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 SILVERCREST SUBMARINES NEWS LETTER (03).

Silvercrest Submarines Newsletter .

We have a wide range of submarines (big and small) plus Rovs for sale and possible charter. Priced to suit all budgets and tasks.


Contact us at anytime to discuss the options and to exchange ideas.


SILVERCREST SUBMARINES
Tel: England (44) 1285.760620

Email: sales@SilvercrestSubmarines.com

Geometry and ingenuity saved submarine crew off Delaware coast

 

“Rescued from a living tomb at the bottom of the sea,” the Wilmington Evening Journal reported on Sept. 3, 1920, “officers and crew of the U.S. Submarine S-5 were being taken to Philadelphia today on the Steamer Alanthus, while behind them on the end of tow cable, trailed the disabled submersible which sank off Cape Henlopen and nearly cost their lives. “A century ago, the submarine S-5 was one of the U. S. Navy’s high-tech vessels, but it was sunk by a low-tech error. However, the crew was ultimately saved by old-fashioned perseverance, ingenuity and geometry. In 1920, the new S-5, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Charles M. Cooke Jr., was conducting sea trials outside the busy shipping lanes off Cape Henlopen. Lt. Cmdr. Cooke directed the crew to conduct a crash dive, and almost immediately, Cooke noticed that the 231-foot submarine was diving more rapidly than usual. Something was seriously wrong. A critical air intake valve had not been closed, and the sea flooded the S-5 forward compartments. Salt water flowing into the battery compartment generated dangerous chlorine gas, and the sub’s crewmen sealed the hatches to isolate the gas as they quickly retreated to the stern of the vessel.The flooded bow of the submarine rested on the bottom of the ocean; but the buoyant stern lifted the vessel to a steep angle. After some difficulties, all of the crewmen were able to reach the compartments in the stern that had been sealed off from the flooded areas of the S-5. The men were safe, but their air supply was limited. Cooke made some quick geometric calculations. He knew that the water was 170 feet deep, that the submarine was 231 feet long, and the S-5 was resting at steep angle; and he concluded that the stern of the vessel might be protruding above the waves. After Cooke crawled into the extreme stern of the sub, he could hear waves lapping against the side of the vessel. Although scores of ships passing Cape Henlopen sailed within a short distance of the S-5, only a few feet of the stern of the submarine were visible. A hand drill was used to cut a hole through the ¾ inch steel plates that formed the skin of the S-5. The tiny hole allowed a small, but steady, stream of fresh air to pour into the submarine. After several hours of additional drilling, and the laborious use of a hacksaw, the trapped sailors created a ragged six by five-inch opening. Attaching a shirt to a piece of pipe, a rudimentary signal flag was run through the hole. Aboard the steamer SS Alanthus, a lookout spotted what he thought was a buoy. When the Alanthus reached the “buoy,” a small boat was sent to investigate mysterious object and what appeared to be a crude flag. When the sailors from the Alanthus reached the stern of the submarine, they spotted a face looking out through the small hole in the hull of the S-5.After another vessel arrived with metal cutting equipment, the rescuers were able to cut a hole large enough to extract the crewmen from the S-5.Commander Cooke ended the 37-hour ordeal, when he was the last man to climb through the opening and leave the stricken submarine. A combination of courage, discipline, and an understanding of fundamental geometry had saved all of those aboard the S-5.

 

France’s Submarine Suffren-class

 

The Suffren class is more than an iterative improvement on the Rubis-class. It will provide a broader capability, able to take on a wider range of missions. As part of Naval News' official coverage of Euronaval 2020, renowned submarine expert H I Sutton looks at the new Suffren-class of submarines and explains why it will be a game changer for the French Navy. Six new attack submarines will form the vanguard of the French Navy (Marine Nationale) for the coming decades. Developed as the Barracuda program, the lead boat of the new class, Suffren, is expected to formally join the fleet next year. The new submarines will offer a massive capability leap over the current Rubis-class boats. Among the improvements, the Suffren-class will be armed with a wider spectrum of weapons. The latest F-21 heavyweight torpedoes will provide the core anti-submarine and anti-ship punch. These electric-powered weapon can use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for training shots, and one-time aluminum silver oxide batteries for war shots. With a speed of over 50 knots it can reach targets over 27 nautical miles (50 km) away.

The other new weapon carried will be the Naval Cruise Missile (NCM). This is generally equivalent of the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile (LACM). Cruise missiles will provide the Suffren-class with a first-night strategic strike capability. This will reach deep inside enemy territory, a capability few other navies will have. The weapons load-out can be rounded out with the FG-29 mine and Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile. Both of these are already carried by Marine Nationale submarines. In the future, torpedo-sized UUVs (uncrewed underwater vehicles) may also be carried. Naval Group’s new D-19 type might be ideally suited. These can carry out a wide range of missions including Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), electronic warfare (EW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), mine counter-measures (MCM) and mine warfare. Its not only the broad array of weapons that will set these boats apart. The ultra-modern sensor masts by Safran Electronics & Defence are another key modernization. They are all non-penetrating, which means that they do not go inside the pressure hull. This will make the submarine safer if there is a periscope collision. It also means that the control room does not have to be in its traditional location directly under the sail. In Suffren‘s case it is further aft behind the sail.

The Control Room is much larger than on older submarines. The captain is seated against the back wall, affording him or her an excellent view of the ten multi-function consoles. The center of the room, where the periscope wells used to be, is now dominated by a touch-screen tactical table. And the Operations Room is there, integral to the command center. Among the missions which can be run from the Operations Room are the landing of Special Forces. The Marine Nationale has a strong tradition of naval special forces and pioneered many aspects of these operations. For example, detachable hangars for Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs). The Marine Nationale stepped away from this capability with the retirement of the Agosta-class submarines twenty years ago. But the Suffren-class are part of a new generation of western submarines with special operations capabilities designed-in from the start. They have a large lock-out chamber for combat swimmers and the hangar can be fitted directly over it. Inside can be the latest PSM3G swimmer delivery vehicle. The Suffren-class is more than an iterative improvement on the Rubis-class. It will provide a broader capability and is able to take on a wider range of missions.

 

Naval Group unveils the SMX31E electric “Concept Submarine”

 

During Euronaval Online, Naval Group unveils an evolution of its previous "concept submarine”, the SMX31E. This ambitious design merges all the new technologies that Naval Group is exploring. If such an innovative design won’t be operational before the 2040s (if ever), some of the proposed systems and technologies will likely be ready for operations in the following years or decades. Two years ago, for Euronaval 2018, Naval Group presented a new “concept ship” submarine, the SMX31. The design was then very radical, with the elimination of the sail and the aft propeller, and an overall biomimetic shape that reminds a humpback whale or a sperm whale. For Euronaval 2020, instead of a completely new concept submarine, Naval Group chose to unveils an upgraded version of the SMX31. More realistic and using accurate technologies, the new SMX31E better reflects what a future submarine could be circa 2040.Even if it is a concept submarine, the new SMX is designed as an operational boat, and a rather big one. With a length of 77m and around a dozen meters wide, the SMX31E has a displacement of 3.200 tons. It is then bigger than the current Scorpène-class submarine sold by Naval Group to Chile, Malaysia, Brazil and India. Despite its large dimensions, the SMX31E has a crew of only 15 sailors and officers, with room for additional commandos. Based on the current evolution of underwater technologies, Naval Group foresees higher levels of automation for future submarines. The maintenance at sea will also be drastically reduced, mainly due to the new fully electric design of the boat. While the previous SMX31 was displayed with VLS and up to 46 weapons, the SMX31E offers a more realistic (and versatile) payload. Up to 24 heavy weapons can be carried by the submarine, only from horizontal tubes. They can be launched from forward-firing lateral torpedo tubes, but also from the rear mission bay, firing backward. Aft torpedo tubes will then be used to launch weapons but also to launch and recover autonomous underwater vehicles (propelled drones, gliders, sono-buoys…). The back of the SMX31E will also integrate two large modular bays able to deploy XL UUV. These oceanic underwater drones, that are still to be developed, will greatly improve the submarine capabilities. Most of the ideas developed for the SMX31E can be adapted in the coming years into already existing submarines (Scorpène class, or more likely Barracuda family) but also on the new submarines and UUVs that will be designed by Naval Group. Since the SMX31 was unveiled two years ago, Naval Group listened to its partners and potential customers’ remarks and advices. But the French company also took into account the remarkable breakthroughs made by others in the underwater domains. In launching the first Li-ion battery submarine, the JSMDF has shown the next level in submarine propulsion domain. The energy distribution of the SMX31E has then evolved. The numerous Li-ion batteries are then an important part of the total weight of the concept submarine. Placed inside and also outside the pressure hull, they are designed to be redundant and to be easily replaced and upgraded. These batteries provide energy to the CMS, but also to the two electric engines placed outside the pressure hull, on the rear flanks of the Saxon this view, we can see the acoustic tiles, inspired by fish scales. The aft torpedo/UUV tubes can be seen between the x-rudders. In the middle of the submarine, there are two big mission bays for extra-large UUVs. As a fully electric submarine, the SMX31E has no diesel generators to charge the batteries at sea, and no AIP module either. It carry no fuel, as its batteries generate enough energy for more than 60 days of operations at 5 knots, and more than 30 days at 8 knots. The SMX31E is then able to conducts submerged missions for as long as today’s nuclear submarine. As already shown by the JSMDF, it’s more than plausible than Li-ion battery can integrate Scorpène or Barracuda design. Naval Group’s R&D is indeed very advanced in the underwater Li-Ion battery uses. Nevertheless, if LIB can replace or complete a conventional or AIP propulsion, a fully electric submarine will require an entire new design, like the SMX31E.As every “concept submarine”, the SMX31E presents an excellent acoustic and advanced stealth technologies. Like the SMX31 two years ago, the submarine’s stealth is insured by its very hydrodynamic shape. On the SMX31E, a proto-sail has been added, in order to allow easier handling while navigating on surface, during harbor entrance and departure for example. But the overall shape still reminds a whale or a large fish. Future submarines will be integrated into naval cooperative networks. The unique conditions of underwater communications also imply that future submarines will be able to create their own underwater network. The entire SMX31E is also covered by acoustic tiles. Contrary to the SMX31 of 2018, those tiles won’t act as sensors. In the more realistic design of the SMX31E, the submarine is equipped with conventional bow and flank sonar antennas. But the SMX31E will be able to deploy its own underwater tactical network, and to connect itself to future extended underwater battlefield. The small and large UUVs carried by the boat could deploys remote sensors. With improved sensors, increased mobility, remote sensors and access to a distributed underwater network, the SMX31E will have an operation area ten times larger than a Scorpène today. According to Naval Group, the SMX31E could very well become an operational submarine. It will require 10 years of development, and another decade for construction and sea trials. Some of the innovations integrated into the SMX Ocean will be found on the Attack-class submarine, but not all of them. SMX designs remain “concept ships”, not true submarine programs. More likely, the SMX31E will remain a concept submarine. But some of its sensors, energy architecture and operational approach will likely integrated current and future submarine designs. In 2014, Naval Group (DCNS at the time) unveiled its SMX Ocean. If it never became an operational design per se, some of the advanced technologies proposed on SMX Ocean will be found on the future Attack-class of the Royal Australian Navy.

 

 

JFD receives contract to manage Nato submarine rescue system

JFD has secured a £7m contract extension from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to ensure Nato submariners are backed up by rescue operations. JFD has secured a £7m contract extension from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to ensure Nato submariners are backed up by rescue operations. With this extension of the contract, support will be provided to the Nato Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) until 2023. In 2015, JFD secured a £12.1m contract to support the NSRS. The five-year contract covered all aspects of operation and through-life-support and included options until 2023.NSRS was created in 2008 as a collaborative project between the UK, France and Norway. The programme aims to ensure that the submarine operations are safe. It will provide rescue services to these countries and those allied Nato partners who signed the agreements.JFD has been an integral part of the UK’s submarine rescue provision since 1983 and has been a part of NSRS since its inception. With this latest contract, JFD will provide extensive training for all JFD submarine rescue systems for the three partner nations. Under the deal, the company will provide engineering and technical support for system operation and maintenance during the availability of the service. The system will deploy specialised vehicles to carry out rescue operations to collect the submariners after it receives a distress signal. The team will decompress the submariners and return them above the sea in a safe manner. UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The safety of our personnel is of the utmost importance and I am pleased we have extended our submarine rescue capability contract with JFD, which will continue to support jobs in Scotland. “This contract extension also represents our dedication to the Nato Submarine Rescue System and underpins our continued commitment to ensuring Nato submarine operations remain as safe as possible.”

 

Norway reopens submarine base to help USN

 

A secret Cold War-era nuclear submarine base in Norway is to be reopened as America and Russia wrestle for control of the Arctic Ocean. Olavsvern, which was closed in 2002, is a colossal complex carved into a mountain near the northern city of Tromso. It includes 9,800ft of deep water underground docks that can house and refit nuclear submarines. According to NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster, the base will be open to the US navy’s three Seawolf submarines. “An agreement on the return of Olavsvern to the armed forces may be ready as early as [this] week, as a result of pressure from the US navy,” NRK reported this weekend.

 

Nuke-Laden Russian Typhoon Class Sub That Almost Sunk In 1991

 

The quick thinking captain that saved the vessel and the world from disaster was never decorated for his actions. bold thinking likely saved the world from a nuclear disaster has died. The Barents Observer reports that Igor Grishkov, the 67 year old retired Russian Navy captain, passed away in Severodvinsk, located along the frigid White Sea. Grishkov had lived there since retiring from the Russian Navy. 27 years earlier, then Captain Grishkov was in command of one of six of the deadliest weapons the Soviet Union ever created, the massive Typhoon class nuclear ballistic missile (SSBN) submarine TK-17. It was during the most turbulent time in Russian affairs since WWII when TK-17 slunk beneath the waves in the White Sea, not far from the place of his death, that Grishkov was faced with one of a nuclear submariner's worst nightmare scenarios. The near catastrophic event remained deeply classified for decades, but today we have a decent idea of what happened on that fateful day in September of 1991. TK-17 was ordered to execute a test launch of one of its 20 SS-N-20 Sturgeon (locally called the R-39 Rif) submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Like their host submarine, these three-stage solid-fuel ballistic missiles were absolutely massive in size, weighing a staggering 185,000 pounds and able to carry up to ten multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). A test missile, which had inert warheads, was loaded into one of TK-17's vertical launch tubes before the submarine headed out to sea. Once launched, it would fly thousands of miles east, impacting on Russia's missile range on the Chukotka Peninsula. The exercise was largely a display of continuity, strength, and stability to a world which had just witnessed a failed coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. In reality, the Soviet Union was in a state of collapse, and by Christmas of that same year it would disintegrate in full. Foreshadowing events to come politically for the USSR, the test launch turned into a harrowing failure. On September 27th, 1991, TK-17 moved into launch depth position and ran through its pre-firing sequence. As the launch clock clicked down towards zero, instead of the 53 foot long, 23 foot wide missile boosting its way towards the ocean's surface it exploded while still cocooned inside its launch tube. The silo door that covered the missile tube was totally blown off. The submarine shook violently and alarms rang—it seemed as if the TK-17 was doomed. Such an event would be horrific for the boat's crew, but the loss of control of the vessel's twin nuclear reactors and the live nuclear weapons it carried could result in a nuclear incident of massive proportions. In essence, the loss of a Typhoon class SSBN was the sum of Soviet Navy's fears. Grishkov acted quickly and decisively, ordering up an emergency blow of TK-17's ballast tanks, a move that would send the 574 foot long submarine porpoising to the surface. The action was completed successfully and TK-17's crew was able visually examine the submarine's long forward-set missile farm. What they saw wasn't good. There were a series of fires raging near where the test missile had detonated. The missile's solid fuel propellant had scattered across the submarine's upper surface. The rubber anechoic coating that helps the submarine from being detected acoustically was set alight and the fire would rapidly spread. 19 other missiles sat tightly packed in two neat lines of ten under and near the blaze. Heat and ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads are a bad combination. Once again, Captain Grishkov acted quickly and decisively, ordering a counter-intuitive maneuver for a submarine that is damaged in ways that crew couldn't fully understood at the time. His plan was to put the fire out in a way only a submarine can, by submerging the vessel and starving the flames of oxygen. Grishkov knew that the stricken missile's launch compartment would flood, and possibly other sections nearby, and alerted the crew to this possibility, but he had to make a decision that would save the boat from sinking, even if it meant taking on new types of damage and even possibly casualties. The crew carried out the snap order far quicker than it could normally have been accomplished. When the boat was ordered back up to the surface again the fires were extinguished. The plan had worked and TK-17 wouldn't become the embarrassment of a crumbling empire or the cause of an international crisis and environmental catastrophe. The stricken submarine and its crew of 160 limped back to Severodvinsk where its burnt skin and badly damaged launch tube were repaired under a shroud of secrecy. The tube would never be used again and was permanently sealed off. TK-17 would go onto serve for 13 more years before being sidelined in 2004. Grishkov was never pronounced a Hero of Russia or given an award for staving off disaster, the impact of which is hard to fathom, especially at such a turbulent time in Russian history. The Kursk tragedy nearly nine years later, which had clear parallels to the incident aboard TK-17, was controversially handled in a standoff manner by Russia, and the country wasn't undergoing anywhere near the political turmoil as the Soviet Union was in the fall of 1991.Three of the six Typhoon class boats produced still exist, with just one remaining in active service. The other two, seen here in a 2013 satellite image, which includes TK-17, await the scrapper's torch and the removal of their nuclear reactors. Would Russia have reached out for help if one of their prized Typhoon class boomers sunk? Would embarrassment and the sensitive technology held within the relatively new submarine—the most advanced fielded at the time of the incident—kept the Soviet Union from telling the world of the disaster before it was too late? How would the overthrow of the Communist Party just months later have impacted a response effort, especially if it was highly classified at the time of the political transformation? Thanks to Captain Grishkov and his crew we don't have an answer to those questions. The lack of adulation towards Grishkov was largely due to the sensitive nature of the incident. Although some of the Russian Navy brass wanted to decorate him for his heroic efforts on that day, instead the powers that be chose to keep the incident secret. In turn, neither the captain or any of his crew, who all survived the incident, would ever receive the recognition they deserved. As for TK-17, the vessel has been sitting idle (take a look inside!) in Severodvinsk next to her sister-ship TK-20 awaiting decommissioning and disposal of their volatile nuclear reactors. A single Typhoon class submarine remains in Russian Navy service, the first one ever built, the Dmitry Donskoy TK-208. It's mission? Submarine-launched ballisitic missile test vessel.

 

$90 billion for an obsolete submarine fleet

So much for sovereignty. Australia is locked out of repairing key US components of our submarines’ computer systems, and the government has committed our fleet to the extraordinarily dangerous role of helping the US conduct surveillance in the South China Sea. Brian Toohey reports. It is hard to believe that a government genuinely committed to defending the nation would sign a contract to buy 12 ludicrously expensive submarines that would not be operational for at least 20 years, with the final submarine not ready for nearly 40 years. The fleet will be obsolete before its delivered. But this is what the Turnbull government did when it announced in September 2016 that the majority French government-owned Naval Group would build 12 large submarines in Adelaide. The first sub is unlikely to be operational until the late 2030s and the last one until well after 2050.It is even harder to understand why the government endorsed the extraordinarily dangerous role for Australian submarines of helping the US conduct surveillance and possible combat operations within the increasingly crowded waters of the South China Sea. And while the Morrison government repeatedly claims that Australia’s defence force has a “sovereign” capability, in reality we are locked in “all the way” with the USA.US secrecy prevents Australia from repairing key American components of both the Collins and Attack class submarines’ complex computerised systems. Ominously, an earlier Coalition government gave Lockheed Martin the contract to integrate these systems into the Attack subs. This is the same company that wasted billions on a dud computerised system for the US made F-35 fighter planes. Called the Attack class, the conventionally powered submarines to be built in Adelaide by Naval will rely on an unfinished design based partly on France’s Barracuda nuclear submarines. Their official cost has already blown out from an initial $50 billion to $90 billion. It was revealed earlier this week that Defence officials knew in 2015 that the cost of the fleet had already blown out by $30 billion to $80 billion, yet continued to state publicly that the price tag was $50 billion. Life-cycle costs are expected to be around $300 billion. Current tensions about maritime boundaries in the South China Sea may well be resolved before the fleet is delivered. Further billions will also have to be spent closing the gap in capability created by the retirement of our six Collins class submarines due between 2026 and 2038 – well before the first six Attack class are operational. Australia’s expenditure of $90 billion will be enough to put just one Attack class submarine in the South China Sea at a time. The other submarines will be making the 13,000-kilometre trip up there and back, being repaired and refurbished, or be committed closer to Australia. Australian subs in the South China Sea will be integrated into US forces and will be relying on them for operational and intelligence data. In an escalating clash, accidental or otherwise, they will be expected to follow orders from US commanders. Again, so much for Australia’s sovereignty. There is no compelling strategic reason why Australian submarines should travel that onerous distance to support the US in the South China Sea. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of Australia’s trade with North Asia does not go through the that Sea. Nor does China impose barriers to commercial navigation, much of which involves its own trade. China has adopted a defensive anti-access/area denial strategy to control approaches to its homeland, building up an array of forces and sensors. This is in response to the US deploying sensors below and above the sea to prevent Chinese forces passing through choke points in the area to the broader ocean. While China’s actions are seen as aggressive, the US would never tolerate China laying sea-bed sensors and deploying submarines around its naval bases on the West Coast of America. The Pentagon focuses on always knowing the whereabouts of all Chinese submarines, especially its two nuclear-armed ballistic missile-carrying subs based at Hainan Island. The Americans’ goal would be to destroy these subs at the start of any potential war. However, China’s nuclear armed missiles on land or sea are essential as a deterrence because the US has not ruled out first US first nuclear strike. Australia’s submarines aren’t nuclear powered, which means they have to come to the surface to charge their batteries every few days. This leaves them open to being detected by increasingly sophisticated sensors and then destroyed. This risk can be greatly reduced by using air independent propulsion; for example, fuel cells, meaning submarines don’t have to resurface for up to six weeks. But the Australian Navy stubbornly refuses to use this lifesaving technology. It also resists using modern batteries that are lighter and go further than lead acid ones. Submarines could make an important contribution to the nation’s defence by operating above and below the island chain to Australia’s north to deter a naval force intending to attack Australia. This does not require ultra large submarines. A report released in March by the executive director of Insight Economics Jon Stanford makes a persuasive case for not proceeding with the Attack class. The report, funded by electronics retailer Garry Johnson, was commissioned by the think tank Submarines for Australia. One solution might be to design and build a modern version of the 3,100 tonne Collins instead of the 4,500 tonne Attack class submarines. This option has not been costed. A cheaper alternative would be to extend the life of the six existing Collins class submarines. The think tank Submarines for Australia has costed this at $15 billion, with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute costing it at $20 billion. A much less costly option would be to build proven, high-performance submarines to be based at two harbours in northern Australia and scrap the reckless commitment to integrate them with US nuclear submarines in the South China Sea. The Singapore Navy is getting new 2000 tonne submarines from the biggest maker of quality conventional submarines, Germany’s Thyssekrupp Marine Systems. Called the Type 218SG, they have hydrogen fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. They are low maintenance, can carry land-attack missiles or the German IDAS missile, which can hit ships and sub-hunting helicopters. The cost would be about $7 billion for six and just over $13 billion for 12, including spares and crew training. A high degree of automation also means they require a crew of just 28 that can rotate on eight-hour shifts instead of the usual 12 hour shifts for most submarines. Compare this with the Attack class requirement of a crew of 63, at a time when it is not easy to attract the large number of submariners required. Perhaps the best argument, however, for not wasting $90 billion on the Attack class is that cheap underwater drones will soon have an important military role particularly suited to use from bases in northern Australia.

 

JFD wins contract to supply advanced submarine rescue vehicle to the Republic of Korea Navy

JFD, the world leading underwater capability provider serving the commercial and defence diving markets and part of James Fisher and Sons plc, has been awarded a multi-million pound contract for the design and build of an advanced Deep Search and Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), as part of a comprehensive submarine rescue capability being provided to the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN).The contract, awarded by South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), will ensure the provision of an advanced and highly capable submarine rescue vehicle to the South Korean Navy that will ensure the highest standards in safety for submariners. Following the recent contract award to DSME for the construction of a new auxiliary submarine rescue ship (ASR-II) for the RoKN, JFD will design and build a DSRV bespoke to the requirements of the customer that will enhance the operational capabilities of its submarine rescue service. Once in operation, the DSRV will be launched and recovered from the submarine rescue vessel via a ‘moonpool’, through which the DSRV will be deployed to rescue the crews of distressed submarines at depths of up to 500m, and in waves as tall as four metres. This method of launch and recovery minimises the impact of weather and sea states on the ability to operate the DSRV, maximising the chances of a successful submarine rescue operation, further safeguarding the lives of submariners. JFD has extensive experience in launch and recovery via a ‘moonpool’ through its years of delivering advanced saturation diving systems and diving bells through moonpools. Giovanni Corbetta, Managing Director, JFD, said: We are proud to have worked with the RoKN for a number of years in supporting the provision of its submarine rescue service. Protecting the lives of submariners is of utmost importance to JFD, and ensuring our customers have the most advanced and comprehensive submarine rescue capability is fundamental to this. The new DSRV will provide an advanced capability to the RoKN that will ensure the lives of those operating subsea are protected at all times. “Due to be delivered to the customer in 2021, the DSRV will undergo a comprehensive series of tests and trials including factory, harbour, and sea acceptance trials, before entering operational service. The DSRV has been designed to maximise battery capacity and operational endurance, increasing the chances of a successful rescue operation. This is also ensures minimal time is spent recharging the vehicle’s batteries, ensuring the DSRV can be deployed quickly in the event of an incident. In the development of its advanced DSRV design, JFD employed its extensive experience from the development of its multiple advanced submarine rescue systems currently in operation around the world, in order to optimise the design to meet the bespoke requirements of the Kornite RoKN currently operates a multipurpose submarine rescue ship - the 103 m long, 4,300-tonne RoKS Cheonghaejin. Once in operation, the new ASR-II vessel will replace the current Cheonghaejin, in operation since 1996. JFD has supported an advanced submarine rescue capability for over nine years, and following delivery of the new DSRV will continue to work with the RoKN and its partners in providing a comprehensive training and support programme that will ensure that submarine rescue operations are carried out safely and efficiently. ames Fisher and Sons CEO Nick Henry, said: "JFD first delivered a deep search and rescue system to the South Korean navy in 2009.  This additional capability further demonstrates our position of market leadership in the submarine rescue market, as well as the strong relationships that we build with our customers. “The vehicle is a variation of the landmark third-generation vehicles recently delivered to the Indian navy. “In December 2018, JFD successfully delivered the second of two Third Generation submarine rescue systems to the Indian Navy. The delivery of the second system represents a significant milestone in the provision of a comprehensive submarine rescue capability that will enhance safety for submariners’ provides fast, safe and reliable subsea rescue services, solutions products, engineering services and training to 80 countries and 33 of the world’s navies including the Royal Navy, Australian, Singapore, and South Korean Navies, as well as providing the NATO Submarine Rescue System. In parallel with the delivery of the second system to the Indian Navy, JFD has continued to support multiple submarine rescue systems in service around the world, recently executing a successful Black Carillon 2018 comprehensive submarine rescue exercise with the Australian Navy, as well as conducting preparations for the mid-life upgrade of the Singaporean system.

 

Navy releases documents from mysterious Cold War loss of nuclear submarine

In this July 9, 1960, the U.S. Navy nuclear powered attack submarine USS Thresher is launched bow-first at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. The Navy is releasing documents from the investigation into the deadliest submarine disaster in U.S. history. The Navy began releasing documents from the investigation into the deadliest submarine disaster in U.S. history on Wednesday, but the Navy said the documents released under a court order don’t shed any new light on the cause of the sinking. The first of the documents released were 300 pages from the official inquiry into the sinking of the USS Thresher on April 10, 1963.The loss of the nuclear-powered submarine and all 129 men aboard during a test dive in the Atlantic Ocean delivered a blow to national pride during the Cold War and became the impetus for safety improvements. The sinking was the first of a string of calamities in 1963. The March on Washington was a turning point in the Civil Rights movement, but the Vietnam conflict grew, white supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated The loss of Thresher was a defining event for the submarine service,” said Rear Adm. William Houston, director of the undersea warfare division in the office of the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. He Thresher story was already well known. It had undergone sea trials and was back in the ocean for deep-dive testing about 220 miles off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. The first sign of trouble was a garbled message about a “minor difficulty” after the 279-foot submarine descended to more than 800 feet. The crew indicated it was attempting to empty ballast tanks in an effort to surface. The crew of an accompanying rescue ship heard something about the “test depth.” Then the sailors listened as the sub disintegrated under the crushing pressure of the sea. The Navy inquiry found weaknesses in the design and construction of the first-in-class nuclear-powered submarine, which had been built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and based in Groton, Connecticut. The documents released Wednesday included the timeline of the sinking, evidence lists, reports, testimony and correspondence. But there were some redactions. Even more than 50 years later, technical details including the test depth were redacted. In the documents, the Navy said it believes an interior pipe burst and caused electrical problems that caused an emergency shutdown of the nuclear reactor. sting on the ocean floor at a depth of 8,500 feet, the Thresher looks as though it went through a “shredding machine” and is spread out over a mile, University of Rhode Island oceanographer Robert Ballard told The Associated Press in 2013. Ballard used his 1985 discovery of RMS Titanic as a Cold War cover for surveying the Thresher. Not everyone was satisfied with the Navy’s conclusions. Retired Capt. James Bryant, commander of a Thresher-class submarine, requested the documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act and ultimately went to court to demand the documents’ release. He thinks there’s more to be learned from the documents, most of them classified. Michael Shafer, whose father and uncle both died on the Thresher, said some of the families need to review the documents to see for themselves and fully understand what happened. His suspicion is that the Navy was pushing the limits and placing personnel at risk during the Cold War. “I want to know the truth, the whole truth. Not some smoke screen from the Navy,” he said Wednesday from St. Petersburg, Florida. A judge in February ordered the Navy to release the documents. The coronavirus pandemic delayed the review of the documents. Eventually, more than 1,000 pages of documents will be released. If there was a silver lining, it was that the tragedy so shook the Navy that it accelerated safety improvements and created a program called SUBSAFE, an extensive series of design modifications, training and other improvements. One submarine has sunk since then, the USS Scorpion in 1968, and it was not SUBSAFE-certified, the Navy said. Some of the improvements included better welding techniques and changes to the ballast system that allows a submarine to surface. Joy MacMillan, one of four siblings who lost their father, the submarine’s chief radioman, said it’s helpful to know the deaths spurred safety improvements. But it’s still important for the families to have the documents, and some closure. “After being 57 years in the dark, it’s time for the families to know any and all information so that we can put it away. We can say, ‘Mistakes were made. Let’s move on,'” MacMillan, of Brentwood, New Hampshire, said Wednesday.

 

A daring escape from internment and a treacherous route through sea mines secured the Orzel submarine’s place in history

Trapped in the port in Tallinn, the pride of the Polish underwater fleet made an audacious escape under fire, followed by a miraculous journey without navigational aids to Britain in waters infested with German vessels intent on sinking it. Public domain The wartime history of the Polish submarine the Orzel is one of the most spectacular, daring and improbable stories from the high seas during the Second World War. Trapped in the port in Tallinn, the pride of the Polish underwater fleet made an audacious escape under fire, followed by a miraculous journey without navigational aids to Britain in waters infested with German vessels intent on sinking it.Repaired and put back to sea, the Orzel sank a German ship on its way to invade Norway only to disappear later without trace on its next mission, ending the vessel’s short service but leaving a legacy that still inspires awe today. The war did not start well for the Orzel and her crew. They were eager to use the potential of the state-of-the-art sub to engage the Kriegsmarine and defend the Polish coast against a possible German seaborne invasion. The crew’s heroics were to make them legendary. The second submarine mentioned was the ORP Wilk. Public domain However, they were saddled with a commander, Henryk Kloczkowski, who has been dubbed Poland’s greatest traitor of the September campaign. He saw no point in fighting, saw the war as lost before it had begun and failed to carry out orders. Matters on board only got worse when in early September he was struck by a mysterious illness. His fellow officers thought he was making it up. He would later be charged with desertion, demoted to the rank of sailor and sentenced to military jail. After being attacked by the Luftwaffe and suffering damage, the captain was happy that he could head to Tallinn for repairs. The submarine reached its destination on Thursday 14 September in the evening. The Estonians were not delighted with the unexpected appearance of the Poles. However, under international maritime rules, naval vessels were allowed to enter neutral ports for a period of 24 hours. They agreed to the ship's arrival in the port, and even took up repair of the damaged compressor. However, matters started to become complicated when the German ship the Thalatta called at the same port. The law of the sea clearly regulated this awkward situation by making sure the vessels left the port with a 24 hour gap between them. The Poles were thus allowed to stay longer, but under German pressure, the Estonians informed the Poles that they were being interned. The next day, on Saturday 16 September, the Estonians began to disarm the vessel. The maps and the navigation log were taken, without which the chances of getting out into the Baltic Sea and escaping the Kriegsmarine ships were negligible. Also, the cannons were disabled and the ammunition was confiscated. Finally, 14 of the 20 torpedoes were taken with the remaining 6 to be taken the next day. However, the crew of the Ore, now under the command of captain Jan Grudzinski, had no intention of giving up their vessel. Following their well-publicised escape, Soviet authorities claimed that the Polish submarine sank the Soviet tanker Metallist in Narva Bay on 26 September 1939 and blamed the Estonians for abetting the Poles. Public domain Using the cover of a moonless night, the crew lured the Estonian guards onboard and overpowered them. They managed to turn off all the lights in the port. They then cut the moorings, fired up the engines and started to move out of the port. When the engines started, Estonian soldiers started to run from the nearby barracks and immediately opened fire on the submarine. A greater danger, though, were the underwater rocks, which the submarine struck almost scuppering the whole plan. Fortunately, Grudzinski’s cool head saved the situation and he managed to free the Orzel from the seabed. The captain, believing that enemy vessels would chase them, stayed near the coastline, initially confusing the pursuit. The two Estonian guards were later sent home in a lifeboat, after being giving a large sum of money and plenty of food. ‘Sailors only travel first class,’ the Poles explained to them. The escape of the Orzel left the Estonians with headaches of their own. The Soviet authorities claimed that the Polish submarine sank the Soviet tanker Metallist in Narva Bay on 26 September 1939 and blamed the Estonians for abetting the Poles. The Soviets used the incident as a pretext for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. Now out in deep waters, they had to decide what to do next. Seeing how low they were on fuel, Grudzinski decided the only option was to try and break through to the UK. However, it was a journey of one and a half thousand nautical miles to Britain with no maps, no weapons and no means of contacting their commanders. One of the officers, Lieutenant Andrzej Piasecki, came up with an ingenious plan. Using a German survey of Baltic Sea lighthouses, which the Estonians had not taken, he drew a rough map of the Baltic Sea, and using it guided the Orzel through the Danish straits. After many near misses with German vessels hunting for them in the Baltic, the crew managed to reach British waters near the port of Crosthwaite making contact, the astonished Royal Navy sent a destroyer to escort the submarine into port.Grudzinski recalled later: “When, after three weeks, we finally reached the coast of England, we did not have even one drop of fresh water on board. We were almost there, but we could have died underwater of thirst. “The whole world learned about the brave escape of the Polish vessel and congratulations flooded in. After undergoing repairs, the Orzel was put back into service, this time assigned to the Royal Navy Second Submarine Fleet in Rosyth. The ship repeatedly went out to sea on patrols and convoy duty. Its most famous achievement was the sinking of the German transporter, the Rio de Janeiro, which was taking German troops to invade Norway. The sinking of the transporter was one of the last of the war to be made using ancient rules of chivalry on the high seas when, before releasing their torpedoes, the Poles gave the German ship the chance to change course and leave the area. They declined the offer, instead using the opportunity to call in the Luftwaffe. The Orzel left port for the last time on 23 May 1940. Two days later it went missing, and to this day it is still unknown what exactly happened to the crew of the Polish vessel. Here are several theories. The most likely is that the ship was mistakenly sunk by a British aircraft patrolling the British coast. This appears to be confirmed by a report by a British pilot who claimed that he sank a submarine similar to a German submarine in the area where the Orzel was patrolling. Another version is that the submarine’s anchor triggered a sea mine. Such an event could have taken place anywhere in the North Sea during the war. The Orzel’s brilliant but short career still evokes awe. To this day, all Polish ships sailing in the area where it was lost raise their flag to honour the heroic crew of the Polish submarine.

Veil of secrecy surrounding sunken submarine

The submarine M-200 sank near the city of Paldiski around 60 years ago – during peacetime, in the conditions of good visibility and with an experienced captain on board. The findings of the investigation were classified. ETV+ program "Insight" helped shed light on the Circumstances. “This story was so tragic for the residents of Paldiski… But it was our story," a submarine officer's widow, journalist Nelli Kuznetsova recalls. The rescue operation for submarine M-200 and its crew was a disaster as both the people on board the submarine and rescue operatives perished. Shipwreck under mysterious circumstances The M-200 was a Malyutka-class small torpedo submarine. It was built in Leningrad in 1940, served in the Northern Fleet and was attached to the Paldiski submarine brigade after World War Ianthe submarine left the Tallinn roadstead while surfaced on November 21, 1956. Moving toward the submarine that was also referred to as Mest in the opposite direction was Soviet mine hunter Stannite circumstances of the collision that followed were described to "Insight" in detail by Estonian military historian professor Mati Õun who has published several books on the Soviet navy. “That’s the Suurupi Peninsula and here we have [the island of] Naissaar. And here comes Statnyi. The first buoy is here, with the Suurupi lighthouse situated here," Õun narrates, tracing a line on the chart with a sharp pencil. "M-200 turns. I have marked where it went down. They noticed each other from far away. At a distance of around 13 kilometers! “It was impossible for the two vessels not to notice each other – searchlights were switched on and the weather was clear – but for some reason, the two ships did not have enough room to pass each other safely. The impact on sections five and six of the submarine was so strong that it basically cut Mest in half. M-200 sank aft first after it was rammed by the mine hunter. Some people are born lucky general alarm was sounded at the Tallinn naval base a few minutes later and rescuers and all available vessels dispatched to help the Submarine. “Some people were on the submarine's bridge and fell overboard at the moment of impact. Sailors of mine hunter Statnyi started throwing them life buoys and preservers. Those who did not drown were pulled on board," specialist of the Estonian Maritime Museum Roman Matkiewicz said. "Only six men survived in the submerged portion of the submarine, while everyone in sections five and six was immediately killed by the impact. The survivors were in sections two and three and section one at the bow of the vessel. The submarine went down with them. “At first, rescuers could communicate with the people still on the submarine as the crew managed to float a signal buoy. The signal buoy has a phone line to the submarine in its hermetically sealed interior. The contact on board the M-200 was the only surviving officer, senior assistant commander Sr. Lt. Vladislav Kolpakov."It is terrible what happened on that ship “During their first night, the crew still had oxygen, strength and hope of being rescued, but time was working against them. The conditions deteriorated with every passing minute. Nelli Kuznetsova and her husband knew Kolpakov well, which is why she remembers the events well. “It was late fall. Half-frozen people were hanging on in an almost sunken submarine," she recalls. "It gets cold pretty quickly. As long as the ship's mechanisms are operational, it keeps the vessel warm. But it gets very cold very quickly once they stop working. Let me recall that it was November," Matkiewicz explains. It soon turned out that sections two and three had been breached and were filling with water. By the night of November 21, they were completely flooded that caused the pressure to start going up in sections that still had people in them. Mati Õun said that air is compressed in sections as the vessel sinks. “If the vessel is vertical, as opposed to tipping over horizontally, a pocket of air is formed under the ceiling, while it's physically very demanding to be there," the professor explains. "There is neither light nor heat. It is pitch black, the vessel is heavily alist. People were grabbing onto everything they could not to fall. “Despite the depressing situation, there was no panic. Witnesses say Kolpakov kept his crew motivated and from losing hope. “The radio operators were communicating what Slava said, while he even managed to crack jokes," Kuznetsova recalls. The rescue goes horribly wrong. The people on board the submarine realized that their rescue was mostly in their own hands. They prepared the section they were in for individually exiting the sub and asked for permission. The bow of the submarine had a shaft through which sailors could exit one by one. Of course, such independent disembarkation is dangerous, especially for people who are weak from hunger, dehydrated and suffering from a lack of oxygen. “You need to climb in the shaft, fill it with water and then open the next hatch. One has to wear a special breathing apparatus and an oxygen tank," Mati Õun described. One needs to come to the surface slowly as the pressure changing abruptly could kill a person. But the crew was not allowed to exit the sub. There were a lot of superiors present by then and the officers dared not take responsibility for a risky emergency exit. The rescue operation was stalling, while time was working against the sailors suffering from oxygen deprivation. Ideally, the submarine could have been raised using a special device."The best thing would have been for the special rescue vessel Kommuna to come to their aid. The Kommuna was a catamaran complete with special cranes meant for lifting up submarines. However, the vessel was stationed at Kronstadt and would not have arrived on time," Matkiewicz said. Such vessels are often far away when one needs them. "When Kursk went down, they also had a special submersible device that could have saved her, but it was far away and did not reach them in time," Kuznetsova said. To make sure the crew would stay alive until they are rescued, it was necessary to pump air into the submarine. The attempt failed and the crew faced asphyxiation. The task of connecting air lines to the vessel fell to a young and inexperienced diver who did not know the ship or the air hoses. He perished having failed to supply the ship with oxygen. Two rescuers died during the first day. The operation was suspended and the divers were sent to the Paldiski training center to learn about similar submarines and how to get air on board. While they eventually succeeded in half-way connecting a single air line to the vessel, it was not enough. People who witnessed the event, including old officers, agreed that such unprofessional and helpless efforts were the result of Nikita Khrushchev's military reform. Mati Õun said that it was around that time the Soviet Union set about building ballistic missiles and the country needed more money for the arms race. That is why army personnel was cut by two million people, including experienced divers. Now, when it proved necessary to rescue people, no one knew how. “There was a lot of machinery and a lot of superiors at sea for the rescue operation. The head of the Baltic Fleet was present, as was the supreme commander of the Soviet navy. This added to the chain of command and caused decisions to take a long time to make," Matkiewicz said in terms of why rescue efforts were so slow. By the end of the second day and night, people were holding on to a pipe on the ceiling of the bow section, with the rest of the ship submerged. Kolpakov was likely beginning to realize that they would not be rescued or allowed to exit the ship. Witnesses recall that Kolpakov said, when talking to those on the ground, that it would be good to have a few foreign journalists witness the rescue effort. This phrase, uttered either as a joke or out of desperation, merited a prompt reaction. Rescuers were ordered to lift the signal buoy out of the water and onto a trawler to make sure no one could listen in. A KGB officer was put on the line. However, instructions categorically prohibited lifting the buoy out of the water as putting even the slightest stress on the thin wire could cause the signal to be lost. That is precisely what happened: there was a storm and the buoy came loose. Waves carried the rescue vessels away and caused them to lose sight of the submarine. The rescue effort resumed the next night, a full 24 hours later. As the rescue ships were looking for the lost submarine, Vladislav Kolpakov decided the crew would attempt to exit the sub through the escape hatch while they still had some strength left. It would be a very difficult undertaking without help from divers. Another problem was that they only had five breathing apparatuses for six people. Kolpakov was left without one. The most resilient sailor – Vassiljev – was sent out first. “The submarine was found again at 3.43 a.m. Divers who went to inspect the hull discovered the open hatch and a dead sailor in it. He was wearing emergency gear, with his individual breathing apparatus switched on," Matkiewicz said. Vassiljev was hanging half-way out of the hatch with his mask torn off. He had died of asphyxiation or heart failure and blocked the exit with his body. Nelli Kuznetsova recalls in a pained voice. "They were clustered around the apparatus through which they were to exit. They were dead. Slava Kolpakov was the last and had bit into the sleeve of his uniform as he died..."The disaster hung over the families and friends of the sailors for long years. Kuznetsova said that it was not customary to talk about such things in those times. "Even people in Tallinn did not know about the submarine. There were no psychologists, no one saw to the families. Everyone was left to their own devices. “Investigation results were classified and it remained a mystery why two vessels in perfect sight of each other could not pass each other by safely. Both ships noticed the other in time and there was plenty of time for appropriate maneuvers. But something went wrong at the last minute. Those who wrote about the disaster later noted that the M-200 had recently gotten a new commander who was not familiar with the ship's nuances. Mati Õun disagrees. The commander was a seasoned submariner. According to his version, the accident could have been caused by a minor stroke that has been known to make people mix up their left and right hands. While this is just a theory, it sounds plausible. “I have no other way of explaining it," Õun said. The commanders of both ships were handed three-year prison sentences as a result of the investigation. Nelli Kuznetsova remembers the commander of the M-200. "He returned to Paldiski after he had done his time. He lived there and died there and it is also where he is buried. Next to his crew. “Even though the inscription on the crew's tombstone reads "To the heroic crew," none of the men who served on submarine M-200 were decorated and the failed rescue operation was forgotten for decades.

 

Russia designs Serval-class submarine

P-750B is a small displacement multirole submarine for coastal operations. The main weapons include torpedo and cruise missile launchers. The sub will interact with unmanned underwater craft. The innovative solutions include replaceable modular payload: weapons, self-defense means, groups of underwater propulsion means and unmanned vehicles. The payload will be carried outside the solid hull. The concept opens new capabilities, as the payload will change before the sortie according to the missions. P-750B complements previous Malakhit designs of Piranha small coastal submarines (Piranha-M, Piranha-T, Piranha-T1, P-550E, P-650E and others) with a displacement of 220 - 1450 tons. They defend coastal and sea borders by covert patrol and destroy single warships and submarines by torpedoes. The submarines can lay mines and strike at coastal targets. They can engage in reconnaissance and provide guidance to the fleet and aviation. Some Piranha submarines can engage in special operations and carry 6-8 combat divers. The submarines of Malakhit have highly automatic controls. P-650E sub with a displacement of 720 tons (full displacement of 870 tons) has a nine-man crew. P-750B with a displacement of 1400 tons has a crew of 18-20 people.P-750B differs from P-650E by a longer cruising range without surfacing, higher speed and powerful arms, including Kalibr missiles (CLUB-S export option).Over 30 years ago, the Soviet Navy received MC-520 Piranha subversion submarine of project 865. It had a titanium hull and could operate in shallow and coastal waters at a depth of 10-200 meters. It could carry a pair of 400mm torpedoes or mines, however, the main mission was not related to strikes and mining of seaports. Piranha was designed to deliver combat swimmers with weapons and evacuate them after the mission. The design began in 1974. The rough design was approved in 1981 and project documentation was finalized two years later. The construction began in 1984.The 30-meter long submarine of project 865 had a displacement of 220 tons. The diesel generator of 160 KW and propulsion electric engine of 65 KW developed a speed of seven knots. Autonomous navigation was ten days and the cruising range was close to a thousand miles. Besides a three-man crew, Piranha could carry six combat swimmers. They left the submarine through a docking chamber. The noise was decreased due to resin coating of the outside hull and the placement of the diesel generator, fans and compressors on a separate shock-absorbing platform.

 

 

Radioactive submarines from the Soviet era lie disintegrating on the seafloor.

 

By tradition, Russians always bring an odd number of flowers to a living person and an even number to a grave or memorial. But every other day, 83-year-old Raisa Lappa places three roses or gladiolas by the plaque to her son Sergei in their hometown Rubtsovsk, as if he hadn’t gone down with his submarine during an ill-fated towing operation in the Arctic Ocean in 2003.“I have episodes where I’m not normal, I go crazy, and it seems that he’s alive, so I bring an odd number,” she says. “They should raise the boat, so we mothers could put our sons’ remains in the ground, and I could maybe have a little more peace. “After 17 years of unfulfilled promises, she may finally get her wish, though not out of any concern for the bones of Captain Sergei Lappa and six of his crew. With a draft decree published in March, President Vladimir Putin set in motion an initiative to lift two Soviet nuclear submarines and four reactor compartments from the silty bottom, reducing the amount of radioactive material in the Arctic Ocean by 90%. First on the list is Lappa’s K-159.The two nuclear submarines together contain one million curies of radiation, or about a quarter of that released in the first month of the Fukushima disaster. The message, which comes before Russia’s turn to chair the Arctic Council next year, seems to be that the country is not only the preeminent commercial and military power in the warming Arctic, but also a steward of the environment. The K-159 lies just outside of Murmansk in the Barents Sea, the richest cod fishery in the world and also an important habitat of haddock, red king crab, walruses, whales, polar bears and many other animals. The busy fisheries of the Barents Sea and other nearby northern oceans are in close proximity to the decaying nuclear submarines on the seabed (Credit: Getty Images). At the same time, Russia is leading another “nuclearification” of the Arctic with new vessels and weapons, two of which have already suffered accidents. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union built more than 400 nuclear-powered submarines, a “silent service” that gave the adversaries a way to retaliate even if their missile silos and strategic bombers had been taken out in a sudden first strike. Just 60 miles (97km) from the border with Nato member Norway, the Arctic port of Murmansk and surrounding military bases became the centre of the USSR’s nuclear navy and icebreakers, as well as their highly radioactive spent fuel. After the Iron Curtain fell, the consequences came to light. For instance, at Andreyeva Bay, where 600,000 tonnes of toxic water leaked into the Barents Sea from a nuclear storage pool in 1982, the spent fuel from more than 100 submarines was kept partly in rusty canisters under the open sky. Fearing contamination, Russia and Western countries including Britain embarked on a sweeping clean-up, spending nearly £1bn ($1.3bn) to decommission and dismantle 197 Soviet nuclear submarines, dispose of strontium batteries from 1,000 navigation beacons and began removing fuel and waste from Andreyeva Bay and three other dangerous coastal sites. As in other countries, however, Soviet nuclear waste was also dumped at sea, and now the focus has shifted there. A 2019 feasibility study by a consortium including British nuclear safety firm Nuvia found 18,000 radioactive objects in the Arctic Ocean, among them 19 vessels and 14 reactors. While the radiation given off by most of these objects has neared background levels thanks to silt build-up, the study found 1,000 still have elevated levels of penetrating gamma radiation. Ninety percent of that is contained in six objects that Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom will raise in the next 12 years, Anatoly Grigoriev, Rosatom’s head of international technical assistance, told Future Planet: two nuclear submarines and reactor compartments from three nuclear submarines and the icebreaker Lenin. “We consider even the extremely low probability of radioactive materials leaking from these objects as posing an unacceptable risk for the ecosystems of the Arctic,” Grigoriev said in a statement. No such sweeping nuclear clean-up has ever been undertaken at sea. Recovering the reactor compartments will involve salvage jobs in frigid waters that are safe for such operations only three or four months out of the year. The two nuclear submarines, which together contain one million curies of radiation, or about a quarter of that released in the first month of the Fukushima disaster, will pose an even greater challenge. Some Soviet submarines, such as the K-159, similar to this November-class submarine, are decaying at the bottom of the sea. One of them is the K-27, once known as the “golden fish” because of its high cost. The 360ft-long (118m) attack submarine (a submarine designed to hunt other submarines) was plagued with problems since its 1962 launch with its experimental liquid-metal-cooled reactors, one of which ruptured six years later and exposed nine sailors to fatal doses of radiation. In 1981 and 1982, the navy filled the reactor with asphalt and scuttled it east of Novaya Zemlya island in a mere 108ft (33m) of water. A tugboat had to ram the bow after a hole blown in the ballast tanks only sank the aft end. The K-27 was sunk after some safety measures were installed that should keep the wreck safe until 2032. But another incident is more alarming. The K-159, a 350ft (107m) November-class attack submarine, was in service from 1963 to 1989. The K-159 sank with no warning, sending 800kg (1,760lb) of spent uranium fuel to the seafloor beneath busy fishing and shipping lanes just north of Murmansk. Thomas Nilsen, editor of The Barents Observer online newspaper, describes the submarines as a “Chernobyl in slow motion on the seabed”. Ingar Amundsen, head of international nuclear safety at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, agrees that it is a question of when, not if, the sunken submarines will contaminate the waters if left as they are. “They contain large amount of spent nuclear fuel which in future for sure will leak into the environment, and we know from experience that only small amounts of contamination into the environment, or even rumours, would lead to problems and economic consequences for marine products and the fisheries. Sergei Lappa was born in 1962 in Rubtsovsk, a small city in the Altai Mountains near the border with Kazakhstan. Though it was thousands of miles to the nearest ocean, he cultivated an interest in seafaring at a local model shipbuilding club, and after school he was accepted into the higher naval engineering academy in Sevastopol, Crimea. all, athletic and a good student, he was assigned to the navy’s most prestigious service: the Northern Submarine Fleet. The K-159 towing operation was beset by bad weather, and the vessel began taking on water .Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, however, the military went into a decline that was revealed to the world when the top-of-the-line attack submarine Kursk sank with 118 crew on board in August 2000. By this time, Lappa was in charge of the K-159, which had been rusting since 1989 at a pier in the isolated navy town of Gremikha, nicknamed the “island of flying dogs” for its strong winds. On the morning of 29 August 2003, the long-delayed order came to tow the decrepit K-159, which had been attached to four 11-tonne pontoons with cables to keep it afloat during the operation, to a base near Murmansk for dismantling, despite a forecast of windy weather. With the reactors off, Lappa and his skeleton crew of nine engineers operated the boat by flashlight. As the submarine was towed near Kildin Island at half past midnight, the cables to the bow pontoons broke in heavy seas, and a half-hour later water was discovered trickling into the eighth compartment. But as headquarters struggled with the decision to launch an expensive rescue helicopter, the crew kept trying to keep the submarine afloat. At 02:45am Mikhail Gurov sent one last radio transmission: “We’re flooding, do something!” By the time rescue boats from the tug arrived, the K-159 was on the bottom near Kildin Island. Of the three sailors who made it out, the only survivor was senior lieutenant Maxim Tsibulsky, whose leather jacket had filled with air and kept him afloat. Yet another nuclear submarine had sunk during the “cursed” month of August, Russian newspapers wrote, but the incident caused little furore compared to the Kursk. The navy promised relatives it would raise the K-159 the next year, then repeatedly delayed the project. Even after 17 years of scavenging and corrosion, at least the bones of the crew likely remain in the submarine, according to Lynne Bell, a forensic anthropologist at Simon Fraser University. But the families have long since lost hope of recovering them. “For all the relatives it would bring some relief if their fathers and husbands were buried, not just lying on the bottom in a steel hulk,” Gurov’s son Dmitry says. “It’s just that no one believes this will happen. “The relatives of those who were on board the K-159 have received few answers about how and when the vessel could be raised (Credit: Getty Images). The situation has now changed, however, as Russia’s interest revives in the Arctic and its crumbling Soviet ports and military towns. Since 2013, seven Arctic military bases and two tanker terminals have been built as part of the Northern Sea Route, a shorter route to China that Putin has promised will see 80 million tonnes of traffic by 2025. The K-159 is lying underneath the eastern end of the route. Russia, Norway and other countries whose fishing boats ply the bountiful waters of the Barents Sea have now found themselves with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Although a 2014 Russian-Norwegian expedition to the K-159 wreck that tested the water, seafloor and animals like a sea centipede did not find radiation above background levels, an expert from Moscow’s Kurchatov Institute said at the time that a reactor containment failure “could happen within 30 years of sinking in the best case and within 10 years at the worst”. That would release radioactive caesium-137 and strontium-90, among other isotopes. While the vast size of the oceans quickly dilutes radiation, even very small levels can become concentrated in animals at the top of the food chain through “bioaccumulation” – and then be ingested by humans. But economic consequences for the Barents Sea fishing industry, which provides the vast majority of cod and haddock at British fish and chip shops, “may perhaps be worse than the environmental consequences”, says Hilde Elise Heldal, a scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research. According to her studies, if all the radioactive material from the K-159’s reactors were to be released in a single “pulse discharge”, it would increase Cesium-137 levels in the muscles of cod in the eastern Barents Sea at least 100 times. (As would a leak from the Komsomolets, another sunken Soviet submarine near Norway that is not slated for lifting.) That would still be below limits set by the Norwegian government after the Chernobyl accident, but it could be enough to scare off consumers. More than 20 countries continue to ban Japanese seafood, for instance, even though studies have failed to find dangerous concentrations of radioactive isotopes in Pacific predatory fishes following the Fukushima nuclear power plant release in 2011. Any ban on fishing in the Barents and Kara seas could cost the Russian and Norwegian economies €120m ($140m; £110m) a month, according to a European Commission feasibility study about the lifting project. But an accident while raising the submarine, on the other hand, could suddenly jar the reactor, potentially mixing fuel elements and starting an uncontrolled chain reaction and explosion. That could boost radiation levels in fish 1,000 times normal or, if it occurred on the surface, irradiate terrestrial animals and humans, another Norwegian study found. Norway would be forced to stop sales of products from the Arctic such as fish and reindeer meat for a year or more. The study estimated that more radiation could be released than in the 1985 Chazhma Bay incident, when an uncontrolled chain reaction during refuelling of a Soviet submarine near Vladivostok killed 10 sailors. Amundsen argued that the risk of such a criticality excursion with the K-159 or K-27 was low and could be minimised with proper planning, as it was during the removal of high-risk spent fuel from Andreyev Bay. The decommissioning of Soviet-era nuclear vessels has been slow, while the pace of building new nuclear vessels is accelerating. “In that case we do not leave the problem for future generations to solve, generations where the knowledge of handling such legacy waste may be very limited,” he says. The safety and transparency of Russia’s nuclear industry has often been questioned, though, most recently when Dutch authorities concluded that radioactive iodine-131 detected over northern Europe in June originated in western Russia. The Mayak reprocessing facility that received the spent fuel from Andreyev Bay by train has a troubled history going back to the world’s then-worst nuclear disaster in 1957. Rosatom continues to deny the findings of international experts that the facility was the source of a radioactive cloud of ruthenium-106 registered over Europe in 2017.While the K-159 and K-27 need to be raised, Rashid Alimov of Greenpeace Russia has reservations. “We are worried about the monitoring of this work, public participation and the transport [of spent fuel] to Mayak,” he says. Raising a submarine is a rare feat of engineering. The United States spent $800m (£610m) in an attempt to lift another Soviet submarine, the diesel-powered K-129 that carried several nuclear missiles, from 16,400ft (5,000m) in the Pacific Ocean, under the guise of a seabed mining operation. In the end, they only managed to bring a third of the submarine to the surface, leaving the CIA with little usable intelligence. That was the deepest raise in history. The heaviest was the Kursk. To bring the latter 17,000-tonne missile submarine up from 350ft (108m) below the Barents Sea, the Dutch companies Mammoet and Smit International installed 26 hydraulically cushioned lifting jacks on a giant barge and cut 26 holes in the submarine’s rubber-coated steel hull with a water jet operated by scuba divers. On 8 October 2001, rushing to beat the winter storm season after four months of nerve-wracking work and delays, steel grippers fitted in the 26 holes lifted the Kursk from the seabed in 14 hours, after which the barge was towed to a dry dock in Murmansk. At less than 5,000 tonnes, the K-159 is smaller than the Kursk, but even before it sank its outer hull was “as weak as foil”, according to Bellona. It has since been embedded in 17 years’ worth of silt. A hole in the bow would seem to rule out pumping it full of air and raising it with balloons, as has been previously suggested. At a conference of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development donors in December, a Rosatom representative said there was no ship in the world capable of lifting it, so a special salvage vessel would have to be built. That will increase the estimated cost of €278m ($330m; £250m) to raise the six most radioactive objects. Donors are discussing Russia’s request to help finance the project, said Balthasar Lindauer, director of nuclear safety at EBRD.“There’s consensus something needs to be done there,” he says. Any such custom-built vessel would likely need a bevy of specialised technologies such as bow and aft thrusters to keep it positioned precisely over the wreck. But in August, Grigoriev told a Rosatom-funded website that one plan the company was considering would involve a pair of barges fitted with hydraulic cable jacks and secured to deep-sea moorings. Instead of steel grippers like the ones inserted into the holes in the Kursk, giant curved pincers would grab the entire hull and lift it up between the barges. A partially submersible scow would be positioned underneath, then brought to the surface along with the submarine and finally towed to port. The K-27 and K-159 could both be recovered this way, he said. One of three engineering firms working on proposals for Rosatom is the military design bureau Malachite, which drafted a project to raise the K-159 in 2007 that “was never realised due to a lack of money”, according to its lead designer. This year the bureau has begun updating this plan, an employee tells Future Planet in the lobby of Malachite’s headquarters in St Petersburg. Many questions remain, however. “What condition is the hull in? How much of force can it handle? How much silt has built up? We need to survey the conditions there,” the employee says, before the head of security arrives to break up our conversation. Removing the six radioactive objects fits in with an image Putin as crafted as a defender of the fragile Arctic environment. In 2017, he inspected the results of an operation to remove 42,000 tonnes of scrap metal from the Franz Josef Land archipelago as part of a “general clean-up of the Arctic”. He has spoken about environmental preservation at an annual conference for Arctic nations. And on the same day in March 2020 that he issued his draft decree about the sunken objects, he signed an Arctic policy that lists “protecting the Arctic environment and the native lands and traditional livelihood of indigenous peoples” as one of six national interests in the region. At least eight more nuclear submarines are set to be added to the Northern Fleet, while the remains of the Soviet nuclear fleet lie on the seabed Yet while pursuing a “clean” Arctic, the Kremlin has also been backing Arctic oil and gas development, which accounts for the majority of shipping on the Northern Sea Route. State-owned Gazprom built one of two growing oil and gas clusters on the Yamal peninsula, and this year the government cut taxes on new Arctic liquified natural gas projects to 0% to tap into some of the trillions of dollars of fossil fuel and mineral wealth in the region. And even as Putin cleans up the Soviet nuclear legacy in the far north, he is building a nuclear legacy of his own. A steady march of new nuclear icebreakers and, in 2019, the world’s only floating nuclear power plant has again made the Arctic the most nuclear waters on the planet. Meanwhile, the Northern Fleet is building at least eight submarines and has plans to construct several more, as well as eight missile destroyers and an aircraft carrier, all of them nuclear-powered. It has also been testing a nuclear-powered underwater drone and cruise missile. In total, there could be as many as 114 nuclear reactors in operation in the Arctic by 2035, almost twice as many as today, a 2019 Barents Observer study found. This growth has not gone without incident. In July 2019, a fire on a nuclear deep-sea submersible near Murmansk almost caused a “catastrophe of a global scale,” an officer reportedly said at the funeral of the 14 sailors killed. The next month, a “liquid-fuel reactive propulsion system” exploded during a test on a floating platform in the White Sea, killing two of those involved and briefly spiking radiation levels in the nearby city of Severodvinsk. By 2035, there could be as many as 114 nuclear reactors in the Arctic, the Barents Observer found - the Akademik Lomonosov floating power plant among them “The joint efforts of the international community including Norway and Russia after breakup of the Soviet Union, using taxpayer money to clean up nuclear waste, was a good investment in our fisheries,” says The Barents Observer’s Nilsen. “But today there are more and more politicians in Norway and Europe who think it’s a really big paradox that the international community is giving aid to secure the Cold War legacy while it seems Russia is giving priority to building a new Cold War.”As long as the civilian agency Rosatom is tasked with clean-up, the Russian military has little incentive to slow down this nuclear spree, Nilsen notes. “Who is going to pay for the clean-up of those reactors when they are not in use anymore?” he asks. “That is the challenge with today’s Russia, that the military don’t have to think what to do with the very, very expensive decommissioning of all this. “So while the coming nuclear clean-up is set to be the largest of its kind in history, it may turn out to be just a prelude to what’s needed to deal with the next wave of nuclear power in the Arctic.

 

The Venezuelan Navy’s Secret Submarine

Venezuela’s Navy has a diver transport submarine which is virtually unknown even in defense circles. The minisub is closely related to one recently tested by the U.S. Navy SEALs. Open source intelligence (OSINT) that I have seen strongly points to its presence in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. This is a sophisticated design with both civilian and military applications.  The minisub appears to be a VAS 525 model designed by GSE Trieste in Italy. Evidence of the vessel was unearthed by an OSINT researcher ‘sahureka’ who has a track record of unearthing fresh information on Latin American navies. The VAS 525 SL Mk2 version, which this is very similar to, is 23.9 feet long and about 6.9 feet across. Under the teardrop shaped composite outer shell is a strong steel pressure hull. Inside this it can transport a pilot and 5 passengers or 1,100 lb of payload. The largest VAS-525 variant can hold as many as 12 people, although this one is smaller. They can dive to depths of up to 525 feet (hence the name), which is deeper than many similar craft. Maximum speed is 6 knots (~7 mph). Some versions of the VAS 525 cannot operate divers because the cabin has to remain sealed at all times underwater. But other models, like this one appears to be, can. It will have a second lock-out chamber inside for up to three divers. This capability allows it, potentially, to be used as special forces transport. Or they could deliver divers to the site of underwater infrastructure such as internet cables. The VAS 525 was designed by the same engineers as the Button 5.60 used USSOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command). This was an experimental Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) for the U.S. Navy SEALs. The submersible, designated UOES-3 (User Operational Evaluation System-3) in U.S. service, was designed to conduct covert missions from a host submarine. It was much better optimized for the SEAL mission than the VAS-525 and was equipped with a range of ‘leading navy only’ technologies. The Venezuelan Navy submarine is closely related to the 'Button' minisub trialed by the U.S. Navy. As it turned out the Navy did not put this Button into service and instead adopted the larger British designed S351 DCS. But the trials Button 5.60 vehicle is now on display at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Florida. It gives us an idea of the design pedigree behind the Venezuelan sub. The Venezuelan vessel appears to have been under construction at UCOCAR (Naval Coordinator Unit of Navy Dry-dock Services) military shipyard in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Evidence suggests that it has been there since around 2015, but may now be in a finished state. t is unclear how UCOCAR obtained the plans to build the Italian submarine. One theory is that one was acquired by Corpoelec, the fully integrated state power corporation. This may have been before international sanctions against the regime came into effect. The president of Corpoelec was at a time Luis Motta Domínguez who was also a General in the Army. Corpoelec had a VAS-525 SL Mk2.Alternatively they may have acquired only the detailed plans. Or possibly a civilian copy on the second hand market. Whatever the route, Venezuela has at least one and may be able to put it into local production. The Venezuelan Navy (Armada Bolivariana de Venezuela) is normally listed as operating just two submarines. These German supplied Type-209 boats can carry the relatively modern Atlas Electronik SST-4 Seal wire-guided torpedo. But there is serious doubt that either of them is currently seaworthy. The minisub may therefore be the Venezuelan Navy’s only submarine.

The world’s biggest submarines

The Russian Navy's Typhoon Class submarine tops the list of the world's biggest submarines, closely followed by Russia's newest submarine the Borei Class, Oscar II Class, and the US Navy's enormous Ohio Class. Naval-technology.com profiles the world's biggest submarines, based on submerged displacement. (Last updated: June 2019)

 

Typhoon Class, Russia

The Typhoon has a submerged displacement of more than 48,000t and is the world’s biggest submarine class. It is a nuclear-powered submarine equipped with ballistic missiles. Dmitry Donskoy, the first of the six submarines in the class, was commissioned in 1981 and is still in active service with the Russian Navy. Typhoon Class submarines have a length of 175m, a 23m beam and a 12m draught. It is powered by two nuclear water reactors, two 50,000hp steam turbines and four 3,200KW turbogenerators. It can sail at a speed of 22.2kt on the surface and 27kt below water. Multiple pressure hulls make the Typhoon wider than any other submarine. Crew members can comfortably live aboard for as long as 120 days. The submarine carries 20 RSM-52 intercontinental three-stage solid propellant ballistic missiles capable of holding 100kt of nuclear warheads each. It is also equipped with six 533mm (21in) torpedo tubes and type 53 torpedoes.

 

Borei Class, Russia

The Borei Class ranks as the world’s second-biggest submarine, along with Oscar II Class. With a submerged displacement of 24,000t, it is a nuclear-powered missile carrying submarine serving the strategic naval forces of Russia.The first Borei Class submarine, Yury Dolgoruky, was inducted into the Pacific fleet of the Russian Navy in January 2013. It was designed by Rubin Design Bureau and constructed at a cost of $770m. Two more Borei Class submarines named Vladimir Monomakh and Knyaz Vladimir joined Yury Dolgoruky by late-2014.The 170m-long Borei Class has a 13.5m beam and a 10m draught. Its power plant consists of an OK-650 nuclear reactor, one steam turbine, and one shaft and propeller. It sails at a speed of 15kt on the surface and 29kt when submerged. The submerged endurance is dependent on the availability of food stores. The submarine carries 16 missiles and 45t Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The armoury also includes six multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle warheads, six 533mm torpedo tubes and RPK-2 Viyuga cruise missiles.

 

Project 949A Antey/Oscar II Class, Russia

The Project 949A Antey (Nato reporting name: Oscar II) class is a successor to the Oscar I class submarines. The Russian Navy currently operates four Oscar II submarines, while four more are being converted into the 949AM standard to integrate 3M54 Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles. The third-generation nuclear-powered submarines feature a double hull divided into ten major compartments. Each 155m-long and 18m-wide boat has a submerged displacement of 24,000t. The Project 949A submarines are armed with 24 P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles and six torpedo tubes while the 949AM submarines can carry 3M54 Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles. The Oscar II Class is powered by two pressurised water-cooled reactors and two steam turbines. The propulsion system ensures a surface speed of 15kt and a maximum speed of 32kt when submerged.

 

Ohio Class, US

The Ohio Class submarine is the fourth biggest in the world. The US Navy operates 18 Ohio class nuclear-powered submarines, which are the biggest submarines ever built for the US. Each sub has a submerged displacement of 18,750t. The first submarine of the class, USS Ohio was built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton. It was commissioned into service in November 1981. All the other submarines were named after the US States, except USS Henry M. Jackson, which was named after a US senator. Each Ohio Class submarine has a length of 170m, a 13m beam and a 10.8m draught. The gliding speed on the surface is 12kt and underwater is 20kt. The submarine class includes one S8G pressurised water reactor, two geared turbines, one auxiliary 242kW diesel motor and one shaft with a seven-bladed screw. The submarine is capable of carrying 24 Trident missiles. The armament also includes four 53cm Mark 48 torpedo tubes.

 

Delta Class, Russia

Delta Class is a large ballistic missile submarine constructed by Severodvinsk. The Delta Class includes Delta I, II, III and IV sub-classes. The submerged displacement of the Delta IV submarine is 18,200t. The first Delta Class submarine was commissioned into service in 1976. Delta Class III and IV submarines are currently in operation with the Russian Navy. Five Delta III and six Delta IV submarines are currently active. The submarine has a length of 166m, a beam of 12.3m and draught of 8.8m. The power plant includes two pressurised water-cooled reactors and two steam turbines driving two five-bladed fixed-pitched shrouded propellers. The submerged speed of the submarine is 24kt.The armoury includes D-9D launch tubes for 16 R-29D SLBMs, four 533mm and two 400mm torpedo tubes.

 

Vanguard Class, UK

The Vanguard Class has a submerged displacement of 15,900t, making it the sixth biggest submarine in the world. The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine is in service with the UK’s Royal Navy. The class consists of four submarines, namely Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance. The submarines were built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering. The first sub in the class, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned in 1993. All the submarines are based at HM Naval Base Clyde, which is located 40km west of Glasgow, in Scotland. The Vanguard Class submarines are 149.9m-long and have a beam of 12.8m and a draught of 12m. Its main machinery includes one pressurised water reactor supplied by Rolls-Royce, two 20.5MW turbines manufactured by GEC, two auxiliary retractable propulsion motors and one shaft pump jet propulsor. Two turbo generators and two diesel alternators are also installed aboard. The submarine is armed with 16 Trident II missiles and four 533mm torpedo tubes. It has a submerged speed of 25kt.

 

Triomphant Class, France

The 14,335t (submerged displacement) Triomphant Class is currently the seventh biggest submarine in the world. The nuclear ballistic missile submarine serves the French Navy and is part of the French Navy’s nuclear deterrent strike force. The class includes four submarines, namely Le Triomphant, Téméraire, Vigilant and Terrible. The lead submarine was commissioned into the French Navy in 1997. Each submarine has a length of 138m, a beam of 12.50m and a draught of 10. 60m.The propulsion system includes a pressurised water K15 nuclear reactor, two SEMT Pielstick diesel-alternators, a turbo reductor system and 8PA4V200 SM auxiliary motors. The surface speed is 25kt.The submarine is armed with 16 M45 intermediate-range missiles. The weaponry also includes TN 75-tipped missiles, four 533mm torpedo tubes and F17 torpedoes.

 

Akula Class, Russia

The Akula Class is a nuclear-powered attack submarine with a submerged displacement of 13,800t. It includes ten submarines, of which nine are in the Russian Navy’s service and one in the Indian Navy’ service. The first sub in the class, Akula, was commissioned into the Soviet Navy in 1984.The submarine features a double hull composed of an inner pressure hull and an outer light hull. It is 110m in length, has a beam of 13.6m and draught of 9.7m. The surface speed of the sub is 10kt, while the submerged speed is 35kt. The submerged endurance is 100 days. Its main machinery includes one pressurised water nuclear reactor, one steam turbine and two turbo generators rated at 2,000KW. The propulsion system includes one seven-bladed propeller and one retractable electric propulsor for reduced speed cruising. He submarine can be armed with up to 12 submarine-launched cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads up to a range of 3,000km. The armament also includes four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes.

 

Yasen/Graney Class, Russia

The Project 885 Yasen, also known as the Graney class, is a series of new nuclear-powered submarines being built for the Russian Navy. The first submarine in class, Severodvinsk (K-329) entered service with the Russian Navy in 2013 while six more boats are under development. The Yasen class features a single hull made of low magnetic steel, which reduces magnetic signature. The submarine has a submerged displacement 13,800t, while its length and beam are 139m and 15m respectively. The weapon systems aboard the submarine include submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM), long-range supersonic anti-ship missiles (ASM), anti-submarine missiles, torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets and mines. Powered by a KPM type pressurised water reactor and a steam turbine, the Yasen class submarine attains a maximum submerged speed of 35kt and a surface speed of 20kt.

 

Sierra Class, Russia

The Sierra Class with a submerged displacement of 10,400t ranks as the world's eighth biggest submarine. Four Sierra submarines are currently in service with the Russian Navy. Sierra II, an improved version of the class, entered into service in 1990.he Sierra Class submarines are built with light and strong titanium pressure hull, which allows the submarine to reach greater depths and reduces the level of radiated noise. It also increases resistance to torpedo attacks. The submarine has a length of 111m and beam of 14.2m. The main equipment includes one pressurised water nuclear reactor, two emergency motors, one shaft and two spinners. The submerged speed is 32kt.The assault equipment includes four 650mm torpedo tubes, four 530mm torpedo tubes, SS-N-21 Sampson SLCM, SS-N-15 Starfish anti-submarine weapon, SS-N-16 Stallion and 42 mines.

 

USS Parche: This Submarine Spied on the Soviet Union in Their Own Backyard

It also carried a deadly secret that many have forgotten. The USS Parche—pronounced Par-chee—remains the U.S. Navy’s most decorated vessel ever in American service. The USS Parche, commissioned in 1974, originally began life as a Sturgeon-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine. After serving for several years in that role, The Parche was selected for a different, more specialized role of top-secret reconnaissance. What would be the submarine’s target? The Soviet Union’s underwater communications cables. In that role, the USS Parche was modified several times to allow the sub greater maneuverability and to make space onboard for extra communications equipment, cameras, thrusters, landing skids, and additional sonar arrays. The enormous amount of observation equipment that the Parche carried came at a cost, however. Almost all of the submarine’s torpedoes were removed to create extra space onboard—leaving the submarine with a paltry four shots for defense in case of detection. Like other Navy submarines tasked with clandestine wiretapping missions, the Parche carried a secret. In the event that the Parche was in danger of being captured by the Soviet Union, the submarine carried 150 pounds of HBX explosives onboard—a last resort scuttling charge that would preserve the submarine’s secrets and cost all the submariners’ their lives. Perhaps the most significant (known) mission that the Parche took part in was the clandestine tapping of a Soviet underseas communication cable in the Sea of Okhotsk. The cable, running along the ocean floor, connected one of the Soviet Pacific Fleet’s bases at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east, with the Fleet’s headquarters in Vladivostok. The cable would be a tough nut to crack. Not only was it within Soviet territorial waters, it was also protected by an array of acoustic listening devices that could detect surface ships and submarines. The Sea of Okhotsk also hosted Soviet Navy drills on occasion, complicating efforts to penetrate the area. Despite the challenges, a large wiretap recording device was successfully planted in 1971 by a different espionage submarine, the USS Halibut. Once the Halibut was decommissioned, however, the Parche became one of the submarines that took over the wiretapping and recording device recovery role. Parche was never detected. The USS Parche also took part in cable detection and tapping operations near the North Pole and in the Barents Sea. Parche would win a staggering amount of honors, including ten Presidential Unit Citations, nine Navy Unit Citations, and thirteen Expeditionary Awards. After thirty years of continuous service, the USS Parche was decommissioned in 2004 and scrapped two years later. It is likely that the special spy role conducted by the Parche has since been taken over by the USS Jimmy Carter, a modified Seawolf-class submarine. Today, the USS Parche’s sail is preserved and on display near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington.

