven pump jets like those on some U.S. submarines,” Bryan Clark, a retired U.S. Navy undersea warfare officer and analyst the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told The National Interest.
“The question is whether the Chinese can build one with the fine machining necessary to achieve the degree of quieting possible. The article doesn't address that. The basic technology is straightforward, but building a good one is hard. Manufacturing precision equipment like turbines has been a challenge for China’s shipbuilding industry.”
Retired U.S. Navy submariner Thomas Callender, a senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation and former director of capabilities at the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Policy) agreed with Clark’s assessment.
“I agree that if engineers can develop a shaft-less rim-driven electric motor pump-jet, it would reduce the noise signature of the host submarine since without large traditional shaft with multiple bearings along its length (shaft must be long enough to connect propulsion motor inside the engine room to screw or pump-jet at the stern) and only having one bearing per pump-jet, the noise associated with the shaft would be reduced,” Callender told The National Interest in an email.
“In addition, since the propeller is not driven by a traditional steam propulsion turbine, but by an electric motor, there is no need for large reduction gear which reduces RPM of steam turbine (in 1000’s of RPM at higher speeds) to more efficient and quiet propeller speed (for submarine typically less than 200 rpm max).”
The improved quieting would also likely more than offset potential drawbacks such as a greater magnetic signature.
“A rim-driven pump jet would use an electric motor that is installed in the rim around the propulsor. Like any electric motor, it would generate a magnetic field. Because it’s outside the hull, it might be easier to detect with magnetic anomaly detection, but it could be designed to shield some of the field,” Clark said.
“It again comes down to how well they build the propulsion system. In any event, magnetic anomaly detection does not work at long ranges, and is not useful as a search capability. It is generally used to target a submarine once it has been located and tracked.”
While there are advantages to a rim-driven pumpjet, there also some serious potential drawbacks. One problem is that such motors may not be able to generate the horsepower to drive a massive nuclear submarine.
“If China can put a well-built rim-driven pump jet on a submarine, the next question is how much thrust it provides,” Clark said.
“With submarine propulsion, one of the tradeoffs is quietness versus speed. Most changes to the propulsion architecture that reduce noise also reduce sprint speed. One of the concerns I have heard from engineers is whether a rim-driven pump jet can deliver the horsepower needed to reach high sprint speeds for torpedo evasion or repositioning.”
Callender noted that a single rim-driven pumpjet would probably be insufficient. The U.S. Navy’s forthcoming Columbia-class SSBN design will incorporate a permanent magnet electric drive propulsion—eschewing the traditional steam-driven propulsion turbine. The new propulsion system will be much quieter, Callender said, but it will come at the price of being enormous.
“The electric drive motor with sufficient power to drive Columbia SSBN will be extremely large, partially contributing to its 43-foot hull diameter,” Callender said.
“For example, similar sized Ohio Class SSBN produced 60,000 shaft horsepower. Virginia SSN produces 40,000 shaft horsepower to power a submarine.”
Because of the sheer size and weight of the electrical motors, there are some size constraints that are inherent to a rim-mounted pumpjet.
“Bryan is correct and I agree that the most critical technical issue with the rimless electric motor pump-jet as the main propulsion for an SSN or SSBN is delivering sufficient power in size and weight limitations of a stern pump-jet,” Callender said.
“As you can imagine, a 40-foot diameter rimless pump-jet would not be practical (current propulsors are less than 20ft in diameter) from both a size and weight standpoint.  Having a huge and heavy motor and pump-jet at the extreme stern would also make hull stability near impossible.”
As such, the Chinese would have to use multiple propulsors to design and build a practical submarine.
“A more likely solution to incorporate a smaller rim-driven pump-jet (and therefore less power) would be to have multiple pump-jets located on the stabilizing stern fins (2 or more likely 4),” Callender said.
“But the issue of size and weight is still a huge engineering leap and would likely not incorporate more mature but heavy permanent magnet motors.”
Clark points out another potential problem even if the Chinese are able to solve all of the other technical issues. A rim-driven pumpjet would draw an enormous amount of electrical power and it is not clear that the Chinese can generate that kind of energy onboard their submarines.
“The last challenge I see with a rim-driven pump jet is the ability of the ship to provide the electrical power needed to drive the pump jet,” Clark said.
“An electric propulsion system will be less efficient than traditional steam or diesel propulsion because the reactor or diesel generator is powering a generator that then powers a motor, compared to a diesel motor or steam turbine directly driving the shaft.”
If the Chinese were to successfully develop and build a rim-driven pumpjet, there could be wider strategic implications.
“If they have developed a genuinely silent drive for SSNs, though, they could use those boats as a free-range element of their A2/AD network: SSKs could form a relatively static defensive cordon closer to shore while SSNs roamed ahead in an effort to detect, track, and target oncoming U.S. Pacific Fleet or Seventh Fleet task forces (and to notify A2/AD forces to the rear of U.S. forces' whereabouts),” James Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, told The National Interest.
“SSNs thus could comprise a forward defense of China's forward, layered maritime defense. And that leaves aside all of the more offensive uses for stealthy SSNs, such as forward operations in the Indian Ocean.”
The new propulsion system could also be a boon for the Chinese SSBN fleet, which like the Soviet boomer fleet, uses the so-called ‘Bastion’ strategy.
“This type of propulsion would enhance what appears to be China's ‘bastion’ strategy for SSBNs in the South China Sea,” Holmes said.
“Propulsion machinery is at its quietest when running slowly, while SSBNs crawl along on patrol. SSBNs based at Sanya and fitted with newfangled propulsion plants could get underway, dive quickly, and dawdle out to their patrol grounds--keeping their acoustic signature, and thus chances of hostile detection, to a bare minimum. That would make the anti-submarine challenge for U.S. and allied forces daunting indeed. We would be hunting Chinese subs in China's extended neighborhood, in proximity to an array of PLA A2/AD weaponry.”
However, there are plenty of indications that the Chinese rim-power pumpjet silent propulsion technology is overblown. In the SCMP article, author Minne Chan quotes Collin Koh Swee Lean, a submarine expert from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University as saying that: “In the long term, if the pump-jet propulsion is declared fully operational and tested successfully ... future [Chinese] submarines would be equipped with pump-jet propulsion as a standard design feature.”
To Callender, that is an indication that the Chinese technology is still in the lab.
“To me this means that the rimless pump-jet is still very much in the Science and Technology phase of
development and not a near-term mature technology,” Callender said.
Ultimately, only time will tell if the new Chinese silent propulsion system proves to be genuine.
But some U.S. naval analysts believe the rim-driven pumpjet is simply Chinese propaganda. “I read this earlier this morning and concluded that the PLAN propaganda machine was busy on July 4th,” Bryan McGrath, managing director of the FerryBridge Group naval consultancy, explained to The National Interest yesterday.
“Yes, something...if genuine. And there is no question in my mind that the undersea advantage we enjoy will come under increasing pressure from PLAN capabilities. But quieter that U.S. subs? No.”

