Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amid Doklam Standoff, Chinese Submarines Spotted Near Indian Coast


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

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

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
15 August 2017

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

Northrop Grumman to Demonstrate Autonomous Networked Unmanned Vehicles

Stephen Carlson, UPI
16 August 2017

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

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

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

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

Nuclear-concerned Norway wants to give iodine tablets to citizens


Staff, The Local
8 August 2017

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

Sea, Air, Land and Space Updates

Jack Viola, Real Clear Defense
8 August 2017

Sea state:

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

Flightpath:

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

Rapid fire:

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

Zero gravity:

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

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

Emanuele Scimia, Asia Times
8 August 2017

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

The South China Sea’s defense market:

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

Brothers-in-arms sales:

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

Power loss caused by failure of silver-brazed joints doomed USS Thresher

Kyle Mizokami, National Interest
8 August 2017
What sank Thresher? The best available theory is the extensive use of silver brazing on piping throughout the ship. An estimated three thousand silver-brazed joints were present on the ship, and the theory goes that up to four hundred of them had been improperly made. Experts believe that a pipe carrying seawater experienced joint failure in the aft engine spaces, shorting out one of the main electrical bus boards and causing a loss of power.
In the United States Navy, submarines lost at sea are said to be on “eternal patrol.” One such submarine was USS Thresher. Meant to be the first in a new generation of fast nuclear-attack submarines, today it rests in more than eight thousand feet of water, along with its crew. Thresher
is one of two American submarines lost since the end of World War II.
In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Navy was still pushing nuclear propulsion out to the submarine fleet. USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, had just been commissioned in 1954, and nine classes of submarines were created, including the Sailfish, Barbel, Skate and Skipjack classes, before the Navy felt it had a design worthy of mass production. Preceding classes of nuclear submarines were built in small batches, but Thresher would be the first class to build more than five. Altogether fourteen Threshers would be built.
The Threshers were designed to be fast, deep-diving nuclear attack submarines. They were the second class, after the pioneering Skipjack class, designed with the new streamlined hull still in use today. They were the first submarines to use high strength HY-80 steel alloy, which was used through the 1980s on the Los Angeles class.
The submarines were just 278 feet long, with a beam of thirty-one feet. They weighed 4,369 tons submerged, making them about 30 percent larger than the Skipjacks. Their S5W pressurized water reactor drove two steam turbines, which turned a single propeller to a combined thirty-thousand-shaft horsepower. This gave them a surface speed of twenty knots, and thirty knots submerged. This was a noticeable improvement over the underwater speed of the older Skate class, which could manage only twenty-two knots underwater.
The ship primary sensor was a BQQ-2 bow-mounted sonar, the first bow-mounted sonar in any American attack submarine. This necessitated moving the four torpedo tubes amidships, an arrangement that is carried on to this day in the Virginia-class subs. The submarines could carry Mark 37 homing torpedoes, Mark 57 deep-water mines, Mark 60 CAPTOR mines and the SUBROC antisubmarine weapon. The Thresher would be a powerful addition to the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet.
On April 9th, 1963, USS Thresher was conducting dive tests 220 miles east of Cape Cod. Though it had been in service for two years, the U.S. Navy was still attempting to determine the true strength of its hull. At the time of the incident it was reportedly at a test depth of 1,300 feet, with the submarine rescue ship USS Skylark waiting above. Onboard were its standard complement of sixteen officers and ninety-six enlisted, plus seventeen civilian contractors on board to observe the tests.
At 9:13 a.m., fifteen minutes after reaching test depth, Thresher reported to Skylark, “Experiencing minor difficulties. Have positive up angle. Am attempting to blow [ballast tanks]. Will keep you informed.” Two more garbled messages followed, then a sound “like air rushing into an air tank.” Thresher was never heard from again. Its hull was found at the bottom of the ocean, under a mile and a half of water, ruptured into six pieces.
What sank Thresher? The best available theory is the extensive use of silver brazing on piping throughout the ship. An estimated three thousand silver-brazed joints were present on the ship, and the theory goes that up to four hundred of them had been improperly made. Experts believe that a pipe carrying seawater experienced joint failure in the aft engine spaces, shorting out one of the main electrical bus boards and causing a loss of power.
But a loss of electrical power was only half of the problem. According to Navy testimony provided in 2003 to the House Science Committee, the crew was unable to access vital equipment to stop the flooding. As the submarine took on water, the ballast tanks failed to operate. Investigators believe restrictions on the air system and excessive moisture in the air system led to a buildup of ice in the ballast valves, preventing them from being blown and counteracting the effects of the flooding.
The U.S. Navy immediately moved to prevent such as tragedy from happening again. Less than two months later it created SUBSAFE, a program designed to ensure the structural integrity of submarine hulls at pressure and, if an emergency occurred, ensure that the submarine could safely surface. It established submarine design requirements and certified construction procedures “as specific as cataloging the source of alloy for each piece of equipment that is SUBSAFE approved.”
The creation of SUBSAFE lead directly to tougher—and safer—submarines. (Another U.S. Navy submarine, Scorpion, was lost in 1968 but there is no conclusive explanation for the sinking.) In 2005, the USS San Francisco collided with a seamount at maximum speed—an estimated thirty miles an hour at a depth of 525 feet. SUBSAFE’s careful watch over submarine design and manufacture is credited with ensuring the San Francisco not only failed to sink, but that only one sailor died and the ship could even make it back to Guam on its own power. Although the loss of Thresher to eternal patrol was a painful one, the reforms undertaken by the Navy ensured the 129 lives lost would not be in vain.