 

 

Russia moves to a redefined underwater warfare capability

Russia's two newest special-purpose submarines, the Belgorod and the Khabarovsk, could redefine underwater warfare when they within some years sail out from the shipyard in Severodvinsk. It was the first major Northern Fleet exercise in more than ten years, supposed to show the world how Russia’s post-Soviet navy was still capable of flashing muscles, at least in home-waters. But a failed launch of a torpedo instead proved the state of the ill-fated nuclear submarine force. August 12, 2000 became the saddest day in the modern history of the Northern Fleet. The entire world could for two weeks in August 2000 watch live on TV how the one rescue effort followed by the other failed. None of the 116 crew members and two weapons experts onboard survived. It all started earlier that year. Acting President Vladimir Putin won the 2000 Presidential election on March 26. Shortly after, on April 6, Putin went to the Northern fleet’s main base Severomorsk where he embarked the strategic nuclear-powered missiles submarine Karelia and set off for the Barents Sea. He spent the night onboard, watched the launching of a Sineva intercontinental missile and praised the submarine fleet as the mainstay of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Also, the president made clear Russian submarines again should sail the world’s oceans, after mainly staying in their ports during the 90ties.Following the April instructions of the president, the Northern fleet started to prepare for the largest naval exercise in years. Kursk – the Oscar-II class submarine carrying cruise-missiles and torpedoes, was supposed to have a special role; first to participate in the August Barents Sea exercise; thereafter to sail to the Mediterranean to show the world that the Russian navy no longer stays in port. Kursk never made it to the Mediterranean. She sank northeast of Murmansk in the Barents Sea after a torpedo explosions onboard. First 48 hours later, in the morning on August 14th, the first news about the ill-fated submarine was released. First, the Russian Northern fleet didn’t want any rescue assistance from abroad. When it became clear that their mini-rescue submarine was not able to operate properly, assistance from Norway and Great Britain was accepted. The following Russian, Norwegian, British rescue operation became ad-hoc, learning by doing while fighting against the clock.  Seven days after the sinking, Norwegian divers finally were able to open the rear hatch. No air bubbles came out. The entire hull was filled with water. There were no survivors. Putin himself chose not to return from his summer residence by the Black Sea before it became clear that there were no survivors. When he first appeared in Vidyayevo, the homeport of Kursk on the Kola Peninsula, the president was bashed for his alleged mishandling of the disaster. Putin learned something about live TV-broadcast that day in Vidyayevo.Kursk was one of four Oscar-II class nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines sailing for the Northern Fleet. The three others, the Voronezh, Smolensk and Orel are still in operation. Construction of a fifth Oscar-II submarine, the Belgorod, was put on hold three years before Kursk sank. In September 2000, though, it was decided to resume construction, but little happened as the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk was out of money and Moscow had little to offer. The Belogorod was at the time 75 percent ready. In 2012, it was decided to convert the submarine to be of the Project 09852, a super secret vessel to sail for GUGI, Russia’s military Main Directorate for Deep-Sea Research. GUGI vessels are based in Olenya Bay on the Kola Peninsula and in Severodvinsk by the White Sea. When launched from the ship-house in April 2019, The Barents Observer reported the 184 meters long Belgorod to be the world’s longest submarine. More interesting is the missions she will sail. The extra space in the prolonged hull has room to carry equipment for deep-sea operations, like small-sized nuclear-reactors aimed to provide power to secret military installations on the Arctic Sea bed. Underneath the hull, mini-submarines like the Losharik or other spy-submarines can be attached. Surrounded by secrecy, it is also said the Belgorod will carry six of the terrifying Poseidon drones, a doomsday weapon the world has never seen before. Poseidon is also the common denominator between the Belgorod and the next proto-type submarine currently under construction in Severodvinsk, the Khabarovsk (Project 09835). Expected to be launched later this year, she is the first of a whole new category of submarines. Underwater warfare specialist H I Sutton, who runs the Covert Shores web portal, describes the new vessel to likely be the defining submarine of the 2020s because it represents a novel and difficult adversary.“The Russian Navy is quietly developing a whole new category of submarines, and their unique capabilities could influence the nature of undersea warfare,” he writes in an analytic article published by Forbes. No photos of the Khabarovsk has appeared in public domains, but drawings suggest the new submarine has a hull based on the existing ballistic missile carriers of the Borey-class. While not carrying ballistic nuclear missiles, the vessel will carry the Poseidon nuclear-powered drone. Six of them, if public available suggestions are correct.“Unless there is a change in Russian plans, Khabarovsk will likely be a new focus of Western anti-submarine warfare for the next decade, in particular the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy, whose nuclear submarine fleets have a long tradition of stalking Russian boats,” Sutton writes. He added: “The Poseidon-armed boats will present new challenges to these hunters.” Two more submarines of the Project 09835 are planned. TASS, a Russia state-affiliated news-agency, reported the Poseidon drone to be able to carry a nuclear warhead with a capacity of up to 2 megatons to destroy enemy naval bases.The drone is reportedly capable of diving to 1,000 meters and due to its reactor-propulsion it has an inter-oceanic range. With Poseidon, Russia’s nuclear deterrent gets a new leg. It was a torpedo that caused the sinking of the Kursk. The worse-case consequences of a major accident when test-exercising with a Poseidon carrying nuclear submarine in northern waters is maybe unimaginable. And be sure, the lessons of secrecy by the military during the days of the Kursk disaster are not gone. Last year’s fatal accidents with the nuclear-powered Losharik submarine and the Burevestnik missile clearly showed what can be expected.

 

How a $2.9 Billion Dollar Submarine Was Crippled for a Year: An Open Hatch

The brand new Indian $2.9 billion submarine was left completely inoperative for nearly a year after a hatch was left open, which allowed seawater to rush in, almost sinking the boat. Since their inception submarines have been called a “steel tomb” due to the inherent dangers involved in their routine operations. It almost seems unnatural to design a boat that would travel under the water’s surface, and that is why it took a brave type of sailor to volunteer for such duty. During the American Civil War, the CSS Hunley became the first “successful” submarine in that it could effectively submerge yet had problems surfacing—and sadly that cost the lives of its entire crew. During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy suffered a number of submarine accidents, with many being due to fires; while one particular accident involving the K-431 was later revealed to be due to mishandling of the boat’s nuclear rods, which were lifted too high into the air. That resulted in a reactor achieving critical mass, followed by a chain reaction and explosion. Other accidents have been what can only be described as “human error” of the most extreme kind. A German Type VIIC submarine sank on its maiden voyage during World War II because the boat’s new deepwater high-pressure toilet was used “improperly,” by the captain no less! Yet, none of those mishaps compares to what happened to INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, in 2017. The brand new $2.9 billion submarine was left completely inoperative for nearly a year after a hatch was left open, which allowed seawater to rush in, almost sinking the boat. The nuclear submarine was the first of an expected five in class, designed and constructed as part of the Indian Navy’s Advanced Technology Vessel project. The Arihant was designed with four launch tubes that could carry a dozen K-15 short-range missiles or K-4 intermediate-range nuclear missiles. While the subs were advanced the training of the crew certainly wasn’t.  Moreover, the Arihant faced a number of problems from the start, and this included delays in its construction and notably major differences between the Russian-supplied design and the fabrication. Those were all minor of course compared to the damage that occurred from human error.  That resulted in a hatch that was left open by mistake while the boat was in the harbor, and in addition to filling the propulsion compartments with seawater, there was substantial damage to the pipes that ran through the submarine. Given how corrosive seawater can be the various pipes, including those that carry pressurized water coolant to and from the ship’s eighty-three-megawatt nuclear reactor, all had to be cut out and replaced. The six-thousand-ton INS Arihant remained out of service at the docks while the water was pumped out, and the pipes replaced. The entire process took ten months. Its absence was first noted in the Doklam border standoff with China in the summer of 2017—and the Indian military only confirmed that the submarine had undergone repairs in early 2018.  As mishaps go the Arihant may have been among the more embarrassing but at least it didn’t result in the loss of life. 

 

Giant Narco Submarine Discovery.

A narco submarine recently discovered in the Colombian jungle is the largest in recent years, and in design terms, it’s probably the ultimate threat facing the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard’s Enhanced Counter-Narcotics Operations. It represents a scaling-up of the current design trends and balances simplicity and cost effectiveness with survivability. It is likely to be more stealthy, and thus harder to interdict, than most others. Yet there was one found in 2000 that was even more impressive in scale and sophistication. Law enforcement are careful not to glorify narco submarines, but there is a certain begrudging respect for their designers. The largest and most innovative narco subs are an object of natural curiosity. Some, like the two discussed in this article, are engineering marvels. (Many are not.) On September 7, 2000, a narco sub was found in a workshop in the center of Colombia, hundreds of miles from the ocean. It was, and remains, the most elaborate and impressive narco submarine ever built. At least, that we know of. It was discovered nearly complete in workshops in Facatativá, Colombia. Reportedly the authorities had suspected an illegal gas clinger operation and were astonished to discover a submarine. When finished it would have been approximately 120 feet long and capable of carrying 150 tons of cocaine. This is an order of magnitude more than any other known narco-sub. Its defining characteristic was that it was a ‘proper submarine’ made in a similar way to Navy boats. Most narco submarines are actually low profile vessels (LPVs) meaning that although they are very low in the water, they don’t fully submerge. This one could. Intriguingly its design had the hallmarks of Russian engineers. The latest example, discovered in the jungle by the Colombian Navy, is much simpler than the Facatativá sub. It is a LPV, but uses the VSV (very slender vessel) layout. This means that it is only about a tenth as wide as it is long. Combined with its inboard mounted engine it is likely to be more stealth than most other narco-submarines out there. At least the ones that get interdicted. There are several advantages of the newer layout compared to the Facatativá design. They are cheaper to build and can be constructed in makeshift ‘artisan’ boatyards hacked out of the jungle. Because they don’t fully submerge they can be crewed by fishermen. A true submarine by comparison requires properly trained crew. And while they may not be as stealthy as true submarines, they are evidently good enough because it has to be reasoned that most get through. So while the latest giant isn’t the biggest or most sophisticated ever, it is a standout example which will have the Coast Guard and Navy thinking. What else is out there?

 

K13 submarine tragedy revealed

ONE of the saddest events in the history of the Gareloch is the K13 submarine disaster, which took place on January 29 1917. The vessel was taking part in its final sea trials when seawater entered its engine room, causing an explosion. Among the 32 men who died were workers from Fairfields shipyard in Govan, which had built the vessel. There are three well-known accounts of the tragedy, but now a new account from a different perspective has come to light. James Citrine was a salvage diver employed by the Liverpool Salvage Association from 1881-1921, and he played an important part in the successful rescue of the survivors. There was a submarine built for the British K Class, K13. She was the latest in submarines and could steam on the surface at 24 knots and submerge at 15 knots. This class of submarine is built to sail with the fleet. This K13 had been put through her trials by the builders, and everything found to be satisfactory, then she was turned over to the Admiralty. Some of the builders stayed on board whilst she was being tested by the Admiralty folk. She was put in the charge of Commander Godfrey Herbert, a very fine fellow, with Commander Francis Goodhart, second in command. Everything was ready for K13 to be submerged, but before this took place they should have pressed a button which would have closed four mushroom ventilators. When the sub is rising to the surface and her deck above water, the button is pressed to open the vent which allows a current of fresh air to enter, but someone omitted to close them before she submerged, and she was filled with water from the conning tower aft. Watertight doors were closed forward so that no water entered that end of the vessel, but the men who were in the aft end, both builders and Admiralty men, were all drowned. Commanders Herbert and Goodhart were in the forward end, where there was no water. Divers were sent down to ascertain if the men were alive or not. They knocked with a hammer on both sides of the aft end of the vessel but got no response. It was not until they got to the forward end of the conning tower they got a reply. A diver went up to report that someone was alive. The next thing was to find out the best way to get these men out alive. This incident had taken place on the Monday morning, and by Tuesday evening, Commander Herbert told Commander Goodhart that he had decided the best thing to do was for one of them to be shot out from the conning tower to the surface. Commander Goodhart immediately volunteered, but he never reached the surface. Over the conning tower there was a navigation house. This is for sailing on the surface and contained a steering wheel and compass. Commander Herbert shot out Commander Goodhart through the conning tower, but he struck the top of the navigation house, and there he died. We got him out the next day. All that day, Herbert waited for some response from the surface and, getting none, shot himself out — but with less pressure of air behind him that Goodhart had. He made for the door of the navigation house and so got to the surface from about 14 fathoms of water, and we picked him up on the surface. He told us what, in his opinion, was the best way to save the men still imprisoned in the sub. She had on her deck a cock through which she took in her oil fuel supply. I took down a flexible pipe and placed it over the cock. She also had two periscopes, one for looking for aircraft with glass on the top and the other with glass on the side for observing ships on the surface. That night, after dark, Herbert got a Morse lamp and signalled through the water a message to the men inside the sub to remove the cock over which we had put the pipe. Meanwhile, a message had been sent for help, and two lifting vessels were sent which placed 29 wires around the forward end of the sub and lifted it out of the water on end. The aft end was then still in 14 fathoms of water An acetylene burner was used to burn a hole three feet square over where the men were imprisoned. It was midnight on the Wednesday when the men were brought out alive one at a time, about 36 men in all. A plate of iron with rubber joints was then placed over the hole, making it watertight, and then bolted down. The sub was then allowed to sink to the bottom again. Divers drilled holes in the side of the sub, put one pipe inside so that it touched the floor, making the joint watertight, then put another hole in and tapped the steel plating. On this we put a pipe and took both ends of the pipe to the surface. We had two crafts afloat with a steam air compressor on each. The pipe that was tapped in the steel plating on the sub was then attached to the air compressor, and the force of air going into the sub forced the water that was in her up the other pipe and it discharged on the surface. This was done all the way above the sub in all the sections of her so that finally she emptied herself of water and came to the surface in quick time. The next thing was to get out the men who had been drowned. We got them all out, about 28 or 30, and put the bodies in vessels that had been sent down from the Clyde. They were all taken away and buried somewhere on the banks of the Clyde. It was a sad job and I hope I never see anything like it again. We then made her fit to go back to the builders yard, and they took charge of her. She is now called the K22, not the K13.

 

Narco Submarine Challenge In Atlantic Ocean

Narco submarines are commonly associated with the Pacific and Caribbean. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have interdicted many loaded with tons of drugs destined for North America. Then last November the first documented ‘transatlantic’ narco-submarine reached European shores. It is unlikely that it was the first — only the first to get caught. European navies, police, customs, and coast guard units lack experience with narco submarines and may be ill-prepared to counter them. And it may be a U.S. problem, too. European law enforcement units are used to cocaine being smuggled in shipping containers, or in hidden compartments aboard vessels, as well as parasitic narco-torpedoes, which are containers attached to the underside of merchant vessels. But they have not, until now, had to seriously consider narco subs.Narco submarines are purpose-built drug smuggling vessels which evade capture by being extremely hard to see. Most are not true submarines because they cannot fully submerge. But the term ‘narco submarine’ is useful in describing these deliberately stealthy craft. Narco submarines are a major focus of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard efforts in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean. Nearly 200 have been interdicted there since 2005 by U.S. forces and their international partners. The latest example, found by the Colombian Navy in an artisan boat yard hacked out of the jungle, is significant in two ways. Firstly it was very large, comparable to the most impressive ones found to date. This reinforces the existing evidence that they can be built for extremely long range missions. And secondly, based on analysis of design features, I am confident that it was designed by the same ‘master boat builder’ who built the transatlantic one. So the connection between the American narco submarine phenomenon and Europe is undeniable. To counter narco submarines European forces may need to invest in new equipment, new training and patrol routines. A lot can be learned from the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) efforts in Latin America. There a range of intelligence platforms cue Navy destroyers and Coast Guard cutters to interdict the narco submarine. They are then boarded. However the nature of the Atlantic will likely change some aspects. I spoke to a consultant from ACK3, a Spanish company specializing in defense, intelligence and security consulting which advises European and Latin American military and law enforcement units. They point out that the sea conditions in the Atlantic will often make boarding more challenging. The single reported example of a transatlantic narco submarine was sailing in November, a winter month in the North Atlantic. The law enforcement units involved will need training and tools to access the crew compartment quickly and safely. ACK3 suggests that the crews may be more likely to scuttle the narco submarine when faced with European law enforcement. Currently in SOUTHCOM’s area of operations it is illegal to even crew a narco submarine so there is no real advantage in sinking the boat. But in Europe it could mean walking free due to lack of evidence that there were narcotics aboard. This means that finding a way to stop the vessel from being deliberately sunken may become more important. Tracking devices or continuous surveillance by drones and aircraft may also be used instead. This may be safer and could lead to a bigger bust down the road. An additional challenge is that the transatlantic narco submarines may not be destined to land on European shores directly. Instead they may rendezvous with other boats or ships which then deliver the payload. For example, they may sail from Brazil to Cape Verde Islands or the Azores and transfer the cargo to a ship destined for Europe. If that vessel was coming from a low-risk port, for example in Canada, it may get less customs attention when it arrives. No one would suspect that it met a narco-sub along the way. By comparison another ship sailing from Latin America may already be on a list to be inspected before it even arrives. And if a narco submarine can reach the Azores and trans-ship the illicit cargo to another ship, then another possibility opens up. Maybe they could load it onto a ship sailing from Europe to the United States?

 

South Korea Is Packing Submarines With Rockets For Taking Out North Korea’s Nukes

As part of a sweeping, five-year defense plan costing $250 billion, Seoul plans to develop a new class of attack submarine carrying non-nuclear ballistic missiles. Conventional ballistic missiles are a rarity on submarines. For land-attack missions, most navies arm their undersea boats with cruise missiles, as cruise missiles are more accurate—albeit slower and less powerful—than ballistic missiles are. But Seoul has some, ahem, unique defense needs owing to the presence on its border of a heavily-armed and belligerent nuclear state. South Korea’s submarines and their hard-hitting ballistic missiles give the country some ability to prevent a north Korean attack. The South Korea fleet boasts an impressive 16 submarines, with more on the way. There are eight Jang Bogo-class vessels—variants of the German Type 209—plus nine Son Won IIs based on Germany’s Type 214.A new class is under construction. At around 3,600 tons of displacement, the four Dosan Ahn Changhos each is around twice as large as the older submarines are. That extra displacement makes room for vertical-launch tubes that are compatible with cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The South Korean defense ministry since the 1980s has been developing the Hyunmoo ballistic missile for non-nuclear attacks. A land-based version already is in service. A naval version with a range as far as 500 miles is in the works. As many as six of the submarine-launched ballistic missiles could fit in a Dosan Ahn Chanhgo.The SLBMs are for short-notice “kill chain” attacks on North Korea’s own ballistic missiles. “Should a [North Korean] attack become apparent, kill chain calls for the employment of strike assets to destroy North Korea’s nuclear, missile and long-range artillery facilities,” the Washington, D.C. Center for Strategic and International Studies noted. If South Korean intelligence detected North Korean rockets deploying, perhaps for a nuclear strike, Seoul’s submarines could attack—preemptively. “The SLBM may lack the accuracy of the [submarine-launched cruise missile], which is equipped with a [sophisticated] guidance system,” retired South Korean navy rear admiral Kim Hyeok-soo said. But “its velocity and destructive capability are significantly greater.’“The deployment of the speedy and stealthy SLBM will allow the South Korean navy to deliver a blow to North Korea before the situation even escalates to emergency levels,” Kim explained. So important is this kill-chain doctrine to South Korea that the government is doubling down on it. The new five-year defense plan includes another submarine class with even greater rocket-capacity than the Dosan Ahn Chanhgo has.“We have in mind 3,600- and 4,000-ton submarines for development, much more advanced than the ones in operation now,” a senior defense ministry official told The Korea Herald. The first Dosan Ahn Chanhgo is on track to commission in 2022. The new, larger submarines could follow in the late 2020s.

 

Ghost Gliders: Spanish Narco-Submarines

We tend to think of (so-called) narco-submarines as a Latin American phenomenon. Properly speaking they are LPVs (Low Profile Vessels); alternatively SPSS (Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible—I do not use this term). Locally in Latin America they are known as ‘narcosubmarinos’ or ‘semisumergibles.’ Now we have another Spanish name to add to the list, ‘planeadora fantasma,’ meaning ‘Ghost Glider.’ This is because narco-submarines are not confined to the Americas. Similar methods being used elsewhere, most noticeably in Spain. The most widely reported Spanish narco-submarine (and I use this colloquial term unapologetically), was found coast. The 72 feet long craft was large and carried over 3 tons of narcotics, but it was otherwise like the ones found in the Pacific or Caribbean. In contrast, the one found in the same area on 13 August 2006 was completely unique. And the same can be said of the latest ‘Ghost Glider,' found on 27 August 2020. The basic difference is that the November 2019 boat was built in Latin America while the other two were built in Spain. Different ideas, conditions and modus operandi have led to different approaches in design.

 

An elaborate artisan submarine was found abandoned off Spain's Galician coast near Vigo on 13 August 2006. This is about the time that narco-submarines, as we would recognize them today, were beginning to be interdicted in Latin America. It was a FSV (fully submersible vessel), 36ft (11 meters) long and 6.5ft (2 meters) across. And unlike LPVs, was able to fully submerge, down to a depth of about 10ft (3 meters). Underwater it was powered by batteries driving two electric motors. And it had over 1,000 gallons of fuel for surface running. It was estimated to be capable to carrying about 1 ton of cargo. Other aspects were also relatively advanced, including a folding snorkel mast and radar antenna. Despite its sophistication there is no suggestion that this tiny craft was suitable for transatlantic voyages. More likely it was intended to rendezvous with another ship offshore, pick up the drugs and transport them back to the Spanish shore. A regular LPV of the style we see in Latin America. There is compelling evidence that this was designed by the same master boat builder who is responsible for several others. Design details, such as a small splitter plate ahead of the cockpit windows and the V-shaped hull, create a ‘designer’s fingerprint’. This allows us to tie together multiple incidents. The first LPV from this designer was interdicted by the Colombian Navy on 3 January 2019. Since then at least four more have been found, the most recent being found in its jungle boat yard on 6 August 2020. This last one was unusually large, being about 100 feet (30 meters) long. In fact all of the LPVs attributed to this unknown master boat builder stand out against their peers. But we should not make too much of the particular designer. If the 2019 narco-submarine could cross the Atlantic, virtually any large LPV could. In overall terms it was not remarkable. This should be more alarming to Law Enforcement than if it was in some way special. Current thinking, based on publicly available information, is that it was built in the Colombian jungle near the inland border with Brazil. It then sailed all the way down the Amazon to the coast before setting off across the Atlantic. It went via the Azores before heading towards Galicia. This latest craft sits between the go-fast vessel (GFV) category and LPVs. Again, it is a unique design unlike those seen in Latin America. It takes a power boat hull, adds a hard RIB collar and then a built-up covered superstructure. It is not currently—based on public sources—possible to say how low it sat in the water. Possibly the collar was part of a ballast system. However we can say that it was intended to avoid detection, hence ‘ghost glider’. It was painted in a way that appears intended to deceive any observers. The term ‘planeadora’ refers to a speed boat, and ‘planeadora fantasma’ has previously been used to describe the custom go-fast vessels also used off Spain. These craft are often RIBs and several have been specially modified for the task. Most famously the massive 59ft (18 m) seven engine ‘Monstruo’ stopped in 2009. This latest vessel is about 39 ft (12 meters) long and could possibly carry a few tons of cocaine. The extensive grab rails and aft-sloping cargo hatch suggest that it is designed to be loaded at sea, which makes sense. So like the 2006 Vigo submarine, it is likely intended to meet other ships offshore and then bring the drugs ashore. It could easy be put into the GFV category instead. But its elaborate construction and emphasis on deception (as opposed to raw speed) makes a strong case for it being a narco-submarine. It is certainly not just a typical GFV. The Spanish narco-submarine traffic appears to be centered, on Galician drug gangs. This may be skewed by reported incidents, but all three have been discovered in Galicia in the North of Spain. Portugal, Ireland, France and the United Kingdom also appear to be logical landing points. My suggestion is that the Cape Verde Islands and Azores are stopping off points for transatlantic narco-submarines. They likely meet supply vessels in the area. ACK 3, a Spanish company specializing in defense, intelligence and security consulting which advises European and Latin American military and law enforcement units suggests that language may be a factor. Brazilian crews can communicate with the local population on these islands using Portuguese. Some of the transatlantic narco-subs may transship their cargo to other vessels along the way. Trawlers operating out of Spain seem the most obvious candidates. But I have not seen any information in the public domain to substantiate this theory. Another possibility is that the drugs are transferred to large cargo vessels heading to Northern Europe or even to North America. These vessels may be coming from a low-risk port so not be tainted in the way that a cargo ship crossing from Latin America might be. So we can speculate that a Latin American built LPV could set off from Brazil (or Venezuela, Suriname or Guyana) and rendezvouses with a cargo ship off Cape Verde or the Azores. The cargo would be transshipped and the cargo vessel (or fishing vessel) heads north towards Europe. Off the Portuguese or Spanish coast, while still out at sea, it is met by a ‘ghost glider’ like the one seized in August 2020. The transshipping can occur at night, and the drugs are landed in a remote beach in Galicia. Local drugs gangs may only be able to control access to the landing point for a few hours. So some of the drugs may be dropped in pre-determined lurks awaiting retrieval by scuba divers at a later time. It seems that it is now a case of when, rather than if, another transatlantic narco- submarine appears. And even if none are interdicted, it seems a sure bet that they are out there. And together with ‘ghost gliders’ and less exotic means, drugs trafficking organizations are still able to land their products on European shores. The narco-submarine model for cocaine trafficking presents European law enforcement with a number of challenges. Detection, tracking and interdiction may all be different compared to the Pacific and Caribbean. And the vast expanse of ocean, often in harsh weather, may stretch existing patrol forces; however, SIGINT, UAVs and new satellite technology such as the Hawkeye 360 constellation may prove powerful tools.

 

The Many Methods Of Communicating With Submarines

It sometimes seems hard to believe that we humans have managed to explore so little of what we have so much of: the seas. Oceans cover something like 70 percent of the world’s surface, but we’ve only mapped 20 percent of the ocean floor. The 228,000 ocean-dwelling species that we know about represents about ten percent of the estimated total aquatic species. And almost all the life we know about, and the area that we’ve explored thoroughly, is limited to the first few hundred meters from the surface. The paucity of our deep-water investigatory efforts has a lot to do with the hostility of the sea to those who haven’t evolved to survive in it. It takes extreme engineering and fantastically expensive machines to live and work even a few meters down, and even then submariners quickly become completely isolated from the rest of the world once they’re down there. Underwater communication is particularly challenging, since the properties of seawater confound efforts to use it as a communications medium. Challenging though it may be, underwater communication is possible, and in this article we’ll take a look at a few modalities that have made operating under the sea possible, and a new technology that might just extend the Internet below the waves. For most of the early years of the Silent Service, once a submarine was submerged, it was on its own. For the submarines and U-boats of World War I, this fact was of little practical consequence since these boats operated mainly as surface vessels, submerging only to attack or to evade pursuit. There was little need for command authorities to contact them during the small fraction of time they were submerged, and as they mostly operated alone and attacked on the captain’s initiative. Later in the century, as submarine tactics morphed into “Wolf Pack” attacks, the need for underwater communications between boats to coordinate attacks became clear. U-boat and submarine captains depended on their high frequency (HF) radios to communicate between boats in the pack and coordinate their attacks on convoys, but this could expose them to detection by opposing forces using radio direction-finding gear, and since they needed to be surfaced to use their radios, they were easy pickings for surface vessels and aircraft. One of the earliest modes of underwater communication that the US Navy fielded was the AN/BQC-1 Underwater Telephone. This was a battery-powered and completely portable device that was used by surface vessels to communicate with submerged submarines, and for subs to communicate with each other. Commonly referred to as the “Gertrude”, the device was self-contained except for the hull-mounted transducer. The base unit had a telephone handset for voice communications between units; in addition, the Gertrude could be made to emit a 24.26 kHz audio tone to call to other vessels operating sonar sets using that frequency. To transmit voice, the Gertrude used a modulation method that’s familiar to amateur radio operators: single-sideband. Just like radio waves, an acoustic carrier wave can be amplitude modulated. In the case of the Gertrude, the carrier wave was anywhere from 8.3375 kHz to 11.0875 kHz, and just like in radio, the receiver and transmitter had to be tuned to the same carrier frequency. On the transmitter side, the AM signal was filtered to remove the carrier wave and one of the sidebands, leaving a single-sideband signal that was applied to the transducer. The receiver demodulated the SSB signal with the standard product detector and beat-frequency oscillator arrangement, very similar to that used in SSB radio signals but at different frequencies. The AN/BQC-1 Gertrude remained in service through the end of World War II and into the Cold War era. A more powerful unit, the AN/WQC-2, was put into service in 1945 and some version of the technology remains in almost every US Navy vessel to this day. Modern underwater telephones still use the SSB modulation scheme and still support the frequencies that were established by the Navy for the original Gertrude, even if the electronics behind it all has changed vastly over the intervening decades. As useful as they are, acoustic underwater telephones have limited capabilities. The range on acoustic telephones is limited; the AN/BQC-1 was best used for voice comms at less than 500 yards (365 m), although its 24.26 kHz ping could reach out to ten times that distance. Acoustic waves are subject to all the same vagaries of propagation as radio waves are, with reflections off solid surfaces and diffraction by layers of differing water temperature or salinity resulting in multipath interference or even total loss of signal. Submarines were also moving to a vastly different role in the Cold War years, as nuclear-powered boats came to the scene. Capable of months at sea, these boats became the perfect platforms for ballistic missiles, which would need to be in contact with command authorities to a degree that the skippers of WWII subs would never have thought possible. But radio waves generally don’t penetrate seawater, raising the problem of a sub having to periodically surface to check for new orders and losing its one tactical advantage: stealth. To keep the subs safely below the surface, naval commands began exploring the very lowest end of the radio spectrum. While the high frequency (HF: 3 MHz to 30 MHz) and low frequency (LF: 30 kHz to 300 kHz) bands are perfectly capable of reaching across the globe thanks to ionospheric refraction, the high conductivity of seawater rapidly attenuates signals in these bands. Dialing down the spectrum a bit, the very low frequency (VLF: 3 kHz to 30 kHz) band starts to exhibit decent penetration of seawater, down to a depth of perhaps 20 meters. This is not deep enough to ensure the stealth of most submarines, which need to unfurl a long antenna wire to trail behind them as they cruise along far too close to the surface for comfort. VLF communications also suffer from bandwidth limitations, making voice communications impractical. VLF comms are therefore limited to a bit rate of 300 bps or so. Another disadvantage is that the huge antenna arrays and high power transmitters needed for VLF make two-way communications impossible. Going even further down the spectrum, signals in the extremely low frequency (ELF: 3 Hz to 30 Hz) band are capable of penetrating 120 meters of seawater, which is deep enough for any submarine to maintain its stealth. The US Navy began investigating the ELF band in 1968 with Project Sanguine. With wavelengths from 10,000 to 100,000 kilometers, an ELF transmitter requires enormous antennas; indeed, the original proposal for an ELF station in Wisconsin would have buried antenna cables under 40% of the land area of the state. These cables would have coursed with 800 megawatts of power while transmitting. Project Sanguine was never built, defeated by antiwar activists and budget hawks alike. Nor were the series of scaled-down ELF projects the Navy proposed built, until finally in 1989 Project ELF came online. There were two transmitters, one in Wisconsin and one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The antenna feedlines are 14 to 28 miles (22 to 44 km) long, strung on wooden poles like utility lines and connected to enormous ground rods driven deep into the bedrock. When energized, current flowed between the ground rods and through the granite bedrock, creating a massive magnetic field that generated the ELF waves. It was basically a giant loop antenna made of rock. The completed system was capable of sending a coded message on 76 MHz to a sub submerged 400 feet (122 m) off the coast of Florida. Unfortunately, the bandwidth of the signal was so low that it took 15 minutes to send a single three-character code group. Project ELF could only ever serve as a “bell-ringer” signal, to notify a sub to surface and use other means to receive a full message. The system was shut down in 2004 once VLF technology had advanced far enough that subs could use it without fear of detection.

WiFi Under the Waves. Limited bandwidth undersea comms certainly have their place, but being able to securely communicate underwater at high bit rates could be possible if new research pays off. In a recent paper, Basem Shihada et al from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have demonstrated a system they call “Aqua-Fi” that extends the Internet to the underwater realm. Using mainly off-the-shelf components, including a Raspberry Pi 3b, they were able to build an IEEE 802.11-compliant wireless network with a range of up to 20 meters. Both LEDs and lasers were used for emitters, with the lasers providing greater range but at the cost of directionality. In tests using waterproofed smartphones and blue and green lasers, they were able to achieve 2.11-Mbps and conduct Skype calls through the Aqua-Fi link.

 future as a network for submarines, but undersea warfare is far from the only activity such a system could support. Undersea research could benefit from making the Internet available below the surface; one could imagine a solar-powered buoy with a satellite link above the surface and a string of Aqua-Fi access points trailing into the deep below. Divers, remotely operated vehicles, or autonomous drones could take advantage of a full-time connection to the Internet, leading to advances in marine biology, geology, conservation, or even just recreation like sport diving. We can get down with that!

 

The Untold Story of the Development of Indian Submarine Force

In 1957, the government of India requested Lord Mountbatten, then the First Sea Lord, to provide India a target submarine which could be the oldest and cheapest available to serve as a foundation to build a submarine force for the Indian Navy (IN), a request he flatly refused to consider. In 1959 the Indian Navy asked the UK for three operational submarines, this never happened as the UK refused the soft credit terms sought by India. The Indian Navy finally got a Break when the Soviet Union came to India’s rescue and provided the Indian Navy with eight Foxtrot class submarines between 1967 & 1974. Submarine acquisition in India was hit by a double whammy in the 1980s with the German HDW Submarine scam in 1987 which saw the much required class of six HDW type 209 submarines being acquired being reduced to four boats. To make matters worse, India also had to prematurely return the Charlie class SSN it had leased from the USSR for 10 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it had only served the IN for a bare three years. The Russians came to the rescue once again and the fleet was bolstered by 10 877EKM (KILO) class boats which were inducted between 1986 & 2000.In the year 2000 the Indian Navy adopted a 30 year submarine building plan which would see the induction of 24 new submarines by 2030 with 18 SSKs(Submersible ship killer) & 6 SSNs(Submersible ship nuclear) joining the fleet by 2030. This was later tweaked to 24 SSKs with all 6 SSNs getting their own separate category & $14Bn approval under the strategic nuclear submarine program in February 2015.The plan called for half the Slated strength of 24 SSKs or 12 boats to be built on two simultaneous lines with foreign collaboration by 2012 with another 12 to be built completely of an indigenous design between 2012-30, needless to say that plan lies in tatters.

 

Navy SEALs are getting a new underwater delivery vehicle

US Navy SEAL teams are getting a new Mark 11 SEAL Delivery Vehicle, which is slightly larger and heavy than the one it's replacing. The delivery of the Mark 11 underscores a broader shift taking place within Naval Special Warfare, returning its focus to the maritime environment after two decades of ground conflict. Naval Special Warfare is in the process of taking delivery of the new Mark 11 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. According to SOCOM's maritime program executive officer, Capt. Kate Dolloff, two of these Mark 11s have already arrived, allowing SEAL SDV operators to begin the familiarization process. The Mark 11 will replace the older Mark 8 SDV. This new version is slightly larger, measuring 22 feet in length; it weighs 4,000 pounds more. SDV Team 1's command acknowledged that the older Mark 8's were becoming obsolete. The Mark 11 still requires all operators to have to wear wetsuits and scuba gear, but the payload capacity has increased and the navigational equipment has been greatly improved. Just like the Mark 8, the Mark 11 is transported and deployed via a Dry Deck Shelter, attached to a large submarine. Teledyne Brown Engineering was awarded a $178 million contract back in October 2019 to build and deliver all 10 Mark 11's. According to Teledyne Brown Engineering, this SDV is "specifically designed to insert and extract Special Operations Forces in high-threat areas. “While at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, Dolloff claimed that "the big takeaway here is we're fielding a much more capable platform to the fleet, and we've got it out there with the operators working on it now."It is no secret that for the greater part of the last 20 years our Special Operations Forces, including the Navy SEALs, have spent most of their time engaged in a ground conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. A major culture shift is taking place within NSW. The shift will be a move back to the maritime environment. Additionally, NSW recognizes the need to have the ability to contend with powerful countries, thus creating a requirement for more technologically advanced equipment and tactics. On that point, SOCOM commanding officer Gen. Richard Clarke said during SOFIC 2020, "The National Defense Strategy is clear — we've got to build a more lethal force, we have to continue to foster our allies and grow more partners, and we've got to reform, in the case of SOCOM, we've got to reform to meet those threats."Yet, he went on to add, "We still need guys that can kick down the door, that can shoot well, can jump out of airplanes, but we need coders."As NSW's mission changes, the need for more advanced training continues to increase. A $54.3 million contract was awarded to build an underwater training facility, accompanied by an underwater training vehicle. The facility will be built at Pearl City Peninsula. It will support SDV 1, NSW Group 3, and NSW's Advanced Training Command. Looking ahead, a larger, 39-foot dry submarine is in the works; the plans have already been approved by SOCOM. The Dry Deck Shelters for the SDVs are being enlarged, allowing operators to have more room to work around the Mark 11 and to make room for dry minisubs, which is something NSW hopes to have in the future.

 

Royal Navy team that gets sent in if submariners are in danger

When a British or foreign submarine is in trouble, the Royal Navy's Submarine Parachute Assistance Group is ready to respond. SPAG members work as medics, engineers, and submarine escape specialists, but all are proficient in first aid, escape-and-recovery techniques, and submarine, surface-to-air, and ship-to-shore communications. "SUBSUNK." If such a signal ever goes out, then the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) deploys. Part of the Royal Navy, the SPAG specializes in the recovery of submariners. There are several jobs within the SPAG, such as medics, engineers, and submarine escape specialists — but all members are proficient in first aid, escape-and-recovery techniques and submarine, surface-to-air and ship-to-shore communications. PAG teams are on constant alert. In the event that a Royal Navy or foreign submarine requires their expertise, they can be underway in less than six hours. Once parachuted, either from a helicopter or plane, depending on the incident's proximity to the shore, they loiter above the stressed submarine in rigid-hulled inflatable boats. For additional muscle, they also operate rigid-hulled inflatable life-rafts, able to hold 25 people. All of their boats are furnished with communication and GPS devices. The life-rafts, moreover, store hot and cold rations, oxygen therapy devices, and more specialized first-aid equipment. They can also deploy from surface warships. The SPAG was created in 1967 amidst the Cold War. With the British and NATO operating numerous conventional and nuclear submarines, the Royal Navy figured out that the probability of an emergency was high, and thus came the Spathe SPAG is commanded by a Warrant Officer 1st class, and members of all services can join the unit, though most tend to come from the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. Parachute qualification is a requirement for acceptance into the unit. The SPAG was first deployed in a real-world operation three years ago when the Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan went missing — despite international efforts to locate the submarine and rescue the crew, the ARA San Juan went down with its full complement. The closest that they had come to a real operation before that was when the HMCS Chicoutimi, a Canadian submarine, caught fire near the Irish coast in 2004. Before they could respond, the Canadian crew had managed to address the situation and the SPAG team was stood-down.

 

How to refit a yacht to accommodate a submarine

 “Being a refit specialist is definitely underestimated,” says Daan Balk, owner of the Netherlands' Balk Shipyard, who, after a lifetime in the family business, was recently approached with a refit request he’d never received before. This October, Balk and his team are being put to the test by upgrading the 31-metre explorer yacht Sandalphon with an all-new two-person submarine. Photo: Kees TornSandalphon’s owner first came up with the idea to put a submarine onboard after spotting a similar model during the Monaco Yacht Show in 2019. One year later, he returned to the Balk yard to ask that his superyacht was adapted to accommodate a Nemo submarine by U-Boat Worx in time for his winter trip to the Baltics.  ow with their new, bigger and better facility taking shape, Balk Shipyard are broadening their horizons and list of refit services. With submarine installations being one of them, SuperYacht Times discussed with Balk how they plan to get the submersible on board. First of all, the team of naval architects and refit specialists need to make an initial assessment as to whether the yacht is suitable for a submarine integration. For the owner of Sandalphon, his ideas were quickly approved as the yacht had previously been lengthened by 4 metres at the Balk Shipyard five years prior, leaving plenty of space for the new submarine alongside the existing two tenders, Jet Skis, waverunners and Seabobs. Plus, by working alongside long-term partners Azure Yacht Design & Naval Architecture, the team at Balk were able to expertly study and recalculate the stability of the yacht given the additional weight and reconfiguration.   The crane onboard Sandalphon was suitable for handling the yacht’s tenders and toys, but was deemed unfit to carry a submarine. With a new and more robust crane due to be fitted, the refit team devised a plan to recalculate the whole structure of the superyacht. Once the bulkheads are reinforced and the main deck is reconstructed to accommodate the heavier base, the new crane will be able to lift, carry and deploy the submarine. A U-Boat Worx submarine comes complete with diving compressors, air tanks and battery chargers - all of which need to be integrated and carried onboard. As well as the necessary safety kit, one of the yacht’s tenders will be outfitted with communication systems, so the submarine can be contacted whilst the tender is on the surface as its safety guardian and cruising companion. With a four-month time-frame to refit Sandalphon, Balk Shipyard has already conducted the necessary studies, recalculated the yacht’s specs, drawn up the new designs and detailed engineering plan, and has all the equipment on standby. Once completed, the submarine’s thick glass bowl is tested in England and the fully-completed submarine is to undergo intense trials in depths of up to 100 metres. Then, all that’s left is for the crew to obtain their operating licenses to run the sub.

 

High-Design Personal Submarine Is The Must-Have Accessory.

In July 2020, the Dutch submersible manufacturer U-Boat Worx announced its success at the highly respected international design competition, the Red Dot Design Awards. The Nemo won a Red Dot Award for design excellence, as well as recognition as “best of the best” in the Mobility and Transportation category. Along with its award-winning stylistic virtues, the Nemo can dive up to 100 meters, making it a big draw for yachts owners and yacht-charter guests alike.  “Personal submarines are an exciting and impressive addition to any toy locker and have become increasingly stylish and more sought after, especially for owners desiring adventurous itineraries,” says Julia Simpson, Broker & Communications Manager at Superyachts Monaco, a boutique superyacht brokerage handling both charters and sales. U-Boat Worx's personal submarine is light enough to be transported by car. At 5 feet tall and 5,510 pounds, the Nemo not only fits aboard a variety of ships (it’s essentially the same size as two jet-skis), but it also can be deployed from land and it can even be towed behind a car. “Yachts that carry their own submarine tend to be explorer style – robust superyachts, built for long-distance cruising to untouched destinations. Owners who love to explore, but don’t want to compromise on the sporty lines of their sleek superyacht, are opting more and more for a support vessel solution, on which a submarine and other specialist toys and tenders can be carried in tandem with the superyacht mothership, rather than on-board,” says Simpson. Though personal submarine ownerships remains a niche market, Simpson can see a demand for from “clients who love adventure and are fascinated by the natural world.” The Nemo’s completely transparent acrylic-sphere window was purpose-built with the undersea landscape in mind. “Destinations we’ve known people to explore with their subs include the Antarctic, where the submarine allows you to avoid frostbite and see some unique sea life up close and personal, including penguins, seals and species with what is known as polar gigantism, such as giant sea stars and spiders. Or at the more tropical end of the scale, Tahiti is spectacular in its range of underwater flora and fauna including Blacktip reef sharks and Lemon sharks.” U-Boat Worx's Nemo is a personal submarine purpose-built for undersea exploration and viewership. The fully air-conditioned Nemo is designed to fit one passenger and one pilot (12-day training courses are offered to all purchasers at U-Boat Worx’s training facility in Curaçao). Whereas most personal submersibles are built to order, the Nemo is the world’s only series-produced submarine, which makes them competitively priced within the market. However, don’t expect this superyacht accessory to come cheap: Prices start at €975,000 ($1,154,936).

 

Wreck of U-Boat Sunk Off English Coast During WWI Explored for the First Time

British archaeologists have surveyed the wreck of a German U-boat for the first time since it sank 103 years ago. The remarkably intact vessel adds to the story of an especially fraught period of naval warfare during World War I. A team led by Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton discovered the submarine’s remains during an exploratory dive this summer. Resting at a depth of 150 feet below the surface, the wreck is situated some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Yorkshire, England. As David Keys reports for the Independent, the researchers used two remotely operated vehicles to capture the first video and sonar 3-D images of the sunken ship. After more than a century at the bottom of the North Sea, the vessel showed an “astonishing” level of preservation, according to a statement. The main hull remains intact, and images show a large hole on its port side, where Royal Navy patrol boat P-57 rammed it on November 18, 1917. Debris including a torpedo tube surrounds the wreck.“Today the vessel is only marked on the navigation charts as a shipwreck and until now very little was known of the submarine’s condition,” says Pacheco-Ruiz in the statement. “It has been a privilege to be able to explore a wreck in such good condition and have the opportunity to find out more about its past. “Researchers identified the submarine as UC-47, a German U-boat responsible for sinking 56 Allied vessels in just 13 months, per the Independent. After a year-long career, the submarine—and all 26 of its crew members—sank to the sea floor during a fatal encounter with P-57. UC-44, sister submarine of UC-47, which was found underwater off the coast of Yorkshire. (Courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) In February 1917, following a particularly harsh Allied blockade of German merchant ships, Germany began practicing unrestricted submarine warfare. Facing a massive increase in merchant ship destruction, Allied forces created a system of convoys, whereby warships escorted merchant and neutral ships to protect them from U-boats, writes Louise Bruton for the Library. The UC-47 showdown took place when P-57 spotted the submarine 200 yards away and launched a surprise attack within 15 seconds, according to Divernet. The British boat struck at 17 knots, tearing into the hull and filling it with water. Over the next two days, the British sailors used a technique called “depth charging”—dropping explosives to tear through the hull—to ensure the submarine’s destruction. It’s possible that British divers traveled to the wreck to retrieve valuable intelligence like code books and charts, says maritime historian Stephen Fisher in the statement. But the new investigation revealed that the boat came to rest at a depth of approximately 150 feet—probably too far underwater for divers to retrieve documents by hand. A more probable scenario is that the Royal Navy repeatedly used depth charges in hopes of creating holes that might send important documents floating to the surface. Information garnered from UC-47 would have allowed the British to locate and disarm several German minefields, saving other merchant vessels from destruction. Records show that German naval officials suspected the British had obtained these secret documents. German historians will work with the University of Southampton to discover how the Germans discovered the coup: Potential explanations include eavesdropping on radio communications and extracting information from British sources after the war, according to the Independent.

 

M5. A Submarine Super-Yacht That Offers a Cruise Through the North Pole


You would be correct in putting the words together to get the composed phrase 'Submarine Super-Yacht'. But what exactly is a submarine super-yacht? As the name suggest, it's a submarine and a super-yacht all in one sweet package. And oh, how sweet it is.
Let’s start this off with the hardware. First of all, it’s big. Really Big. How big? 540 feet big (165 meters). With enough rooms and suites for 34 guests plus owner/s. Quarters for up to twenty staff are also present in the designs. This subaquatic mobile lair has a range of over 8000 nautical miles. Average speed while on the surface is about 20 knots (23 MPH and 12 knots (14 MPH) while submerged. Oh, and I nearly forgot, you can remain submerged for nearly four weeks, to really get a feel of our underwater world. Three different decks exist: A fly deck, a sun and sail deck, and a beach deck. Pools and hot-tubs complete the mix. If at some point, while up top, you still feel the need to be back underneath the waves, there’s a viewing deck in the designs that allow you to do just that. Now, it is a superyacht after-all, so there're definitely some toys aboard. I’ll just start off with the most visible: a helicopter, folks. And since the Migaloo M5 is a submarine after-all, a hangar to keep your choppa’ in, while diving, is also in the plans. Next up you have two customizable, 6-person mini submarines, coming in at 51 feet in length, just in case a very private party is required or you want to get closer to the reefs. Another two submersibles and several ROV’s (remotely operated vehicle) and UUV’s (unmanned underwater vehicle) allow for an even closer look while on your adventures. To complete the diving mix, a couple of diving chambers exist as well, complete with hyperbaric chambers. But that’s just for the underwater fun. What about when you’re up top grabbing some sun? Don’t worry, the M5 has you covered. A number of jet-skies and other undisclosed toys are on board. You’ll just have to give Migaloo a call to find out. With a design inspired by the U.S. Navy, you know you’ll definitely make it through the trip. Since the luxury yacht standard adheres to this giant metal whale, be sure to find jacuzzies, suites, spa treatments, and swimming pools. And if you have anything specific in mind, do tell Migaloo. They will allow you to customize the interior and some exterior accents within bounds of functionality.

 

Saipem and Drass Subsea rescue system selected by Italian Navy

 

The submarine rescue system will be fitted aboard the SDO-SuRS (Special & Diving Operations - Submarine Rescue Ship) of the Italian Navy. Saipem and Drass’ Subsea rescue system selected by Italian Navy. The subsea rescue system developed by Saipem in collaboration with Drass, a leading company in submarine and hyperbaric crewed technology, was selected by Marina Militare Italiana (the Italian Navy) for the equipment of the SDO-SuRS (Special & Diving Operations - Submarine Rescue Ship) ship, the new vessel for the rescue of submarines. The system integrates a latest generation remote operated vehicle (ROV) with a rescue capsule. The ROV acts as a vector for navigation and control, while the capsule brings submariners back to the surface through a controlled habitat in total safety. The ROV and the capsule are mechanically and electronically tied, forming a single module connected to the vessel via an umbilical cable which contains power lines and optical fibers for power, communication and control. The entire equipment can be divided into modules and transportable by air. Saipem will supply the ROV and all underwater automation units including the vehicle integrated into the capsule, while Drass will supply the decompression devices, hyperbaric elements, ventilation systems and medical gas treatment systems of the capsule. The decision of the Italian Navy was reached after a technical evaluation conducted in 2019 during which Saipem and Drass also realized a demonstration prototype successfully tested in the Adriatic Sea. The engineering and development of automation subsystems have been performed by the “Solutions” business line of Saipem’s Offshore E&C Division in its center of excellence specialized in subsea technologies located in Marghera (Venice). Saipem and Drass Subsea rescue system. Francesco Racheli, COO of Saipem Offshore E&C Division, commented: “The collaboration with an Italian entrepreneurial excellence such as Drass for an institution of absolute prestige such as Marina Militare Italiana fits fully into the strategic diversification plan which sees Saipem engaged not only in the energy transition and renewable sources, but also in the development of new strategic segments with high technological and innovation content. Saipem will continue to strengthen this relationship with Marina Militare Italiana by offering its entire portfolio of products for the inspection and surveillance of our seas”. Sergio Cappelletti, Managing Director of Drass stated: “The historic collaboration of Drass with Marina Militare Italiana is enriched with an exciting new chapter in which the synergy with Saipem brings a cutting-edge technological background deriving from industrial underwater robotics. The consolidation of dual technology in the field of Defense further enhances the extensive specialist heritage that characterizes Drass in the subsea sector. The step we take today is preparatory to larger projects, intended to create a national excellence in the field of underwater technology”.

 

The USS Tang: The Submarine That was Sunk by Its Own Torpedo.

An errant torpedo circled back and sank her, killing most of her crew. One of only eight men to escape was Motor Machinist’s Mate Clayton Decker. During World War II, the United States employed 288 submarines, the vast majority of which raided Japanese shipping in the Pacific, thus preventing the enemy’s vital supplies and reinforcements from reaching the far-flung island battlefields. One of the most outstanding of those 288 submarines was the USS Tang, launched on August 16, 1943, at the Mare Island (Calif.) Navy Yard. Her commander, Richard O’Kane, a 1934 graduate of the Naval Academy, would earn the Medal of Honor and the Tang would receive two Presidential Unit Citations. Only one other submarine was so honored. Malfunctioning torpedoes plagued the Navy throughout much of World War II; “fish” that veered off course or failed to detonate when they struck their targets were not uncommon. On March 26, 1944, while on her fourth war patrol off Palau, the USS Tullibee became the first American submarine in World War II to be sunk by one of her own torpedoes. Of the 80-man crew, only one survived. The only other submarine to be sunk by a wayward torpedo was the Tang. On her fifth war patrol, October 24, 1944, between China and Formosa (today Taiwan), an errant torpedo circled back and sank her, killing most of her crew. One of only eight men to escape was Motor Machinist’s Mate Clayton Decker.

 

Losharik Spy Submarine Accident Is Still A Problem For Russian Navy

A year after a fatal accident aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Losharik, it remains out of service. The accident cost 14 elite ‘hydronauts’ their lives and damaged the titanium-hulled submarine. While the international submarine community is united in solemnly remembering those who perished, Western navies will be taking stock. The accident will likely have a knock-on effect on the Russian Navy’s massive modernization program. Most at risk is the submarine Belgorod. Russia's spy submarine 'Losharik' is currently undergoing repairs in Severodvinsk. In this satellite. On Sunday, a ceremony was held at the Serafimovsky Cemetery in Saint Petersburg. At the same time that a monument was being unveiled by Vice Admiral Igor Mukhametshin, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, the submarine was moored in Severodvinsk waiting for repairs to be completed. The memorial is 650 miles south of where the accident happened, but close to the home of Russia’s secretive GUGI organization. GUGI stands for Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, and is seen as an espionage organization. Although the submarine is part of the Russian Navy, its mission is driven by GUGI.The missions of these submarines is steeped in mystery and secrecy. It is the kind of thing that is only really discussed in euphemism by the defense community. They are referred to by terms like “seabed warfare” and “underwater engineering.” In layperson’s terms this means laying sensor networks on the sea floor, and possibly wire taps on internet cables. Losharik and the other ‘deep water stations,’ known as AGS, have manipulator arms so that they can work on cables on the sea floor. And they can dive to incredible depths, much deeper than regular submarines. Although GUGI has a large submarine fleet, larger in fact than many leading navies and undoubtedly the largest fleet dedicated to spy missions, it is suffering from availability issues. Several of its submarines have been mothballed in the arctic city of Severodvinsk for many years. Right now, four of the deep diving midget submarines are there. These include Losharik, and that is a problem for the Russian Navy.Losharik, which is formally known as AS-21, is the sole Project 10831 submarine. She is the most modern, and also the most capable, of the deep diving midget submarines. So she carried the greatest burden. And the newest of the special mission host submarines, Belgorod, is designed specifically to carry her. Belgorod was launched on April 23, 2019, and is currently being fitted out in Severdovinsk. She is actually just across the river from where Losharik has most recently been seen. Belgorod is slated to be commissioned into the Russian fleet later this year, although that seems highly optimistic. And without Losharik available, there will be no meaningful ‘spy mission’ to test. Launch and recovery of Losharik will logically be a major phase of the testing. And Belgorod’s second mission, as a launch platform for the Poseidon strategic weapon, is not expected until 2027. This likely translates into a delay in Belgorod's schedule. We do not know how much longer Losharik’s repairs will take. The fact that she is in the water, being moved around Severodvinsk, may mean one of two things. Either there are delays in starting a phase of the work and she is waiting for a slot, or it is almost finished. You can be rest assured that analysts will be watching, trying to figure out what it all means for the Russian Navy. And your internet connection.

 

The 5 Best Submarines.

History is filled with examples of pieces of military equipment that performed miracles on the battlefield--and others that cost many military professionals their lives. Indeed, wars can be shaped by the 'kit' that you bring to the fight. In fact, not only having better arms but men and women properly trained to win the battle of the day with such weapons is critical--as you may even be able to deter your opponent from wanting to take the field against you. When we consider the 20th and 21st century and modern military technology, submarines, bombers and fighter aircraft are the critical platforms any modern nation needs to win a conflict. Having decencies in any of these three areas could be a big problem--especially in today's fast-paced threat environment. So what were the best submarines? The best bombers? Or the worst fighters? And what lessons can be drawn from them? To answer such questions, we have combined some of the past work of Robert Farley into one post for your reading pleasure. Let the debate begin. There have been three great submarine campaigns in history, and one prolonged duel. The First and Second Battles of the Atlantic pitted German U-boats against the escorts and aircraft of the United Kingdom and the United States. The Germans very nearly won World War I with the first campaign, and badly drained Allied resources in the second. In the third great campaign, the submarines of the US Navy destroyed virtually the entire commercial fleet of Japan, bringing the Japanese economy to its knees. US subs also devastated the Imperial Japanese Navy, sinking several of Tokyo’s most important capital ships. But the period most evocative of our modern sense of submarine warfare was surely the forty year duel between the submarines of the USSR and the boats of the various NATO navies. Over the course of the Cold War, the strategic nature of the submarine changed; it moved from being a cheap, effective killer of capital ships to a capital ship in its own right. This was especially the case with the boomers, submarines that carried enough nuclear weapons to kill millions in a few minutes. As with previous “5 Greatest” lists, the answers depend on the parameters; different sets of metrics will generate different lists. Our metrics concentrate on the strategic utility of specific submarine classes, rather than solely on their technical capabilities. · Was the submarine a cost-effective solution to a national strategic problem? · Did the submarine compare favorably with its contemporaries? · Was the submarine’s design innovative? And with that, the five best submarines of all time:

U-31: The eleven boats of the U-31 class were constructed between 1912 and 1915. They operated in both of the periods of heavy action for German U-boats, early in the war before the suspension of unrestricted warfare, and again in 1917 when Germany decided to go for broke and cut the British Empire off at the knees. Four of these eleven boats (U-35, U-39, U-38, and U-34) were the four top killers of World War I; indeed, they were four of the five top submarines of all time in terms of tonnage sunk (the Type VII boat U-48 sneaks in at number 3). U-35, the top killer, sank 224 ships amounting to over half a million tons. The U-31 boats were evolutionary, rather than revolutionary; they represented the latest in German submarine technology for the time, but did not differ dramatically from their immediate predecessors or successors. These boats had good range, a deck gun for destroying small shipping, and faster speeds surfaced than submerged. These characteristics allowed the U-31 class and their peers to wreak havoc while avoiding faster, more powerful surface units. They did offer a secure, stealthy platform for carrying out a campaign that nearly forced Great Britain from the war. Only the entry of the United States, combined with the development of innovative convoy tactics by the Royal Navy, would stifle the submarine offensive. Three of the eleven boats survived the war, and were eventually surrendered to the Allies.

Balao: The potential for a submarine campaign against the Japanese Empire was clear from early in the war. Japanese industry depended for survival on access to the natural resources of Southeast Asia. Separating Japan from those resources could win the war. However, the pre-war USN submarine arm was relatively small, and operated with poor doctrine and bad torpedoes. Boats built during the war, including primarily the Gato and Balao class, would eventually destroy virtually the entire Japanese merchant marine. The Balao class represented very nearly the zenith of the pre-streamline submarine type. War in the Pacific demanded longer ranges and more habitability than the relatively snug Atlantic. Like their predecessors the Gato, the Balaos were less maneuverable than the German Type VII subs, but they made up for this in strength of hull and quality of construction. Compared with the Type VII, the Balaos had longer range, a larger gun, more torpedo tubes, and a higher speed. Of course, the Balaos operated in a much different environment, and against an opponent less skilled in anti-submarine warfare. The greatest victory of a Balao was the sinking of the 58000 ton HIJMS Shinano by Archerfish. Eleven of 120 boats were lost, two in post-war accidents. After the war Balao class subs were transferred to several friendly navies, and continued to serve for decades. One, the former USS Tusk, remains in partial commission in Taiwan as Hai Pao.

Type XXI. In some ways akin to the Me 262, the Type XXI was a potentially war-winning weapon that arrived too late to have serious effect. The Type XXI was the first mass produced, ocean-going streamlined or “true” submarine, capable of better performance submerged than on the surface. It gave up its deck gun in return for speed and stealth, and set the terms of design for generations of submarines. Allied anti-submarine efforts focused on identifying boats on the surface (usually in transit to their patrol areas) then vectoring killers (including ships and aircraft) to those areas. In 1944 the Allies began developing techniques for fighting “schnorkel” U-boats that did not need to surface, but remained unprepared for combat against a submarine that could move at 20 knots submerged. In effect, the Type XXI had the stealth to avoid detection prior to an attack, and the speed to escape afterward. Germany completed 118 of these boats, but because of a variety of industrial problems could only put four into service, none of which sank an enemy ship. All of the Allies seized surviving examples of the Type XXI, using them both as models for their own designs and in order to develop more advanced anti-submarine technologies and techniques. For example, the Type XXI was the model for the Soviet “Whiskey” class, and eventually for a large flotilla of Chinese submarines.

George Washington: We take for granted the most common form of today’s nuclear deterrent; a nuclear submarine, bristling with missiles, capable of destroying a dozen cities a continent away. These submarines provide the most secure leg of the deterrent triad, as no foe could reasonably expect to destroy the entire submarine fleet before the missiles fly. The secure submarine deterrent began in 1960, with the USS George Washington. An enlarged version of the Skipjack class nuclear attack sub, George Washington’s design incorporated space for sixteen Polaris ballistic missiles. When the Polaris became operational, USS George Washington had the capability from striking targets up to 1000 miles distant with 600 KT warheads. The boats would eventually upgrade to the Polaris A3, with three warheads and a 2500 mile range. Slow relative to attack subs but extremely quiet, the George Washington class pioneered the “go away and hide” form of nuclear deterrence that is still practiced by five of the world’s nine nuclear powers. And until 1967, the George Washington and her sisters were the only modern boomers. Their clunky Soviet counterparts carried only three missiles each, and usually had to surface in order to fire. This made them of limited deterrent value. But soon, virtually every nuclear power copied the George Washington class. The first “Yankee” class SSBN entered service in 1967, the first Resolution boat in 1968, and the first of the French Redoutables in 1971. China would eventually follow suit, although the PLAN’s first genuinely modern SSBNs have only entered service recently. The Indian Navy’s INS Arihant will likely enter service in the next year or so. The five boats of the George Washington class conducted deterrent patrols until 1982, when the SALT II Treaty forced their retirement. Three of the five (including George Washington) continued in service as nuclear attack submarines for several more years.

Los Angeles: Immortalized in the Tom Clancy novels Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising, the U.S. Los Angeles class is the longest production line of nuclear submarines in history, constituting sixty-two boats and first entering service in 1976. Forty-one subs remain in commission today, continuing to form the backbone of the USN’s submarine fleet. The Los Angeles (or 688) class are outstanding examples of Cold War submarines, equally capable of conducting anti-surface or anti-submarine warfare. In wartime, they would have been used to penetrate Soviet base areas, where Russian boomers were protected by rings of subs, surface ships, and aircraft, and to protect American carrier battle groups. In 1991, two Los Angeles class attack boats launched the first ever salvo of cruise missiles against land targets, ushering in an entirely new vision of how submarines could impact warfare. While cruise missile armed submarines had long been part of the Cold War duel between the United States and the Soviet Union, most attention focused either on nuclear delivery or anti-ship attacks. Submarine launched Tomahawks gave the United States a new means for kicking in the doors of anti-access/area denial systems. The concept has proven so successful that four Ohio class boomers were refitted as cruise missile submarines, with the USS Florida delivering the initial strikes of the Libya intervention. The last Los Angeles class submarine is expected to leave service in at some point in the 2020s, although outside factors may delay that date. By that time, new designs will undoubtedly have exceeded the 688 in terms of striking land targets, and in capacity for conducting anti-submarine warfare. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles class will have carved out a space as the sub-surface mainstay of the world’s most powerful Navy for five decades.

Conclusion: Fortunately, the United States and the Soviet Union avoided direct conflict during the Cold War, meaning that many of the technologies and practices of advanced submarine warfare were never employed in anger. However, every country in the world that pretends to serious maritime power is building or acquiring advanced submarines. The next submarine war will look very different from the last, and it’s difficult to predict how it will play out. We can be certain, however, that the fight will be conducted in silence.

 

 

China sets sights on mineral riches in depths of Mariana Trench

China plans to try to go where few have gone before — 10km down into the deepest part of the ocean — when it sends a manned submarine into the Mariana Trench later this year. Although primarily an exploratory mission, Beijing believes there is much untapped potential to be exploited.

 

Major Milestones in the History of Submarines

From Alexander the Great to John Philip Holland, here some of the major milestones in submarine history. Submarines are one of the most effective elements of the world's most powerful navies. From sinking shipping during wartime to covert reconnaissance and use as nuclear deterrence, these machines are both feared and admired. But this wasn't always the case. Far from a recent invention, submarines have a long and interesting history. The development of submarines was, like many other types of machines, a process of incremental improvements over many centuries. Some of the main milestones in the history of the submarine?

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1. Allegedly, one of the first "submarines" was used by Alexander the Great. Legend has it that Alexander the Great once used a submarine-like structure to study fish. Supposedly, this event occurred sometime around 332 BC, when Alexander was lowered underwater in a large glass barrel. This device was, technically speaking, a diving bell and not a submarine, but it is one of the earliest recorded uses of the concept. The legend has come down to us through a Persian epic poem that later inspired artists in the medieval period. Whether or not this event actually occurred is unknown, but it does demonstrate that people have dreamed of exploring the deep using submersible craft for many millennia.

2. Leonardo da Vinci may have designed an early submarine

 

Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci may well have produced written plans for an early submarine in around 1515. Recorded in one of his notebooks, now known as the Codex Leicester, his "ship for sinking another ship," resembles, conceptually at least, a modern submarine. By studying the mechanics of how fish swim, da Vinci theorized that it might be possible to float underwater for an extended period of time. His notes also include information about how the device might be used if it were ever developed. Da Vinci clearly states that he doesn't want to reveal his plans for the vehicle, "because of the evil nature of men." He feared, rightfully so given the events of later history, that such a vessel could be used to sink enemy ships -- thereby killing their occupants. 

3. A former English gunner turned innkeeper may have also invented an early submarine. Less than 100 years later, English mathematician and naval writer William Bourne, turned to the study of inventions for use in warfare. In his 1578 work "Inventions and Devices," Bourne describes the principle of a sinkable boat that can rise and sink repeatedly by changing the ship's volume. Bourne’s design consisted of a wooden frame covered with waterproof leather. It could be submerged by contracting the sides through the use of hand vises, reducing its volume. By expanding the sides, the ship should then, on theory, be able to rise once again to the surface. While Bourne never built a working model of his vehicle, it presented an interesting idea for how to navigate underwater.

4. One of the first powered submarine concepts appeared in the 1600s. Around half a century later, a Dutchman called Cornelius van Drebbel made the leap of adding a form of propulsion to a submersible vessel. His concept vehicle, called the Drebbel 1, is commonly held to be one of the first "true" submarine designs. In addition, according to historical records, a test vessel was built and tested on the River Thames in the mid-1620s.It consisted of an enclosed rowboat, powered by 12 oarsmen, with, it is believed, a sloping foredeck. Working a bit like an airplane wing trimmed for descent, in theory, this would have forced the boat underwater as the forward momentum from the oars was applied. This concept, apart from the oars, is very similar to how a submarine's angled/diving plane works today. 

5. A French priest made the next big leap towards the modern submarine. In the 1630s, a French priest named Marin Mersenne moved the concept of the submarine one step closer to reality. He suggested that submersible vessels should probably be made of metal, like copper, and be cylindrical in shape with tapered ends. This, he argued, would be the only way to ensure such ships could withstand the pressures at depth. His suggestion proved to be quite influential, as most submarine designs would later adopt a porpoise-like shape (and were constructed of metal).

6. The "Rotterdam Boat" was another important submarine historical milestone. Proving Leonardo da Vinci correct, it was not long before militaries around the world realized the weapon's potential for submersible vehicles. During the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652 to 1654), a man named Louis de Don built a vessel called the "Rotterdam Boat." This semi-submersible vessel was effectively a large underwater battering ram, designed to punch a hole in the hull of an enemy ship without being seen. While the concept appeared sound on paper, the vessel proved ineffective in combat, as it was unable to move once launched. 

7. The first true proto-submarine was developed by the French. After these leaps forward in thinking about submarines, it would be the 1800s before the first true submarine prototypes were developed. One of the first came from the French navy in the form of the 1863 Le Plonguer ("The Diver"). Powered by compressed air engines, this was one of the first submarines that did not rely on human-powered propulsion. 

8. The Americans made the next advances in submarine technology. Another major milestone in the history of submarines came from the New World. First, during the American War of Independence and the later American Civil War, major breakthroughs occurred in submarine technology. One of the first submarines to alter its buoyancy by pumping water in an out of its skin was David Bushnell's "Turtle," which was developed in 1775, during the American War of Independence. This was a one-man, hand-crank, propeller-powered vessel that became the first to be used in combat. The "Turtle," piloted by Ezra Lee, attempted to sink HMS Eagle as she was anchored at New York Harbor in 1776, although the attack failed. Skipping forward a few years, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel came during the American Civil War. With Union forces successfully blockading southern ports, the Confederate navy sought other means to alter the balance of power. They developed another early submarine called the H.L. Hunley. This oar-propelled submersible attacked and sunk the USS Housatonic with an explosive attached to the end of a spar at the vessel's nose. Both the Union and Confederate vessels were lost.

9. John Philip Holland developed the first true modern submarine. Probably the most important milestone in submarine history was the work of the Irish-American inventor John Philip Holland. Known as the "Father of the Modern Submarine," Holland's submarine would be first to be accepted by the United States Navy. A staunch Irish separatist in his youth, Holland developed a vessel called the "Fenian Ram." This was a small submarine designed to attack and sink British Royal Navy ships. Holland and his financial backers, The Fenian Society, would soon fall out, and Holland would find other buyers for his work. Building on the lessons learned from the "Fenian Ram," Holland and his company eventually developed the first truly practical submarine, called the "Holland" series. These were to prove incredibly successful, and orders came in from various navies around the world including the United States and, ironically, the Royal Navy. The modern submarine was born. War at sea would never be the same again. 

 

SIX Types of Submarines: The Russian Navy’s Extreme Modernization.

Russia and America do things differently. The U.S. Navy is currently building just one type of submarine, the general-purpose Virginia Class. From October it will be joined in the shipyards by the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine, making it two types. In contrast, Russia is simultaneously building six distinct classes.

The Russian Navy is currently building 6 different classes of submarine as part of a major fleet Despite budget challenges, and resulting delays, Russia is investing big in submarines. Together the six types represent the greatest modernization since the Cold War. Russia has a history of building multiple classes of submarines going back to the Cold War. Each submarine fills a distinct role, but also there were often alternative designs meeting the same basic need. But the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent economic woes curtailed Russian submarine building. Many projects were cancelled, or continued at a snail’s pace. Now the submarine industry has began to recover.

1. Borei-II Class Ballistic Missile submarine. The first improved Project-955A Borei-II class submarine, ‘Knyaz Vladimir,’ was handed over to the Russian Navy on June 1. Six more are expected to be built, forming the backbone of Russia’s seaborne nuclear deterrent for decades to come. Each submarine can carry 16 Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles.

2. Belgorod Class Special Mission Submarine. After the famous Typhoon class, this will be by far the largest submarine in the world. Yet this ginormous submarine defies classification. It is at the same time a ‘special mission’ spy submarine and a carrier for the Poseidon strategic weapon. As a spy sub it will act as a mother-ship for the famous Losharik deep-diving nuclear-powered midget submarine. This could be used for operations like interfering with undersea cables. The Poseidon weapon is unique. It is best described as an intercontinental, nuclear armed, autonomous torpedo. It is twice the size of a typical ballistic missile, have virtually unlimited range and be armed with a nuclear warhead. Exactly how Russia plans to use it is unclear, but it appears to be a second-strike doomsday weapon to literally go under missile defenses.

3. Khabarovsk Class Strategic Submarine. The most enigmatic submarine on the list, Khabarovsk is expected to be launched this month. Public information is sorely lacking. What is known is that it will carry six of the massive Poseidon strategic torpedoes, like the Belgorod. This could be the defining submarine of 2020.

4. Yasen-M Class Cruise Missile Submarines. A powerful cruise-missile armed submarine, the Yasen class has a reputation for stealthiness. They are armed with three types of cruise missile which can be loaded in combinations. Kalibr is a land-attack missile with a very long range, generally equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Tomahawk. The larger Oniks is a supersonic missile which is optimized against ships but can also hit land targets. And the smaller Zircon anti-ship missiles can travel at hypersonic speeds.

5. Lada Class Attack Submarine. This is the latest generation of non-nuclear submarine built for the Russian Navy. Unlike the America, Russia still values having a large number of smaller and cheaper non-nuclear boats in its ranks. In the future these boats may have Air Independent Power (AIP) like Sweden and other nations'.

6. Improved Kilo Class Attack Submarine. The Kilo Class goes back to the 1980s, but improved models are still being built. The latest versions can launch Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles. Unlike the Yasen Class they have to be put in the torpedo room, so only a few can be carried.

So many different classes of submarines has pros and cons. It is seen as less efficient, but equally each type can be better suited to its intended role. And the massive spy sub, and Poseidon related classes, fulfill roles which are unique to the Russian Navy.

 

The incredible engineering behind the submarine that plumbed the deepest depths

 

The Mariana Trench, at the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean, is the deepest place in any ocean. The very deepest spot within it is the eastern pool of a valley called Challenger Deep, lying at 10,928m below sea level. It was here, in April 2019, that American private-equity millionaire Victor Vescovo achieved the deepest dive made by any human in history. It was part of his now completed mission – called the Five Deeps Expedition – to visit the deepest points of the world’s five oceans. Victor’s vessel was a submarine called DSV Limiting Factor, a craft he had specially designed and built by Florida-based company Triton Submarines. “This submarine and its mother ship took marine technology to an unprecedented new level by diving – rapidly and repeatedly – into the deepest, harshest area of the ocean,” he said after returning to the surface. “We feel like we have just created, validated and opened a powerful door to discover and visit any place, any time, in the ocean – which is 90% unexplored.”DSV Limiting Factor (or LF, as it’s known for short) is, like its mother ship DSSV Pressure Drop, named after fictional spacecraft from the sci-fi novels of the late Scottish author Iain M Banks. It’s an astounding piece of engineering. Designed by Triton’s British engineer, John Ramsay, it measures 4.6m long, 1.9m wide and 3.7m high, resembling some sort of giant suitcase rather than a traditional cylindrical submarine. Much of its bulk is taken up by buoyancy foam, made of tiny glass spheres suspended in polymer resin. Triton assigned its most high-tech craft the model number 36000/2 (36,000 being the maximum depth in feet it can dive to and two being the number of occupants it can accommodate).

Titanium hull

Said occupants access the submarine via a hatch on the top before climbing down into the spherical pressure hull, forged from 90mm-thick titanium, with room inside for two people to sit comfortably on leather seats. From here, the pilot directs the vehicle using a joystick and a touchscreen, viewing the alien world outside through three 200mm-thick conical viewports made of acrylic. The total weight of the sub – with submariners aboard – is around 11,700kg, fairly light for a submersible designed to withstand the crushing pressure at 11,000m below sea level. Its main lithium-polymer battery provides 65kWh of power, while a set of 10 electric thrusters allow it to move in all directions at a speed up to three knots. It can operate for up to 16 hours at a time. Ten external LED lights, each with 16,000 lumen, ensure the occupants have a great view of their surroundings, even in the darkest ocean depths where sunlight cannot penetrate. A robotic arm is used to collect samples and do experiments. Triton, based in a town on Florida’s Atlantic coast called Sebastian, manufactures 10 different models of submarine for deep-sea exploration, with depth ranges of between 300m and 11,000m. Ramsay, who is based the other side of the Atlantic, in a Devon village called Meavy, designed all but one of them. The LF is the most advanced, by a country mile. Its titanium pressure hull was forged and machined in the US, while the components were manufactured in the US, the UK, Germany, Spain and Australia. Unusually for a deep-sea submersible, the two hemispheres of the pressure hull are bolted together rather than welded. Ramsay says many of his peers in submarine engineering warned him against using bolts, worried the seal between the hemispheres wouldn’t hold at extreme depths. But he and the company’s co-founder and president, Patrick Lahey, were convinced a combination of bolts and precisely machined contact surfaces was the best option. They both agreed that welding would pose too many risks. “The titanium hemispheres are machined to within half a millimetre,” Ramsay explains. “They’re so incredibly precise. If you’re then going to weld them together, you’re throwing a whole load of heat into the equation, which changes the properties of the titanium, causing it to warp. We were adamant we were going to eliminate that risk.”

Sealed by pressure

They knew that when the LF was thousands of metres down, the external pressure of seawater would clamp the two hemispheres together, tightening the seal even further. “The seals between the hemispheres are actually low-pressure seals, designed to work at depths up to 1,000m,” Ramsay adds. “Below that level the actual seal is generated by having metal on metal, forced together, which creates its own seal.” One of the most impressive achievements of the LF, Ramsay says, is its compactness. “The problem with submarines is, the bigger they get, the heavier they get,” he says. “And the heavier they get, the more space they take up on the deck of the mother ship; and the bigger the handling system you need to take them in and out of the water. Everything grows exponentially in size.” He believes his LF submarine is lighter even than Deepsea Challenger, the vehicle that Canadian film director James Cameron used to visit the Mariana Trench in 2012. “But that was minuscule, with room for just one person in the foetal position,” Ramsay adds. “Whereas, in the LF, two people can sit extremely comfortably side by side.” 