U.K. Defense Minister Fallon: Break with European Union Gives U.K.  More Flexibility to Deal with Russia

John Grady,  USNI
7 July 2017

Britain’s defense minister said London views its departure of the European Union as an opportunity to step up its ability to deter the Kremlin’s aggressiveness along its borders with the West, monitor Moscow’s increased submarine activity in the North Sea and the Atlantic and ward off Russian intrusions into the United Kingdom’s and other nations’ airspace.
Michael Fallon, speaking Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cited the United Kingdom’s deployment of ground troops to Estonia and Poland to reassure Baltic and eastern members of NATO as part of agreed-upon forward presence, as well as the sending Royal Air Force Typhoons to Romania and Royal Navy warships to the Aegean and Mediterranean as visible evidence of its commitment to collective defense. It also demonstrates London’s willingness to work cooperatively with other European countries in dealing with the steadily rising migrant flow from Libya toward Italy in particular.
As for Russia’s loudly voiced concerns about this stepped-up deterrence, “we’ve been absolutely transparent” in the deployment and the exercises NATO and countries in the alliance have been conducting. He added Moscow continues to remain silent on the movement of its forces close to its western borders in possible exercises or new deployments.
“NATO must transform itself into a far more agile organization” with “a 360-degree approach” to defense and deterrence, he told the audience at the Washington, D.C., think-tank. That translates into faster decision-making. Like the United States, the United Kingdom has been pressing the 29 alliance members to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, including significant investments in modernizing their forces.
Since the NATO conference in Wales several years ago, “we’ve seen a commitment to readiness” in the alliance and certainly by the United Kingdom.
“Agility will be critical … and perpetual” and that also means addressing the new challenges in the cyber domain. Fallon, who has held the defense post for three years, said in answer to a question that the United Kingdom’s investment in new equipment will not come at the expense of its army’s end strength. He said it will remain at 85,000 active-duty soldiers.
The army will be capable “of fighting at the divisional level” while the United Kingdom is increasing the size of the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, he said as the session was ending.
In regard to the modernization of its forces, London has been a leader according to Fallon. Pointing to the United Kingdom’s commitment to building two aircraft carriers, he said Russia is showing “a bit of carrier envy” while at the same time it is investing like the United States in a new ballistic missile submarine.
“We have been buying a lot of high-end kit” from the United States, and he warned the administration not to adopt a protectionist attitude blocking United Kingdom firms from the American military marketplace.
With more than 130 British aircrews training in the United States of F-35s, he predicted they would soon be operating off American aircraft carriers and American crews off theirs.
To counter increased Kremlin submarine activity, Fallon said the United Kingdom has entered into a trilateral agreement with Norway and the United States flying P-8s to track their movements. Using the same aircraft allows the three “to work more closely together.” Likewise, he said London has entered into new agreement with Sweden and Finland “to respond to these new threats” in the North Sea.
He termed Russian military pilots buzzing ships and flying dangerously close to alliance aircraft behavior “that is provocative and can be dangerous.”
Fallon said the alliance’s commitment to Afghanistan remains firm with the understanding of the need to have the Kabul government and its security forces firmly establish their legitimacy and allow the country’s fragile democracy to grow.
The struggle against the Taliban and other transnational terrorist organizations “can only be won by local forces.” He said the British are training the Afghan air force and counterterrorism forces.
In answer to a question, he said the Syrian civil war “is littered with cease-fire agreements,” regularly broken by the regimes of Bashar al-Assad and the Russians and sounded skeptical about establishing “safe zones” were civilians could escape the fighting that has been going on since 2011.
So far the “de-confliction machinery” covering air forces operating in Syria is working, but he was concerned about the future as the battle-space draws increasingly smaller as all sides in the war close in on Raqqah, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.
Fallon termed North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program an international threat, affecting nations other than the United States, Japan and South Korea. But “we’re a long way from looking at military operations.”

Australian Submarine Project Requires 'Cathedral'

Staff, Sky News
10 July 2017

Australia will need to build a massive 'cathedral' to kick off the biggest defence project in the country's history.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined France's Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly at the opening of the Australian Future Submarines design office in Cherbourg, west of Paris, on Sunday.
The office will be known as Hughes House after late Rear Admiral Owen 'Oscar' Hughes, who spearheaded the Collins class subs project.
In December last year, Australia and France formally sealed a $50 billion agreement under which French naval contractor Naval Group will build a new fleet of diesel-electric submarines based on its nuclear Barracuda.
Speaking at the Barracuda facility, Naval Group CEO Herve Guillou told Mr Turnbull and guests: 'This is a sort of cathedral ... and Australia is now here.'
The massive assembly hall, which will be required in Adelaide when work begins on the Australian submarines in 2022, allows for one submarine on the finishing line and another on the assembly line.
A workforce of 2,800 people will be needed in Adelaide.
The Cherbourg design facility will receive its first personnel later this year, who will work with Naval Group on the design of the next generation submarine.
Mr Turnbull said it was important in the long-term Australia not only construct the submarines but operate them and sustain them, rather than rely on another country.
'Australia must be the master of her own destiny,'
He expected the project to not only deliver a new defence capability but 'act as a magnet' for other industry.
Ms Parly linked the project with the need for a stronger military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
'France like Australia considers that the Indo-Pacific zone is of capital importance,' she said.
'There are 1.6 billion people living there so the regularity of our naval presence including in the Sea of China - the objective of that is not just to defend the rights of the sea but also to contribute to regional safety.'
She said oceans were the 'stage of political expression of power'.
'A strong marine is an instrument of sovereignty that is paramount to manage, master and protect one's areas.'
The project has the strong endorsement of French President Emmanuel Macron, who met with Mr Turnbull on a flight from the Hamburg G20 summit to Paris on Saturday and discussed the project over dinner.
'It is not simply a contract,' Mr Macron said.
The decision had national, international and strategic outcomes and provided work for Australian industry and as president he would do all he could to ensure the contract was met.
The project has not been without controversy.
In early 2016 DCNS was left reeling after details from more than 22,000 pages of documents relating to submarines it is building for India were published in The Australian newspaper, leading to concerns about the company's ability to protect sensitive data.
Ms Parly said she would ensure the 'sensitivities' around the designing of the submarine would be protected.

