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Female Submarine officer ‘filmed X-rated videos’ at Faslane
Lieutenant Claire Jenkins admitted filming the explicit videos with her partner, Leading Seaman Liam Doddington. A Royal Navy officer is under investigation after she was caught making indecent films with her partner, a leading seaman, at the Faslane nuclear submarine base. Lieutenant Claire Jenkins, 29, who has commanded a team of sailors on HMS Artful, the Astute-class attack submarine, is accused of selling the content on an adult website. The warfare officer, who uses the name.Cally Taylor on the website, regularly posts explicit pictures and videos with her boyfriend, Liam Doddington, also based at Faslane.
The Only Submarine Ever Sunk by Its Toilet
Submersibles have been destroyed a host of ways over the years. Depth charges, naval and aerial bombings, collisions, even mechanical troubles have all dispatched them to Davy Jones’ Locker. But only one holds the, err, distinction of being done in by its own potty. U-1206 was the pride of Nazi Germany’s navy when she went into service in March 1944. Some 50 officers and men were assigned to her as she set out to attack Allied shipping. Daily life aboard a U-boat was rough. They were built for combat performance, not comfort. Crewmen made their way around machinery and weaponry as best they could for months at a time. The food was bad, the air was stale and smelled of diesel exhaust fumes and guys who had gone too long without showering. Then there was the matter of the “head,” naval slang for the bathroom. U-boats had only two – and one was often used to store extra food for the long undersea voyages. That’s right, all 50 men had to share one–and only one–restroom. But U-1206 boasted a creature comfort most other submarines didn’t have: A state-of-the-art high-pressure toilet that could be flushed while submerged at great depths. That was very important because when 50 guys are using the same facility, you want all the flushing you can get. Without going into technobabble, the pressure system was extremely complex. Leave it to the Germans to devise a flushing mechanism that was so complicated, an engineer “specialist” had to be present every time it was used. And it worked well … until Saturday, April 14, 1945. U-1206 had left occupied Norway eight days earlier and was cruising off the Scottish coast when something happened. Kapitänleutnant Karl Adolf Schlitt (you have to be very careful pronouncing that name when you telling this story) was commanding a U-Boat for the very first time. Naturally, that would drive up a man’s sense of self-importance. But it’s possible Schlitt may have carried cockiness a bit too far because there are different versions of what happened next. The skipper’s official report says the intricate water pressure system sprang a leak. It leaked alright. But the crew told a completely different story. They said Captain Schlitt had an inflated view of his mechanical competence. He didn’t need any “specialist” to tell him how to work the new-fangled system. He could read the manual and make it flush all by himself. Except, he couldn’t. When he pulled the chain, the sub began filling with water from the ocean combined with raw sewage from its storage compartment. Talk about a mess! Schlitt cried for help. But nobody could figure out how how to stop the rapidly spreading slop. It eventually reached the U-boat’s batteries. Saltwater and battery acid combined to create dangerous chlorine gas (one of several gases that had been used in World War I’s deadly trench attacks). With toxic fumes quickly filling the boat, Schlitt had no choice but to order U-1206 to surface and open the hatch. Which is the most dangerous thing a submarine can do in wartime. It didn’t take the Brits long to spot the sub and attack her from the air. One crew member was killed, and U-1206 was so badly damaged she couldn’t dive. So Schlitt had her scuttled and then gave the order to abandon ship. Three men drowned during the evacuation. Nearby British ships picked up 36 others. The remaining 10 made it to shore in a lifeboat and were quickly captured. In a way, U-1206’s demise was a fitting metaphor for its homeland’s sinking condition, because Nazi Germany was also going down the drain at the time. Within a fortnight, Hitler fired a bullet into his brain; the Third Reich went out of business a week later. Nobody knows what happened to the skipper after the war. Schlitt slunk home in shame and disappeared from history. Divers working on a pipeline stumbled upon the U-boat’s remains in the 1970s. She sits silently rusting on the bottom of the sea today, the only submarine ever sunk because someone had to use the facilities.
Mariotti shipyard selected for Italy's new submarine rescue, dive support vessel.