Lockheed Martin receives $22.2 million Trident II contract

Stephen Carlson, UPI
10 August 2017
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has received a $22.2 million contract for material, labor and support services for the U.S. Navy's Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile production.
The work will primarily be performed in Sunnyvale, Calf. It is expected to finish by Sep. 30, 2022.
The Trident II D5 is the submarine-launched ballistic missile used by both the U.S. and Great Britain. It has intercontinental range and can carry several nuclear warheads using multiple independent reentry vehicles designed to shower a wide target area, greatly increasing each missiles destructive capabilities.
It forms the sea-based leg of the "triad" for U.S. nuclear forces and is the sole deployed nuclear weapon system in use by Britain. Difficult to detect and destroy, they form an undersea deterrent what would ensure retaliation in the face of an enemy strike against land missile forces.
The Trident II is currently deployed on U.S. Ohio-class and British Vanguard-class submarines. It is planned to be fielded by the future Columbia-class and Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, as well. The Trident is expected to stay in service with upgrades for decades to come.

Gearing Up For Submarine Missile Launch?

Staff, The Straits Times
13 August 2017
SEOUL – Recent satellite photos suggest North Korea could be preparing for fresh submarine-based ballistic missile tests, an expert on its military said.
Mr Joseph Bermudez, a specialist in North Korean defence and intelligence affairs, posted photographs on the authoritative 38 North blog of the US- Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, which he said could show preparations for a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Agence France-Presse reported.
"Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals several developments suggesting that North Korea may be accelerating the development of the sea-based leg of its nuclear forces," he said.
Mr Bermudez's comments came as North Korea said yesterday that nearly 3.5 million workers, party members and soldiers have requested to join or rejoin the army in order to fight back against the United States, as tensions escalate between the two sides, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
He noted that activity on a Sinpo-class experimental ballistic missile submarine at the Mayang-do navy shipyard and submarine base suggests "the North may be preparing for a new series of 'at sea' test launches, has undertaken modifications or upgrades to the submarine's launch systems, or is developing a more advanced version of the Pukguksong-1".
The Pukguksong-1 is an SLBM first successfully test-launched on Aug 24 last year, AFP reported. That missile flew 500km towards Japan, which leader Kim Jong Un said at the time put the US mainland within striking range from a Pacific-based submarine. Mr Bermudez said the preparations at the submarine in recent weeks match those ahead of previous tests.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated over the latter's recent gains in nuclear weapons technology and its successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that theoretically could hit cities on the US east coast.
A proven SLBM system would take North Korea's nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a "second-strike" capability in the event of an attack on its military bases, reported AFP.
Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's Workers' Party, said that 3.475 million people, including students, young workers and retired soldiers, have volunteered to enlist or re-enlist in the army in retaliation against the US after new United Nations economic sanctions were imposed on North Korea two weeks ago.
On Aug 5, the UN Security Council voted unanimously for fresh sanctions on North Korea, after it launched two ICBM tests last month. This led Pyongyang to threaten to launch a missile strike around the US territory of Guam.
"All the people are rising up across the country to retaliate against the US thousands of times. In North Hwanghae Province, 89,000 young men pleaded to enlist or re-enlist on Aug 9 alone. In Daedong County of South Pyongan Province, more than 20,000 students, party members and labourers filed enlistment or re-enlistment requests," the newspaper said.
Last week, Korean Central Television, a media outlet of the North, reported that North Korean youth and students were holding rallies nationwide to make public their wish to enter the military, Yonhap reported.
Diplomats have described the latest sanctions as the "most stringent" against the reclusive nation for its nuclear programme, Bloomberg reported.
The sanctions extend beyond the conventional exports cited in the Security Council resolution - coal, iron ore, lead ore and seafood. They also freeze the assets of some of North Korea's biggest companies, including a maker of massive monuments and a Pyongyang-based insurance company linked to a slush fund for leader Kim Jong Un and his family.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Indonesia Commissions First Attack Submarine in 34 Years