South Korean Navy Receives New Advanced Submarine 

Staff, Yonhap News Agency
10 July 2017

SEOUL – South Korea's Navy took over a new 1,800-ton submarine Monday aimed at beefing up its underwater warfare capability against North Korea, a state arms procurement agency said.
The delivery ceremony of the Yu Gwan-sun submarine was held at the shipyard of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. on Geoje Island near the country's southeastern port city of Busan, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
The submarine, named after the Korean independence fighter Yu Gwan-sun (1902-1920), is the six of the South's Jang Bogo-II Class fleet launched in December 2008. Jang is the legendary admiral of the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla (57 B.C.- A.D. 935).
The Navy plans to commission the new sub in December after training crew members.
"The Yu Gwan-sun is the world's top-class diesel-powered submarine capable of handling more than 300 underwater targets at the same time," said Choi Hee-kyung, a DAPA official in charge of the program. "Equipped with a fuel battery system, it can conduct underwater operations for 10 days or longer without surfacing above the water."
It's expected to help the South offset its inferiority in the quantity of submarines to the North, known to have more than 80 submarines, Choi added.

Police Detain 6, Among Them Netanyahu Associates, In Submarine Fraud Investigation

Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel
10 July 2017

Former senior public officials questioned under caution on a string of suspicions relating to the $480 million purchase
Police detained six people for questioning on Monday morning, including a number of former senior public officials, suspected of corruption in the potentially fraudulent purchase of naval vessels from Germany.
The suspects were brought in as part of an ongoing investigation into the so-called “Case 3000,” or the “submarine affair,” in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of attempting to sway multi-billion-shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKryupp, which he represented in Israel.
The six were questioned under caution over suspicions of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, the Israel Police and the Tax Authority said in a joint statement.
“At the time of the events under question, some of the suspects were public servants and some worked in the private sector,” the statement said.
A source close to the investigation who asked not to be named told The Times of Israel that some of the suspects were personal associates of the prime minister. Hebrew media speculated that Shimron was among those being questioned.
One of the detainees was named later Monday as Avriel Bar-Yosef, a former deputy head of the National Security Council. Netanyahu sought to appoint Bar-Yosef to lead the NSC in 2016, but his candidacy was withdrawn when it emerged that he was suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for promoting the interests of German businessmen involved in the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the Israel Police to formally look into the submarine affair in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase vessels by business ties Shimron had with ThyssenKrupp. The deals for patrol boats and submarines came under intense scrutiny late last year after it was revealed by Channel 10 news that Shimron also served in an advisory capacity for ThyssenKrupp, which was awarded the contracts for building Israel’s submarines and naval attack boats.
In December, officers from the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit entered the office of legal adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari at the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv and removed information from computers there. The data concerned the cancellation of an international tender to build four new warships to protect Israel’s offshore natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea.
The contract was awarded instead to ThyssenKrupp. Under the 2015 deal, worth €430 million ($480 million), ThyssenKrupp is to supply Israel with four “Sa’ar 6 corvette” ships over a period of five years.
The purchase was opposed by parts of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who has since threatened to “tell all” on Netanyahu’s involvement if the prime minister is not indicted as part of the probe.
Shimron claimed at the time that he “wasn’t in touch with any state official over the issue of Israel’s purchase of naval vessels” and said that his work for the German company while also serving as the prime minister’s lawyer did not constitute a conflict of interest.
However, after Israel issued the initial tender in 2014 for the purchase of the ships, Shimron called Ben-Ari, the Defense Minister legal adviser, to inquire why the
tender was issued, allegedly saying he wanted the contract to be given to ThyssenKrupp directly.
In January, police opened a full criminal investigation into the affair but stressed that the prime minister was not a suspect.
Responding to the decision, the Prime Minister’s Office published what it said was the full timeline of the process by which the state decided to purchase submarines from a German shipbuilding company, in an effort to demonstrate that Netanyahu did not attempt to influence the deliberations in any way.

Chicago museum gets $82K grant to preserve WWII submarine

Staff, WLS 890 AM
10 July 2017

CHICAGO — The National Park Service has awarded a grant to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry to help preserve and expand access to its U-505 submarine.
The park service announced the roughly $82,000 Maritime Heritage Grant on Friday. It’s one of 13 grants totaling more than $1.7 million the government is giving for projects that teach and preserve items related to U.S. maritime history.
The World War II German submarine known as the U-505 has been among the museum’s best known and most popular exhibits since 1954.
Museum visitors may board the submarine, which was captured by U.S. forces in June 1944.
The National Park Service grant will be used to expand public access to areas of the submarine that were previously restricted. Money also will go toward preservation and research.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Abbott Calls For Plan B on Submarines

Lisa Martin, News.com.au
28 June 2017

Former prime minister Tony Abbott warns Australia might need a plan B for its acquisition of a new fleet of submarines.
Mr. Abbott is scheduled to deliver a "leadership lunch" speech to the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney on Thursday entitled: "Submarines: why settle for second best?".
It's believed Mr. Abbott will use the speech to call for Australia to embrace nuclear-powered submarines.
"I think it's important that we have a plan B, given the submarine acquisition process as outlined is a long and involved one," he told 2GB Radio on Wednesday.
Last November, during a charity dinner in Port Moresby Mr. Abbott, said one of his greatest regrets as prime minister was not giving more consideration to off-the-shelf nuclear-propelled submarines.
His government set up the three-way race between Japan, Germany and France for the submarine contract.
French shipbuilder DCNS won the design job and the 12 conventional-powered submarines will be constructed in Adelaide.
The first steel is expected to be cut by 2022, and the first sub will enter service in the early 2030s.