Genoa-based shipyard T.Mariotti has been selected by the Italian Ministry of Defence's (MOD's) naval armaments directorate to build and deliver the Italian Navy's new special and diving operations – submarine rescue ship (SDO-SuRS), and a land-based dual-use hyperbaric centre in La Spezia. According to a press statement from the company, the contract award is expected by mid-2021. No details have been provided on the contract value, but the MOD's 2020–22 multiyear planning document indicates an allocated budget of EUR424 million for the programme. The first steel-cut is planned by end-2022 while the overall design, construction, fitting-out, and delivery programme will require four years with expected delivery in 2025, according to the shipbuilder. The new SDO-SuRS vessel will replace the Italian Navy's ageing salvage ship ITS Anteo (A 5309), which has been in service for more than 40 years. The new ship features a modular design that is meant to accomplish four main tasks in support of the navy's diving and special forces units. These include the rescue of distressed submariners, and this will centre around a newly developed tethered submarine rescue vehicle (SRV), support equipment that is capable of operating up to 600 m, and onboard compression chambers. The rescue package delivery was assigned to a joint industrial team comprising Italian companies Saipem and Drass. The SDO-SuRS will also be capable of embarking components of the NATO Submarine Rescue System. In addition to submarine rescue, the new ship will be able to support deep saturation diving operations up to 300 m, and special forces operations. It can also be deployed as a command platform for expeditionary operations.
U.S. Navy Submarine Was On Fire Underwater
Fortunately, most of Bonefish’s crew miraculously escaped the calamity with their lives—but that doesn’t lessen the tragedy of the three crew members who were not so fortunate. On the afternoon of April 24, 1988, all was not well in the USS Bonefish—amongst the last remaining diesel-electric submarines in the U.S. Navy. Power cables in Bonefish’s forward battery well were sparking and glowing cherry red, small flames and electrical arcs licking across the battery bus. A petty officer rang the alarm “Fire on third street!” The crew frantically blasted CO2 fire extinguishers to cool the overheating battery but the flames continued to grow and light smoke began wafting across the submarine began surfacing to periscope depth. Nine minutes later Bonefish’s skipper ordered the hatches to the battery compartment sealed, hoping to starve the flames. But even as damage control crews struggled to comply, there was an explosion and a fireball coursed across the compartment, blasting sailors against the wall. In moments, jet black smoke poured across the ship, blinding the crew and making breathing poison. Bonefish was on fire from the inside out—and she was still underwater.
America’s Last Diesel-Electric Submarine
The U.S. Navy has not lost a single submarine to an accident at sea in over fifty years despite operating one of the largest underwater fleets on the planet—not since implementing safety reforms after losing Thresher in 1963 and the Scorpion in 1968.To be sure there have been bumps along the way—quite literally, given multiple collisions with Russian submarines, a Japanese fishing ship, and the seafloor. But the fire onboard the Bonefish remains arguably the most important asterisk to the Navy’s impressive submarine safety record. Bonefish was one of three Barbel-class submarines commissioned in 1959, incorporating new design features such as a sleek tear-drops-shaped hull and a consolidated layout situating the command and fire control centers under the bridge/conning tower. But unlike nuclear-powered peers then beginning to enter service, the Barbels were constrained by the life of their 506 lead-acid battery cells. A Barbel could last just over four days underwater creeping at 3 knots (ie. walking speed) but that same battery would only last just 90 minutes at a flank speed of 18.5 knots. After that, they needed to risk detection by surfacing or snorkeling and running their diesel engines to recharge their batteries. Serving most of her career in the Pacific Ocean, Bonefish crossed the Panama canal in 1982 and joined the Atlantic fleet. By 1988 the aging submarine was bedeviled by increasing mechanical problems, but her last operational skipper Mike Wilson lobbied for two months of additional maintenance to try to address them. Unfortunately, several seemingly minor long-running problems were either accepted or went undetected—and these combined in tragic fashion while Bonefish was submerged. That April Bonefish participated in an anti-submarine training exercise with the John F. Kennedy’s carrier taskforce 160 miles east of Florida—particularly sparring with