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
3 August 2017

INDONESIA -- The Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut) has commissioned its first attack submarine in over three decades this week.
The first out of three ordered Type 209/1400 Chang Bogo-class (a license-built variant of the German Type 209 sub) diesel-electric attack submarine was handed over by South Korean defense contractor Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) on August 2.
The new boat was subsequently inducted into the Indonesian Navy in a commission ceremony at the Okpo shipyard shipyard in Geoje Island, in the southeastern part of South Korea attended by senior Indonesian officials including Indonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu on the same day.
The new sub, designated Nagapasa with pennant number 403, will be homeported at the Palu Naval Base in the Watusampu province of Central Sulawesi, IHS Jane’s Navy International reports. Indonesia also plans to build a new submarine base on Pulau Natuna Besar, the largest of the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea.
The Nagapasa was originally slated for delivery in March of this year. It is unclear what led to the four-month delay. Prior to the handover, the boat underwent extensive builder and sea trials off the Korean coast.
Like the lead sub of the new Nagapasa-class (Chang Bogo-class), the second boat slated for service in the Indonesian Navy will be built in South Korea. The last submarine will be assembled by Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL in Surabaya, Indonesia under a technology transfer agreement.
PT PAL is expected to receive the modules for the second Nagapasa-class submarine in block form from DSME this year. PT PAL is scheduled to begin assembling the third sub at its new facilities in Surabaya under DSME guidance in 2018.
The remaining two subs are expected to be commissioned in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“The 1,400-ton submarines have an operational range of approximately 10,000 nautical miles and are multipurpose vessels capable of conducting anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and Special Forces missions,” I explained elsewhere.
The submarine features eight 533 millimeter tubes for torpedoes and guided missiles, and will be operated by a crew of 40. The new boats are expected to serve in Indonesia’s Navy for at least 30 years.
The last time the Indonesian Navy received new submarines was in the 1980s with the delivery of three German Type 209/1300 (Cakra–class) diesel-electric attack submarines.
Indonesia and South Korea concluded a $1.1 billion contract for the three Nagapasa-class diesel-electric submarines in December 2011 as part of the Ministry of Defense’s 2024 Defense Strategic Plan, which calls for the acquisition of at least ten new submarines.
Indonesia is expected to place an order for three more submarines in the coming months. Contenders include Russia, China, and France. The Indonesian Navy might also choose to place a follow-up order with DSME.

Race to Renew India Submarine Force Amid Rising China Threat

Nc Bipindra and David Tweed, Bloomberg
3 August 2017


INDIA -- After years of delay, India’s navy is preparing to take delivery of one of the world’s stealthiest and most deadly fighting tools: the INS Kalvari, an attack submarine named after a deep-sea tiger shark.
The commissioning later this month of the Scorpene class submarine is a milestone in India’s effort to rebuild its badly depleted underwater fighting force, and the first of six on order. It comes as China’s military expands its fleet to nearly 60 submarines -- compared to India’s 15 -- and increases its forays into the Indian Ocean in what New Delhi strategists see as a national security challenge.
A Chinese Yuan-class diesel-powered submarine entered the Indian ocean in May and is still lurking, according to an Indian naval officer who asked not to be identified, citing policy. It’s an unwelcome reminder of China’s rapidly expanding naval strength at a time when Indian and Chinese soldiers are engaged in a border dispute stand-off in Bhutan. China’s defense ministry didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.
The official opening in July of China’s first naval base at Djibouti at the western end of the Indian Ocean, recent submarine sales to Pakistan and Bangladesh and a visit last year of a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to Karachi, have also exposed how unprepared India’s navy is to meet underwater challenges.
"The lack of long-term planning and procurement commitment in defense acquisition plans can be considered tantamount to negligence” by the Indian government, said Pushan Das, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation’s National Security Program. India needs to “counter increasing PLA-N activities in the region," he said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Nitin Wakankar would not comment on the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet plan.