Russia Begins Removal Of Nuclear Waste From Cold War-Era Submarine Base

Staff, RT
27 June 2017

Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has begun to remove spent nuclear fuel from the old Andreyeva Bay submarine base for reprocessing as part of an international effort to clean up nuclear waste from the site.
Three hundred and fifty fuel assemblies, each containing 15-20kg of spent nuclear fuel, were shipped on board a specially-equipped vessel to the Russian port city of Murmansk in the far north on Tuesday, from where they are due to be taken by train to the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant in Chelyabinsk, near the Ural Mountains.
"Today is a great day, which completes two decades’ worth of work in preparation for the removal of fuel from the storage facility in Andreyeva Bay," said Rosatom CEO Aleksey Likhachev, as quoted by TASS.
For the last 35 years, the old submarine base at Andreyeva Bay has held some 22,000 nuclear fuel assemblies, enough for over 100 reactors’ worth of fuel, from over 50 nuclear submarines, in three storage containers. According to Anatoly Grigoriev, Rosatom’s leading specialist in the coordination and implementation of international programs, removing them will take around 10 years.
“I think it will be enough for us to empty [the first] two storage sites within five years,” Grigoriev told Interfax.
“For the third storage site we will need another five years, because there’s a very serious situation with radiation and the fuel is in poor condition, so decisions will have to be made on the spot, so to speak.”
The operation to remove the waste is an international effort between Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and the UK, which have contributed millions of dollars towards safely removing Andreyeva Bay’s spend nuclear fuel. The project is also being backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has deemed it a serious environmental hazard.
"It is particularly pleasing to see that nations put aside their differences to resolve such crucial issues as the legacy of the nuclear-powered fleet in the north of Russia," Pierre Heilbronn, EBRD vice president for policy and partnerships, said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
Andreyeva Bay was initially the site of a submarine base in the early 1960s, and was used to store fuel and equipment for the Northern Fleet’s nuclear submarines. In 1982 one of the storage tanks was damaged and started leaking radioactive water into the Barents Sea, and a new emergency facility had to be set up. But by the early 1990s, all operations there were terminated and the naval base was closed. Since the late 1990s Russia has been co-operating with Norway, and later Sweden, Italy and the UK, to clean up the site and eliminate the leaks as a source of pollution.

Monday, June 26, 2017

NATO Submarine Exercise in Icelandic Waters

Anne Elise Riordan, Iceland Review
23 June 2017

A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) submarine arrived at Reykjavik harbor today for an annual submarine surveillance exercise that will take place in Icelandic waters for the first time, reports Vísir. The exercise starts today and runs until July 6.
The submarine belongs to the Norwegian navy, and another submarine from Germany is expected later. In all, five submarines will participate in the exercise, which is to take place south of Vestmannaeyjar islands in southern Icelandic waters, and the other three submarines will head directly to that location.
The submarine surveillance exercises, dubbed Dynamic Mongoose 2017 this time, have been carried out annually since 2012, but always in Norwegian waters up until now, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In addition to the two submarines entering the port, six warships will be docked at Sundahöfn, a containership port in the Laugarnes district of Reykjavík, over the weekend. The exercise draws on assets and personnel from nine NATO members: the US, Norway, France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Canada, Poland and the Netherlands. These allies are contributing five submarines, nine frigates and one research vessel, as well as six toeight aircraft and helicopters. More than 2,000 crew members will participate in the exercise.
Iceland is providing facilities within the security area at Keflavík Airport and the Icelandic Coast Guard is participating in the exercise with the vessel Týr, flight crews and search and rescue helicopters. Normally the NATO Command in Northwood, United Kingdom, would command such an exercise but for the first time the command will be moved to the security area at Keflavík Airport, continued the ministry’s press release.
Iceland has been a member of NATO since its foundation in 1949.

China Aircraft Carriers Are Far Behind but Submarine Technology Parity is Nearer

Brian Wang, Next Big Future
23 June 2017

China’s aircraft carrier technology is still far behind the USA. China only has one refurbished Soviet aircraft carrier and a domestic submarine based on the Soviet carrier will be operational in 2020. China’s next aircraft carriers could start getting up to the level of 1980 era US carriers in size and some technology in the late 2020s.
China’s submarine technology is more rapidly closing the technology gap and also could have numeric superiority by 2025.
China’s operational undersea force has 63 vessels – five nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and 54 diesel-powered attack submarines.
However, in fewer than three years this force will grow to between 69 and 78 submarines.
The number of anti-ship cruise missile submarines is also increasingly significantly. Since the 1990s, China has built 13 Song-class attack submarines and 17 Yuan-class ones with diesel-electric air-independent power attack submarines. Three more Yuans are slated for deployment by 2020.
Also, eight of China’s 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines can launch cruise missiles, which are designed to deliver large warheads over long distances.
China will start construction in early the 2020s modern and advanced missile submarine, the Type 096. The Type 096 will also be armed with a new more lethal missile, the JL-3.
And Beijing is working on a new class of nuclear-powered attack submarines, based on the Shang class called the Type 093B guided missile nuclear-attack submarine.
According to the Pentagon, the Type 093B “not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine land-attack option.”
Many of the newer subs will be outfitted with China’s supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, the YJ-18, regarded by the Pentagon as one of the most lethal anti-ship weapons. Chinese analysts have called the YJ-18 “the most perfect anti-ship cruise missile.”
China is also building the world’s largest submarine factory.
Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation is building a giant submarine that will have two parallel assembly lines. The gigantic hall reportedly is where China will begin construction on is latest attack submarine, the Type 095.
The US can build submarine construction at about six at a time. The one new chinese factory will be able to make four at a time. China can likely build several large submarine factories and still has a few smaller factories. China is on track to vastly out produce the USA in submarines that will be closer to technological parity.

Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Developed Most Powerful Submarine Detector

Staff, Business Standard
24 June 2017

Chinese scientists have claimed a major breakthrough in magnetic detection technology which could find hidden metallic objects, including minerals and submarines.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's largest research institute, said in an article this week that a "superconductive magnetic anomaly detection array" has been developed in Shanghai and passed inspection by an expert panel, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The device, which works from the air, could be used to pinpoint the location of minerals buried deep beneath the earth in Inner Mongolia, for example, with a level of precision as high as anything currently available around the world, the experts were quoted as saying by the report.
The device could also be used on civilian and military aircraft as a "high-performance equipment and technical solution to resources mapping, civil engineering, archaeology and national defence," the article said.
China's military may soon adopt the technology, if it has not already, said Professor Zhang Zhi, an expert in remote sensing with the Institute of Geophysics and Geomatics, China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, Hubei.
"The technology could be used to detect minerals on land, and in the ocean to nail down submarines," Zhang, who was not involved in the project was quoted by the Post saying.
Dr Lei Chong, an assistant researcher studying MAD technology at the Department of Micro/Nano Electronics, Shanghai Jiaotong University, said the Chinese device was different from conventional designs in at least two ways.
The first is the large number of probes the device uses. With this "array", it can collect much more data than traditional detectors, which tend to use just one antenna, said Lei, who was not involved in the project.
The new MAD also uses a superconductive computer chip cooled by liquid nitrogen. This super-cool environment significantly increases the device's sensitivity to signals that would be too faint for traditional devices to spot.
"I am surprised they made such an announcement," Lei said. "Usually this kind of information is not revealed to the public because of its military value," he said.

Arctic Outpost Becomes Hotbed Of Russian Military Activity

Victoria Craw, News.com.au
26 June 2017

A tiny stretch of Arctic water has become a hotbed of military activity amid fears it could become the next flashpoint in a global conflict between the US and Russia.
Locals on the tiny Norwegian island of Vardo have seen an increase in military action through the upgrade of a critical radar system, Globus III, due to be completed by 2020.
The windswept outpost is just 30 kilometres from Russia’s Kola Peninsula, from where a fleet of nuclear armed submarines operates, in a bid to strengthen Russian presence in the Arctic region.
Norwegian author Bard Wormdal, who wrote The Satellite War, about the close and secretive military and intelligence alliance between Norway and the US, said there has been significant uptick in activity recently from both sides.
“This is connected to the tension [between] east west but it is also connected to the modernisation of Russian submarines. They do a lot of modernisation of this equipment,” he told news.com.au.
He said Russian submarine activity in the “neighbourhood” has spurred the development of new Norwegian ships including the Marjata IV, described as the “most sophisticated military intelligence ship in the world”.
“The foremost task for this ship is following Russian submarines and I’m quite sure this is the main reason why US in recent years has been more interested to follow this area,” he said.
“There have been quite a lot of occasions that Russian nuclear attack submarines have been close to the coast of US and they come from this area and they want to know how they are moving.”

‘HONE THEIR SKILLS’

The $US120 billion Globus III project will improve monitoring capabilities for the US, but has been downplayed by intelligence officials in Norway, who simply say it will be used in the national interest.
A spokesman for Norway’s military said the project is undergoing “undergoing upgrades and modernization”.
“The purpose of the radar is to monitor and categorize objects in airspace, monitor our national sphere of interest in the high North and gather information on space activity.”
Russian media claim “eavesdropping Norway” has become paranoid about a Russian “threat“ that doesn’t exist.
However it comes against a backdrop of increasing tension following Russian intervention in Crimea and the Ukraine leading to fears among Baltic States they could be next.
NATO has moved to bolster its defences and meet spending targets following chiding from US President Trump. In 2018 the military alliance will conduct a major exercise called Trident Juncture, involving 35,000 personnel from 30 countries to test ground, air and sea troops on a large scale.
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier said it’s one of the “best places to train in Europe” with a cold climate for officers that “hones their skills”.
Norway, France and the UK will also conduct submarine rescue training throughout 2017 to practice saving their troops from disabled submarines 600 metres below the surface.
Former Vardo Mayor Lasse Haughom, who is also a veteran of the Norwegian intelligence service, said Norway and Vardo in particular is hugely important so the US can “keep an eye on what the Russians are doing.”
“Russia wants to look into our secrets, and the United States and Norway want to look into their business,” Mr. Haughom told The New York Times. “That is the way the game is played.”
Russia has criticised Norway for siding with the US, with Russia ambassador to Oslo, Teimuraz Ramishvili, saying the country “has to understand” it could become a target.
“Norway has to understand that after becoming an outpost of NATO, it will have to face head-on Russia and Russian military might,” he told Norway’s state broadcaster, NRK.
“Therefore, there will be no peaceful Arctic anymore.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Allure of Supercavitating Torpedoes

Appears 230mph super-torpedo tech is making comeback.


Dr. Gareth Evans, Naval Technology
20 June 2017

Alongside directed energy weapons and electromagnetic rail guns, supercavitating torpedoes repeatedly feature at the top of the wish list of must-have capabilities for any self-respecting navy of the future – and it is easy to see why. The allure of a rocket propelled super-weapon capable of delivering a nuclear or conventional warhead at speeds in excess of 200 knots is pretty self-evident, unless, of course, you are the one on the receiving end.
First developed into a workable design for the Soviet navy during the Cold War, the concept of supercavitating torpedoes has fascinated military engineers ever since, although little practical headway seems to have been achieved subsequently, aside from a number of stalled projects and aborted attempts over the years.
Now that may be about to change with the news that Russian scientists are once again looking at supercavitation and Iran is apparently getting in on the act, too. Back in October 2016, accounts began to appear of a program to develop a new weapon named Khishchnik (‘Raptor’), while on 7 May this year, Iranian forces reportedly test fired a Hoot high-speed torpedo – thought to be a reverse-engineered version of the original Soviet design – in the Strait of Hormuz.
It seems 230mph super-torpedo technology could be set for something of a revival.