Kennedy’s anti-submarine helicopters and the escorting frigate USS Carr. At roughly 3:40 PM on April 24, however, Bonefish had just completed recharging her batteries when her engineers noticed one of her batteries had grounded—but couldn’t determine which due to an operator error. Captain Wilson decided at 4 PM to proceed with a programmed dive to 150 feet while the engineers got to the bottom of a seemingly ordinary problem. Twenty minutes later Bonefish’s crew figured out which battery was the source of the grounding issue at the same time as leaking seawater was detected. The flooding was later traced back to a leaky seal in the Bonefish’s Trash Disposal Unit used to eject waste into the water, as detailed in the Navy’s investigation. The leak allowed saltwater to gradually build up. When the Carr dove, the change in pitch allowed saltwater to flood across the ship, corroding the joint where battery cables penetrated the deck. The interaction between the saltwater and the exposed electrical cables ultimately led to the overheating and explosion of the forward battery well as described at the beginning of the article. The explosion at 4:39 PM cast a dense fog of choking smoke into the submarine’s command center. Wilson ordered emergency surfacing. The safety procedure, now essential for survival, was to don an Emergency Air Breather (EAB)—an enclosed face mask with an air hose that could be hastily plugged into fittings across the ship as pictured here. But Lt. Ray Evert, the Officer On Deck, didn’t put on his EAB. According to fellow crewmember William Baker, Everts was likely dead set on one thing: verifying on the periscope that Bonefish was clear to surface so she didn’t accidentally collide with the Carr nearby. And the EAB would have impaired his vision while doing so. Fortunately, the coast was clear, and Bonefish surfaced at 4:41. Everts then climbed up to the bridge, opening the lower hatch, and then attempted to open the upper hatch to the surface. But new to Bonefish, he wasn’t aware that the hatch suffered from a defect in her lugs, long reported but ignored, and required a reverse quarter-turn to open. Unable to open the hatch, Everts climbed back down and collapsed on the command center’s floor, whereupon Wilson noticed and placed an EAB on his face. Another lieutenant managed to pop open the hatch. With Bonefish surfaced and her bridge hatch open, the crew now sought to ventilate the vessel by running the diesel engines to clear the smoke, hopefully making it possible to fight the fire. The maneuver succeeded in temporarily clearing smoke from the control room but not the remainder of the vessel. Hearing the fire in the battery well was out of control and that submarine’s #3 diesel engine had quit when activated, Wilson finally gave the order to abandon ship. Personnel began pouring out of Bonefish’s hatches in the torpedo room (where most personnel had evacuated), bridge, mid-ship, and engine room. But two incapacitated crew members proved impossible to remove. Sailors tried repeatedly to hoist Lt. Everts out the bridge hatch but were finally forced to as smoke pervaded the submarine. Radioman First Class Robert Bordelon passed out as well, and his fellows were unable to pull him up the bridge hatch. A third, Yeoman Third Class Marshal Lindgren became disoriented and remained behind in the submarine. On the submarine’s slippery deck, the crew struggled to keep their balance and several fell overboard. Fortunately, the frigate Carr moved aggressively to coordinate a rescue effort, including deploying rescue rafts—only to promptly lose several as they were faulty and simply sank. A Sea King helicopter from the carrier Kennedy piloted by Lt. Cdr. Waickiwicz extracted more than twenty crewmembers over three hours using a rescue hoist despite dangerous flying conditions, at one point refusing an order to withdraw. According to helicopter crewman Jim Chapman, the hoist was even lowered inside one of Bonefish’s hatches to pry out a heavyset sailor stuck inside. A pararescue man named Larry Grossman also jumped down and remained in the water for hours assisting with the rescue despite enduring personal harm from spilled fuel and chemicals. Altogether, eighty-nine of the ninety-two crew aboard Bonefish were saved. Aboard the Carr they were treated to donated clothing and a warm meal as they recovered from the ordeal. Fourteen sailors with serious injuries were later air-evacuated to the carrier Kennedy for treatment. Bonefish was not technically destroyed by the fire—but she was effectively done. Towed back to Charleston by the aptly named USS Hoist, she was decommissioned five months later and scrapped. Fortunately, most of Bonefish’s crew miraculously escaped the calamity with their lives—but that doesn’t lessen the tragedy of the three crew members who were not so fortunate.