Ballast devices 

The other major engineering achievement is the LF’s ballast system. Most submarines carry ballast tanks containing compressed air at up to 300bar, the equivalent of water pressure at 3,000m down. Lower down than 3,000m, however, these air cylinders are likely to collapse – not very useful for Vescovo’s voyage into the abyss. Instead, Ramsay incorporated three different ballast devices into his sub. First is a ballast control tube containing twenty 5kg weights, used to submerge the submarine to the ocean floor. These are released one at a time until the LF’s descent slows and the craft settles into position just above the seabed. Ramsay explains how, when the submarine reaches diving depth, it needs to be slightly positively buoyant so that it floats along just above the seabed. This allows the pilot to make small thrusts downwards in order to stay at the same depth. “Thrusting in a downwards direction doesn’t stir up the seabed,” Ramsay says. “If you have to thrust upwards to stay in place, though, it fires a jet of water downwards and stirs up the seabed so you can’t see a thing. It’s unbelievable how long it takes for the silt to settle after it has been stirred up. It can take hours.” The second ballast device is a set of huge steel weights on the bottom of the submarine, secured in place by electro-magnets. This is a failsafe system which – in case of power failure or if the pilot loses consciousness – automatically triggers the release of the weights, causing the craft to return to the surface. Finally there is the air ballast which kicks in once the LF returns to the surface. This, Ramsay explains, uses a “clever combination of one-way valves” to increase the buoyancy and ensure the submarine remains with its top section above the sea surface once the mission is complete. “Without this extra buoyancy, you would reach the surface and the submarine would constantly be dipping up and down,” Ramsay adds. “A wave would come, lift it up, and then the LF would dive back down below the surface.” All this bobbing around would make it extremely difficult for the occupants to exit the hatch, or for divers to locate the craft; and very dangerous when the mother ship attempted to winch the submarine on board. Given his intimate knowledge of the submarine’s engineering, it was only right that Ramsay himself should have been offered a trip to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. His dive, piloted by his company boss Patrick Lahey, took place seven days after Vescovo had set the new depth record, and saw the two men visiting Challenger Deep’s slightly less deep central pool. They spent just over three hours on the sea floor. “I think Patrick and I are the only people who have dived into the central pool,” Ramsay says of his experience, during which they captured geological and biological samples. The ocean surroundings at that depth are like an alien planet. Descending from the ocean surface, the LF passes through several zones. First, from the surface down to around 200m, is the sunlight (or epipelagic) zone. This is followed by the twilight zone (200 to 1,000m), the midnight zone (1,000 to 4,000m), the abyssal zone (4,000m to a depth where much of the ocean floor lies), and finally the hadal zone (beyond depths of 6,000m), named after Hades, the underworld. 

Sea life at great depths

Ramsay describes the sea life he observed down in the hadal zone. “Mostly anemones and little shrimp-like things; little white creatures scampering around the seabed.” Not the most exciting beings, he admits, but he was surprised at just how much life there was down there. “You see a lot more than if you were swimming along the beach in Devon, which I do quite a lot,” he adds. The LF has been busy since it completed Vescovo’s Five Deeps Expedition. It has visited the wreck of the Titanic, for example. In February this year Vescovo dived in it again, this time to the deepest point in the Mediterranean – Calypso Deep – accompanied by Prince Albert II of Monaco. Now the craft is up for sale. It might have a future in scientific exploration. It might be used for documentaries or feature films, or to visit sunken shipwrecks. It might simply ferry wealthy tourists to the bottom of the ocean. But whoever ends up buying it will need pockets as deep as the ocean floor. The asking price is $48.7m.

 

Russian Northern Fleet rescuers assist submarine in distress during Arctic drills

The drills also involve the rescue vessel Mikhail Rudnitsky with an AS-34 autonomous deep-submergence rescue vehicle, the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, the hydrographic boat Nikolai Timoshenko, diving boats, harbor tugs and drone aircraft. MURMANSK, June 18. /TASS/. The Northern Fleet’s search and rescue forces entered the Motovsky Bay in the Barents Sea to practice providing assistance to a submarine in distress during drills, the Fleet’s press office reported on Thursday. "The Northern Fleet’s search and rescue forces are practicing special tactical exercises to search for and provide assistance to a submarine lying on the seabed," the press office said in a statement. "The exercise is traditionally being held in the Eina Gulf of the Motovsky Bay in the Barents Sea near the Sredny Peninsula. The exercise involves 10 combat and support ships, including the diesel-electric submarine Kaluga that is simulating a sub in distress lying on the seabed," the statement says. The drills also involve the rescue vessel Mikhail Rudnitsky with an AS-34 autonomous deep-submergence rescue vehicle, the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, the hydrographic boat Nikolai Timoshenko, diving boats, harbor tugs and drone aircraft, the press office specified. During the drills, the Northern Fleet will check the system of exercising command and control of its multiservice forces from the regional defense center when carrying out a rescue operation and assess the search and rescue forces’ readiness for their designated operations. For safety purposes, all underwater works and training episodes with the involvement of the personnel will be practiced at a depth of no more than 40 meters. "The drills consist of two stages that are divided into seven separate episodes. At the first stage, the main attention will be paid to the search for a submarine in distress lying on the seabed and also to the search for and the rescue of submariners who have independently come to the sea surface through torpedo tubes. The rescue vessel Mikhail Rudnitsky will set up a field hospital to admit rescued sailors and render them medical assistance," the press office said. The second stage of the drills will be devoted to the exercise of docking the AS-34 submersible through the coaming platform to the submarine lying on the seabed, evacuating the submariners and lifting the sub to the surface, the press office explained.

 

Ocean Infinity’s hunt for the Submarine San Juan.

 

November 15th 2017.  The submarine went missing. Fifteen days later, neither the submarine nor any debris had been found and the crew of 44 sailors were presumed dead.  The loss made international headlines, as did the ongoing search, as the families of those presumed dead wanted to know what had happened. It was thought the submarine had encountered a problem with the forward batteries, but little information was available. An initial search proved futile. There was little to go on, except an unusual signal detected by two of 11 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBTO) hydroacoustic stations that are dotted about the world. They were hydroacoustic stations HA10 (Ascension Island) and HA04 (Crozet), which detected a signal from an underwater “impulsive event” at 13:51 GMT on 15 November. Despite this clue, it would turn into one of the most challenging searches. “The challenge for the searchers was that the acoustic anomaly had a large ellipse,” Rear Admiral Nick Lambert, Ocean Infinity’s project manager on the project told the Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase event in Southampton late last year. To narrow it down, a defined charge was dropped at a known time, which would help to refine the understanding of the acoustic signal and reduce the ellipse. It showed the submarine had dropped in water deeper than 100m, which meant it was beyond the recoverable water depth. The search, however, continued and Ocean Infinity was brought in. Since the firm started operating in 2016, disrupting the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) space by deploying multiple AUVs from one vessel on search or survey missions, the company has made a name for itself in a number of international search efforts. Ocean Infinity committed to conduct the search operation for up to 60 days and to covers its cost, unless the submarine was found. It deployed its Seabed Constructor vessel with five Hugins. The initial 10-12 days covered three, what were thought key, search areas. But the submarine wasn’t found. “We went back and brought in more experts to think about what happened and expanded and expanded the search.” Ocean Infinity’s setup is geared to find things on the seabed, quickly. Its Hugins are capable of operating in water depths from 5- 6,000 m and cover vast areas of the seabed quickly. They are equipped with a variety of tools including side scan sonar, a multi-beam echo-sounder HD camera, and synthetic aperture sonar. However, the search for the San Juan had to deal with challenging underwater terrain, “full of an astonishing number of submarine sized and shaped rocks, trenches and a steep drop-off the continental shelf, which complicated the search,” says Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO. The ship had a host of experts to help in the hunt, including members of the Argentinian Navy, the UK’s Royal Navy, via the UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, and the US Navy's Supervisor of Salvage and Diving. Three officers of the Argentine Navy and four family members of the crew of the San Juan also joined Seabed Constructor to observe the search operation. The pressure was on. After the initial search, the AUVs were re-programmed to fly riverbed formations on the seafloor to detect anomalies. "When look at them [anomalies detected in the sonar data] they all look like spooky sub shapes,” said Lambert. Submariners who had been consulted had thought it would end up in a canyon. It was also predicted that submarines tend to break into three, and the implosion creates a small debris field. Finally, data from the five Hugins led the team to position to a spot where there was a shape described as nearly 200 feet long – roughly the size of San Juan. It had already identified and inspected 23 possible detections – each one of which had led to false hope for the crew, Argentinian navy members and not least the San Juan crew family members onboard. This one was in the area which had had the highest possibility of finding it. But it wasn’t in an expected position, the shape was perched on top of a geological feature and “it was hard to determine if it was geology or manmade.” At 11 pm, local time, on November 2018, a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) was launched from the Seabed Constructor to take a closer look at get better images. Near to midnight, the images captured by the ROV confirmed that it was indeed the missing San Juan. It was found in 920 m water depth, about 600 km east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean; a year and two days after her loss. The search had seen Ocean Infinity cover an area the size of south east England to find an object the size of two buses, says Plunkett. Even with the benefit of knowing where it was and its condition, “it was one of the most challenging targets we have ever attempted,” he said. “It was found sitting on the downslope of a geological ridge at a 10-degree angle with parts of the submarine falling further down the slope. The large hull section was nearly perfectly aligned with the ridge line, which in itself was at the end of an area of clear rockfall. The hull was twisted and deformed into a non-linear feature. The thruster propeller had wholly fallen away from the shaft and the torpedo tubes were exposed. The chances of it being in that location aligned in that way are nearly nil.  It is also important to remember it was an object approximately 60 meters long designed not to be detected by sonar.  It was the proverbial needle in a haystack – except it looked like a piece of straw.” As part of its search, Ocean Infinity looked at what happened to other submarines, such as the Thresher and USS Scorpion, but kept an open mind, planning around finding the smallest likely intact piece.  This could have been, for example, the submarine’s sail. “When a submarine goes beyond the crush depth (in the ARA San Juan’s case around 596m) it first implodes and then explodes. Hence the destruction field of the imploded submarine remains small,” he adds. This explains why wreckage on the surface was never found. It’s not just a technical project. Plunket says that the importance of the families of those that were lost with the vessel was central to the mission, which was why a team of family representatives as well as Armada Argentina crew were onboard the Seabed Constructor during the search. “The additional pressure to succeed for the families who were onboard with our team 24/7 and the pain of failure as each of those first 23 targets was revealed to be a miss was a massive challenge that I was extremely proud that our team rose to,” he says.  Last year, an Argentine legislative commission released its findings on the cause of the sinking of the San Juan. It said that, on the night before the ARA San Juan disappeared, water had entered its ventilation system and caused a fire in one of its battery tanks. The vessel surfaced and continued sailing. The captain reported that he was ready to descend to 40 m to assess the damage and reconnect the batteries the next day, but nothing more was heard from the submarine. Budget limitations and naval inefficiencies were cited as contributing factors. Ocean Infinity, meanwhile, continues to grow. It now has three multipurpose support vessels, the latest being the Normand Frontier. Each is equipped with five AUVs, three unmanned surface vessels (USVs), two ROVs and a full ocean depth hull mounted multi-beam echo-sounder, deep water 45-tonne fibre rope winch and construction class crane. The Normand Frontier was mobilised in November 2019 on a three-year charter from Solstad Offshore. It was recently the host vessel for a seabed data project in Angola for Total.  The Hugins now also have new 6000 m depth tolerant batteries from Kraken Robotics subsidiary, Kraken Power, that extend battery life from 60 to 100 hours. This allows for missions to be conducted across a period of more than four days without a battery change. Ocean Infinity says that the technology, when partnered with its multi-AUV approach, increases the possible survey range to nearly 700 line km per AUV.  It’s not all smooth sailing. Last year one of its Hugins was lost in the Weddell Sea in pack ice. Another was also lost during the MH70 search. “It’s not a failure,” says Lambert. “It’s not being afraid to go and push boundaries.” Ocean Infinity has been doing just that. In fact, just last month [February] it launched a new company, Armada, with plans to build a fleet of 15, 21-37m long unmanned surface vessels, or robotic ships, as they were named. Construction has started and some will be operational this year, Dan Hook, the firm’s managing director (formerly in the same role as ASV Global, now owned by L3Harris) told the launch event.  

 

Ride a Submarine to the Deepest Point on Earth

While billionaires vie for the stars, $750,000 trips to the bottom of the Marianas Trench will begin departing in May. For some, the ultimate adventure is up in the stars. (See: Musk, Branson, Bezos.) For Texas businessman Victor Vescovo, the trip of a lifetime is a dive to the deepest known point on our own planet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. For $750,000 per person, Vescovo will take guests down 35,843 feet in Limiting Factor, his $37 million Triton 36,000/2 submarine, whose depth capacity is more than 100 times that of the typical superyacht submersible. “Nobody gets more remote than this,” says Rob McCallum, founding partner of EYOS Expeditions, which is helping to plan and manage the trips to Challenger Deep, as this location is called?. Almost seven miles beneath the water’s surface, it has seen fewer human visitors than the International Space Station. Just getting to the right patch of the Pacific requires an intrepid spirit. Guests sail roughly 200 miles southwest from Guam on Pressure Drop, a 224-foot-long research vessel, bunked in with scientists, a film crew, and technical experts. Basic comforts include a chef, mess hall, and a rooftop bar for “strategic thinking exercises and international alcohol evaluations,” as McCallum puts it. Once there, they pair up with pilots to make roughly 12-hour dives—four hours down, three to four hours at the bottom, and four hours up—to a place so deep that its exterior pressure would feel like having five jumbo jets parked on your chest. The eight-day itinerary, which includes three dives and three rest days (during which the submarine’s oxygen system is refilled and ballasts reloaded), remains thus far scheduled for two slots in May. The first has already sold out. For Vescovo, this type of extreme adventure has become a matter of habit. The co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings LLC, a private equity firm in Dallas, has climbed Mount Everest and skied across both poles, and he was the first person to reach the bottom of all five oceans. He’s taken two solo trips to Challenger Deep since he created his own undersea technology and exploration company, Caladan Oceanic, in 2015. That puts him in an elite group: Only three people, including filmmaker James Cameron, visited the ocean’s deepest spot before him. Taking the trip as a guest will offer a more contemplative experience than did Vescovo’s past dives, during which he maintained a laser-sharp focus on mission control. “The first thousand feet is the most anxious time,” he says about what is essentially an extreme elevator ride. “That’s when you go from 1 atmospheric pressure to 30.” If something is going to go wrong with the sub, it’s probably then. “Once you get past a thousand feet or two, it starts to get really dark really quickly,” Vescovo says. “Then it’s just really peaceful, and there’s virtually no sense of motion in any direction. You aren’t weightless like you are in space, but there’s no sense you are falling down or even turning slightly.” Bringing paying guests along is a way to fund and facilitate private science activities. As divers reach the bottom of the trench, they become “mission specialists,” using the ship’s manipulator arm system to retrieve rocks and other samples from the frigid seabed. Of particular interest: bacterial colonies called “microbial mats” that can later be studied in labs. “Biologists are fascinated by it, because if we find life forms on other planets, it could be something like that,” Vescovo says. A special thrill is witnessing such animals as a tentacled sea cucumber or Eurythenes plasticus, a small, shrimp-like creature. “It’s likely you’ll see a new species,” he says. Safety, he adds, is not an issue. Participation doesn’t require physical training, either, though there is a weight ceiling of 220 pounds per person. Still, the experience is intense. Passengers should prepare to be in a very confined, pitch-dark space for hours. The entire sub measures 15 feet by 6.2 feet by 12.2 feet, encasing an even smaller, spherical cockpit. Bathroom facilities consist of special bags and bottles. As the depth gauge ticks deeper, spectral creatures drift past the three acrylic viewports, and sounds consist of radio static, whirring fans, and beating hearts. The reward comes when you take a moment to realize that “You are on the tip of the spear of exploration, on a great adventure that maximizes the capabilities of human technology,” Vescovo says. “James Cameron told me to, at some point, take 10 or 15 minutes, and turn off the thrusters, and literally stop and appreciate just how deep you are and where you are. I did exactly that. I reclined in my pilot seat and ate a tuna fish sandwich and watched the bottom go by. It was awesome

 

Navy SEALs Got a Specialized Submarine?

The U.S. Navy is hard at work developing new underwater transports for its elite commandos. The SEALs expect the new craft—and improvements to large submarine “motherships” that will carry them—to be ready by the end of the decade. SEALs have ridden in small submersibles to sneak into hostile territory for decades. For instance, the special operators reportedly used the vehicles to slip into Somalia and spy on terrorists in 2003. Now the sailing branch is looking to buy two new kinds of mini-subs. While details are understandably scarce, the main difference between the two concepts appears to be the maximum range. The Shallow Water Combat Submersible will haul six or more naval commandos across relatively short distances near the surface. The SWCS, which weighs approximately 10,000 pounds, will replace older Mark 8 Seal Delivery Vehicles, or SDVs. The other sub, called the Dry Combat Submersible, will carry six individuals much farther and at greater depths. The most recent DCS prototype weighs almost 40,000 pounds and can travel up to 60 nautical miles while 190 feet below the waves. Commandos could get further into enemy territory or start out a safer distance away with this new vehicle. SEALs could also use this added range to escape any potential pursuers. Both new miniature craft will also be fully enclosed. The current SDVs are open to water and the passengers must wear full scuba gear—seen in the picture above. In addition, the DCS appears to pick up where a previous craft, called the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, left off. The Pentagon canceled that project in 2006 because of significant cost overruns. But the Navy continued experimenting with the sole ASDS prototype for two more years. The whole effort finally came to a halt when the mini-sub was destroyed in an accidental fire.Special Operations Command hopes to have the SWCS ready to go by 2017. SOCOM’s plan is to get the DCS in service by the end of the following year. SOCOM and the sailing branch also want bigger submarines to carry these new mini-subs closer to their targets. For decades now, attack and missile submarines have worked as motherships for the SEALs.Eight Ohio– and Virginia-class subs currently are set up to carry the special Dry-Deck Shelter used to launch SDVs, according to a presentation at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in May. The DDS units protect the specialized mini-subs inside an enclosed space. Individual divers also can come and go from the DDS airlocks. The first-in-class USS Ohio—and her sisters MichiganFlorida and Georgia—carried ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads during the Cold War. The Navy had expected to retire the decades-old ships, but instead spent billions of dollars modifying them for new roles. Today they carry Tomahawk cruise missiles and SEALs. The VirginiasHawaiiMississippiNew HampshireNorth Carolina and the future North Dakota—are newer. The Navy designed these attack submarines from the keel up to perform a variety of missions. SOCOM projects that nine submersible motherships—including North Carolina as a backup—will be available by the end of the year. The Navy has a pool of six shelters to share between the subs. SOCOM expects the DDS to still be in service in 2050. But prototype DCS mini-subs cannot fit inside the current shelter design. As a result, a modernization program will stretch the DDS units by 50 inches, according to SOCOM’s briefing. The project will also try to make it easier to launch undersea vehicles and get them back into the confines of the metal enclosure. Right now, divers must manually open and close the outside hatch to get the SDVs out. Crews then have to drive the craft back into the shelter without any extra help at the end of a mission—underwater and likely in near-total darkness. The sailing branch wants to automate this process. With any luck, the SEALs will have their new undersea chariots and the motherships to carry them ready before 2020.

 

How South Korea Made Itself Into a Submarine Powerhouse

While South Korea is not known for its submarine fleet, it possesses a decent sized, quietly capable fleet. The ultimate goal of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) is to produce their own diesel-electric attack submarine. The current fleet is relatively modern and possesses a strong overall capability for a diesel-electric fleet. But how does it stack up against the sub fleet of China and North Korea? Like many South Korean projects (eg. KDX-I, KDX-II, KDX-III for destroyers), the sub fleet is produced in a series of three. The KSS-I and KSS-II are German designs. The KSS-III will be the indigenous diesel-electric attack submarine. Some rumors have been floating around about a KSS-N nuclear submarine, but there is no concrete information on whether this proposal is being taken seriously. All submarines are relatively recent purchases, with the KSS-I being delivered in a series of two deals from 1993 to 2001, and the KSS-II being delivered from 2007 to the current day. Consider the KSS-I, alternately referred to as the Chang Bogo-class, or Type 209/1200 in the German export designation is a simple diesel-electric attack submarine. The number “1200” in the German designation indicates the tonnage of the submarine. Armed with eight standard 533mm torpedo tubes, the primary weapon of the KSS-I is the German SUT torpedo, it is an export torpedo originally developed in the 1970s. The torpedo is electrically driven and wire-guided, with a max speed of 35 knots and a range of around 40km. The ROKN operates the Mod 2 variant of the SUT, which allows the firing submarine to receive data from the seeker of the torpedo, potentially increasing accuracy and allowing it to act as a remote sensor for the submarine. The ROKN ordered two batches of 48 SUT Mod 2s along with their Type 209 submarines. The KSS-I was later modernized to utilize sub-launched Harpoon missiles as well as the indigenous Korean “White Shark” active-homing fire-and-forget torpedo. Nine KSS-1s are operated by the ROKN, with no plans to acquire more.  Further modernization of the type is being considered, including attaching additional sonar arrays and possibly converting them from diesel-electric to air-independent propulsion. The design continues to be produced for export, Korean companies acquired a license to build the submarine and are selling three of the type to Indonesia. The KSS-II, or Son-Won-Il-class in ROKN service, or Type 214 continues the trend of the ROKN fielding German submarine designs. Unlike the KSS-I, the first ship of which was built in Germany, all KSS-IIs are built by Korean companies: Daewoo and Hyundai. The major advantage of the KSS-II is that it utilizes air-independent propulsion (AIP), allowing it to be more stealthy and stay underwater longer than earlier designs. It accomplishes this through the use of Siemens polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. The AIP system augments the existing diesel-electric powerplant, only running when the submarine is submerged. As installed on the KSS-II, the AIP system gives an underwater endurance of two weeks. Armament is generally similar to the KSS-I, with the submarine being able to use torpedoes and anti-ship submarine-launch missiles. The type also fields the ISUS 90 command and control system that amalgamates all sensor input and command and control functions. As standard per its class, the KSS-II is fitted with bow and flank sonar modules. The final KSS-II was completed in September 2017, being the ninth boat of its class. After the completion of the KSS-II, South Korea wanted to craft its own design. The KSS-III is looking to be heavier and larger than the KSS-II and KSS-I. It’s estimated that the KSS-III will weigh around 3000 tons, more than twice as heavy as the KSS-I. A lot of the weight probably comes from the expanded armament of the KSS-III: it’s designed with a vertical launch system that can fire the Korean Hyunmoon ballistic missile or a myriad of other missiles, possibly including the American Tomahawk. This would give the ROKN a significant sub strike capability, posing a threat against China or other larger navies they may be facing. Nine KSS-IIIs are planned to be procured in three batches of three, with increasing levels of indigenous technology in each batch. Notably, the number of VLS cells is expected to increase from six to ten in later batches of the KSS-III. No KSS-IIIs are complete, however, the keel for the first KSS-III was laid in 2016. Other KSS-IIIs are being produced at the same time, with steel being cut for the third KSS-III in July 2017. The KSS-II and KSS-III designs compare favorably to any submarine the Korean People’s Navy can field. They possess advanced AIP propulsion designs allowing them to run quieter and longer and can fire more modern torpedos. They also have a superior sensor fit, having flank sonars, which have not been reported as being equipped on any North Korean submarines. Against Chinese submarines, the technology edge is not as significant. In general, the armament fit of the KSS-series appears to be superior, with the SUT Mod 2 having a longer range and targeting flexibility compared to the Yu-4 and Yu-6 which arm China’s Type 039 attack submarines. However, the latest Chinese submarines, the Type 039A class, appear to incorporate advanced sonar signature reduction techniques which may impede the ability for the Korean submarines to detect them.

 

Battleship and a Submarine

 A century ago submarines presented as much of a challenge for naval war planners as drones do today. Like airborne and surface stealth decades later, underwater stealth was a game-changer — but how to use it? Until the missile age, a wide variety of naval missions and vessels tried applying the submarine’s advantages to best use. From early on, planners envisioned submarines carrying out commerce raiding, minelaying, shore bombardment and intelligence collection — besides the sub’s obvious role in fleet attack. The limited undersea endurance of pre-atomic subs shaped design and tactics. At the time, submarines largely cruised on the surface and only submerged for brief periods. Early concepts of operations foresaw subs scouting ahead of the battle fleet, then submerging below an enemy fleet to surface and attack it from behind. During World War I, sub-surface torpedo attacks on warships and merchant vessels became the submarine’s preferred attack technique. However, many engagements involved substantial surface combat. Deck armament often equaled that of coastal and riverine gunboats — one or two artillery pieces plus several machine-gun mounts for anti-aircraft and surface attack. During these engagements, a five- or six-inch deck gun could wreak havoc on upperworks, steering gear or shoreline structures. Machine guns could rake decks and lifeboats. But convoys of armed merchantmen and their destroyer escorts were another matter. So was stealthy shore bombardment of coastal bases and defenses. These missions inspired truly remarkable undersea “cruisers.” These were truly big-gun submarines.

 

Undersea cruisers

The British Admiralty appears to have kicked off the idea with its extraordinary response to reports of the Kaiser’s new U139-class subs, which packed 5.9-inch guns. In 1916, the Committee on Submarine Development chose to mount 12-inch guns — battleship guns — on submarines. The exact military requirements for such a weapon shifted as the concept developed. Originally envisioned as stealthy coastal attack platforms, the “submarine monitors” became high-power anti-ship weapons. Or wouldhave, except they never saw wartime use. Perhaps the Admiralty realized the threat such subs with guns posed to their own Royal Navy if their use proliferated. Four of the disastrous K-class steam submarines — K18 through K21 –– were reconfigured into the diesel-powered M-class. The giant subs were more than 295 feet long and were 24 feet in diameter, and each carried a single surplus 12-inch naval rifle from the Formidable-class battleships in a watertight turret. While the M-class boats mounted four 18-inch torpedo tubes with a reload apiece, doubts about the torpedoes’ efficacy buttressed arguments for the guns.  From a submerged posture, the subs could lob 850-pound shells over the better part of a mile. Targeting and firing the gun proved both remarkably crude and ruggedly simple. Crews called it the “dip-chick” method. An M-class monitor lined up on her target at periscope depth then surfaced to expose some six feet of her weapon’s barrel. Using the periscope as an optical sight, the commander aligned a simple bead sight on the barrel’s tip — like aiming a submerged rifle using its bead sight and a pair of binoculars — and ordered the gun fired. The sub then immediately submerged, the whole operation taking only 30 seconds. An all-up ammunition magazine and lift supplied 50 rounds — but the gun could not be reloaded while submerged. That such odd limitations severely constricted the M-class subs’ wartime effectiveness was moot. None of the subs saw action in World War I, but inter-war experimentation within treaty restrictions continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Surprisingly, the “submarine cruiser” concept survived the war and reached its baroque apex in some very large … and strange subs.

X-ed out

By the time the Royal Navy’s X-1 launched on Nov. 16, 1923, the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty had dramatically reshaped the post-war balance of sea power. The treaty restricted the size of guns permitted aboard submarines, and banned the targeting of merchant vessels. Into these waters sailed the X-1 with its twin dual 5.2-inch turrets, high speed and long range. The largest, most heavily armed sub in the world when launched, her main batteries complemented six torpedo tubes. Rate of fire and ammunition supply were problematic. Targeting used a nine-foot-wide retractable rangefinder behind the conning tower. The sub required 58 men to crew the turrets alone. Despite crippling mechanical shortcomings, especially her terrible engines, the X-1 made a great submarine cruiser — a type of warship the Washington Treaty specifically forbade. Consequently, the British Government remained very cagey about the X-1. Her poor maintenance record didn’t help. After the vessel literally fell over in a drydock in 1936, the Admiralty scrapped her. The M-1 suffered equally bad luck — a Swedish freighter accidentally knocked her turret off and she sank with all hands in 1925. After the loss of the M-1, the Royal Navy removed the turrets from M-2 and M-3 and scrapped M-4 altogether. M-3 became a large stealth minelayer with capacity for 100 sea mines mounted in a deployment rack running along the back of the vessel. The M-2 received a watertight hanger, a crane and a collapsible floatplane and explored aircraft-launching operations between 1927 and 1932. In 1932, M-2 sank with all hands during training maneuvers.

Les sous-marines corsaires

Even as the British tried to operationalize the big-gun sub, the French navy doubled down on the concept with its planned “corsair submarines,” a thoroughly dashing Gallic term. Only the first of the three, the Surcouf — named for a famous French privateer — was ever built. But she was a monster. Like the X-1, the French giant sub was the largest in the world when launched in October 1929 — over 363 feet long, almost 30 feet in diameter, with a range of 7,800 miles at 13 knots. Surcouf could bring to bear her twin eight-inch guns on targets and track them with a 16-foot rangefinder from nearly seven miles away. To supplement her reconnaissance and gunnery range, Surcouf — like M-2 — carried a collapsable floatplane in a watertight hangar. Though never used in combat, the small Besson MB.411 seaplane could call in long-range ship sightings and gunfire corrections to the submarine. Surcouf‘s leisurely submergence rate and poor submerged handling contrasted with her “corsairing” qualities — including two auxiliary boats and a brig equipped for 40 prisoners. A cruiser this big and complex required a 118-man crew, enough for three regular subs. Appropriately perhaps for such a quasi-piratic vessel, Surcouf led a troubled life. She participated in the seizure of some small Vichy-controlled islands off Newfoundland before disappearing with all hands under mysterious circumstances early in World War II. The later, even larger Japanese I-400-class submarine aircraft carriersextended the aircraft-as-long-range-artillery concept to its mid-century conclusion. The huge subs mounted five-inch deck guns and anti-aircraft machine guns, but relied on their embarked aircraft and their weapons for main firepower. With the advent of nuclear power and the guided missile, the seemingly goofy idea of a heavy surface-attack submarine became an impressive and chilling reality. A sub-launched ballistic missile armed with multiple hydrogen bombs represents the acme of long-range naval fire. Most recently, sub-launched cruise missiles have taken out Libyan air defenses and Syrian rebel strongholds. Navies around the world are arming their undersea forces with missiles filling the roles guns filled long ago — shore bombardment, anti-ship and anti-air. Will energy weapons perhaps eventually fill this longstanding role in unexpected ways?

 

 

Triton Submarines announce series of groundbreaking projects

Following a remarkable 2019, which saw the Triton 36000/2 Full Ocean Depth submersible set new records in manned exploration during the Five Deeps Expedition, Triton Submarines report a start to 2020 which further reinforces the company's position as leaders in innovation of the submersible sector. In just the first half of this year, Triton will deliver a total of three units: a Triton 3300/6 - the first six-person submersible capable of achieving 1,000m (3,280ft); the most significant tourism submersible of the last two decades - the DeepView 24; and the second in the Triton 1650/3 LP 'superyacht sub' series. From the headquarters in Sebastian, Florida, the company also reveal the signing of a Triton 1650/7 Configurable - the world's first single-hulled, 500-meter capable, seven-person submersible.

Triton 3300/6

Thanks to proprietary construction techniques developed in collaboration with partners Röhm and Heinz Fritz in Germany, the Triton 3300/6 features the largest acrylic pressure hull produced to date. A staggered 'stadium seating' arrangement ensures each occupant an uninterrupted panoramic view for a unique optical experience. Peerless in their capability of producing 1,000m capable acrylic hulled submersibles, the Triton 3300/6 will represent the company's 11th unit certified for this depth. "As the size of our client's vessels continues to grow, so we are experiencing a demand for submersibles that deliver extraordinary experiences for larger parties of guests. The Triton 3300/6 represents a milestone, not only in the technological development of the largest acrylic pressure hull ever produced but also in terms of allowing a larger party of guests to enjoy a true shared experience while accessing a significant measure of the world's oceans," states Triton's president Patrick Lahey.

Triton DeepView 24

Following scheduled sea trials in March, Triton's delivery of the first unit from their DeepView series will represent the most significant commercial tourism submersible launch in the last two decades. Commissioned by an Asian client to provide unique guest experiences at a number of entertainment resorts, the Triton DeepView 100/24 conveys 24 passengers and 2 crew members to depths of up to 100m (328ft). Designed by the legendary Paul Moorhouse and assembled at Triton's facility in Barcelona, Spain, four cylindrical acrylic sections form the focal point of the DeepView's pressure hull, creating vast panoramic windows that deliver a truly immersive guest experience. From the comfort of the air-conditioned interior, passengers of the 15.4m (50.5ft) long submersible will engage with the ocean in a manner which far exceeds that of traditional tourism submersibles that feature restricted viewports. Being modular in design, the number of acrylic sections can be varied, allowing Triton to deliver models in the DeepView series to accommodate anywhere from 12 to 66 passengers.

Triton 1650/7 Configurable

Described as 'a salon under the sea' due to its extraordinary interior volume, the Triton 1650/7 Configurable promises to offer the ultimate luxury experience of any submersible produced to date. While based on the Triton 3300/6 platform, the reduction of depth capacity to 500m (1,640 feet) dramatically increases interior volumes of the Triton 1650/7 Configurable. The additional 160mm internal diameter produces a capacious 6.34m3 (223.9ft3), adding almost 20% to that of the 1,000m diving version. Typical of Triton's dedication to exceptional engineering, many of the 1,000m rated components and systems will carry over to this 500m diving model. The company reports they are also working with the interior designers of the host vessel to assure continuity of experience between platforms, creating a showpiece interior which matches that of the yacht in terms of styling, materials and quality. The additional volume not only creates space for an additional guest but also a flexible 'configurable' interior, a flexible seating arrangement which may easily and rapidly be re-configured from 7 to 5 seats, even between dives, offering more comfort and space.

Triton 7500/3

The above ventures follow the news from the conclusion of 2019, when Triton announced the signing of a contract to supply the Triton 7500/3 model to Project REV, the world's largest yacht in-waiting. Currently under construction and capable of diving to an astonishing 2,286m (7,500ft), the world's deepest diving acrylic pressure hulled submersible will feature an optically perfect sphere of 300mm, almost one foot, in thickness. In terms of going bigger, longer and deeper, Triton continue to lead the industry in innovation and technology, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of our oceans.

 

Putin honours submarine rescue team

Wed 5 Oct 2005. British rescuers of the Russian mini submarine crew after receiving awards from Russian President Vladimir Putin in London (l to r): Captain Jonathan Holloway, remote vehicle operators Stuart Gold and Peter Nutall, RAF Squadron Leader Keith Hewitt and Commander Ian Riches. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, today honoured the courage and professionalism of a British rescue team that saved the crew of a Russian mini submarine trapped on the Pacific Ocean floor. The ceremony, held at Downing Street on the second day of Mr Putin's British visit, was the first time that Russian medals have been given to foreign military staff. In another first, Mr Putin stepped where no other foreign leader has been before: He was given a tour of the Cobra crisis management bunker during a meeting with Tony Blair on increased cooperation over counter-terrorism. Mr Putin, a former KGB head, was briefed on the terrorism threat by security chiefs who were once dedicated to spying on him. Above ground, Russia's highly exclusive Order for Maritime Services was awarded to the Royal Navy team leader, Commander Ian Riches, together with Stuart Gold and Peter Nuttall from contractors James Fisher Rumic Ltd, who operated the Scorpio remote-controlled rescue vehicle. Squadron Leader Keith Hewitt - the captain of the RAF C17 transport aircraft which flew the Scorpio from Scotland to Russia's Pacific coast - and Captain Jonathan Holloway, the British naval attaché in Moscow, received the Order of Friendship. At the ceremony in No 10's Pillared Room, Mr Putin said he was "honoured" to present the medals. "I would like to thank you for the work done, for the mission accomplished and rescue of the Russian seamen. "The work was done quickly, at a good professional level and most importantly it succeeded." The rescue team used the Scorpio to free the AS28 mini submarine after it became entangled in cables. The seven-man crew of the AS28 had just four to six hours of oxygen left when their vessel was freed in early August by the Scorpio after three days on the ocean floor. The incident threatened to be a repeat for Mr Putin of the Kursk disaster, in which 118 submariners died. Russian authorities received sharp criticism for their handling of the crisis, in which they delayed asking for international help. After Kursk, the Russian navy was thought unwilling to ask for international assistance in case it revealed the declined state of some of its capabilities.

 

Russia's Kilo-Class Submarines: “Black Holes” No Navy Wants to Fight

Know colloquially as the “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy, the Improved-Kilo-Class of submarines are quite deadly — and could turn the balance of power in the South China Sea in China’s favor. Know colloquially as the “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy, the Improved-Kilo-class of submarines are quite deadly — and could turn the balance of power in the South China Sea in China’s favor. Small and compact, the Kilo- and Improved-Kilo-Class subs are meant for operations in shallower, coastal waters, and are tasked with anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. In contrast to the direction of American submarine development, Kilo-class submarines are diesel-electric, rather than nuclear powered, and very, very quiet. The original Kilo-class is a product of the Soviet Union, having first entered service with the Soviet Navy forty years ago — in 1980. The so-called Improved-Kilo-Class (also known as the project 636.3 Kilo-class) is “an improved variant of the original Project 877 Kilo-class design. The updated version is slightly longer in length — the sub’s submerged displacement is around 4,000 tons — and features improved engines, an improved combat system, as well as new noise reduction technology.”While both the Kilo- and Improved-Kilo-Class are quiet, the latter has reportedly been called “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy due to their noise-reduction measures. The diesel engines sit on a rubber base rather than being rooted to the hull. This dampens and absorbs vibrations caused by the running of the engine. These subs are known for “their quietness and feature some of Russia’s most advanced submarine technology.” Apparently the submarines also have a rubberized, sound-absorbent coating on the inside, which deadens noises originated from inside the sub, such as the engines, talking, or walking. They’re also no slouch when it comes to endurance or armament either. Both submarines have a compliment of 52, with a maximum dive depth of 300 meters — not very deep, but also not necessary near coastal waters. Their operational range is roughly 6,000 to 7,500 kilometers, and speed is roughly 17 knots, or nearly twenty miles per hour.Both classes can fire standard 533-millimeter torpedos, but the Improved-Kilo can also fire Kaliber cruise missiles — optimal for a localized conflict. Both the original Kilo-class as well as the Improved-Kilo-class have seen a moderate amount of success exported worldwide, most notably to several countries that have an interest in the South China Sea — Vietnam and China among them. In the event of a conflict in the South China Sea, the United States, which has tended to favor larger, less maneuverable nuclear-powered subs, maybe at a distinct disadvantage against a smaller, quieter, and more maneuverable enemy.

 

Major European bank could help Russia lift its sunken nuclear submarines

has signaled its readiness to help Russia raise Soviet-era radioactive debris, including two sunken nuclear submarines, from the bottom of Arctic seas. While the deal is not yet final, it is thought that financial assistance would be allocated by the bank’s Northern Dimensions Environmental Partnership program – whose Nuclear Window fund has disbursed millions of dollars to help clean up radioactive hazards in Russia and Ukraine. Talks on funding the recovery of these Cold War artifacts have been underway since the end of last year, when the Russian government reinvigorated long-dormant discussions on retrieving the sunken radioactive cast offs. Alexander Nikitin, who heads Bellona’s St Petersburg offices, has been a part of these discussions. According to the Russian government’s official website on submarine decommissioning programs, the plan to raise the subs was presented at the EBRD’s assembly of donors in December, where the cost for the project was estimated at €300 million. It will now be up to Russia, the site reported, to furnish the bank with a comprehensive plan on raising the subs. While Moscow has considered various methods for raising the subs over the years, those who participated in the December discussions concluded a special ship might have to be built to get the job done. Beginning in the 1960s, the Soviet Navy used the waters east of the Novaya Zemlya atomic weapons testing range as a sort of watery nuclear waste dump. While the Soviet Union was hardly the only nuclear nation that resorted to dumping radioactive waste at sea, it was one of the most prolific. According to catalogues released by Russia in 2012, the military dumped some 18,000 separate objects in the Arctic that could be classified as radioactive waste. These included some 17,000 containers of radioactive waste; 19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 nuclear reactors, including five still loaded with spent nuclear fuel; and 735 other piece of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery. Scientists at the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, or IBRAE, say that time and corrosion have managed to decay thousands of these hazards and render them harmless. This leaves about 1,000 that continue to post a high risk of spreading radioactive contamination. Chief among these are two submarines, the K-159 and the K-27, both of which officials say pose the greatest threat to the environments in which they now lie.The K-159, which sank while it was being towed to decommissioning in 2003 and killed the nine sailors aboard, now lies in some of the most fertile fishing grounds of the Kara Sea. Raising this sub, say Russian experts, should be a priority. Its reactors hold some 800 kilograms of spent nuclear fuel, which they fear could contaminate the sea floor, leading to an economic crisis for the Russian and Norwegian fishing industries.The K-27 submarine, unlike the K-159, was scuttled intentionally. Launched in 1962, the sub suffered a radiation leak in one of its experimental liquid-metal cooled reactors after just three days at sea. Over the next 10 years, various attempts were made to repair or replace the reactors, but in 1979, the navy gave up and decommissioned the vessel.Like the K-159, the K-27 claimed its share of victims. Nine members of its crew of 144 died of radiation related illnesses shortly after returning to shore. Many more of the crew succumbed to similar illnesses in the years that followed.Too radioactive to be dismantled conventionally, the Soviet Navy towed the K-27 to the Arctic Novaya Zemlya nuclear testing range in 1982 and scuttled it in one of the archipelago’s fjords at a depth of about 30 meters. The sinking took some effort. The sub was weighed down by concrete and asphalt to secure its reactor and a hole was blown in its aft ballast tank to swamp it. But the fix won’t last forever. The asphalt was only meant to stave off contamination until 2032.Worse still is that the K-27’s reactors could be in danger of generating an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, prompting many experts to demand it be retrieved first.Raising these submarines from the depths will require technology Russia currently lacks. Even the lifting of the Kursk – perhaps the most famous sub recovery to date – required the assistance of the Dutch. But the K-159 lies at a depth much greater than the Kursk did, leading many experts to suggest building an new vessel for the purpose.From 1946 to 1993, more than 200,000 tons of waste, some of it highly radioactive, was dumped in the world’s oceans, mainly in metal drums, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.The lion’s share of dumped nuclear waste came from Britain and the Soviet Union, figures from the IAEA show. By 1991, the US had dropped more than 90,000 barrels and at least 190,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic and Pacific. Other countries including Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands also disposed of tons of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

 

Russia's Race Car Submarine.

The Alfa class definitely was the speed-king. But what good is being fast if everyone can hear you? The Project 705 Lira—better known abroad as the Alfa-class submarine by NATO—was basically a submarine race car, and looked the part with svelte tear-drop shaped hull, rakishly trimmed-down sail designed to minimize aquadynamic drag, and even its convertible-style pop-up windshield.    Military vehicles are generally designed out of a relentless quest for efficiency, but the Alfa’s iconic shape exemplifies how kinematically optimal designs often possess a striking aesthetic of their own. Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarines tended to be faster and deeper-diving than their Western counterparts—though they were also noisier and more prone to horrifying accidents. The Project 705, however, originated as a 1958-design concept to push the speed advantage to the maximum, allowing the submarine not only keep pace with but overtake NATO carrier task forces typically cruising at 33 knots—while keeping one-step ahead of enemy torpedoes and out-maneuvering enemy submarines.This extraordinary performance would be achieved by ruthlessly maximizing speed and subtracting from weight. Thus the Alfa featured a relatively small hull made of titanium alloy. Titanium is a rare metal which can create surfaces as strong as steel for roughly half the weight. It is also paramagnetic, making the submarine’s hull more difficult to detect for maritime patrol planes using Magnetic Anomaly Detectors. However, titanium can only be welded in an inert argon or helium atmosphere. This led U.S. engineers to assume it was simply impractical to weld large pieces of titanium on the scale necessary for a submarine hull. They underestimated Soviet determination: workers in pressurized suits would work in huge warehouses flooded with argon gas to assemble sheets of the shiny, rare metal. The resulting Project 705 submarine measured 81-meters long but weighed only 3,200-tons submerged. For comparison, the 84-meter-long American Permit class submarine displaced 4,800 tons submerged. The Alfa featured a typical Soviet double-hull configuration, but only one of its six internal compartments was intended for habitation by the crew. Extraordinary degrees of automation allowed a complement of 15 officers cooped together in the heavily protected third compartment of the vessel, instead of the roughly 100 personnel typical on contemporary SSNs. In fact, only eight crew could operate virtually every system on the submarine from the command center thanks to its highly automated systems, allowing for very fast reaction times in combat. In the event of misfortune, the crew could make use of a spherical escape capsule built into the sail—the first to be found on a Soviet submarine. The Alfa’s complement would later be doubled to 32 crew—but no enlisted ratings were invited onboard. However, as the U.S. Navy discovered decades later while developing the Littoral Combat Ship, this degree of automation meant the small crew was incapable of performing maintenance and repairs while at sea. The Alfa relied upon reactor consuming 90% enriched uranium-235 fuel, and liquified lead-bismuth-eutectic for cooling to produce 155 MW of power. As the liquified metal would solidify at temperatures below 257 degrees Fahrenheit, the reactors typically had remain warm lest the liquefied metal freeze, rendering the reactor non-functional. Each Project 705 carried eighteen to twenty 533-millimeter torpedoes which could be automatically loaded into six tubes which could pneumatically ‘pop’ the weapons upwards to engage ships overhead. Optionally, RPK-2 “Starfish” nuclear anti-submarine missiles and ultra-fasted Shkval super-cavitating torpedoes could also be carried. Alfa variants armed with ballistic missiles (705A) or gigantic 650-millimeter torpedo tubes (the 705D) were conceived but never built. After spending nine years in development, four Alfas were laid down in Severodvinsk and Lenningrad between 1967 and 1969. However, only one—K-64 Leningrad, had been launched and commissioned by the beginning of 1972. That same year, K-64 experienced both cracking in its titanium hull and a leaking liquified metal ‘froze’ on the exterior of the reactor causing irreparable damage. The super-submarine was decommissioned and scrapped just a few years after going on duty. After several years of tweaking, six more Alfas were finally commissioned between 1977-1981, with later 705K boats using a moderately more reliable BM-40A reactors. Undeniably, the Project 705 exhibited impressive performance. In a minute and a half, an Alfa could accelerate up to 41 knots (47 miles per hour) while submerged—though some sources claim eve higher speeds were achieved. Their high degree of reserve buoyancy also made them capable of executing fast turns and changes in attitude, and they could dive—and attack from!—depths that NATO torpedoes struggled to atain. When racing at maximum speed using its steam-turbined turned five-bladed propeller, the Alfa-class was unsurprisingly noisy. But an Alfa commander in need of discretion had another trick he could pull from his sleeve: a secondary propulsion system in the form of two tiny electrically turned propellers that allowed the Alfa to slink around very quietly at low speeds.The CIA initially mis-identified the Alfas as being diesel-electric submarines due to their small size. But two determined CIA case officers, Herb Lord and Gerhardt Thamm, began closely analyzing photo intelligence and reports on titanium components flowing to mysterious facilities in shipyards in Leningrad and Severodvinsk, as described by Thamm in this article. This led to a more accurate estimate the capabilities of the ‘titanium submarines’ by 1979, prompting the development of more agile Mark 48 ADCAP and Spearfish torpedoes by the U.S. and U.K. respectively. However, the Pentagon appears to have been fooled by misinformation suggesting much larger-scale production of the Alfa than was the case. In fact, the Alfa had big problems to match its extraordinary speed. As the special facilities required to keep the liquid metal reactors were often missing or broken-down, Alfa crews resorted to keeping the reactors running full time even while in port, making the reactors very difficult to maintain and unreliable. And the Alfas’ hot-burning reactors had to be replaced entirely after fifteen years in service. The Alfa’s low reliability and maintainability at sea meant the submarine was conceived of as a sort of “interceptor,” kept ready at port to dash after key surface warships targets. In this role the Alfa amounted to a formidable foe to NATO submariners.But all but one of the Alfas had been decommissioned by 1990, four of them having had their reactor coolant freeze while deployed at sea. The last ship, K-123, was refit with a pressurized water reactor and was finally decommissioned from duties as a training ship in 1996.Safe disposal of the Alfa reactor cores encrusted with solidified lead-bismuth also proved quite challenging. Furthermore, over 650 tons of weapons-grade U-235 fuel used by Alfas was found unsecured in warehouses in Kazakhstan in 1994, where they had attracted interest from illegal arms dealers. The uranium was ultimately extracted to the United States using huge C-5 Galaxy cargo planes in a covert operation known as Project Sapphire. The Alfa represented a design paradigm for “small but fast” attack submarins that would ultimately fall out of favor compared to “big but stealthy” designs like the Russian Akula-class and U.S. Sea Wolf-class SSNs—though isolated media reports have revealed some interest in future Alfa-like boats. Yet stealth, not speed, reigns as king in modern submarine warfare tactics. That said, for all its serious shortcomings, the Alfa was undeniably a striking and ambitious design that pushed the limits of submarine performance in ways few modern designs even attempt.

 

The Largest Submarine In The World Could Get Eclipsed

Today the largest submarine in the world is Russia’s mighty Typhoon Class ballistic missile sub. It’s massive, but it could be dwarfed if Russian engineers get their way. A ginormous undersea tanker called the Pilgrim has been proposed to transport liquid natural gas (LNG) in the Arctic. Submarine tankers would literally slip under the ice. The Pilgrim submarine tanker would be by far be the largest submarine ever built. St. Petersburg-based Malachite Design Bureau has unveiled a design for a massive submarine capable of carrying 170,000 to 180,000 tons at a time. That is far in excess of the volume of any previous submarine. At 1,180 feet long and 230 feet across the submarine tanker would dwarf the Typhoon. The latter is around half the length at 574 feet and one third the width at 75 feet. So in terms of volume it will be more than six times the size of the Typhoon. To shift this incredible bulk it would be powered by no less than three nuclear reactors, each producing 30 megawatts. This could propel it at 17 knots, which is only a few knots slower than regular tankers. Because it’s not a combat vessel the crew would be small by submarine standards, just 25-28 people. Malachite have designed many of Russia’s most famous submarines. These include the potent Severodvinsk Class cruise missile submarine. And the secretive Losharik spy sub which was involved in a tragic accident last year. They are also working on the Laika, which will probably be Russia’s next generation attack submarine. But nothing that they have built so far is anything like the Pilgrim proposal. If it’s built it’ll be the first submarine tanker in the world. But the idea of transporting hydrocarbons underwater is not new. There have been several proposals over the years but none have come close to fruition.In the 1950s the U.S. considered them as an alternative to undersea pipeline from oil fields in Alaska. And enterprising Dutch naval architects proposed designs based on their then-unique multi-hull submarine technology. The unusual multi-hull concept was later borrowed by the Typhoon. The idea has also come up in Japan. In 1995 there was a patent for a submarine tanker to carry carbon dioxide in liquid form under the ice cap. Around the same time a patent was filed in Russia for an “underwater tanker,” specifically to navigate the ice-bound arctic routes across Russia. It has yet to be seen how submarine tankers could disrupt the world of commodity trading and international trade. Especially if employed beyond the Arctic. They could be immune from piracy for example. Or they could complicate sanctions enforcement. However it plays out, if Pilgrim is ever built it will be a significant change in the tanker landscape.

 

Costly submarine blunder jeopardises  security

More than century ago, the Royal Australian Navy acquired its first submarines. Built in Britain, AE1 and AE2 were state-of-the-art platforms, embodying the world’s best contemporary technology. They were powered by diesel ­engines and lead acid batteries. Forty years later, USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, put to sea. It had a similar revolutionary effect as the entry into service of HMS Dreadnought in 1905. At least at the highest end of offensive operations, diesel submarines were ­arguably rendered obsolete. In April 2016, 101 years after AE2 entered the Dardanelles on a very successful wartime mission and 62 years after the Nautilus’s maiden voyage, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the French government-owned Naval Group had been selected to design Australia’s future submarine, the Attack class. And like AE1, it would have diesel engines and lead acid batteries. If all went well, the first submarine would enter service in 2035. The program will cost an eye-watering $50bn — perhaps much more — in constant 2018 prices. Australia ­already holds the record for the most expensive surface warships of their size ever built with the Hobart-class air-warfare destroyers. It looks like we are about to ­extend our gold medal performance to the underwater. Last December, the US Navy ordered nine Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines at a contract price of $US22bn ($33bn). This was said at the time to be the largest warship building deal (watch this space). These will be more than twice the size of Australia’s Attack class, with a significantly more potent offensive capability and unlimited endurance. Over their 30-year life they will never need refuelling. They will all enter service this decade, the ninth boat being delivered in 2029, when we will still be years off our much costlier, inferior vessel. Turnbull’s announcement came as a surprise. At the time the French proposed to convert their nuclear-powered Barracuda design to diesel-electric propulsion (now it will be a new design). Everything about the project — cost, delivery, technology and risk — suggests it is a dud idea that dumbs down a nuclear submarine by ­removing the whole basis of its ­superior capability, and then charging at least twice as much for a far less capable vessel. When the first is delivered it will likely be ­obsolete. The last is due 100 years after the Nautilus put to sea. When the Super Seasprite helicopter was cancelled after outlaying a cool $1.4bn in return for not one single helicopter that the navy could use, many wondered what the Defence Department could possibly do for an encore. We soon found out. But were this massive project to fail, the consequences for our national security are on a completely different scale and are simply unthinkable. Dick Smith joined with me to place an advertisement in The Australian criticising the deal. Neither Defence nor government took notice. I commissioned ­Insight Economics to undertake substantial research and come up with an alternative. This shows that if the government acts now it is not too late to change course. But the key message is that Australian submarines are required to operate at the highest level of ­intensity, even in peacetime, in an increasingly contested and congested theatre where four nations deploy nuclear submarines and where the potential adversary is pursuing a strategy of anti-access and area denial. With the size and capability of the PLA Navy ­increasing prodigiously, by the time the Attack class is due to enter service the intensity of submarine operations will be even greater. Not only will a diesel submarine have less effectiveness in our area of operations than the American nuclear submarines with which we partner, but its lack of stealth while snorting and its low sustainable speed if detected threatens its survivability. One of the most shameful episodes in our military history ­occurred in 1941-42 when we sent brave young Australians, with predictable results, to fight the ­advanced Japanese Zero fighters in obsolete aircraft. We owe our servicemen and women better than that. We are a wealthy country and have a moral obligation to provide ADF personnel with the best possible military platforms when sent into harm’s way. If we are serious about submarine operations at the highest level of intensity, we need nuclear-powered attack submarines, complemented by autonomous underwater vehicles. If the government decides it is unwilling or unable to acquire ­nuclear submarines, it should consider withdrawing from such ­operations. But submarines are an offensive weapons system and presently provide the ADF’s only substantial power projection capability. If future vessels are not up to this then perhaps we should not operate submarines at all. With Australia’s vast coastline to defend, there is little value in ­deploying a few conventional submarines to chug around. We might be better with two squadrons of advanced bomber aircraft delivered relatively promptly at less cost. With the ongoing ­deterioration of Australia’s strategic circumstances, we may need both nuclear submarines and long-range stealth bombers. Of course, there are challenges involved in upgrading Australia’s capabilities in nuclear science. But if the government commits to ­nuclear submarines then I will commit to endowing a chair in ­nuclear engineering in an Australian university.

 

 

Cruise Missiles: Russia's Typhoon Submarines Now Have 200.

On April 20, 2019, Russia’s TASS Agency reported that Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev announced Russia’s intention to take two of its decommissioned Typhoon-class ballistic submarines and pack them full of hundreds of cruise missiles. The Typhoon ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), famously featured in the film Hunt for Red October, are by far the biggest and most expensive submarines ever built. Cruise-missile-armed Typhoons would give Russia direct analogs of the United States’ four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), which had their launch tubes for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles replaced with vertical launch systems for 154 conventionally-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles. Burtsev made the missile-envy issue explicit: “American Ohio-class submarines can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Chinese Project 055 destroyer is capable of carrying 112 cruise missiles. But our frigates belonging to the Project 22350 can currently carry only 16 of them. Subsequent frigates will get 24 of them. It is still insufficient,” he added. But there’s a big problem this plan—revamping the two mothballed subs would likely cost more than simply building newer, better submarines for the job. The Typhoon-class submarine, officially designated the Project 941 Akula (“Shark”) in Russia, are Cold War behemoths measuring 175-meters in length and displacing 48,000 ton submerged. That amounts to twice the tonnage of American Ohio-class SSBN it was intended to rival. No less than five internal pressure hulls made of ultra-expensive titanium gave the Typhoon’s extraordinary resilience to battle damage—and extraordinary cost to manufacture. The Typhoons were designed to lurk under the ice of the Arctic Circle, covered by friendly Soviet naval forces, awaiting a very-low-frequency radio signal indicating that World War III had broken out and had gone nuclear. In that event, they’d rise close to the surface, counting on their reinforced sails to smash through the ice if necessary, and launch their twenty R-39 ballistic missiles. Each missile, in turn, would unleash ten independently targeted 100-kiloton yield nuclear warheads on American and European cities and military bases.Only one Typhoon remains operational today, TK-208 Dimitriy Donskoi, which has been employed on occasional missile tests. Three others, plus another Typhoon which was laid down and never completed, were scrapped between 2005 and 2009, an operation 80 percent funded with U.S. and Canadian money. Smaller, newer and stealthier Borei­-class SSBNs, as well as older Delta-class boats, perform Russian nuclear deterrence patrols instead—at half the operating and maintenance cost of the Typhoons. The two Typhoons being proposed for refit are the decommissioned TK-17 Arkhangelsk and TK-20 Severstal, which have been rusting in an Arctic ship repair center at Severodvinsk since 2006 and 2004 respectively. For over a decade, the Russian Navy repeatedly announced intentions to either scrap or refit the subs as recently as 2018, only to apparently change its mind. The idea of arming the Typhoons with cruise missiles and mines, instead of new ballistic missiles, has been kicked around for a while. The Typhoons have even been considered for use as submarine cargo ships for circumventing Arctic ice. Burtsev stated that Kalibr­ cruise missiles would be the Typhoon SSGN’s principle armament, but also suggested more advanced Zircon and hypersonic Oniks missile currently under development could also be equipped. The Kalibr is Russia’s analog of the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile. It comes in a submarine-launched 3M14K land-attack and 3M54K radar-guided anti-ship variants, with ranges of 1,600 and 400 miles respectively. Unlike the subsonic Tomahawk, the anti-ship 3M54 model can dash nearly three times the speed of sound on its terminal approach to evade missile defenses. On at least nine occasions between 2015-2018, Russian  Kilo-class submarines have fired subsonic 3M14K Kalibr missile through their torpedo tubes at land targets in Syria. The P-800 Oniks is a more advanced supersonic anti-ship missile in service on new Yasen-class submarines, while Zircon is a hypersonic weapon with a reported top speed of Mach 9 that has yet to be integrated onto a submarine platform. The idea of a gigantic submarine ripple-firing two hundred cruise missiles at NATO bases or a carrier task force sounds intimidating. But just how realistic is a cruise-missile refit? Submarine analyst Peter Coates notes in a blog post the major challenges revamping the Typhoons would pose. The Soviet Navy would have to “treat and/or derust each Typhoon’s massive steel outer hull and Titanium inner hulls. Russia may have lost the highly expensive industrial capability to work Titanium for submarines.” Russia would also have to develop modernized combat systems and sensors, particularly for targeting the cruise missiles, as well as heavily retrofit the 2.4-meter diameter ballistic missile tubes to pack in twenty cruise missiles each. Then, there is the matter of the Typhoon’s two thirty-three-year-old nuclear reactors, which would likely need to be replaced entirely. Lastly, cruise missiles like the Kalibr, priced at $1.2 million each, are fantastically expensive even for the U.S. military, and Russia has roughly one-twelfth the defense budget. Concentrating two-hundred missiles on one submarine, rather than dispersing them across Russia’s many Kalibr-compatible launch platforms, may not be a sensible or affordable way to use the limited supply of costly missiles. In short, Coates, notes that it would likely be cheaper to build two entirely new, modern submarines—say, a modified Borei-class—than to refit the enormous Typhoons.Michael Kofman, a Russia-specialist at the Center for Naval Analysis, stated the same thing: “It sounds quite unrealistic… the project doesn’t make sense given the cost of refitting an SSGN or a ship to a SSGN is often equal to the price of building an entirely new one.” Coates points out that Russia already possesses many submarines that can launch smaller cruise missile attacks, and is upgrading several Project 949AM Oscar-class submarines with the capability of lobbing up to sixty-four cruise missiles through their vertical launch cells on their spine. Thus, while the idea of Russia reviving its cold war leviathans sounds compellingly scary, there’s evidence it makes little practical or financial sense given more cost-efficient and survivable means to achieve the same ends. It could also be the project is being trumpeted for the propagandistic symbolism behind deploying super-submarines that are larger and carry more missiles than their American counterparts. However, in the last few years, the Russian Navy has had to walk back hyped-up plans to develop nuclear-powered Lider-class destroyers, a new aircraft carrier, and air-independent propulsion systems for its diesel submarines. Furthermore, in November 2018 the huge PD-50 floating drydock specifically built to maintain the gigantic Typhoons (and then adapted to tend to carriers and missile cruisers) sank in an accident, with significant implications for the sustainability of large naval assets. Therefore, it’s probably sensible to await more concrete evidence the Russian Navy is ready to follow through with the considerable money and effort necessary to revamp its moth-balled mega-subs. As Kremlin state news agency RIA Novosti/Sputnik News put it in an article that ran January 2018: “At first glance, the idea of equipping Akulas with cruise missiles looks attractive... But those [benefits] pale compared to the costs of restoring and operating Severstal and Arkhangelsk…” “Arkhangelsk” and “Severstal” could be converted to cruise missiles, but the usefulness of this solution at its very high cost is not obvious, says [Russian naval anlalyst] Konstantin Makienko, “we have quite a lot of platforms for cruise missiles that are much cheaper and more mobile.”

 

What it Was Like to Attack Pearl Harbor in a Mini-Submarine

During the early hours of December 7, 1941, five midget submarinesof the Imperial Japanese Navy waited to enter Pearl Harbor, the anchorage of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Their mission was to complement the attack of naval aircraft in dealing a crippling blow to the American naval presence in the Pacific. This ambitious plan failed. Only one craft survived, HA-19, along with one member of its two-man crew, Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, who became “Prisoner No. 1” of the United States in World War II. Sakamaki grew up in a tradition-bound Japanese culture that showed deep reverence for family, teachers, and Emperor Hirohito. He later explained, “We were taught, and we came to believe, that the most important thing for us was to die manfully on the battlefield—as the petals of the cherry blossoms fall to the ground—and that in war there is only victory and no retreat.” So, he applied for admission to the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima and became one of 300 chosen from 6,000 applicants. After graduation, he spent a year at sea, then was promoted to ensign and ordered in April 1941 to report to the Chiyoda, a converted seaplane tender, at the Kure naval shipyard. Sakamaki had been chosen to take part in the development of a secret weapon, the midget submarine, and would join an elite group called the Special Attack Naval Unit. Cadets received training on the island of Ohurazaki, along with a theoretical education at the Torpedo Experimental Division of the Kure Navy Yard. Classes were also held on the tug Kure Maru and seaplane tenders Chiyoda and Nisshin. This intense training program, which was observed and monitored, caused some cadets to drop out and others to commit suicide. Only the finest survived. Sakamaki and his fellow crewman, Warrant Officer Kiyoshi Inagaki, learned the ins and outs of their special craft. Each sub held two crewmen because of cramped space. The only entrance was through a 16-inch hatch in the conning tower. The Imperial Japanese Navy called these minisubs Ko-Hyoteki, but those attached to units used the mother sub’s name, such as I-24’s midget. Paul J. Kemp says in Midget Submarines that these were “perhaps the most advanced midget submarines in service with any navy during the Second World War.” Built in 1938, these cigar-shaped minisubs stretched nearly 80 feet with batteries arranged along each side. They could travel at a speed of 23 knots surfaced and 19 knots submerged, but battery charges lasted only 55 minutes. None of the craft carried generators, so they required recharging by a tender or mother submarine.  The torpedo room housed two 18-inch torpedoes, each with around 1,000 pounds of explosives in the warhead. The Japan Optical Manufacturing Company perfected a specialized 10-foot-long miniaturized periscope in secrecy. In fact, great secrecy shrouded the entire project. The Japanese eventually produced over 400 vessels of four types in a special factory near Kure. Of these, around 60 Type A submarines, the type commanded by Sakamaki, were built. Only key commanders knew details. Dispatches called the craft Special Submarine Boats Koryu (dragon with scales) and other creative names to avoid revealing the true nature of the machines. When the subs first arrived, one seaman recalled, “After we secured, a barge came alongside each submarine. The barges were carrying strange objects heavily screened by black cloth and guarded by armed sailors and police. The objects were hoisted onto the casing and secured in the cradles—still wreathed in their coverings. We, the ship’s company, were not informed what the objects were. It was only when we proceeded to sea for trials in the Sea of Aki that we learned what we were carrying.  The morale on the submarine was incredible.” In mid-October 1941, maneuvers around islands in the Inland Sea shifted from mid-ocean strategies to invading narrow inlets at night. “When Captain Harada told us to pay particular attention to Pearl Harbor and Singapore,” Sakamaki recalled, “we thought that one group would probably be used against Pearl Harbor and another group against Singapore.” After crewmen graduated and received a 10-day leave, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, spoke to them aboard the battleship Nagato and emphasized the importance of their secret mission against Pearl Harbor. Five submarines, I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22, and I-24, were to carry midget submarines behind their coming towers. Each minisub would travel piggybacked to the large submarine’s pressure hull with steel belts and was to be released while the mother ship was submerged, enabling it to avoid exposure to the enemy. Some officers opposed the daring plan to use midget submarines to attack American ships in the narrow confines of Pearl Harbor. Captain Hanku Sasaki, commander of the First Submarine Division, wondered if the big submarines could handle so much weight. “There was too much hurry, hurry, hurry,” he criticized after the war. Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the air attack against Pearl Harbor, scoffed at the entire plan. Others thought the midget submarines rolled and pitched too much. Their conning towers were exposed, and they depended on mother ships for equipment and maintenance. Besides, the element of surprise, which was essential to the success of the air attack, might be compromised if the midget submarines were discovered. Sakamaki’s minisub was strapped to submarine I-24, which was a long-range reconnaissance type, 348 feet long with a 30-foot beam.  Nine thousand horsepower enabled them to reach a surface speed of 22 knots. A telephone line from HA-19’s conning tower connected the two craft, and an attached cylinder between the boats allowed crewmen to stock supplies and make periodic equipment checks en route. On November 18, 1941, Sakamaki wrote home, “I am now leaving. I owe you, my parents, a debt I shall never be able to repay. Whatever may happen to me, it is in the service of our country that I go. Words cannot express my gratitude for the privilege of fighting for the cause of peace and justice.” The five I-class mother ships and their Special Attack Force minisubs left Kure and headed across the North Pacific to Pearl Harbor on a moonless night. They traveled slowly because of cargo and rough weather, running submerged during the day to avoid detection and surfaced during the evening, maintaining a distance of about 20 miles from each other. Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, skipper of I-24, remembered many troubles during the ocean trip to Hawaii, including clogged pumps, defective valves, and gear malfunctions. Once I-24 nearly sank because of a stuck blow-valve, which was freed at the last moment. After surfacing, the crew found a crushed torpedo on Sakamaki’s midget sub and worked all night to replace it with a spare.  Hashimoto later said, “This operation may sound easy enough, but in fact, it was far from simple. The lack of space on the narrow upper deck made transporting something weighing over a ton to the after-end of the boat no mean task, say nothing of having to dispose of the damaged torpedo quietly over the side.” The five midget submarines were to be launched off the coast of Oahu where they were to quietly enter Pearl Harbor, navigate around Ford Island counterclockwise, and strike the U.S. battleships moored in the shallow water of the harbor. The minisubs were initially expected to attack between the first and second waves of the air attack. When the American battleships attempted to get underway and escape to the open sea, they might be crippled and clog the mouth of the harbor. “I was astonished and felt as if suddenly petrified,” Sakamaki remembered of the moment the details of the plan were revealed to him. “The effect was like a sudden magic blow.” Although the plan called for the midget submariners to rendezvous with their mother subs to be recovered on December 8, 1941, about eight miles west of the island of Lanai, Sakamaki realized that the mission was suicidal. The midget submarines lacked battery power to travel such a distance after the assault. Sakamaki said, “We were members of a suicide squadron. We did not know how we could ever come back.” Rear Admiral Hisashi Mito, who commanded a division of submarine tenders, also remarked after the war that all minisub crewmen “were prepared for death and not expected to return alive.” The name “Special Naval Attack Unit” was a euphemism for suicide attack in the Japanese language. These submariners predated later kamikaze attack units. By the night of December 6, the mother ships neared Hawaii, and the flickering lights along Oahu’s Waikiki Beach were visible. Landing lights at Hickam Field on Ford Island blazed. Jazz music floated from radios and bars.  Everything appeared calm. The large subs fanned out within 10 nautical miles of Pearl Harbor’s mouth and waited for the moment to launch their midget submarines. Shortly before the launch, Sakamaki wrote a farewell note to his father, made a will, and cut the traditional fingernail clippings and lock of hair for the family altar. Then, he put on his uniform, a cotton fundishi (breech-cloth), leather jacket, and a white hachimaki headband. He and Inagaki also sprayed themselves with perfume of cherry blossoms, and both were now ready to die honorably according to the Bushido code of conduct for Japanese warriors. After loading their midget sub with everything from charts to tools and chocolate, Sakamaki scrawled in his log that the two sailors would go naked instead of wearing uniforms.  He also wrote, “Today, I will shoulder one important mission, and diving into Pearl Harbor, will sink the enemy’s warships. I was born a man in our country and the present daring enterprise is really the peak of joy. Disregarding the hardships and bitter dangers of the past year, I have trained and the time has come when I will test my ability here. These tubes [submarines] are the pick of our navy. Moreover, they are the result of the wisdom and skill of several tens of thousands of Japanese. In the present operation, the strength of the crew is even more prepared than the torpedoes and certainly we are all completely affected by a feeling of self-sacrifice.” A final test before launching, however, uncovered a gyro failure on the minisub. Inagaki made a frantic attempt to repair it—without success. So Sakamaki decided to steer by memory, use a magnetic compass, and rely on periscope checks for location, all foolish but heroic choices. When asked if he wanted to back out, he replied, “On to Pearl Harbor!” Around 3 am on December 6, Sakamaki and Inagaki squeezed into their black-hulled craft through the attached cylinder. Theirs was the last sub launched. Telephone lines were cut.  Heavy steel clamps released. The sailors moved toward Pearl under their own battery power, but trouble shadowed their midget sub from the start. During the launch, HA-19 took a nose dive and nearly stood on its head. Sakamaki reversed the engines to slow down the descent, while Inagaki shifted ballast around and filled tanks with water to correct the trim. HA-19’s thin pressure hull would crack below 100 feet.  It took hours to fix things, which set the nerves of both men on edge. Afterward, they ate rice balls and drank grape wine before raising the ship to check its location through the periscope. They had gone 90 degrees off course and were heading back out to sea. “My hands were wet with cold sweat,” Sakamaki recalled. “I changed the direction three or four times, hoping against hope that somehow the ship would get going where I wanted to go.” But the tube would not head toward the harbor all night. The sun rose on Sunday, December 7, and HA-19 still remained outside the harbor’s entrance. Looking through the periscope, Sakamaki saw several U.S. destroyers moving back and forth across the entrance to Pearl. He decided to run the gauntlet, but the sonar aboard the destroyer USS Ward, which had sunk one of the midget subs earlier in the morning, picked up Sakamaki’s HA-19 and dropped depth charges that shook it violently. Sakamaki lost his balance, hit the side of the conning tower, and lost consciousness. “I came to myself in a short while and saw white smoke in my submarine,” he later wrote in his memoir I Attacked Pearl Harbor. “I changed the speed to half gear and turned the ship around. I wanted to see if any damage had been done to the ship. My aide was all right.  The two torpedoes were all right. So I got ready to try again to break through the destroyers.”  HA-19 shot ahead. More depth charges came from the Ward. Sakamaki ordered another dive. When Sakamaki later brought the minisub up to periscope depth, he saw columns of black smoke rising from inside the harbor. Ships were burning. The air attack had succeeded. This prompted him to head straight for the harbor, but the sub went aground on a coral reef, its bow lifting out of the water, propellers spinning in reverse. Most accounts say that the destroyer USS Helm fired shots at HA-19, which missed but knocked the sub loose, damaging one of its torpedoes. Sakamaki, however, said he was told later that a destroyer fired on the minisub, but he “didn’t hear any loud explosions at all at the time.” The situation worsened. Gas leaks from the batteries made both Sakamaki and Inagaki sick and dizzy. They had to move 11-pound ballast pigs from front to rear on the slippery flooded floor, suffering electric shocks and becoming exhausted from the hot and foul atmosphere.  Temperatures reached around 135 degrees inside. They finally freed the minisub but found its torpedo-firing mechanism defective, which now left them weaponless. Sakamaki wept at the thought of failure and decided to ram a battleship, turning HA-19 into a manned torpedo. “I had set out for Pearl Harbor with the purpose of sinking a battleship,” he later explained to a U.S. Navy intelligence officer. “Although we were able to reach the mouth of the harbor by creeping underneath your bombs falling like rain, our accident was fatal to the submarine. So we determined to proceed without hesitation on the surface of the water, dash into the harbor and climb the (USS Pennsylvania’s) gangway ladder. We hoped to leap onto the deck and die simultaneously with blowing up the enemy warship.” But this fanciful plan also backfired. Depth charges had disabled the tube’s steering ability, and it spun around erratically. Interior air pressure rose to above 40 pounds. The sailors choked and gasped. Their eyes burned. Lurching made them dazed and weakened. Both seamen finally collapsed, and the craft drifted out to sea. When Sakamaki finally awoke, he opened the hatch to get fresh air from the cool breeze and saw land. Initially, he thought he had reached the rendezvous point off Lanai. Instead, he was near Bellows Field on the eastern shoreline of Oahu. He tried to start the sub, but its batteries sputtered and went dead. HA-19 then ran aground. The two Japanese sailors decided to set off an explosive charge in the after battery room and swim for it. Sakamaki lit the detonator fuse, and both jumped overboard. “The water was cold,” Sakamaki later wrote. “The waves were big. I could not move freely and I swallowed salt water. One minute. Two minutes. No explosion. I began to worry about the ship. The midget submarine had to be destroyed. I wanted to go back, but there was no strength left in me. Neither my aide nor I could shout to each other. Strength gradually went out of me. Then I saw my aide no more.  He was swallowed up by the giant waves. I lost consciousness.” U.S. soldiers later found Inagaki’s body. Before dawn on December 8, Lieutenant P.C. Plybon and Corporal D.M. Akui, serving beach duty near Bellows Field about 15 miles east of Pearl Harbor, saw someone swimming toward shore. “At first we thought it was a big turtle, and then we could see his arms moving as he swam,” said the lieutenant. Corporal Akui fired a rifle shot over the figure’s head. Then Plybon waded into the water and seized Sakamaki, who was wearing only an undershirt and a g-string with 15 cents in Japanese currency sewn into a prayer belt. He dragged the dazed, 127-pound Japanese sailor to shore with the help of Corporal Akui. The Americans shackled his hands and feet, rolled him in an army blanket, and tied him up. Taken to a detention station and interrogated, Sakamaki became “Prisoner No. 1” of the Pacific War. The humiliated Sakamaki asked only to commit suicide. “My honor as a soldier has fallen to the ground,” he told American intelligence officers. “Due entirely to my inexpert navigation and strategy, I betrayed the expectations of our 100 million people and became a sad prisoner of war disloyal to my country.” Around 8:45 am, lookouts spotted Sakamaki’s submarine from an observation tower.  It was beached on a reef about a mile from shore. A reconnaissance plane with two officers from the 86th Observation Squadron aboard flew out and made a sketch of the midget sub, which they gave to the squadron commander. Several Navy planes then dropped bombs around HA-19 in an attempt to dislodge it from the coral reef. The commanding officer at Bellows Field contacted the Navy submarine depot, requesting that salvage specialists investigate the situation. On the rainy morning of December 10, a crew from Pearl Harbor arrived to salvage the disabled minisub, eventually towing it to shore by attaching a cable to its conning tower. A young radioman named Charles L. Jackson was told by his chief to strip down, swim out the few yards, and take a look: “I didn’t argue,” he commented. “I quickly backed away, then swam to the side of the sub and pulled myself up near the conning tower. I looked back at the chief and he motioned to me to enter the boat. I opened the hatch and nearly fell off the side. The stench was so great, I took a few deep breaths, then climbed on top of the tower to let myself into the small opening of the hatch … As I looked around the darkened interior, I saw the communication gear on the starboard side, a navigation chart and instruments were on the port side.” Several others joined Jackson on the midget sub. “As I worked on dismantling the radio, the officer crawled forward to examine the torpedoes while the chief went aft into the battery compartment to examine the batteries and propulsion gear,” he said. During the search, Jackson found an official U.S. Navy chart of Pearl Harbor penciled in with positions of warships. This chart led a board of inquiry to believe that Sakamaki’s midget submarine had actually entered the harbor and traveled around Ford Island before the attack. The theory was later discarded because ideographs gave no sense of the time element, notations seemed too neat and organized, and such a route presented execution problems. Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the attack, also reasoned, “It didn’t make sense. They could see from the hills, so why risk a submarine going in there?… I would strongly discount anything except the most positive evidence that the Japanese were stupid enough to send a submarine in there merely for the purposes of observing.” Although experts first hoped to examine HA-19 on land at Bellows Field, they decided to dismantle the vessel into three sections and examine it at Pearl Harbor. A year later, on November 30, 1942, a bronze plaque on a stone base was placed in front of the post headquarters at Bellows Field to honor those men who helped capture Sakamaki and the Japanese minisub. The curious tale of midget sub HA-19 continued. Although it had suffered damage to the rudders, torpedoes, propellers, and bow net cutter, the vessel still remained in good condition and was outfitted as a traveling exhibit without periscope, motor, and most of its original equipment. Damaged parts were repaired with parts from a midget sub rammed in Pearl Harbor by the destroyer USS Monaghan. Electrical fixtures were installed, dummy batteries and motor added, and 22 small windows cut in the hull. During the war, HA-19 toured 41 states on a trailer, draped in red, white, and blue bunting, promoting the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Millions bought war bonds and stamps to get a glimpse of the vessel and look inside.  Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt inspected it at Mare Island. The traveling HA-19 raised enough money to repair all the ships damaged at Pearl Harbor during the brutal attack. After the war, HA-19 sat rusting at the Navy Pier in Chicago. It was later sent to a museum in Key West, Florida, and is now on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. The Japanese high command spread propaganda that one of the midget subs had sunk the battleship USS Arizona, which had actually been destroyed from the air. One book praised, “Dashing courageously into Pearl Harbor, they completed their task and then calmly awaited death. It came, and they faced it with smiles on their faces. When our thoughts dwell on their gallant deed and we recall their great act of sacrifice, how can we help but become overcome with the deepest feeling of emotion?” Paintings and postcards romanticized the midget submarine sailors who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, but Sakamaki is excluded from any mention. His image is not present in memorial artwork. The Japanese were aware that HA-19 and Sakamaki had both been captured. Having failed in his mission and lived, Sakamaki had become an outcast. Throughout the war in the Pacific, Japanese midget subs made meager contributions. The Pearl Harbor plan had apparently failed.  Around 40 more minisubs failed to achieve any notable success at Guadalcanal, the Aleutians, the Philippines, Saipan, Okinawa, or Sydney, Australia. One, however, nearly made history when its torpedo narrowly missed the cruiser USS Boise in the strait between Negros and Siquijor Islands. Aboard the ship at the time was General Douglas MacArthur, commander of Allied forces in the South Pacific. After the war, Kazuo Sakamaki married, wrote his memoirs, and eventually rose to become Production Chief of Toyota’s Export Division in Nagoya. He later became president of Toyota in Brazil. He died on November 29, 1999, still remembered as “Prisoner No. 1” of the Pacific War.