Dwindling Fleet

Since 1996, India’s attack submarine fleet has dwindled to 13 diesel-electric vessels from 21 as the navy failed to replace retired boats. The entire fleet -- a mixture of Russian-origin Kilo class vessels and German HDW submarines -- is at least 20 years old. All have been refitted to extend their operational lives until at least 2025.
In contrast, China’s underwater fleet boasts five nuclear-powered attack submarines and 54 diesel-powered attack submarines. By 2020, the force will likely grow to between 69 and 78 submarines, according to the Pentagon’s latest report on China’s military.
Still, analysts say it will be years before China can pose a credible threat to India in the Indian Ocean.
“Simple geography gives India a huge strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean,” said David Brewster, a senior research fellow with the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra. “And although China has been sending in submarines, you have to understand they are probably decades away from being able to seriously challenge India there, especially while the United States is present.”
China’s navy needs to enter the Indian Ocean through narrow choke points like the Malacca Strait that runs between Indonesia and Malaysia. Indian surveillance planes deployed to Andaman & Nicobar Islands patrol the area, and one spotted the Chinese submarine in May.
In the meantime, India is slowly upgrading its underwater fleet.
The INS Kalvari is the first of six French-made Scorpene submarines on order in a 236 billion rupee ($3.7 billion) project awarded in 2005 to the state-owned defense shipyard Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. and France’s Naval Group, formerly known as DCNS Group. Junior defense minister Subhash Bhamre said in July that the first of these would be delivered in August.
In February 2015 India approved the construction of six nuclear-powered attack submarines. Few details have been released about the 600 billion rupee program.
And on July 21, India initiated another program to build six more diesel submarines. It sent information requests to six manufacturers -- Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH, Naval Group of France, Madrid-based Navantia SA, Sweden’s Saab AB, a Russia-Italian joint venture called Russian Rubin Design Bureau and a consortium between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. The project is worth about 500 billion rupees.
As well as its attack submarines, India is developing an underwater nuclear deterrence. The first nuclear-powered submarine that can launch ballistic missiles was commissioned in 2016, part of a program to build at least three. The navy is using a Russian nuclear-powered submarine it leased for 10 years in 2012 to train the crew. China has four nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines.
Even with the announced programs, India isn’t likely to meet its 2030 deadline for shoring up its submarine fleet. To deter both China and Pakistan, planners reckon the fleet needs at least 18 diesel, six nuclear and four nuclear-armed submarines.
"While the operational urgency cannot be undermined, there is a need for the Indian Navy to fight its wars with Indian-made submarines,” said K.V. Kuber, a Delhi-based independent defense analyst who previously served on government-appointed committees that reviewed defense industrial policies. “Even if we go for a global tender to meet the urgent requirements of the Indian Navy, we would still be years away from acquiring them. Yet, this is the fastest route."

Moon visits submarine command amid talks of nuclear-powered subs

Staff, Yonhap News
4 August 2017

SEOUL, KOREA -- President Moon Jae-in has made a surprise visit to the Navy Submarine Force Command, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Friday, amid discussions here over the possible construction of the country's first nuclear-powered submersibles as part of enhanced deterrence against provocative North Korea.
Moon's visit to the military command, located some 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul in Jinhae, took place Thursday, according to Cheong Wa Dae vice spokesperson Ko Min-jung.
"After receiving a report on the current conditions at the command, President Moon inspected the 1,800-ton class An Jung-geun," she said in a press briefing, adding Moon was the first South Korean president to inspect the interior of the submarine commissioned in late 2009.
The South Korean president has been staying in the southeastern port town for his five-day leave that will end later in the day.
"The president cheered up the crew of the An Jung-geun and received a report from the ship's commander on the capabilities and weapons systems aboard the ship," Ko said.
Earlier, Defense Minister Song Young-moo said the military was ready to consider building nuclear-powered submarines as a way of countering North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile technologies.
The communist North is said to possess submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), considered a key means of delivering nuclear warheads, along with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Pyongyang test launched what it claims to have been an ICBM last Friday.
"We are ready to consider" building nuclear-powered submarines, Song said when asked how he planned to counter North Korean SLBMs in a meeting with the parliamentary defense committee on Monday.
South and North Koreas technically remain at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The new South Korean administration has proposed holding a military dialogue aimed at easing tension along the countries' demarcation line, along with Red Cross talks to discuss humanitarian issues, such as reunions of families separated the division of the two Koreas.
North Korea continues to remain silent nearly three weeks after the talks were proposed July 17.