What a drag

The speed of any torpedo is constrained by two fundamental factors – its method of propulsion and the laws of physics. Conventional versions are driven by propellers or pumpjets and although the fastest of these are undeniably swift, and considerably quicker than most ships, in the world of weapons where even the humble bullet flies supersonic, they are definitely more tortoise than hare.
One obvious way around that is to change the method of propulsion; swap electric motors and propellers for a rocket engine, and at a stroke you turn your torpedo into an underwater missile. The only problem is, doing that runs you headlong straight into the laws of physics, and that is a drag – quite literally.
Drag is the counter force that acts against any object moving through the water, and the greater the velocity, the greater the drag, which means that the constraints of fluid dynamics impose an effective speed limit of around 50 knots. Now, while as the Starship Enterprise’s fictional chief engineer Montgomery Scott was wont to say, “you cannae change the laws of physics”, you can sometimes get around them, and in this case, that involves wrapping your torpedo in a giant bubble of gas.

Supercavitation

The fundamental idea behind supercavitation is surprisingly simple. When water is forced around an object, such as a ship’s propeller, at high speeds the pressure drops around the trailing edge, and if it drops below the water’s vapor pressure, bubbles are formed in a process known as cavitation. Traditionally, it has been a problem for engineers because when the bubbles strike the propeller itself they then implode, damaging the material and leading to serious cavitation erosion over time.
However, in the late 1940s Soviet scientists began to wonder if by deliberately manipulating this effect to create a huge, sustainable mega-bubble, and then encasing a torpedo body within it as it hurtles through the water, hydrodynamic drag could be largely overcome. Two decades and six prototypes later, their work was to see practical supercavitation realized, and the emergence of a new weapon class, capable of remarkable submerged speeds.

Soviet Squall

For the Shkval (‘Squall’), which entered service in 1977, this was achieved by a specially designed flat nose cone, which deflects water outwards and initiates the supercavitaiton bubble. The envelope is then further extended and sustained by gases from the torpedo’s engine. Fired from standard 533mm torpedo tubes at a conventional 50 knots, the Shkval’s solid fuel rocket booster subsequently ignites and accelerates it to supercavitating speed, before a hydrojet sustainer kicks in to propel it on the final part of its way to the target.
Despite the obvious appeal of the technology, supercavitating torpedoes do have some major limitations. The need to keep as much of the torpedo body as possible out of contact with the water means that steering surfaces cannot protrude far out of the cavity, so course corrections are difficult, and any major change of heading would force part of the body out of the bubble, instantly increasing drag, and risking collapsing it altogether. Although with a maximum range of just 15km, the short transit time to target mitigated this potential problem in the Shkval, it could be more challenging for any torpedo intended to be fired from further away.
Additionally, rocket and hydrojet propulsion at velocities in excess of 200kts involves a huge amount of vibration and a great deal of noise. While a submarine firing a torpedo capable of that kind of speed probably has little to fear from a counterattack from its target, it will have betrayed its position very loudly to any other enemy vessels in the area and moreover, all that background racket renders the weapon itself as deaf as the proverbial post.
Using any type of sonar guidance at supercavitating speed is clearly a complete non-starter.

Enduring appeal

Nevertheless, the appeal of this submarine super-weapon is proving to be an enduring one for countries on both sides of the old Cold War divide.
In 2004, Diehl-BGT Defense announced the start of a supercavitating technology demonstrator program in cooperation with the German Navy. Barracuda was intended to have both submarine and surface launch capabilities, and be able to travel along both straight and curved attack paths, although ultimately the program ended without producing a deployable weapon.
Two years later, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) commissioned General Dynamics to look into the technology. It seems that they were exploring the possibility of overcoming the sonar limitations by changing the design of the cavitation disc, altering the location of the transmitters and developing special noise-cancelling filters to cut out interference from the engine. Just how far they got along that particular track remains unknown, except to say that the project folded after a year, and US research into the technology effectively came to a halt five years later, in 2012.

Rise of the Raptor

Little is officially known about the new Russian Khishchnik, but there has been speculation that it will set out to overcome two of the principal shortfalls in the previous Shkval design – range and guidance.
Developing the Shkval’s hydrojet – essentially an underwater ram-jet burning a hydro-reactive metal fuel – back in the 1960s was arguably then as difficult a technical challenge as managing the supercavitation itself. While it enabled the weapon to outrun even the fastest conventional torpedoes four or five times over, it left it with less than a third of the range enjoyed by the best American versions. Hailed as the ‘killer of aircraft-carriers’, in reality Shkval required a launching submarine to penetrate so far into the carrier group’s anti-submarine coverage area that its own survival would have been put in question.
Roll on fifty years, however, and improved motors and better fuels could give the next generation of supercavitating torpedoes perhaps ten times that range, and possibly ten times the speed. Add to that a guidance system along the lines of what the DARPA/General Dynamics program envisioned and the Khishchnik would be a very potent beast indeed.
It remains to be seen whether this latest Russian project ultimately succeeds, or falters like others before it, but if it does, there will be some very big ticks appearing on those wish lists, as the world’s navies set out to arm their warships of tomorrow.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Boeing Testing Cutting-Edge Submarine Off Palos Verdes Coast

The unmanned, ocean-spanning craft can reach a depth of 11,000 feet.

Staff, ABC 7
8 June 2017

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. – There's been a strange sighting off the Palos Verdes coast. It looks a little like a futuristic version of the Loch Ness monster.
But upon closer examination, it turns out to be a 50-ton, 51-foot-long monstrous underwater robot. It's the Boeing "Echo Voyager."
The unmanned undersea vehicle is now going through several months of trials at sea before setting off on its own with no crew and no tether to a support ship.
Powered by a hybrid electric battery system, it periodically surfaces to snorkel depth to recharge its batteries by raising a mast.
The Echo Voyager can reach an impressive depth of 11,000 feet.
It will be used for months-long surveillance and reconnaissance missions for defense, commercial and scientific customers.