 

 

Secret Submarine Capability Shown In NATO Photo

NATO’s Dynamic Manta exercise kicked off in the Mediterranean in February. One of the photographs released, of an Italian submarine, shows something particularly interesting. It is not obvious to the untrained eye, but on its back are 9 grey blocks. These tell us something about the submarine’s covert mission capability. They are attachments for one of the Italian Navy’s most differentiating capabilities: special forces mini-subs. The Italian Navy is very secretive about these capabilities, so a certain amount of informed guesswork is needed.  The 9 small blocks visible on the submarine's casing relate to a special forces capability. The Italian Navy can claim to have invented the modern art of special forces frogmen. Even in World War One they were sinking battleships using ‘human torpedoes’. Then in World War Two they had some dramatic successes, which caused others to follow. This focus continued during the Cold War and beyond but is veiled in great secrecy. The naval Special Forces unit, COMSUBIN, worked closely with Britain’s SBS, France's Commando Hubert and the U.S. Navy SEALs among others. Italian consultants also had a significant impact on Israeli and South African capabilities, supplying mini-subs and training. But while many readers will be aware of the mini-subs used by the U.S. Navy SEALs, Italy’s designs are virtually unknown. Obscurity doesn’t make them less capable however. In fact the Italian designs are generally said to be about 10 years ahead of everyone else. How true this is today can only be speculated about, but they are certainly top tier. The attachment on the submarine are most likely for a cradle to carry a mini-sub. This is known as a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) and can carry at least 6 divers. It is built by CABI Cattaneo of Milan, Italy, but very little information is available and there are no reliable photos. It is a fair guess that it incorporates technologies which set it apart from other SDVs. Another possibility is that the attachments are for a Special Forces hangar, known as a dry deck shelter (DDS). This can carry boats or several diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs). The Italian Navy is thought to use the CABI Cattaneo of Milan ‘Deep Guardian’ hangar and Rotinor Blackshadow 730 DPVs. These Special Forces capabilities give the Italian Navy very long reach in the Mediterranean. The highly trained COMSUBIN commandos can be landed covertly on foreign shores. For example there have been rumors of Italian Special Forces operating in war-torn North Africa. Whether submarines have been involved, the capabilities of Italian boats are worthy of a lot more attention than they get.

 

Royal Navy To Get First Large Autonomous Submarine

The Royal Navy have awarded a contract for what may be the world’s largest underwater drone. Armed submarine drones are just around the corner and the U.K.’s Royal Navy does not intend to be left behind. The XLUUV (extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle) will be 100 feet long and have the capacity to be armed. This means that Britain is joining the U.S. in leading world development of full-sized underwater combat drones.The news was shared by Admiral Anthony Radakin, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, at the Underwater Defence & Security conference Thursday. The event, taking place in Southampton, United Kingdom, is attended by NATO and NATO-friendly navies and defense firms. The Royal Navy does not have plans to increase the number of Astute Class nuclear powered attack submarines or next generation SSN(R). So XLUUVs could be a cheaper force multiplier. Having an XLUUV is significant as it will allow the Royal Navy to learn how to use them. Building them is one challenge, developing the tactics and doctrine is another. The future may favor the early movers such as the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy who learn how to use them effectively. Steve Hall, Chief Executive of the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT), says that there are other challenges which this project will help the Royal Navy overcome. XLUUVs will take the International Rules of the Road, the maritime law designed to prevent collisions, into uncharted territory. And adding an armament will further complicate the law. This situation is similar to when armed aerial drones were first being used. Aerial drones generally have a human in the loop before the weapon is fired, but this may not be practical for an autonomous submarine. The contract has been awarded to U.K. based MSubs Ltd, part of the Submergence Group. The company has a history of building midget submarines and large autonomous underwater vehicles. Customers include the U.S. Navy SEALs, whose new Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) is entering service. The U.S. Navy’s own XLUUV, the Orca, is being built by Boeing however. One of the most ambitious aspect of the Royal Navy XLUUV is that it will have a range of around 3,450 miles (3,000 nautical miles). This implies a diesel-electric or air-independent-power (AIP) as batteries alone are unlikely to be enough. While 100 feet long may sound small for a submarine, it is massive for an uncrewed boat. If you were to add the crew space back in it’d be around the same size as many navies’ submarines. Most unmanned underwater vehicles are tiny by comparison, less than 15 feet long. The increased size will allow the new craft to carry substantial armament such as torpedoes and mines, or even smaller AUVs. The first vehicle will be an enlargement and automation of the existing S201 manned submersible built by MSubs. But the company offers all-new XLUUV designs including the Moray. This has a sail like a submarine and can perform a wide range of roles such as anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare and attacking surface ships. It also conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering, and can support Special Forces. The exact armed roles that the Royal Navy has in mind are unclear, but the Moray may hint at the direction things are going. China, South Korea and Japan are known to have large AUVs under development but nothing of the scale of the Royal Navy Project. It remains to be seen how Russia may respond to this trend.

 

£2.5m investment in XL autonomous submarine development

The first extra-large autonomous test submarine will be developed for the Royal Navy following a new contract by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). MSub’s S201 manned submersible to be converted into an unmanned vehicle (XLUUV). An initial £1 million contract has been awarded to Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd to build a test submarine that will be used to explore the potential capabilities of larger uncrewed underwater vehicles in the future. Measuring about 30m in length, this extra-large autonomous submarine is significantly larger than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3000 nautical miles. Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord announced the contract at the Underwater Defence & Security Symposium in Southampton. The First Sea Lord noted how the Ministry of Defence wants to increase its presence in the underwater battlespace and is exploring the use of extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUV) for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations.Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord said: I am enormously excited about the potential for remotely piloted and autonomous systems to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way.These XLUUVs are at the forefront of underwater systems technology; UK technological developments such as this will be key to the Royal Navy maintaining its battle-winning edge in the underwater environment. XLUUV submarines are especially adept at covert intelligence gathering. They can leave their dock autonomously and secretly move to the operational area without any embarked crew for up to three months. They are also able to sense hostile targets and report their findings back to the station, making them an important barrier for anti-submarine warfare. Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: Submersible autonomous vessels have huge potential and this project could be a game-changer for the UK’s underwater capability, taking our submarine service to the next level. I am pleased that this funding supports MSubs Ltd., a UK based company committed to innovation and research in the autonomous sector. This is a key example of how defence is doing more than ever before to give industry the opportunity to research innovative new technology. DASA delivery manager Adam Moore said: DASA’s involvement is enabling this technology to advance at a much quicker pace and to deliver new capabilities to the Royal Navy years earlier than otherwise possible – making sure the UK stays ahead of our adversaries. Not only will this enhance the UK’s strategic advantage but also boost UK prosperity by supporting small and medium-sized companies like MSubs in Plymouth. The first phase of DASA’s Developing the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Capability programme - run jointly with the Royal Navy and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) - will see an existing crewed submersible refitted with autonomous control systems. If initial testing is successful, up to a further £1.5 million is available to further test the new capability – making it the largest joint contract awarded as part of a DASA competition. Currently, smaller autonomous and remotely piloted submarines are unable to undertake all the tasks of larger crewed submarines.

 

Russia Unveils Laika, Its Next-Gen Nuclear Attack Submarine

Russia is preparing to begin work on a brand new class of nuclear-powered attack submarine designed to compete with the best of NATO’s submarines. The new Laika-class submarine, named after a breed of Siberian snow dog, is Moscow’s first clean sheet nuclear attack sub in nearly 50 years. But we don't know how long it will take to develop the sub—or how many the Russian Navy will eventually receive. The Russian Federation retains one of the largest submarine fleets in the world, including nuclear and conventional attack submarines, guided missile submarines armed with cruise missiles, and ballistic missile submarines armed with long range nuclear weapons. Although large, the fleet has a secret: many of the ships are decades old and in need of replacement. Of the 16 nuclear-powered attack submarines in operation, almost all were built by the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War.The submarine arm of the Russian Navy, like most of the Russian military, suffered for decades after the end of the Soviet Union. Only recently has the submarine force gained new ships, including the new Borei-class ballistic missile submarines and Yasen-class guided missile submarines. Like the USSR, Russia considers submarines useful in a rivalry with the West, as they could threaten U.S. aircraft carriers and threaten enemy shipping. The Laika class is the third new post-Cold War submarine scheduled to enter production and will replace the Akula (“Shark”) and Victor (NATO code name) submarine classes. According to submarine authority H.I. Sutton, author of the Covert Shores website and contributor at Naval News, the Laika class will incorporate many new design features to allow Russia’s attack submarine fleet to catch up to western standards. The Laika class is being developed by the Malachite design Bureau in St. Petersburg, Russia. The submarines will displace 11,340 tons, making them considerably larger than the U.S. Navy’s current Virginia class submarines at 8,700 tons. Sutton reports the nuclear-powered submarine will have a top speed of 35 knots, or about the equivalent of 40 miles per hour on land. It will have a maximum dive capability of 1,698 feet. The maximum depth of the Virginia class is secret, but it's known to be at least 800 feet, and probably closer to 1,600 feet. The new submarine is in line with Russian submarines in having more of an “organic” look than many western subs. While U.S. submarines have large, conspicuous sails and a tubular, almost pencil-like design, Russian submarines tend to have thicker, wider hulls and a lower, longer sail. As a result, Russian subs tend to look more like exotic sea creatures than their American, British, and French counterparts. The submarines have some catching up to do and will feature a conformal sonar array that wraps around the hull, providing sound detection in all directions. The submarine likely has about eight 533-millimeter (21-inch) torpedo tubes, the size standard used by navies worldwide, including the U.S. Navy. The torpedo tubes will launch heavyweight guided torpedoes for use against other submarines and surface ships. The submarines will also have up to 16 vertical launch missile silos for Kh-35 anti-ship missiles and Klub land attack cruise missiles. Russia plans to replace its aging Akula- and Victor-class submarines on more or less of a 1:1 basis, which means about a dozen Laika boats. That depends, however, on how trouble-free the development of this new class of submarines is, and the health of the Russian economy. Moscow’s Borei- and Yasen-class missile submarines each spent nearly two decades in development due not only to their complexity, but a lack of funds to complete production, too. While Russia’s economy has since improved, a global economic downturn, Western sanctions over Moscow’s assassination campaign abroad, and annexation of the Crimea could threaten economic growth.

 

Japan Builds Some of the World's Best Stealth Submarines

The combination of long-endurance stealth, sensors, and modern torpedoes and missiles makes the Soryu class an effective hunter-killer.The Second World War taught Japan valuable lessons. The first—don’t start wars—is an obvious conclusion that has been taken to heart. Other lessons were the result of the wartime Allied air and naval blockade of the country, which brought it to the brink of starvation. For Japan, poor in resources and arable land, to survive the next war, the air and sea lanes must stay open, and for that to happen, Japan must have top-flight air and naval forces.Japan’s postwar submarine fleet is one of the best in the world. With an authorized total of twenty-two submarines, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s submarine fleet is also one of the largest. Japan builds its own submarines, with the work split between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, both based in the port city of Kobe. Japan takes an iterative approach to submarine construction, with a new submarine class introduced roughly every twenty years that builds upon previous ones. The current class, Soryu, builds upon the older Oyashio class, and the two classes form the entirety of the fleet. Each Soryu features a high degree of automation, reducing crew size to nine officers and fifty-six enlisted men—down ten personnel from the Harushio-class of the mid-1990s. At 4,200 tons submerged, the nine Soryu-class submarines are the largest submarines built by postwar Japan. Each is 275 feet long and nearly twenty-eight feet wide. They have a range of 6,100 nautical miles and can reportedly dive to a depth of 2,132 feet, or two-fifths of a mile. The Soryu class features an X-shaped tail, reportedly for increased maneuverability in approaching the seabed. This maximizes the sub’s maneuvering room in shallow and littoral waters, particularly the straits in and around Japan that mark key invasion routes.Each submarine has an optronic mast and ZPS-6F surface/low-level air search radar for detection of enemy ASW and maritime patrol craft. As submarines, however, the main sensor is sonar, represented by the Hughes/Oki ZQQ-7 sonar suite incorporating one bow-mounted sonar array and four flank sonar arrays. The subs also have a towed sonar array for rear acoustic detection. The Soryu class has six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes mounted in the bow. Armament consists of Type 89 heavyweight homing torpedoes with a range of twenty-seven nautical miles and a maximum operating depth of 2,952 feet. The standard diameter torpedo tubes, along with strong American ties, mean the Soryu is also armed with UGM-84 submarine-launched Harpoon missiles. According to Combat Ships of the World, there are unconfirmed reports that the submarines carry a warshot of thirty weapons instead of the twenty of previous classes. They can also lay mines. The Soryus have extensive active defense systems, in the form of the ZLR-3-6 electronic countermeasures suite and two three-inch underwater countermeasures launchers for launching acoustic devices. On the passive side, the entire submarine is covered in acoustic tiling to reduce both the signature of enemy active sonar signals and sounds from the inside the ship. Propulsion is what the class is most famous for. Each can make thirteen knots surfaced and twenty knots submerged, powered by twelve Kawasaki 12V 25S diesel engines and one tandem Toshiba electric motor. For silent running, each submarine is equipped with four Stirling V4-275R Mk air independent propulsion systems licensed from Sweden that can power the submarine underwater for up to two weeks. There are also rumors that the last ships built will trade their AIP units for lithium-ion batteries.The Soryu class isn’t perfect, though: one major criticism of the boats during the Australian submarine competition was their relatively short operating range. At 6,100 nautical miles, the Soryu’s range wasn’t an issue for their original mission: protecting the home waters of Japan. Australian Soryus, however, would have had to travel 3,788 miles from their base at HMAS Stirling just to reach the vicinity of Taiwan, a voyage that would necessitate at least one refueling stop, and probably two. For the Australian bid, the Soryus were to be lengthened six to eight meters for improved crew habitability and increased range, but the need to modify the submarine for Australian requirements likely worked against Japan. The combination of long-endurance stealth, sensors, and modern torpedoes and missiles makes the Soryu class an effective hunter-killer. It is, however, a specialized killer, as Australia came to realize, and would have been a fish out of water in Australian service. As potent as the class is, expect a replacement class that builds upon this hunter-killer within the next decade. Japan is exploring unmanned underwater vehicles, and toward that end, underwater communications and underwater wireless power-transmission methods.

 

Narco Submarines At All-Time High

Last year yielded a bumper crop of narco-submarines, and it looks set to continue. These purpose-built vessels are one way Colombian cartels smuggle drugs towards the United States. The number discovered by authorities are at an all-time high. Based on open source intelligence there were 36 reported incidents in 2019. This compares to just two a decade earlier.The reported incidents, when they are interdicted or discovered, are only the tip of the iceberg. Many more get through. And despite the higher rate of interdictions, they keep coming. So there is no sign that the losses are at a level which deters the criminals.Interdiction rates are difficult to measure because we have half the picture. We can only count the ones which don’t get through. Speaking to people with knowledge of the subject, historically the percentage intercepted or found has been estimated to be between 5% and 15%. If we take a very conservative view and say that as many as 20% were either interdicted or otherwise discovered in 2019, extrapolating the reported incidents gives us an estimate of 180 narco submarine trips in total. It could be more. Applying this logic across all years, since 2006 when the first ‘modern’ narco-submarines were discovered, suggests that over 800 have been built. My belief is that it could be much higher than that. And 2019 was not just a bumper year, it was also a year with several new developments. Venezuela and Peru both had their first incidents. And in November the transatlantic route was finally proven to be real when one was discovered in Galicia, Spain. There's usually a lag between the incident and its reporting so I'm cautious to put a number on the past few months. But 2020 is looking to be much like 2019. Already on January 2 a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft discovered one in the Eastern Pacific. Also in January the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Vigilant intercepted two more narco-submarines, again in the Eastern Pacific. Both had very narrow hulls, known as a Very Slender Vessels, or VSVs. These have been a common style of narco-submarine for a few years. And in February, Panamanian and Colombian forces interdicted a particularly large one. This had two inboard motors which is unusual but not unique. It had 5 tons of cocaine aboard, around 5-8 times the typical load. Meanwhile the Colombian Navy discovered yet another narco-submarine in the jungle. It was 55 feet long, excluding the outboard motors which would be attached to the back, and about 6 feet across. So the flood of narco-submarines seems unabated. The vessels and operating patterns will continue to evolve, but most of all we are seeing an increase in numbers.

 

60th Anniversary of Deepest Ocean Dive

Plunging into the deep, dark abyss of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard heard a loud cracking sound in their vessel—the bathyscaphe Trieste, which the Office of Naval Research (ONR) purchased for scientific observations. Already 30,000 ft. below sea level, Walsh and Piccard faced the ultimate decision—risk their lives to become the first people to travel to the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep, or return to safety.The crack had scarred one of Trieste’s outer plexiglass panels, but Walsh and Piccard (whose father designed Trieste) decided to push on. After a nearly 5-hr. descent, the Trieste reached the Challenger Deep, approximately 36,000 ft. below sea level, on January 23, 1960.Exactly 60 years later, on January 23, 2020, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., celebrated the anniversary of Trieste’s journey with a program featuring Walsh, the lone remaining pilot of the trip.

 

Five Deeps Expedition Launches New 2020 Voyage

Through collaboration between investor and explorer Victor Vescovo, Triton Submarines and EYOS Expeditions, the 2020 Caladan Oceanic expeditions will yet again visit never before seen ocean depths and famed historic sites. A first of its kind two-person research submersible, designed and manufactured by Triton specifically for extreme deep-sea exploration endeavours, will bring its stories of the voyage to the world in near-real-time between February and July of 2020. The vessel, the Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor, is the first commercially certified full-ocean-depth submersible. It will be transported and deployed into the ocean depths by the Deep Submergence Support Vessel (DSSV) Pressure Drop, a former US Navy ship specially retrofitted for the expedition. Vescovo will pilot the submersible on almost all of its dives. ”Following up on the success of our mission last year to dive to the bottom of all five of the world’s oceans, we look forward to diving two seas and two oceans in the recently- enhanced Limiting Factor on a new series of ‘first’ manned dives,” Vescovo said from Toulon, France, where he had just completed the first phase of the voyage.

Five Phases of the Mission

  • The mission will include five phases:
  • Phase I: “La Minerve” (West Mediterranean)
  •  Phase II: The Calypso Deep (East Mediterranean)
  • Phase III: The Red Sea
  • Phase IV: Indian Ocean/Nekton Expedition
  • Phase V: The “Ring of Fire” Expedition

Phase I: “La Minerve”

After completing sea trials off the coast of Spain on January 31st, the Caladan Oceanic team sailed to the southern coast of France where on February 1-2 they twice dove on the tragic wreck of the French submarine, Minerve. Caladan worked closely with French authorities and the family of its crew to organize the expedition. On the first dive, Vescovo was accompanied by retired French Rear Admiral Jean-Louis Barbier, a submarine expert who conducted a detailed investigation of the wreck to gather new evidence on what might have caused the vessel’s unexpected sinking in 1968. Herve Fauve, the son of the submarine’s Captain, accompanied Vescovo on the second dive when a memorial plaque was placed on the remains of the sunken vessel at over 2,250 meters depth. This was the first manned visit to the site since the Minerve’s sinking in 1968, which was only discovered last summer. Vescovo later said: “It was very moving to be with the son of the Minerve’s Captain, at the actual wreck, and pay our respects to the brave sailors who gave their lives in the defense of France. As a former naval officer myself, I was very honoured to partner with our French allies to do this.”

Phase II: The Calypso Deep

From France, the expedition will sail to Kalamata, Greece and attempt to dive to the deepest point in the Mediterranean Sea, the Calypso Deep. To the surprise of the Caladan team, a thorough review of historical records indicate that no submarine has ever visited the actual bottom of the Mediterranean Sea at approximately 5,627 meters (17,280 feet), so this could be the “first descent” of this particular deep. Caladan will be conducting the dive in conjunction with the government of Greece and the scientific organization, Explorations de Monaco.

Phase III: The Red Sea

After its dives in the Mediterranean, the ship and crew will head through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea. In cooperation with the Saudi Arabian scientific community at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Caladan hopes to make multiple dives in the little-explored Red Sea and make a manned dive – for the first time - to its deepest point: the Suakin Trough. The expedition expects to conduct its operations during mid-February in and around Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

Phase IV: Indian Ocean and the Nekton Expedition

In the Indian Ocean, Caladan will partner with the Nekton Organization for a series of extensive scientific dives in the Seychelles and Maldives as part of their “First Descent” program. For more details on this month-long expedition, see: www.nektonmission.org Following these dives, the Caladan team will proceed to Singapore for refuelling and provisioning.

Phase V: The “Ring of Fire” Expedition

The “Ring of Fire” is a common name given to the geologically active area that borders the roughly circular Pacific tectonic plate. It is, overall, the most active plate in the world and causes many volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The Caladan team will conduct several dive series around the western portion of the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, starting with attempts to dive multiple World War II-era wreck sites including the suspected USS Johnston, wrecks from the 1944 Typhoon Cobra off the Philippine islands, and the USS Indianapolis. These would be the first manned dives to all these wrecks and would help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific in World War II. If confirmed, the dive on the suspected wreck of the USS Johnston off Samar island could be the deepest manned wreck dive in history if completed. The Johnston and Indianapolis were located in 2017 and 2019, respectively, by Paul Allen’s Research Vessel Petrel and a team led by Robert Kraft of Vulcan Inc.. The team will then proceed to the Yap and Palau trenches for almost two weeks to conduct extensive scientific investigations with multiple deep-sea lander deployments.

First Dive by a Woman to the Bottom of the Ocean

The Limiting Factor will then return to the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, for up to eight scientific and survey dives to all three “pools” that constitute the Deep. The team hopes they will be able to execute the first dive by a woman to the bottom of the ocean, with US astronaut and former NOAA Director Dr. Kathy Sullivan. Later in this dive series, Vescovo plans to descend to the same location that the Trieste visited in 1960 during the first descent into the Challenger Deep. In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of that dive, Vescovo intends to make the journey with Kelly Walsh, the son of the Trieste’s captain, Dr. Don Walsh. The expedition will conclude with a further two weeks of dives along the north-south “spine” of the Mariana Trench, with a goal to execute first descents of numerous deeps and canyons that have never before had manned visitation. The team hopes to observe volcanic vents, identify new species, and conduct extensive mapping of the US Exclusive Economic Zone at the request of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). All mapping done by the expedition will also be contributed to the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project. The expedition is expected to conclude on or about July 20th in Guam. www.caladanoceanic.com

About Caladan Oceanic

Caladan Oceanic is a not-for-profit private company dedicated to the advancement of undersea technology and supporting expeditions to increase the understanding of, and support, the productive sustainment of the oceans. Founder Victor Vescovo has long had a passion for exploration and has summited the highest peak on all seven of the world’s continents including Mt. Everest, and skied at least 100 kilometres to both the North and South Poles. With the completion of the Five Deeps Expedition in August 2019, Vescovo became the first person in history to have been to the top of all the world’s continents, both poles, and the bottom of all its oceans. He will be awarded the Explorer’s Club Medal in March 2020.

About Triton Submarines

Triton Submarines of Sebastian, Florida, is the most experienced civil submarine producer in the world today – and the only contemporary manufacturer of acrylic- pressure-hull-equipped personal submarines to deliver multiple classed and certified vessels capable of diving to 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). Triton Submarines senior staff have over 350 years of combined experience with more than 80 different submersibles, and their operations team have together logged over 25,000 dives. Triton clients also enjoy superlative after-sales service and technical support from a company dedicated to their total satisfaction.

About EYOS Expeditions

EYOS Expeditions has been designing complex and challenging expeditions for private vessels since 2008. Drawing on the decades of experience of the company’s co-founders, the EYOS team have delivered over 1,200 safe and successful expeditions to some of the most remote destinations on Earth. EYOS Expeditions holds several “world firsts” and routinely take clients to destinations rarely or never before visited. EYOS Expeditions and sister company Expedition Voyager Consultants have worked behind the scenes on many of the industry’s groundbreaking itineraries and have a long history of delivering once-in-a-lifetime experiences for clients while maintaining the highest standards of safety, professionalism and environmental stewardship. EYOS Expeditions is today regarded as the industry leader for planning and operating remote expeditions using submersibles.

 

WCB vs. Aquatica Submarines

WCB vs. Aquatica Submarines Inc. ABLE AUCTIONS WILL SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION THE ASSETS OF AQUATICA SUBMARINES INC. ON SATURDAY FEBRUARY 15TH 2020 AT APPROXIMATELY 9:30 AM AT 19757 92A AVE LANGLEY, B.C. WWW.ABLEAUCTIONS.CA

 

Russia’s Laika Next Generation Attack Submarine

The Laika class submarine follows on from the Pr.885/885M Severodvinsk Class cruise missile submarines. But it is not a straightforward successor. It was first revealed in the background of a media report on a Russian defense exhibition in December. Although it has not been officially confirmed the new design is likely to be the next generation Russian attack submarine project known as Husky.  The Project 545 ‘Laika’ was first revealed in the background of a media report on a Russian defense exhibition in December. Although it has not been officially confirmed the new design is likely to be the next generation Russian attack submarine project known as Husky. The name Laika refers to a breed of Siberian hunting dog very similar to the husky. The type follows on from the Pr.885/885M Severodvinsk-class cruise missile submarines (SSGN). But it is not a straightforward successor. Instead, it is the cheaper little brother, intended as a replacement for existing attack submarines. As the Severodvinsk-class (also known as Yasen-class) replaces the Oscar-II SSGNs, Laika will replace the Akula and Sierra classes. Despite efforts to modernize, the backbone of Russia’s attack submarine fleet are still Cold War types. The end of the Cold War was a bad time for the Russian submarine force. Budgets were cut, fleets were slashed, most new construction was shelved and new projects halted. What was left was a shadow of what went before. While the submarines which survived were generally the best and most modern, their time at sea, a major factor in combat effectiveness, was greatly reduced. The bad times lasted through the nineties and most of the 2000s. There were years when even the nuclear deterrent submarines barely put to sea. Eventually things began to improve in the last ten years. In particular the nuclear attack submarine (SSN) fleet has been operating more adventurously in the North Atlantic. And the submarine navy has regained some operational experience firing cruise missiles at Syria. But the nuclear powered attack submarine fleet is still increasingly dated. Still potent, still capable, but largely stuck in time. Laika will be a much needed replacement. The submarine model shows a relatively conventional layout with hints of both the Akula and Severodvinsk classes. Like Akula it will revert to the traditional Russian double-hull convention. And also appears, like Akula, to have a chin mounted sonar. The first Severodvinsk boat had introduced a spherical array, taking up the entire bow much like older US Navy designs. That appears to have been dropped in favor of a conformal array in subsequent Severodvinsk-class boats. But they were left with flank torpedo tubes angled outward to go around the ghost of the spherical array. Laika starts life with the conformal array so the torpedo tubes can, logically, be accommodated above the sonar like on the Akula. This will have some advantages, allowing faster torpedo shots and simplifying the torpedo room. The tubes themselves are likely to all be 533mm (21″) as there has not been investment in the larger 650mm range of weapons for many years. Added to this, none of the weapons listed on the information board accompanying the model were 650mm. The most likely arrangement is this 8 x 533mm tubes. There are also likely to be some external tubes for countermeasures. Unlike previous Russian SSNs the Laika will have a vertical launch system for cruise missiles. This is likely to share some commonality with the one on the improved Severodvinsk-class boats. But we should expect fewer silos, possibly just four. This would give a VLS load of up to 16 missiles. Arguably the VLS will make the Laika an SSGN design. The same could be said of the US Navy’s Virginia-class. But following the logic that Laika will replace SSNs more or less 1:1, while the Severodvinsk-class is replacing the Oscar-IIs, the “SSN” label is likely to stick. And with it the doctrine of SSN usage in the Russian Navy. Laika is from the same design bureau as the Severodvinsk-class, which shows. An interesting aspect is that Russia has two bureaus in charge of designing submarines: Rubin and Malachite. There does not seem to be any love lost between them. A third, Lazurit, was a victim of the post Cold War ‘peace dividend’ and is no longer in the submarine game. Although they have tried to get back, which would make things more interesting. So with the Laika, Malachite has cornered the attack submarine market in Russia for the foreseeable future. And separately the deep diving midget submarine sector. Meanwhile Rubin is dominant for strategic deterrent submarines, underwater robots (autonomous underwater vehicles – AUVs) and non-nuclear submarines. This manifests itself in interesting ways in the design of the Laika. Many western observers will be surprised that Laika doesn’t have pump jet propulsion. Pump jets are generally quieter, and thus more stealthy, especially at higher speeds. The curved propeller (screw) looks great but it is actually a bit old fashioned for nuclear submarines. Britain, and then the US and France, made pump jets standard years ago. And Russia does have pump jets on some of its latest boats. But the best explanation as to why Laika doesn’t, is because it is a Malachite design. Rubin has the technology, but there seems to be a barrier to Malachite using it. So the Severodvinsk-cClass, and now Laika, still has a curved propellers. That doesn’t make Laika noisy. There are lots of elements and compromises involved in submarine stealth. And it’s a safe bet that Laika will be as quiet or quieter than existing Russian boats. Some Russian sources describe Laika, or at least the Husky project, as the basis for ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) also. It will be modular in the sense that the missile compartment could be switched to a larger one for submarine launched ballistic missiles. This is unlikely to be a quick switch, and more likely different submarines would be built, but with the same fore and aft sections. This brings Malachite into the strategic submarine space. Which is currently the territory of the rival Rubin design bureau. Perhaps to return the favor, Rubin has proposed a cruise missile version of their current strategic submarine design, the Borei-class. But with a full set of Borei-class submarines planned there does not appear to be a strong need for an SSBN version of Laika.

 

How North Korea Helped Iran Get Some Very Special Submarines

Iran’s submarine force is by far the most numerous and technically capable arm of its navy and slated to remain so for the foreseeable future given Tehran's geopolitical investment in the Gulf region. Tensions continue to mount between Washington and Iran, with every week bringing forth a new round of diplomatic threats and accusations. Most recently, Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami gave a blistering speech in which he assured the Iranian parliament that the “vulnerability” of American aircraft carriers will prevent the U.S. military from challenging Iranian power in the Persian Gulf. Such rhetoric is par for the course for Iranian officials and state media, who project unwavering confidence in Iranian military capabilities. But just how capable is Iran’s conventional military, and do they really have the means to effectively resist a U.S. offensive? The National Interest previously looked at this nuanced question with overviews of Iran’s air force and surface navy. We now turn to what is arguably the core of Iran’s conventional military strength, and the reason why it boasts the fourth-strongest navy in the world: its submarine force.Perhaps the most striking aspect of Iran’s submarine roster is its sheer size, especially in relation to the rest of its navy. Whereas Iran’s combined output of operational corvettes, frigates, and destroyers hardly exceeds 10, it currently fields a whopping 34 submarines. The vast majority of these are midget-class--or “littoral”--diesel-electric vessels, with roughly two dozen from Iran’s homemade Ghadir class and several more from the North Korean Yugo class. Impressively, the Ghadir is much smaller but still has strong offensive capabilities; Ghadir vessels boast the same 533 mm torpedo tubes as the handful of Iran’s much larger Kilo vessels, only fewer at two versus six. To be sure, Iran’s heavy concentration of mini-submarines makes for unflattering comparisons with the much more robust submarine fleets of its American and Russian counterparts. However, their roster makes a great deal of military sense within the context of Iran’s strategic objectives. Iran has no need to project power sea power around the world, or even across the Middle East. Instead, the Iranian navy is constituted and organized around the specific goal of securing the Persian Gulf and specifically the Hormuz Strait. The limited range of Iran’s diesel-electric submarines is irrelevant in the restrictive and shallow confines of the Gulf, while their near-undetectability mine-laying capability makes them ideal candidates for patrol and ambush operations against hostile surface vessels. More recently, Iran has begun to diversify its indigenous submarine industry beyond the smallest vessels. The new Fateh class is intended to round out Iran’s lopsided roster, coming in between the Ghadir and Kilo classes at a displacement of 600 tons. In addition to the 533 mm torpedo tubes that are standard across Iran’s submarine force, Iranian state media reports that the Fateh vessels--of which there are two at the time of writing--can fire anti-ship cruise missiles from a submerged position. Iran’s submarine force is by far the most numerous and technically capable arm of its navy and slated to remain so for the foreseeable future given Tehran's geopolitical investment in the Gulf region. While it is still highly unlikely to match the U.S. Navy in any sort of pitched conflict, submarines would inevitably be the spearhead of a prospective Iranian anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) campaign to seal the Hormuz Strait, or to stage a one-off surprise saturation attack against US defenses in the Persian Gulf.

 

 

M-351: how Soviet sailors rescued the drowned submarine.

Ability to survive a crash on a submarine is comparable with the chance to survive during the crash in the air. As a rule, perish all those who at this moment is inside. If the land to the person more favorable, the air and the depths of the sea refused to recognize him as master. But there is a significant difference. Any crash immediately becomes the property of the media, especially if we are talking about civil aircraft. The whole world suddenly flies photos of the remnants of the fuselage and Luggage scattered in a radius of several kilometers. But the movement of submarines is highly classified, because stealth is the biggest advantage of this ship. Often the output of a submarine at sea is known only when leaks to the press information related emergency. So that locations of submarine tragedies protects not only the calm sea surface, but the secrecy. Submarine war the Project of submarine was developed by Leonardo da Vinci, but for the first time in combat, the submarine was used during the war of the American colonies for independence. Then with its help, the Americans made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a British battleship. Full-scale sea battle began during the First world war, when the oceans were about 600 submarines. But despite the fact that the construction of submarines every year moderniziriruyutsya, no wonder they earned the nickname “steel coffins”. In the entire history of the submarine fleet, there have been about two hundred emergencies, contingencies and large-scale disasters. All familiar with the tragic fate of the Russian submarine “Kursk”, and those who follow the news, remember on the Argentinian submarine “San Juan” and Indian “Sindhurakshak”. However, few people know that in 1957 this sad list almost added another oneOh tragedy. 22 Aug Soviet submarine black sea fleet M-351 almost vertically pierced in the viscous soil at a depth of 83 meters. Thanks to the efforts and perseverance of the crew, as well as the precise organization of rescue operations, all divers were rescued, making this case unique in the history of the submarine fleet. the Submarine M-351, three years earlier, descended from the conveyor in Leningrad, was preparing for exercises in the Black sea. Commanded the ship captain 3rd rank Rostislav Belozerov. The crew of the submarine was supposed to practice emergency dive, and he has three times successfully coped with this task. During the fourth dive to a predetermined depth of 7 metres with the vessel began to happen that something was wrong. The submarine ceased to obey the crew and gave a sharp trim by the stern, and all attempts to make an emergency ascent to anything did not lead. In a few minutes the submarine began to sink and the stern to dig in the sticky soil of the seabed. Detailed description of the events of those August days we find in “Notes on memory” S. S. Kolesnikov, the assistant to the commander of the submarine M-351. appears later, were to blame for the flawed design of the mine air supply to the diesel engines, which delayed shut when submerged. In the 6th compartment was quickly supplied with water, which led to a partial flooding of the submarine. From the 6th compartment water had leaked into the 7th and got to the electrical panel caused the fire. In compartment three of the sailor and electrician immediately began the salvation of the ship. With considerable effort they were able to shut down the Board and thus ensure operation of the vessel in the course of the next few days. Nevertheless, the submarine has managed to penetrate more than 40 tons of sea water. the Rescue of drowning — the handiwork of drowning. The submariners knew this cruel rule and harmoniously operated, knowing that assistance from the Bank may not come. Releasing to the surface the distress beacon, they beganand the struggle for survival. After the main pump failed, it was decided to carry water through all the possible containers in the 1st compartment where the pump worked normally. The sailors lined up and began to draw water improvised means. In the course went not only buckets, but even a tin can. All was complicated by the position of the submarine, Volkovskaya in the bottom almost at an angle of 45 degrees. Water had to be lifted to a height of nearly 50 meters and for the first day, the sailors moved more than 10 tons of gallons of water. However, the tangible result is never brought. Moreover, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air greatly increased, there was a shortage of oxygen, and the temperature inside the vessel is almost equal to the temperature of the water in the cold (about 7 degrees). Individual life-saving equipment on the submarine was not, therefore, the sailors gradually began to lose presence of mind. It is worth noting the command of the submarine: the day of salvation officers maintained a strict discipline, organized the release of combat leaflets and entry submariners on leave. On the shore of the disappearance of the submarine is not immediately noticed, because the connection was lost before the captain managed to inform about the accident. Therefore, the rescue operation began only a day later. On top of that at this time the sea broke out the storm. Marshal Zhukov, upon learning of the tragedy, took the case under his personal control, threatening Tribunal of the Russian black sea fleet commander. The threat apparently worked, because the next day was carried out the oxygen supply to the submarine and received sets of warm clothes and food, as well as restored telephone service. No need to say that all this is instilled in the hearts of the sailors had lost all hope. the First attempt to pull the submarine by a cable failed, the cable broke, however, the trim of the vessel was considerably reduced, allowing divers to pump out the remaining compartments of the water. The second attempt to lift the boat hid themselves more risks: in case of failure, the ship could unpredictably change the position. However, on the night of 26 August, the rescuers hooked the three submarine cables and began again to rescue her from a sea captivity. Slowly but surely the boat began to succumb, and to the shouts of the crew and the roar of bleed air, the submarine had come to the surface. This happened in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Sailors more than three days spent in the exhausting struggle with the elements and their own fear. And black southern night seemed lighter then many of the Sunny day. But the story is not over. According to A. S. Nikolaev in the article “Three days and a half on the bottom of the sea”, in the end, the awards were awarded only the divers involved in the rescue operation, a total of about 10 people. The heroic crew of the submarine orders and medals bypassed. The country’s leadership considered their perpetrators who are unworthy of any government insignia.

 

Submarines and Murder Make for a Chilling and Unusual True Crime.

Allow me to say something a little counter-intuitive here. Don't read this. Just trust me and watch Into the Deep when it debuts on Netflix later this year. Not enough? Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you. Into the Deep isn't just a documentary about the Danish inventor Peter Madsen, it's about the unexpected turn into murder that happened while the documentary was being made. Additionally, the presence of Australian director Emma Sullivan's cameras is able to draw out a response from a group of people that may not have happened on its own. It's fascinating and I've never quite seen anything like it. Up until summer 2017, Peter Madsen was a local celebrity in Copenhagen. Part genius, part kook, the very camera-ready engineer and futurist made his living giving public talks, then poured his resources (and sponsorships) into building rockets and submarines. He assembled a group of admirers in what looked to outsiders like a benign, crafty cult. There was a degree of hanky-panky with some of the young women in the group, but everything seemed out in the open. These were freethinkers hanging out in an abandoned warehouse measuring g-forces and jet propulsion. A guy like this is certainly going to draw attention, so documentarian Sullivan got herself to the compound near a Danish canal and started shooting. Additionally, a journalist named Kim Wall, on assignment for Wired magazine, came by for an interview. Madsen took her for a dive in the Nautilus, his hand-made sub, then the two disappeared. That's where the movie starts, with the gang worried sick about him, but later he's found near the Swedish border; his sub has sunk. Kim Wall, he claims, got off the boat earlier, but then no one can find her. Her boyfriend says she's missing. And then body parts get found in the water. Into the Deep jumps back and forth between before the disappearance and after, expanding the timeline and capturing a number of extraordinary things. The more flashy and disturbing side of this film — and the one that will give us all nightmares — is seeing how psychopaths preparing for a thrill kill are, in fact, living among us. Madsen isn't just a functioning adult, he is a capable leader and is terrific with people. We'll later learn that just a few minutes before a cheery on-air interview he was on his laptop watching brutal execution videos from the dark web. The secondary aspect of Into the Deep dawns on you more slowly, which is appropriate as it is all about Madsen's posse becoming aware that they were in a cult leader's grip. The longer he stays in prison awaiting his trial, the more his hold over them dissipates. Maybe he wasn't such a genius, they think. Maybe we would have been better off not spending all our spare time working on his bizarre projects. Worst of all, maybe we inadvertently assisted in the rape, torture, and brutal dismemberment of Kim Wall by making all of Peter Madsen's dreams come true.Watching Madsen's small group of associates (most of them quite young) wake up is like a barbarous version of The Truman Show. They are not to blame, but once they realize what the man they admired was all about, they all take the eventual step to condemn him. Emma Sullivan is brilliantly selective with how she metes out the footage. Early in the film, Madsen is a charming, mad genius. Who wouldn't want to fire rockets with him? Toward the end, we see just how premeditated and how meaningless Kim Wall's murder was. Madsen had nothing against Wall, he simply had it in his head that he had to kill a woman — it was a goal, like climbing a mountain, or building a sub — and he thought he was smart enough to get away with it. It's heartbreaking and terrifying when the other women in the group realize that had Wall not popped by for an interview, it would have been one of them. I left Into the Deep in a daze, not knowing how to apply its lessons to everyday life. I suppose that if I ever meet someone who makes multiple jokes about beheading people, I'm getting the hell out of there. This film is far greater than the typical true crime Netflix documentary (or one of the myriad podcasts out there) because it isn't about the subject, it is the subject. Footage eventually used in Into the Deep was submitted as evidence in Peter Madsen's trial. That's still not going to help me get to sleep tonight.

 

Iran and North Korea Are Building better Submarines.

Iran and North Korea are updating their aging fleets and building new and more advanced submarines in order to counter their adversaries in open waters. Iranian navy commander Admiral Hossein Khanzadi touted his country's underwater military capabilities during a speech Thursday in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan. He stated that "the most complex pieces equipment in the world are those found in the military and among the military equipment, the most complex are those found in the navy, especially submarines," according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency. "But today, thanks to the efforts of the youth of this land," he added, "the country has made significant progress in this area." The senior military leader's remarks came just days after Iranian media aired an animated short depicting one of its Ghadir-class midget submarines taking out a U.S. Navy carrier strike group in the Strait of Hormuz. Despite a decades-old arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council, the Islamic Republic has continued to develop its surface and underwater forces as Washington and Tehran face tensions in the Persian Gulf region. Last February, shortly after the submarine cartoon originally aired, Iran unveiled a new semi-heavy Fateh-class submarine at a ceremony attended by President Hassan Rouhani himself at the naval base of Bandar Abbas. The vessel debuted its cruise missile capabilities a week later at the Velayat-97 war games that covered more than 770,000 square miles across the Strait of Hormuz, Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The Persian Gulf and its peripheries have been a flashpoint for worsening international frictions since President Donald Trump's administration pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018. Unilateral sanctions since imposed on Iran have increasingly restricted its ability to engage in trade, especially in the lucrative oil market. While the U.S. has sent additional troops and assets to the region to shore up its defenses, Iran has two separate maritime forces deployed there—Iran's conventional navy and the navy of the elite Revolutionary Guard. Only the former is believed to operate submarines, though Revolutionary Guard navy commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri told Tasnim News Agency last month that the country may soon begin building submarines. It is estimated that Iran has about 34 submarines altogether, comprising what would be the fifth-largest fleet in the world, according to Global Firepower. Leading the pack is another longtime U.S. foe subject to a "maximum pressure" campaign led by the Trump administration. North Korea is believed to possess up to 83 submarines, though just how many of the old, mostly Cold War-era vessels are operational is unclear. North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un has set out to revamp his naval force, however. Last July, the young ruler was seen touring a "newly built submarine" believed to the experimental Gorae-class submarine, also called Sinpo-class or Pongdae-class and potentially the country's largest-ever such vessel. Some photos of the submarine appearing in the country's state-run media were partially censored, obscuring what South Korean intelligence also suspected were up to three submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers. After a spate of short-range missile and rocket tests designed to pressure the U.S. into advancing their denuclearization-for-peace process, North Korea test-fired a medium-range SLBM from a submersible barge for the first time in three years in October. Months later, Kim made a New Year's promise to debut a "new strategic weapon" in the "near future." That same day, a Sinpo-class submarine was present alongside a midget submarine and submersible test stand barge at the Sinpo South Shipyard, as indicated in Planet Labs satellite imagery featured in a report by the Stimson Center's 38 North project. North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un inspects a "newly built submarine" that the state media reported July 23 was "designed and built to be capable of fully implementing the military strategic intention of the [Korean Workers'] Party under various circumstances." Korean Central News Agency While Iran is not known to possess any nuclear weapons and has publicly declared it did not seek such capabilities, North Korea has already conducted six nuclear tests and is believed to have amassed a stockpile of at least dozens of nuclear warheads. Pyongyang has also already made significant progress in developing nuclear-capable, land-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and honing its sea-based capabilities may be next on Kim's agenda. The Trump administration has so far failed to secure new deals for a lasting detente with either Tehran or Pyongyang, both which have vowed to resist what they see as hardline policies to undermine their respective national security. The White House has placed an emphasis on honing the Pentagon's strategic capabilities and the U.S. military announced Tuesday that the W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead had been deployed to Trident II SLBMs for the first time. While the report blamed "potential adversaries, like Russia" for first seeking such low-yield weapons, Newsweek reported last month that the W76-2 could also be seen as a more usable and prompt option to counter potential attacks from Iran or North Korea. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which was released almost exactly two years ago and called for the deployment of U.S. low-yield nuclear weapons, warned that "North Korea's nuclear provocations threaten regional and global peace, despite universal condemnation in the United Nations" and "Iran's nuclear ambitions remain an unresolved concern."

 

Titanic shipwreck was hit by a SUBMARINE during an expedition that revealed the disappearance of the captain's bathtub in 2019 - but the US government kept it quiet.

The remains of RMS Titanic were hit by a submarine last year but the crash was kept quiet by a US government agency, according to a report. The collision was made by a vessel hired by British company EYOS Expeditions, but US officials never revealed that it had struck the wreck of the legendary ocean liner.The Triton submersible collided with the starboard hull breach Titanic back in July 2019, when ‘intense and highly unpredictable currents’ caused the pilot to lose control, the papers reveal.The EYOS expedition leader confirmed to the Telegraph that there had been contact with the Titanic but that any damage to the remains would have been minor.However, the delicate wreck is deteriorating so rapidly underwater that it could completely disappear within the next 40 years.The 2019 expedition carried scientists who said microbial life was eating away at the wreck, including the captain’s bathtub, which had completely disappeared. The Triton DSV Limiting Factor brought back the first ever 4K images of RMS Titanic, showing the extent to its damage caused by sea salt corrosion, metal-eating bacteria and deep currents.‘We tried to keep away from the Titanic but we had to go close to deposit two science samples,’ said EYOS expedition leader Rob McCallum.‘We did accidentally make contact with the Titanic once while we were near the starboard hull breach, a big piece of the hull that sticks out. ‘Afterwards we observed a red rust stain on the side of the hub.‘But the submersible is covered in white fibreglass and is very delicate and expensive, while underwater it’s essentially weightless – it’s not a battering ram.’The $35 million Triton DSV Limiting Factor is the only submersible in the world capable of diving to the deepest ocean depth – 36,000 feet. The Titan explorers, who were making the first manned voyage to the Titanic wreckage in 14 years, said they uncovered a partial collapse of the ship's hull.The porcelain bathtub of RMS Titanic Captain Edward Smith had also completely disappeared.The wreck of the Titanic will be protected for the first time following a 'momentous' treaty which will restrict exploration of the sunken vessel's decaying hull. Triton DSV Limiting Factor can dive to depths of 36,000 feet and fits two passengers plus a pilot The state of the wreck – which sank in two pieces – has long been deteriorating due to corrosion, biological activity and deep ocean currents.US wreck salvage firm RMS Titanic Inc – which is the only entity legally permitted to remove items from Titanic’s remains – alleges that the government agency knew the EYOS submarine struck the Titanic but officials monitoring the dive failed to inform the court.This was despite an observer from the government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), being on board the EYOS expedition surface ship.Atlantic Productions is gearing up to release a documentary from the dive sometime in 2020. The team captured the first 4K images of the ship. It's pictured above on January 1, 1912 Instead it took more than five months for EYOS to admit to the collusion.The fact that NOAA never disclosed the crash to the court ‘raises a series of troubling issues’, according to RMST, which has demanded that EYOS produce video footage of the collision or face charges.RMST demands that a NOAA representative be summoned to explain why the court and RMST were not informed sooner and the effect of the collision on the delicate wreck.NOAA said it first learned of the impact with the Titanic through the EYOS report. By the time of Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912, most passenger ships operating in the north Atlantic had a Marconi wireless installation staffed by Marconi Company operators.Communication between ship and shore was by Morse code, as it was for conventional telegraphy. As well as communicating with other ships, the Marconi wireless also relayed passenger messages – something of a novelty for first-class passengers.  As Titanic collided with an iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, Harold Cottam, operator on nearby Cunard liner Carpathia, was still awake.He received the first distress signal from Titanic, sent by senior wireless operator Jack Phillips. Carpathia immediately turned and steamed the 60 miles towards Titanic’s given position, a journey of almost four hours. A dramatic rescue of more than 700 survivors from the Titanic disaster was made possible by the new wireless equipment. Carpathia steamed into New York carrying the survivors four days after the sinking. Next month RMST will ask a judge permission to retrieve artefacts from within the remains of the wreck, including the Marconi wireless radio – which in 1912 was a world-leading communications device and transmitted the ship's distress signal. RMST, backed by Private Equity firms, wants to use three underwater robots to lift part of the ceiling to grab the Marconi wireless.The luxury liner – which sank on April 15, 1912, lies on the seafloor around 350 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.round 13,000ft (4,000m) beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, salt corrosion and metal-eating bacteria have worn away parts of the liner's structure. Constructed by Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1912, the RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat of her time. Owned and operated by the White Star Line, the passenger vessel set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 10, 1912. The liner made two short stops en route to her planned Atlantic crossing – one at the French port of Cherbourg, the other at Cork Harbour, Ireland, where smaller vessels ferried passengers on and off board the Titanic. Nearly five days into her voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg at around 23:40 local time, generating six narrow openings in the vessel's starboard hull, believed to have occurred as a result of the rivets in the hull snapping. Around 1,500 people were believed lost in the tragedy, including around 815 of the liner's passengers.

 

In 2005, a Submarine Crashed Into an Underwater Mountain.

In 2005, a U.S. Navy attack submarine collided head-on with an undersea mountain at more than thirty miles an hour. Despite the damage the ship sustained and the crew’s injuries, the USS San Francisco managed to limp to her home port of Guam on her own power. The incident was a testament to the design of the submarine and the training and professionalism of her crew. USS San Francisco is a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine. Submarine builder Newport News Shipyard began construction on her in 1977, and she was commissioned on April 24, 1981. The submarine joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet and served there throughout her career. Like all Los Angeles subs, she displaced 6,900 tons submerged, was 362 feet long, and had a beam of 33 feet. A General Electric PWR S6G nuclear reactor provided 35 thousand shipboard horsepower, driving the submarine to a speedy 33 knots. A typical crew consisted of 129 officers and enlisted men. On January 8, 2005, the USS San Francisco was traveling at flank (full) speed—approximately 38 miles an hour at a depth of 525 feet. She was 360 miles southeast of Guam heading to Brisbane, Australia for a liberty stop. Navigation plotted the route based on undersea maps that were generally agreed to give the most complete view of the seabed. According to The New York Times, the captain went to lunch and the navigation officer, believing it was safe to do so, dived the sub from 400 to 525 feet and accelerated to flank speed. At approximately 11:42 local time, while transiting the Caroline Islands mountain chain, the submarine came to an abrupt—and unexpected—halt. There was a shudder and then a tremendous noise. Men throughout the ship were thrown from their stations against their surroundings. In an instant many suffered bruises, lacerations, broken bones and fractures. A chief petty officer described the scene as looking like a “slaughterhouse”, with blood running everywhere. Ninety eight crewmen were injured with one, Machinist's Mate Second Class Joseph Allen Ashley, fatally injured.  Despite their injuries, and not having any idea what had just happened, the captain and his crew rushed to surface the boat. The crew threw the emergency blow activator, known as the “chicken switch”, that immediately blast compressed air into the San Francisco’s ballast tanks. Unknown to the crew, the impact of the explosion had punched huge holes in the forward ballast tanks. The submarine was supposed to immediately rise, but it was an agonizing thirty seconds before the sub began to surface. By 11:44 the sub had surfaced. Damage control reported the San Francisco’s inner hull was intact, her Mk. 48 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles were unharmed, and remarkably, her nuclear reactor was completely undamaged. All alone in the Pacific, the submarine began the long trip back to Guam. The sub limped back into Apra Harbor in Guam thirty hours later on January 10th, the crews of other moored submarines manning their rails in the stricken sub’s honor. Later, an investigation would reveal the submarine had crashed into a seamount rising 6,500 feet from the ocean floor. The seamount had not appeared on the charts that San Francisco’s crew had used to plot their course, but appeared on other charts as a “potential hazard.” The hazard was reported two miles from the site of the collision and the Captain of the San Francisco has stated that had he known about it, he would have given the potential obstacle a wide berth. The chart used by San Francisco’s crew were prepared by the Defense Mapping Agency in 1989. According to a study of the incident prepared by the University of Massachusetts in 2008, a Landsat satellite image showed a seamount in the area of the collision that rose to within one hundred feet of the surface. The Navy’s charts were not updated with the new data—according to the UMass report, the Navy believed that with the cessation of the Cold War the crash site area was not a high priority for mapping, and that priority had instead been given to the Middle East region to support the Global War on Terror. After repairs to ensure hull integrity, San Francisco traveled under her own power to Puget Sound, Washington. The damaged portion of the boat’s bow was removed. The bow of sister submarine USS Honolulu, soon to be retired, was removed and welded onto San Francisco. The submarine rejoined the fleet in 2009 and served for another seven years. In January, it began a two year conversion that will turn her into a permanently moored training submarine.The heroic actions of the crew were essential to the submarine’s survival. Still, how did a submarine survive a high-speed collision with a mountain? In 1963, immediately after the loss of USS Thresher, the Navy instituted the SUBSAFE program. The goal of the program was to ensure that a submarine’s hull would retain pressure in the event of an accident and she would be able to surface. The Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program made safe, resilient nuclear reactors an absolute top priority. If a submarine’s hull remained intact, she was able to surface and the reactor continued to operate the crew had a shot at survival. San Francisco was able to do all three. That she was able to survive was no accident but rather the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication by the U.S. submarine force.

 

Russia's Submarine Force is Dying.

The Russian navy’s submarine force, arguably the fleet’s most important component, is about to shrink. lot. There are 62 submarines of all classes in commission with the Russian navy. Fifty-five are front-line vessels and the rest are test and research vessels. There are 10 nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, nine nuclear cruise-missile submarines, 14 nuclear attack submarines and 22 conventional attack submarines. Most of the front-line submarines date from the 1980s and ‘90s. “There are still quite a few old, Soviet-era vessels carrying a major part of the burden, both attack submarines and ballistic-missile boats,” Iain Ballantyne, editor of Warships International Fleet Review, told The National Interest. “For how much longer such elderly vessels can be sent to sea while waiting for more new ones to enter service is debatable.” “There are surely already question marks over a number of vessels,” Ballantyne added, especially the seven Delta-class ballistic-missile boats, or boomers. Just three of Russia’s boomers -- the first three of 10 planned Borei-class vessels -- are younger than 30 years old. Just one of the nuclear cruise-missile boats -- the first of 10 planned Yasen-class vessels -- is younger than 24 years old. Likewise only one of the nuclear attack boats, an Akula, is younger than 20 years old. Eight of the conventional boats are younger than 26 years old. It’s rare for a submarine to be safe and economical to operate -- to say nothing of militarily effective -- after 35 years of service. In other words, by the late 2020s or early 2030s, the Russian navy could lose all but 12 of its existing subs. If Moscow succeeds in producing all the Boreis and Yasens it plans to acquire, the total submarine fleet could top out at just 28 boats. Half its current strength. “There will come a time when a whole swathe of the Russian submarine force both in the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet – the most important naval formations -- will no longer be operational, leaving huge gaps,” Ballantyne said. The problem of vanishing submarines is a common one for the world’s leading navies. The U.S. Navy’s sub force also is set dramatically to shrink. Submarines, after all, are expensive -- and they don’t last forever. Nuclear reactors wear out. Rust takes a toll. Navies that bought many submarines late in the Cold War face a bow wave of submarine retirements that they cannot hope to make up with new construction. In December 2016, the U.S. Navy announced it needed 66 attack and cruise-missile submarines in order to meet regional commanders' needs. But in early 2019 the fleet had just 51 attack boats plus 14 boomers and four cruise-missile submarines. And that number is projected to fall. Dozens of three-decade-old Los Angeles-class attack subs are likely to decommission in the next few years while many fewer new Virginia-class boats commission, shrinking the overall U.S. undersea fleet to just 42 attack boats and a dozen or so boomers around 2028. "Where we sit today is, we can’t build ships and deliver them in time to fill in that dip," said Vice Adm. Bill Merz, a deputy chief of naval operations. The Royal Navy in recent years already underwent its own great undersea contraction, shrinking by half to just six attack boats and four boomers. “The submarine forces remain the pride of Russia and have received major investment in new vessels and weaponry, both at the high end and low end – in new nuclear-powered and also conventional submarines,” Ballantyne explained. “It has been carefully targeted to try and give Russia maximum power-projection capability and influence while also bolstering strategic missile defense and intelligence-gathering.”But the aging-out of older vessels still dramatically will change Russia’s undersea force structure. “Eventually a much smaller number of modern, more capable boats will carry the burden of fulfilling [Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s grand plans of Russia remaining a maritime superpower capable of aspiring to a global presence under the sea,” Ballantyne said.

 

Sailing These Russian Nuclear Submarines Was A Suicide Mission.

The United States launched the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954, revolutionizing undersea warfare. The Nautilus’s reactor allowed it operate underwater for months at a time, compared to the hours or days afforded conventional submarines. The following year, the Soviet Union began building its own nuclear submarine, the Project 627—known as the November class by NATO. The result was a boat with a few advantages compared to its American competition, but that also exhibited a disturbing tendency to catastrophic accidents that would prove characteristic of the burgeoning Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War. The original specifications drafted in 1952 for a Soviet nuclear submarine had conceived of employing them to launch enormous nuclear torpedoes at enemy harbors and coastal cities. At the time, the Soviet Union lacked the long-range missiles or bombers that could easily hit most of the continental United States. However, as these capabilities emerged in the mid-1950s, the Project 627 design was revised to reflect an antiship role, with eight torpedo tubes located in the bow and combat systems taken from Foxtrot-class diesel submarines. The first Project 627 boat, the K-3 Leninsky Komsomol, launched in 1957 and made its first voyage under nuclear power in July 1958 under Capt. Leonid Osipenko, using a reactor design supervised by renowned scientist Anatoly Alexandrov. The large, torpedo-shaped vessel displaced more than four thousand tons submerged and was 107 meters long. Its double-hulled interior was divided into nine compartments, housing a crew of seventy-four seamen and thirty officers. K-3 rapidly demonstrated the extraordinary endurance of nuclear submarines, embarking upon two-month long cruises while submerged. In 1962, it became the first Soviet vessel to travel to the North Pole, while a sister ship, K-133, was the first submarine to traverse the Drake Strait submerged in a twenty-one-thousand-mile cruise that lasted fifty-two days. K-3 was soon joined by twelve additional November-class vessels of a revised design designated the Project 627A, distinguishable by a bulbous sonar dome under the bow, as well as a single Project 645 prototype powered by an experimental VT-1 liquid metal reactor with greater power efficiency. The fourteen November-class boats were deployed to the Third and Seventeenth Divisions of the Northern Fleet, though later four were transferred to the Pacific Fleet by transiting under Arctic ice. The 627’s VM-A reactors were more powerful than their American contemporaries, speeding the Project 627s along up to thirty knots (34.5 miles per hour). However, the 627 lacked another quality generally expected of a nuclear submarine: the reactors were extremely noisy, making the Project 627 boats easy to detect despite the use of stealthy propellers and the first anti-sonar coating applied to a nuclear submarine. This lack of discretion, combined with its inferior sonar array, made the November class ill suited for hunting opposing submarines.Nonetheless, the 627s still dealt the U.S. Navy a few surprises. In 1965, K-27 managed to sneak up on the antisubmarine carrier USS Randolph off of Sardinia and complete a mock torpedo run before being detected. In 1968, another November-class boat proved capable of matching pace with the carrier USS Enterprise while the latter moved at full power, causing a minor panic in the Navy leadership that led to the adoption of the speedy Los Angeles–class attack submarine, some of which remain in service today. However, the power of the November class’s reactors was bought at the price of safety and reliability. A lack of radiation shielding resulted in frequent crew illness, and many of the boat suffered multiple reactor malfunctions over their lifetimes. This lack of reliability may explain why the Soviet Union dispatched conventional Foxtrot submarines instead of the November-class vessels during the Cuban Missile Crisis, despite the fact that the diesel boats needed to surface every few days, and for this reason were cornered and chased away by patrolling American ships.In fact, the frequent, catastrophic disasters onboard the Project 627 boats seem almost like gruesome public service announcements for everything that could conceivably go wrong with nuclear submarines. Many of the accidents reflected not only technological flaws, but the weak safety culture of the Soviet Navy. K-8 started the trend in October 13, 1960, when a ruptured steam turbine nearly led to a reactor meltdown due to loss of coolant. The crew was able to jury-rig an emergency water-cooling system, but not before radioactive gas contaminated the entire vessel, seriously irradiating several of the crew. K-14, which would distinguish itself in the medical evacuation of an Arctic expedition in 1963, also experienced a reactor breakdown in 1961, necessitating its replacement the following years.In February 1965, radioactive steam blasted through K-11 on two separate occasions while it underwent refueling at base. The repair crews misdiagnosed the implications of the first event and followed incorrect procedures during the second, and were ultimately forced to evacuate the reactor room, leading to fires breaking out across the ship. The Soviet crew flooded the vessel with 250 tons of water to put out the flames, spreading radioactive water throughout the entire vessel. Seven men were badly irradiated, and the reactor required a complete replacement before it could be returned to active duty three years later. K-3, the first Soviet submarine to sail on nuclear power, was on a Mediterranean patrol on September 8, 1967, when a hydraulic fire broke out in its torpedo tubes, with the resulting buildup of carbon monoxide killing thirty-nine sailors. The entire command crew passed out, save for a lone petty officer who managed to surface the ship, saving the vessel. A later investigation concluded the fire may have been caused by a sailor smoking in the torpedo compartment. K-27, the lone Project 645 boat, experienced a breakdown in its port-side reactor on May 24, 1968, in the Barents Sea—despite the crew warning that the reactor had experienced a similar malfunction in 1967 and had yet to test that it was functioning properly. The entire crew of 124 was irradiated by radioactive gas, but Captain Leonov refused to take emergency measures until hours later due to his faith in the reactor. Shortly after the ship limped home on its starboard reactor, five of the crew died from radiation exposure within a month, with twenty-five more to follow in subsequent years. Repair of K-27 ultimately proved too expensive a proposition, so it was scuttled by ramming in Stepovoy Bay in waters only thirty-three meters deep—rather than the three to four thousand meters required by the IAEA. In 1970, the ill-fated K-8 was participating in the Okean 70 war games off the Bay of Biscay when it suffered simultaneous short circuits in its command center and reactor control room, spreading a fire through the air conditioning system. The captain managed to surface the boat, and the crew nearly escaped with only moderate loss of life—except that the Soviet Navy ordered about half of the men back on board to conduct emergency repairs and pilot the ship home. An encounter with a sea squall led to the damaged boat sinking to the ocean floor, taking fifty-eight crew and four nuclear torpedoes with it.The November-class boats finally began to enter retirement in the 1980s and early 1990s—but not before being subject to a final few accidents, not of their own making. In August 1985, K-42 was berthed next to the Echo-class submarine K-433 near Vladivostok when the latter suffered a nuclear refueling accident that killed ten and irradiated 239. K-42 was deemed so badly contaminated that it, too, had to be decommissioned. As the Soviet Union was succeeded by an economically destitute Russia, many decommissioned nuclear submarines were left to rust with their nuclear fuel onboard, leading to safety concerns from abroad. International donors fronted $200 million to scrap the hulks in 2003. Flimsy pontoons were welded onto K-159 to enable its towing to a scrapping site, but on August 30 a sea squall ripped away one of the pontoons, causing the boat to begin foundering around midnight. The Russian Navy failed to react until hours later, by which the time submarine had sunk, taking eight hundred kilograms of spent nuclear fuel and nine of the ten seamen manning the pontoons with it. Plans to raise K-159 have foundered to this day due to lack of funding.This is just an accounting of major accidents on the November-class boats—more occurred on Echo- and Hotel-class submarines equipped with the same nuclear reactors. Submarine operations are, of course, inherently risky; the U.S. Navy also lost two submarines during the 1960s, though it hasn’t lost any since. The November-class submarines may not have been particularly silent hunters, but they nonetheless marked a breakthrough in providing the Soviet submarine fleet global reach while operating submerged. They also provided painful lessons, paid in human lives lost or irreparably injured, in the risks inherent to exploiting nuclear power, and in the high price to be paid for technical errors and lax safety procedures.

 

Mini-Submarines Covertly Transport Soldiers From Nuclear Submarines

The United States Navy SEALS are made up of some of the most elite soldiers in the world. Trained to operate on coastlines, ships, and on land, Navy SEALS often are often deployed to missions from nuclear attack submarines, miles away from their target. The SEALS then utilize a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SVD) to help them reach their destination.  The SDV Mk.8 Mod 0, also known as the “Gator Class” SDV, is a small, low profile mini-submarine that is used to transport a number of SEALS underwater to their destination. Named after James “Gator” Parks, a retired SEAL and engineer who was a major driving force in the development of the SDV, the SDV allows SEALS to covertly enter enemy territory underwater whenever parachuting or simply crossing on foot aren’t an option. The Gator SDVs are capable of carrying between six to eight SEALS and their gear. In the front of the mini-submarine there are two SEALS, the driver and navigator, with four to six passengers sitting in the rear. The mini-submarines have extra storage containers for mission gear such as LAM mines, magnetic mines that attach to a ships hull to blow a hole in it.There is no place to stand while onboard the SDV. SEALS use these SDVs strictly for reaching their destination. When SEALS are onboard the mini-submarine they are already in their wetsuits, ready for their mission. The soldiers onboard breathe oxygen from the vehicle’s supply, this keeps each SEAL’s individual oxygen tank maxed out for the operation.SDVs are powered by onboard batteries and electric motors. The vehicle is propelled by a single propeller and controlled via hydroplanes and rudders. The submarine is capable of reaching speeds up to six knots at best. This may be slow, however it keeps the mini-submarine quiet and harder to detect on enemy radar. The Mark 8 SDV is used by the United States Navy SEALS as well as the United Kingdom’s Special Boat Service. The SDV was first introduced in the 1980s and is currently in the process of being replaced by a newer mini-submarine, the Mark 11.

 

North Korea Wanted One of The World's Largest Submarine Fleets.

North Korea’s reliance on submarines exposes a harsh reality for the country: U.S. and South Korean naval and air forces are now so overwhelmingly superior that the only viable way for Pyongyang’s navy to survive is to go underwater. North Korea should by all rights be a naval power. A country sitting on a peninsula, Korea has a long naval tradition, despite being a “shrimp” between the two “whales” of China and Japan. However, the partitioning of Korea into two countries in 1945 and the stated goal of unification —by force if necessary—lent the country to building up a large army, and reserving the navy for interdiction and special operations roles. Now, in the twenty-first century, the country’s navy is set to be the sea arm of a substantial nuclear deterrent. The Korean People’s Navy (KPN) is believed to have approximately sixty thousand men under arms—less than one-twentieth that of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) ground forces. This, as well as comparable budget makes the KPN’s auxiliary role to the KPA. KPN draftees spend an average of five to ten years, so while Pyongyang’s sailors may not have the latest equipment, they do end up knowing their jobs quite well. A substantial number of these sailors serve in the KPN’s submarine fleet, which is one of the world’s largest. In 2001, North Korea analyst Joseph Bermudez estimated that the KPN operated between fifty-two and sixty-seven diesel electric submarines. These consisted of four Whiskey-class submarines supplied by the Soviet Union and up to seventy-seven Romeo-class submarines provided by China. Seven Romeos were delivered assembled, while the rest were delivered in kit form. Each Romeo displaced 1,830 tons submerged, had a top speed of thirteen knots and was operated by a crew of fifty-four. The Romeo submarines were armed with eight standard-diameter 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, two facing aft. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was filmed touring and taking a short voyage on a Romeo-class submarine in 2014.

 

Gosport diving tower used to simulate submarine escapes to be retired

A diving tower that has helped train thousands of submariners how to escape from a stricken boat is to be retired. The Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) in Gosport has been a prominent local landmark for decades. The first man ascended the 100ft (30m) column of water to simulate emerging from a submarine in 1954.Staff will be moving to a new facility opening later this year in Scotland. The Gosport tower will be preserved under its listed building status. Image copyright PA Media Image caption It is thought the tank has been used more than 150,000 times The SETT was built between 1949 and 1953 as part of a revamp of escape training, prompted by a report after World War Two following a number of deaths in submarine accidents. Using the tank, submariners were taught to escape without breathing apparatus by using a specially designed escape suit to breathe. It is thought SETT has been used more than 150,000 times. The Royal Navy stopped training with it in 2012 but was still using the facility for non-pressurised drills and teaching Cdr Gareth "Griff" Griffiths, in charge of the team, said: "2020 marks the end of an era, so it's a poignant moment for all of us."We're looking forward to carrying the lessons of our past many years into the future of submarine escape, rescue, abandonment and survival training." The replacement complex at Faslane on the River Clyde will include a sea survival training pool where various weather conditions and sea states can be replicated in an indoor pool.

 

Submarines. Israel's Secret Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

Originally purchased from Germany, the submarines are now the cornerstone of Israeli defense. Israel’s submarine corps is a tiny force with a big open secret: in all likelihood, it is armed with nuclear weapons. The five Dolphin-class submarines represent an ace in the hole for Israel, the ultimate guarantor of the country’s security, ensuring that if attacked with nukes, the tiny nation can strike back in kind. Israel’s first nuclear weapons were completed by the early 1970s, and deployed among both free-fall aircraft bombs and Jericho ballistic missiles. The 1991 Persian Gulf War, which saw Iraqi Scuds and Al Hussein ballistic missiles raining down on Israeli cities, led Tel Aviv to conclude that the country needed a true nuclear triad of air-, land- and sea-based nukes to give the country’s nuclear deterrent maximum flexibility—and survivability. The most survivable arm of the nuclear triad is typically the sea-based one, consisting of nuclear-armed submarines. Submarines can disappear for weeks or even months, taking up a highly classified patrol route while waiting for orders to launch their missiles. This so-called “second-strike capability” is built on the principle of nuclear deterrence and ensures potential enemies will think twice before attacking, knowing Israel’s submarines will be available to carry out revenge attacks. The first three submarines were authorized before the Gulf War, in 1988, though it is not clear they were built with nuclear weapons in mind. After years of delays construction began in Germany instead of the United States as originally planned, with German combat systems instead of American ones. Most importantly, the project went ahead with German financing; Berlin reportedly felt obliged to finance two of the submarines, and split the third as lax German nonproliferation enforcement had partly enabled Iraq’s nuclear and chemical weapons program.

 

USS Halibut: America's Cold War Spy Submarine

Every major power uses spy subs and the USS Halibut was made with a specific purpose in mind. Now, years later, more is known about the mysterious role the submarine played. One of the most unusual submarines of the Cold War was named after one of the most unusual fish in the sea. Halibut are flatfish, bottom-dwelling predators that, unlike conventional fish, lie sideways with two eyes on the same side of the head and ambush passing prey. Like the halibut flatfish, USS Halibut was an unusual-looking submarine, and also spent a considerable amount of time on the ocean floor. Halibut was a “spy sub,” and conducted some of the most classified missions of the entire Cold War. USS Halibut was built as one of the first of the U.S. Navy’s long-range missile ships. The submarine was the first built from the ground up to carry the Regulus II missile, a large, turbojet-powered cruise missile. The missile was designed to be launched from the deck of a submarine, with a ramp leading down into the bow of the ship, where a total of five missiles were stored. This resulted in an unusual appearance, likened to a “snake digesting a big meal.” Halibut also had six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, but as a missile sub, would only use torpedoes in self-defense. Halibut was a one-of-a-kind submarine. At 350 feet long, with a beam of twenty-nine feet, she was dimensionally identical to the Sailfish-class radar picket submarines, but her missile storage spaces and launch equipment ballooned her submerged displacement to five thousand tons. Her S3W reactor gave her an underwater speed of more than twenty knots and unlimited range—a useful trait, considering the Regulus II had a range of only one thousand miles. Regulus II was quickly superseded by the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, whose solid rocket fueled engine made for a more compact missile with a much longer range. The combination of the Polaris and the new George Washington–class fleet ballistic missile submarines conspired to put Halibut out of a job—Regulus II was canceled just seventeen days before the sub’s commissioning. Halibut operated for four years as a Regulus submarine. In 1965 the Navy, recognizing that a submarine with a large, built-in internal bay could be useful, put Halibut into dry dock at Pearl Harbor for a major $70 million ($205 million in today’s dollars) overhaul. She received a photographic darkroom, hatches for divers to enter and exit the sub while submerged, and thrusters to help her maintain a stationary position. Perhaps most importantly, Halibut was rebuilt with spaces to operate two remotely operated vehicles nicknamed “Fish.” Twelve feet long and equipped with cameras, strobe lights and sonar, the “fish” could search for objects at depths of up to twenty-five thousand feet. The ROVs could be launched and retrieved from the former missile storage bay, now nicknamed “the Bat Cave.” A twenty-four-bit mainframe computer, highly sophisticated for the time, analyzed sensor data from the Fish. Post overhaul, Halibut was redesignated from nuclear guided-missile submarine to nuclear attack submarine, and assigned to the Deep Submergence Group, a group tasked with deep-sea search-and-recovery missions. In mid-July 1968, Halibut was sent on Velvet Fist, a top-secret mission meant to locate the wreck of the Soviet submarine K-129. K-129 was a Golf II–class ballistic missile submarine that had sunk that March, an estimated 1,600 nautical miles off the coast of Hawaii.K-129 had sunk along with its three R-21 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The R-21 was a single-stage missile with a range of 890 nautical miles and an eight-hundred-kiloton nuclear warhead. The loss of the submarine presented the U.S. government with the unique opportunity to recover the missiles and their warheads for study. Halibut was the perfect ship for the task. Once on station, it deployed the Fish ROVs and began an acoustic search of the ocean floor. After a painstaking search and more than twenty thousand photos, alibut’s crew discovered the ill-fated Soviet sub’s wreckage. As a result, Halibut and her crew were awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, for “several missions of significant scientific value to the Government of the United States.” Halibut’s contribution to efforts to recover K-129 would remain secret for decades. In 1970, Halibut was again modified to accommodate the Navy’s deep water saturation divers. The following year, it went to sea again to participate in Ivy Bells, a secret operation to install taps on the underwater communications cables connecting the Soviet ballistic missile submarine base at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula with Moscow’s Pacific Fleet headquarters at Vladivostok. The taps, installed by divers and their ROVs, allowed Washington to listen in on message traffic to Soviet nuclear forces. Conducted at the bottom of the frigid Sea of Okhotsk, the Ivy Bells missions were conducted at the highest level of secrecy, as the Soviets would have quickly abandoned the use of underwater cables had they known they were compromised. Halibut was decommissioned on November 1, 1975, after 1,232 dives and more than sixteen years of service. The ship had earned two Presidential Unit citations (the second in 1972 for Ivy Bells missions) and a Navy Unit Citation. The role of submarines in espionage, however, continued: she was succeeded in the role of special missions submarine by USS Parche. Today, USS Jimmy Carter—a sub with a particularly low profile—is believed to have taken on the task. The role of submarines in intelligence gathering continues.