USS Alaska Earns Trophy for Best Ballistic Missile Submarine

LT Joe Painter, Commander, Submarine Group Ten
3 August 2017

KINGS BAY, Ga. — The deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command presented the Omaha Trophy for Best Ballistic Missile Submarine to USS Alaska (SSBN 732) at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Aug. 3.
Vice Adm. Charles "Chas" Richard presented the trophy to the crew of Alaska and praised them for their hard work and dedication.
"You have all worked incredibly hard to bring this trophy back to the Alaska for the fifth time," said Richard.
Alaska conducted three strategic deterrent patrols for a total of 270 days at sea in 2016, including the longest continuous alert period of any unit from Kings Bay in the last four years.
"You and your families should be proud of this," said Richard. "You provide an invaluable asset to the U.S.'s strategic forces and provide peace to the American people."
Alaska competed against the Navy's 13 other Ohio-class SSBNs to earn the 2016 Omaha Trophy. The Navy's ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as "boomers," serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads.
The Omaha Trophy was created in 1971 by the citizens of Omaha through the Strategic Air Command's Consultation Committee and Cast by Tiffany and Company of New York City. STRATCOM awards the Omaha Trophy annually to U.S. military units who demonstrate the highest standards of performance in five official categories: Global Operations, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Strategic Aircraft Operations, Ballistic Missile Submarine and Strategic Bomber Operations.
In addition to the 2016 Omaha Trophy award, USS Alaska also earned the 2016 Battle Efficiency, or Battle "E," award for the best command in Submarine Squadron 20.
Commissioned in 1986, USS Alaska is the fourth Navy ship to be named for the Territory or State of Alaska.

Canadian military developing surveillance system to monitor Arctic waters

Jimmy Thomson, CBC News
2 August 2017


Department of National Defence scientists arrived this week on Devon Island, Nunavut, to work on a new system to monitor Arctic waters.
"It's important from a sovereignty perspective; if Canada has sovereignty over this part of the world, we need to know who's there," said Dr. Dan Hutt, of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).

"This is part of that solution."

Hutt is the director of the project, called the Canadian Arctic Underwater Sentinel Experiment, or CAUSE. It consists of developing and testing a number of new technologies at a remote military station in Gascoyne Inlet.
The station is a stone's throw away from Beechey Island, where graves from the doomed Franklin Expedition were found.
The roots of the station itself are a throwback to the Cold War, when the location acted as a choke point to monitor any Soviet submarines passing through the Arctic. Vessels travelling the most common route down Lancaster Sound have to pass within earshot of the station.
Today, the work taking place there has echoes of its submarine-monitoring past.
"DRDC is investing quite a bit of money to look at other sorts of innovative ways to do surveillance over the approaches to Canada with emphasis on the North," said Hutt.
AI and roving sensors
CAUSE, with a price tag of approximately $16 million, has several goals: developing underwater microphones that can be left on the Arctic seabed for years at a time, with a long-lasting power supply to match; working on autonomous underwater vehicles that can patrol the Arctic while towing sensors; and even developing artificial intelligence software that can analyze the sound as it comes in, rather than devoting a human analyst to constantly monitor the area.
"It's still got quite a ways to go until we've got a computer with enough artificial intelligence to reliably analyze tons of acoustic data and say, 'that's a ship, that's a whale, and, oh, that looks like a submarine,'" said Hutt.
"We can't do that reliably enough right now. At least not reliably enough for operational use. There always has to be a human in the loop these days."
The autonomous underwater vehicles come with their own challenges, like working under ice, having long range capabilities, and being able to dock at an underwater station and transmit data without human interference.
The project could be one of the ways the military will replace the aging North Warning System radar line, built in the 1980s, that currently keeps an eye on the North, watching for ships, missiles, and other threats.
It is also intended to watch the increasing number of civilian vessels that take the Northwest Passage, either for tourism or shipping. Many smaller vessels don't have the tracking systems that larger ships have, and with fewer eyes on the water and no deepwater ports to house coast guard ships, search and rescue is exponentially more challenging in the icy labyrinth of the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

Civilian scientists could be involved

The military has plans to loop in civilian organizations on the scientific work. Documents obtained by CBC point to an intention to work with Ocean Networks Canada, which runs the VENUS and NEPTUNE sensor arrays — giant underwater "laboratories" off the coast of British Columbia that monitor marine life and ship noise and perform other monitoring on the ocean floor.
Richard Dewey, an associate director at Ocean Networks Canada, said he was not aware of any ongoing contracts with DRDC but that his organization would be interested in working with the defence ministry on improving Arctic observatories. He says observatories in the Arctic like the one being tested at CAUSE present an essential opportunity for scientists to get measurements over long periods.
"The Arctic isn't just there in the summer when it's convenient for our [research] ships; we want to know what the Arctic is doing all year round," said Dewey.
"The time series from these observatories provide us with that continuous reference to see how things are changing in time."
The sensors being tested at Gascoyne Inlet for CAUSE are works in progress, a test of how to work in that extreme environment. Some equipment has been left in the ocean over the winter, and among the tasks the team will perform is to recover the equipment and check how it has fared. If it's still there, that is.
"There's always a chance that an iceberg has scoured them out," said Hutt.