Bellona urges the Arctic Council to tackle sunken radioactive waste
As Russia begins its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Bellona supports an international response to raising nuclear submarines and other radioactive debris scuttled by the Soviet Union in Arctic seas. In a letter to council members sent this week, Bellona wrote that it “sincerely believes that the period of the Russian Federation’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council can and should become a new stage in fruitful cooperation between the Arctic countries to bring the Arctic seas to a safe condition. ”The organization wrote further that recovering and disposing of radioactive waste and nuclear submarines dumped in the waters surrounding the North Pole would be “not only to Russia’s benefit, but the benefit of all participating countries” that make up the seven-nation council. To accomplish this, Bellona urges the council to adopt what it calls the “Safe Arctic Waters,” project, which would facilitate engineering surveys of the seabed where the waste lies, as well as galvanize international funding and expertise around its retrieval. Between 1959 and 1992, the Soviet Union carried out 80 missions to sink radioactive debris in Arctic waters. In total, some 18,000 objects considered to be radioactive waste were plunged into the depths. Among them are two entire nuclear submarines – the K-159 and the K-27 – as well as submarine reactor compartments, solid radioactive waste, a number of irradiated vessels, as well as old metal structures and radioactive equipment. A map showing the locations of radioactive debris sunk by the Soviet Navy. This includes the K-27 and K-159 submarines, as well as the reactor compartments from the ?-11, ?-19, and ?-140 submarines, as well as waste from the Lenin nuclear icebreaker. Scientists at the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, or IBRAE, say that time and corrosion have erased thousands of these hazards, leaving about 1,000 that continue to pose high risks of radioactive contamination. Chief among these are the K-159 and the K-27, both of which were submerged while their reactors still contained their nuclear fuel. Also of concern, according to IBRAE, are the nuclear reactor from the K-140 submarine, five reactor compartments from other nuclear submarines, as well as the screen assembly from the Lenin nuclear icebreaker. The K-159, in particular, lies in the midst of fertile international fishing waters in the Kara Sea. Should a serious breach in the vessel’s sunken reactors occur, Russian experts estimate that fishing would be banned in the area for at least a month, costing the Russian and Norwegian economies about $120 million. That’s just slightly less than most estimates for raising the vessel. Unlike the K-159, which sank accidentally, the K-27 was scuttled intentionally. Launched in 1962, the K-27 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. 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. That 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. The Russian government has set itself the priority of retrieving these objects from the depths by 2030. But Russian authorities and Bellona are clear that such a goal will require significant international cooperation from among the nations of the Arctic Council. Bellona is hopeful that a spirit of cooperation will prevail and coalesce around addressing these threats. In many ways, the mechanics of such cooperation are already familiar. Since the early 2000s, massive projects to decommission Soviet-era nuclear submarines have been ongoing with the assistance of numerous western partners. Moscow has shared information about these radioactive hazards with nations of the G-7 and has worked with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and other donors to tackle them. This international cooperation has brought significant results. Military bases have been cleared of most radioactive contamination and nearly 200 rusted-out nuclear submarines have been safely dismantled, as a review of the last 25 years of Bellona’s work clearly shows. Russia, moreover, has the necessary infrastructure to deal with whatever discarded radiation hazards are brought to the surface of Arctic waters. And while Russia lacks the necessary vessels for such undersea rescues, the international partners it has developed while cleaning up other components of the Soviet nuclear legacy certainly do. As Russia assumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, we urge the community to rally around the retrieval of these radiation hazards, and their subsequent safe storage.