 

Submarines Tough, Stealthy, and Cheap

Sweden already has excellent submarines, and they're working on a new, even better design. For decades, submarines came in two discrete flavors: traditional diesel-electric submarines that need to surface every day or two to recharge their noisy, air-breathing diesel engines, and nuclear-powered submarines that could quietly hum along under the sea at relatively high speeds for months at a time thanks to their nuclear reactors. The downside to the nuclear-powered variety, of course, is that they cost many times the price of a comparable diesel submarines and require nuclear propulsion technology, which may not be worth the trouble for a country only interested in defending its coastal waters. A diesel submarine may also run more quietly than a nuclear submarine by turning off its engines and running on batteries—but only for a very short amount of time. Still, there remains a performance gap in stealth and endurance that many countries would like to bridge at an affordable price. One such country was Sweden, which happens to be in a busy neighborhood opposite to Russian naval bases on the Baltic Sea. Though Sweden is not a member of NATO, Moscow has made clear it might take measures to ‘eliminate the threat,’ as Putin put it, if Stockholm decides to join or support the alliance. After a Soviet Whiskey-class submarine ran aground just six miles away from a Swedish naval base in 1981, Swedish ships opened fire on suspected Soviet submarines on several occasions throughout the rest of the 1980s. More recently, Russia has run an exercise simulating a nuclear attack on Sweden and likely infiltrated Swedish territorial waters with least one submarine in 2014. Back in the 1960s, Sweden had begun developing a modernized version of the Stirling engine, a closed-cycle heat conversion engine first developed in 1818. This was first used to power a car in the 1970s, then the Swedish ship-builder Kockums successfully retrofitted a Stirling engine to power a Swedish Navy A14 submarine Nacken in 1988. Because the Stirling burns diesel fuel using liquid oxygen stored in cryogenic tanks rather than an air-breathing engine, it can quietly cruise underwater at low speeds for weeks at a time without having to surface. Kockums went on to build three Gotland-class submarines in the late 1990s, the first operational submarines designed with Air-Independent Propulsion systems. The Gotland became famous for sinking a U.S. aircraft carrier in a 2005 military exercise; its characteristics and operational history are further described in this earlier article. Stirling AIP technology has subsequently been incorporated into numerous Japanese and Chinese submarines, while Germany and France developed more expensive fuel-cell and steam-turbine based AIP submarines instead. Sweden, meanwhile, converted her four late-80s vintage Västergötland diesel-electric submarines between 2003 and 2005 to use Stirling AIP engines—refits which involved cutting the submarines in two and stretching them out from forty-eight to sixty meters! Two of these submarines were re-designated the Södermanland-class, while the other two were sold to Singapore. The latter Archer-class boats are climatized for operations in warmer waters and boast improved navigation and fire control systems. Sweden intends to retire its Södermanland boats between 2019 and 2022. Since the 1990s, Kockums had been bouncing around a concept for a next-generation AIP submarine designated the A26 to succeed the Gotland-class, but encountered numerous setbacks. Stockholm canceled A26 procurement in 2014, and at one point there was even a raid by the Swedish government attempting to confiscate blueprints from the German parent firm Thyssen-Krupp which was confronted by company security. Since then, Kockums has been purchased by the Swedish firm Saab. Finally in June 2015, Swedish defense minister Sten Tolgfors announced Stockholm was finally committing to procure two A26s at a price equivalent to $959 million—less than a fifth the unit cost of a nuclear-powered Virginia class submarine of the U.S. Navy. The A26 has also been marketed abroad at various times to Australia, India, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland, but so far without success, due to competition from French and German AIP submarine-makers and an apparent reluctance from smaller European states to commit to submarine purchases at this time. Kockums claims the A26 will achieve new levels of acoustic stealth thanks to a new ‘GHOST’ (Genuine Holistic Stealth) technology which involves acoustic damping plates, flexible rubber mountings for hardware, a less reflective hull with a lower target strength, and degaussing to lower the submarine’s magnetic signature. Supposedly, the A26’s hull will also be unusually resilient to underwater explosions. The Swedish firm has unveiled concept art depicting a submarine with a ‘chinned’ sail, X-shaped tail fins for greater maneuverability in rocky Baltic waters, and four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes can fire both heavyweight torpedoes, back up by two 400-millimeter tubes, all of which would use wire-guided torpedoes. The vessel’s four Stirling engines apparently allow allowing for higher sustainable underwater cruising speed of 6 to 10 knots. Kockums has emphasized the new designs’ modularity, which should lower development costs for specialized variants, such as one configuration accommodating up to eighteen Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles in a vertical launch system. This is a feature likely meant to appeal to Warsaw, which would like cruise-missile equipped submarines. Another important features is a special ‘multi-mission’ portal for deploying special forces and underwater vehicles, a much-in demand feature for contemporary submarines. Situated between the torpedo tubes in the nose, the portal can also be used to recover the AUV-6 underwater drone, which can be launched from the torpedo tubes. The A26 would typically belly down on the ocean floor when employing the portal—a maneuver which could also aid it in escaping detection. Kockums is now marketing three different versions of the A26. The ‘medium’ model intended for Swedish service would measure 63-meters long and displace roughly 2,000 tons surfaced. It would typically have a crew of around twenty-six, and a maximum endurance of forty-five days, including eighteen to thirty days (sources differ) submerged, generally sustaining a speed of 10 knots. This endurance, including a typical range of 6,500 miles, should give it capability for operations in the Atlantic Ocean—in contrast to the Gotlands which are not designed for transoceanic deployments. There is also a smaller 51-meter ‘Pelagic’ version for short-range patrols, and an Extended Range model stretched to eighty meters long and displacing 4,000 tons that might appeal to operators in the Pacific Ocean due to its 10,000-mile range and 50-day endurance. Sweden’s two A26s should be completed between 2022 and 2024, at which point it will be possible to gauge whether they can meet their ambitious performance parameters. In general, advancements to AIP submarines are allowing countries across the globe to acquire capable short and medium-range submarines at an affordable price.

 

Australian Defence Department considered walking away from $50 billion French submarine deal

Defence secretly considered walking away from the $50 billion French submarine deal during protracted and at times bitter contract negotiations, and started drawing up contingency plans for the new fleet.

  • Advisory group told Defence to consider alternatives
  • Extending the life of the Collins-class submarines was one suggestion
  • Future governments have the option to walk away from the current deal if it is delayed

The revelations are contained in a new report by the auditor-general that also confirms the program is running nine months late and that Defence is unable to show whether the $396 million spent so far has been "fully effective”. According to the report, the Federal Government's handpicked advisory group told Defence in 2018 to "consider alternatives to the current plan", when negotiations over a key contract appeared to be breaking down. The Commonwealth and Naval Group, chosen to build Australia's future submarines, were at loggerheads over the Strategic Partnering Agreement, which would provide a framework for the complex and costly project. Behind the scenes, the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board told Defence to start drawing up alternatives should the negotiations fail. According to the auditors, Defence began examining whether it could extend the life of the existing Collins-class submarines and "the time this would allow to develop a new acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine if necessary”. Concerns were so great that the board asked Defence to consider "whether program risks outweighed the benefits of proceeding" and questioned whether it was still in the national interest to go ahead with the project. The Strategic Partnering Agreement was eventually signed, with much fanfare, in early 2019 and notably, it gives future governments the ability to walk away from the project if it's delayed or fails to deliver what it promised. Already, two key milestones have been missed and work on the design phase is nine months behind schedule. In the report, Defence expressed a "deepening concern over a number of matters", which in its view "were a risk to the Future Submarine Program”. Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said the report was "deeply concerning"."On all three measures of this program — on time of delivery, on the cost of the project, and on the amount of Australian content — the numbers are all going the wrong way," he told the ABC., said Defence needed a "fallback" plan if the project continued to face delays."The alarm bells are ringing," Senator Patrick said."If the Minister is not hearing them they need to be turned up."Defence's view that they can recover the schedule is naive at best."Despite the persistent problems, Defence maintains construction of the submarines is still on track to begin in Adelaide in 2023.Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the program was complex."I welcome the important ANAO [Australian National Audit Office] findings that the Federal Government has established a fit-for-purpose strategic partnering agreement with Naval Group, and that there are appropriate risk management strategies in place to deliver the Future Submarine Program," Senator Reynolds said in a statement."The first Attack Class submarine is scheduled for delivery to the Royal Australian Navy in 2032. The ANAO report confirmed there has been no change to this delivery timeframe or budget."The program is highly complex and requires a long-term focus."Whilst the Future Submarine Program is still in the early design phase and there have been some delays, it is essential to get the design right."

 

 

Israel's Secret Nuclear Submarine Fleet

Israel has never officially admitted to possessing nuclear weapons. Unofficially, Tel Aviv wants everyone to know it has them, and doesn’t hesitate to make thinly-veiled references to its willingness to use them if confronted by an existential threat. Estimates on the size of Tel Aviv’s nuclear stockpile range from 80 to 300 nuclear weapons, the latter number exceeding China’s arsenal. Originally, Israel’s nuclear forces relied on air-dropped nuclear bombs and Jericho ballistic missiles. For example, when Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a squadron of eight Israeli F-4 Phantom jets loaded with nuclear bombs was placed on alert by Prime Minister Golda Meir, ready to unleash nuclear bombs on Cairo and Damascus should the Arab armies break through. Though Israel is the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, Tel Aviv is preoccupied by the fear that an adversary might one day attempt a first strike to destroy its nuclear missiles and strike planes on the ground before they can retaliate. Currently, the only hostile states likely to acquire such a capability are Iran or Syria. To forestall such a strategy, Israeli has aggressively targeted missile and nuclear technology programs in Iraq, Syria and Iran with air raids, sabotage and assassination campaigns. However, it also has developed a second-strike capability—that is, a survivable weapon which promises certain nuclear retaliation no matter how effective an enemy’s first strike. Most nuclear powers operate nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines which can spend months quietly submerged deep underwater and at any moment unleash ocean-spanning ballistic missiles to rain apocalyptic destruction on an adversary’s major centers. Because there’s little chance of finding all of these subs before they fire, they serve as one hell of a disincentive to even think about a first strike. But nuclear-powered submarines and SLBMs are prohibitively expensive for a country with the population of New Jersey—so Israeli found a more affordable alternative. During the 1991 Gulf War, it emerged that German scientists and firms had played a role in dispersing ballistic missile and chemical weapons technology to various Arab governments—technology which aided Saddam Hussein in bombarding Israel with Scud missiles. This in fact was long-running sore point: in the early 1960s, Israeli agents even carried out assassination attempts, kidnappings and bombings targeting German weapons scientists working on behalf of Arab governments. Chancellor Helmut Kohl hatched a plan to simultaneously compensate Israel for the damages, while generating business for German shipbuilders suffering a downturn due to post-Cold War defense cuts. Starting in the 1970s, German shipbuilder HDW began churning Type 209 diesel electric submarines for export, with nearly 60 still operational around the globe. One Type 209, the San Luis, managed to ambush Royal Navy vessels twice during the Falkland War, though it failed to sink any ship due to the defective torpedoes. Kohl offered to fully-subsidize the construction of two enlarged Type 209s, designated the Dolphin-class, as well as cover 50 percent of the cost of a third boat in 1994. The Dolphins displaced 1,900-tons while submerged, measured 57-meters long and are manned by a crew of 35—though they can accommodate up to ten special forces personnel. These entered service 1999–2000 as the INS Dolphin, Leviathan and Tekumah (“Revival”). Each Dolphin came equipped with six regular tubes for firing 533-millimeter DM2A4 heavyweight fiber-optic guided torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles—as well as four 650-millimeter mega-sized tubes, which are rare in modern submarines. These tubes can be used to deploy naval commandos for reconnaissance and sabotage missions, which have played a major role in Israeli submarine operations. However, the plus-size torpedo tubes have a useful additional function: they can accommodate especially large submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM)—missiles large enough to carry a nuclear warhead. While a ballistic missile arcs into space traveling at many times the speed of sound, cruise missiles fly much slower and skim low over the earth’s surface. In the 1990s the United States declined to provide Israel with submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles due to the rules of the Missile Technology Control Regime prohibiting transfer of cruise missile with a range exceeding 300 miles. Instead, Tel Aviv went ahead and developed their own. In 2000, U.S. Navy radars detected test launches of Israeli SLCMs in the Indian Ocean that struck a target 930 miles away. The weapon is generally believed to be the Popeye Turbo—an adaptation of a subsonic air-launched cruise missile that can allegedly carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead. However, the SLCM’s characteristics are veiled in secrecy and some sources suggest a different missile type entirely is used. An Israeli Dolphin submarine may have struck the Syrian port of Latakia with a conventional cruise missile in 2013 due to reports of a shipment of Russian P-800 anti-ship missiles. Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu then purchased three more German submarines, arousing considerable controversy as many felt additional boats were unnecessary. In 2012, Der Spiegel published an expose detailing how German engineers were well-aware of the Dolphin 2’s intended role as nuclear-weapon delivery system, arousing some controversy with the public, as Chancellor Merkel supposedly agreed to the sale in exchange for unrealized promises from Netanyahu to adopt a more conciliatory policy towards the Palestinians. Israel has nonetheless received two of the Dolphin 2s, the Rahav (‘Neptune’) and Tanin (‘Crocodile’) with the Dakar expected in 2018 or 2019.The 2,400 ton Dolphin 2 model is based on the state-of-the-art Type 212 submarine, which features Air-Independent Propulsion technology and swim faster at twenty-five knots. While diesel submarines rely on noisy air-consuming diesel generators which require the submarine to regularly surface or snorkel, AIP-powered submarines can swim underwater very quietly at low speeds for weeks at a time. This not only means they are stealthier sea-control platforms, but makes them more viable for lengthy nuclear deterrence patrols. Currently, the Chinese AIP-powered Type 32 Qing-class is the only AIP-powered submarine in service armed with ballistic missiles. However, as fellow TNI writer Robert Farley points out, there are geographic obstacles that diminish the practicality of Israel’s sea-based nuclear deterrence. For now, there is only one intended target: Iran, a country which lies hundreds of miles away from Israel. While Tehran lies barely within the supposed 930-mile range of an Israeli submarine deployed from their base in Haifa into the Mediterranean Sea, the missiles would have to spend over an hour overflying Syria and Iraq, posing navigational and survivability challenges. A closer avenue for attack would lie in the Persian Gulf, but this would involve transiting the submarines through the Suez Canal (controlled by Egypt), around Africa (impractically far for the Dolphin-class), or stationing some at the naval base at Eilat, which faces the Gulf of Aqaba on the southern tip of Israel and is surrounded by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In short, deploying Israeli submarines to Iran’s southern flank would require some degree of cooperation and logistical support from other Middle Eastern states that might not be forthcoming in a crisis scenario. Farley is probably correct in arguing that the Israel’s nuclear-tipped SLCMs are less practical than Tel Aviv’s other nuclear-delivery platforms. For that matter, Israel doesn’t currently face any adversaries with nuclear capabilities to deter against. However, like the idea of second-strike capability in general, the threat of sea-launched nukes may be more intended political weapon than one strictly intended for its military effectiveness.

 

Iran Has New Submarines.

Certain technical questions notwithstanding, the inauguration of the Fateh class suggests that Iran is moving ahead with its Naval modernization program. In yet another milestone on Tehran’s path to becoming a self-sustaining regional power, Iranian state news announced the Iranian Navy has commissioned its first homemade submarine. The new Fateh-class vessel was unveiled by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late last week, at a ceremony held at the Bandar Abbas naval base. Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami noted that “The Fateh (“conqueror”) submarine is completely homegrown and has been designed and developed by capable experts of the Marine Industries [Organization] of the Defence Ministry and enjoys [the] world’s modern technologies.”To the extent that Tehran has leveraged its limited resources to domestically produce a modern submarine, the achievement is a symbolic step on Iran’s path to military self-sufficiency. President Rouhani captured the triumphal mood in Tehran: “we will not bow down before the hegemon. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves and shed our blood to protect Iran.”But while the Iranian military have made it abundantly clear that they possess a homegrown submarine, Fateh’s performance and reliability are another matter altogether. Specifically, quantifiable details are hard to come by, and what little we do know is filtered directly through Iranian state media. Fateh has a displacement tonnage (vessel weight) of 600 tons, placing it in what Iranian and western outlets have called a “semi-heavy” submarine category. Between Iran’s midget Ghadir-class submarines and heavy Kilo-class Yunes vessel, the Fateh class is designed to balance firepower with maneuverability; it can operate for five weeks at a submerged depth of 200 meters

 

Navy SEALs for Small, Deadly submarines

The U.S. Navy is hard at work developing new underwater transports for its elite commandos. The SEALs expect the new craft—and improvements to large submarine “motherships” that will carry them—to be ready by the end of the decade. Seals have ridden in small submersibles to sneak into hostile territory for decades. For instance, the special operators reportedly used the vehicles to slip into Somalia and spy on terrorists in 2003.Now the sailing branch is looking to buy two new kinds of mini-subs. While details are understandably scarce, the main difference between the two concepts appears to be the maximum range. The Shallow Water Combat Submersible will haul six or more naval commandos across relatively short distances near the surface. The SWCS, which weighs approximately 10,000 pounds, will replace older Mark 8 Seal Delivery Vehicles, or Advs. other sub, called the Dry Combat Submersible, will carry six individuals much farther and at greater depths. The most recent DCS prototype weighs almost 40,000 pounds and can travel up to 60 nautical miles while 190 feet below the waves. Commandos could get further into enemy territory or start out a safer distance away with this new vehicle. SEALs could also use this added range to escape any potential pursuers. Both new miniature craft will also be fully enclosed. In addition, the DCS appears to pick up where a previous craft, called the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, left off. The Pentagon canceled that project in 2006 because of significant cost overruns. But the Navy continued experimenting with the sole ASDS prototype for two more years. The whole effort finally came to a halt when the mini-sub was destroyed in an accidental fire. Special Operations Command hopes to have the SWCS ready to go by 2017. SOCOM’s plan is to get the DCS in service by the end of the following fearsome and the sailing branch also want bigger submarines to carry these new mini-subs closer to their targets. For decades now, attack and missile submarines have worked as motherships for the Seals. Eight Ohio– and Virginia-class subs currently are set up to carry the special Dry-Deck Shelter used to launch SDVs, according to a presentation at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in May. The DDS units protect the specialized mini-subs inside an enclosed space. Individual divers also can come and go from the DDS airlocks. The first-in-class USS Ohio—and her sisters MichiganFlorida and Georgia—carried ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads during the Cold War. The Navy had expected to retire the decades-old ships, but instead spent billions of dollars modifying them for new roles. Today they carry Tomahawk cruise missiles and Seals. The VirginiasHawaiiMississippiNew HampshireNorth Carolina and the future North Dakota—are newer. The Navy designed these attack submarines from the keel up to perform a variety of missions. SOCOM projects that nine submersible motherships—including North Carolina as a backup—will be available by the end of the year. The Navy has a pool of six shelters to share between the subs. SOCOM expects the DDS to still be in service in 2050.But prototype DCS mini-subs cannot fit inside the current shelter design. As a result, a modernization program will stretch the DDS units by 50 inches, according to SOCOM’s briefing. The project will also try to make it easier to launch undersea vehicles and get them back into the confines of the metal enclosure. Right now, divers must manually open and close the outside hatch to get the SDVs out. Crews then have to drive the craft back into the shelter without any extra help at the end of a mission—underwater and likely in near-total darkness. The sailing branch wants to automate this process.

 

Soviet mini-sub discovered in Jarfjord by Norwegian special forces in 1990

A former officer from the Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Northern Norway told about the surfacing submarine in a TV documentary by NRK about the Cold War. The Soviet Northern Fleet’s secret underwater mission deep into Jarfjord near Kirkenes happened the same autumn as Mikhail Gorbachev was announced winner of the Nobel Peace Price by the committee in Oslo.Broadcasted on Sunday evening, the NRK documentary told a story never known to public before. Link to the program here (not possible to watch from outside Norway). Skipshavn is a small bay on the western shores of Jarfjord, east of Kirkenes on Norway’s Barents Sea coast. By sailing, the bay is about 25 nautical miles from the maritime border to Russia. After receiving reports about suspicious activities in the area in June 1990, military divers first discovered tracks on the seafloor. Coming back a few months later for more thorough investigation, the divers could see new tracks that were not there on the previous dives. We then decided to put the bay under surveillance, said former officer on duty with the military command headquarters of northern Norway, Tore Lasse Moen, interviewed in the documentary by NRK.A team of four from the Navy Special Operation Command was sent on a top secret mission to monitor the remote located bay. This was late autumn 1990 and the group stayed in the area for a few months. Winter came, and then, on November 20th, one of the soldiers could with his binoculars suddenly see air-bobbles in the water. A mini-submarine came to surfaced and stayed there for a few minutes before silently diving and disappeared in the dark. The mini-submarine had no sail and was estimated to be 7 to 8 meters long and had floating pontoons on each side. Norwegian military experts believed the submarine could be rather similar to the rescue- and seafloor mission submarines operated by the Soviet Northern Fleet. Such mini-sub is said to exist also with tracks to move along the seafloor. The mini-subs of the Project 1837 and similar, though, have a small sail, while other special operations mini-subs have a flat top. Like those believed to have been inside Swedish waters in recent years. 

Another special mission mini-submarine that could look like it has pontoons on each side if it is just partly over the surface is the Piranha (Losos-class by NATO-name). This submarine was dedicated for Spetsnaz operations and capable of delivering 6 divers.Swedish author and expert on military history, Lars Gyllenhaal, writes in his blog about the submarine and how it was used. His reporting is largely based on Russian sources.

-submarine in Jarfjord in Finnmark was led by Trond Bolle, later a well-known commando of Marinejergerkommandoen (Navy Special Operations Command) who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2010.Bolle is one of few Norwegian soldiers awarded (posthumously) the War Cross with Sword. At the time, Soviet special missions subs were attached to what today is known as Russia’s Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, based in Olenya Bay northwest of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. The fleet of special purpose submarines in the late days of the Soviet Union consisted of both mini-submarines that could serve as rescue subs, with a hatch where divers could leave and enter, as well as small submarines with tracks to move on the seafloor. Such mini-subs, though, can’t sail for a long distance by themself. It can therefore be assumed that a mother ship likely brought the sub to near the Norwegian, Soviet maritime border in the Varanger fjord, from where the small craft continued the voyage into Jarfjord independently. Tore Lasse Moen said they had two theories about what could be the aim of the mission if it was Russian special operations forces, the Spetsnaz: It could be a training to enter into another country’s territory, or it could be part of a mapping of a location where a possible future operation could happen. Norway has several military installations in the area around the Varanger fjord.

 

A mini-submarine of Project 1837 attached to the Northern Fleet’s India-class rescue and special missions submarine. Here seen at port in Murmansk in the summer of 1991. Photo: Thomas Nilsen 

 Tore Lasse Moen said the military command and ministry in Oslo were informed about the Soviet Navy’s serious violation of Norwegian waters up north. The Soviet mini-sub was never seen in the area after that. The incident in Jarfjord was, however, not the only discovery of tracks on the seafloor. The NRK documentary also featured an interview with Jon Røkenes, a diver in Alta that could tell about video-recordings he made just outside the harbor on February 21st, 1991.Also Røkenes has a background from the Navy Special Operations Command. After showing the video recordings of the tracks on the seafloor to the military command headquarters, he was told not to talk about what he had seen.NRK Finnmark has posted the video of the seafloor crawler tracks and the interview with Jon Røkenes. The information now made public in Norway is somewhat similar to stories from Sweden.H I Sutton, a submarine expert publishing the blog Covert Shores, tells about mysterious tracks on the seafloor just next to Kallax airport in Luleå, discovered in 1983. Kallax is Sweden’s northernmost air base for fighter jets. Also in southern Sweden, tracks and footprints from subsea vehicles have been discovered on the seafloor. Also in recent years.

 

Iran Can Really Build Submarines?

In yet another milestone on Tehran’s path to becoming a self-sustaining regional power, Iranian state news announced the Iranian Navy has commissioned its first homemade submarine. The new Fateh-class vessel was unveiled by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late last week, at a ceremony held at the Bandar Abbas naval base. Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami noted that “The Fateh (“conqueror”) submarine is completely homegrown and has been designed and developed by capable experts of the Marine ndustries [Organization] of the Defence Ministry and enjoys [the] world’s modern technologies.”To the extent that Tehran has leveraged its limited resources to domestically produce a modern submarine, the achievement is a symbolic step on Iran’s path to military self-sufficiency.President Rouhani captured the triumphal mood in Tehran: “we will not bow down before the hegemon. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves and shed our blood to protect Iran.”But while the Iranian military have made it abundantly clear that they possess a homegrown submarine, Fateh’s performance and reliability are another matter altogether. Specifically, quantifiable details are hard to come by, and what little we do know is filtered directly through Iranian state media. Fateh has a displacement tonnage (vessel weight) of 600 tons, placing it in what Iranian and western outlets have called a “semi-heavy” submarine category. Between Iran’s midget Ghadir-class submarines and heavy Kilo-class Yunes vessel, the Fateh class is designed to balance firepower with maneuverability; it can operate for five weeks at a submerged depth of 200 meters

 

Magnets? A Whacky Cold War Plan To Stop Russian Submarines

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had so many hundreds of deadly submarines at sea that Western war planners willing to try almost any possible countermeasure, however goofy sounding. Some seemingly crazy ideas proved actually worthwhile, such as the underwater Sound Surveillance System—a vast chain of seafloor microphones that patiently listened for Soviet subs … and remains in use today. Other less elegant anti-submarine tools survive only as anecdotes. In his book Hunter Killers, naval writer Iain Ballantyne recalls one of the zanier ideas — air-dropped “floppy-magnets” meant to foul up Soviet undersea boats, making them noisier and easier to detect. From the late 1940s on, captured German technology boosted Soviet postwar submarine design. Soviet shipyards delivered subs good enough — and numerous enough — to pose a huge danger to Western shipping. By the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the USSR controlled the largest submarine force in the world — some 300 diesel-electric submarines and a handful of nuclear-propelled models. NATO navies couldn’t keep up. “We simply do not have enough forces,” Vice Adm. R.M. Smeeton stated. NATO war planners feared only nuclear escalation could check the Soviet submarine wolf packs. That is, atomic strikes on sub bases along the Russian coast. But the nuclear solution was worse than the problem. “We can take steps to make sure the enemy is fully aware of where his course of action is leading him without nuclear weapons,” Smeeton said, “but we cannot go to war that way.”Desperate planners sought ways of making Soviet subs easier to hunt. Any technology that could speed up an undersea search was worth considering. “A submarine’s best defense is of course stealth, remaining quiet and undetected in the ocean deep,” Ballantyne notes. “Something that could rob the Soviets of that cloak of silence must have seemed irresistible and, at least initially, a stroke of genius.”A Canadian scientist figured some kind of sticky undersea noisemaker would make a Soviet sub more detectable. He designed a simple hinged cluster of magnets that could attach to a submarine’s metal hull. Movement would cause the flopping magnets to bang against the hull like a loose screen door, giving away the sub’s location to anyone listening. The simple devices would take time and effort to remove, thus also impairing the Soviet undersea fleet’s readiness. In late 1962, the British Admiralty dispatched the A-class diesel submarine HMS Auriga to Nova Scotia for joint anti-submarine training with the Canadian navy. The British were helping Canada establish a submarine force, s0 Royal Navy subs routinely exercised with Canadian vessels. Auriga had just returned to the submarine base at Faslane, Scotland after a combat patrol as part of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other subs of the joint Canadian-British Submarine Squadron Six at Halifax had seen action during the crisis. The 1945-vintage Auriga spent much of her time in Nova Scotia simulating Soviet diesel subs during hazardous under-ice ASW practice with U.S. and Canadian forces. During a typical three-week exercise, Auriga would be subject to the attentions of surface vessels, aircraft and other subs, including the U.S. Navy’s new nuke boats. During one open-ocean exercise, Auriga was given the floppy-magnet treatment. A Canadian patrol plane flew over Auriga’s submerged position and dropped a full load of the widgets into the sea. As weird as it sounded, the magnet concept proved a resounding success. Enough magnets fell on or near Auriga’s hull to stick and flop. Banging and clanking with a godawful racket, the magnets gave sonar operators tracking the sub a field day. Then the trouble started. As Auriga surfaced at the end of the exercise, the magnets made their way into holes and slots in the sub’s outer hull designed to let water flow. “They basically slid down the hull,” Ballantyne says of the magnets, “and remained firmly fixed inside the casing, on top of the ballast tanks, in various nooks and crannies.”The floppy-magnets couldn’t be removed at sea. In fact, they couldn’t be removed at all until the submarine dry-docked back in Halifax weeks later. In the meantime, one of Her Majesty’s submarines was about as stealthy as a mariachi band. No fighting, no training, no nothing until all those floppy little magnets were dug out of her skin at a cost of time, money and frustration. The magnets worked on the Soviets with the same maddening results. The crews of several Foxtrots were driven bonkers by the noise and returned to port rather than complete their cruises. Now, the Soviet navy could afford to furlough a sub or two, but NATO could not. Anti-submarine crews couldn’t practice with floppy-magnets attached to their exercise targets. The floppy-magnets worked exactly as intended, but they were simply too messy to train with to be practical on a large scale. It seems NATO deployed them only a few times. The submarine-fouling floppy-magnet turned out to be, well, a flop.

 

A history of submarines: from U-boat to Dreadnought

From U-boats to dreadnought, submarines have changed dramatically since the vessels’ rise to infamy in the First World War. Harry lye looks back at the history of submarine development, from the earliest days of sub-surface vessels to emerging technology of the near future. Beginning in the First World War, submarines changed the fundamentals of naval warfare and challenged the Royal Navy’s dominance of the seas. Since then they have evolved from harassing maritime trade to becoming a fundamental pillar of global naval operations, including nuclear deterrents. In today’s world submarines maintain their place as an integral part of naval forces, with submerged forces acting as silent guardians for the interests of the countries that control them. The Imperial German Navy’s ‘Unterseeboot’ defined the role of the submarine and, despite the name U-boat exiting mainstream use, the vessels are just as important today as they have ever been.

 

The U-boat threat of WWI

Submarines, although coming into existence years earlier, saw their combat capability truly tested at the onset of the First World War. In the years preceding the war, Germany massively expanded its undersea fleet, largely in an effort to counteract the vast naval power of the UK’s Royal Navy. Huge at the time, the British fleet effectively cut off all Germany’s maritime trade, blockading the North Sea and English Channel. As a result, Germany all but gave up on attempting to confront the Royal Navy, instead adopting submarine warfare as a means of striking back. At the onset of the war, submarine development also shook up the status quo of naval combat: commanders of the time believed that no submarine could sink a capital ship. This belief was swiftly shattered when, just months into the war, the German SM U-21 sank the scout cruiser HMS Pathfinder. The incident also showed how deep into enemy waters submarines could penetrate. The U-21 was said to have ventured deep into UK waters, reaching Forth Bridge close to the UK’s naval base in Sotheby the end of war, Germany had built over 370 U-boats, sending the vessels out into the Atlantic to interfere with shipping. Most of them were Type 93 class submarines, carrying 16 torpedoes as well deck guns to guard the ships when they surfaced. Crewed by 39 sailors, the boats could travel around 9,000 miles from port.

 

WWII: submarine warfare evolves

During the Second World War, submarines were employed to devastating effect in the North Atlantic. The aim of the war in the Atlantic was to destroy more ships than could be built by the US and UK. However in WW2, the U-boat fleet in the Atlantic suffered heavy losses while also spurring advancements in shipbuilding to counteract the threat. In other theatres the Japanese Navy pioneered the use of small-scale submarines, which were intended to defend the home islands from invasion while the Royal Navy used the boats to blockade Axis-occupied Europe. WWII also saw the first and only sinking of a submerged submarine by another submarine using manual calculations that formed the basis of modern targeting computers. In 1945, the UK’s HMS Venturer spotted the German Navy submarine U-864. After learning it was being followed the U-864 conducted evasive manoeuvres in order to escape the British sub. Venturer’s crew calculated the path of the adversarial submarine and launched torpedoes in a fan pattern, meaning that when the German U-boat turned, its crew unwittingly steered into the line of fire. Since then, no other submarine has done the same.

 

Cold War era: nuclear-powered submarines

In the 1960s, the first British nuclear-powered submarine, and the first submarine to bear the name Dreadnought, was born from a US and UK defence partnership. The hull and offensive systems on the submarine were designed in the UK but the boat’s propulsion system was supplied by the US. Acquiring US nuclear technology rapidly sped up the development of the HMS Dreadnought, which entered service in 1963. By the time the submarine had been completed, Rolls -Royce and its partners had generated their own nuclear propulsion system, paving the way for the UK’s next nuclear submarine to be built completely in the UK. Although the original Dreadnought submarine was the first British nuclear-powered boat, the USS Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine to enter service in 1955. Nautilus broke all speed and distance records of its generation and in 1958 was the first watercraft to travel under the North Pole.

 

The new Dreadnought and the nuclear deterrent

Submarines have come a long way since they revolutionised underwater warfare in the WWI era. The SM U-21 a German submarine commissioned shortly before the outbreak of the war was 65m long, could travel 50m, below the surface, and had a displacement of 824 tonnes when submerged. In comparison, the Royal Navy’s new Dreadnought class of nuclear deterrent carrying submarines will be the largest ever built for service, at 150m long with a displacement of more than 17,000 tonnes. The ship will also be the first to simulate night and day schedules through lighting to make the transition from surface to submersion easier for the crew. Yet another one to be named HMS Dreadnought, the first in class is in development by BAE Systems with support from Rolls-Royce. The programme will eventually deliver four submarines to replace the current Vanguard class of submarines, meaning the UK will be able to have at least one submarine at sea at all times. Like the Vanguard, Dreadnought will generate its own fresh water and oxygen, meaning the submarine only has to surface when it runs out of food. The HMS Dreadnought is expected to be in service with the Royal Navy from the early 2030s according to the Ministry of Defence’s Submarine Delivery Authority.

 

Tesla Could Make A Splash Or Take A Dive If It Builds A Submarine

Tesla could make a major splash with its own submarine. CarAndDriver published an article back in June that just showed up in my Twitter feed. Could Tesla be planning to go for a swim by creating an all-electric submarine? CarAndDriver mentioned that at the Tesla shareholder meeting Elon Musk talked about Tesla having a design for a personal submarine. This was a response to a shareholder wanting to know if Tesla was working on a car that was capable of both land and sea travel. The idea of one’s own personal submarine sounds kind of out there, but at the same time, it brings to mind the possibilities of diving from a different perspective. Elon Musk has certainly had the idea in his head for a long time, having bought the old James Bond submarine car at an auction for a million dollars several years ago. The submarine car was on display at the recent Cybertruck reveal event (photos below by Kyle Field for CleanTechnica).lso, it reminds us of the submarine Elon and SpaceX built to help with the Thai rescue — an operation Elon Musk was asked to help with. Even though the boys were saved without any help from Elon or SpaceX, the idea of a smaller sub leads into other ideas — for example, evacuations from areas that are heavily flooded.CarAndDriver thinks that Tesla should forgo the electric submarine idea and focus on its core business: “that of building automobiles.” Even though Elon had the same opinion and dismissed the idea as a distraction, it’s still there, a flicker of creativity beckoning for its creator to bring it into being. What I am saying is that it can be done. Perhaps CarAndDriver is right — now is not the right time for Tesla to take a dive into the ocean. But maybe in the future? After all, there is a time and place for everything, yes?

 

James Bond-style luxury super yacht that could transform into a SUBMARINE.

  • The hybrid super yacht was designed by Elena Nappi, 34, of the Italian ship building company Fincantieri
  • Dubbed the 'Carapace', the craft is 256 feet long and can submerge to a depth of 985 feet for up to 10 days
  • The luxurious vessel is equipped with a gym, lounge, bar, spa, VIP cabins, sun deck as well as an infinity pool
  • Expected to have a price tag in the hundreds of millions of pounds, it has a top surface speed of 16 knots

The key to being a James Bond-style evil genius is having a top-secret lair — but assuring freedom from prying eyes and pesky spies as you plot total world domination can be a challenge. A solution may lie in a new luxury super yacht being developed in Italy that can double as a submarine — assuring complete privacy for the rich, famous or villainous as it descends discretely beneath the waves. The decadent hybrid vessel design — which has been dubbed 'Carapace' — is nearly eight times the length of a London bus, can submerge to a depth of 985 feet (300 m) and stay there for up to 10 days at a time. A new luxury super yacht being developed in Italy can double as a submarine — assuring complete privacy for the rich and famous as it descends discretely beneath the waves. Pictured, the Carapace can dive to a maximum depth of 985 feet

The decadent hybrid vessel design — which has been dubbed 'Carapace' — is nearly eight times the length of a London bus, can submerge to depths of 985 feet (300 m) and stay there for up to 10 days at a time Diplomats and business bosses can step on-board the vessel to hold important meetings and 'define agreements or treaties in complete secrecy,' the designers boast. Pictured, the dining/meeting area and bar The 256 foot- (78 metre-) long yacht — which has a light aluminium superstructure — will offer stunning underwater views as it glides down to a maximum depth of almost around 985 feet (300 metres). Pictured, the Carapace's lounge

Length: 256 feet (78 m) 

Top speed (surface): 16 knots

Top speed (submerged): 13 knots

Range: 2,400 miles (3,862 km) 

Max. dive time: 10 days

Max. depth: 985 feet (300 m) 

Build: Aluminium superstructure 

Cost: Hundreds of millions of pounds

Amenities:  Pool, spa, gym, lounge

Diplomats and business bosses can step on-board the vessel to hold important meetings and 'define agreements or treaties in complete secrecy,' the designers boast. The 256 foot- (78 metre-) long yacht, which has a light aluminium superstructure, will offer stunning underwater views as it glides down to a maximum depth of almost around 985 feet (300 metres). Passengers can enjoy the craft's luxurious amenities — including VIP cabins, a lounge, a spa, a bar and gym. When the Carapace surfaces, the top deck becomes available for guests to enjoy views of ocean from one of its many sun loungers, or take a dip in the infinity pool that looks out from the the vessel's stern. The hybrid super yacht — which is expected to have a price tag somewhere in the hundreds of millions of pounds when built — is the brain-child of Trieste-based designer Elena Nappi, 34, of the Italian ship building company Fincantieri.According to the developers, the vessel is also designed to accommodate passengers with limited mobility. Passengers can enjoy the craft's luxurious amenities — including VIP cabins, a lounge, a spa, a bar and gym. Pictured, the Carapace's intricately covered top deck The hybrid super yacht — which is expected to have a price tag somewhere in the hundreds of millions of pounds when built — is the brain-child of Trieste-based designer Elena Nappi, 34, of the Italian ship building company FincantieriWhen the Carapace surfaces, the top deck becomes available for guests to enjoy views of ocean from one of its many sun loungers — or take a dip in the infinity pool that looks out from the the vessel's stern, pictured Diplomats and business bosses can step on-board the vessel to hold important meetings and 'define agreements or treaties in complete secrecy,' the designers boast. Pictured, the blueprints of the hybrid vessel. The hybrid super yacht — which is expected to have a price tag somewhere in the hundreds of millions of pounds when built — is the brain-child of Trieste-based designer Elena Nappi, 34, of the Italian ship building company Fincantieri'The submarine is a naval vehicle designed to navigate both on the surface and in diving. That is, it is able to move and operate both on the surface of the sea, like all other ships, and under water,' said Ms Nappi.'Whoever buys a boat does not need just a boat, but needs the sea, to feel free, to dream, needs emotions, to feel fulfilled and appreciated.'They also have need, she continued, of 'supplies to stay away for a long time, of security, of prestige, of comfort, of beautiful experiences.''Today with the run-up to ever larger boats to show off at the port, contact with water has been lost and it is time to restore it.'The 256 foot- (78 metre-) long yacht — which has a light aluminium superstructure — will offer stunning underwater views as it glides down to a maximum depth of almost around 985 feet (300 metres)passengers can enjoy the craft's luxurious amenities — including VIP cabins, a lounge, a spa, a bar and gym Passengers can enjoy the craft's luxurious amenities — including VIP cabins, a lounge, a spa, a bar and gym The decadent hybrid vessel design — which has been dubbed 'Carapace' — is nearly eight times the length of a London bus, can submerge to depths of 985 feet (300 m) and stay there for up to 10 days at a time The 256 foot- (78 metre-) long yacht — which has a light aluminium superstructure — will offer stunning underwater views as it glides down to a maximum depth of almost around 985 feet (300 metres)The hybrid super yacht — which is expected to have a price tag somewhere in the hundreds of millions of pounds when built — is the brain-child of Trieste-based designer Elena Nappi, 34, of the Italian ship building company Fincantieri

 

 

Nuclear-powered submarine tanker

Sailing under the ice north of Siberia is cheaper than crushing through, a concept study concludes.  “It will be unique, combining the functions of a nuclear-powered submarine and a gas carrier,” said Dmitry Sidorenkov, head of engineering with Malachite Design Bureau in St. Petersburg. Sidorenkov presented the concept study for the 360 meters long nuclear-powered submarine tanker to Strana Rosatom, the newspaper of Russia’s state nuclear corporation. The submarine is supposed to transport liquid natural gas (LNG). Sidorenkov said today’s challenge is that all LNG gas carriers sailing from Yamal do need icebreaker assistance during winter, despite holding Arc7 ice class. A nuclear-powered submarine gas carrier would provide year-around speedy transport from the fields to the transhipment points in Murmansk and Kamchatka. It is Novatek, operator of Yamal LNG,that are planning for transhipment hubs in Ura Bay on the Kola Peninsula and on the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East. From the transhipment hubs, LNG would be transported by normal LNG tankers to the markets in Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Asia. Sailing under the ice can be done regardless of climate and weather conditions.“We see the demand for such vessel in the future,” said Sidorenkov.360 meters length is the same as the pier at Sabetta, the LNG-plant operated by Novatek on the Yamal Peninsula. The submarine tanker would be 70 meters wide, 30 meters high and have a draft of 12-13 meters. With a capacity of 170-180 thousand tons, the submarine would carry about the same as today’s surface tankers. The world’s largest submarine today is the Soviet-designed ballistic missile carrier og the Typhoon class which is 175 meters long and 23 meters wide. The proposed LNG-submarine would in others words be more than twice the size of the Typhoons.  Unlike navy submarines, which have one or two reactors, the LNG-submarine would be powered by three reactors, providing 90 MW power to the propellers. Dmitry Sidorenkov told Strana Rosatom that the reactors in question would be the RITM-200 type, similar to those on board Russia’s latest generation of nuclear-powered icebreakers of which the first, the “Arktika” was sailing a two-days test voyage outside St. Petersburg last week.Malachite has already been in talks with potential customers, like Novatek and Gazprom, about the proposed submarine. Next step will be a full-fledged design. It can take several years before the Arctic can welcome the first nuclear-powered submarine tanker. By 2024 to 2027 there could be five to eight such tankers in operation, sailing from the LNG-plants on and near the Yamal Peninsula to Ura Bay in the Murmansk region for westbound voyages and to Kamchatkha for reloading LNG aimed for the markets in Japan, China, South Korea and others. The Malachite engineer estimates a crew of 25 to 28 to operate the submarine. Atomflot, the service-base for nuclear-powered icebreakers in Murmansk could serve also such submarine tanker, Dmitry Sidorenkov suggested in the interview. Nuclear power for exploring Arctic natural resources has good times in Russia after Rosatom last year became in charge of the Northern Sea Route Directorate, responsible for infrastructure and investments. On Monday, the Barents Observer told the story about Rosatom’s plan for a nuclear-powered oil tanker for Arctic waters.“It must be able to carry at least 100,000 tons and sail across the icy waters of the Northern Sea Route,” said Vyacheslav Ruksha, who is both deputy head of the Russian state nuclear power company and director of the Northern Sea Route Directorate. You can read more about the new generation of nuclear-powered icebreakers and other maritime, seabed and onshore reactors that will come to the Russian Arctic from now and until 2035

 

Beneath the surface of the Israel submarines affair

The most alarming question in the submarines affair is the possibility that improper motives led the prime minister to consent to sales of submarines by Germany to Egypt. Last March, journalist Raviv Drucker reported on Channel 13 News that former Ministry of Defense director of policy and political-military affairs Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad told Israel Police that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the one who approved Germany's sales of submarines to Egypt. Netanyahu later had to admit that he had withdrawn Israel's objection to the sale of this strategic weapon to Egypt. The report stated that Gilad had objected to the sales of the submarines to Egypt, and had contacted Christoph Heusgen, an adviser of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Gilad told the police that Heusgen said that Netanyahu had approved the sale. In any case, approval of the sale of the submarines to Egypt is surfacing now, after being featured in the previous turbulent election campaign. In May 2015, President Reuven Rivlin visited Germany and met with Merkel. As part of a mission given him by then-Minister of Defense and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, Rivlin expressed concern about Germany's intention to sell advanced submarines manufactured by ThyssenKrupp to Egypt, and heard for the first time that Israel had approved the sale. Ya’alon and then-IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (now a leader of the Blue and White Party) later revealed that they had not even known about the approval given to the Germans, and that it had been done against their expressed opinion and that of the Ministry of Defense. Ya'alon even said, "The submarines affair is liable to implicate Netanyahu in treason."What is the connection between Israel and the sale of submarines to Germany? Why was the Israeli prime minister asked to approve such a deal? This procedure became customary because of the special relations between Germany and Israel. Israeli prime ministers were previously asked to approve defense deals for countries liable to come into conflict with Israel, but no formal or legal procedure is involved. Netanyahu initially consistently denied this sequence of events, and claimed that Germany had never asked for his approval. In response to reports about Gilad's statement to the police, he said, "This is an unavailing and desperate attempt to flog a dead horse."Netanyahu later had to admit that he had withdrawn his opposition to the deal, but claimed that the reason was a defense secret that he could not reveal. Netanyahu claimed that he had disclosed the secret to the Attorney General, but Mandelblit stated that Netanyahu had said that he was willing to disclose it, but he himself believed that there was no need to do this at this stage. The agreement underlying the affair was signed in late 2016: Israel's purchase of three Dolphin submarines from Germany for €1.5 billion, and another deal for vessels to protect natural gas platforms for €430 million. These amounts put the deal at the head of the defense deals in Israel, even though a third of the price was paid for by a grant from the German government. The price for the deal is similar to the deal for the F-35 stealth fighters. In contrast to that deal, however, procurement of the submarines and the ships from Germany was mainly financed from the state budget, not with military aid. The main point of contention in this context is the number of submarines that Israel needs. Representatives of the defense establishment, led by Gabi Ashkenazi, who was IDF chief of staff during the relevant period, say that the defense establishment's view was that five submarines were enough for Israel. Politicians, led by Netanyahu, pressed for the procurement of additional submarines, and planned to increase the total number of submarines to nine. Procurement deals on such a scale are approved by the defense cabinet after consultation with the Ministry of Defense. Ashkenazi claims that he presented a view opposed to Netanyahu's but was rebuffed. Netanyahu says that procurement of this number of submarines was essential, and was properly approved. In its draft indictment, the State Attorney's Office asserts that it is suspected that a number of parties pushing to close the deal with the Germans in exchange for bribes were behind the entire deal. The police recommended indicting Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, who was deputy head of the National Security Council; former Israel navy commander Eliezer Marom; Adv. David Shimron; David Sharan; and Shai Brosh.Michael (Miki) Ganor is a businessperson and former Israel Navy missile boat commander. He was first arrested and interrogated in July 2017 on suspicion of involvement in the bribery conspiracy called the "submarines affair." After the investigation was revealed, Ganor, currently the main accused in the case, signed a state's witness agreement in which he undertook to testify against his partners in the alleged bribery conspiracy. Ganor agreed to NIS 10 million penalty a one year prison sentence. In March 2019, however, he withdrew from the state's witness agreement and retracted his statement to the police. He began to claim that in contrast to his previous story, no bribes had been passed between the suspects. He was then arrested and questioned under caution, and again became the principal accused. If Ganor is convicted of the offenses of which he is suspected, he is liable to pay a much higher price than he agreed to pay in the plea bargain reached with him, which was canceled. The police believed that a number of parties received financial benefits from the submarines deal, and recommended that they should be indicted. The Attorney General, however, announced at the beginning of the investigation that Netanyahu was not a suspect in the affair. New details surfaced in 2019 that again raised the question of whether Netanyahu could nevertheless have derived personal benefit from the deal. Information revealed by Netanyahu himself in his request for financial aid in paying for his legal proceedings from US-based foreign businesspersons Spencer Partridge and Nathan Milikowsky (Netanyahu's cousin) show that until two years ago, Milikowsky held shares in a steel company that was a supplier of ThyssenKrupp, the builder of the submarines. It was learned that Netanyahu was also a minority shareholder in the company until 2010, when he sold his stake to Milikowsky for NIS 16 million. Netanyahu initially claimed that he bought the shares when he was a private citizen, then later changed his story, saying that he did it when he was leader of the opposition. In any case, the Ministry of Justice is currently examining the information. Despite the long period of time that has passed, however, no investigation has been opened of Netanyahu concerning his holding of shares in ThyssenKrupp's supplier, and whether this gave him an interest in promoting the submarines deal with the company. The police completed their investigation and recommended a series of indictments, putting the ball in the court of the State Attorney's Office, which filed the grave draft indictment against those involved. Following a hearing, the draft indictment is likely to become an actual indictment. One person remains out of the picture - Netanyahu. Netanyahu continually repeats that the State Attorney's Office and the Attorney General said that he was not a suspect, was not involved, and knew nothing. The main question is whether and why Netanyahu gave the go-ahead for Germany to supply submarines to Egypt, against the defense establishment's recommendation. The change in his explanation of the shares he and his cousin held in the steel company is also questionable. Netanyahu commented on the matter during the election campaign, saying, "With respect to these slanders, they are really slanders made out of thin air. I didn't get a shekel from the submarines deal. The State Attorney's Office and the Attorney General went over the matter with a fine-tooth comb. They stated unequivocally that I was not a suspect in the case, and there was nothing wrong with my actions."

 

Japan Planned To Use Midget Submarines To Attack Pearl Harbor

On Dec. 7, 1941, the aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy rained devastation upon the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But Japanese warplanes didn’t actually fire the first shots that brought America into a massive Pacific War. An hour before the air attack, a squadron of tiny Japanese midget submarines attempted to slip into the harbor’s defenses, like burglars in the night, to wreak havoc on Battleship Row. Unlike the aerial assault, the sailors failed spectacularly?—?and the story is often forgotten. By the 1930s, Imperial Japan and the United States were set on a collision course. Tokyo’s decision to invade China in 1931 and intensify their brutal campaign six years had provoked ultimately irrevocable tensions. The United States responded to the incursion into China with increasing sanctions, culminating with an embargo on petroleum in July 1941 that crippled the Japan’s economy. Japanese military leaders had wanted to capture the Dutch East Indies to secure its oil wealth, but knew it would trigger war with the Unites States. While U.S.-Japanese negotiations came within striking distance of a peace agreement, Roosevelt was a hard bargainer, demanding Japan’s leaders order a complete withdrawal from China. They refused. Thus, Japanese Adm. Yamamoto began planning for a “short victorious war.” The key to this idea was knocking out the battleships of the U.S. Pacific fleet at their home base of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to buy the Japanese Army time to complete the conquest of the Western Pacific. Along with a massive air strike from a Japanese carrier task force would constitute the main attack, the Navy coordinated the undersea assault using midget submarines. During World War II, Japan, England, Italy and Germany all employed midget submarines to stealthily infiltrate shallow, defended harbors and attack vulnerable capital ships. The Japanese Navy’s midget submarines had hidden their developments by calling the ships Type A Ko-hyoteki , or “Target A”Japanese officials hoped the designation would deceive foreign analysts into believing the 78-feet long submarines were actually mock ships for naval gunnery practice. In reality, each of the 46-ton subs had a crew of two and was armed with two 450-millimeter Type 97 torpedoes with 800-pound warheads. The little submarines could sprint up to 26 miles per hour submerged, but could not dive deeper than 100 meters. More importantly, the Type As had no engine and ran purely on batteries. This gave the diminutive vessels a maximum endurance of 12 hours at speeds of 6 miles per hour. The subs often ran out of power much faster in real combat. As a result, a larger submarine mothership had to bring the Type As close to the target area. Even so, the battery limitations made it unlikely the midget sub could make it back to safety. Each one had a 300-pound scuttling charge as a self-destruct device. Just getting to the designation was difficult enough. Since the small boats were difficult to control even while swimming in a straight line, crews had to manually move lead weights backwards and forwards to stabilize the vessel. With these obvious issues, on Oct. 19, 1941, the Japanese Navy began modifying five Type A subs with improved pneumatic steering devices, as well as net-cutters and guards for fending off anti-submarine nets. Workers at the Kure Naval District painted over the submarine’s running lights to help hide them from enemy spotters. Afterwards the midgets went to the Kamegakubi Naval Proving Ground and crews loaded them onto the backs of five large Type C-1 submarines, the I-16, I-18, I-20, I-22 and I-24. On Nov. 25, 1941, The motherships set sail for Pearl Harbor. While on route, the so-called “Special Attack Unit” received the coded message “Climb Mount Niitaka 1208.” This meant authorities in Tokyo had not found a diplomatic solution and signaled the go-ahead for the Pearl Harbor attack. On Dec. 6, 1941, the C-1s swam to points within 12 miles of Pearl Harbor. Then, between the hours of midnight and 3:30 A.M. the next day, the ships released their deadly payloads. For the crews, getting inside Pearl Harbor posed a serious challenge. Ships could only enter the port through a 65 foot-deep channel guarded by an anti-submarine net 35 feet deep. Boats on either side of the nets tugged them apart to allow friendly boats to pass through. On top of that, American destroyers prowled in a five mile arc around the harbor entrance, assisted by watchful eyes on orbiting PBY Catalina maritime patrol planes. On paper, the Japanese intended for the submarine attack to work as well-planned heist. The midget subs would sneak in by following American ships passing through openings in the anti-submarine net. Then the subs would lay low until the air attack sowed chaos throughout the harbor, at which point they would unleash their torpedoes at any American battleships that survived the bombing. Afterwards, the midget subs would slip away to Hawaii’s Lanai Island. The submarines I-68 and I-69 would wait no more than 24 hours to pick up any surviving crew. The Japanese did not plan to recover the Type As themselves. If everything worked out right, American officials would only receive the Japanese declaration of hostilities mere moments before the attack commenced. However, things didn’t go according to plan. Just before 4:00 A.M., the minesweeper USS Condor spotted the periscope of the midget submarine Ha-20 and called over the destroyer USS Ward to search the area. Just over an hour and a half later, crew aboard the Ward spotted a periscope in the wake of the cargo ship Antares as it passed through the anti-submarines nets. While a PBY Catalina patrol plane dropped smoke markers near the sub’s position, the Ward charged the sub. Gunners fired two shots from the ship’s 4-inch main gun at less than 100 meters and followed up with four depth charges. The Type A vanished into the water. For the crews, getting inside Pearl Harbor posed a serious challenge. Ships could only enter the port through a 65 foot-deep channel guarded by an anti-submarine net 35 feet deep. Boats on either side of the nets tugged them apart to allow friendly boats to pass through. On top of that, American destroyers prowled in a five mile arc around the harbor entrance, assisted by watchful eyes on orbiting PBY Catalina maritime patrol planes. On paper, the Japanese intended for the submarine attack to work as well-planned heist. The midget subs would sneak in by following American ships passing through openings in the anti-submarine net. Then the subs would lay low until the air attack sowed chaos throughout the harbor, at which point they would unleash their torpedoes at any American battleships that survived the bombing. Afterwards, the midget subs would slip away to Hawaii’s Lanai Island. The submarines I-68 and I-69 would wait no more than 24 hours to pick up any surviving crew. The Japanese did not plan to recover the Type As themselves. If everything worked out right, American officials would only receive the Japanese declaration of hostilities mere moments before the attack commenced. However, things didn’t go according to plan. Just before 4:00 A.M., the minesweeper USS Condor spotted the periscope of the midget submarine Ha-20 and called over the destroyer USS Ward to search the area. Just over an hour and a half later, crew aboard the Ward spotted a periscope in the wake of the cargo ship Antares as it passed through the anti-submarines nets. While a PBY Catalina patrol plane dropped smoke markers near the sub’s position, the Ward charged the sub.Gunners fired two shots from the ship’s 4-inch main gun at less than 100 meters and followed up with four depth charges. The Type A vanished into the water. Taking on sea water caused the batteries to spew out deadly chlorine gas. A depth charge attack finally knocked out the periscope and disabled the midget submarine’s remaining undamaged torpedo.Sakamaki decided to try and sail their stricken craft back to the mothership. He and Inagaki passed out as the choking gasses filling the inside of their ship. The two managed to regain consciousness in the evening and decided to ground their sub near the town of Waimanalo to the east. However, they crashed on yet another reef. A patrolling PBY bomber dropped depth charges on the crippled submarine. Sakamaki decided to abandon ship and attempted to detonate the scuttling charge?—?but even the ship’s self-destruct device failed to work. Sakamaki succeeded in swimming ashore and promptly fell unconscious. His crewmate drowned. The following morning, Hawaiian soldier David Akui captured a the Japanese sailor. The first Japanese prisoner of war of World War II, Sakamaki refused to cooperate during his interrogation, requesting that he be executed or allowed to commit suicide. The Japanese military became aware of his capture, but officially claimed that all of the submarine crews had been lost in action. A memorial to the Special Attack Unit omitted his name. The crew of Ha-18 abandoned ship without firing either of their torpedoes after falling victim to a depth charge attack. Nineteen years later, the U.S. Navy recovered the sub from the floor of Hawaii’s Keehi Lagoon and ultimately shipped it off for display at the Japanese Naval Academy at Exanimate fate of the fifth submarine, Ha-16, remains controversial. At 10:40 P.M., the crew of the I-16 intercepted a radio message that appeared to repeat the word “Success!” A few hours later, they received a second transmission: “Unable to navigate.”The belief was that Ha-16 transmitted these alerts. In 2009, a Novadocumentary crew identified three parts of the midget submarine in a navy salvage pile off of West Loch, Hawaii. A popular belief is that Ha-16 successfully entered the harbor and fired off its torpedoes. Then the crew slipped out and scuttled the sub off of West Loch island before perishing of unknown causes. Navy salvage teams probably later scooped up the sub amidst the wreckage of six landing craft destroyed in the West Loch disaster of 1944. They then proceeded to dump the whole pile of debris further out at sea. That no one ever found the Ha-16’s torpedoes gave rise to the theory that the midget submarine might have successfully torpedoed the battleship USS Oklahoma. The USS West Virginia was another possible target. A photo taken from an attacking Japanese torpedo bomber at 8:00 A.M., which appears to show torpedo trails lancing towards Oklahoma without a corresponding splash from an air-dropped weapon added more weight to the idea. In addition, the damage to the Oklahoma, and the fact that it capsized, suggested to some it was struck by a tiny sub’s heavier torpedoes. However, this theory is dubious. The Oklahoma capsized because all the hatches were open for an inspection at the time of the attack. The heavy damage can be explained by the more than a half-dozen air-dropped torpedoes that hit the ship. It is more likely Ha-16 launched the torpedoes at another vessel. At 10:04 A.M., the light cruiser USS St. Louis reported it had taken fire from submarine, but both torpedoes missed. In the end, the air attack accomplished what the midget submarines could not. Japan’s naval aviators sank three U.S. battleships, crippling another five, blasted 188 U.S. warplanes?—?most sitting on the ground?—?and killed 2,403 American service members. Unfortunately for officials in Tokyo, the Japanese Navy had struck a powerful blow, but not a crippling one. The bombardment failed to hit the repair facilities and fuel depots, which allowed the U.S. Pacific fleet to get back on its feet relatively quickly. Just as importantly, not a single U.S. aircraft carrier was in Pearl Harbor at the time. The flattops would swiftly prove their dominance over battleships in the coming Pacific War. Despite the debacle, the Japanese Navy continued sending Ko-hyoteki into combat. As at Pearl Harbor, the submariners in their tiny ships had very limited successes in operations from Australia to Alaska to Madagascar.

 

Rinspeed sQuba Is The Submarine Lotus Elise You Forgot About

Rinspeed is known as one of the makers of the most interesting concept cars, wowing people with design and technology. From their autonomous hybrid sports cars to their awesome V8 powered hovercraft, for more than 40 years, Rinspeed has come up with some wild but entertaining ideas on the future of mobility. But did you know that Rinspeed also came up with the world's only completely functional diving car? In this video by Barcroft Cars' Ridiculous Rides, we take a look at the vehicle inspired by James Bond's 1977 movie, "The Spy Who Loved Me", in which a pursued James Bond takes his heavily modified Lotus Esprit underwater to evade his enemies. 

In 2008, the Rinspeed sQuba was unveiled at Geneva. It was based on a Lotus Elise, but with totally reworked internals and some exterior modifications to make it usable on the road and above and underwater. Yes, the sQuba is totally road legal, featuring lights, seatbelts, and regular tires. It also has a pair of propellers poking beneath its rear bumper, and an interior totally designed to get wet and dry off quickly. Instrumentation is also modified extensively to provide driving and diving information, such as speed, depth, and battery capacity. The sQuba is totally electric powered, and has a set of oxygen tanks and necessary piping for the pair of masks and regulators for the driver and passenger. Exterior pods allow the sQuba to propel itself by pushing water, and the rear propellers allow it to manuever left or right. The open top is necessary to save weight and provide a unique open diving experience. It's so seamless that you can actually drive into the water with minimal fuss. If you're looking at ordering one of these cars, you unfortunately cannot. There exists only one working iteration, and while a ton of interest was generated when it was revealed, with some wealthy and willing customers ready to get their hands on one, Rinspeed has admitted that the amount of engineering put into the sQuba would not scale properly if production numbers would increase. And with the actual working prototype costing about $1.5-million to build, this car might go down in history as a one-off toy for the ultra-rich only. 

 

North Korea's Submarine Fleet

North Korea should by all rights be a naval power. A country sitting on a peninsula, Korea has a long naval tradition, despite being a “shrimp” between the two “whales” of China and Japan. However, the partitioning of Korea into two countries in 1945 and the stated goal of unification —by force if necessary—lent the country to building up a large army, and reserving the navy for interdiction and special operations roles. Now, in the twenty-first century, the country’s navy is set to be the sea arm of a substantial nuclear deterrent. The Korean People’s Navy (KPN) is believed to have approximately sixty thousand men under arms—less than one-twentieth that of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) ground forces. This, as well as comparable budget makes the KPN’s auxiliary role to the KPA. KPN draftees spend an average of five to ten years, so while Pyongyang’s sailors may not have the latest equipment, they do end up knowing their jobs quite well. A substantial number of these sailors serve in the KPN’s submarine fleet, which is one of the world’s largest. In 2001, North Korea analyst Joseph Bermudez estimated that the KPN operated between fifty-two and sixty-seven diesel electric submarines. These consisted of four Whiskey-class submarines supplied by the Soviet Union and up to seventy-seven Romeo-class submarines provided by China. Seven Romeos were delivered assembled, while the rest were delivered in kit form. Each Romeo displaced 1,830 tons submerged, had a top speed of thirteen knots and was operated by a crew of fifty-four. The Romeo submarines were armed with eight standard-diameter 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, two facing aft. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was filmed touring and taking a short voyage on a Romeo-class submarine in 2014. Despite such an endorsement, the submarines are generally considered obsolete and are being phased out. In 2015, the Pentagon believed that North Korea has seventy submarines of unknown types on active duty. A multinational report on the sinking of the South Korean corvette ROKS Cheonan states that the KPN operated twenty Romeo-class submarines, forty Sang-O (“Shark”) class coastal submarines (SSCs), and ten midget submarines of the Yono class. The Sang-O class of coastal submarines is approximately 111 feet long and twelve feet wide, and displaces 275 tons. It can do 7.2 knots surfaced and 8.8 knots submerged. There are two versions, one with torpedo tubes and another where the torpedo tubes are replaced with lockout chambers for divers. The latter are maintained by the KPN but operated by the Reconnaissance Bureau’s Maritime Department. An improved version, informally known as the Sang-O II, is 131 feet long, displaces between 350 and 400 tons, and reportedly has a top speed of thirteen knots. The armed variant is believed to be capable of carrying, in addition to torpedoes, sea mines, while the Reconnaissance Bureau’s version carries between thirty-five and forty passengers and crew. Finally, North Korea has about ten Yono-class midget submarines (SSm). Derived from an Iranian design, the Yono class displaces 130 tons submerged, with two 533-millimeter torpedo tubes and a crew of approximately twenty. The submarine can make an estimated eleven knots on the surface, but only four knots submerged. North Korea’s submarine fleet, while smaller and less well funded than the other armed services, has generated an outsized number of international incidents. On September 18, 1996, a Sang-O SSC operated by the Reconnaissance Bureau ran aground near Gangneung, South Korea. The submarine, which had set a three-man party of commandos ashore two days before to reconnoiter a South Korean naval base, had failed to pick up the party the the previous night. On its second attempt, the submarine ran aground and became hopelessly stuck within sight of the shoreline. Aboard the submarine were twenty-one crew and and the director and vice director of the Maritime Department. South Korean airborne and special-forces troops embarked on a forty-nine-day manhunt that saw all of the North Koreans except for one killed or captured. Many committed suicide or were murdered by their superior officers to prevent capture. The remaining North Korean sailor, or agent, is believed to have made his way back across the DMZ. Eight ROK troops were killed, as were four South Korean civilians. In 1998, a Yugo-class midget submarine, predecessor to the Yono class, was snared in the nets of a South Korean fishing boat and towed back to a naval base. Inside was a macabre sight: five submarine crewmen and four Reconnaissance Bureau agents, all dead of gunshot wounds. The crew had been murdered by the agents, who promptly committed suicide. The submarine was thought to have become entangled in the fishing boat’s net on its way back home to North Korea, after picking up a party of agents who had completed a mission ashore. In March 2010 the corvette ROKS Cheonan, operating in the Yellow Sea near the Northern Limit Line, was struck in the stern by an undetected torpedo. The 1,500-ton Cheonan, a Pohang-class general-purpose corvette, broke into two halves and sank. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed and fifty-six were wounded. An international commision set up to investigate the incident pinned the blame on North Korea, in large part due to the remains of a North Korean CHT-02D heavyweight acoustic wake-homing torpedo found at the location of the sinking. The submarine responsible is thought to have been a Yono-class midget sub. North Korea’s latest submarine is a step in a different direction, the so-called Sinpo or Gorae (“Whale”) class ballistic-missile submarine (SSB). The SSB appears to blend submarine know-how from previous classes with launch technology from the Soviet Cold War–era Golf-class ballistic-missile submarines; North Korea imported several Golf-class subs in the 1990s, ostensibly for scrapping purposes. Both the Golf and Gorae classes feature missile tubes in the submarine’s sail. The tubes are believed to be meant for the Pukkuksong-1 (“Polaris”) submarine-launched ballistic missiles currently under development. If successful, a small force of Gorae subs could provide a crude but effective second-strike capability, giving the regime the opportunity to retaliate even in the face of a massive preemptive attack. north Korea’s reliance on submarines exposes a harsh reality for the country: U.S. and South Korean naval and air forces are now so overwhelmingly superior that the only viable way for Pyongyang’s navy to survive is to go underwater. While minimally capable versus the submarine fleets of other countries, North Korea does get a great deal of use out of them. Although old and obsolete, North Korea’s submarines have the advantage of numbers and, in peacetime, surprise. Pyongyang’s history of armed provocations means the world hasn’t seen the last of her submarine force.

 

Japanese Navy Have Gained Tactical Edge With New Submarine

In a ceremony on November 6, Japan launched its latest submarine, the Toryu, its second to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Japan is the first country to field this game-changing technology in submarines. So what is the big deal? We are familiar with lithium-ion batteries in our smartphones, laptops and other consumer goods. They have a higher power-density than traditional batteries, and they can be made smaller and in novel shapes which better fit the space given to them. Yet the submarine community has been slow to adopt this technology. This is for good reason. As we know from Samsung's woes with the Galaxy Note 7, lithium-ion batteries are prone to catching fire. Battery fires aboard submarines can quickly turn lethal. Recently 14 elite Russian submariners lost their lives due to a fire in the battery compartment of their submarine. Those were traditional, safer, lead-acid batteries. Japan must have found a way to make lithium-ion batteries safe enough to send to sea. The first 10 Soryu class boats used traditional heavy duty acid batteries like almost every other submarine in the world. Even nuclear submarines have a bank of lead-acid batteries as back up. But the Japanese submarines also have an Air-Independent Power (AIP) system. This uses closed-cycle ‘Stirling’ diesel engines to generate electricity to turn the propeller while the submarine is submerged. This means that submarines can patrol longer without surfacing, thus preserving their stealth. AIP is itself seen as cutting edge technology so it's telling that Japan has stepped beyond this with lithium-ion batteries. South Korea is also planning to adopt lithium-ion batteries for their future submarines. Their latest Jangbogo-III class boats are already among the most well armed non-nuclear submarines in the world. Japan’s next generation ‘29SS’ submarine may abandon AIP altogether and rely on a large bank of lithium-ion batteries. The advantage of pure lithium-ion batteries over AIP is power: so far AIP has never provided enough power to propel a submarine at full speed underwater. For this submarines anyway resort to their batteries. And the AIP is not powerful enough to recharge the batteries so the old-fashioned diesel generator is still required for that. Additionally AIP systems require dangerous substances to run, typically liquid oxygen and hydrogen. So AIP enhances the stealth of a submarine, its key characteristic, but at the cost of size, complexity and maintenance. An AIP submarine still needs a diesel generator and still needs a large bank of batteries. Most navies see the trade-offs as worth it, but lithium-ion batteries promise to change this equation. Having barrier batteries removes the need for the AIP, thus making the submarine smaller and easier to maintain.

 

Sweden Almost Built Nuclear Submarines

Their original plans for a nuclear submarine would have been a danger not just to their enemies, but their crew. The Swedes' nuclear submarine, if built, would have radiated the entire area around it.In terms of modern diesel-electric submarines, it’s hard to beat Sweden. In 2005, one of them — the 200-foot-long HMS Gotland — sneaked up and virtually destroyed the American Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagan in a simulated war game. That was due in part to the ultra-quiet Stirling engines that power the Gotland. The Swedish navy, while small, has long reserved funds for submarines given its location and the likely direction of conflict. There are many places along the Swedish coast for stealthy submarines to hide, and they would likely face Russian vessels — the kind that may try to assist in a Russian attack on Sweden, remote as it seems. The Swedish boats’ unique Stirling engines, using Air-Independent Propulsion, gives Gotland– and Sodermanland-class subs an advantage compared to most navies operating conventional diesel-engine submarines. But Sweden at one point considered nuclear submarines. The idea never left the drawing board, but had it, the vessel would have been rather unsafe for the crew — and possibly anyone else who happened to stray too close to the submarine when the reactor was active. With design work beginning in 1957, the proposed nuclear submarine — called the A-11A — was also small even by the standards of most submarines at 159 feet long, and contained some interesting design features such as a large hull-mounted hydroplanes, according to a detailed summary by Fredrik Granholm and submarine historian and illustrator H. I. Sutton. The A-11A’s initial design had six torpedo tubes in a rotating launcher — firing two at a time like a double-barreled revolver — which could not reload. That was a limitation, but the design saved on space since there was no torpedo room. One of the most remarkable features was the nuclear reactor shielding, or rather an insufficient amount of it, according to Sutton. “The sides of the reactor compartment were minimally protected meaning that the reactor could not safely be operated in port,” Sutton wrote. “Therefore a diesel generator would be used for maneuvering in port.” Nor would you want to hang around too long in the aft engine room, near the reactor — three and a half hours at most before hazardous radiation exposure. In any case, no sailor ever spent any time in this bizarre nuclear mini-sub, as Sweden canceled the project in 1962. Truth be told, there wasn’t much of a practical use for a small nuclear-powered Swedish submarine, and the design came at an anomalous, odd period in history anyways. In the 1950s, there was a veritable nuclear mania when the world’s powers imagined a future of nuclear-powered cars, trucks, airplanes — and tiny reactors for the domestic home. Those concepts didn’t pan out, and by the early 1960s, the hazards of nuclear energy for military use were becoming more apparent. Sweden shifted to its diesel-powered, AIP-augmented conventional submarines — although the A-11A’s design had an influence on these later hunter-killers. However, the neutral country’s nuclear experiments didn’t end. By the 1970s, Sweden’s civilian nuclear power plants were up and running.