What Russia’s new Navy Strategy says about the Arctic

Atle Staalasen, The Barents Observer
3 August 2017

The policy document, which was signed by President Putin on 20th July, includes high ambitions for the country’s naval forces. «The Russian Federation will not allow significant superiority of other countries’ navies over its fleet and will be committed to strengthen its position as the second most combat capable in the world», the strategy reads.
The adoption of the policy document comes as military and navy investments over the last years have surged. And more is to come.
According to the strategy, not only will the Russian strategic submarine fleet be sustained and developed, there will also be developed new kinds of underwater defense systems, including new generation deep-water capacities and robotized submarine devices. A new aircraft carrier complex is under planning and from 2025 the naval forces will apply new hypersonic missiles.
The policy document, named the Principles of the Russian Federation’s State Policy in the field of Naval Activity, covers the period until year 2030.
The Northern Fleet, the most powerful of the country’s five fleets, will continue to play a crucial role. With their bases in the Kola Peninsula, Northern Fleet vessels have easy access to the World Ocean through Arctic waters.
According to the policy document, these nearby Arctic waters are increasingly challenged by foreign powers.
«National security is under threat by the aspiration of the USA and its allies to control the World Ocean, including the Arctic».
The region’s rich hydrocarbon resources are among the reasons for the pressure from outside, the document authors argue. In addition, there are foreign efforts made to weaken Russia’s control of the Northern Sea Route.
«There are economic, political, legal and military pressure against the Russian Federation with the aim to hamper its efficiency of marine activity in the World Ocean and weaken its control over the Northern Sea Route - the country’s historical national transport communication route».
A set of counter-measures are ready. The strategy proposes to step up efficiency with regard to protection of the state maritime borders, including in its underwater part and on the continental shelf. In the Arctic, the development of remote bases and infrastructure objects will be continued. These bases will have a dual application, the document reads. They will provide base support for civilian vessels, as well as for Navy vessels and the FSB’s coast guard vessels.
Over the past couple of years, the Russian Armed Forces have invested big money in the development of the new and upgraded bases. Infrastructure and base objects are now built along the whole Russian Arctic coast from Franz Josef Land in the west to the Wrangle Island in the east.
This new infrastructure is needed in order to protect economic activity and shipping along the Northern Sea Route, the country’s government has argued.
Russia’s new navy policy document clearly has a sting towards foreign powers, and especially the USA and Nato. However, in certain areas Russian naval forces should also cooperate with other countries. That especially regards the FSB and its Coast Guard Service.
According to the strategy, fields of practical cooperation between the FSB and foreign powers’ border authorities should be extended. That is good news for countries like neighboring Norway, which over many years has engaged in close cross-border cooperation on the level of coast guards.
In May this year, vessels from the two countries took part in the Exercise Barents, which includes both joint search and rescue and oil spill training.
The new Russian document does not touch on the potential major effects of climate change to shipping and navy activities in the north.

Indonesia to acquire acoustic underwater monitors with eye on possible foreign submarine incursions

Ridzwan Rahmat, HIS Jane’s Navy International
2 August 2017

To deter foreign submarines from sailing undetected in Indonesian waters, the government is looking to install fixed underwater acoustic monitors at several locations across the archipelago, Rear Admiral Aan Kurnia, commander of the Indonesian Navy’s (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL) Western Fleet, told local reporters on 31 July.

The monitors will be similar to the sound surveillance system (SOSUS) that utilises a chain of very-low-frequency (VLF) listening posts, said the admiral. A location that is being considered for a pilot project is the Sunda Strait, which runs between the main Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, he added.