Boeing, HII to Team on Unmanned Undersea Vehicles

Staff, Seapower Magazine
8 June 2017 

ARLINGTON, Va. — Boeing and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) are teaming on the design and production of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) in support of the U.S. Navy’s Extra Large UUV program, Boeing said in a June 8 release.
“This partnership provides the Navy a cost-effective, low-risk path to meet the emergent needs that prompted the Navy’s Advanced Undersea Prototyping program,” Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in the release. “We are combining Boeing’s preeminent UUV maritime engineering team with our nation’s leading shipbuilder and Navy technical services company to get operational vehicles to the Navy years ahead of the standard acquisition process.”
Boeing currently is testing its newest and largest UUV, Echo Voyager, off the Southern California coast. The vehicle is designed for multiple missions and could include a modular payload bay of up to 34 feet, offering enhanced endurance and increased payload capacity over traditional UUVs. Echo Voyager is fully autonomous, requiring no support vessel for launch or recovery, enabling operation at sea for months before returning to port.
“We look forward to a long relationship with Boeing as we embark together to field this unmanned force-multiplier for the Navy,” said Andy Green, executive
vice president of HII and president of the company’s Technical Solutions division. “I am confident this team will continue redefining the autonomy paradigm for UUVs.”
The partnership will leverage design and production facilities in Huntington Beach, Calif.; Newport News, Va.; and Panama City, Fla., and will offer access to all the expertise and capability of Boeing and Huntington Ingalls Industries.

USM Makes History with First Graduating Class of Unmanned Maritime Systems Course

Erica Davis, WDAM 7
8 June 2017

The University of Southern Mississippi made history on June 1 with 15 students completing a first-of-its-kind certification in Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS).
“This is akin to what NASA first did with spaceflight,” Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet said. “This class should be mighty proud because the national impact of this certification and the skills taught throughout the course will be felt for decades.”
The UMS program spanned over an intensive five weeks with students studying nautical science, 3-D positioning, ocean policy, and autonomous systems.
“This program was designed to provide a rigorous, hands-on academic program to introduce the students to unmanned maritime systems and the decision processes needed to operate them, “ said Monty Graham, Director of USM’s School of Ocean Science and Technology (SOST). “Students developed skills in disciplines such as electronics, programming, policy and application.”
The 15 students were made up of civilian and military personnel from the Naval Oceanographic Office, Fleet Survey Team and Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center based at the John C. Stennis Space Center; Submarine Development Squadron 5 based in Bangor, Washington; Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center based in San Diego; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in based in Norfolk, Virginia; and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center based in Newport, Rhode Island.
The class’s instructor, SOST’s Dr. Vernon Asper, was challenged with packing 10 semester hours of teaching into just five weeks of class time.
“Scheduling was crucial because of how intensive the nature of the class is,” Asper said. “Seeing how quickly the students began to grasp the concepts and truly grow their understanding of the unmanned systems was incredibly gratifying as their teacher.”
In the five weeks, students learned core fundamentals of using gliders, powered unmanned underwater vehicles, and autonomous surface vehicles. Not only were students responsible for learning how to chart and pilot these vessels, but they also learned how to build them.
“Building the glider really brought a lot of the topics together for the class,” Asper said. “Seeing how the vehicle you’re using is made from inside to out put everything into perspective for them.”
Graham applauded the graduates as they received their certificates from USM President Rodney D. Bennett and Rear Admiral Gallaudet.
“In a normal academic world, 18 hours takes about 15 weeks,” Graham said. “These graduates worked every day, all day, for five weeks. Each of you should be very proud of the hard work you’ve put in to earn these certificates.
The UMS class is the first tier in a 3-tier program. Students going through the entire tier structure will graduate with a full graduate degree.
“Look around the room at your fellow graduates,” Gallaudet said. “Each of you has embarked on a journey no one else has attempted. The work you have put in for the last few weeks has advanced the defense of the United States immensely and we can’t wait to see what you do next.”


Russia’s Navy to Operate 7 Next-Generation Ballistic Missile Subs by 2021

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
12 June 2017 

The Russian Navy is expected to operate seven Project 955 Borei-class (“North Wind”) aka Dolgorukiy-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) by 2021, Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, told the upper house of the Russian Parliament at the end of May.
“By 2021 the naval strategic nuclear forces are expected to have 13 submarines in their combat structure, including seven promising Borei-class submarines with new Bulava missile systems,” Shoigu said, according to TASS news agency.
The modernization of the Russian Navy’s aging fleet of SSBNs remains one of the top priorities for the government and despite fiscal constraints and various technical challenges (and unlike other weapons programs) there have not been major delays in the floating out of Borei-class boomers.
“The Borei-class is the new sea leg of Russia’s nuclear triad and is slowly replacing obsolete Soviet-era Project 941 Typhoon-class and Project 667 BDRM Delta IV-class submarines,” I noted in March.
The first advanced variant of the Borei-class, dubbed Project 955A Borei II-class, is expected to be floated out in June of this year. The Russian Navy plans to operate eight Borei-class SSBNs–three Borei-class and five advanced Borei II-class subs–by the 2020s. As I explained elsewhere (See: “Russia Will Start Constructing New Ballistic Missile Submarine in December”):
In comparison to the Borei-class, Borei II-class submarines are fitted with four additional missile tubes, boast smaller hulls and cons, and feature improved acoustics and lower sound levels, next to a number of other technical improvements.
Both variants of Borei-class subs will be armed with Bulava (RSM-56) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Borei-class will be capable of carrying up to 16 Bulava ICBMs, whereas the improved Borei II-class can carry up to 20 ballistic missiles.
The improved variant of the Borei-class will be capable of launching 96-200 hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads, yielding 100-150 kilotons apiece. 
The exact status of the Bulava ICBM remains unclear as a number of tests of the missile system have ended in failure. “Since 2004, the missile has been tested 25 times, with varying degrees of success. The last five tests, conducted between September 2014 and September 2016, were reportedly all successful,” I explained in September of last year. However, Russia’s MoD acknowledged that of the two missiles fired during last year’s test, only one hit its designated target with the second missile self-destructing in midflight.
Three Borei-class submarines have been commissioned so far. One boomer, the Yuri Dolgoruky, currently serves with the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, while the remaining two–Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh—have joined the Pacific Fleet. The first improved Borei II-class SSBN, christened Knyaz Vladimir, is expected to be commissioned in 2018, following a two-year delay due to contract disputes.