 

Russian 'Stealth' Submarine That Scares the U.S. Navy

The Soviet Union produced hot-rod submarines that could swim faster, take more damage, and dive deeper than their American counterparts—but the U.S. Navy remained fairly confident it had the Soviet submarines outmatched because they were all extremely noisy. Should the superpowers clash, the quieter American subs had better odds of detecting their Soviet counterparts first, and greeting them with a homing torpedo. However, that confidence was dented in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet Navy launched its Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. Thirty years later they remain the mainstay of the Russian nuclear attack submarine fleet—and are quieter than the majority of their American counterparts. Intelligence provided by the spies John Walker and Jerry Whitworth in the 1970s convinced the Soviet Navy that it needed to seriously pursue acoustic stealth in its next attack submarine. After the prolific Victor class and expensive titanium-hulled Sierra class, construction of the first Project 971 submarine, Akula (“Shark”), began in 1983. The new design benefited from advanced milling tools and computer controls imported from Japan and Sweden, respectively, allowing Soviet engineers to fashion quiet seven-bladed propellers. The large Akula, which displaced nearly thirteen thousand tons submerged, featured a steel double hull typical to Soviet submarines, allowing the vessel to take on more ballast water and survive more damage. The attack submarine’s propulsion plant was rafted to dampen sound, and anechoic tiles coated its outer and inner surface. Even the limber holes which allowed water to pass inside the Akula’s outer hull had retractable covers to minimize acoustic returns. The 111-meter-long vessel was distinguished by its elegant, aquadynamic conning tower and the teardrop-shaped pod atop the tail fin which could deploy a towed passive sonar array. A crew of around seventy could operate the ship for one hundred days at sea. Powered by a single 190-megawatt pressurized water nuclear reactor with a high-density core, the Akula could swim a fast thirty-three knots (thirty-eight miles per hour) and operate 480 meters deep, two hundred meters deeper than the contemporary Los Angeles–class submarine. More troubling for the U.S. Navy, though, the Akula was nearly as stealthy as the Los Angeles class. American submariners could no longer take their acoustic superiority for granted. On the other hand, the Akula’s own sensors were believed to be inferior. The Akula I submarines—designated Shchuka (“Pike”) in Russian service—were foremost intended to hunt U.S. Navy submarines, particularly ballistic-missile submarines. Four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes and four large 650-millimeter tubes could deploy up to forty wire-guided torpedoes, mines, or long-range SS-N-15 Starfish and SS-N-16 Stallion antiship missiles. The Akula could also carry up to twelve Granat cruise missiles capable of hitting targets on land up to three thousand kilometers away. Soviet shipyards pumped out seven Akula Is while the U.S. Navy pressed ahead to build the even stealthier Seawolf-class submarine to compete. However, even as the Soviet Union collapsed, it launched the first of five Project 971U Improved Akula I boats. This was followed by the heavier and slightly longer 971A Akula II class in the form of the Vepr in 1995, which featured a double-layer silencing system for the power train, dampened propulsion systems and a new sonar. Both variants had six additional external tubes that could launch missiles or decoy torpedoes, and a new Strela-3 surface-to-air missile system. However, the most important improvement was to stealth—the new Akulas were now significantly quieter than even the Improved Los Angeles–class submarines, although some analysts argue that the latter remain stealthier at higher speeds. You can check out an Office of Naval Intelligence comparison chart of submarine acoustic stealth here. The U.S. Navy still operates forty-three Los Angeles–class boats, though fourteen newer Seawolf- and Virginia-class submarines still beat out the Akula in discretion. However, Russian shipyards have struggled to complete new Akula IIs, which are not cheap—one figure claims a cost of $1.55 billion each in 1996, or $2.4 billion in today’s dollars. The struggling Russian economy can barely afford to keep the already completed vessels operational. Two Akula IIs were scrapped before finishing construction and three were converted into Borei-class ballistic-missile submarines. As for the Akula II Vepr, it was beset by tragedy in 1998 when a mentally unstable teenage seaman killed eight fellow crewmembers while at dock, and threatened to blow up the torpedo room in a standoff before committing suicide. After lingering a decade in construction, the Gepard, the only completed Akula III boat, was deployed in 2001, reportedly boasting what was then the pinnacle of Russian stealth technology. Seven years later, Moscow finally pushed through funding to complete the Akula II Nerpa after fifteen years of bungled construction. However, during sea trials in November 2008, a fire alarm was triggered inadvertently, flooding the sub with freon firefighting gas that suffocated twenty onboard, mostly civilians—the most serious recent incident in a long and eventful history of submarine disasters. After an expensive round of repairs, the Nerpa was ready to go—and promptly transferred on a ten-year lease to India for $950 million. Redubbed the INS Chakra, it served as India’s only nuclear powered submarine for years, armed with the short-range Klub cruise missile due to the restrictions of the Missile Technology Control Regime. In October 2016, Moscow and New Delhi agreed on the leasing of a second Akula-class submarine, although it’s unclear whether it will be the older Akula I Kashalot or never-completed Akula II Iribis—though the steep $2 billion price tag leads some to believe it may be the latter. This year, the Chakra will also be joined by the domestically-produced Arihant class, which is based on the Akula but reoriented to serve as a ballistic-missile sub.Today the Russian Navy maintains ten to eleven Akulas, according to Jane’s accounting in 2016, but only three or four are in operational condition, while the rest await repairs. Nonetheless, the Russian Navy has kept its boats busy. In 2009, two Akulas were detected off the East Coast of the United States—supposedly the closest Russia submarines had been seen since the end of the Cold War. Three years later, there was an unconfirmed claim (this time denied by the U.S. Navy) that another Akula had spent a month prowling in the Gulf of Mexico without being caught. The older Kashalot even has been honored for “tailing a foreign submarine for fourteen days.” All of these incidents have highlighted concerns that the U.S. Navy needs to refocus on antisubmarine warfare. In the last several years, Russia has also been upgrading the Akula fleet to fire deadly Kalibr cruise missiles, which were launched at targets in Syria in 2015 by the Kilo-class submarine Rostov-on-Don. Despite the Akula’s poor readiness rate, they continue to make up the larger part of Russia’s nuclear attack submarine force, and will remain in service into the next decade until production of the succeeding Yasen class truly kicks into gear. Until then, the Akula’s strong acoustic stealth characteristics will continue to make it a formidable challenge for antisubmarine warfare specialists.

Drug Submarine Captured In Spain

The so-called narco submarine recently recovered in Spain may be connected to an example captured over 5,000 miles away in the Eastern Pacific in January. The Spanish example is significant because it is the first of this type of vessel captured on the European side of the Atlantic. The inference is that this may have made a trans-Atlantic voyage, either towed or under its own power.

Although they are not identical, there are several features which suggest a family relationship. I have analysed over 160 reported incidents and pieced together related families. There are many master boat builders involved, but their design choices can act as a fingerprint. This allows us to directly connect different occurrences, even when they are thousands of miles apart. Both these vessels are relatively large for single-motor designs. The Spanish example is approximately twice the size of a prototypical narco submarine. Much of the increased size is likely to be dedicated to extra fuel for longer ranged trips. This may be confirmed when the Spanish authorities release further details. The cockpits have small details in common which, together with the lower hull lines, stern shape and exhaust arrangement, act as the designer’s fingerprint. In front of the windshields, which are arranged in a wedge shape with vertical sides, is a dividing plate. This is very distinctive. And the shape of the hatch, which folds forward, is another tell. There are more significant differences also. The Colombian example was narrower, with a hull form called a Very Slender Vessel (VSV). This means that the width is less than 1 tenth of its length. Another difference is that the cockpit is longer on the latest example. This may mean that the design has evolved, or be because of differing requirements. The Atlantic version may be required to travel longer distances, or carry more drugs. Having the same master boat builder does not mean that the same drug cartels are involved. Narco submarine builders are believed to work for more than one customer. And often the vessels themselves carry products from more than one cartel. We can tell this because cocaine packages typically have a producer’s mark of some kind. The Spanish narco submarine incident is significant. It has likely changed the game as far as narco submarine operations go, with a greater focus off Europe likely. But the probable family connection to the Pacific example reminds us that the drug trafficking organizations do not play within the same boundaries.

 

Hitler's Most Powerful Battleship Damaged by Midget Submarines

By mid-1942, the towering German battleship Tirpitz stood alone as the largest, most powerful warship in the world. Despite rarely venturing from her lair deep within the Norwegian fjords, her mere presence in the region forced the British Royal Navy to keep a large number of capital ships in home waters to watch over Allied convoy routes to the Soviet Union. The fact that the menacing shadow of one ship could hold so many others virtually captive in the North Atlantic at a time when they were desperately needed elsewhere was an intolerable situation in the eyes of Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. “The greatest single act to restore the balance of naval power would be the destruction or even crippling of the Tirpitz,” he wrote. “No other target is comparable to it.” His obsession with the massive dreadnought was the driving force behind numerous Royal Air Force and Royal Navy attempts to sink her, but all had met with failure. The harsh reality was that inside Norwegian waters the Tirpitz enjoyed the protection of an ice-clad fortress bounded by sheer walls of solid rock and enhanced by German ingenuity. The natural defenses had been substantially bolstered by the deployment of countless artillery batteries and antiaircraft guns in the surrounding mountains while close-quarter protection for the 42,000-ton battleship was provided by layers of heavy antitorpedo nets that were closed around her like a second skin. Nothing had been left to chance, and within these all-encompassing defenses, the Germans confidently believed the “Lonely Queen of the North,” as the Tirpitz was known, was untouchable. To the Royal Navy looking on from afar, it was not an idle boast. Churchill wanted action, but the British Admiralty could see no way to strike at its nemesis. Naval bombardment was impossible due to the configuration of the intervening land, the fjords were mostly beyond the range of land-based bombers, and a raid by conventional submarines would be suicidal.

 

The X-Craft Program

However, from within the deepening gloom that beset the Royal Navy, a ray of light emerged. For a number of years, Navy engineers had been working on the prototype for a 51-foot, 30-ton, four-man midget submarine specifically designed to attack naval targets in strongly defended anchorages. They had developed, in effect, a complete submarine in miniature, but in lieu of torpedoes, the midgets were fitted with two crescent-shaped detachable explosive charges fitted externally on either side of the pressure hull. These mines, each containing two tons of Amatex explosive, were to be planted on the seabed directly under the target ship then detonated with a variable time fuse. It was deemed unlikely that the German command ever envisaged a raid by midget submarines or X-craft, as the British vessels were known, giving rise to optimism that at last an attack on the Tirpitz might stand a fighting chance of success. It was a tantalizing prospect. Winston Churchill, a renowned enthusiast of covert operations, had been greatly impressed by an earlier raid launched by Italian divers against British ships in Alexandria harbor and was eager for the X-craft to replicate a similar feat against the Tirpitz. His impatience to strike, however, was tempered by a Royal Navy that would not be rushed. While operational considerations dictated that these vessels would require many unique features, Navy experts were determined to develop the X-craft prototype along principles firmly grounded in reality and based on sound submarine practice. Within the halls of the Admiralty there was little enthusiasm for the unconventional, outlandish approach typical of the Special Operations branch. Even at this early stage of X-craft development, the sheer volume of pipes, dials, gauges, levers, and other vital equipment crammed inside the tiny hull left very little space for crew comfort. Navy planners recognized only that men possessing extraordinary self-control could cope with the claustrophobic conditions, and they sought volunteers “for special and hazardous duty” from among newly commissioned Royal Navy officers. The candidates, including many from Australia and South Africa, were not told what the mission entailed, but over the next few months, they were filtered through rigorous selection criteria. The physically unsuitable, the timid, or men with a “death or glory” outlook were steadily weeded out. Those who made the grade quickly found themselves undergoing intense training and theoretical courses on the X-craft. Training and weapon development proceeded simultaneously, as further modifications, tests, and sea trials were conducted until the final construction design was approved. With the aid of civilian firms, the first six vessels, designated X-5 through X-10, rolled off the line to form the fledgling 12th Submarine Flotilla.

 

The Plan to Sink the Tirpitz

As the momentum of the operation gathered speed, bold theory predictably collided head-on with practical application. Before any attack could be launched, a number of significant roadblocks would need to be cleared, not the least of which involved getting the X-craft to Norway. Experts agreed that German patrols and air reconnaissance ruled out launching the vessels from a depot ship near the Norwegian coast, and a weeklong journey across the North Sea was considered beyond the endurance of the four-man crew. They would be completely exhausted before they ever reached the target. It was a vexing problem, but after much deliberation it was decided that the midgets would be towed to the operational area behind patrol submarines using 200-yard manila or nylon cables. Even under tow, however, the 1,200-mile journey would still take eight days, so “passage crews” would be trained to ferry the craft to the target area. Then these men would be swapped with the “operational crews” who would make the voyage in the towing submarines. These transit crews would play a vital, yet largely unsung role in the operation. Theirs would be an exacting, demanding duty in which they were to remain virtually submerged throughout the entire journey, only coming to the surface every six hours for 15 minutes to ventilate their hulls. It promised to be a voyage of incredible hardship, and few envied them. Another critical factor in the planning was the timing of the raid. By early 1943, the Norwegian Battle Group of Tirpitz, the battlecruiser Scharnhorst, and the pocket battleship Lutzow had relocated to new berths within the small landlocked basin of Kaafjord, northern Norway. The German ships were now anchored five degrees north of the Arctic Circle where there was no darkness in summer and no light in winter. Summer was unsuitable for a British attack because the X-craft needed the cover of darkness to recharge their batteries; winter deprived them of daylight to make visual contact with the target. The most favorable times for an attack occurred during the two occasions each year when daylight and darkness were equal, the equinoxes in March and late September. March was too soon, so the Admiralty settled on late September with the attack to go in on September 22. Navy planners had been swayed by intelligence reports from Norwegian agents indicating that on this date the Tirpitz’s 15-inch guns would be stripped and cleaned, and her sound detection equipment would be down for routine servicing.

 

Operation Source

In June 1943, specialized training for what came to be called Operation Source started in earnest when men and machines moved to the secret wartime base known as Port HHZ in Loch Cairnbawn, northern Scotland. Amid tight security, the Navy had designed a course that replicated the fjord up which the men would travel to attack the Tirpitz and her escorts, Scharnhorst and Lutzow. Now putting their new X-craft through trials, the men vying for selection carried out simulated attacks, rehearsed towing procedures behind larger submarines, and perfected techniques for cutting through antisubmarine nets. The men grew accustomed to the squalid, cramped interior of the vessels, but they never learned to enjoy it.Throughout their arduous training, the strengths and weaknesses of the volunteers were constantly evaluated; everything they did and said during these interminable months played a role in determining who would go and who would be left behind. If the mission were to stand any chance of succeeding, the personnel conducting it would need to be the very best, both mentally and physically. The Navy recognized that a midget submarine would get the men to within striking distance of the Tirpitz, but it would take cold-blooded courage and fierce determination to breach the defenses and sink her. Finally, after nearly 18 months of training, planning, and construction, Operation Source was ready for the ultimate test. The crews had been finalized, and among those selected was a 26-year-old Scotsman, Lieutenant Duncan Cameron, Royal Naval Reserve, whose natural leadership qualities and stout character saw him awarded the command of X-6. Another successful candidate was a 22-year-old veteran of the submarine service, Lieutenant Godfrey Place RN DSC, who took command of X-7. The Admiralty’s operational plan called for each pair of submarines to make their way independently to a position west of the Shetland Islands. From this point, they would sail on parallel courses approximately 20 miles apart to the jumping-off point at Soroy Sound, some 11 miles off the Norwegian coast and almost 100 miles from Kaafjord. From this location, the X-craft would negotiate their way independently up Altafjord via Sternsund, cut their way through the nets at the entrance to Kaafjord, and then slip under the enclosures surrounding each of the ships to lay their charges. X-5, X-6, and X-7 would strike at the Tirpitz; X-8 at the Lutzow; and X-9 and X-10 at the Scharnhorst. It was an extraordinary undertaking, but these were extraordinary times and the stakes were high. Shrouded in secrecy, the boats sailed from Loch Cairnbawn behind their parent submarines on the night of September 11-12, 1943. Ahead lay 1,200 long, gray sea miles to Norway. As a select few watched the motley fleet disappear into the gathering darkness they knew that nothing like this had ever been attempted before. They wondered how many, if any, would make it home. Operation Source was, in so many ways, an experimental undertaking. There had been little practical experience to draw upon, and planning staff anticipated the likelihood of mishaps en route—they seemed inevitable. One of the many unknowns involved the reliability of the manila towlines. Nylon was the superior material, but only three were available in time for the mission, and it was hoped that the manila lines would work—but nobody knew for sure. As events transpired, the doubts surrounding their suitability would soon be tragically borne out.

 

A Hazardous Journey to the Target

After four uneventful days of passage, the weather began to rapidly deteriorate on September 15. As the larger vessels pounded through the mounting seas, life for the passage crews soon became unbearable. Wretched with debilitating seasickness, the men could neither stand properly nor lie down comfortably as they wrestled around the clock with their charges, which, on the end of their towlines, where being tossed and pitched about like kites in a storm. The stress loads on the cables increased dramatically as the vessels surged as much as 100 feet through the water, and eventually the manila lines to X-8 and X-7 succumbed to the strain and parted. The passage crews in both the X-craft realized almost immediately what had happened and surfaced. It was no easy task to bring them both back under tow with auxiliary lines, and many hours were lost before the journey could continue. The troubles for X-8, however, were far from over as a water leak in the starboard mine gave the vessel a pronounced list. The crew struggled hard to maintain control, but it soon became clear that they would need to jettison the charge and continue with only one. The faulty explosive was put on “safe” and released to the depths, but a short time later the port mine also developed a leak. With little alternative, it too had to be jettisoned. It exploded prematurely, causing substantial shock damage to the submarine’s internal systems. With the battered X-8 now unable to dive and close to foundering, the decision was made to scuttle her. The manila tows soon claimed another casualty when the cable to X-9 suddenly snapped. Unlike the previous line failures, this break occurred near the mother ship leaving the full weight of the waterlogged towline hanging off X-9’s nose. Already trimmed bow heavy to counteract the upward pull of the parent vessel, X-9 dived out of control to the bottom of the North Sea, taking her transit crew with her. Not only defective equipment threatened to derail the mission. At 0105 on the morning of September 20, Lieutenant Place, who was now aboard X-7, brought the vessel up to ventilate. The towing submarine had also surfaced to find itself on a collision course with a drifting mine. Following evasive action, the crew watched the mine pass by only to see their wake drag the mine’s mooring line onto the tow cable to X-7. In a few seconds, the lethal charge slid down the hawser and wedged itself in the bow of the X-craft where it bounced up and down with the pitching seas. Lieutenant Place immediately scrambled along the deck casing and, as the wind and spray tore at his clothes, calmly untangled the mooring line from the bow, then deftly kicked the mine clear with his boot. The unwelcome stowaway soon disappeared from view and the voyage resumed.

Mechanical Failures and Leaks in the X-Craft

By approximately 1800 on September 20, the four remaining X-craft had finally made their landfalls seaward of Soroy Sound as scheduled. Last minute reconnaissance over the target area, however, indicated that neither the Scharnhorst nor Lutzow were in their berths. With X-8 and X-9 already lost, the Admiralty decided that the four remaining submarines were to attack the Tirpitz. By 2000, the X-craft had successfully slipped their tows and set a course for the declared minefield at the entrance to Sternsund. There was no turning back now; they were on their own. With X-6 running on the surface, Lieutenant Cameron took up lookout duty on deck as his craft steadily motored through the short arctic night toward the coast. Skirting the outer rim of the minefield, X-6 passed safely through the first of many obstacles, and soon Cameron could make out the rugged peaks towering on either side of the entrance to Stjernsund, a narrow passage of water leading to Altafjord. The mouth of Stjernsund was protected by shore batteries and torpedo tubes, and with the onset of dawn Cameron submerged to 60 feet and quickly slipped through with the incoming tide. He waited until he was about a mile inside the fjord then cautiously brought X-6 up to periscope depth and scanned the glassy water for any signs of trouble. It was such a beautifully tranquil place that it was hard to believe that violent death could be only a matter of moments away; it was a sobering thought, and Cameron dived and continued his journey concealed in the gloom of the shaded northern shore. So far, everything had gone smoothly, but they all knew the real test was yet to come. The other three X-craft had also passed through the entrance at Stjernsund without difficulty, but water seeping into X-10 caused an electrical short circuit that disabled both her periscope and gyrocompass. Despite valiant efforts to repair the defects, the bitterly disappointed crew realized that, with their craft hopelessly crippled, they were out of the running. To avoid compromising the mission, they would spend the daylight hours of September 22 on the bottom before eventually retracing their steps out of the fjord. The original attacking force of six had now been whittled down to just three, and there were still many hard miles to travel. The crew of X-6 expected to reach the inner end of the waterway near Altaford by last light and planned to spend the night among the Bratholme group of islands to recharge the batteries and prepare for the attack the following morning, September 22.They were making good progress, and despite the rigors of the 1,200-mile journey, X-6 had been handed over in near faultless condition. But, as the day progressed, things started to go awry. A water leak in one of the side charges had steadily worsened, giving the vessel a severe list to starboard, and her automatic helmsmen had broken down, but of most concern was her periscope lens, which had begun to continually flood. The leak was discovered to be outside the hull and unrepairable. The periscope would therefore have to be tediously stripped down and emptied of water after nearly every use. In isolation, the mechanical failures did not present insurmountable problems, but a reliable periscope was essential for Cameron to safely conn the craft up the fjord. Its slender shape had been specially designed to minimize water disturbance, but such a feature counted for nothing if he could not see anything through it. When the action started the following day, he prayed that it would not let him down.

 

Sitting in Enemy Waters

With the onset of darkness, X-6 maneuvered into a small, desolate brushwood cove, and while his crew was below preparing for the trials ahead, Cameron climbed out on the deck casing to look around. In the distance, he could see the lights of the large German destroyer base at Lieffsbotun and the town of Alta beyond, but secreted away in their small hideaway it was dark, bitterly cold, and silent—or so he thought. Suddenly, not more than 30 yards away, the door to a cabin burst open, bathing the area in bright light. Cameron froze, barely able to breathe, as male voices trailed out over the water. Within a few seconds, the door was closed and Cameron was once again swallowed up in the darkness. Quickly recovering from the shock, he decided to find somewhere else to lay up for the night. However, upon leaving the small harbor, X-6 was nearly run down by a fishing boat only to then narrowly avoid another vessel coming from the opposite direction. It was a nerve-wracking experience, and Cameron ensured that their next stopping place was remote and uninhabited. While keeping watch topside in the still arctic night, he reflected on what had been a very eventful 24 hours. It was both surreal and exhilarating to realize that in the midst of the most destructive war the world had ever known, four Royal Navy seamen could actually be sitting squirreled away deep inside an enemy fleet anchorage listening to the BBC and drinking cocoa. The wonder of the moment was shattered at 2100 when a volley of star shells and searchlights erupted from the destroyer base across the water. Had the Germans detected one of their comrades? They waited anxiously for something to happen, but to their relief no alarms were sounded, no engines were heard to start, and soon all was quiet again. Cameron had no idea what the commotion had been about, but he did know that he would be happier once they were on their way.

Duncan Cameron’s Bold Maneuver

At 0130 on the morning of September 22, Cameron went over his attack orders once more, then destroyed them. Prior to leaving Scotland, the X-craft commanders had taken precautionary measures to avoid blowing each other up by agreeing to drop their cargoes between 0500 and 0800 with charges set to explode between 0800 and 0900. Cameron planned to unload his bombs at 0630, then retreat out of the fjord, but when he tried to preset the timers he found the fuses on the port side explosive continually shorted out. There was no way of knowing when it would explode. By now the mechanical attrition was sapping the crew’s confidence, but the young officer was determined to press on. With little discussion, he gave his orders, and at 0145 they set a course for the Tirpitz. The final stage of the attack was underway. The nets covering the mouth of Kaafjord were 158 feet deep and included a 437-yard-wide boom gate fitted near the shallow southern shore. By 0400, X-6 had maneuvered to within half a mile of these formidable defenses, and her diver was suiting up in readiness to cut a hole through the antisubmarine netting. As they closed to within 30 feet of the mesh, the sound of propellers became audible overhead as a Norwegian trawler headed for the boom gate. Cameron realized it must have been open and without hesitation brought X-6 to the surface. The crew could scarcely believe what he was going to do as he maneuvered into the wake of the coaster and with incredible audacity proceeded through the gate in broad daylight. It was a torturous passage as they waited for an alarm to be sounded, but, incredibly, they made it through without detection and immediately dived. They could hardly fathom their luck. Perhaps in the choppy water the Germans mistook the low silhouette of the X-craft for a towed barge or raft. In any case, Cameron’s bold maneuver had paid off and by guess and by God the small submarine began groping its way up the fjord toward the Tirpitz, which was now only three miles away.

 

Fire on the X-6

Through the faulty periscope, Cameron spied a waterway crammed with German warships of every size, and it was chilling to realize that to reach the Tirpitz he would have to slip right through the middle of them. A tanker sitting at anchor refueling two destroyers lay directly between X-6 and the Tirpitz, and by dead reckoning he set a course that would, in approximately two hours, take them past the tanker’s stern. It was always going to be a harrowing journey, but the source of most anxiety for the crew arose from the noise generated by the submarine’s trim pumps. They would have to remain in constant use to maintain the craft’s buoyancy in the differing water density, but the sound they emitted was precisely what a hydrophone operator would be listening for. Progress up the fjord was agonizingly slow, but after two hours Cameron expected to be somewhere near the tanker’s stern and returned to periscope depth to steal a quick look. The hazy image in the lens was enough to send him reeling back in horror; X-6 had surfaced midway between the bow of a destroyer and her mooring buoy. He immediately crash dived to 60 feet, the crew shut down the craft, and they waited. How could they not have been seen or detected by a listening post? These lengthy spells of inactivity punctuated by moments of sheer terror were as taxing on a man’s strength as a grueling marathon, but as the minutes ticked by with no German response, Cameron cautiously pressed on again. By 0700, X-6 had come within reach of the battleship’s antitorpedo netting, but since passing into Kaafjord the submarine had begun to labor severely. She was in fact barely seaworthy. Cameron once again had to come up to periscope depth to gain his bearings. It was an incredible risk in such a small waterway, but at this vital stage it would have been impossible to navigate their way to the Tirpitz by guesswork alone. Through the faulty lens, he could make out the ship, but as he began scanning the water around her, the periscope motor burned out, filling the submarine with choking smoke As X-6 submerged to contain the fire, Cameron sensed the despondencyof the men. They had given their all in unimaginable discomfort for 35 hours straight, but faulty workmanship and defective equipment were undermining their every move. However, the predetermined attack period was fast approaching. Time was now critical. Inside the stifling hot control compartment, heavy with fumes and condensation, stony faces with bloodshot eyes stared at one another in the gloom. They were clearly showing the strain, but nobody could bring themselves to say what they all were thinking. They had no idea how the other X-craft had fared, but if the mechanical defects of X-6 were any indication, they had to assume they were the only ones who had made it this far.

Spotted by the Tirpitz

Little was said, but clearly no one wanted to admit defeat 46 yards from the ship they had come to destroy; an opportunity like this might never come again. The decision was made to press on, but the crew had no illusions about its chances. Even if they remained undetected, X-6 was in no condition to make good an escape. None of them expected to be leaving Kaafjord. Hugging the north shore, X-6 dived to pass under the nets, which were believed to have been no deeper than 60 feet. But after several attempts at various depths, it was realized that the mesh went all the way to the bottom. The Admiralty intelligence was wrong, and now, at this critical moment, there was no way through. The latest setback came as a body blow, but Cameron, dizzy with fatigue, would not let the mission end like this. His blood was now boiling, and he was determined to find another way in. He brought the vessel to periscope depth once again to check the boat gate located close to the shore and spied a picket launch about to pass through. With a reckless disregard for the danger, Cameron surfaced into the wash of the small boat. The ploy had succeeded at the entrance to Kaafjord, and maybe it would work again. Quickly juggling the pump controls, the crewmen motored through the gate in broad daylight right behind the picket boat, bumping and scraping the bottom as they did. Surely, this time their boldness would be their undoing, but, remarkably, they made it through unnoticed. As the boom gate closed behind them, Cameron took X-6 down into deeper water and set a course that would take them under the stern of the Tirpitz. Like silent assassins sliding through the shadows, they inched their way through the frigid waters to within striking distance of their target. Suddenly the X-6 ran aground and momentarily broke the surface less than 200 yards from the battleship. The disturbance was seen by a lookout, but British luck continued to hold when the sighting was dismissed as being merely a porpoise and no alert was raised. The German sailors on Tirpitz had endured many false alarms over the years and now avoided instigating them for fear of ridicule. Inevitably, though, Cameron’s run of luck finally ended a few minutes later when X-6 careered into a submerged rock that wrecked the gyrocompass and thrust the vessel to the surface 80 yards abeam of the ship. There was no mistaking what she was this time, but the sighting of X-6 caused considerable confusion aboard the Tirpitz. An incorrect alarm sent men scurrying to secure watertight doors instead of their action stations, and vital minutes were lost before the correct submarine alert was sounded. Even then, few senior officers believed a submarine could have gotten through. The X-craft was too close for the ship’s big guns to depress sufficiently to engage her, so crewmembers opened fire with small arms and threw grenades. Now the crew of X-6 knew that the Germans were aware of their presence. They no longer had to worry about what might happen; it was now a matter of completing their mission before it did happen. Being in the line of fire threw off the fatigue that had enveloped Cameron’s men and rekindled their determination to hit back. They too had powerful weapons, and they were now intent on using them.

Placing the Charges

As bullets churned up the water around the vessel, Cameron quickly dived, but with the periscope now almost completely inoperable and the gyrocompass out of action, he had no idea which way he was heading. Oblivious to the chaos unfolding above him, he blindly groped his way toward what looked like the shadow of the ship but fouled a wire hanging over the side and was stuck fast. After desperate maneuvering, the submarine broke free of the snag only to shoot to the surface again close to the port bow. Undaunted by the hail of bullets once again striking the hull, Cameron took the submarine down and backed her under the Tirpitz where he quickly released the charges beside B Turret. With no hope of escape, the exhausted crew destroyed its secret documents and equipment. As the sailors brought X-6 to the surface to surrender, Cameron ordered her sea cocks opened and her motor left running full astern with the hydroplanes to dive. As they opened the hatch, the firing immediately stopped and the men scrambled onto the deck. A launch from the ship was soon alongside to pick them up, and a German officer tried to secure a tow to the X-craft but the line was hastily cut as the submarine began to sink, almost taking the launch down with her. The four prisoners were taken to the ship, and to the surprise of the Germans, smartly saluted the colors as they stepped onto the deck. Under guard, they stood huddled together looking bedraggled and physically spent, wondering what the future held for them as the minutes ticked by. On the express orders of the Tirpitz’s commander, Captain Hans Meyer, the men were immediately given coffee and schnapps. Meanwhile, at almost the same instant Cameron and his crew were scuttling their vessel, Lieutenant Place in X-7 was sitting astern of the Tirpitz, preparing to offload his deadly cargo. Earlier in the morning, he had literally climbed over the nets at Kaafjord but had soon become entangled in the netting around Lutzow’s empty birth. After struggling desperately for an hour, Place finally broke free only to become entangled in Tirpitz’s netting. The violent effort undertaken to break loose had damaged his gyrocompass, and the craft broke the surface at 0710.With the Germans at that moment occupied with X-6, Place was not seen. Diving once again, Place, like Cameron before him, found that the nets went all the way to the bottom, but without realizing it he had fortuitously slipped through an opening on the seabed. By this time he had completely lost his bearings and had come up to periscope depth to discover the Tirpitz only 98 feet away. He immediately submerged and made his run to the target at a depth of 40 feet. Hitting the ship on the port side, the X-7 slipped under her keel. At this point, Place could hear the detonation of grenades around Cameron’s X-6 but assumed they were meant for him. Sidling along the hull, he placed one charge beneath the bridge and the other near the stern under the aft turrets. Each was set to explode in approximately one hour’s time. It was now 0720, and Place attempted to escape, but without a compass he would have to guess his way back to the opening on the seabed. Sliding over the top of the first net, he was spotted by the Germans but disappeared from view. After an hour trying to find the opening, he only succeeded in getting himself entangled again. This time he was stuck fast, fully realizing he was about to be destroyed by his own charges.

Explosions Under the Tirpitz

Aboard the Tirpitz, the Germans had at first refused to accept that Cameron and his crew were British. They suspected them of being Russians and were unwilling to believe they could possibly have come all the way from England to Kaafjord in such a small submarine. Passing crewmembers mocked the prisoners for not having used their torpedoes when they had the chance, but Captain Meyer, who had been studying his captives from the bridge, had grown suspicious. Privately, he greatly admired their courage and daring, but in his mind, they lacked the demeanor of men who had failed. Meyer was soon convinced that they had not been armed with torpedoes but had instead used mines either on the ship or on the seabed. Divers were immediately ordered over the side to check the hull, and attempts were made to move the ship by heaving on the starboard cable and veering on her port to swing the bows away from the likely position of the charges. Meyer had earlier considered taking the ship into the deeper water beyond its enclosure, but the sighting of X-7 outside the nets changed his mind. In any case, it would have taken over an hour to get the ship underway. The prospect of another submarine loose in Kaafjord had caused absolute pandemonium. Cameron and his men had also seen X-7 slide over the top of the nets earlier and had noticed that her mine clamps were empty. As guards herded them below, they could not let on that with eight tons of explosives beneath the ship, this was the last place they wanted to be! A short time later, at 0812, a series of colossal explosions violently heaved Tirpitz’s stern six feet out of the water. A German sailor who had also served on the Scharnhorst recalled the moment. “We’ve had torpedo hits, we’ve had bomb hits. We hit two mines in the channel, but there’s never been an explosion like that.” Lights failed, equipment was strewn in every direction, and men were hurled through the air like rag dolls. The four prisoners were dragged back onto the deck to be confronted with utter chaos and panic.“The German gun-crew(s),” one British sailor later recalled, “shot up a number of their own tankers and small boats and also wiped out a gun position inboard with uncontrolled fire.” Orders were issued, then countermanded, as officers tried to regain control of the men who were running in all directions. With tensions running high, the mood of the Germans had turned very ugly, and the British seamen were lined up against a bulkhead where an outraged officer, brandishing his pistol, demanded to know how many more submarines there were. When they refused to answer, Cameron was convinced they were about to be shot. It was not until Admiral Oskar Kummetz, the senior naval officer in the region, came aboard to find out what had happened that the situation was defused. He stopped on his way to the bridge, looked over the four bedraggled Englishmen, then curtly told his subordinate to put the pistol away.

Trapped in the X-7

Below the water’s surface, meanwhile, X-7, instead of being destroyed by the explosion, had been wrenched clear of the netting. Place took her to the bottom to assess the damage but quickly realized that although the pressure hull was intact much of X-7’s mechanical controls and internal systems were beyond repair. Place tried to bring her up again but found X-7 was almost uncontrollable as she repeatedly broke the surface and was hit by gunfire from the Tirpitz. With little prospect of escape, Place decided to abandon ship, but he did not expect a warm reception. Surfacing near a moored gunnery target, the small submarine was immediately raked by intense small-arms fire. Place gingerly opened the fore hatch and began waving a white sweater, signaling his intention to surrender, and the firing stopped. As he leaped into the water and swam to the gunnery target, X-7 dipped her bow, allowing water to pour through the open hatch. The vessel quickly sank beneath the surface with three crew members trapped inside. One managed to escape later, but tragically, the other two drowned. Their bodies were later recovered by the Germans and reportedly buried with full military honors. The two survivors of X-7 joined their comrades aboard the Tirpitz but were bitterly disappointed see her still afloat. Following their transfer to the naval prisoner of war camp at Marlag-O, near Bremen, Germany, Cameron and Place, unaware of the damage they had caused, would spend a great deal of time discussing what they could have done to improve the outcome. On the other side of the Atlantic in London, Norwegian agents and Énigma decrypts provided detailed reports on the status of the wounded battleship, and Churchill was delighted.

Tirpitz Out of Operation

Although Tirpitz had not been eliminated, it was clear that she would be out of action for at least six months. Her four main turrets had been thrown from their roller-bearing mountings, her hull gashed and distorted, all three engines were inoperable, and the port rudder and all three propeller shafts were out of action. Five hundred tons of water had poured into her hull and, although her water integrity held, a number of hull frames were damaged beyond repair. She would in fact remain laid up in Kaafjord until April 1944 and was never to regain complete operational efficiency. So ended the first attack by British midget submarines and the first successful blow against the mighty Tirpitz, but it had come at a cost. All six craft were lost along with nine men killed and six taken prisoner. For their roles in this remarkable operation, described by Rear Admiral C. B. Barry, DSO, as “one of the most courageous acts of all time,” both Lieutenant Cameron and Lieutenant Place were awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military decoration. Both men remained in the Royal Navy after the war, and Duncan Cameron attained the rank of commander before suddenly dying on active duty in April 1961. He was 44 years old. Godfrey Place retired a rear admiral in 1971 and died peacefully in 1994 at the age of 73.Mystery still surrounds the fate of X-5, commanded by Lieutenant H. Henty-Creer. His vessel was sighted near Kaafjord after the explosion, at 0843, but was raked with heavy fire from Tirpitz and claimed as sunk with all hands. Authorities believed that she had perhaps missed the first specified attack period and laid up in the fjord to plant her charges to follow the initial attack, then make her escape. There are many, however, including the young officer’s family, who believe that Henty-Creer and his crew had in fact planted their charges before being sunk. They speculate that the sheer force of the detonation beneath the stern of the Tirpitz indicated the presence of considerably more explosive than was deposited by X-6 and X-7 and that the 21-year-old Henty-Creer should have been awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his role. The controversy, which has continued since 1945, was reignited in 2003 when local Norwegian divers discovered what appears to be the wreck of X-5 in Kaafjord—minus her charges. Were they planted beneath the ship in 1943? Investigators are continuing the search for answers. The fate of the Tirpitz, however, is not in dispute. Her ill-starred career came to an abrupt end in Tromso Fjord on November 12, 1944, when she was attacked by stripped-down British Avro Lancaster bombers using the new 13,000-pound “Tallboy” bombs. A direct hit triggered a massive explosion in one of her magazines, capsizing the ship and killing over 900 officers and men. After the war, the wreck of what had once been the most powerful battleship in the world was declared the property of the Norwegian government and ingloriously cut up for scrap between 1948 and 1957.

How Imperial Japan Used Mini-submarines

Australia was situated considerably closer to the action in the Pacific than the United States during World War II. Japanese aircraft bombed the northern city of Darwin, while ground forces advanced dangerously close in New Guinea. However, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s plans to capture nearby Port Moresby were frustrated at the Sea. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN)’s next strike would target the U. S. naval base at Midway Island in June 1942. However, 8th Submarine Squadron was tapped to launch two diversionary raids using Type A Ko-hyoteki midget submarines to infiltrate harbor defenses. Japan’s devastating Pearl Harbor attack included five Ko-Hyoteki—but not one of them succeeded in its mission. Carried atop large cruiser-submarine motherships, the two-person minisubs measured twenty-four meters long and carried two 17”-diameter torpedoes. Their lead-acid batteries afforded them only twelve hours of propulsion at slow speed. Though not intended to be suicide weapons, the Ko-hyoteki crew’s odds of escape and recovery remained extremely low. Two cruiser-submarines sallied to ambush British ships besieging French-held Madagascar. Meanwhile, submarines I-22, I-24, I-27, and I-28 transited to Truk to load Ko-hyoteki for a southern raid, embarking a revised model with wider hulls, improved gyro-compasses, bow-mounted net-cutters on to slice through harbor nets, and accessways to allow manning while submerged. Meanwhile, I-21 and I-29 scouted out potential targets in Fiji, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia using E14Y two-seat float-planes stowed in their submersible hangars. Reports of battleships in Sydney harbor led to the city’s selection as a target. However, the plan rapidly went south, literally and metaphorically. On May 11, I-22 was torpedoed heading for Truk by the American submarine USS Tautog. Then the mini-submarine on I-24 suffered a battery explosion, forcing the sub to double back and pick up the spare Ko-hyoteki. The surviving cruiser-submarines finally assembled thirty-five miles away from Sydney harbor on May 29 and launched a second scout-plane mission—this time only spotting the cruisers USS Chicago and HMAS Canberra and Adelaide in the harbor, rather than the expected battleships. The floatplane then crash-landed in heavy waters. On May 31, the mothership-submarines approached points six to eight miles from Sydney Harbor and launched mini-subs M-14, M-21, and M-24. Sydney’s harbor defenses included small patrol boats, anti-submarine nets and “indicator-loops” of electromagnetic sensors. However, there were two 400-meter gaps on the edge of the loops—and only two of the eight loops were operational due to a lack of personnel. As M-14 attempted to slip through the western gap, however, she collided with rocks and became entangled in the submarine net. A watchman spotted the floundering sub and informed the patrol boat Yarroma. She and another converted launch located M-14 at 10 PM and lobbed two depth charges towards the trapped submarine—but their pressure-sensitive fuses failed to detonate in the shallow water. Abruptly, M-14 exploded at 10:30 as her crew detonated her 300-pound scuttling charge.M-24 brushed with disaster when she scraped the hull of a schooner, but then slipped into the harbor behind a ferry passing through an opening in the anti-submarine nets. At 10:30, she was illuminated by the Chicago’s searchlight—but the cruiser’s 5” guns couldn’t depress low enough to strike her, though quad. 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns did rake the submarine. Dodging two Australian corvettes, M-24 dove out of sight…and circled around. At 11 PM, M-21 was also caught in a patrol boat’s searchlight. The armed steamer Yandra rammed the midget submarine and blasted the nearby waters with six depth charges, but M-21 finally escaped by diving to the seabed. Harbor commander Rear Admiral Muirhead-Gould had been partying with the Chicago’s captain when submarine reports began trickling in at 10 PM. Though he raised the alarm, he then drunkenly snapped at the anti-submarine crews, implying they were jumping at ghosts. But at 12:30, M-24 finally lined up a shot at the Chicago’s stern and launched both Type 97 Special torpedoes—but misjudged the angle. One plowed into Garden Island without detonating. The other narrowly skimmed under Dutch submarine K-IX and struck the dock beside the depot ship Kuttabul. The blast from the 772-pound warhead snapped the converted ferry in two, killing twenty-one sailors. This finally triggered a more vigorous sub-hunt. At 3 AM, the loops detected M-21 sneaking back into the harbor. After a prolonged depth-charge bombardment by three hounding patrol boats, M-21’ crew committed suicide. Only M-24 escaped—but though the motherships waited three days for the Ko-hyoteki to return, she never did. To complete their mission, at midnight on June 8, I-24 surfaced off Sydney and blasted the city’s eastern suburbs with ten 140-millimeter shells. Two hours later, I-21 emerged seventy miles northeast off Newcastle and lobbed thirty-four shells at that city’s steelworks. The inaccurate bombardment resulted in only one injury, most of the shells failing to explode. Australian coastal guns at Fort Scratchley spat back four 6” shells as the Japanese submarines hastily ducked back underwater. Later in June, the subs sank three freighters off Australian waters—a relatively meager catch. The Sydney attacks had little material effect considering the resources invested in them. Indeed, all of the Japanese submarines involved in the action, as well as both Allied heavy cruisers in the harbor, were sunk in combat over the next two years. Nor was the raid a successful diversion. U. S. naval cryptographers decoded the plans for the Midway attack, and ambushing U.S. carriers dealt an irrecoverable blow to IJN by sinking four carriers between June 4-7. However, despite the efforts of Allied censors, the Sydney raids did impart a sense of vulnerability to Australians. Civilians moved away from coastal zones, a coastal convoy system was implemented, and additional resources were devoted to shoring up demonstrably spotty defenses. M-14 and M-21 were dredged up and rebuilt into a single submarine for display. The crew’s remains were buried with full military honors and returned to Japan in 1943.Sixty-four years later, M-24’s bullet-pocked wreck was finally discovered submerged twenty miles in a site now registered as a war grave.

 

How a Submarine ran Circles Around the Royal Navy During the Falklands War

The brief but bloody naval war that occurred in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina, is typically viewed as a triumph of British naval power. A Royal Navy task force managed to beat off heavy air attacks to take back the South Atlantic archipelago from Argentine troops. For most of the war, a lone Argentine diesel submarine, the San Luis, opposed the Royal Navy at sea. Not only did the San Luis return home unscratched by the more than two hundred antisubmarine munitions fired by British warships and helicopter, but it twice ambushed antisubmarine frigates. Had the weapons functioned as intended, the British victory might have been bought at a much higher cost. Argentina’s opportunistically in order to score political points at home. Not expecting a real war, the junta miscalculated how quickly British prime minister Margaret Thatcher would escalate against their use of force with her own. This lack of planning was manifest in the unpreparedness of the Argentine Navy’s submarine fleet. One was in such decrepit condition it could not safely submerge, while the more modern Salta was undergoing repairs. The older Santa Fe inserted frogmen to assist in the initial invasion on April 2. It was not until the following day that the most modern available sub, the San Luis, received orders at its dock at Mar de Plata to depart on a combat patrol around the area of the Malvinas. The San Luis was a German Type 209 diesel submarine built in large numbers to serve as a smaller, cost-efficient submarine for less wealthy countries. Displacing just 1,200 tons with a crew complement of thirty-six, the San Luis carried fourteen Mark 37 antisubmarine torpedoes and ten German-manufactured SST-4 wire-guided torpedoes for use against surface targets. It could swim at forty-two kilometers an hour underwater or twenty-one on the surface, and had a maximum diving depth of five hundred meters. It would be a cliché common to many tales of unlikely military accomplishments to emphasize the skill of the San Luis’s crew—but in fact, Argentina’s best submarine officers were in Germany at the time of the Falkland War. In their place, the San Luis made do with junior petty officers in charge of many keys departments of the ship. Its commander, Frigate Captain Fernando Azcueta, was a submarine veteran—but did not have much experience with the Type 209 model. Moreover, the San Luis was in terrible condition and had to undergo rapid, incomplete repairs. Its snorkel was leaky, its bilge pumps were malfunctioning and one of the four diesel engines was not operational. Divers spent almost an entire week trying to clean crustaceans from the San Luis’s hull and propeller, which were impeding the vessel’s speed and stealth. The Argentine sub finally went to sea on April 11, and moved into a holding position while the political situation continued to deteriorate. Things did not come to a promising start. The San Luis’s fire control system allowed it to automatically guide three torpedoes simultaneously after launch. So, of course, it broke down after only eight days at sea, and none of its inexperienced petty officers knew how to fix it. They crew would only be able to launch one torpedo at a time under manual wire guidance. Still, it was decided the San Luis should proceed with its mission. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe, an old Balao-class submarine that had served the U.S. Navy in World War II, was dispatched on April 17 to ferry marines and technicians to reinforce troops who had seized the island of South Georgia. Though it successfully deployed the troops on April 25, it failed to depart quickly enough and was detected at 9 a.m. by the radar of a British Wessex helicopter, which was soon joined by Wasp and Lynx helicopters. The Santa Fe was damaged by two depth charges, missed by a torpedo, struck by AS-12 antishipping missiles, and strafed with machine-gun fire. The captain beached the submarine, which was captured along with its crew by British troops shortly after. The attack on the Santa Fe marked the first shots of the British campaign. The following day, the San Luis was ordered to sail for the waters around the disputed islands, and was authorized on the twenty-ninth to fire on any British warships it encountered. However, the Royal Navy had intercepted the San Luis’s communications and deployed its helicopters and frigates to hunt it down. By one count, the Royal Navy had ten frigates or destroyers and a helicopter carrier assigned at least in part to antisubmarine duties, as well as six submarines on patrol. On May 1, the San Luis’s passive sonar detected the HMS Brilliant and Yarmouth, both specialized antisubmarine frigates. Azcueta launched an SST-4 torpedo at a range of nine kilometers—but shortly after launch, the guidance wires on the torpedo cut out. Azcueta quickly dove his sub into hiding on the seabed. The Brilliant detected the attack, and the two frigates and their helicopters went into a frenzied pursuit of potential sonar contacts. Launching thirty depth charges and numerous torpedoes, the British vessels successfully blew up several whales for their efforts. The following day, the British submarine Conqueror torpedoed the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, which sank along with 323 members of its crew. The entire Argentine surface fleet subsequently withdrew to coastal waters, leaving the San Luis the only Argentine vessel opposing the British invasion force. British ships and helicopters began reporting sonar contacts and periscope sightings everywhere, and launched nine torpedoes in waters the San Luis never even ended up approaching. The San Luis’s crew, for its part, thought they had been fired upon by a British submarine on May 8, and after taking evasive maneuvers, launched a Mark 37 torpedo against an undersea contact. The torpedo was heard to explode and the contact was lost. This, too, was likely a whale. Two days later, San Luis detected the Type 21 antisubmarine frigates HMS Arrow and Alacrity on the northern passage of the Falkland Sound. Masked by the noise produced by the fast-moving frigates, the San Luis crept within five kilometers of the Alacrity, fired another SST-4 torpedo and readied a second for launch. Yet again, the wires of the SST-4 cut out shortly after launch. However, some accounts state the torpedo actually struck a decoy being towed by HMS Arrow, but failed to detonate. Azcueta gave up on firing the second torpedo and ordered the San Luis to disengage to avoid a counterattack. However, the British ships cruised on, unaware of the attack. The captain of the Alacrity did not even learn of the close call until after the war! Demoralized, Azcueta radioed home that the torpedoes were useless, and he received permission to return to base, which he accomplished on May 19. The Argentine garrison surrendered on June 14 before the San Luis could be put back to sea. Fifteen years later, the San Luis became one of only three Type 209 submarines to be decommissioned after an incomplete overhaul. Another fifty-nine serve on in various navies. What went wrong with the San Luis’s torpedoes? There are a half-dozen explanations, variously holding crew error and technical flaws culpable. Manufacturer AEG first claimed the torpedoes had been launched from too far away, and without active sonar contact. Another claim is that the Argentine crews mistakenly reversed the magnetic polarity of the gyros in the torpedoes, causing them to run astray. However, there is also evidence that the torpedoes failed to arm their warheads and could not maintain depth. Suggestively, AEG implemented numerous upgrades to the torpedo after the Falklands conflict. The San Luis was no super-submarine, nor did it have a super-crew. Yet, benefiting from a competent commander using ordinary tactics, it still managed to run circles around a dozen antisubmarine frigates from one of the most capable navies in the world, and might easily have sunk several warships had its torpedoes functioned as intended. The Royal Navy, for its part, expended hundreds of expensive antisubmarine munitions and dispatched 2,253 helicopter sorties chasing false contacts—without detecting the San Luis on either occasion it closed within firing range. Real submarine warfare has been, thankfully, extremely rare since World War II. The Falkland experience suggests that cheap diesel submarines could be very difficult to counter even when facing well-trained and well-equipped adversaries.

 

Navy budget blamed for ARA San Juan submarine

Commission concludes sinking of submarine with all 44 crew-members onboard, in November 2017, caused by the inefficiency of naval commanders and budget limitations. A congressional commission determined on Thursday, July 18, 2019, that the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine was not caused by foreign attack or an accident, and pointed directly at the Navy high command and budget shortfalls that only allowed for minimal maintenance of the vessel as the cause of the sinking. A legislative commission has concluded that the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine with all 44 crew-members onboard, in November 2017, was caused by the inefficiency of naval commanders and budget limitations, finally discarding theories the vessel was attacked or hit by a ship. In a report released Thursday, the legislators also questioned the handling of the crisis by Defence Minister Oscar Aguad and President Mauricio Macri, who the commission said showed a "low level of involvement with everything related to the tragedy."The ARA San Juan disappeared on November 15, 2017, in the South Atlantic as it sailed back to its base at the port of Mar del Plata after participating in a training exercise. The wreckage wasn't found until almost a year later at a depth of 800 metres (2,625 feet) east of Península Valdes. The discovery was made by a ship from the US company Ocean Infinity, which had been hired to conduct the search for the missing vessel."The hypotheses that the submarine was attacked by a foreign warship, hit by a fishing vessel or was performing secret tasks outside of jurisdictional waters have been discarded," said the commission, which was made up of lawmakers from different parties, including the governing party. The report pointed to budget limitations in recent years as contributing to the disaster as well as "the failure to update technologies and maintain a minimal level of maintenance based on hours of use that produced a growing deterioration" of the submarine. The Navy "tried to continue to fulfill its ordered missions with increasingly reduced budgets. It accepted as normal operating under conditions that were far from optimal for the task," the report said. The night before the submarine disappeared, the crew reported that the entry of water into the ventilation system had started a fire in one of the battery tanks. The vessel surfaced and continued sailing. Its captain reported the next day that the situation was controlled and that he was preparing to descend to 40 metres (131 feet) to assess the damage and reconnect the batteries. Nothing more was heard from the submarine."Fires in the battery tanks of submarines are very serious accidents ... the issue was underestimated by the entire chain of command" of the Navy, the commission said. The report said the then-commander of the submarine force, Claudio Villamide, "did not seek advice from qualified technical personnel." It said the naval chain of command "did not transmit to political leaders information in a detailed and complete form."The commission said the defence minister was aware of the state of the fleet and the risks facing the submarine when it participated in the exercise. Regarding the search operation, it said, "there was evidence of a lack of leadership in the face of the crisis as well as concealment of the circumstances of the tragedy from family members and public opinion."'The report was presented in Argentina's Senate in the presence of family members of the crew, whose remains still lie at the bottom of the sea. Experts who participated in the search that located the wreck have said raising it to the surface would be too risky and expensive."This is historic, that a legislative commission is so expeditious and clear in investigating" the tragedy, said Luis Tagliapietra, father of one of the crewmembers. "I think that the responsibilities are clear."The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine that sank was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the US$12-million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the cutting phase can put the safety of the vessel and crew at risk.

 

North Korea's "New" Missile Submarine

North Korea released a number of images of Kim Jong-un inspecting a new submarine. Experts believe the new sub will carry nuclear-tipped missiles that could be used to threaten U.S. military bases in Japan and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The photos, released via the state-run KCNA news agency, show Kim and an entourage touring a submarine inside a massive construction building. The submarine appears similar to existing North Korean subs—but with a catch. The submarine appears to have an expanded sail with launch tubes for Pukgeukseong-1 ballistic missiles’, reporting on the event, stated that Kim Jong-un, “visited the newly built submarine and detailed the operational tactical specifications of the ship and the weapon combat systems. (Kim) expressed great satisfaction about the design and construction of the submarine so that it can smoothly carry out the military strategic wishes of our party even in the context of each situation.” The submarine will operate in the Sea of Japan. The Project 633 class Soviet diesel electric submarine, nicknamed “Romeo” by NATO forces, was introduced in the late 1950s. The Soviets shared plans for the submarines with China, who transferred seven of them to North Korea in the 1970s and supplied parts for another 13 in kit form. Although very obsolete in 2019, the Romeos make up a substantial portion of North Korea’s large submarine fleet. In 2014, Kim Jong-un was photographed taking a ride on one of the submarines. In the mid-1990s, North Korea acquired a large number of outdated ex-Soviet Navy submarines, many of which were reportedly in poor condition. Ostensibly bought for scrap, the purchase included a small number of Project 629A ballistic missile submarines, known to NATO as the Golf II class. The Golf II class was based on the same Romeo-class submarines used by North Korea but modified to carry three missile tubes in the submarine’s sail. The similarity of design of the Golf II to the new North Korean submarine suggests that although North Korea never managed to get a Golf II in service, the new submarine incorporates technology from the old Soviet subs. The new submarine is a successor to the Gorae (Whale), a technology demonstrator that concealed one missile in the sail. Underwater warfare expert H.I. Sutton, author of the Covert Shores submarine blog, told Popular Mechanics the missile submarine is likely a conversion of one of North Korea’s Romeo-class submarines, “Although it was described as newly built by North Korea’s state media, there are very clear signs that this is a modification of a previously built boat. So the submarine was built at least twenty years ago.”As propaganda the photos attempt to show the size and scale of the submarine without showing off too many details. Sutton has noticed several small, seemingly minor details of the sub that point to its lineage. In the photo above, the lower arrow points to one of two shrouded propellers—standard on Romeo-class submarines—with one located on each side of the hull. The upper arrow shows what generally looks like the Romeo submarine with an enlarged topside. That topside is almost certainly meant to support a larger, wider sail with missile launch tubes inside. Sutton believes the new submarine can carry two, possibly three Pukgeukseong missiles. First tested in 2016, Pukgeukseong (called KN-11 by U.S. intelligence) is thought to have a range of 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) and is nuclear-tipped. Launched from the Sea of Japan, such a missile could hold U.S. and Japanese targets at risk of nuclear attack. The new submarine could later embark future missiles with even longer ranges—the ideal target is the U.S. island territory of Guam, a regional hub for U.S. Air Force nuclear-capable bombers and U.S. Navy nuclear submarines.

 

 

Artists’ depiction of the new North Korean submarine.

H.I. Sutton/Covert Shores

A submarine equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles could be a surprise first strike weapon, inching quietly towards its target undetected and then launching a barrage of missiles. Most nuclear powers however use sub-based nukes as a strictly defensive weapons meant to deter such surprise attacks. A submarine on patrol could evade enemy forces, riding out a nuclear attack on its home country and then firing its missiles in retaliation. North Korea’s conversion of an existing submarine into a missile-firing one appears to have come with performance compromises. “The missile tubes appear to be located in what was the second battery compartment,” Sutton says. “This may mean that the boat carries fewer batteries meaning that she cannot submerge for as long.”

 

Submarines Probe The Unexplored Depths Of Flathead Lake

Boaters on Flathead Lake might see a strange sight this week: small submarines surfacing at various locations. The subs are diving in an effort to help researchers at the Flathead Biological Station reach unexplored depths. "Want me to go down? Ok, we’re going to dive.”Hank Pronk is the pilot of the Nekton Gamma, a small two-man submarine that will be one of two subs aiding in Flathead Lake Bio Station’s research efforts this week. On Monday, Pronk gave several people a quick ride in Yellow Bay.“So we’re 14 feet from the bottom right now.”As we go down, the water becomes murky and after a few minutes, we’re 40 feet below the surface. Visibility improves and you can see along the muddy bottom for about 15 feet. Back on the dock, Bio Station researcher Jim Craft explains that this opportunity was made available at no cost to the station through a group of private sub owners called Innerspace Science, which connects people like Pronk with research organizations like the Bio Station. “A group of hobbyists, I guess you would call them, but they also like to incorporate science if they can and they wanted to come to Flathead Lake and asked if we had any interest in utilizing their submarines," Craft said. "I was very excited to do be able to do that.”  The Nekton Gamma takes off from the Flathead Lake Biological Station’s dock on Flathead Lake August 6, 2019. The subs will explore a number of locations around the lake through Friday and will collect sediment and algae samples from depths over 100 feet, which is a rare opportunity for researchers. “Below where our scuba divers can typically get to, which is about 100 feet, it takes specialty gases to start diving deeper than that, so they tend not to do it," Craft said. "The subs are able to get down to those depths and show us what’s there. “Craft says it’s unclear what research could come out of those samples, but now that researchers are getting a glimpse of Flathead Lake’s depths, they can begin formulating research questions that will be the basis of future studies.

 

Submarines: Losing Losharik?

August 20, 2019: Russia has another naval disaster on its hands. Details have been slowly emerging, mainly because the submarine in question is a one-of-a-kind deep (6,000 meters) nuclear powered (AC-31 Losharik) vessel that can investigate items on the ocean floor. This would include American “taps” placed on Russian undersea cables or listening devices left on the bottom near Russian naval bases. Normally all information about Losharik is kept secret. But the extent of this accident has made it difficult to maintain the usual degree of secrecy. The July 1st Losharik accident was caused by the lithium batteries overheating, causing a fire and then exploding. This killed fourteen of the 19 men abroad the submerged sub. The four surviving crew and one civilian specialist managed to surface the sub, shut down the nuclear reactor and get off onto the modified SSBN that serves as its mothership. Before the surviving crew left they were ordered to flood all compartments, to ensure that there was not another fire or explosion. The Defense Ministry says it will get the Losharik back in service but they are still studying the damage and getting estimates of how long repairs would take and how much it would cost. The cost may be more than Russian can afford right now, no matter how important Losharik is to Russian undersea operations. There are still questions about the batteries the Losharik used. The sub was originally designed to use Ukrainian made silver-zinc batteries but since 2014 Ukrainian military imports have been less “available” and Losharik switched to Russian made lithium batteries, which behave differently than silver-zinc ones. Lithium batteries will catch fire and explode if they are short-circuited. How that happened on Losharik is still unknown, much less how to avoid it. Losharik is a relatively new (entered service in 2004) and smaller (65 meters long) nuclear-powered sub whose full name is the AS-31 Losharik. This sub carries a crew of up to 25 and has a top speed (for emergencies only) of 72 kilometers an hour. Losharik can dive deeper than any other sub and is quite large for a deep-diving sub. That additional size makes the sub capable of finding and retrieving useful items that end up in very deep waters, as well as survey very deep sea bottoms for suitable sites for placing various electronic devices. The accident took place in shallow (300 meters) Russian territorial waters off the north coast. The AS-12 is stationed at a naval base on the Kola Peninsula it may have just been on a training mission. The Losharik design was based on and surpassed an earlier (1960) American deep-diving submersible; NR-1. The American vessel could only go down 1,000 meters, but during decades of service (it was retired in 2008) it did a lot of valuable but largely classified work. Construction of Losharik began in the 1980s but was halted in the 1990s, like so much ship construction, because of budget cuts. Work was resumed by 2000 and completed in 2004. Since then Losharik appears to have been undergoing tests and modifications. Navy budgets are again under pressure and Russia may decide that they cannot afford to repair Losharik, not when there are so many other urgent submarine construction projects in danger.

 

First manned trip in 14 years to Titanic by Triton Submarine.

The world will soon see the vanishing Titanic shipwreck in a way never seen before — in high-definition video, virtual reality or even augmented reality. A Sebastian submarine manufacturer's one-of-a-kind manned submersible completed the first manned dive in 14 years to the famous Titanic shipwreck to capture its present state and project its future in high definition."It’s huge, beyond, it’s unreal," said Mindy Miller, Triton Submarines spokeswoman. "Everything about this submarine we have manufactured is cutting edge."They got 4K footage of everything."  Sebastian submarine builders execute five exploratory dives to deepest spot in the Pacific Ocean The company recently relocated to Sebastian from Vero Beach for a larger manufacturing facility. A Triton Submarines team made five dives over eight days, descending 12,500 feet into black, near-freezing waters where the remains of the Titanic sit in two pieces 370 miles south of Newfoundland at the bottom of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Triton president and co-founder Patrick Lahey, of Vero Beach, piloted three of the Triton 36,000/2 model's five dives. A nine-member team made dives on July 29 and 31 and then on Aug. 1, 3 and 4.  Among the team were Kevin Magee, Frank Lombardo, Steve Chappelle and Shane Eigler, all of Vero Beach. The last manned submersible Titanic dive was in 2005, according to a Triton news release. The footage and computer imagery captured by scientists and experts are being used to assess the Titanic's current condition, and "project its future," along with providing high quality visuals and 3D models of the 107-year-old wreckage.“The most fascinating aspect was seeing how the Titanic is being consumed by the ocean and returning to its elemental form while providing refuge for a remarkably diverse number of animals,” Lahey said in a prepared statement. Expedition scientists said ocean conditions are quickly corroding the deteriorating remains, giving greater significance to the five days of dives and the footage they captured. The sub itself is a first-ever, capable of performing repeat dives to the deepest ocean depths, Miller said."This submarine has been on a world-wide around-the-globe expedition for about a year," Miller said. The Limiting Factor recently finished five dives to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the famous Five Deeps Expedition. She said the stop by the Titanic wreckage was a sort of planned "side-expedition" on the way to the last points on the Five Deeps."We’re on the very last leg of the Five Deeps now," Miller said. "It’s opening up doors to ocean exploration that have never been opened before."Texas equity-firm owner, renowned explorer, and founder of Caladan Oceanic, Victor Vescovo, owns the Limiting Factor and has piloted it on both the Five Deeps Expedition and during the Titanic missions. National Geographic will produce a documentary with the Titanic footage taken in early August, while the Discovery Channel and BBC have used previous recordings shot from the Limiting Factor. Miller said while the submersibles are mostly manufactured for scientific and research use, a Triton Submarines facility in Barcelona, Spain, is building submarines with tourism in mind.

 

ROK Navy’s 1st 3000 ton KSS-III Submarine Passes Max Depth Test

The submarine started its seat trials from DSME Opko shipyard on June 10, 2019. It is the first vessel of the KSS-III Batch I program for the Republic of Korea Navy (RoK Navy). According to ROK Navy submariner federation, the maximum dive depth was used to test equipment and to check that no leaks occurred. As per tradition, a bottle of wine was placed outside the submarine. With the pressure, sea water enters the bottle via the cork’s pores, making so-called “submarine wine”. At the maximum depth, the crew drinks it one by one. The KSS III maximum depth is obviously a highly classified information and was not disclosed.

 

With the KSS III program, South Korea has entered the elite club of the few countries able to independently design and build submarines, especially large ones (over 3,000 tons).For the record, DSME received a contract from the South Korean Ministry of Defense worth $ 1.56 billion to build two large conventional/diesel electric (SSK) KSS III Batch 1 submarines on December 26, 2012. Then, on November 30, 2016, Hyundai Heavy Industries received a contract to build another boat of the first batch. Delivery of all three boats is scheduled for the end of 2023. In total, the plan is to introduce into the RoK Navy fleet nine KSS III submarines by 2029: including three ships of the second and third series each.

  • Batch-I consists in the first two hulls to be built by DSME and the third submarine to be built by HHI.
  • Batch-II will consist in three hulls with some design changes. They will be fitted with a greater level of South Korean technology. In May 2016, DAPA selected DSME for “KSS-III Batch-II Design and construction of the first hull”.
  • Batch-III will consists in the three remaining hulls with more advanced technologies

However, the program of construction of the KSS-III submarines underwent repeated delays for technical and financial reasons, which is to be expected for such major programs.

 

Alvin Manned Submersible Makes its 5000th Dive

Alvin, a manned submersible vehicle commissioned in 1964, is still in use today for a variety of ocean science activities. (Photo Credit: Luis Lamar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) The Alvin manned submersible vehicle made its 5,000th dive during an expedition to the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California in November 2018, marking a milestone in a its 54 years of operation in ocean science. The submersible, which was officially commissioned June 5, 1964, has been used in a number of key discoveries and projects including the discovery of ocean-floor hydrothermal vents in 1977, aiding in the recovery of a lost hydrogen bomb, exploring the wreck of the RMS Titanic and examining impacts to deep-sea coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.Owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Alvin is one of only five deep-sea research submersibles in the world and the only U.S. submersible capable of carrying humans to the sea floor. The workhorse sub executes about 100 dives per year, and over its life has accounted for more than half of all of the scientific dives carried out by human-occupied submersibles worldwide. The vehicle can currently dive to 4,500 meters, and it is undergoing an upgrade to allow it to dive to 6,500 meters.

 

North Korea's Spy Submarines Have Performed Some Wild Missions.

At 4:30 p.m. on June 22, 1998, Capt. Kim In-yong noticed a curious site from the helm of his fishing boat as it sailed eleven miles east of the South Korean city of Sokcho: a small submarine, roughly sixty feet in length, caught in a driftnet used for mackerel fishing. Several crew members were visible on the submarine’s deck, trying to free their vessel. Upon noticing the fishing boat, they gave friendly waves of reassurance. Captain Kim was suspicious. The entangled submarine was located twenty miles south of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. Likely, he recalled an incident two years earlier when a North Korean spy submarine ground ashore further south near the city of Gangneung. Rather than surrendering, the heavily armed crew first turned on itself and then tried to fight its way back to the border, resulting in the death of thirty-seven Koreans from both nations. Perhaps he was aware that while Republic of Korea Navy operated three Dolgorae-class mini-submarines at the time, North Korea had roughly fifty small submarines of several classes. So the South Korean fisherman informed the Sokcho Fishery Bureau. The submarine, meanwhile, freed itself from the nets and began sailing north, with Captain Kim following it at a distance. However, before long the submarine rolled on its belly, stalled and helpless in the water. By 5:20 p.m. the Republic of Korea dispatched antisubmarine helicopters, and the submarine’s location was confirmed nearly an hour later. The vessel was a Yugo-class mini-submarine, imported from Yugoslavia to North Korea during the Cold War. The boats in the class vary from sixteen to twenty-two meters long and seventy to 110 tons in weight, and can’t go much faster than ten knots (11.5 miles per hour), or four knots underwater. Though some carried two torpedo tubes, they were primarily used to deploy operatives on spying missions, with the five-man vessels able to accommodate up to seven additional passengers. Later inspection of the Yugo-class boat revealed it had a single rotating shaft driving its two propellers, which had skewed blades for noise reduction, and that the hull was made of plastic to lower visibility to Magnetic Anomaly Detectors. ROK Navy surface ships surrounded the vessel and attempted to communicate with the stranded boat, first via signaling charges and low-frequency radio, then loudspeakers and even hammers tapped on the boat’s hull—without response. Unwilling to risk opening the submarine while at sea, the South Korean sailors ultimately hitched the mini-sub to a corvette at 7:30 that evening and began towing it for port of Donghae. The timing was inauspicious. South and North Korea were about to hold their first major talks in years at Panmunjom. Recently elected South Korean president Kim Dae-jung was promoting his “Sunshine Policy,” attempting to promote reconciliation and openness between two nations that had been officially at war since 1950. On January 23, North Korea declared that a submarine had suffered a “training accident.” According to Pyongyang, the submarine’s last communication reported “trouble in nautical observation instruments, oil pressure systems, and submerging and surfacing machines.” South Korean officials told the New York Times they didn’t believe the Yugo-class boat had actually been involved in a spy mission. There was of course something a bit comical about the South Korean Navy coming to the unwanted rescue of a submarine that was spying in its waters. However, as frequently happens in tales of North Korean espionage, the absurd becomes horrific. South Korea had readied a special team to open the ship and negotiate with the North Korean crew, including defector and former submariner Lee Kwang-soo, one of only two North Korean survivors of the Gangneung incident. However, while still being towed on July 24, the submarine sank abruptly to the bottom of the ocean. South Korean officials were uncertain: had the boat succumbed to mechanical difficulties, or had it been scuttled by the crew? On June 25, a South Korean salvage team recovered the boat from one hundred feet underwater and an elite team bored into the hull. They found a horrid tableau inside. The submarine’s interior had taken on only two and a half feet of water—but the five submariners had been gunned down, with bullet wounds visible across their bodies. Four elite North Korean Special Forces also lay dead, each shot in the head. North Korean military culture stresses that its soldiers should kill themselves rather than accept capture. It seemed likely that the more fanatical Special Forces had murdered the crew—perhaps after they had refused an order to commit suicide—then killed themselves. The nine dead men aboard the submarine were buried in South Korea’s Cemetery for North Korean and Chinese Soldiers, as Pyongyang has mostly refused to accept back the remains of its own spies and soldiers. The more than two hundred items recovered from the submarine were also revealing. The crew had been packing AK-47s, machine guns, grenades, pistols, a rocket-propelled grenade and three sets of “American-made infiltration gear.” The presence of an empty South Korean pear juice container also suggested that the Special Forces personnel had made it ashore, as did a 1995 issue of Life magazine. If there was any doubt of the boat’s espionage activities, the ship’s log indicated the submarine had landed agents into South Korea on multiple occasions in the past. The incident underscored South Korea’s inability to consistently detect and interdict North Korean mini-submarines, leading some commenters to joke that the nation relied on fishermen and taxi drivers (as occurred in the Gangneung incident) to patrol her waters. To be fair, however, small submarines like the Yugo-class boats are extremely difficult to detect in the shallow waters off the Korean coast, a threat underscored by the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010. Shallow, rocky waters also led to a collision between much larger Russian and American submarines in 1992, due to their inability to detect each other over background noise. Despite the death of its crew, Pyongyang did not make a big fuss as it was eager to receive South Korean economic aid to assist its recovery from a devastating famine. Seoul did it best to overlook the spying in an effort to make the Sunshine Policy work. However, North Korea never ceased its espionage activities, nor did it change its death-over-surrender policy. In July that year, South Korea recovered the body of an armed North Korean agent with an underwater propulsion unit. And in December, another North Korean mini-submarine opened fire when challenged by South Korean ships, resulting in the Battle of Yeosu, the subject of the next piece in this series. At 4:30 p.m. on June 22, 1998, Capt. Kim In-yong noticed a curious site from the helm of his fishing boat as it sailed eleven miles east of the South Korean city of Sokcho: a small submarine, roughly sixty feet in length, caught in a driftnet used for mackerel fishing. Several crew members were visible on the submarine’s deck, trying to free their vessel. Upon noticing the fishing boat, they gave friendly waves of reassurance. Captain Kim was suspicious. The entangled submarine was located twenty miles south of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. Likely, he recalled an incident two years earlier when a North Korean spy submarine ground ashore further south near the city of Gangneung. Rather than surrendering, the heavily armed crew first turned on itself and then tried to fight its way back to the border, resulting in the death of thirty-seven Koreans from both nations. Perhaps he was aware that while Republic of Korea Navy operated three Dolgorae-class mini-submarines at the time, North Korea had roughly fifty small submarines of several classes. So the South Korean fisherman informed the Sokcho Fishery Bureau. The submarine, meanwhile, freed itself from the nets and began sailing north, with Captain Kim following it at a distance. However, before long the submarine rolled on its belly, stalled and helpless in the water. By 5:20 p.m. the Republic of Korea dispatched antisubmarine helicopters, and the submarine’s location was confirmed nearly an hour later. The vessel was a Yugo-class mini-submarine, imported from Yugoslavia to North Korea during the Cold War. The boats in the class vary from sixteen to twenty-two meters long and seventy to 110 tons in weight, and can’t go much faster than ten knots (11.5 miles per hour), or four knots underwater. Though some carried two torpedo tubes, they were primarily used to deploy operatives on spying missions, with the five-man vessels able to accommodate up to seven additional passengers. Later inspection of the Yugo-class boat revealed it had a single rotating shaft driving its two propellers, which had skewed blades for noise reduction, and that the hull was made of plastic to lower visibility to Magnetic Anomaly Detectors. ROK Navy surface ships surrounded the vessel and attempted to communicate with the stranded boat, first via signaling charges and low-frequency radio, then loudspeakers and even hammers tapped on the boat’s hull—without response. Unwilling to risk opening the submarine while at sea, the South Korean sailors ultimately hitched the mini-sub to a corvette at 7:30 that evening and began towing it for port of Donghae. The timing was inauspicious. South and North Korea were about to hold their first major talks in years at Panmunjom. Recently elected South Korean president Kim Dae-jung was promoting his “Sunshine Policy,” attempting to promote reconciliation and openness between two nations that had been officially at war since 1950. On January 23, North Korea declared that a submarine had suffered a “training accident.” According to Pyongyang, the submarine’s last communication reported “trouble in nautical observation instruments, oil pressure systems, and submerging and surfacing machines.” South Korean officials told the New York Times they didn’t believe the Yugo-class boat had actually been involved in a spy mission. There was of course something a bit comical about the South Korean Navy coming to the unwanted rescue of a submarine that was spying in its waters. However, as frequently happens in tales of North Korean espionage, the absurd becomes horrific. South Korea had readied a special team to open the ship and negotiate with the North Korean crew, including defector and former submariner Lee Kwang-soo, one of only two North Korean survivors of the Gangneung incident. However, while still being towed on July 24, the submarine sank abruptly to the bottom of the ocean. South Korean officials were uncertain: had the boat succumbed to mechanical difficulties, or had it been scuttled by the crew? On June 25, a South Korean salvage team recovered the boat from one hundred feet underwater and an elite team bored into the hull. They found a horrid tableau inside. The submarine’s interior had taken on only two and a half feet of water—but the five submariners had been gunned down, with bullet wounds visible across their bodies. Four elite North Korean Special Forces also lay dead, each shot in the head. North Korean military culture stresses that its soldiers should kill themselves rather than accept capture. It seemed likely that the more fanatical Special Forces had murdered the crew—perhaps after they had refused an order to commit suicide—then killed themselves. The nine dead men aboard the submarine were buried in South Korea’s Cemetery for North Korean and Chinese Soldiers, as Pyongyang has mostly refused to accept back the remains of its own spies and soldiers. The more than two hundred items recovered from the submarine were also revealing. The crew had been packing AK-47s, machine guns, grenades, pistols, a rocket-propelled grenade and three sets of “American-made infiltration gear.” The presence of an empty South Korean pear juice container also suggested that the Special Forces personnel had made it ashore, as did a 1995 issue of Life magazine. If there was any doubt of the boat’s espionage activities, the ship’s log indicated the submarine had landed agents into South Korea on multiple occasions in the past. The incident underscored South Korea’s inability to consistently detect and interdict North Korean mini-submarines, leading some commenters to joke that the nation relied on fishermen and taxi drivers (as occurred in the Gangneung incident) to patrol her waters. To be fair, however, small submarines like the Yugo-class boats are extremely difficult to detect in the shallow waters off the Korean coast, a threat underscored by the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010. Shallow, rocky waters also led to a collision between much larger Russian and American submarines in 1992, due to their inability to detect each other over background noise. Despite the death of its crew, Pyongyang did not make a big fuss as it was eager to receive South Korean economic aid to assist its recovery from a devastating famine. Seoul did it best to overlook the spying in an effort to make the Sunshine Policy work. However, North Korea never ceased its espionage activities, nor did it change its death-over-surrender policy. In July that year, South Korea recovered the body of an armed North Korean agent with an underwater propulsion unit. And in December, another North Korean mini-submarine opened fire when challenged by South Korean ships, resulting in the Battle of Yeosu, the subject of the next piece in this series.

 

An Incident Involving A Russian submarine Every Five Or Six Years.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on July 2 that a fire aboard a submarine operated by its main naval research-and-development unit the day before had killed 14 sailors. Although the military did not identify the stricken vessel, multiple Russian media outlets reported it as the AS-12, nicknamed Losharik, or the similar AS-31, both nuclear-powered, deep-diving, special-missions vessels. This submarine has an unusual construction with a double hull. The exterior is made of titanium, while the internal hull comprises several isolated spheres. It is not, strictly speaking, a "real" submarine because it is transported using large atomic submarines, usually the Orenburg, although the Belgorod can also serve. Because of its internal nuclear reactor, it can remain submersed for extended periods and can operate almost noiselessly. According to some sources, it is the quietest submarine in the Russian arsenal. It is not completely clear what its uses are. Officially, they don't say that it is used for deep-sea research. U.S. military experts believe that it is designed to attach itself to undersea cables to eavesdrop on communications or to destroy them in the event of a conflict. It is apparently able to disrupt the normal functioning of the SOSUS [sound surveillance system], which is a network of hydroacoustic sensors placed in the North Atlantic between Greenland and Britain to track the movements of Russian submarines from the Norwegian and North seas into the Atlantic Ocean. In the present case, according to Russian sources, this submarine was located in Russian territorial waters not far from Murmansk and, most likely, was engaged in studying the seafloor in order to improve the navigation practices of Russian submarines. In general, fires aboard submarines are quite rare. In the 1960s, there were two or three fires aboard U.S. submarines at sea. Most such incidents occur during repair work. This is also true for Russian submarines. The Russian fleet has considerably more incidents. It isn't clear if this is because of the failure of crews to follow established procedures and instructions or because of the physical condition of the ships or defects in their construction. However, if we look at the statistics, every five or six years there is an incident involving a Russian submarine -- a fire or a breakdown requiring serious repairs. For U.S. submarines -- not counting problems caused by navigation faults -- such incidents happen once in 15 or 20 years. If they brought the vessel back to the base at Severomorsk and moored it there, then I'd assume that means there is no danger of radiation leaks. In general, modern nuclear reactors are designed with built-in fail-safes and they are rather reliable and capable of withstanding a very serious fire. It might have been that the fire did not start in the reactor section and that the crew was able to prevent its spread to the reactor.