North Korea's submarine fleet is a big threat

Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner
1 August 2017

On Monday, CNN reported "highly unusual" North Korean submarine activity. Put simply, Kim Jong Un's regime is deploying more submarines in different ways and on longer missions.
This is not too much of a surprise. North Korea has aggressively focused on submarine development and operability for the last five years. What's different now is that the regime is reaching a new level of submarine competence. And that matters for a few reasons.
First, it represents a new era. For a long time, North Korea's submarine fleet has relied on archaic Russian vessels from the early Cold War era. Those ships are now four generations out of date and easily detectable by even the most basic anti-submarine sensors.
In recent years, however, North Korea has embraced self-made submarines. These ships are far-inferior to their U.S., South Korean, or Japanese counterparts, but they have been mass produced. As such, the North Koreans might be able to overwhelm individual allied vessels by their sheer numbers. Consider that Kim Jong Un already has around 70-90 submarines. As he builds and deploys more, he will strain allied monitoring efforts.
After all, while the U.S. Navy has approximately 30 attack submarines in the Pacific (though some are always in maintenance), the South Koreans have only about 15, and Japan around 17. Over 6,000 personnel are on each U.S. aircraft carrier, so it's a pretty big problem if even just one North Korean submarine gets through.

That said, what's most concerning for U.S. security is North Korea's new "Sinpo-class" ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). Based on Russian ballistic missile submarines, the Sinpo-class carry North Korea to the next level of submarine warfare. The challenge posed by SSBNs is their disruption of an adversary's confidence in detecting and destroying nuclear weapons before they can be used. While the U.S. tracks North Korean submarines, sometimes, as in 2010 when a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean corvette, they slip through the net. The Sinpo appears likely to provide a nuclear ballistic missile capability (SSBN) within 3 to 4 years, but it may be sooner.
One final problem? Based on North Korea's recent and rapid improvements in its land-based ballistic missiles, the U.S. cannot take anything for granted. As we saw last week, North Korean ballistic missiles can likely already strike the outskirts of Chicago.
Ultimately, this is just another wake-up call. The threat posed by North Korea is immense and it is growing. In turn, the Trump administration must prepare to strike North Korean ballistic missile development and combat forces. Absent that, it will never be able to get China to apply adequate pressure to Kim Jong Un.
Regardless, we're running out of time. Resting on a patient posture of missile defense is not an option."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Russia lays keels of two Project 636.3 submarines for Pacific Fleet

Nikolai Novichkov, HIS Jane’s Defence
31 July 2017

On 28 July the Admiralty Shipyards, a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), laid down the keels of two Project 636.6 Varshavyanka improved Kiloclass diesel-electric submarines – the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and Volkhov – for the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
At the official ceremony, Deputy Defence Minister Yury Borisov said the Admiralty Shipyards had already built a number of combatants for the Black Sea Fleet, reducing the submarine production cycle to less than three years.
The director general of Admiralty Shipyards, Alexander Buzakov, told Jane's the submarines being built
for the Pacific Fleet will have a number improvements in missile and torpedo armament, sonar performance, communications, and habitability compared with the six submarines delivered for the Black Sea Fleet in 2014-16. The contract for six Project 636.3 submarines for the Pacific Fleet was announced at the Army 2016 military-technical forum held outside Moscow in September 2016. The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy will be the first submarine to be delivered, by 2019, with the delivery of all six to be completed by 2022.

North Korea Wants to Launch Missiles From Sea Amid ‘Unprecedented’ Submarine Activity

Sofia Persio, Newsweek
1 August 2017

North Korea is developing technology to launch missiles from sea, with the country's submarine activities reaching what the U.S. military has described as “highly unusual and unprecedented levels.”
The escalation in North Korea's naval activity comes days after Pyongyang test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the second time in a month on Friday.
To launch a missile from a submarine, high pressure steam is used to propel the rocket out of the launch canister into the air before the engines ignite. Ths is done to avoid damaging the vessels, a procedure known as a “cold-launch system”.
The ejection test was carried out on land at the Sinpo Naval Shipyard on Sunday, where a submarine base is located, a U.S. defense official told CNN. It is the third test of this kind in a month, and the fourth since the beginning of the year.
While North Korea’s nuclear development program on land has progressed more rapidly than expected, with U.S. intelligence now expecting Pyongyang to launch a “reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM” in 2018, the pariah state's submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capabilities are much more limited, with U.S. intelligence agencies believing Pyongyang's submarine missile program is in its early stages.
According to The Military Balance report, an annual assessment of global military capabilities, conducted by the Institute for International Studies, North Korea is in possession of 72 submarines. Although most of these are old and unable to fire a missile, Pyongyang successfully tested its first SLBM in August 2016, which flew about 310 miles towards Japan.
The development of SLBMs is one of the traditional components of the so-called “Strategic Triad”, a nuclear deterrence strategy involving land, air and sea-based attack capabilities. Pyongyang’s latest ICBM test on Friday shows the ability to hit American mainland, but the end goal is not to actually launch a nuclear attack as much as to deter one and acquire international leverage, U.S. officials told Reuters.
The top U.S. commander in South Korea, General Vincent K. Brooks of United States Forces Korea, echoed this sentiment in a speech last week. “Kim Jong Un is seeking the development of a credible nuclear capability to deter—to deter—what North Korea perceives to be hostility against it,” he said.”