Funding threat hangs over future submarine program
Although French shipbuilder Naval Group reassuringly advises that it is making significant progress in developing the design of the RAN’s Attack-class Future Submarine, a contentious funding issue has become the latest problem to bedevil the $90bn program. As of mid-May this was continuing to be the subject of bitter contractual wrangling between Naval Group and Defence over the anticipated cost of work officially known as Core Workstate 2. This involves basic design activities through to the Preliminary Design Review scheduled for May 2023. These activities continue work already undertaken under the Submarine Design contract signed in March 2019, with an initial workscope of $605m. The scheduled work will provide detailed architecture for the hull structure and internal systems, including the placement of main systems, and will complete the functional design of the boat. At the conclusion of the Preliminary Design Review, the first-of-type will have been defined and no changes to equipment or requirements that would affect the balanced design produced to that point could be accommodated without impacting cost and schedule. The subsequent process will design systems in detail, integrating each zone to form detailed drawings for the whole submarine and develop the work instructions for pressure hull construction starting in 2024. According to informed sources, the costings for Core Workstate 2 submitted by Naval Group were at least 50 per cent higher than the Defence estimate of $2.5-$3bn. This total included completion of the submarine construction yard being built at Osborne North by government-owned Australian Naval Infrastructure to the functional requirements of Naval Group.Naval Group has declined to answer questions on the funding issue — or indeed on virtually anything else — but is understood to have submitted, without success, a much-reduced figure to Canberra. Meanwhile, according to unconfirmed media reports, the government is refusing to pay Naval Group’s profit margin on work currently under way and the company is reportedly cutting costs and contractor support.The funding issue gained prominence in March after Naval Group settled a longstanding irritant with the commonwealth and formalised an undertaking to spend in Australia at least 60 per cent of the value of its contracts.This came after 12 months of tense negotiations and a breakthrough visit to Australia in February by the French company’s global chief executive Pierre-Eric Pommellet. Pommellet’s intervention came amid reports that the commonwealth, concerned about project disputes, schedule, and costs, was considering walking away from the Sea 1000 contract under which Naval Group is to design and build 12 Attack-class conventionally powered, regionally superior submarines for the RAN. Broader questions now hang over the Future Submarine Program and the maintenance of a viable Australian submarine capability. Although the 60 per cent issue has been settled, much broader questions to which the current financial dispute is contributing now hang over the Future Submarine Program and the maintenance of a viable Australian submarine capability. These follow the tasking in February by Scott Morrison of Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, Defence’s Chief of Joint Capability, and Commodore Tim Brown, Director-General of Submarine Capability, to examine options for the country’s submarine fleet. Defence’s recent refusal to respond to media questions on submarine issues has contributed to speculation rather than the clarity that might seem preferable. However, it’s understood that one option involves extensive rebuilds for the RAN’s six Collins-class boats starting in 2024, replacing a less comprehensive Life of Type Extension (LOTE) program currently scheduled to begin in 2026. This would probably involve the submarines’ original designer and builder, Swedish company Kockums (now Saab-Kockums) working as strategic partners with government-owned Collins sustainers ASC (formerly the Australian Submarine Corporation).This option would deliver four greatly enhanced Collins-class boats by 2032 and allow decommissioning of the first of the Collins-class fleet to be moved from 2026 to 2036; about two years after the first of the Attack-class is expected to enter service. Rejected by Defence in 2015 as a potential Sea 1000 partner, Saab began discussions with ASC in 2020 on interfacing its ship control system which already equips the Collins-class with the new equipment likely to be involved in extending the Collins’ service life. This includes new diesel generators, main motors, switching gear, and batteries. Other upgrades already scheduled for the Collins fleet include new bow and flank sonar arrays, modernisation of the legacy communications centre, replacement of the electronic warfare system, wideband satellite communications, and possible replacement of a periscope with an optronics mast. Further equipment eventually intended for the Attack-class would undoubtedly also be deployed on the upgraded Collins boats. A second option is understood to involve Saab Kockums producing a scoping study for a “Son of Collins” boat based on the company’s extended range Expeditionary Submarine, on offer to replace the Royal Netherlands Navy’s Walrus class. Such a move would provide a Plan B, the absence of which has been heavily criticised, should the commonwealth lose confidence in Naval Group. Then-Defence Minister Linda Reynolds agreed in February 2020 to meet four times a year with her French counterpart Florence Parly to discuss Sea 1000 progress. Her replacement Peter Dutton has quickly stamped his authority on the Defence portfolio and can be expected to take a hard-nosed view of Sea 1000 difficulties, whether with Defence, industry, or Mme Parly.