 

Fire Engulfs Top Secret Russian Submarine, Killing 14 Sailors

On July 1, a fire onboard a secretive Russian nuclear submarine killed 14 sailors before it was extinguished. The sailors were assigned to the Losharik, a small nuclear-powered submarine that is alleged to conduct underwater espionage activities. The cause of the fire is not known at this time. The incident took place in Russian territorial waters north of the Arctic Circle. According to Russian state media the Losharik was engaged in “biometric research activities” when the fire broke out. TASS quoted the Russian Ministry of Defense, stating, “On July 1, in the Russian territorial waters on a research deep-water apparatus designed to study the bottom space and the bottom of the World Ocean in the interests of the Russian Navy, a fire occurred during bathymetric measurements.”The incident reportedly killed 14 Russian Navy sailors and injured more, with reports suggesting that the sailors sacrificed themselves to put the fire out. On Russian television, President Vladimir Putin revealed that seven of the deceased were captains first rank, and two were awarded the distinction “Heroes of Russia” in the past. That’s an unusually high concentration of decorated officers. A conflicting report on Twitter claims that the fire took place not on Losharik itself but the mother submarine that carries, it Podmoskovye. Podmoskovye is a modified ballistic missile submarine designed to carry smaller special mission-engineering (read: spy submarines) like Losharik to operational areas. Losharik (AS-12) is a deep diving special mission/engineering submarine (aka a spy submarine). According to submarine authority H.I. Sutton, Losharik entered service in 1997, displaces less than 1,000 tons (the U.S. Navy’s newest Virginia-class attack submarines 7,800 tons), and is about 230 feet long, 23 feet wide, and typically has a crew of 25. She is powered by a single 5-megawatt nuclear reactor. Te sub is named after a Russian cartoon horse made up of juggling balls, and the name is a play on the fact that the submarine is internally made up of up to seven interlinked high pressure orbs. Each orb is designed to provide protection from the extreme pressures of deep sea diving. Sutton believes this gives Losharik the ability to dive to depths up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). Losharik is designed to operate on the ocean floor, front-mounted flood lights, remotely operated arms for manipulated equipment, and retractable ski feet for sitting on the seabed. Although described as a scientific research submarine, she is assigned to the Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, known by its Russian acronym GUGI. The submarine is considered highly classified and the only known photo appeared in the Russian magazine version of Top Gear, when it accidentally sailed into a camera shot. according to The Barents Observer GUGI reports directly to the General Staff of the Armed Forces and GUGI’s fleet of nine submarines frequently depart on “special missions”. “Little is known about the nature of those voyages,” The Barents Observer writes, “except reports of significantly increased activity along subsea cables which carry global electronic communication.”In addition to eavesdropping, The Barents Observer claims submarines like Losharik can “bring - or remove - other small installations and devices for military purposes to be placed on the sea floor. In the Arctic, or at other locations important for the Russian navy. Such devices can be noise-makers to distract foreign submarines when Russian submarines sail out from the Kola Peninsula to the North Atlantic. Other listening devices can detect sounds made by the propellers of enemy ships. The submarine can launch and recover unmanned subsea vehicles.”he fire was the deadliest submarine accident since the loss of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan in 2017, which killed 44 sailors. It’s the worst Russian submarine accident since 2008, when the submarine K-152 Nerpa was damaged and 20 killed after an “unsanctioned activation of the boat’s fire extinguishing system.

 

Details On Russian Submarine Fire Emerge

 Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defense, has included a heretofore unseen drawing of the Project 09852 Belgorod, a heavily modified Oscar II-class submarine outfitted for various "special projects" missions, in its latest report about a fire that killed 14 sailors onboard a still-unnamed Russian submarine on Monday. Russia officially launched the still-under-construction Belgorod, which is presently the world's longest submarine, in April 2019. At the same time, new details regarding the July 1st accident have begun to trickle out, although they are limited in number and some are unconfirmed in nature. Though Belgorod is more widely associated with the Poseidon nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed long-range torpedo, this special mission boat will also be capable of serving as a mothership for smaller, highly specialized, and deep-diving submarines, such as the Project 10831 Losharik. Independent Russian media outlets have widely reported that Lorsharik, also known by the hull number AS-12 and more recently AS-31, was the submarine that experienced the deadly blaze on July 1, 2019. You can find more details about Losharik and what is known so far about this accident in The War Zone's earlier extensive coverage of the incident here.Krasnaya Zvezda, also known as the Central Organ of the Russian Ministry of Defense, attached the rendering of Belgorod, sometimes referred to by its hull number K-329, to a new story about the submarine fire on July 3, 2019. The drawing shows the boat carrying a smaller submarine underneath. There is no caption for the illustration and the story does not otherwise mention Belgorod, but the shape of the sail and other features make it clear that this is K-329.This appears to be one of, if not the first official release of a depiction of Belgorod in its final special mission configuration. In 2015, a similar image had emerged on Russian state television, which also revealed the existence of the Poseidon torpedo, then known as Kanyon or Status-6. This "leak" did appear to be deliberately contrived, but was not a formal release. A screenshot from a 2015 Russian television broadcast that revealed the existence of the Poseidon torpedo. A depiction of Belgorod carrying a midget submarine underneath, very similar to the one that has now appeared in Krasnaya Zvezda, is also visible at the top left. We have no way of knowing whether this means that the Belgorod was in some way involved in the incident. There are no reports that this submarine has put to sea for any period of time for any reason since April 2019, though details about the boat and the progress of its construction are extremely limited. The Kremlin officially plans to commission it sometime in 2020. Some earlier reports from Russian media outlets, citing unnamed individuals, had suggested that one of the Russian Navy's other submarine motherships was involved some way in the incident on Monday. Those stories specifically named the modified Project 667BDRM Delfin-class ballistic missile submarine BS-64 Podmoskovye and the Project 09786 BS-136 Orenburg, a converted Project 667BDR Delta III-class ballistic missile submarine, both of which are understood to be special mission boats capable of performing this role. Local seeing Podmoskovye surface in the Barents Sea near the town of Kildin around the time of the reported fire. The rapid surfacing was quickly followed by a lot of commotion on the large mothership submarine's deck. Soon after, two tugs and a warship met it and escorted it into the Kola Bay. Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing anonymous sources, also said that Losharik had been ascending from the seabed in order to dock with Podmoskovye in a Northern Fleet training ground to the west of Kola Bay when the fire broke out. According to Kommerant, the incident happened at the Northern Fleet training ground (??????? ?????? ??????????): https://t.co/3mfjTWrlqq The depths are about 200 meters there, an order of magnitude less than typical operation depths of deep-water submersibles like Losharik (14/x) On July 3, 2019, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had visited Severomorsk, which is in the Kola Bay, where the still-unnamed damaged submarine is reportedly now pier-side. The day before, Russian President Vladimir Putin had met with Shoigu and ordered him to personally go to the base, which is home to the headquarters of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet, to meet with officials and get briefed about the accident. A separate, unconfirmed report said that the Russian Navy had actually towed the damaged submarine to Gadzhiyevo, which is situated to the north of Severomorsk. "It [the submarine] belongs to the highest level of classified data, so it is absolutely normal for it [the name] not to be disclosed," Putin's personal spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said on July 3, 2019, all but confirming that the submarine in question is one of Russia's shadowy special mission boats. The Russian President himself had previously described the sub as an "unusual vessel."In addition, the Russian Defense Minister disclosed that a civilian expert from the country's state-run defense industrial complex had been on the submarine at the time of the accident. This might point to Losharik being involved in a test of new equipment during the mishap."The submariners acted heroically in the critical situation," Shoigu said. "They evacuated a civilian expert from the compartment that was engulfed by fire and shut the door to prevent the fire from spreading further and fought for the ship's survival until the end."The few details we have seem to point to a possible scenario where Losharik was attached to its mothership when the fire broke out or its crew got the sub back to its mothership just before the fire overwhelmed them, with the civilian being saved before sealing-off a compartment—or possibly the entire submarine—to protect Losharik and maybe even the larger submarine it was attached to from being completely lost. It's also possible that eye witness accounts are inaccurate and that Losharik was operating independently and was able to make it to the surface intact. Whatever the situation was, the official narrative from the highest levels of the Russian military is that the highly-trained crew on the small, but extremely valuable submarine heroically died saving at least one civilian onboard. The exact cause of the accident, or the scope of the damage, remains unclear, as well. Unconfirmed reports have said that a short circuit or battery malfunction may have sparked the blaze. The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied separate reports that there had been an unspecified "gas explosion" onboard the submarine. The Kremlin has also said there was no release of dangerous radiation as a result of the incident. Losharik, as well as the various submarine motherships, are all nuclear powered."It's too early to say what caused the fire and whether or not it was human or mechanical error," Jeffrey Edmonds, a researcher Center for Naval Analyses think tank in Washington, D.C. and a former U.S. National Security Council staffer, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on July 2, 2019. "The Losharik incident will likely have a deep operational impact on the Directorate for Deep Sea Research, given how advanced and relatively few these submarines are."Given the sensitivities surrounding the submarines that appear to have been involved in or otherwise present at the time of the accident, it remains to be seen when and if the Russian government will release any new details about the incident. Defense Minister Shoigu has ordered the Russian Navy to work together with the country's defense industry to repair the submarine and get it back into service. Some independent media commentators in Russia have begun to accuse the Kremlin of covering up the severity of the situation, but it is impossible to tell whether or not this is the case.

 

Fishermen witnessed nuclear submarine drama

The sub quickly surfaced and there were subsequent signs of panic on the deck, the local fishermen say. The accident might have been caused by a gas explosion. They were out doing illegal fishing and do not want to reveal their names. But the men who late Monday evening were onboard a small local fishing boat off the coast of the Kola Peninsula told news agency SeverPost that they witnessed what appeared as a state of emergency. It happened around 9.30 pm near the Ura Bay, one of the witnesses says.«We were heading towards Kildin, and then, about half past nine in the evening, a submarine surfaces. Suddenly and completely surfaces. I have never seen anything like it in my life. On the deck, people were running around and making fuss,» he SeverPost. The fishermen hid in nearby bay from where they saw that a navy vessel and two tugs quickly arrived on site. Around 11 pm, the vessels accompanied the submarine away from the area. There was no sign of smoke, they say. Other locals later reported that they saw bodies being taken out of the submarine and to an approaching ship. A source in the Russian Navy later told SeverPost that the submarine seen by the local fishermen was most likely the «Podmoskovie», the mother vessel of the special purpose submarine «Losharik» (AS-31). The «Podmoskovie» is a rebuilt Delta-IV class submarine designed to carry the much smaller «Losharik».Sources in the Navy on Tuesday told Russian media that the accident had happened in the «Losharik».Both the «Podmoskovie» and the «Losharik» are normally based in Oleniya Bay, and operated by the Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, nicknamed GUGI, a branch directly under General Staff of the Armed Forces.The “Losharik” is believed to be able to bring - or remove - other small installations and devices for military purposes to be placed on the sea floor. Such devices can be noice-makers to distract foreign submarines when Russian submarines sail out from the Kola Peninsula to the North Atlantic. Other listening devices can detect sounds made by the propellers of enemy ships.  The submarine has one nuclear reactor. According to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, the accident was triggered by a gas explosion on board the vessel. Representatives of Russian authorities on Tuesday informed the Norwegian side about the incident, Morten Strand from the Radiation Protection Authority told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.The Russian Defense Ministry, however, rebuffs that any such information was ever shared with the Norwegians. There has not been measured any heightened levels of radiation in the area. According to newspaper Izvestia, these submariners were «the best in Russia», all of them trained in St.Petersburg and directly subordinated the Ministry of Defense. Security procedures are unprecedented and the officers do not live onboard the submarine but arrive only directly ahead of departure to sea. Unlike other submarines, the «Losharik» and the other special purpose subs are served by special technical crews, the newspaper writes.

 

A sunken Soviet nuclear sub leaking radiation into the sea

K-278 Komsomolets. DoD

  • Norwegian researchers have detected a possible radiation leak at the site where the Soviet nuclear-powered attack submarine Komsomolets sank 30 years ago.
  • K-278 Komsomolets sank on April 7, 1989, after a fire broke out on board. Forty-two of the 69 crew members perished, and the boat sank to the depths with its onboard nuclear reactors and two torpedoes carrying plutonium-tipped warheads.
  • Researchers collected a water sample on Monday that showed radiation levels 100,000 times higher than what is to be expected in normal seawater.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The sinking of the Soviet nuclear submarine Komsomolets 30 years ago was one of the worst submarine disasters of all time, and the lasting damages may be far from over. Norwegian researchers believe that the wrecked K-278 Komsomolets, the only Project 685 Plavnik nuclear-powered attack submarine, is leaking radiation on the seafloor. While two of three preliminary water samples taken on Monday show no leakage, one alarming sample showed radiation levels 100,000 times higher than uncontaminated seawater, Norway's state-owned broadcaster NRK reported. Low levels of radiation were detected by Russian scientists in the early 1990s and again in 2007, The Barents Observer reported. Norway, which has been taking samples every year since 1990, found elevated concentrations of the radioactive substance cesium-137 near the wreck between 1991 and 1993. No leaks were ever found. The Norwegian research ship GO Sars set sail on Saturday from Tromsø, Norway, to the location in the Norwegian Sea where the Komsomolets sank and sent a Norwegian-built remote-controlled mini-sub to examine the situation. The Soviet submarine, which was lost to the depths with its nuclear reactors, as well as two torpedoes carrying plutonium warheads, is resting at a depth of about 1 mile below the surface of the sea. The use of the Ægir 6000 mini-sub is a new approach for the Norwegians, one that is expected to offer more precise readings, NRK reported. "The new surveys," Ingar Amundsen, the head of directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety said, "are important for understanding the pollution risk posed by Komsomolets." Norway is particularly concerned about the effect on commercial fishing in the area. "It is important that the monitoring of the nuclear submarine continues, so that we have updated knowledge about the pollution situation in the area around the wreck," the researcher Hilde Elise Heldal of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research said in a press statement. "The monitoring helps to ensure consumer confidence in the Norwegian fishing industry." Heldal said she was not overly surprised by the recent findings, given some of the earlier detections of apparent radioactive emissions. Experts have said previously, according to The Barents Observer, that there was little chance of food-chain contamination, given the limited marine-life presence at the depth the wreckage is. The massive 400-foot-long Komsomolets was launched in 1983 at Severodvinsk, Russia, where it became operational a year later. The Soviet submarine, which was expected to be the first of a new class of large attack submarines, had the ability to operate at depths below 3,000 feet, making it one of the world's deepest diving subs, according to the CIA. The vessel, attached to the Soviet Northern Fleet, sank on April 7, 1989, about 100 miles southwest of Bear Island, Norway, after a fire broke out in the engine room. Forty-two of the 69 were killed, most from exposure resulting from the slow reaction of the Soviet navy to rescue the stranded crew. News of a possible radiation leak from the Komsomolets came a little over a week after 14 Russian sailors died because of a fire aboard a secret submarine believed to be the Losharik, a top-secret deep-diving nuclear submarine suspected to have been designed to gather intelligence, tamper with undersea cables and pipelines, and possibly install or destroy defensive sonar arrays.

 

In 1981 a British Submarine Smashed Into a Russian Sub

On May 23, 1981 the Soviet submarine K-211 Petropavlovsk cruised quietly at nine knots, one hundred and fifty feet below the surface of the Arctic Barents Sea. The huge 155-meter-long Delta III (or Kalmar)-class submarine was distinguished by the large boxy compartment on its spine which accommodated the towering launch tubes for sixteen R-29R ballistic missiles, each carrying three independent nuclear warheads. K-211’s mission was hair-raisingly straightforward: to cruise undetected for weeks or months at a time, awaiting only the signal that a nuclear war had broken out to unleash its apocalyptic payload from underwater on Western cities and military bases up to four thousand miles away. British and American nuclear-power attack submarines (SSNs), or “hunter-killers,” were routinely dispatched to detect Soviet ballistic missiles subs (SSBNs) leaving from base to discreetly stalk them. The quieter SSNs also awaited only a signal of war, an event in which they would attempt to torpedo the Soviet subs before they could unleash their city-destroying weapons. Mindful of this threat, at half past seven that evening K-211’s commander halted his sub and pivoted it around so that its MGK-400 Rubikon bow sonar array could attempt to pick up any submarines sneaking behind it in the ‘blind spot’ of its wake—a maneuver known as “clearing the baffles.” However, the SSBN’s hydrophones did not report any contact. In his book Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy’s Most Secret Service, Iain Ballentyne described what happened shortly afterwards:“…at 19.51, the Soviet SSBN juddered as she sustained three short glancing impacts astern and from below, each lasting only a few seconds. Immediately ordering the boat to periscope depth, the Delta III’s sonar team detect propeller noise on a bearing 127 degrees.  The contact was judged to be a submarine. Having ascended to achieve separation, K-211 also turned to starboard, but the contact was lost within a couple of minutes.”The Soviet submarine surfaced and found that something had scraped off the rubber sound-dampening anechoic tiles lining the submarine’s stern and damaged its rear hydroplane.  Furthermore, fragments of metal—undoubtedly from a Western submarine—were embedded in its right screw and even had punctured its rear ballast tank. K-211’s right screw had to be replaced and its rear stabilizing fin repaired. A Soviet investigation subsequently concluded the metal had likely come from a U.S. Navy Sturgeon-class attack submarine ascending from below and to the rear. The Soviet commission might have been highly interested in British press reports later that year that the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer submarine Sceptre had returned to base in Devonport with damage from a collision from a “detached glacier.”Only a decade later in September 1991, the Sceptre’s former weapons officer David Forghan described very different circumstances for the accident when interviewed on the television program This Week. Sceptre, or SS-104, was the fourth of six Swiftsure-class nuclear-powered attack submarines launched by Vickers in the 1970s. The Swiftsures were shorter at 83 meters and broader than the UK’s first-generation Churchill-class SSNs, and boasted retractable diving fins on their bows instead of on their conning towers. All but the lead ship used a shrouded pump-jet propulsor instead of a conventional propeller for quieter running, and had their internal mechanisms isolated with rubber to further decrease acoustic signature. That May, the Sceptre had been trailing K-211 for some time using her Type 2001 sonar, which had an underwater detection range twenty-five to thirty miles or six to seventeen miles while moving fast, when it abruptly lost its sonar contact—around when K-211 shifted its position to clear its baffles. The British submarine continued cruising ahead when its bow smashed into K-211’s tail from below. One of the Soviet submarine’s five-bladed propellers chewed into the front hull casing of the Sceptre, tearing a 23-foot long chunk off its bow and ripping off the front of its conning tower. In The Silent Deep, by James Jinks and Peter Hennesy, one officer recalled:“It started very far forward, sort of at the tip of the submarine, and it trailed back. It sounded like a scrawling. We were hitting something. That noise lasted for what seemed like a lifetime. It was probably on a couple of seconds or so. Everybody went white.”Normally, such damage would have triggered an automatic shutdown of the submarine’s reactor, but Sceptre’s captain engaged a ‘battle short’—a manual override of the safety system for emergencies—to keep his 5,500-ton submarine under control. Emergency bulkheads were sealed as the wounded submarine fled the scene, believing itself to be pursued by a Soviet submarine for two days. Chief Petty Officer Michael Cundell recounted in The Silent Deep, “We just made a sharp exit and escaped under the ice without a trace.” Upon finally surfacing, the British submariners discovered the horrifying extent of the damage, as Cundell described:“That tear started about three inches from the forward escape hatch [Cundell]. If that hatch had been hit or damaged—it’s about 2’6” in diameter—if that had been ruptured, then the fore ends would have shipped water which would have made the boat very heavy. We would have probably sunk.’Sceptre limped back to its home base of Devonport at night to conceal the damage, its scars camouflaged with a fabric shroud and black paint applied by the crew. In port, fragments from the Russian propeller that had partially penetrated the pressure hull had to be removed. The Royal Navy meanwhile peddled the glacier-collision story to the media. After months of repairs, Sceptre finally returned to the sea that fall, now under Captain Doug Littlejohns. In the wake of the terrifying accident, he recalled, “The submarine was broken and so was the crew.” To build back crew confidence, he took them out on a white-knuckle practice run performing deep dives and fast maneuvers. Both K-211 and Sceptre served roughly three more decades after the accident. K-211 remained part of Russia’s smaller SSBN fleet until she was decommissioned in 2013, when the first new pump-jet propelled Borei­-class began to replace the older Deltas. K-211’s nuclear fuel was finally removed in December 2018, and she was moved to Bolshoi Kamen for scrapping in 2019.Sceptre was involved in several notorious accidents, suffering an onboard fire, snagging Swedish fishermen’s’ nets, and leaping out of her cradle in port during an engine test. Her pump-jet propulsor reportedly had ingested debris from K-211 that left it noisier than usual during certain performance regimes. She was the oldest operational vessel in the Royal Navy when she was finally decommissioned in 2010. Currently, Sceptre is in long-term storage, as the Royal Navy has been unable to pay for the defueling of a single decommissioned submarine since 2004.According to Ballentyne, “To this day the Ministry of Defence will not admit the truth.” Questioned by an MP, a minister “skillfully evaded confirming or denying there had been a collision involving the Sceptre, or for that matter, any other British submarine.” In fact, such collisions are far from isolated incidents. Aside from numerous collisions with commercial traffic, there have been other scarier run-ins between nuclear-powered submarines, such as two incidents involving Russian and U.S. Navy submarines in the early 1990s, and the collision of French Triomphant and British HMS Vanguard in 2009.Today, submariners continue to stalk each other deep in the oceanic depths, tracking and studying potential foes, thereby practicing the skills they would use in times of war. It’s a dangerous mission—and most navies prefer to keep any of the mishaps that inevitably occur as far as the public eye as possible.

 

Norway Finds Radiation Leak from a Sunken Russian Submarine

The Komsomolets, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, was built during the Cold-war, in the early 1980s. It was a new addition to the Soviet fleet that could dive much deeper than the American submarines at that time.In April 1989, a fire broke out on the submarine. From 69 crew members, 42 were killed – few of them from the fire, and the vast majority from hypothermia as they awaited rescue. In the end, the submarine sank to the bottom of the Norwegian Sea, and took with it two nuclear torpedoes with plutonium warheads. Since then, both Russians and Norwegian monitored regularly the wreck. Norway’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA) and Institute of Marine Research (IMR) have carried out joint annual surveys for over 20 years. This week, for the first time, the Norwegian scientists had the opportunity to explore the sunken submarine in details with a ROV (remotely-operated vehicle), which also filmed the vessel. Samples were taken from the wreck and from the water around. The high levels of radiation were found only inside the ventilation duct and not in the surrounding water. According to Norway’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA), the level of radioactive caesium found in this sample was 800,000 times higher than normal. However, the other samples found much lower levels of radiation, and the wreck is not considered to pose a danger to people or marine life. The submarine is located at a depth of nearly 1,700 metres.

 

Faulty battery may have sparked Russian submarine fire

Investigators quoted as saying lithium-ion battery made in Russia could have failed A malfunctioning lithium-ion battery may have sparked a deadly fire on a top-secret Russian nuclear submersible earlier this month that killed 14 naval officers, according to reports. The Kremlin has remained tight-lipped about the incident, citing the sensitive nature of the submarine, AS-31, also known as Losharik. But at a funeral service for the decorated sailors, a navy officer claimed they died preventing a global catastrophe, alluding to a threat from the nuclear reactor. But details of what took place, which have been leaked to the Russian press, suggest a different story. Investigators told the Kommersant newspaper that a leading theory behind the fire in the Barents Sea on 1 July is battery failure. The submersible was equipped with a lithium-ion battery made in Russia to replace older, proven batteries procured from the Ukrainian defence industry. Advanced batteries were one of many components sourced by the Russian military from Ukraine before Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Ukraine banned exports of military goods in response, forcing Russia to pursue crash programmes to develop domestic alternatives. One of the major losses for the Russian navy were Ukrainian-made diesel turbines used to drive surface ships. This put the construction of an entire class of new Russian frigates on hold, and only recently have Russian turbine manufacturers been able to catch up. Little is known about Losharik. But publicly available information paints a picture of a unique boat designed to dive to extreme depths well beyond those most modern submarines are rated for. The submersible is able to achieve these depths due to its unconventional design: seven titanium spheres housed inside an unpressurised outer hull that resembles a modern submarine. The boat is understood to be equipped with mechanical arms and small underwater drones. Operated by the deep-sea research directorate, Losharik is capable of, among other things, tapping and cutting fibre-optic communications cables lining the ocean floors. The directorate is not formally part of the Russian navy, but rather a naval intelligence service subordinate to the general staff, similar to the GRU military intelligence service blamed for the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil. Losharik is also unique in that it is designed to be ferried into an operations area by a larger “mothership”, understood to be a heavily modified Delta IV-class ballistic missile submarine known as the Podmoskovye. According to Kommersant, the fire broke out as Losharik was docking with the mothership. The sailors died attempting to control the blaze. Russian naval regulations require sailors to perform damage-control duties in their assigned compartments until specifically ordered otherwise. The explosion that killed 14 of Russia’s most experienced submarine sailors took place as special purpose sub «Losharik» (AS-31) was about to connect with its mother ship. The sailors were about to return to base after training when the fire broke out in the battery compartment, Kommersant reports. The newspaper has talked with sources close to the ongoing investigation of the accident. The exercise was reportedly the last before an upcoming combat mission. It took place in the Motovsky Bay, near the Peninsula of Rybachii, possibly only about 50 km from the border to Norway. This is shooting and training ground for the Northern Fleet, reports. Smoke started to erupt from the vessel’s battery compartment as the advanced special purpose submarine was to connect with far bigger mother ship «Podmoskovie».In its initial phase, the fire probably did not pose any serious threat to the lives of the submarines. According to the sources of the Kommersant, the crew could easily have evacuated through the airlock chamber of carrier ship «Podmoskovie».In that case, all men would have saved their lives. Instead, they all fought to extinguish the fire. According to Kommersant, four of the 14 men killed were part of the crew of the «Podmoskovie». The sailors joined the 10 men onboard the «Losharik» as they were trying to help them evacuate after all available breathing devices had been used up. In that phase of the incident, a powerful blast in the battery compartment is believed to have taken place, and that ultimately killed them all. Investigations have shown that the submariners on board the «Losharik» had used up all the breathing devices available. All men onboard had personal portable devices which provided at least 20 minutes with oxygen access. In addition, the sailors had used also the available hosepipes that provided air from tanks with high pressure. So all fire extinguishing equipment onboard had been used up, the investigators have concluded. When the men started to lose their consciousness the ship commander reportedly requested permission to evacuate to the «Podmoskovie», Kommersant writes. The fire onboard the «Losharik» (AS-31) broke out in the evening of 1 July. Among the 14 sailors that died were two highly decorated Heroes of Russia, seven 1st rang captains and three 2nd rang captains. The crew included some of the the most experienced men in the Russian Navy. Two of the dead come from Murmansk. The remaining parts of the crew came from St. Petersburg. According, also a representative of the Russian military-industrial complex was onboard the «Losharik» when the fire started. However, this man was «in a heroic manner» evacuated to the mother ship. Local fishermen were eye witnesses to the ship when it suddenly surfaced near the Ura Bay, about 100 km east of the border to Norway.«We were heading towards Kildin, and then, about half past nine in the evening, a submarine surfaces. Suddenly and completely surfaces. I have never seen anything like it in my life. On the deck, people were running around and making fuss,» one of the fishermen SeverPost. The «Losharik» is normally based in Oleniya Bay, and operated by the Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, nicknamed GUGI, a branch directly under General Staff of the Armed Forces.The vessel is believed to be able to bring - or remove - other small installations and devices for military purposes to be placed on the sea floor. Such devices can be noice-makers to distract foreign submarines when Russian submarines sail out from the Kola Peninsula to the North Atlantic. Other listening devices can detect sounds made by the propellers of enemy ships.  The submarine has one nuclear reactor. The “Losharik” is about 70 meters long and is normally carried by mother ship “Podmoskovie”, a far bigger rebuilt Delta-IV class submarine It is the worst accident in the Russian Navy since 2008. According to local media, a memorial plate with the names of the sailors of the «Losharik» might be added to the memorial site of the «Kursk», the submarine that wrecked in year 2000 killing all 118 men onboard.

 

 

Titanic Survey Expedition Postponement

Deep ocean exploration is a complex business with countless variables that require reliable partners and precise planning. In the case of the 2019 Titanic Survey Expedition, the last-minute withdrawal of the surface support vessel by the ship operator left no viable way to carry out the inaugural expedition, forcing OceanGate Expeditions to postpone. Despite the devastating setback, our team at OceanGate Inc., and the OceanGate Expeditions team remain committed to the Titanic and deep-sea exploration and the goal of increasing direct human access to our planet’s most valuable resource through the use of innovative manned submersibles.

our team planned to conduct a final round of deep ocean dives with Titan from a local ship, the Go Pursuit, operated by Guice Offshore. Following the postponement of the expedition, we elected to utilize the Go Pursuit to demobilize Titan and all our equipment from The Bahamas back to the United States.

 

Titan, dive equipment, and the OceanGate team on the Go Pursuit prior to transit from The Bahamas back to the US.

 

Puget Sound Wreck Dives

With Titan back in the Pacific Northwest, we are scheduling dives on local wrecks in the Puget Sound. One high priority component of all of our missions is to gather laser scan data and 4k imagery which will allow our partner, Virtual Wonders, to develop immersive 3D models making the dive experience accessible to audiences around the world. During the dives on local wrecks, we will fine-tune our process of capturing laser scan data and 4k imagery allowing Virtual Wonders an opportunity to work with our data and provide feedback on how we might improve our scanning and image capture processes so that they can develop the best possible virtual experience.

Deep within the waters of the Puget Sound lurk several shark species, most notably Sixgills (Hexanchus griseus), whose features are more similar to their prehistoric ancestors than their modern-day dogfish and Greenland shark relatives. Over the last several years, a number of studies have been conducted to understand the population demographics and movements of sixgills in the region. Beginning this week, researchers from the University of Washington and NOAA will join our team for a series of dives in Cyclops 1 and Titan to establish a baseline understanding of the shark population demographics in Possession Sound, an area about five miles southwest of our headquarters located at the Port of Everett Marina.

 

 

Continued Pressure Testing of Titan's Hull

Following the shallow, local dives in Puget Sound, we will ship Titan’s pressure hull to the Deep Ocean Test Facility in Maryland where it will undergo an extensive cycle of tests to depth to gather as much acoustic data as possible. This additional data will provide two advantages: it will aid in our understanding of the long-term endurance of the hull, and it will guide the development of Cyclops 3. At the same time, it will also provide an ideal opportunity to advance our efforts to class Titan.

 

As we have discussed previously, the unavoidable tension between designing to existing class standards and innovating meant pursuing classification of Titan prior to the 2019 Titanic Survey Expedition was not an option. With a year of data collection behind us, and a year ahead of us until the next opportunity to dive on Titanic, our engineers will use this time to work with a premier classing agency.

 

 

During the Cold War, the C.I.A. Secretly Plucked a Soviet Submarine From the Ocean Floor Using a Giant Claw

In a corner exhibit of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., which opens this weekend, a submarine control panel, a swoopy-banged wig, detailed whiteprints and a chunk of manganese are on display. Together, they represent relics of a Cold War espionage mission so audacious, the museum’s curator, Vince Houghton, compares it to the heist from Ocean’s 11. This mission, codenamed Project Azorian, involved the C.I.A. commissioning the construction of a 600-foot ship to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor—all in complete secrecy. “I can’t imagine there’s another country in the world that would have thought, ‘We found a Soviet submarine, under [more than three miles] of water. Let’s go steal it,’ says Houghton. The six-year mission began in 1968, when the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 went missing without explanation somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In this post-Cuban Missile Crisis era, both American and Soviet submarines prowled the open seas with nuclear weapons aboard, prepared for potential war. Some reports indicate that the sinking was due to a mechanical error such as inadvertent missile engine ignition, while the Soviets for a time suspected the Americans of foul play. After two months, the Soviet Union abandoned its search for K-129 and the nuclear weapons it carried, but the United States, which had recently used Air Force technology to locate two of its own sunken submarines, pinpointed the K-129 1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii and 16,500 feet below the surface. According to the declassified C.I.A. history of the project, “No country in the world had succeeded in raising an object of this size and weight from such a depth.”Internally, the intelligence community deliberated about the cost-to-reward ratio of such an expensive and risky undertaking even as the submarine offered a tantalizing trove of information. According to Houghton, the value of the K-129 stemmed not just from the code books and nuclear warheads onboard, but also the chance to understand the manufacturing process behind the rival power’s submarines. If the U.S. knew how the K-129’s sonar systems operated, or the mechanisms by which the submarines kept quiet, they could improve their ability to detect them. And by 1967, the Soviet Union had amassed an armament of nuclear weapons large enough that the two nations had “virtual nuclear parity,” Houghton explains. As a result, the Americans were hungry to gain a competitive advantage—an edge the K-129 might provide. The C.I.A. brainstormed several improbable-sounding means of recovering the submarine. One suggestion involved generating enough gas on the ocean floor to buoy the submarine to the surface. Instead, they settled on an idea reminiscent of the classic arcade game—a giant claw that would grasp and pull the K-129 into the “moon pool” belly of a giant ship. Initially, the project boasted an estimated ten percent chance of success. (Granted, that figure increased as Azorian approached completion.)Legally speaking, the U.S. was concerned that the project could leave them open to charges of piracy if the Soviets had an inkling of the illicit submarine-salvaging plans. Wanting to sidestep diplomatic tensions and keep whatever knowledge was to be gleaned from the mission secret, the C.I.A. constructed an elaborate cover story with the help of enigmatic billionaire Howard Hughes. The aviation mogul lent his imprimatur to the construction of the 618-foot-long ship, to be named the Hughes Glomar Explorer, which was advertised as a deep-sea mining research vessel. In 1972, a champagne christening ceremony and fabricated press release celebrated the ship. When the ship first sailed from Pennsylvania to waters near Bermuda for testing in 1973, the Los Angeles Times noted the occasion, calling the vessel “shrouded in secrecy” and observing, “Newsmen were not permitted to view the launch, and details of the ship’s destination and mission were not released.” Evidently, the public and press chalked the mystery up to Hughes’ reputation as a recluse, such a loner that he was said to eschew even his own company’s board meetings. Next, the Glomar Explorer navigated to the Pacific around South America—because it was too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. After some minor foibles (the U.S.-assisted 1973 Chilean coup happened the same day as seven technicians were trying to board the ship in the country’s port city of Valparaíso), the Glomar Explorer arrived in Long Beach, California, where it loaded more than 20 vans full of equipment (including a darkroom, paper processing, nuclear waste handling) for analyzing the K-129’s contents. Meanwhile, a team built the claw (nicknamed “Clementine” and formally known as the “capture vehicle”) in a gargantuan floating barge called HMB-1 in Redwood City. In the spring of 1974, HMB-1 submerged and met up with the Glomar Explorer off the coast of Catalina Island in southern California. HMB-1 opened its roof, and the Glomar Explorer opened the bottom of its hollow “moon pool” to take the steel claw onboard. Then the HMB-1 detached and returned to Redwood City, the transfer unnoticed. That summer, the Glomar Explorer, with the approval of President Richard Nixon, set off towards the spot where the K-129 rested. By this point, the Cold War had reached a détente, but still, two separate Soviet ships (likely loaded with intelligence operatives) closely monitored the supposed mining vessel as it worked to retrieve the submarine. (At one point, Glomar crew members even piled crates on their landing deck to prevent any attempts to land a helicopter.) But the mission continued undetected—as the 274 pieces of heavy steel pipe that stretched between the claw and the ship were being slowly hauled back onboard, with the submarine in Clementine’s grasp, the second Soviet tug sailed away. After about a week of slow upward progress, Project Azorian finally completed the lift of the K-129—but only one part of it. According to Project AZORIAN: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129, a book co-written by naval historian Norman Polmar and documentary director Michael White, about midway through the process, a few of the grabber arms encircling the submarine broke, and a large part of the K-129 fell back to the ocean floor. While the later media reports and history books generally relayed that the more desirable components of the submarine, like the code room, sunk, Houghton encourages skepticism of the details surrounding the project’s ostensible failure. “The conventional wisdom has become that this was a failed mission,” he explains. “[The C.I.A. has] allowed that belief to be what everyone understands, but why would they not? I always say, ‘We have no idea what they got.’” (Many of the details in this story are sourced from C.I.A. declassified documents and recently published historical accounts, but since other findings from the mission are still classified, and the C.I.A. may have had reason to obfuscate the story, skepticism remains warranted.)We do know, however, that the Glomar Explorer retrieved the bodies of several of the K-129’s crewmembers, whom they gave a military burial at sea, which the C.I.A. filmed and gave to Russia almost 20 years later. Coincidentally, the retrieval also brought up manganese samples from the bottom of the sea, the material that the Glomar Explorer purportedly was researching. The U.S. seemed to have gotten away with the elaborate submarine heist—Ford’s secretary of defense, James Schlesinger, said in a White House meeting, “The operation is a marvel.” In early 1975, however, after a random robbery of the headquarters of Hughes’ Summa Corporation, which was acting as a front for the Glomar Explorer, the story made its way to the headlines of the Los Angeles Times and national television. The story broke later than it could have—famed New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh had been following it as early as 1973 but honored a request from C.I.A. director William Colby to suppress the story—and were riddled with inaccuracies. (The code name was thought to be “Jennifer,” which was actually referred only to its security procedures, and the L.A. Times report placed the recovery efforts in the Atlantic Ocean.) Nonetheless, it was enough to alert the Soviet Union and “disturb” (his words) President Ford. Project Matador, the plan to retrieve the rest of the K-129, apparently got nixed as news of the thought-to-have-failed mission and its rumored (but, Houghton says, ultimately unknowable) $300 million-plus price tag circulated. The C.I.A. also faced a diplomatic dilemma that spring. Pressed by the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. and Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists, they wanted to avoid directly acknowledging that they’d illicitly stolen a submarine from the watchful Soviets, but were obligated to somehow respond. “[The U.S. government] did not want to embarrass the Soviets,” Houghton says, “mainly because in doing so, [they] really set diplomacy back significantly, because the Soviet premier would have to respond” through sanctions or an attack on a territory. In the effort to walk this diplomatic tightrope and comply with FOIA requirements, the “Glomar response”—“we can neither confirm nor deny”—was coined. While the Glomar response stood up in federal court as a reason to deny a FOIA request, the incident, writes historian M. Todd Bennett, “intensified otherwise routine ‘Intelligence Wars,’ tit-for-tat actions taken by the Soviet and American intelligence services.” That May, Soviet operatives increased the amount of microwave radiation trained on the American embassy in Moscow. Forty-five years after the Glomar Explorer hauled (part of) the K-129 from the ocean floor, Project Azorian remains “legendary within the [intelligence] community,” Houghton says. The glass cases show the onesies worn by crew members onboard, phony belt-buckle “safety awards,” a barometer from the ship and even a wig C.I.A. deputy director Vernon Walters wore to pay the Glomar Explorer an incognito visit, but they also name-check engineer John Graham and display a scaled-down version of the detailed whiteprint used to design the now-defunct ship.

 

Mariana Trench: Deepest-ever sub dive finds plastic bag

An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive. Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean - the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep. He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers. It is the third time humans have reached the ocean's extreme depths. Image copyright Atlantic Productions for Discovery Channel Image caption The explorers believe they have discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods The first dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench took place in 1960 by US Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard in a vessel called the bathyscaphe Trieste. Movie director James Cameron then made a solo plunge half a century later in 2012 in his bright green sub. The latest descent, which reached 10,927m (35,849ft) beneath the waves, is now the deepest by 11m - making Victor Vescovo the new record holder. Image copyright Reeve Jolliffe Image caption Don Walsh (left), who dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 1960, congratulated Victor Vescovo (right) In total, Mr. Vescovo and his team made five dives to the bottom of the trench during the expedition. Robotic landers were also deployed to explore the remote terrain.Mr Vescovo said: "It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did."This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving - rapidly and repeatedly - into the deepest, harshest, area of the ocean."Media caption Victor Vescovo descended almost 11km in a submersible to the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean Witnessing the dive from the Pacific was Don Walsh. He told BBC News: "I salute Victor Vescovo and his outstanding team for the successful completion of their historic explorations into the Mariana Trench."Six decades ago, Jacques Piccard and I were the first to visit that deepest place in the world's oceans. "Now in the winter of my life, it was a great honour to be invited on this expedition to a place of my youth."The team believes it has discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods, saw a creature called a spoon worm 7,000m-down and a pink snailfish at 8,000m. They also discovered brightly coloured rocky outcrops, possibly created by microbes on the seabed, and collected samples of rock from the seafloor. Humanity's impact on the planet was also evident with the discovery of plastic pollution. It's something that other expeditions using landers have seen before. Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year, but little is known about where a lot of it ends up. Image copyright Atlantic Productions for Discovery Channel Image caption Victor Vescovo spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench The scientists now plan to test the creatures they collected to see if they contain microplastics - a recent study found this was a widespread problem, even for animals living in the deep. The dive forms part of the Five Deeps expedition - an attempt to explore the deepest points in each of the world's five oceans. It has been funded by Mr. Vescovo, a private equity investor, who before turning his attention to the ocean's extreme depths also climbed the highest peaks on the planet's seven continents. The 4.6m-long, 3.7m-high DSV Limiting Factor submersible was built by the US-based company Triton Submarines Image copyright Reeve Jolliffe Image caption After the record dive, the submersible was brought back on the expedition's main vessel - the DSSV Pressure Drop As well as the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, in the last six months dives have also taken place in the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean (8,376m/27,480ft down), the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean (7,433m/24,388ft) and the Java Trench in Indian Ocean (7,192m/23,596ft). The final challenge will be to reach the bottom of the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean, which is currently scheduled for August 2019.The 4.6m-long, 3.7m-high submersible - called the DSV Limiting Factor - was built by the US-based company Triton Submarines, with the aim of having a vessel that could make repeated dives to any part of the ocean. At its core is a 9cm-thick titanium pressure hull that can fit two people, so dives can be performed solo or as a pair. It can withstand the crushing pressure found at the bottom of the ocean: 1,000 bars, which is the equivalent of 50 jumbo jets piled on top of a person. Atlantic Productions for Discovery Channel

Mariana Trench

  • 10,994Deepest natural trench in metres
  • 1960First dive
  • 3Number of dives to date
  • 2,146Higher than Mount Everest in metres, if inverted

As well as working under pressure, the sub has to operate in the pitch black and near freezing temperatures. These conditions also made it challenging to capture footage - the Five Deeps expedition has been followed by Atlantic Productions for a documentary for the Discovery Channel. Anthony Geffen, creative director of Atlantic Productions, said it was the most complicated filming he'd ever been involved with."Our team had to pioneer new camera systems that could be mounted on the submersible, operate at up to 10,000m below sea level and work with robotic landers with camera systems that would allow us to film Victor's submersible on the bottom of the ocean. "We also had to design new rigs that would go inside Victor's submersible and capture every moment of Victor's dives."After the Five Deeps expedition is complete later this year, the plan is to pass the submersible onto science institutions so researchers can continue to use it.The challenges of exploring the deep ocean - even with robotic vehicles - has made the ocean trenches one of the last frontiers on the planet. Once thought to be remote, desolate areas, the deep sea teems with life. There is also growing evidence that they are carbon sinks, playing a role in regulating the Earth's chemistry and climate.

 

Special Operations: A Very Special Submarine

?May 12, 2019: Russia recently launched its first new-built special operations submarine; Belgorod. Another year or two will be spent on completing installation and testing equipment before this modified Oscar class SSGN (nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine) is ready for service. Belgorod won’t work for the navy like other subs but for the GUGI (Main Department of Deep-Water Researches) which works for the intelligence services and is attached to the Navy for ship and crew support. The Belgorod has come a long way since construction began in 1982. At one point the sub was canceled while still under construction. In 2006 Russia announced it would not finish construction of the Belgorod, the last of nine Type 949A SSGNs. Known in the West as the Oscar II class, these boats began entering service just as the Cold War ended. Three were in commission when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. Construction continued on six more, and by 1997, eight were in service. But at that point, the navy had run out of the money, with the Belgorod not quite complete. At this point, another $100 million was needed to complete Belgorod, but the government (although not the navy) felt it wasn't worth it. Seven Oscar IIs remain in service, as the Kursk was lost in 2000, to a well-publicized accident. After the Kursk was gone work resumed on Belgorod. That did not last long because the money was not there and not likely to be in the immediate future. Then in 2012, it was announced that the Belgorod, which had not been scrapped but put in “storage” would once more be scheduled for completion. But this time there would be some major revisions. At this point, Belgorod became something more than an SSGN. The original Oscar's were designed as "carrier destroyers," with long-range cruise missiles that could, in theory, take out an American aircraft carrier. The Oscar II class boats have a surface displacement of 14,000 tons. They have eight torpedo tubes (four 650mm, four 533mm), and 24 SS-N-19/P-700 Shipwreck missiles. These anti-ship missiles have a range of 550 kilometers, a speed of 1600 kilometers an hour, and a 1,650 pound high-explosive warhead (or a nuclear warhead of 350 or 500 kilotons as an option). The Oscar's crew of 107 contains 48 officers. That's because of the high degree of automation, and the need to offer officers pay and accommodations to attract the technical talent required to keep these boats going. The new Belgorod was 11 meters longer (at 184 meters) and several tons heavier than the other Oscars. It no longer carried the 24 cruise missiles but instead was equipped to handle a number of new systems. These included four to eight Poseidon AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) that are armed with nuclear warheads and can be programmed to travel to enemy coastal cities, detonate underwater and create tidal waves that cause enormous damage along the nearby coasts. The Poseidon can travel thousands of kilometers on its own before detonating the 10-100 megaton warhead while on the seabed of the continental shelf. Belgorod also can transport a new (since 2003) smaller (65 meters long) and nuclear powered Losharik minisub underneath it. This minisub can dive very deep and perform various operations using remotely controlled arms. This sub carries a crew of 25 to great depths (up to 6,000 meters) and has a top speed (for emergencies only) of 72 kilometers an hour. Losharik is believed to be for checking Russian underwater data cables for bugs (or damage in general) and more easily tamper with underwater cables and other equipment belonging to the United States and other Western states. Because Losharik can dive deeper than any other sub and is quite large for a deep diving sub it can find and retrieve useful items that end up in very deep waters (electronics from Western aircraft or ships). Losharik can also survey very deep sea bottoms for suitable sites for placing various electronic devices. Belgorod can also transport a Shelf nuclear power plant that can be placed on the ocean floor to power the Harmony system of underwater sensors or any other new tech that needs to be powered for a long time. Power supplies similar to Shelf have been used in space satellites that require a lot of power (like those equipped with radar). Belgorod is also equipped to carry combat divers (similar to U.S. SEALS) and Harpsichord AUVs that are the size of standard torpedoes but contain side-scan sonar and other sensors that can operate while up to 2,000 meters underwater. Belgorod is also designed to tow objects behind it. These can be a towed array sonar or other items. Russia already has some specialized subs equipped for special operations. These are conversions of existing subs while Belgorod was custom designed and built for the special operations tasks. In late 2016 Russia finally sent its second “special operations” SSN, the Podmoskovie (BS64), to sea for trials. This sub is actually a Delta IV class SSBN (nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine) that began its career in 1986 as K64 Podmoskovie. Since 1999, K64 has been undergoing conversion to BS64, which appears to be something similar to customized U.S. SSNs that have been in service since the 1970s. The current American example of this is the USS Carter, a Seawolf-class SSN converted (while under construction) to be 30 percent longer and 20 percent heavier than the other two Seawolfs. The additional space was to hold mini-subs for carrying the fifty SEALs it can carry, or to tap into underwater communications cables and perform other intelligence gathering tasks. The Carter entered service in 2005 and replaced an older Sturgeon class SSN (USS Parche) that entered service in 1991 and was retired in 2004. The Parche replaced earlier SSNs that had performed these intel missions throughout the Cold War. The 13,500 ton Podmoskovie had its 16 ballistic missile silos replaced with facilities for launching remotely controlled mini-subs for intelligence missions. The renovations resulted in the sub becoming about five percent longer. This meant that the converted Podmoskovie was somewhat lighter (probably about 12,000 tons). The first Russian SSBN to undergo a similar conversion was the K129 Orenberg, a Delta III class SSBN whose conversion (to BS136) began in 1994 and entered service in 2008. The Delta III is about the same size and displacement as the Delta IV but the Podmoskovie conversion seems to be more extensive than the Orenberg. Both the Orenberg and Podmoskovie carry the Losharik minisub beneath it. The United States has also converted four SSBNs, but not for intelligence work. On March 19th, 2011 the USS Florida, American Ohio class SSGN fired its Tomahawk TLAM-E cruise missiles in combat for the first time off Libya. Most of the hundred or so Tomahawks launched that day were fired by the SSGN. This was not the first time nuclear subs have fired cruise missiles in wartime as U.S. SSNs have fired Tomahawks several times. But the Ohio class SSGNs carry 154 cruise missiles, more than ten times the number carried by some SSNs. The four Ohio class SSGNs are SSBNs converted to cruise missile submarines (SSGN) and these first entered service in 2006. Each of these Ohio class boats now carries cruise missiles as well as many as 66 commandos (usually SEALs) and their equipment. The idea of converting ballistic missile subs, that would have to be scrapped to fulfill disarmament agreements, has been bouncing around since the 1990s. After September 11, 2001, the idea got some traction. The navy submariners love this one because they lost a lot of their reason for being with the end of the Cold War. The United States had built a powerful nuclear submarine force during the Cold War, but with the rapid disappearance of the Soviet navy in the 1990s, there was little reason to keep over a hundred nuclear subs in commission. These boats are expensive, costing over a billion each to build and over a million dollars a week to operate. The four Ohio class SSBN being converted each have at least twenty years of life left in them. The idea of a sub, armed with 154 highly accurate cruise missiles, and capable of rapidly traveling underwater (ignoring weather, or observation) at a speed of over 1,200 kilometers a day, to a far off hot spot, had great appeal in the post-Cold War world. The ability to carry a large force of commandos as well was also attractive. In one sub you have your choice of hammer or scalpel. More capable cruise missiles are in the works as well. Whether or not this multi-billion dollar investment will pay off remains to be seen, but it certainly worked off Libya. The SSGNs are carrying a new version of Tomahawk, the RGM-109E Block IV Surface Ship Vertical Launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. Each of these weighs 1.2 ton, have a range of 1,600 kilometers and travel at 600-900 kilometers an hour. Flying at an altitude of 17-32 meters (50-100 feet) they will hit within 10 meters (32 feet) of their aim point. The Block IV Tomahawk can be reprogrammed in flight to hit another target and carry a vidcam to allow a missile to check on prospective targets. The Russian special operations boats are certainly special with their nuclear-powered minisubs and AUV nuclear-armed minisubs as well as the sensor equipped smaller minisubs.

 

Uber Rideshare Submarines Are Coming To The Great Barrier Reef

The world's largest rideshare company has teamed up with Australia's very own Queensland to bring travellers 'scUber' -- a world-first submarine experience on the Great Barrier Reef accessible via the Uber pappiform May 27, a limited number of riders will be able to immerse themselves in the reef without a "snorkeling mask or a driving license", Uber said on Thursday. But if you think Uber Comfort is a little too pricey, you might want to hang on to your flippers. For the lofty sum of $3000, two riders at a time can be picked up from their location before whizzing around the reef in a little submarine for one hour. If you were planning on submarining solo, sorry, but it's strictly a pool situation with a two-person minimum per troubler will also return you to mainland Queensland via scenic helicopter. ScUber will be available first on Heron Island, off the coast of Gladstone in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, before moving to Agincourt Reef off the coast of Port Douglas in Cairns from June 9.It's the ultimate rideshare: Uber will dip a toe in the water when it launches its first submarine rides, on the Great Barrier Reef next week. The world's first scUber ride departs Heron Island on May 27 and will cost $1500 per person. Passengers will dive to a maximum of 30 metres – about the same levels reached by advanced scuba divers – with 180-degree views of Australia's most recognisable World Heritage Site in a battery-powered submarine. Will dive to a maximum of 30 metres – about the same levels reached by advanced scuba divers – with 180-degree views of Australia's most recognisable World Heritage Site in a battery-powered submarine. The one-hour submarine ride will operate on set dates from Heron Island between May 27 and June 3, before moving north to Agincourt Reef, off the coast of Port Douglas, from June 9-18. There will be 12 trips only, with bookings available on the Uber app at 7.30am on the day of each departure. It’s a journey of both highs and lows: the fare also includes a pick-up – by helicopter – from Gladstone for the Heron Island departures, and chopper transfers from Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove to the submarine's northern departure point on the Quicksilver Cruises pontoon, on the outer edge of the reef. It is hoped the partnership will put a spotlight back on the Great Barrier Reef.“In late 2018, consumer research identified that exploring the Great Barrier Reef in a submarine was the most desired future travel experience sought by visitors," Tourism and Events Queensland’s Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Coddington, said in statement."ScUber makes this wish a reality."Riders will be able to order the experience via the Uber app Regional General Manager of Uber, Australia and New Zealand, Susan Anderson, said the company was excited to showcase the Reef with the new service.“We’re looking forward to seeing how visitors to the Great Barrier Reef embrace this new form of movement and become advocates of the Reef for years to come," she said.

 

In 1968, a U.S. Nuclear Submarine Sank 10,000 Feet to Its Death.

Even in the age of ultra-sophisticated nuclear submarines, with their advanced computers, sonar, navigation, and communication systems, the hard truth is inescapable: the sea is the most hostile environment on Earth. It is totally unforgiving of human error or overconfidence. The pressures below 2,000 feet can crush a submarine like an aluminum can in seconds. For reasons that even now are a closely guarded secret, that happened in late May 1968 when the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as she was returning from a long deployment. Ninety-nine officers and men were on board the Scorpion. The Scorpion was third in the revolutionary new Skipjack class of nuclear fast-attack subs. She was commissioned at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, on July 29, 1960. The rapidly changing Cold War arena demanded that each one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines be on continual service for the purpose of locating and tracking Soviet attack and missile submarines.  But time and constant service took their toll. The Navy was pushing the Scorpion to its limits; as a result, systems began to break down. There were serious oil leaks in the machinery, and sea water seeped in from the propeller shaft seal. Her depth was restricted to 300 feet, well above the 900-foot test depth. In 1967 she experienced vibration so severe it seemed that the entire boat was literally corkscrewing through the water. The cause was never determined. The crew had taken to calling their boat the “Scrapiron.”  By 1968 it was obvious to the Navy’s Bureau of Ships that the submarine was badly in need of major overhaul. Yet the demands of the Cold War made it necessary to send Scorpion and her officers and crew on one more deployment to the Mediterranean Sea to participate in joint NATO operations. She would, however, sail with one less man. Electrician’s Mate Dan Rogers, who refused to go on the cruise, flatly stated to Lt. Cmdr. Francis Slattery that every man on Scorpion was in danger. The crew, while enjoying the occasional liberty in Italy, Sicily, and Spain, grimly worked to keep their weary submarine operating until they reached Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of May. The Scorpion left Rota, Spain, on April 28 and headed west across the Atlantic on or about May 20. Slattery radioed on May 21 that their estimated time of arrival was 1 pm on May 27. When the Scorpion did not arrive at her berth at the Norfolk Navy Yard on May 27, repeated calls of Scorpion’s call sign, Brandywine, went unanswered. Even before the fearful family members dejectedly returned home not knowing what had happened to their loved ones, the Navy’s situation room in the Pentagon was full of worried officers who were trying to determine why the submarine had gone missing. On the large Atlantic Ocean wall chart a line was drawn along the Great Circle route from Gibraltar to Norfolk. Somewhere along that 3,300-mile arc the Scorpion and her crew could be struggling to survive a serious mechanical casualty. Or she could be down, a word that had grim implications to the submarine service. In any event she had to be found. One thing was reasonably certain: the Soviets had nothing to do with the disappearance. This is where Dr. John Craven, the chief civilian scientist of the special projects division and a skilled engineer, entered the picture. Craven, whose work had made him a legend in the Navy, had been instrumental in finding the lost H-bomb that had fallen into the sea off Spain when a B-52 collided with a KC-97 tanker. He had used a revolutionary method of calculating poker odds and mathematics to determine the probable location of the bomb. Despite universal scorn at his methods, Craven had led the Navy right to the missing weapon. He had been on the team that designed the Polaris missile launching system. Craven was not above unusual ideas. Upon hearing of Scorpion’s failure to arrive at Norfolk, he entered the situation room to see the grim faces staring at the vast Atlantic Ocean chart. He offered to help. Having few options, the Navy accepted his offer. The alternative was a protracted and probably futile air-sea search. Craven knew that the newly operational sonar surveillance system would be of little help on this search. The system’s array on the sea floor filtered out all noise except that of machinery such as what was used on Soviet subs. He began by examining the readouts of underwater hydrophones located in the Canary Islands and Newfoundland. By linking the time scale of the two readouts, Craven and Naval Research Laboratory acoustic engineer Wilton Hardy found a suspicious series of five to eight underwater explosions around the time Scorpion would have been in the mid-Atlantic. The depth of the water was 11,000 feet, far deeper than any military submarine could survive. “How the hell are we going to find these poor bastards?” Craven wondered. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas Moorer appointed Craven to head a technical advisory group. The group used estimates of Scorpion’s speed and course, comparing them to the acoustic anomalies found on the hydrophone readouts. Sure enough, all of them fell right on the submarine’s track. First, there was a single bang, followed 90 seconds later by more underwater rumbles that could only be the fatal sounds of a submarine’s compartments imploding under immense pressure. It took only three minutes and 12 seconds. Then all was quiet. Craven contacted Moorer to inform him that Scorpion was probably lost. Moorer waited until some word had come in from the search ships and planes. But nothing was found. On June 5, the Navy announced that Scorpion and her crew were presumed lost. At that point, the Navy had to find and examine the wreck. Using the oceanographic research vessel Mizar, a systematic search of the sea floor with towed camera sleds failed to find the wreck west of the point where the first explosion had occurred. This made no sense. Then Craven’s team noted one odd discrepancy. At the moment of the first explosion, Scorpion had not been headed west, but east. What would make a submarine suddenly change course 180 degrees? Craven asked experienced submarine commanders and in every case he was told the same answer: a so-called hot run torpedo. When a torpedo activates onboard a submarine, it is called a hot running torpedo, which is highly dangerous. A submarine skipper’s immediate response to the warning of a hot run is to order a 180-degree turn. This triggers a fail-safe device in the torpedo that shuts down the warhead. If Scorpion had experienced a hot run torpedo while on the return voyage to Norfolk, Slattery would automatically have ordered an emergency hard left rudder to turn the boat around as fast as possible. According to the skippers Craven queried, this was drilled into every officer who conned a submarine. The Scorpion had recovered from a hot run torpedo in December 1967, and Slattery had performed exactly that maneuver. This scenario would put the wreckage east, not west of the coordinates of the initial explosion. Few officers gave this theory any credence, but Craven persisted. On October 29, Mizar found the shattered remains of Scorpion right where Craven’s team said it would be. The hull was torn apart by violent forces, the stern was telescoped into the engine room, and the bow was smashed back toward the sail. The entire underside was ripped away. Scattered bits and pieces littered the sea floor like leaves after a storm. There was no doubt—the 99 crew members were dead. What had happened? Was the submarine sunk by her own torpedo? Like all Cold War subs, Scorpion carried warshots, that is, live torpedoes. She carried 14 Mark 37 electric torpedoes, seven steam-powered Mark 14s, and two nuclear-tipped Mark 45s. It was common practice on an American submarine to perform maintenance on all of the submarine’s equipment and weapons at the end of a patrol. With this in mind, Craven began investigating the possibility that one of Scorpion’s torpedoes had activated during a maintenance check. One of Craven’s favorite maxims was that if a piece of equipment can be installed backward, it will be. Sure enough, he discovered that there had been several instances of torpedoes being activated while undergoing routine electronic maintenance because some of the testing units had transposed wiring. It seemed more and more likely that one of Scorpion’s torpedoes had exploded inside the hull. Craven was personally convinced, but he found no acolytes among the Navy brass. The Ordnance Systems Command (OSC), the department that oversaw the development and operation of every weapon in the Navy’s inventory, steadfastly insisted that it was impossible for a sub’s torpedoes to explode inside the hull; however, OSC did not deny that hot runs did occur. Understandably, the Navy was not anxious to accept the grim possibility that one of its boats and its crew had been killed by its own torpedo. Even more unnerving was the chance that every one of the submarine force’s torpedoes was flawed. This is the official mindset Craven faced in the fall of 1968. Examination of the wreck, first by Mizar’s towed cameras, then in 1969 by the bathyscaphe Trieste II showed no sign of serious hull damage in the region of the torpedo room, which would be expected if a warhead had detonated inside. Yet the photos did show that the torpedo room loading and escape hatches had been sprung open. This was a perplexing paradox in Craven’s theory. Try as he might, he could not explain the contradiction. The Navy Board of Inquiry’s final report suggested several possible reasons for the loss, but nearly all involved equipment failure, not the explosion of a weapon. That was where the matter ended, at least for the next 25 years. The families of the dead crew were left in limbo as to what had really happened. The Chicago Tribune published a story in 1993 that the Navy had at last released the official report and videos of the wreck on the 25th anniversary of the sinking. Craven, then 69 and retired, was named as being instrumental in the search for the sub. It also mentioned his theory about the hot run torpedo. The article came to the attention of someone Craven had never met. Charles Thorne had been the technical director of the Weapons Quality Engineering Center at the Naval Torpedo Station at Keyport, Washington, in 1968. Thorne, who was retired, had read the Tribune story and decided that he had to talk to Craven. The two men found that each was sure that Scorpion was lost from an exploding torpedo. But unlike Craven, Thorne had information that shed an entirely new light on the mystery. The Mark 37 antisubmarine weapon acoustic torpedo, built by Westinghouse, had entered service in 1956. It was a marvel of underwater weapons technology; it weighed 1,400 pounds and was just over 11 feet long. It carried 330 pounds of HDX high-explosive in the warhead. Designed to sink enemy subs by blasting a hole in the tough outer hull, the Mark 37 was a deadly and efficient weapon. The silver-zinc batteries were about five feet long and separated from the 330-pound warhead by a half-inch-thick partition. But there was a hidden flaw in the design that only became apparent in 1966 when the Mark 37 was already in service. Between the battery and the power cell was a tiny foil diaphragm only 1/7000th of an inch thick. This was supposed to rupture when pressure was applied by the ejection of the weapon from a torpedo tube, causing electrolytes in the power cell to fully activate the battery, which then started the motor. But this tiny part was very fragile and could easily be ruptured by a shock or vibration. The testing lab said the battery had no margin for safety and recommended the design be changed. Under pressure from the submarine fleet, the OSC refused to do so. In April 1968 even as Scorpion was preparing to leave the Mediterranean and return home, Thorne’s team had been testing the torpedoes and key components. Tests included subjecting them to shock, heat, vibration, and other conditions that might happen aboard a submarine. They subjected one of the 250-pound batteries to strong and sustained vibration. It was mounted on a table, and just as the technicians left the room, a huge explosion made the walls shake. They reentered to find the battery engulfed in blue-green flames that shot nearly to the ceiling. Shrapnel and smoking acid were sprayed all over the room. Only after determined effort did they manage to disconnect the burning unit and extinguish the flames. The battery had been distorted and melted from the intense heat. A written alert was immediately sent to the fleet under Thorne’s signature. The alert stated that all of the submarines in the fleet that carried Mark 37s with the flawed batteries should disconnect them immediately pending replacement. Even after the test, the OSC continued to insist that it was impossible for a battery explosion to set off a warhead. In fact, an OSC representative berated Thorne for suggesting such a thing in the alert. The main problem the Navy faced was expediency versus caution. The submarine force needed torpedoes, and the manufacturers were hard pressed to produce the required numbers. As a result, the OSC was rushing into service torpedoes containing components that had not been fully tested. One company, subcontracted to produce the batteries, failed to manufacture even one that passed the quality control tests. But the Navy was in a bind. The service allowed that company to ship more than 200 batteries to the fleet. The unit that exploded in the testing lab was one of these. Upon hearing that Scorpion had sailed with at least one torpedo that contained a defective battery, Thorne became convinced that this was the key to the disaster. Scorpion had been sent to sea with torpedoes that were vulnerable to vibration, and the submarine had a history of serious vibration problems. When they talked in 1993 Thorne was astounded to find that Craven had not known of the alert. He had assumed that Craven was aware of the flaws in the battery. But as things turned out, Craven was not the only one involved who had not known that the faulty batteries could overheat and explode. The board of inquiry apparently also had not been made aware of this crucial fact. After his talk with Thorne, Craven reasoned that the tiny diaphragm could easily rupture from shock or vibration. If this was the case, the foil might only partially rupture, allowing a miniscule amount of electrolyte to leak into the power cells, which was not enough to start the motor, but could cause overheating and sparking. This is what happened in the lab. But right up to the moment of the explosion there had been no outward indication that anything was amiss. If this had happened in a torpedo on board a sub, the first hint of a problem would be intense heat rapidly building up in the battery compartment until the paint on the body blistered and seared. Only then would a crew member realize the danger and call the control room to report a hot run or hot torpedo. They might have had only seconds to move the weapon into a tube to be ejected into the sea. After his talk with Thorne, Craven was sure that Scorpion did not have those precious few seconds. Did an overheating battery sink Scorpion and did a warhead cook off? This bears some consideration. The wreck shows that the torpedo loading hatches and escape hatches leading to Scorpion’s torpedo room are open. If a 330-pound HDX warhead had detonated, it would likely have caused sympathetic explosions of nearby torpedoes. If that had been the case, the entire forward section of the submarine would have been torn apart. The wreckage, while severe, does not show any external distortion from massive internal explosions. What is more, unlike virtually every other compartment, the torpedo room was not crushed by external pressure. This is highly significant. It means that the torpedo room was probably already flooded when the submarine sank. But it would be folly to totally rule out a warhead explosion. In normal operations, when 330 pounds of HDX detonates upon impact with an enemy ship, the force is directed straight ahead to penetrate the hull. But if a battery fire had cooked off a warhead, the resulting blast would be undirected in what is known as a low-order explosion. This might not cause other warheads to blow up, but would very likely blow off the hatches, flooding the torpedo room and dooming the submarine even if all the watertight doors had been sealed. The rest of the crew would have watched in stunned horror as the bulkheads started to wrinkle and bend as the steel was subjected to thousands of pounds of pressure per inch. One by one the compartments, starting with the bow and stern, would be shoved into the main hull, tearing the ship apart. The crew would have been immolated in microseconds as the air was compacted into incandescence. The entire sinking took three minutes and 12 seconds from the first explosion to the final collapse. The result was a long fall and immediate death for 99 American sailors. To this day the OSC has never acknowledged that Scorpion’s loss was caused by an internal torpedo explosion or even that she had carried one of the flawed batteries. But one year after the loss, OSC did order a redesign of the battery for the next generation of torpedoes. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Scorpion’s loss without a solid answer for the crew’s families.

 

Iran's Mini-Submarine Force Is Dangerous

Tensions continue to mount between Washington and Iran, with every week bringing forth a new round of diplomatic threats and accusations. Most recently, Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami gave a blistering speech in which he assured the Iranian parliament that the “vulnerability” of American aircraft carriers will prevent the U.S. military from challenging Iranian power in the Persian Gulf. Such rhetoric is par for the course for Iranian officials and state media, who project unwavering confidence in Iranian military capabilities. But just how capable is Iran’s conventional military, and do they really have the means to effectively resist a U.S. offensive? The National Interest previously looked at this nuanced question with overviews of Iran’s air force and surface navy. We now turn to what is arguably the core of Iran’s conventional military strength, and the reason why it boasts the fourth-strongest navy in the world: its submarine force. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Iran’s submarine roster is its sheer size, especially in relation to the rest of its navy. Whereas Iran’s combined output of operational corvettes, frigates, and destroyers hardly exceeds 10, it currently fields a whopping 34 submarines. The vast majority of these are midget-class--or “littoral”--diesel-electric vessels, with roughly two dozen from Iran’s homemade Ghadir class and several more from the North Korean Yugo class. Impressively, the Ghadir is much smaller but still has strong offensive capabilities; Ghadir vessels boast the same 533 mm torpedo tubes as the handful of Iran’s much larger Kilo vessels, only fewer at two versus six. To be sure, Iran’s heavy concentration of mini-submarines makes for unflattering comparisons with the much more robust submarine fleets of its American and Russian counterparts. However, their roster makes a great deal of military sense within the context of Iran’s strategic objectives. Iran has no need to project power sea power around the world, or even across the Middle East. Instead, the Iranian navy is constituted and organized around the specific goal of securing the Persian Gulf and specifically the Hormuz Strait. The limited range of Iran’s diesel-electric submarines is irrelevant in the restrictive and shallow confines of the Gulf, while their near-undetectability mine-laying capability makes them ideal candidates for patrol and ambush operations against hostile surface vessels.  More recently, Iran has begun to diversify its indigenous submarine industry beyond the smallest vessels. The new Fateh class is intended to round out Iran’s lopsided roster, coming in between the Ghadir and Kilo classes at a displacement of 600 tons. In addition to the 533 mm torpedo tubes that are standard across Iran’s submarine force, Iranian state media reports that the Fateh vessels--of which there are two at the time of writing--can fire anti-ship cruise missiles from a submerged position. Iran’s submarine force is by far the most numerous and technically capable arm of its navy and slated to remain so for the foreseeable future given Tehran's geopolitical investment in the Gulf region. While it is still highly unlikely to match the U.S. Navy in any sort of pitched conflict, submarines would inevitably be the spearhead of a prospective Iranian anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) campaign to seal the Hormuz Strait, or to stage a one-off surprise saturation attack against US defenses in the Persian Gulf.


Indian navy ‘live tests’ new underwater vehicle that can conduct deep sea rescue

The Indian Navy has announced that it has successfully tested deep-sea rescue techniques using one of its recently acquired Deep-Submergence Rescue Vehicles. On June 2, the DSRV was carried out into the sea at Vishakhapatanam, for what is called a “live mating” exercise. For the test, the Russian-built INS Sindhudhvaj simulated a submarine in distress, and the DSRV transferred stranded personnel from it to the surface. In this procedure, the rescue vehicle “mates” with the downed submarine using “hatches” through which individuals are transferred.DSRVs are equipped with sophisticated radar systems and a Remotely Operated Vehicle, an arm-like structure that can be used to clear debris or obstructions, and are designed to dive to greater depths than military submarines. Lighter than normal submarines, they are transported to sea-locations by specially equipped motherships or by heavy-lift aircraft. The entire evolution done by Indian crew, marks the culmination of the training phase. This newly acquired skill by #Indian Navy & live mating Ex is a historic achievement towards DSRV integration into the IN & would pave way for IN to emerge as a Submarine Rescue Provider in IOR. pic.twitter.com/7bOFfW0TjJIndia’s need for its own underwater vehicle with such sophisticated rescue capability was felt most after 2013, when an explosion on the INS Sindhurakshak led to the death of 18 personnel. Following this India signed a contract with UK-based James Fisher Defence worth $269 million in 2016. The two DSRVs purchased were delivered last December. In December the DSRV went through early trials when it plunged to depths of over 300 feet. In the recent test, it dived to a depth of 666 metres, described by the Indian Navy as a record for the “deepest submergence by a manned vessel” in Indian waters, The Week reported.

 

Russia Plans to Build Four Submarines Armed with Nuclear Drone-Torpedoes

For decades, submarine nuclear deterrence has been uniquely provided by the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), designed to loft missiles from beneath the waves into space before releasing multiple nuclear warheads that rain hellfire on cities and military bases below. SSBNs can remain submerged basically indefinitely thanks to their nuclear reactors, and are thus unlikely to be all hunted down prior to launch orders being issued. However, while Russia is planning to fully replace its older SSBNs with eight ultra-quiet Borei-class boats (detailed in a companion article), it is embarking on a radical new direction by also ordering four Khabarovsk-class nuclear-powered submarine drone-torpedo carriers, or Sensate Poseidon drone torpedo, also codenamed Status-6 by Russia and Kanyon by NATO, was for years the subject of rumor and skepticism, seeming too fantastical to be real. But by 2016, Pentagon reports confirmed the torpedo’s existence, and in March 2018 Putin publicly unveiled a 3D-animated video showing Poseidon attacking a city and a carrier task force. Later, real-life footage of a Poseidon being launched was released as well. No Western source has better documented and collected imagery of Poseidon and its launch platforms than naval analyst H.I. Sutton, whose years of open-source research substantially informed this piece. By now, two submarines appear to have been built specifically to launch the Poseidon, starting with the Sarov, an experimental diesel-electric submarine with a small nuclear-reactor dedicated to charging its batteries. Then in April 2019, Russia launched the Project 9852 Belgorod, an extremely versatile “special-projects” submarine adapted from the hull of an unfinished Oscar-II class cruise missile submarine. The Belgorod is a massive one-of-a-kind vessel that can launch unmanned Klavesin-2R underwater drone submarines (UUVs), dock manned Losharik mini-submarines on its belly which can tap into underwater communication cables or perform spy missions, and it has six gigantic tubes in its bow for launching Poseidon torpedoes However, Russia has announced it plans to field thirty-two Poseidon torpedoes, and the Belgorod’s Swiss-Army knife-like versatility is not suitable for mass deployment. That’s where the forthcoming submarine Khabarovsk, laid down in 2014, comes in.A Russian flyer reveals the 10,000-ton Khabarovsk resembles a large Borei­-class SSBN, shortened from 170 to roughly 120 meters, but still featuring its very quiet pump jet propulsion. It can carry six or possibly eight Poseidons instead of ballistic missiles. Two large blisters near its bow may be separate pressure hulls, possibly accommodating conventional heavyweight torpedoes for self-defense. Four Khabarovsk are slated for service in Russia’s Northern (Atlantic) and Pacific fleets. However, Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the Center for Naval Analysis, wrote in a blog post that oceanic geography would make hitting U.S. West Coast targets more viable: A possible successor to the Khabarovsk, the mysterious Project 9853, may also be intended to carry Poseidons. The Poseidon is the largest torpedo ever built, measuring approximately twenty-four meters long and 1.6-meters in diameter. Using a tiny nuclear reactor to power a pump-jet propulsion system, the Poseidon can traverse thousands of miles across oceans, autonomously navigating around obstacles and evading interception. U.S. intelligence estimates the Poseidon will complete testing by 2025 and enter operational service in 2027.There remain large question-marks on the Poseidon’s exact capabilities and its operational concept. The Poseidon has been claimed to be capable of blistering-fast speeds of 100 knots, acoustic stealth, and diving as deep as 1,000 meters. Of these claims, Poseidon’s low operating depth is considered most credible. By itself, this would render interception extremely difficult with current technology. For comparison, U.S. attack submarines (officially) operate down to 240 meters and travel up to 30 knots. Their Mark 48 torpedoes can accelerate to 55 knots and are not rated for much deeper than 800 meters. The speed claims appear more dubious. Achieving 100 knots implies super-cavitating propulsion such as used by the Russian Shkval or Iranian Hoot torpedo, which use heat to create an air-bubble around the torpedo so it can race forward without water-induced drag. However, Sutton points out that the Poseidon’s pump jet is not compatible with that, nor does it boast the large steering fins necessary to pierce the bubble for maneuvers. Instead, both Western analysts and Russian media now claim a more credible speed of 56-70 knots. Acoustic stealth is also not highly compatible with tearing through the ocean at over a mile a minute. One possibility is that the Poseidon is designed to cruise slowly and stealthily, and then accelerates to high speeds for its terminal approach. However, swimming a kilometer deep at 50-70 knots by itself makes interception extremely difficult using existing NATO systems, so acoustic stealth may not be a priority. The Poseidon was also initially claimed to carry a gigantic 100-megaton warhead, possibly a cobalt-salt bomb designed to wipe out cities with a radioactive tsunami wave. However, Russian media articles have since admitted a less ridiculous 2-megaton payload employing more conventional kill mechanisms. Another lingering question is just how autonomous is the Poseidon? The term “drone” implies remote command mechanisms, which are usually desirable in a strategic weapons system. However, a torpedo swimming at the bottom of the seafloor is unlikely to be able to maintain continuous communication links, and will likely advance upon targets with a high degree of autonomy. What do Khabarovsk-class SSDNs do for Russia that its existing SSBNs can’t do better? After all, ballistic missiles could hit the United States in a half-hour while drone torpedoes might require days to reach their targets across the ocean. In an email in 2018, Kofman wrote me that the Poseidon amounted to a “third-strike” revenge weapon, guaranteeing annihilation of an adversary’s coastal cities, even should Russia’s own nuclear forces be annihilated in a first strike. Moscow may perceive the Poseidon as a counter to U.S. ballistic-missile defense. Simple math suffices to point out that the roughly fifty-ish GMD ballistic missile interceptors deployed by the United States could not stop Russia’s stockpile of 1,500 nuclear missiles, but Kofman wrote that Russia might fear a precise U.S. first strike could wipe out enough of Russia’s nukes that the survivors left for the second strike could be “mopped up” by mature ABM weapons. Defending against Poseidon would require an expensive, expanded sea-bed surveillance system and new anti-submarine weapons capable of intercepting such a deep and fast target. A post by Sutton details potential technological counters, including ultra-lightweight anti-torpedo-torpedoes; denser sea-based sonar networks, air-dropped sonars connected by cable or Wi-Fi, and hypersonic missiles used to rapidly deploy torpedo interceptors. But if the Poseidon has virtually unlimited range, why does it require expensive submarines to launch it at sea rather than from a dock or a coastal platform? Indeed, there may be a “Skif” Poseidon variant designed to be installed for launch from the sea floor. Putin’s presentation emphasized the Poseidon could be used tactically to wipe out a carrier task force (CFT). However, a CTF is usually moving at 30 knots and musters dense and formidable anti-submarine defenses, unlike a coastal city. Cueing a moving target for missiles like the Chinese DF-21D that can travel many times the speed of sound is already a highly challenging task. Attempting the same operation with an underwater vehicle cruising at 50-100 knots, with weaker communication links, poses an exponentially greater one. An SSDN, however, could simplify the engagement chain by releasing the Poseidon closer to the carriers. The Poseidon is believed to have an active sonar in its nose, which could be used to map the ocean floor for navigation purposes, but might also enable hunter-killer engagement. Though the tactical application of the Poseidon still seems difficult to operationalize, it does pose worrying problems in that Russia may escalate to use of tactical nuclear weapons without perceiving those as necessarily provoking a wider strategic nuclear exchange. While the Poseidon doesn’t fundamentally alter the balance of power, nor the horrifying destructiveness of nuclear war, it does show that humanity is inclined to continue devising ingenious but largely redundant new weapons of mass destruction.