U.S. Navy Researchers 3D-Print a Small Submarine for First Time

Staff, Maritime Executive
31 July 2017

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy have created the military’s first 3D-printed submarine, an achievement that may have the potential to accelerate the defense R&D process.
The sub – called the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator – is a 30-foot submersible made of thermoplastic resin, and it closely resembles the covert infiltration mini-subs used by the Navy SEALs. The hulls for these subs currently take three to five months to build and about $600-800,000 each. But the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division's Disruptive Technology Laboratory (DTL) partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL) to bring down the expense: using ORNL's Big Area Additive Manufacturing facility, they printed the hull in six sections at a cost in the tens of thousands. A contractor assembled the sections into the final product. The whole process took weeks rather than months.
"We asked ourselves, 'Can we do it a different way and get different results?'" said the director of DTL, Garry Shields. "This is a collapsing of the design and manufacturing spiral at an incredible iteration rate at very low cost. The impact of this may be that we change the way we play the game."
The proof-of-concept prototype isn't ready to go into operation yet, but it has already won the team the NAVSEA Commanders Award for Innovation. The next version will be produced at ORNL and tested at Carderock in 2018, with fleet-capable prototypes scheduled to arrive in 2019.
"Our intent was to provide something so disruptive to conventional expectations that it would demand reflection and re-evaluation of our commonly held constraints about how tactically relevant platforms can be built," said Michael Wardlaw, head of maritime sensing at the Office of Naval Research and a sponsor of the project.

Navy Plans Massive Acceleration in Adding New Attack Submarines

Kris Osborn, Scout Warrior
31 July 2017

A newly completed comprehensive Navy analysis says producing more Virginia-Class attack submarines on a much faster timetable is "achievable" and necessary to ensure future undersea dominance for the US - in an increasingly contested strategic global environment.
The Navy report, titled The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017–2030 Timeframe, was delivered to Congress on July 5, 2017, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The current or previous status quo had been for the Navy to drop from building two Virginia-Class boats per year to one in the early 2020s when construction of the new Columbia-Class nuclear armed submarines begins.
The completed study, however, maintains that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Columbia-Class submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Navy leaders have consistently talked about an expected submarine shortfall in the mid 2020s and that more attack submarines were needed to strengthen the fleet and keep stay in front of near-peer rivals such as Russia and China.
"The sustainment of the two per year Virginia-Class submarine production rate during the procurement years of the Columbia-Class SSBNs is achievable and provides significant benefit to the Navy and the SSN (Attack Submarines) force structure," Lt. Lauren Chatmas, Navy Spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
Maintaining a two-per year Virginia Class build-rate will help the Navy reach its goal of 66 SSNs, as identified in the December 2016 Force Structure Assessment, Chatmas added.
Increasing production will, to a large extent, rely upon the submarine-building industry's capacity to move up to three submarines per year.
"Producing these additional submarines will be a challenge to the submarine industrial base that can be solved only if the shipyards are given sufficient time to adjust facility plans, develop their workforces, and expand the vendor base," Chatmas said.
The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.
Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology
Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces.
"Future Virginia-Class submarines (VCS) provide improved littoral (coastal waters) capabilities, sensors, special operations force employment, and strike warfare capabilities, making it an ideal platform for the 21st Century security environment," Chatmas said.
Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.
For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.
The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator. With this technology, a human operator will order depth and speed, allowing software to direct the movement of the planes and rudder to maintain course and depth.
Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface.
Unlike their “SSBN” Columbia-Class counterparts to be armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.
Development of Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.” Blocks I and II have already been delivered.
The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.
Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have -- 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.
Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say. Specifically, this means that the submarines are constructed such that they will be able to accommodate new technologies as they emerge - this could mean engineering
in an ability to fire upgraded Tomahawk missiles or other weapons which may emerge in the future.
"VCS are designed to remain current with technology advances for their entire operational life through extensive use of modular construction, open architecture design (uses industry common design), and commercial off-the-shelf components," Chatmas said.
The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.
Virginia-Class Block V – Virginia Payload Modules
For Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. “Virginia Payload Modules.”
The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.
"The VPM submarines will have an additional (approximately 84 feet) section with four additional Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a ship total of 40 Tomahawks," Chatmas said.
The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers, he explained.
Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.
While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy officials explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles -- the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”