Is India's Submarine Fleet Defenseless?

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
12 June 2017

With the recent cancellation of a $200 million contract for 98 Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes at the end of May, the Indian Navy’s new submarine fleet continues to lack adequate defense capabilities against enemy subs and surface warships in the event of a conflict.
India’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has canceled the order for Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes, built by torpedo maker Whitehead Alenia Systemi Subacquei (WASS), a subsidiary of Italian arms manufacturer Finmeccanica, due to corruption allegations involving another Finmeccanica subsidiary, Agusta Westland. According to the Indian MoD, Agusta Westland representatives allegedly paid bribes for a 2010 purchase of 12 AW medium lift helicopters, which resulted in the termination of the contract in 2014 and the purported blacklisting of the company.
The recent cancellation of the torpedo order was a direct result of the corruption allegations involving the European defense contractor and the Indian National Congress political party. The Black Shark torpedo was specifically purchased for the Indian Navy’s future fleet of six Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) diesel-electric attack submarines. A second batch of 49 Black Shark torpedoes was also to be installed aboard India’s domestically developed and built Arihant-class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
According to Indian media reports, at least three of India’s future fleet of four to five Arihant-class SSBNs were expected to carry the new torpedoes. The cancellation of the order could mean a two- to three-year delay in the launching of the second sub of the class, the Aridaman, due to torpedo tube modifications. Alternatives to the Black Shark torpedo are the German-made SeaHake heavyweight torpedo and France’s F21 Artemis. Given the lack of transparency regarding the Indian’s MoD blacklisting policy vis-à-vis, the Black Shark torpedo could also participate in a new bid. Furthermore, the Indian Navy inducted the domestically-produced Varunastra 533 millimeter heavyweight torpedo last summer. The Indian-made weapon is currently adopted to fit the torpedo tubes of Indian submarines. (The Indian Navy has ordered 73 Varunastra torpedoes.)
Senior naval officials say that it will take time to select a new heavyweight torpedo and an interim solution will be sought. “There will be some alternate torpedoes as an interim solution. The heavy weight torpedoes will take some time. Those which are already in use in other platforms will be used in these (Kalvari-class) submarines,” a senior Indian naval official told The Economic Times in early June. However, the Indian Navy’s existing stock of Russian-made torpedoes (as well as the Varunastra) cannot be fired from subs of the Arihant-class or Kalvari-class without substantial hardware and software modifications.
As I reported last week, the second Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) diesel-electric attack submarine, christened Khanderi, has recently begun sea trials off the coast of Mumbai. The lead submarine of the class, Kalvari, is expected to be commissioned in July or August following the successful completion of sea trials and weapons tests, which includes the test firing of a German SeaHake torpedo and French-made Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles. As I explained elsewhere:
The acquisition of the Exocet came under intense scrutiny following the August 2016 disclosure of a data leak at French shipbuilder Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS), which publicly revealed sensitive details on the anti-ship missile including launch details, the number of targets the missile is capable of processing, and how many targets could be downloaded before firing.
Nevertheless, the Indian MoD insisted that the leaked data does not constitute a security compromise and reiterated its intention to procure the missiles for the Kalvari-class.
The INS Arihant was secretly commissioned in August 2016. The lead ship of the Indian Navy’s new class of SSBNs primarily serves as a technology demonstrator. “In comparison to the lead ship of the class, subsequent boats will be larger (e.g., they will boast eight rather than four launch tubes), operate a more powerful reactor, and feature a host of other technical improvements,” I explained in October 2016. Arihant-class subs are expected to be armed with K-4 and K-15 Sagarika nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).

Can The U.S. Afford Modern Nukes?

Matthew R. Costlow, Wall Street Journal
14 June 2017

When President Obama left the White House, he punted on a tough choice: how to modernize the U.S. nuclear force. In the coming weeks, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release a report that estimates modernization as currently proposed would cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years, or about $40 billion a year. Congress and the Trump administration shouldn’t be intimidated by the ostensibly big number.
The plan analyzed by the CBO would replace the nuclear delivery systems of bombers, missiles and submarines with new ones that incorporate the latest safety and survival features. These changes would enable some systems to perform well into the 2080s. It’s ambitious, but this program isn’t the budget buster nuclear disarmament supporters describe.
Under the plan, spending on the nuclear arsenal would peak in the late 2020s at about 6.5% of the Defense Department budget, up from 3.2% today. Recall that military spending consumes only about 15% of the federal budget.
But determining whether modernization is affordable involves more than cost considerations. The Pentagon simultaneously has to consider its priorities and the costs of weapons systems when determining the best way to protect U.S. interests. According to the Defense Department, the two highest priorities of U.S. strategy are “the survival of the nation” and “the prevention of a catastrophic attack against U.S. territory.” The Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review lists “a secure and effective nuclear deterrent” at the top of a list describing how to achieve such priorities.
Given that the U.S. nuclear arsenal helps to deter the only existential threat to the U.S., major nuclear war, its value can’t be measured by traditional dollar metrics alone. Budgets are about trade-offs and priorities. As the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva, testified earlier this year, “We are emphasizing the nuclear mission over other modernization programs when faced with that choice.”
Critics will cry that every dollar spent on nuclear weapons, which have not been set off in anger since World War II, is a dollar taken from those who are fighting wars right now. But as then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter explained in a speech last year, U.S. nuclear forces are the “bedrock” of American security and the “highest priority mission” of the Defense Department. They enable current war fighters to achieve their missions.
Even those in the military who could stand to miss out on spending increases because of nuclear modernization efforts, like U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, support modernization: “It’s not even an Army system and it needs to be overhauled and brought back up to the level of readiness.”
The federal government can afford to spend less than 1% of its multitrillion-dollar budget on nuclear modernization. And with Russia, China and North Korea all upgrading their nuclear weapons capabilities, just about the only thing the U.S. can’t afford is to end its modernization efforts before they begin.