 

 

Seabourn Reveals Submarines for New Expedition Ships

  

Seabourn revealed more details Monday about the custom submarines which will be found on the cruise line’s two upcoming ultra-luxury purpose-built expedition ships. The two U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 submarines were explicitly designed for Seabourn and will be featured on the Seabourn Venture and her yet-to-be-named sister ship. Each of the battery-powered vessels will carry six guests and one pilot to depths of over 900 feet. Passengers will be seated in two transparent acrylic spheres flanking the center pilot’s station, where they will be able to explore sunken wrecks, reefs and view marine wildlife in their natural habitat.“The undersea world is often considered as the last great frontier on Earth, with more than 80 percent of the underwater realm remaining unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” Seabourn vice president Robin West said in a statement. “With these subs, we’re going to take our guests to places that few have ever seen firsthand, leaving them with a perspective on the world around us that is jaw-dropping and will create stories to last a lifetime.”The Seabourn submarines will be outfitted with a host of optional equipment, including a 4k underwater video camera system, a six-function manipulator arm, custom embroidered leather upholstery, two air conditioning systems, a Bluetooth stereo system and a champagne chiller. Guests will be able to enjoy the submarines multiple times per day in regions around the world where conditions are suitable. The vessels will also be equipped with underwater LED lights, imaging sonar and an advanced underwater tracking and navigation system. When it comes to excursions we’ve seen it all, from bundling over sand dunes on 4x4s in the Dubai desert to kayaking in the Arctic and helicoptering over glaciers in Alaska, but we think we think we’ve found one of the most exciting to date.Taking travellers ‘below the surface’, Seabourn has revealed its adding custom-made submarines to its luxury purpose-built expedition ships, releasing the design and details for the first time. Set to be onboard Seabourn Venture and her sister ship launching in 2022, a trip on the custom-made U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 subs will be available as an excursion for an extra charge, which currently hasn’t been confirmed. The subs will venture to depths of up to 300 metres. Each sub will be battery powered and carry six intrepid passengers and one pilot, diving to depths of up to 300 metres to explore sunken wrecks, reefs and view a myriad of marine wildlife in their natural habitat. Inside the sub, three passengers will be seated in two acrylic spheres, offering virtually undisturbed views of their watery surroundings.‘The undersea world is often considered as the last great frontier on Earth, with more than 80 per cent of the underwater realm remaining unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,’ said Robin West, vice president of Expedition Operations for Seabourn on the new subs. ‘With these subs, we’re going to take our guests to places that few have ever seen firsthand, leaving them with a perspective on the world around us that is jaw-dropping and will create stories to last a lifetime.’Those eager to get exploring will have to wait until June 2021 when Seabourn Venture is scheduled to launch, with her sister ship set to be launched in May 2022. Allowing guests to explore a varied array of waters, from turquoise to icy, Venture will be journeying to the likes of the Arctic and Antarctica, the Amazon, Caribbean, Central and South America.

 

Russia: Fire kills 14 sailors aboard navy research submersible.

A fire aboard a Russian navy research submersible has killed 14 crew members, the Russian defence ministry says. It says the crew members were poisoned by fumes when the vessel caught fire while taking biometric measurements in Russian territorial waters on Monday. The fire was later put out and the vessel is now at Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Northern Fleet in the Murmansk region. An investigation into the incident is now under way. Submersibles are generally smaller vessels with limited crew on board supported by ships on the surface, while submarines are larger vessels capable of operating autonomously over long distances. The Kursk submarine, which was destroyed by an explosion in the Barents Sea in August 2000 with the loss of its crew of 118, was also part of the Northern Fleet. Accidents involving underwater vessels are rare. Here are some of the most serious:

  • The Argentine navy's ARA San Juan submarine with 44 crew disappeared during a routine patrol in the South Atlantic in 2017. The wreckage was found a year later
  • All 70 crew aboard China's Great Wall Ming-class submarine suffocated in 2003 when a diesel engine malfunctioned, consuming the vessel's oxygen supply
  • Russia's Kursk submarine sank in the Barents Sea in 2000 after a torpedo exploded during an exercise, killing all 118 on board, including 23 who survived the blast but died due to a lack of oxygen
  • The USS Scorpion sank in the Atlantic in 1968, possibly because a torpedo exploded, killing the 99 crew
  • The USS Thresher sank during diving tests in 1963, killing all 129 on board - the biggest submarine death toll in history.

14 Russian sailors killed in research submarine fire

 

 Fourteen Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out while their deep-water research submarine was carrying out a survey of the sea floor near the Arctic, the Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday. A Russian media outlet, RBC, cited an unnamed military source as saying the submarine was nuclear-powered, but Russian officials made no comment on the type of vessel involved. The incident was the deadliest involving a Russian naval submarine since August 2000, when the nuclear-powered Kursk sank to the floor of Barents Sea after two explosions in its bow, killing all 118 men aboard. The latest incident also took place in the vicinity of the Barents Sea. Authorities in nearby Norway said they were monitoring but had not detected abnormally high levels of radiation.“This is a great loss for the navy,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a televised meeting with his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.“We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who died. We will do everything we can to support them,” said Mr. Putin, who cancelled a public engagement on Tuesday afternoon to deal with the incident.Mr Putin told Mr. Shoigu to fly to Severomorsk, the Russian naval base on the Barents Sea where the submarine is now located, to find out what caused the incident, and then report back to him. The incident took place on Monday in Russian territorial waters and the fire has been extinguished, the Russian defence ministry said earlier“Fire broke out on board a deep-water scientific research vessel that was studying the marine environment of the world ocean on behalf of the Russian navy,” Interfax news agency cited a ministry statement as saying. “Fourteen submariners died as the result of smoke inhalation.”The defence ministry did not identify the type or model of the vessel. At their meeting, Mr. Shoigu and Mr. Putin also made no mention of the type of vessel, or whether it was nuclear-powered. The RBC news outlet said it was a vessel known by the designation AS-12, which is powered by a nuclear reactor and is designed to carry out special operations at depths where regular submarines cannot operate. Norwegian officials said they had been in touch with their Russian counterparts but had not been able to establish the type of vessel.“We have made checks and we are not monitoring too high radiation levels in the area,” Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters. He said Russian officials had told his agency that a gas explosion took place on board the submarine.Russia’s RBC online news outlet and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper identified it as the nuclear-powered AS-12 Lohalith vessel is the most advanced Russian submersible, under a heavy veil of secrecy, and it is believed to have entered service in 2010. It is named after a Soviet-era animated cartoon horse that is made up of small spheres. The name is apparently derives from the unique design of its interior hull, which is made of titanium spheres capable of withstanding high pressure at great depths. In 2012, the Losharik was involved in research intended to prove Russia’s claim on the vast Arctic seabed. It collected samples from the depth of 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), according to official statements at the time. Regular submarines can typically dive to depths of up to 600 meters (2,000 feet). Some observers speculated the Losharik was even capable of going as deep as 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), but the claims couldn’t be independently confirmed. Analysts suggested that one of its possible missions could be disrupting communication cables on the seabed. The Losharik is carried under the hull of a mother submarine, the nuclear-powered Orenburg, and reportedly has a crew of 25, all of them officers. Russian news reports said that while the Losharik officially belongs to the Northern Fleet, it answers directly to the Defense Ministry’s Department for Deep-Sea Research, reflecting the high sensitivity of its missions. The vessel has been surrounded by tight secrecy, but in 2015, it was accidentally caught on camera by a photographer from a motoring magazine doing a photo session on the White Sea coast. Igor Britanov, who commanded the Soviet K-219 nuclear submarine that suffered an explosion in one of its missile tubes in 1986 that killed four of its crew, was quoted as saying by Severpost news outlet that Monday’s blaze could have been caused by a short circuit or a flammable liquid getting into an air filter — the two most common causes of submarine fires. The Russian navy also uses simpler Priz-class and Bester-class deep water vehicles, which have a hull built of titanium and are capable of operating at a depth of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet). The small vehicles have a crew of two and are primarily intended for rescuing submariners in case of incidents. Such vessels are transported to the area of operation by a carrier vessel and can operate autonomously for up to 120 hours. The blaze marks the most serious Russian naval disaster since 2008, when 20 crewmembers died aboard the nuclear-powered Nerpa submarine in the Pacific Fleet after a firefighting system was accidentally initiated while it was undergoing sea trials. The accident involving the Kursk was the worst naval disaster in post-Soviet Russia. It occurred on Aug. 12, 2000, when the nuclear submarine exploded and sank during maneuvers in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 crewmembers. Putin, who was in his first year of his presidency, came under heavy criticism at the time when he failed to immediately interrupt his vacation to take charge of the disaster.A fire that broke out on a secret Russian submarine has killed 14 sailors, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense in Moscow.“On July 1, 14 submariners – sailors – died in Russian territorial waters as a result of inhaling combustion products aboard a research submersible vehicle designated for studying the seafloor and the bottom of the World Ocean in the interests of the Russian Navy after a fire broke out during bathymetric measurements,” read a translation of the statement from the state-controlled service. The fire was extinguished “thanks to the self-sacrificing actions of the team,” the ministry said. The incident is believed to have occurred off Russia’s northern shore in the Barents Sea on Monday, but the MoD has not specified. The submarine was towed to the Russian North Fleet headquarters in Severomork and an investigation is underway, according to the news agency. According to a report in the state-controlled Sputnik news service, Russian President Vladimir Putin said seven captains of the first rank and two Heroes of Russia have died in the incident. Putin stated.“This is a great loss”, Putin said. A U.S. 6th Fleet spokesperson told USNI News he was unaware of any requests for assistance from the Russian government.

 

 

 

A rendering of Losharik (AS-12) submersible used with permission. H I Sutton Image

The boat was identified by Russian-language news service RBC as Losharik (AS-12), a nuclear-powered submarine that is widely believed to be a key asset for the Russian Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, also known as GUGI.GUGI develops and operates a fleet of specialized submarines that Russia uses for deep sea and Moscow’s most covert operations. The organization reports directly to Russian military intelligence — the GRU — rather than the Russian Navy. Losharik is among the most mysterious of the closely guarded fleet. Fielded in the late 1990s, specifics for the nuclear-powered boat are few. It’s estimated to carry a crew of about 25 and can dive to thousands of feet below the surface, according to the Military Russia blog. The about 2000-ton boat can travel slung under the belly of a specially modified Delta III nuclear ballistic missile submarine, according to open source intelligence analysts. The purpose and capabilities of Losharik are shrouded in mystery.

 

Losharik is one of a “range of special missions boats based at the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet’s Olenya Guba base. This base is one of several set up by the Soviets during the Cold War on the inhospitable but strategically important Kola Peninsular, far away from civilization. “The accident comes during the summer operational period for the GUGI boats — workups ahead of a North Atlantic deployments, USNI News understands. The deep-sea missions the sub is sent on leads Western military analysts to believe the interior of the sub is actually made up of a series of possibly seven orb-shaped spaces.

 

 

The sub’s name is derived from a popular Russian cartoon horse that’s made out of juggling balls. The use of orb-shaped compartments, while diminishing the amount of space for living quarters, operating equipment and the propulsion unit, makes the sub stronger and able to dive deeper than a traditional submarine hull. As for what Losharik does, it’s suspected the Russian government has used the sub’s deep-sea diving capability to extend Russia’s territorial claims to the sea floor under the Arctic Ocean. In 2012, Losharik was part of a large Russian naval exercise in the Arctic, collecting samples to prove the Lomonsov and Mendeleyev Ridges on the sea floor are part of the Russian continental shelf, according to With technological advances and retreating ice packs in the region, Arctic nations are increasingly researching ways to access and extract what scientists believe is an abundance of mineral wealth on the Arctic floor. A combination of the sub’s design and ability to dive deep below the ocean’s surface appear to also have inspired China to build a similar submarine, according to a November post on Pakistan Defense. For several years, China has sent research vessels to the Arctic as part of its push to claim its status as a “near Arctic-state.”Only Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the U.S. – the world’s eight Arctic nations – are members of the Arctic Council which establishes standards for protecting the environment and sustainable development the region. The council’s mandate excludes military security, according to the State. The incident aboard the submarine is the worst Russian submarine accident since the 2008 death of 20 Russian sailors aboard the nuclear powered Nerpa. In 2000, the Russian Navy lost 118 sailors due to an accident on the nuclear-powered cruise-missile boat Kursk.

 

Russia's Anchar—the Fastest Submarine Ever Built

Speed has often held a mixed appeal in submarine warfare. After all, even very quiet submarines become noisy when they're tearing through the ocean at their maximum speed of 20 to 30 knots. As typically the goal in submarine warfare is to detect an unaware adversary and launch torpedoes without being detected in return, many submarines cruise at little more than a brisk jog to minimize noise. However, speed also enables more aggressive maneuvers against alert enemies and incoming torpedoes, and the ability to close with or disengage from adversaries as the situation dictates. And sometimes speed is desirable simply to get a submarine where it needs to be to engage a fast-moving enemy. Such was the thinking behind the Soviet’s Project 661 submarine Anchar that was conceived in 1959: a speedy submarine that could race forth to intercept American carrier task forces cruising at 33 knots, blast them with long-range cruise missiles fired from underwater, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Project 661, known as the Papa-class by NATO, was developed roughly in parallel with another high speed-design, the Project 705 torpedo attack submarine, which would result in the iconic Alfa-class submarine. Though the two boats diverged in many respects, they had in common hulls made of strong but lightweight titanium alloy instead of steel to save weight, and thereby increase speed. While U.S. engineers incorporated titanium components into aircraft like the ultra-fast SR-71 Blackbird, doing so on something the scale of a submarine hull was considered unfeasible because the element could only be welded in a de-oxygenated environment. That didn’t stop Soviet engineers, who had workers in pressurized suits weld 60-millimeter thick titanium plates of the Project 661’s pressure hull in the argon gas-flooded Building No. 42 in Severodvinsk. The cost of this scheme was a (then) considerable 2 billion rubles, leading to titanium submarine being dubbed the “Golden Fish.” Many of the titanium plates subsequently cracked due to manufacturing flaws—particularly in the ballast tanks—requiring lengthy and expensive re-manufacturing of components. Unlike the relatively small and sleek Alfa and its tiny crew of fifteen to thirty-two, the Project 661 was a large but conventional-looking double-hulled design that displaced a sizeable 7,000 tons submerged, measured 107 meters long and had a complement of eighty-two officers and seamen. Its speed advantage came from the fact that it incorporated two powerful VM-5m pressurized water reactors, each generating 177 megawatts to turn two side-by-side propeller shafts. The K-222 had four torpedo tubes with just twelve torpedoes for self-defense. Its principal armament was meant to be ten seven-meter-long P-70 Amethyst cruise missiles (NATO codename SS-N-7 Starbright) mounted in flooded, slanted tubes along each side of its bow. These were the first cruise missiles designed for under-water launch (SLCMs) ever deployed. Project 661’s tactical concept was simple: it would race at maximum speed towards the reported location of carrier task forces. Once it had located prey using its powerful MGK3 Rubin sonar array, the sonar would transmit targeting data to Anchar’s torpedo and missile systems. The missile submarine would rise to within 30 meters of the surface to launch all its 3.85-ton missiles in two five-shot volleys timed three minutes apart from a distance as great as forty miles away. The Amethyst missiles would pop up to the surface powered by their first-stage rockets, whereupon they would extend wings and a second solid-fuel rocket would hurl them up into the sky.  Upon attaining an altitude of 200 feet, a third rocket then propelled the P-70s at just under the speed of sound towards the designated target area using inertial guidance systems. In the terminal phase, the missiles switched on active L-Band radars to home in on the largest nearby target. As the missile plunged towards their target, the Project 661 sub would hightail its way back to base for reloading. The numerous new technologies involved in the Anchar resulted in false starts to the project in 1962 and 1963. Finally, a Project 661 submarine K-162 was laid down in 1965 and launched four years later in 1969. In initial sea trials using 80 percent reactor power, she attained an impressive 42 knots, exceeding the 38 knots stipulated in design documents. By contrast, the American Permit­-class submarines of the era had a maximum speed of 28 knots. But access-hatch fairings, emergency signal buoys and water intakes were torn away during the speed run. On December 30, Captain Golubkov Filipovich took K-162 on a test run seeking to push the titanium sub to its limits. After overriding engine safety controls, the missile submarine attained a world record of 44.7 knots (51 miles per hour) using 97 percent of reactor power while swimming 100 meters under the surface. This speed was repeated on a second test on March 30, 1971 using 100 percent power, though the crew had to abort the third leg of the run as the turbines began to fall out of control. That fall the submarine practiced stalking an American carrier task force across the Atlantic, surfacing just once during its eighty-day deployment. The Project 661’s impressive speed, however, came with major shortcomings—maximum speed resulted in intolerable noise levels of 100 decibels for the crew. In Cold War Submarines, author Norman Polmar shares an account by a Soviet crew member:

“…when 35 knots was exceeded, it was like the noise of a jet aircraft. In the control room was heard not simply the roar of an aircraft, but the thunder of the engine room of a diesel locomotive.”

Obviously, this would have been extremely acoustically conspicuous to adversaries. Furthermore, the submarine was prone to damaging itself when charging ahead at full speed. This considerable expense involved in the Golden Fish’s construction meant no other boats were built in her class. However, the Papa-class did serve to pioneer technology used in later titanium-hulled submarines, leading to premium hunter-killer designs such as the Alfa and Sierra-class submarines and the deep-diving experimental Mike-class.    Re-designated K-222 in 1975, the speedy submarine served the Soviet Northern fleet for fourteen more years, soldiering through a reactor accident in 1980 caused by a wrench dropped into machinery during refueling of the reactor core. The titanium boat was finally decommissioned in December 1984 and left on a pier in Severodvinsk. She remained inactive for twenty-four more years before she finally was scrapped in 2015.

 

Miniature Submarine to Revolutionize Special Units Operations

A new underwater system provides a highly flexible undersea vehicle that can deliver payloads at distances of hundreds of miles without human intervention in unmanned mode or transport divers in manned mode. The miniature submarine designed for stealthy military missions is a hybrid of an underwater vehicle and a drone. The system can switch seamlessly from being driven as a vehicle to driving itself and running its own missions. As an underwater vehicle, the Proteus, made by Huntington Ingalls and Batelle, is designed for forces that need to covertly penetrate enemy territory using water. For the U.S. military, Navy SEALs and other teams are highly trained for missions involving water. In the future, there may be potential for submersibles like Proteus to be used offensively by the Navy too. If Proteus was eventually equipped with weapons, then SEALs could fire off weapons in underwater battles. The vehicle weighs approximately 8,000 pounds, but can travel at speeds of about 10 knots. It has a special battery system that allows the sub to travel about 700 nautical miles. Unlike large-scale military submarines, there is no oxygen atmosphere inside. The Proteus floods with water so the combat divers must wear breathing apparatus to travel inside. When there are no humans inside, the submersible can hit depths of 200 feet. With military special operators inside, it can travel at depths of approximately 150 feet below the water.

 

SEALs can travel in one Proteus and an additional six in another. Once they reach their insertion point, the first Proteus is instructed to patrol the coastline and feed real-time data regarding enemy movements to the partner team as it moves inland and then travels back to the extraction point. The second Proteus is instructed to travel to the extraction point straight away. From there, that Proteus’ mission is to monitor that area. If the area becomes compromised, say for example, by enemy troops that have suddenly shown up on the shoreline, then this Proteus warns the SEAL team and the other Proteus. According to foxnews.com, not only can Proteus deliver humans to a target, the sub can deliver air, surface and underwater microdrones to a target location and launch them. Equipped with advanced sensors and cameras, the drone team can provide more eyes underwater and eyes in the sky for the military. the vehicle can run reconnaissance missions by itself without any human intervention. In fact, the systems could potentially collaborate and work together undetected providing reconnaissance, intelligence, and surveillance on things like enemy coastlines and enemy fleets.

 

RUSSIAN SUBMARINE FIRE 03.07.19

The Kremlin has said it will not identify the Russian military submarine where 14 sailors were killed in a fire because the vessel is top secret. Russian media reports have increasingly suggested that it was a secretive nuclear-powered submersible used for deep water exploration and perhaps spying. Russia’s military on Tuesday announced the sailors’ deaths, but said the fire had occurred the day before when one of its submersibles was conducting scientific tests in Russian waters in the Barents Sea. The submarine is now in the Arctic port of Severomorsk. Russian officials have been tight-lipped about the incident. Russian media reports, however, citing defense sources, have identified the submarine as the AS-12/AS-31, a small deep-water submarine capable of operating at extreme depths and nicknamed the "Losharik."The Losharik is one the Russian navy’s most secretive vessels and details about its design are hazy. But Russian state media reports over the years have allowed navy enthusiasts to build up a picture. Unarmed and nuclear-powered, Russian state media reports have suggested it can dive as deep as 10,000 feet. Relatively small, the Losharik reportedly can hold 25 crew and be attached to the bottom of much larger submarines. Designed in the late 1980s and launched in 2003, Russia has also largely succeeded in keeping the submarine out of view and only a few photographs of what are believed to be the submarine exist. The newspaper RBC quoted a defense source that the emergency took place on a separate capsule that can be lowered from the Losharik rather than the submersible itself. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday also described the submarine as "not an ordinary vessel." Russia has not said what caused the fire, but Norway’s nuclear safety agency on Tuesday told Reuters it had been informed by Russia that there had been a “gas explosion” on the submarine. Russia’s defense ministry denied it had communicated anything to the Norwegians. The Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority also told Reuters that it had carried out tests and that there was no sign of elevated radiation levels in the area where the fire occurred, suggesting the submarine’s reactor had not been damaged. The secrecy around the incident has fueled speculation that the submarine likely conducts spying missions and details emerging around the crew seemed to support the idea that the submarine was the Loshirak or another secretive deep-water reconnaissance vessel. Multiple Russian news outlets on Tuesday reported that the vessel's crew are assigned to a military base close to St. Petersburg. The base, No. 45707, is attached to the Defense ministry’s Main Directorate of Deep-water Research, a top secret department that runs Russia’s deep-sea recon submarines. The crew was also unusually qualified: seven of the dead were captains first rank, and two had received the country's highest military honor, the Hero of Russia, according to the defense ministry. Russia’s defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, who flew into Severomorsk on Tuesday to oversee the investigation into the fire, told a briefing that some crew had survived. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that 5 sailors were being treated in Severomorsk’s hospital. Shoigu said the crew had saved a civilian aboard and prevented the ship from being destroyed, saying they had acted "heroically". “They first of all evacuated the civilian industry representative from the module that was consumed with fire, sealing the hatch behind him in order not to allow the fire to spread around the whole deep-water capsule and themselves fought to the end to preserve the ship,” Shoigu said. He said that all the dead would be nominated for state honors and that their families would receive all necessary support. Russia’s navy on Tuesday released the names of the 14 crewmen killed in the fire. The crew's commander was identified in some Russian media as captain Denis Dolonsky, who the navy said was one of the two sailors with a Hero of Russia award. Shoigu described the crew as “unique military specialists,” calling them “top-notch professionals conducting important studies of the Earth’s hydrosphere.” Russia has not given details about the submarine’s mission. The defense ministry said it had been conducting research to study the ocean depths and that the fire broke out when it was carrying out a “bathymetric measurement," which maps the sea floor. Western naval experts have speculated that the Losharik and other Russian deep-water submarines might be used to tap communication cables on the seabed that carry most of the world’s internet traffic. In recent years, U.S. and British military officials have warned that Russian submarines have been spotted close to the cables.

 

The Navy SEALs Could Soon Be Getting Their Own Submarines

It usually takes the Navy around five months to build even the smallest submarines to ferry Navy SEALs into and out of combat zones — but thanks to new technology, the Navy’s most elite warfighters could slap together a submersible hull in just a few weeks. That’s the promise behind the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator (OMTD), the U.S. military’s first 3D-printed submarine hull, unveiled by the Navy on July 24. Fabricated by the high-tech Big Area Additive Manufacturing 3D printing machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the 30-foot submersible hull was inspired by the SEAL Delivery Vehicles used by the branch and U.S. Special Operations Command to deploy Navy special warriors and their gear into particularly dangerous areas. But while a traditional SEAL submarines cost up to $800,000 apiece and take three to five months to manufacture, six carbon-fiber composite sections of the OTMD took less than a month and only $60,000 to assemble, according to the Department of Energy — a shift that the Navy claims could massively reduce production costs. The Department of Defense and global defense industry have put a premium on 3D printing (or “additive manufacturing,” if you want to be technical) for years, ranging from Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center’s fabricated “RAMBO” grenade launcher to portable printing units designed to help Marines repair essential gear faster downrange. But the OTMD, apparently now the Navy’s largest 3D printed asset, represents a massive leap forward in terms of “on-demand” manufacturing. Rather than slap together expensive and time-consuming materiel requests during the long federal budgeting process, military personnel could simply fabricate vehicles and supplies on demand to adapt to changing operations. With U.S. special operations forces leading the charge in the Global War on Terror, assets like the OTMD could greatly increase their operational flexibility — and effectiveness. According to the Navy, fleet-ready prototypes of the OTMD could hit the water as soon as 2019 — which, depending on who you ask, probably isn’t soon enough.

 

In 1968, a Navy Nuclear Submarine Shockingly Imploded (Many Died)

The discovery of wreckage from the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan in November 2018 grimly highlights the dangers inherent to submarine operations even in peacetime. Well over a dozen submarines have been lost catastrophic accidents since the end of World War II. Only stringent safety protocols and rigorous maintenance regimes can minimize the likelihood of such accidents. Fortunately, though U.S. submarines have experienced numerous collisions and groundings, it has been over fifty years since the U.S. Navy lost its last submarine to causes which remain unclear to this day—though lax safety procedures may well have been involved. The USS Scorpion was one of six Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, a class which introduced a tear-drop shaped hull that enabled it to attain high speeds of thirty-four knots (thirty-eight miles per hour) while submerged. Launched by Electric Boat in Connecticut in 1960, Scorpion operated as part of the Atlantic submarine fleet from her base in Norfolk Virginia. She helped test new nuclear submarine tactics and was also involved in clandestine missions, including reputedly infiltrating Soviet waters to spy on the launch of a new missile type in 1966.By February 1967, it came time for Scorpion to undergo extensive routine testing and overhaul as part of the Navy’s SUBSAFE safety program. This required thoroughly testing surfaces and components using ultrasounds to certify the vessel’s integrity for continued operations. SUBSAFE was devised after the loss in 1963 of the USS Thresher, the lead ship of a more advanced successor to the Skipjack class. An apparent rupture in her pipes allowed saltwater to spray into the vessel, causing a chain reaction leading to a reactor shutdown, a failure of the air flasks used to surface, and the progressive flooding of the submarine. The Thresher sank with 129 aboard—amounting to the deadliest submarine accident ever. However, SUBSAFE quadrupled submarine overhaul times. Because demand for submarine operations was so high, the Chief of Naval Operations authorized Scorpion to receive an “experimental” accelerated overhaul, bypassing required safety checks and installation of improved, safer components. This despite over-worked repair crews relying on jury-rigged spare parts and discovering numerous defectively welded pipes. These shortcomings forced the Scorpion to observe a much shallower-than usual diving limit of 110-meters. As a result, Scorpion was back in operational status seven months later—one of only four in the Atlantic Fleet not to receive her SUBSAF certification. The poor condition of the Scorpion after the overhaul was described by two Scorpion crew members Andy Elnicki and Dan Rogers—both of whom left the crew before her final voyage. In February 1968, Scorpion transited to a naval base in Rota, Spain. Crew letters reveal that she suffered mechanical breakdowns including a leaky seal on its propeller shaft, major oil leakage from its hydraulics, unstable control surfaces, leaks of poisonous Freon, and an electrical fire near her Trash Disposal Unit. Nonetheless, on May 16 Scorpion sortied from Rota, tasked with ferreting out the position of Soviet ships reported near the Azores islands, before returning to homeport at Norfolk. Approaching midnight on May 21, the Scorpion’s captain, thirty-six-year-old Commander Francis Slattery, transmitted that he had located a Soviet submarine at a depth of 110 meters, and was “to begin surveillance of the Soviets.”This was the last message received from the ninety-men aboard the Scorpion. After failing to return to port, the U.S. Navy began searching in June for its missing submarine, employing dynamic Bayesian statistical methods to optimize the search pattern. The search area was further narrowed based on an ominous recording obtained by a Navy listening station in the Canaries, which captured fifteen acoustic events over 190 seconds. These seemed to correspond to an apparent underwater explosion or implosion. After four months, the oceanographic search and rescue vessel USNS Mizar discovered the 77-meter long Scorpion’s wreck 460 miles southwest of the Azores using a jury-rigged underwater towed camera-sled. Located 3,000 meters deep—well below the Skipjack-class’s test depth of 210 meters—the Scorpion had plowed a deep trench across the ocean floor, imploded by the deep pressure of the surrounding ocean water. The submarine’s operation center had collapsed inward, causing the sail (or conning tower) located above it to tear off. The mystery of what brought the Scorpion to her terrible fate in May 1968 has never been satisfactorily resolved—inspiring numerous books offering competing explanations. A naval court of inquiry made public in January 1969 determined that the cause of the Scorpion’s demise could not be ascertained, though decades later it was revealed it had privately concluded detonation of the 330-pound warhead on a defective Mark 37 torpedo was the most likely explanation. Had the stubby, sonar-guided anti-submarine torpedo launched accidentally—or been jettisoned—and then circled around to sink the only target in the area? The Mark 37 was also infamous for using silver-zinc batteries prone to overheating and even combusting or exploding. A theory later expounded in the book Blind Man’s Buff is that a “hot-running” torpedo battery led to a fire, causing a torpedo explosion which ruptured the hull. However, another study conducted by naval acoustic specialists rejected the explosion explanation, citing the lack of an evident “bubble pulse” usually produced by an underwater explosion. According to this analysis, the Scorpion had already begun sinking uncontrollably due to other causes prior to the pressure-induced implosion recorded by the acoustic listening station. One theory advanced by Vice Admiral Arnold Schade and former-Scorpion mechanic Dan Rogers postulates it sank due to a faulty Trash Disposal Unit—a valve on the galley for getting rid of waste. This could have allowed seawater to flood in and contaminate the batteries, producing hydrogen gas that may have incapacitated the crew and eventually led to the apparent explosion in the center of the Scorpion’s hull. A variation on this explanation is that the Scorpion suffered a hydrogen explosion while charging batteries at periscope depth. Basically, while adhering to safe “total” cell voltages, the charging process sometimes channeled excessive energy into individual cells—which in extremis, could release hydrogen gas sufficient to cause a hull-rupturing explosion. Over-charged individual cells were reportedly a common problem in U.S. submarines at the time. One sinister theory expounded in several books—All Hands Down, Red Star Rogue and Scorpion Down—maintains the Scorpion was sunk by a Soviet submarine or helicopter-launched torpedo. Two months earlier on March 8, Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 sank mysteriously, taking with her all 98 hands aboard—and many Soviet naval officers were convinced she had been rammed by a trailing U.S. submarine. Might the Soviets have conspired to bushwhack the Scorpion in revenge—or even accidentally collided or torpedoed her while tailing from behind? According to this theory, the Soviet Navy might have used intelligence transmitted by the infamous John Walker spy ring to determine the Scorpion’s position. Afterward, both navies supposedly colluded to hush up the two incidents to prevent political repercussions. However, these theories rely on conjecture, anonymous sources, and a presumed cover-up rather than concrete evidence. Officially, U.S. Navy maintains no Soviet ships were within 200 miles of the Scorpion when she sank. The Navy still periodically surveys the Scorpion’s wreck to check for radioactive leakage from her S5W nuclear reactor, and the two ASTOR nuclear-armed torpedoes still residing in her hull. As recently as 2012, the Navy has rejected calls to re-investigate the tragic sinking. It seems unlikely the exact truth of the Scorpion’s fate will ever be known for certain, but her undersea grave stands in mute testimony to the high price submariners from many nations have paid pursuing their dangerous line of duty.

 

Russian Mike-Class Submarine Sunk with Nuclear Weapons Still Onboard.

Soviet engineers seemed to approach their Cold War submarine as if they were high-performance jet fighters meant to out-slug, out-run and out-dive their adversaries in a swirling dogfight. Soviet submarines were usually significantly faster than their American counterparts, could take more punishment thanks to their double-hulled designs, and could nearly always dive twice as deep at five hundred meters. But the Soviet subs also had major weaknesses: they suffered horrifically high accident rates due to deficient radiation shielding and weak safety culture, and were much noisier. This allowed American subs to routinely detect and trail Soviet submarines without being detected in return. That acoustic stealth advantage is generally regarded as more useful in submarine warfare than the ability to execute dramatic maneuvers. Nonetheless, in 1974 the Rubin design bureau finalized the design of a new submarine intended as a testbed for future fourth-generation submarines. In particular, the 685 sought to literally double the already considerable Soviet diving advantage. The unique submarine, numbered K-278, was uniquely honored with the name Komsomolets, which more less meant “Communist boy scout.” Komsomolets’s inner hull was built entirely out of titanium alloy 48T, an extremely expensive metal that is as strong as steel but considerably lighter. Welding together large sheets of titanium for a submarine hull is even more expensive, as it must be done in oxygen-voided buildings flooded with argon gas by workers wearing astronaut-like breathing suits.The resulting Project 685 submarine, codenamed the “Mike-class” by NATO, was longer than a football field at 117 meters long and displaced 8,000 tons submerged. Its titanium hull allowed it to withstand and incredible 1,500 psi of pressure from the surrounding ocean. Advanced automated systems allowed the large submarine to be operated by a crew of just fifty-seven to sixty-four officers and seamen. Unusually, a unique escape pod was situated in her sail (conning tower). K-685’s single pressurized water reactor provided 190 megawatts of power, allowing a top speed of 30 knots—fast by Western standards, but typical for Soviet submarines. Komsomolets was intended as a test-bed first with secondary combat capability. She had a fairly ordinary six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes and a dated Plavnik bow sonar, and lacked a towed sonar array. However, amongst her standard twenty-two torpedoes, she could launch rocket-powered Shkval super-cavitating torpedoes with a speed of two hundred knots, and RPK-2 Vyuga missiles designed to deposit nuclear anti-submarine depth charges. Komsomolets was launched in June 1983 and spent the next four years performing trials and tests. In 1984, under Captain Yuri Zelenskiy she dove 1,020 meters (3,350 ft.) deep in the Sea of Norway—the deepest dive ever by an armed military submarine, and deeper than all but a few manned scientific research submarines have ever gone. By comparison, the Los Angeles and Virginia class submarines in U.S. service today officially have a test depth of 240 meters, though the Navy’s three Sea Wolf-class submarines did double that threshold. Furthermore, modern American Mark 48 torpedoes are not designed to dive deeper than 800 meters. The Komsomolets was finally dispatched on her first operational platform in April, 1989 under Captain Evgeny Vanin. Tragically it was also her last, as described in a harrowing account in the archives While submerged 386 meters beneath the Sea of Norway on April 7, and at some point, an electrical short caused a fire to break out in the aft section of the boat. This was due to the rupture of the high-pressure airlines connecting the submarine’s ballast. These whipped violently about gusting eight thousand psi of air, damaging an oil system. Oil then leaked onto a hot turbine and caught fire. Fanned by the gouts of pressurized air, the expanding blaze tripped the nuclear reactor’s emergency shutdown and caused a loss of power in the submarine’s hydraulics. Having lost contact with the engine room, Captain Vanin tried sealing the rear compartment, but the fire spread through bulkhead cable penetration into neighboring compartments anyway. Desperately, the captain ordered an emergency blow of the ballast tanks to bring Komsomlets back to the surface. While most of the crew evacuated to the deck, Vanin and five other crew members remained onboard in an attempt to save the stricken submarine—but leaking compressed air caused the fire only to grow. At 4:30 p.m., K-685 began to sink back under the waves, and Captain Vanin ordered the crew above to abandon ships. Meanwhile he and four officers embarked onto the special escape pod, though their sixth compatriot was lost in the submarine’s smoky confines. However, after rising to the surface, flaw in the mechanism caused the escape hatch to explosively decompress, killing two crew and knocking another two unconscious, including the Captain. Only one man swam away with his life. Despite hours of advance notice, the Soviet Navy struggled to dispatch a rescue effort, initially dropping rafts by aircraft for the survivors. An hour and twenty minutes later, a civilian floating fish factory arrived—too late for twenty-three of the Komsomolet’s crew, thirty-four of whom perished from hypothermia in the freezing Norweigian waters. The death of forty-two of the sixty-nine crew aboard, most of them after they had successfully abandoned ship, caused an uproar in Russia. An investigation concluded nine years later without finding any one responsible. In 1993, a charity was formed to advocate on behalf of the crew’s families, and was later expanded to cover the families of more than five hundred other sailors and officers who died in Soviet submarine accidents during the Cold War. The deep-diving Komsomlets, meanwhile, had sunk 1,680 meters down the sea floor with two nuclear-armed missiles onboard. For years, Scandinavian governments repeatedly surveyed the vessel’s cracked hull for evidence of contamination, discovering some signs of plutonium leakage in an inspection in 1994. Some of the cracks and leaks were sealed, and subsequent surveys have thankfully found minimal additional contamination.

North Korea’s 'Human Torpedo' Suicide Sub.

What may well be a small, one or two-person submarine and mothership has been sighted at a military base in Nampo, North Korea. The small submarines are allegedly meant to conduct suicide attacks on enemy ships, and their appearance could be part of a regular training cycle, or something more sinister. The ship is tied up alongside other Korean People’s Army Naval Force ships at the port of Nampo. It’s approximately 30 meters (about 98 feet) long. The vessel features a rectangular-shaped section in the stern that appears lower than the rest of the ship, casting a shadow. Inside that section, about 10 meters long, is a bullet-shaped object perhaps six or seven meters long. In March 2010, after the mysterious sinking of the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan that resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors, the Chosun Ilbo reported on the existence of “human torpedoes” in the arsenals of North Korea. These “human torpedoes” were reportedly elite combat swimmers trained to operate one or two person mini-submersibles known as SDVs, or SEAL delivery vehicles, to conduct suicide attacks against enemy ships. The “human torpedo” units were allegedly formed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to repel an attack on North Korea. The ship visible in Google Earth could be a special forces ship equipped with a well deck for deployment and recovery of an SDV, as judging from the lower, rectangular space in the stern of the ship. Well decks are locations on a ship that can be flooded with seawater, allowing submersibles, boats, or amphibious vehicles parked in them to become buoyant with the incoming seawater and then motor away under their own power. The blue object parked inside the mystery ship could be the SDV itself. SDVs are so-called “wet” submersibles built to transport frogmen wearing SCUBA gear or other breathing apparatus. Although similar to a miniature submarine, SDVs are limited by the air supply of their divers, giving them a relatively short range. SDVs typically operate from motherships, including submarines and surface ships, that transport them close to the target. For decades, North Korea has conducted seagoing infiltration missions against its neighbors. In September 1996, a North Korean Sang-O (“Shark”) submarine, attempting to collect a team of three secret agents it had sent ashore the previous night, was grounded in South Korean territory. Of the submarine’s 26 spies and crew, 25 were killed in firefights or by their own countrymen. A similar incident took place in 1998, with nine North Koreans killed in a mass murder-suicide after their submarine was captured by South Korea. Pyongyang maintains two types of midget submarines, the Sang-O and Yono classes. Nearby Japan has also been the subject of seagoing espionage missions. During the 1970s North Korean agents repeatedly crossed the Sea of Japan in small boats, kidnapping Japanese civilians and returning them to North Korea. In December 2001 the Japan Coast Guard machine-gunned and sank a 100 ton North Korean spy ship disguised as a fishing vessel of the coast of Japan. The ship in Nampo is almost certainly a military-owned vessel with a specific purpose. One possible explanation is that it is a special forces ship, designed to ferry frogmen to a drop-off point, whereupon they will proceed to their destination in a SEAL delivery vehicle, or mini-submarine. There the frogmen would then conduct a variety of missions, including suicide attacks using explosives. North Korea has a large number of special forces troops, and Pyongyang maintains an active duty military of approximately 945,000 including eight “sniper” brigades of 3,500 men each. Two brigades are assigned to the Korean People’s Navy and serve in the role of marine infantry and naval special forces. The Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s intelligence agency, also maintains a battalion of agents, and submarines, for out-of-country operations. In addition to infiltration boats and submarines, North Korea also has a number of semi-submersible infiltration landing craft, or SILCs. SILCs are basically speedboats fitted with enclosed cabins and ballast tanks that, once filled with seawater, allow the boat to ride lower on the surface of the water to evade detection. Pyongyang has clearly invested in a variety of vessels for seaborne infiltration and an SDV would just be one more tool in the Kim family’s toolbox.

 

South Korea Wins $1B To Supply Indonesia With Submarines

Launching ceremony of the ROKN (Source : Republic of Korea)

South Korea has won $1.02 billion to supply Indonesia with three 1,400-ton submarines, according to multiple press reports. The deal was signed between South Korean company Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering and the Indonesian government, Newsis reported Friday. Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) took part in the signing ceremony in Bandung, Indonesia. The 1,400-ton submarine is expected to be an upgraded version of the 1,200-ton Type 209 diesel-electric attack submarine in use in the South Korean navy, according to the report. The submarine will accommodate 40 crewmembers and include eight launchers capable of shooting torpedoes, mines and missiles. They will be delivered to Indonesia by the first half of 2026 and a product of joint construction at PT PAL Indonesia, a shipyard. In 2011, Seoul supplied Jakarta with submarines.

 

U.S.S. Thresher and Scorpion - The U.S.'s Lost Nuclear Submarines

On April 10, 1963, the nuclear powered attack submarine, USS Thresher, was undergoing deep-diving tests 220 miles (350 km) east of the city of Boston, Massachusetts. At that time, Thresher was the fastest and quietest submarine in the world, and had the most advanced weapons system. Thresher was built to find and destroy Soviet submarines, and she was outfitted with a new sonar system that could detect other vessels at a much greater distance. She was also equipped with the U.S. Navy's newest anti-submarine missile, the SUBROC. The UUM-44 SUBROC (SUBmarine Rocket) was a type of submarine-launched rocket deployed as an anti-submarine weapon. It carried warhead. Launched from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire on July 9, 1960, Thresher was the prototype for what would have been 25 "Thresher class" ships. After conducting numerous sea trials in both the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, Thresher returned to Portsmouth on July 16, 1962 for a post-shakedown examination, and she remained in port until April 8, 1963.At 8:00 a.m. on April 9, 1963, Thresher, commanded by Lieutenant Commander John Wesley Harvey, and with 129 crew onboard, sailed out of port and rendezvoused with the submarine rescue ship Skylark. Performing multiple dives, Thresher remained in underwater communication with Skylark. The next day, on April 10th, Thresher began deep-dive trials. As she neared her test depth, Skylark received a call that said, "[We are] experiencing minor difficulty, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow," followed by a garbled message that included "900 N". Another transmission included the phrase, "exceeding test depth ..." then, Skylark detected a high-energy, low-frequency noise. That noise was characteristic of an implosion, which is where the hull of a vessel is crushed by the tremendous pressure of the seawater surrounding it.The U.S. Navy quickly mounted an intensive search, using the oceanographic ship Mizar, and they soon found the shattered remains of Thresher's hull lying on the sea floor, at a depth of 8,400 ft (2,600 m).The bathyscaphe Trieste, fresh from visiting the deepest place on earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, was brought from San Diego, California to survey and photograph the debris field. A Naval Court of Inquiry was convened to determine the cause of the accident, and it concluded that the Thresher had suffered a failure in its salt-water piping system joint, which caused high-pressure water to spray out. This could have shorted out an electrical panel, which in turn would have caused the sudden shutdown, or "scram", of the nuclear reactor. Without the nuclear reactor, there would have been a loss of propulsion. Thresher’s regular Reactor Control Officer, Lieutenant Raymond McCoole, was on shore caring for a sick wife, and his replacement was just out of nuclear power school. The replacement followed standard procedures following a scram, but this meant that the reactor couldn't be restarted immediately, which in turn meant that Thresher couldn't climb her way out of the deep. Following Thresher's sinking, Admiral Hyman Rickover created a "Fast Recovery Startup" procedure that allowed a nuclear reactor to be immediately restarted after a scram. Thresher still should be able to surface by blowing her ballast tanks, but excess moisture in her high-pressure air flasks had frozen in the cold water at depth, and that ice plugged the flasks. After Thresher, air dryers were installed in subs to unfreeze the flasks and allow emergency blows. With no propulsion and no way to blow her tanks, Thresher began to sink until she imploded at a depth of 1,300 to 2,000 feet (400 - 610 m). During a 1963 inquiry into the sinking, Admiral Rickover stated:"I believe the loss of the Thresher should not be viewed solely as the result of failure of a specific braze, weld, system or component, but rather should be considered a consequence of the philosophy of design, construction and inspection that has been permitted in our naval shipbuilding programs. I think it is important that we re-evaluate our present practices where, in the desire to make advancements, we may have forsaken the fundamentals of good engineering."On July 29, 1960, 20 days after Thresher had been launched, the USS Scorpion was launched at Groton, Connecticut. By 1962, her permanent port was Norfolk, Virginia. During the early 1960s, Scorpion participated in numerous naval exercises with the U.S. 6th Fleet and NATO.

 

USS Scorpion

A story says that during a "Northern Run" in 1966, Scorpion entered an inland Russian sea and filmed the firing of a Soviet missile through her periscope, before running from approaching Soviet Navy ships. On February 1, 1967, Scorpion entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for what should have been a nine-month-long overhaul, but Navy requirements forced this to be shortened, and the same emergency system that had doomed Thresher was not corrected on Scorpion. Following a Mediterranean Sea deployment, Scorpion left the U.S. Naval base at Rota, Spain with 99 crewmen on May 16, 1968, along with the USS John C. Calhoun. Scorpion was sent to observe Soviet naval activities in the Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of the Azores. Besides two fast 32-knot Soviet November-class hunter-killer subs, the Soviet convoy also included an Echo II-class submarine, as well as a Russian guided missile destroyer. Scorpion observed and listened to the Soviet ships, then prepared to head back to Naval Station Norfolk. Sometime after midnight on May 21st, Scorpion sent a message that was picked up by a U.S. Navy communications station in Nea Makri, Greece, in which the commander said that he was closing on a Soviet submarine and research group "to begin surveillance of the Soviets", and was running at a steady 15 kn (17 mph, 28 km/h) at a depth of 350 ft (110 m). That was the last communication from Scorpion. The U.S. Navy began a search for the missing ship that employed the methods of Bayesian search theory, which was initially developed during the search for a hydrogen bomb lost off the coast of Palomares, Spain in January 1966. Again, the oceanographic reserarch ship Mizar was brought in to locate Scorpion, and she found her on the sea floor about 400 nautical miles (740 km) southwest of the Azores, and at a depth of 9,000 feet (3,000 m).The bathyscaphe Trieste II, a successor to its sister Trieste was also deployed, and she collected pictures of the crash site. Tapes from the U.S. Navy's underwater SOSUS listening system contained the sounds of Scorpion's destruction. A Naval Court of Inquiry determined that Scorpion's hull was crushed by implosion forces as it sank below crush depth at an estimated depth of 1,530 feet (470 m). Following implosion, she continued to fall another 9,000 feet (2,700 m) to the ocean floor. The U.S. Navy declassified many of this inquiry's documents in 1993.The U.S. Navy periodically visits the site of Scorpion's wreck to test for the release of any fissile materials from her nuclear reactor and two nuclear weapons. The reports show a lack of radioactivity, which indicates that the nuclear reactor fuel remains intact, and that the two nuclear-tipped Mark 45 anti-submarine torpedoes (ASTOR) are also intact. Several books have been written about Scorpion's sinking. 1999's "Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage", written by two New York Times reporters, it reported that concerns about the Mk 37 conventional torpedoes carried aboard Scorpion had been raised in 1967 and 1968, before Scorpion left Norfolk for her last mission. Those concerns focused on the battery that powered the torpedoes. In 2005, "Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S."was published, claiming that the U.S. had sunk Soviet submarine K-129 off the coast of Oahu on March 7, 1968, and that the sinking of Scorpion was in retaliation. Released in 2006, "Silent Steel: The Mysterious Death of the Nuclear Attack Sub USS Scorpion" provided a detailed account of every mechanical problem on the submarine that was cited by the U.S. Navy, or that was mentioned in crew men's letters, but the work does not determine a cause for the accident. In 2008, "All Hands Down" attempted to link the sinking of Scorpion with the Pueblo incident, the John Anthony Walker spy ring, and the Cold War. Documents only declassified in December 2018, showed that former U.S. Naval Reserve Commander, Dr. Robert Ballard, had approached the Navy in 1982 for funding to search with his new deep-diving robot submersible for the wreck of the Titanic. The Navy had a counter proposal: they would give Ballard the funds if he would first survey the wreck sites of the Thresher and the Scorpion and assess the radioactive threat. Ballard’s robotic survey showed that Thresher had indeed imploded, and his 1985 survey of Scorpion's wreck site revealed a large debris field, and what Ballard described as a ship that looked "as though it had been put through a shredding machine." Also, in 1985, Ballard located the wreck of the Titanic. Having been "lost at sea," neither Thresher nor Scorpion have been decommissioned by the U.S. Navy, instead, like all lost submarines, they remain on "Eternal Patrol."

 

Underwater Coffins: These 5 Submarines Are the Worst Ever

This list of History's Worst 5 Submarines catalogues the worst of the worst lumbering around in the briny deep. Such a vessel is a millstone dragging down the fortunes of its navy, its parent military, or the society that puts it to sea. Now, it's possible to rank hardware, including submersibles and their armament, purely by technical characteristics. The crummiest piece of kit -- condemned by shoddy design, faulty construction work, or premature obsolescence -- is the bottom-feeder on such a list. In the case of submarines, then, tallying up speed, submerged endurance, acoustic properties, and kindred statistics offers a reputable way to proceed. But it tells only part of the story. Carl von Clausewitz, that doughty purveyor of strategic wisdom, helps reveal the rest. Clausewitz defines strength as a product of force and resolve, affirming that people -- not machines -- compete for supremacy. The weapon or platform is just an implement. Both material and human factors, consequently, are crucial to success in strategic competition or war. You can't judge the best of the best or the worst of the worst by widgets alone. Depicting strength as a multiple rather than a sum makes intuitive sense, doesn't it? If either variable is zero -- if hardware or seafarers are worthless -- a boat supplies zero strength to its parent fleet. The finest crewmen in the world stand little chance if their boat is hopelessly outclassed technologically, if its weaponry malfunctions, or if the navy skimps on maintenance, overhauls, or logistical support. "Damn the torpedoes!" exclaimed Lieutenant Commander Dudley "Mush" Morton, one of history's greatest undersea marksmen, after his Wahoo discharged a volley of nine Mark XIV torpedoes against a Japanese convoy -- only to see every "fish" miss or malfunction. Or, conversely, a submarine boasting the latest in technological wizardry accomplishes little if handled by an incompetent or apathetic crew. There's a good reason a ship, its crew, and its commander are all known by the ship's name. The relationship between man and materiel is symbiotic. The hull provides a home and sustains life, while the mariners manning the hull provide seamanship and upkeep and fight the ship when need be. Senior leadership is crucial to the silent service, even more than in surface fleets. Subs operate largely independently, free of micromanagement from on high. In effect a boat takes on the personality of its skipper. A boat blessed with a skilled, aggressive commander like Mush Morton or Eugene Fluckey is an effective boat. A sub not so blessed is apt to run afoul of hard luck--or worse. Despite submariners' penchant for independence, though, higher-ups can handicap their performance indirectly. Navies are bureaucracies, and they shape minds. Officialdom rewards officers who comply with established practices while punishing those who flout routine. If top leaders embrace methods that defy tactical reality, they can negate much of a submarine's potential. Its combat power misapplied, it degenerates into a wasting asset. Either inert materiel or inert people, it seems, reduce a boat's real-life combat power--regardless of how impressive its technical specifications look in Jane's Fighting Ships. Worse still, an ineffective submarine can actually subtract from its navy's strategic efficacy. Henry Kissinger observes that deterrence is a product not just of Clausewitzian strength but of an adversary's belief in that strength. In all likelihood, that is, an adversary who doubts another's physical capacity or resolve to follow through on a threat will not be deterred. The same goes for coercion. No one does an antagonist's bidding at gunpoint if the gunman's sidearm appears rusty or his hand quavers. A sad-sack boat's performance, then, can detract from a navy's renown for prowess beneath the waves--undermining national leaders' efforts to deter or compel rivals.

And lastly, building submarines, of the nuclear-powered variety in particular, imposes heavy opportunity costs on a navy. Money spent on nuclear-powered attack or ballistic-missile subs (SSNs and SSBNs, respectively) is money that can't be spent on surface combatants, amphibious-assault ships, and other workhorse platforms. Overall fleet numbers may suffer for the sake of undersea warfare. And indeed, at present the U.S. and Royal navies are struggling with the cost of fielding replacements to their Trident SSBNs. SSBN programs could crowd out other shipbuilding priorities, leaving behind boutique navies comprising too few assets for commanders or statesmen to risk in battle. Here again, the credibility of a nation's bareknuckles diplomacy could turn on innate features of submarines. Too expensive a boat is a bad boat. Factoring in all of this, here's how to rate history's worst submarines. One, did a sub's basic design, the quality of its construction, or its expense cancel out whatever tactical or operational promise it held? Two, did its crew egregiously fail to execute assigned duties, whether out of incompetence, carelessness, or faulty doctrine or tactics? And three, was its performance so deficient that it set back national power or purposes? A boat -- or group thereof -- that meets these standards warrants membership in an undersea hall of shame. Herewith, History's Worst 5 Submarines, listed from least bad to worst of the worst:

 

Thresher, Scorpion, and Kursk

Why the hodgepodge? These are boats that sank under puzzling circumstances, damaging a great-power navy's reputation for excellence at a time when reputation truly mattered. Because it's hard to say for sure what happened -- whether equipment or human failure was more blameworthy -- these disparate boats belong in a class of their own. Thresher, the lead boat in a new class of American SSNs, suffered catastrophic flooding in April 1963 while operating near its maximum operating depth. Deep water means intense pressure. Even a small leak in a piping system can quickly outstrip damage-control teams' efforts to patch it. Speculation has it that a weld sprung a leak, shorting out electrical equipment and causing a reactor scram. Cascading failures kept the boat from surfacing. But as Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the godfather of U.S. naval nuclear propulsion, told Congress, "the known facts" about the disaster "are so meager it is almost impossible to tell what was happening aboard Thresher."What we do know is that the accident sent the U.S. Navy scurrying for answers -- and trying to mend the silent service's esteem -- at a critical juncture in the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a recent memory, while Admiral Sergei Gorshkov's Soviet Navy was embarking on a crash buildup. Clausewitz portrays military competition as a "trial of moral and physical forces" -- of strength, on other words -- "through the medium of the latter." The death of Thresher worked against the idea of U.S. undersea mastery -- heartening Moscow for the zero-sum contest between East and West. Another American boat, the Skipjack-class SSN Scorpion, went down in May 1968. Again, courts of inquiry were unable to determine for sure what had happened. The Naval History and Heritage Command, however, reports that "the most probable event was the inadvertent activation of a Mark 37 torpedo during an inspection." The fish either commenced running within its tube, or was released, circled around, and targeted Scorpion. Either way, the cataclysm applied another sharp blow to the submarine force's prestige. The balance of moral forces again tilted Moscow's way. Built after the Cold War, Kursk, an Oscar II-class sub, became a metaphor for the economic and political woes that ailed post-Soviet Russia. Many Russians, including President Vladimir Putin, bewailed the downfall of the Soviet Union. They longed for the days when their country was a superpower. That the Russian Navy still operated a potent undersea fleet was a token of past dignity and hopes for a restoration. Those hopes took a hit in 2000, when a torpedo malfunctioned -- setting off a chain reaction of explosions that left the pride of the Northern Fleet at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The lesson from these sinkings and similar debacles--think last year's explosion on board the Indian diesel boat Sindhurakshak--is sobering for navies. When a ship becomes a symbol, its death has outsized political and even cultural ramifications. Failures in seamanship or everyday routine, then, can reverberate far beyond a boat's hull.

 

Type 092 Xia

You can say one good thing about the next boat on the list: it hasn't sunk. On the other hand, China's first SSBN has done little to advance its chief mission, nuclear deterrence. The lone Xia entered service in 1983. Its crew finally managed to test-fire an intermediate-range JL-1 ballistic missile in 1988, overcoming debilitating fire-control problems. Yet the boat has never made a deterrent patrol and seldom leaves the pier. Retired submarine commander William Murray describes the Xia -- and the Han SSNs from which its design derives -- as "aging, noisy, and obsolete. “American submariners joke that some foreign subs are as noisy as two skeletons making love inside a metal trash can. When a boat becomes an object of fun, its parent navy has problems. Small wonder China's naval leadership skipped on to a more modern design, the Type 094 -- leaving the Xia a ship class of one.

 

K-class submarines

When new technologies appear, navies habitually deploy them as fleet auxiliaries -- that is, to help the existing fleet do what it's already doing, except better. Undersea craft were no exception a century ago, when navies were still experimenting with them. The Royal Navy's World War I-era K-class boat was a failed experiment, as the nicknames affixed to it--Kalamity, or Katastrophe--attest. Designed in 1913, these boats were meant to range ahead of the surface fleet, screening the fleet's battlewagons and battlecruisers against enemy torpedo craft. Or they could seize the offensive, softening up the enemy battle line before the decisive fleet encounter. A solid concept. But to keep up with surface men-of-war, such a boat would need to travel at around 21 knots on the surface, faster than any British sub yet built. Diesel engines were incapable of driving a boat through the water at such velocity. The Admiralty's speed requirement, therefore, demanded steam propulsion. However sound the tactics behind the K-class, outfitting subs with steam plants was a bad idea. Ask any marine engineer. Boilers gulp in air, they generate prodigious amounts of heat, and they emit exhaust gases in large quantities. Trying to submerge a steamship, consequently, means trying to submerge a hull with lots of intakes and smokestacks. Unsurprisingly, the K-class leaked. The heat was torrid while underwater. It wallowed in rough seas, and displayed a troublesome reluctance to pull out of a dive. Of 18 K-class boats, none was lost to enemy action. But six -- a full third of the class -- were lost to accidents. The most gallant, astute crew can achieve little with hardware that is backward. Never again did the Royal Navy establishment foist a conventional steam-powered boat on British tars.  K-219. This Yankee-class Soviet SSBN suffered an explosion and fire in a missile tube in 1986, while cruising some 600 miles east of Bermuda. It occupies an ignominious place on this list because of the repercussions of losing a ballistic-missile boat -- a vessel stuffed with nuclear firepower -- and because by most accounts the mishap was needless. Here, as with the travails of the K-class boats, blame lies at the feet of obtuse senior leaders. Such failings annul even capable platforms. Two expert commentators, Igor Kurdin and Wayne Grasdock, explain why. First, the Soviet leadership had set the SSBN force on a helter-skelter patrol schedule to reciprocate as the Reagan administration deployed the Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe. Crew training and periodic overhauls slipped as Soviet SSBNs made two or three deterrent patrols each year, well beyond their usual clip. Massive turnover within K-219's crew helped little. Performance suffered as the boat prowled patrol grounds far from Soviet bases and shipyards. Kurdin and Grasdock observe, second, that the Soviet Navy was lackadaisical about safety by comparison with the U.S. Navy. (To its credit, the U.S. silent service got religion in the wake of the Thresher and Scorpion incidents, instituting its SUBSAFE program.) Evidently, they write, the explosion and fire may not have occurred "if one more person had checked the last maintenance performed on missile tube No. 6." In short, to keep up appearances in the late Cold War, Moscow and the naval establishment imposed an operational tempo on the SSBN force that prompted submariners to cut corners on basic standards. The result: a black eye for the Soviet Union, a superpower in retreat. Here again, neglect of the fundamentals had major political import.1. Imperial Japanese Navy submarine force. Granted, it seems unfair to indict an entire silent service on this list. But what did IJN submarines accomplish against the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II, when the American war effort depended on long, distended sea lanes vulnerable to undersea assault? Not much. Subpar performance resulted not from a shortage of capable boats or skillful, resolute sailors -- by most accounts Japanese fleet boats were the equals of the Gato-class boats that spearheaded the U.S. submarine campaign--but from a shortage of flexibility and imagination among top commanders. As noted before, navies tend to use unfamiliar technologies as auxiliaries. So it was with Japan. But whereas some services innovate over time, the IJN leadership proved stubbornly shortsighted. For decades, commanders had marinated themselves in a bowdlerized version of Alfred Thayer Mahan's works. In particular, they made a fetish of Mahan's advocacy of duels between big-gun warships. Having donned doctrinal blinkers, they could conceive of few ways to employ subs beyond supporting the battle fleet. Rather than inflict mayhem on U.S. logistics--much as the German Navy did in the Atlantic, and much as the U.S. Navy did against Japanese sea lanes in the Western Pacific--the IJN allowed transports, tankers, and other vital but unsexy shipping to pass to and from unmolested. Vast quantities of American war materiel traversed the broad Pacific--letting American forces surmount the tyranny of distance. Inaction added up to a colossal missed opportunity for Imperial Japan. The IJN had largely mastered the aerial dimension of naval warfare, putting to sea impressive aircraft-carrier task forces. Pearl Harbor bore witness to Japanese carrier aviators' prowess. Why its backward approach to submarine warfare? For one thing, there was no Isoroku Yamamoto of undersea combat. Admiral Yamamoto threw his immense personal prestige behind the strike on Oahu, threatening to resign if top commanders rebuffed the aviation-centric strategy he proposed in favor of battleship engagements. The submarine force had no such champion to challenge orthodoxy. The IJN, accordingly, clung to its quasi-Mahanian dogma throughout the Pacific War. A potent submarine force ended up being a wasting asset, consuming resources for little reason. For which U.S. military veterans everywhere are eternally grateful. When shipping out for oceanic battlegrounds, it's good to face history's worst subs. The Imperial Japanese Navy submarine force is hereby designated Bottom Gun.

 

S.A. Navy tests new submarine escape system

Shortcomings in a two-man escape submarine procedure have been remedied by South African ingenuity and successfully tested onboard SAS ‘Manthatisi in False Bay. The tower escape system allows for two submariners to exit a stricken submarine via the conning tower. The seamen, wearing special air-filled suits allowing a rapid ascent to the surface, climb the conning tower ladder and wait for the tower to be flooded. They then rise to the surface and the tower is refilled with air ready for the next pair of crew members.“Shortcomings in this two-man escape procedure were discovered during trials after the Heroine Class Type 209 submarines were commissioned,” SA Navy spokesman Commander Greyling van den Berg said.“As the tower floods, the bottom sailor is forced up by air in his suit causing both sailors to get stuck at the hatch opening.”Recently a South African developed and produced prototype system which enhances the original system, was tested onboard SAS ‘Manthatisi. The successful test was conducted from a depth of 20 metres. Project TESS, an acronym for submarine tower escape safety system, was initiated by the SA Navy in 2009 in conjunction with Armscor, the Institute of Maritime Technology (IMT) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).“The new system has a special mechanical rail system inside the tower. Each submariner hooks onto it one below the other. As the tower floods the rail system keeps the submariners in position, despite their air-filled suits.“The submariners are released by an automated hold-trigger and release mechanism opening the tower upper hatch. This system works even if the submariners are unconscious.“The entire procedure takes between three and ten seconds for two submariners to surface from a depth of 10 metres. The escape cycle is repeated until the entire crew has escaped,” he said. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) Institute for Maritime Medicine was extensively involved in the planning phase and provided medical support during the test. This because of the risks associated with quick ascents, including barotrauma (decompression sickness), hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. SA Navy divers were on hand to assist their below surface colleagues as they surfaced. “It is envisaged TESS will eventually be incorporated on all SA Navy submarines. Successful completion of the system by aspirant submariners will be an additional requirement for qualification.“The successful TESS test shows the SA Navy takes the safety of all its members seriously and goes to great lengths to ensure equipment, both sub-surface and surface platforms, can be operated safely.“The False Bay test also confirms the SA Navy and its partners – Armscor, the IMT and the CSIR – are at the forefront of technology and engineering internationally, as South African submarines will be the first fitted with TESS,” Van den Berg said.

 

SwRI to design remotely operated rescue submarines for Royal Australian Navy

Southwest Research Institute is designing and supporting the building of a state-of-the-art remotely operated rescue vehicle as part of a $7.7 million project for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The system will feature a shallow and a deep water vehicle designed to connect with disabled submarines (DISSUB) to allow for the rescue of people trapped on board. They will be among a handful of remotely operated air-transportable submarine rescue systems in the world. The first remotely operated submarine rescue vehicle was developed in the early 2000s, in the wake of the Kursk submarine accident, when a Russian nuclear submarine disabled by a sudden internal torpedo explosion sank in the Arctic Ocean. Difficulty locating the sub and inability to connect a rescue submersible to the escape hatch of the Kursk resulted in the death of more than 100 Russian sailors. The project is in support of the SEA1354 Phase 1 Submarine Escape, Rescue and Abandonment System and a collaboration with Phoenix International in addition to multiple subcontractors in Australia.Matt James, program manager in SwRI’s Marine and Offshore Systems section, will lead a team of engineers to design the hull for the remotely operated rescue vehicle (RORV) for deep water rescue, which has a capacity of 12 evacuees plus two crewmembers. SwRI is designing and fabricating uniquely dexterous transfer skirts for both the deep water RORV and the shallow water vehicle. Submarines contain a small compartment known as an escape trunk, to escape a DISSUB. The transfer skirt is a rotating apparatus on the rescue vehicle that attaches to the hatch of the escape trunk.“The deep water RORV will reach depths up to 600 meters,” James said. “The shallow water rescue vehicle will operate up to 80 meters. The U.S. Navy submarine rescue vehicle has a transfer skirt that can rotate 45 degrees, but the RAN vehicles will rotate up to 60 degrees, giving them increased flexibility.”A main concern in deep water rescues is decompression sickness, a potentially debilitating illness that can arise from depressurizing too quickly. If a person transitions too quickly between pressurized states, dissolved gases can come out of solution, forming bubbles that move throughout the body, causing joint pain, paralysis and even death.“The deep water RORV will be pressurized to match the pressure of the disabled submarine,” James said. “This allows for a rescued person to transfer to a decompression chamber when they reach the surface and avoid the risk of decompression sickness.”The rescue system will be transportable via aircraft and will launch from ships, mobilizing within hours of an incident. While they will primarily serve Australia’s navy, the system will also be capable of supporting other submarine operating nations by means of the NATO standard escape hatch.

 

French Nuclear Missile Submarine Collided With a British Nuclear Attack Sub

Late at night on February 3, 2009 the crew of the French nuclear submarine Triomphant, experienced something of a shock. The 138-meter-long submarine, the lead boat of four serving today as a key part of France’s nuclear strike force, was returning to port submerged under the heavy seas of the East Atlantic when something impacted violently upon its bow and sail. On February 6 the French Ministry of Defense reported that the submarine had suffered a collision with an “an immersed object (probably a container).” The same day the Triomphant returned to its base in Ile Longue, Brest escorted by a frigate. Curiously, the HMS Vanguard, a British Royal Navy nuclear submarine also experienced a collision that evening. The first of her class, the Vanguard measures 150 meters long and displaces 16,900 tons when submerged. At some point, the two navies compared notes. On February 16 they announced the two submarines “briefly came into contact at a very low speed while submerged.” Fortunately, no crew members were harmed in the accident, though repairs were estimated to cost a minimum of 50 million pounds. When the Vanguard returned to its base in Faslane, Scotland, it was visibly badly mangled around its missile compartment and starboard side.“The French submarine had took a massive chunk out of the front of HMS Vanguard and grazed down the side of the boat,” later claimed William McNeilly, a whistleblower who served in the U.K.’s nuclear submarine program. “The High Pressured Air (HPA) bottle groups were hanging off and banging against the pressure hull. They had to return to base port slowly, because if one of HPA bottle groups exploded it would've created a chain reaction and sent the submarine plummeting to the bottom.” On the French side of things, official statements indicated the damage to the Triomphant was confined to its Thales active sonar dome on the tip of the starboard bow. However, a regional newspaper later reported that its conning tower and the starboard sail plane attached to it were both deformed, implying multiple impacts. Of course, particularly alarming was that both ships were designed to carry nuclear missiles: sixteen M45 ballistic missiles on the Triomphant and the same number of Trident II missiles onboard the Vanguard, each carrying 4 and 6 nuclear warheads respectively. Losing such apocalyptic firepower on the ocean floor would have been a catastrophe. However, nuclear warheads are not susceptible to “going off” as a result of a collision. The same cannot be said of the nuclear reactors powering the two ships. A sufficiently serious collision could have breached the containment of the reactors, irradiating the crew and the surrounding expanse of oceanic waters. Fortunately, the British defense ministry assured “there was no compromise to nuclear safety.”So, who was at fault for this potentially catastrophic brushing of cold, watery steel? In a way, what’s most alarming may be that the crew did not make any mistakes and that the error may truly lie with secretive ballistic missile submarine strategy that may be difficult to change. While an attack submarine is always on the lookout for other ships and submarines and often seeks to shadow those of foreign nations a ballistic missile submarine just wants to be left alone and undetected under the ocean. Such submarines serve as a stealthy guarantor that any deadly attack on its home country could be reciprocated with a nuclear strike from a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) launched from underwater. While a hypothetical aggressor might hope to take out a nation’s ground and air-based nuclear forces with a preemptive strike, submarines concealed deep underwater across the globe would be impossible to reliably track down and destroy—at least not all of them, and only as long as they don’t broadcast their presence. However, one might think that two submarines passing close enough to scratch each other’s backs should be able to detect each other’s presence. However, modern subs have become very quiet, benefitting from tear-drop shaped hulls, superior propellers, and sound-absorbing anechoic tiles, among other technologies. As French defense minister Hervé Morin humble-bragged, “We face an extremely simple technological problem, which is that these submarines are not detectable.” A submerged submarine can use either active or passive sonar to detect other subs. Passive sonar basically entails using audiophones to listen to the surrounding water, but that might not be adequate to detect a slow-moving modern submarine. A submarine could employ its active sonar to create sound waves which reflect off of other undersea objects, improving its detection power. However doing so would also broadcast the submarine’s position to anyone else who is listening. Because a missile sub’s chief priority is to avoid detection, both the Triomphant and Vanguard were relying purely on passive sonar—and neither submarine detected the other with it. Submarine collisions are hardly unknown. Usually these involved one submarine shadowing another just a bit too closely, such as happened in the collision of the Russian K-407 and the USS Grayling in 1993. This has led to speculation that the Triomphant was chasing after the Vanguard. However, these kind of cat and mouse games are the province of attack submarines, not missile submarines. It may seem vastly improbable that two submarines bumped into each other randomly across the vast volume of the ocean. However, the explanation may be that submariners are inclined to operate in certain common undersea regions—increasing the still remote chance of collision significantly. “Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports,” nuclear engineer John Strong remarked in an interview with the BBC. “So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States.”The solution to avoiding further collisions would be to coordinate sub patrols between nations to avoid operating in the same place at the same time—but that runs counter to the paranoid logic underlying ballistic missile patrols. After all, even information shared between allies could theoretically be obtained by a hostile nation to help track down the missile submarines and take destroy them. While France was singled out for criticism for not sharing its patrol routes with NATO, in reality even the water space management information shared between the United Kingdom and United States did not include ballistic missile submarines according to the New York Times. The Triomphant-Vanguard collision suggests that what seemed extraordinarily unlikely event—a collision between nuclear submarines in the middle of the ocean doing their best to remain discrete—may not be so in fact. Sharing more data between allies to mitigate the risks of future collisions would likely enhance, not weaken, the security of both those submarines and the nations they defend.

 

US Navy Sent a Submarine On a Secret Mission (It Never Came Home).

In May 1968, a U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarine was sent on a secret mission to spy on the Soviet navy. Seven days later, with the families of the crew waiting dockside for the USS Scorpion to return from a three-month patrol, the U.S. Navy realized that the submarine was missing. Scorpion had been the victim of a mysterious accident, the nature of which is debated to this day. The USS Scorpion was a Skipjack-class nuclear attack submarine. It was one of the first American submarines with a teardrop-shaped hull, as opposed to the blockier hull of World War II submarines and their descendants. It was laid down in August 1958 and commissioned into service in July 1960. The Skipjacks were smaller than nuclear submarines today, with a displacement of 3,075 tons and measuring just 252-feet long by 31-feet wide. They had a crew of ninety-nine, including twelve officers and eighty-seven enlisted men. The class was the first to use the Westinghouse S5W nuclear reactor, which gave the submarine a top speed of fifteen knots surfaced and thirty-three knots submerged. The primary armament for the Skipjack class was the Mk-37 homing torpedo. The Mk-37 had an active homing sonar, a range of ten thousand yards with a speed of twenty-six knots, and a warhead packed with 330 pounds of HBX-3 explosive. Scorpion was only eight years old at the time of its loss, relatively new by modern standards. Still, complaints from the crew that the sub was already showing its age were rampant. According to a 1998 article in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Scorpion had 109 unfulfilled work orders during its last deployment. It had “chronic problems” with its hydraulics, its emergency blow system didn’t work and emergency seawater shutoff valves had not yet been decentralized. At the start of its final patrol, 1,500 gallons of oil leaked from its conning tower as it left Hampton Roads. Two months before its loss, Scorpion’s captain, Cdr. Francis Atwood Slattery, had drafted an emergency work request for the hull, which he claimed “was in a very poor state of preservation.” He also expressed concern about leaking valves that caused the submarine to be restricted to a dive depth of just three hundred feet—less than half of the Skipjack’s test depth. Many had taken to calling the submarine the USS Scrapiron. On May 20, the commander of the Navy’s Atlantic submarine fleet had ordered Scorpion to observe a Soviet flotilla in the vicinity of the Canary Islands. The Soviet task force, which consisted of an Echo-II-class submarine, a submarine rescue vessel, two hydrographic survey ships, a destroyer and an oiler were thought to be taking acoustic measurements of NATO surface ships and submarines. On May 21 Scorpion checked in by radio, noting its position and estimating its return to Norfolk on May 27. The report noted nothing unusual. By May 28, the Navy knew the submarine had been destroyed. The SOSUS underwater surveillance system, designed to detect Soviet submarines, had heard it explode underwater. Scorpion’s remains would later be found by deep-diving submersibles under two miles of water, in a debris field 3,000 by 1,800 feet. What happened to Scorpion? The U.S. Navy’s report on the incident is inconclusive. A number of theories—and at least one conspiracy have arisen to explain the loss of the ship and ninety-nine crew members, but all lack hard evidence. One theory advanced by a technical advisory group convened by the Navy to examine the physical evidence is that the Scorpion had fallen victim to a “hot-run” torpedo, a torpedo that accidentally becomes active in the tube. Unlike other gas-ejected torpedoes, the Mk-37 swam out of the tube, a quieter egress that prevented submarine detection. This theory is bolstered by reports that the submarine was headed in the opposite direction at the time of destruction as was anticipated—a common solution for a hot-run torpedo was to turn 180 degrees to activate its anti-friendly-fire failsafe, which prevented it from turning on the firer. Ano