Russia Shows Titanium-Hulled Sierra II Attack Submarines In New Video
A video from the Russian Ministry of Defense's official television channel has offered an inside look at the country's titanium-hulled, nuclear-powered Sierra class attack submarines, including relatively close-up views of their wake detection systems. The footage shows interior spaces, including the inside of the escape pod on one of the submarines, as well. It also gives a look at various force protection measures the Russian Navy employs, including divers armed with specialized underwater guns and shoulder-mounted launchers that fire small depth charges used to engage enemy combat swimmers. The episode of TV Zveda's "Military Acceptance" program that aired over the weekend, which you can watch in full below, centered on the Russian Navy's Project 945 and Project 945A submarines. These are also known in Russia as the Barrakuda and Kondor classes, respectively, while NATO refers to them as Sierra I and Sierra II class submarines. Within the first minute of the episode, the camera pans across Pskov, the second Sierra II class submarine built, and the last of only four Sierra class boats constructed, overall. Elements of its "Wake Object Detection System," known in Russian as the System Obnarujenia Kilvaternovo Sleda, or SOKS, are clearly visible on the sail, including two protrusions right at the front on the top of it. There is also a relatively small mast on top that appears similar to one associated with SOKS array found on some Project 971 nuclear-powered attack submarines, also known as Akula class boats to NATO. It is worth noting that the mast on Pskov lacks the protrusions seen on the SOKS-associated one on some Akulas and maybe be unrelated to that sensor suite. There is also a sponson on the right side of Pskov's sail that could also be part of this sensor system. Another view of the SOKS suite on Pskov, including a relatively small mast on top, seen behind a folding windscreen on top of the sail. A portion of the SOKS system on top of the sail of an Akula class submarine. Interestingly, the other Sierra II class submarine, Nizhniy Novgorod, does not have the small mast on top of the sail, though it does have the pair of protrusions. A view of Nizhniy Novgorod clearly showing the SOKS gear at the front of the sail, as well as the side-mounted sponson, but no mast on top of the sail. Wake detection systems have been almost exclusively associated with Soviet and subsequently Russian submarines, though other countries have explored the concept over the years, including quite recently in the case of the U.K. Royal Navy. From what is known about the various SOKS suites, which first emerged in the 1960s, they are primarily designed to detect other submarines underwater by picking up the changes in water density they leave in their wake. There have also been reports suggesting that at least some SOKS versions may be able to detect traces of certain chemicals, such as flakes of sound-reducing coatings peeling off or oxygen-generating system byproducts released into the water, as well as nuclear radiation. Regardless, SOKS and similar systems are intended to offers a passive, non-acoustic sensor option to supplement active and passive sonars. You can read more about the advantages this could offer for stealthily tracking and then potentially engage enemy submarines in this past War Zone piece. OKS is just one of the reasons why the Sierra IIs, the first of which entered service in 1990 and that are understood to be very quiet, making them difficult to detect and track, remain some of the most capable attack submarines in Russian Navy service today. Their titanium alloy hulls are another core focus area of the "Military Acceptance" episode, as its title, "Titanium Submarines," makes clear. Using titanium provides added strength and, as a result, allows these boats to dive deeper than their steel-hulled counterparts. Titanium also has the benefit of being more corrosion-resistant, a very positive attribute for warships and submarines that spend much of their time plowing through saltwater, and are also only very weakly magnetic. At one point during this recent episode of "Military Acceptance," a Russian Navy sailor shows how a magnetic flashlight will not stick to the inside of the hull. Despite some suggestions that this could help the submarines evade detection by aircraft with magnetic anomaly detectors (MAD) or escape magnetic mines, there is more than enough other metal used elsewhere in their construction to negate any such signature reduction from the titanium hull. Russian Navy sailor shows the extremely low magnetism of the titanium alloy hull on one of the Russian Navy's Sierra II class submarines by dropping a magnetic flashlight, which does not then stick. However, titanium is also expensive and complicated to work with, especially when building large structures, such as the pressure hulls of submarines. Workers building the Soviet Union's Project 705 submarines, another titanium-hulled design also known as Lira or Alfa class, reportedly had to perform many of their tasks inside specialized facilities filled with inert argon gas while wearing cumbersome "moon suits." The later Akula class, a design that did not have a titanium hull, was similar in many respects to the Sierras, but was also cheaper to build. Ultimately, only four Sierra class submarines, two of each subclass, were ever built. The first Project 945 boat entered Soviet Navy service in 1984, followed by the second example in 1987. As already noted, the first of the Project 945As joined that service in 1990, right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, with independent Russia taking delivery of the second example of this subclass in 1993. A major difference between the two types was in the composition of their torpedo tubes, with the Sierra Is having four 530mm tubes and two 650mm ones, while the Sierra IIs had six 530mm tubes. From these tubes, both subclasses could employ a variety of torpedoes and torpedo tube-launched missiles, including the unusual SS-N-16 Stallion anti-submarine missile, which you can read more about here. ll of these boats were assigned to the country's Northern Fleet, but only the pair of Project 945As, Nizhniy Novgorod and Pskov, remain active today. There had been plans to overhaul the two older Project 945 boats, but it's unclear what the status of that modernization effort is. The Sierra I class Kostroma, which is reportedly inactive, is seen in the TV Zvezda presentation docked together next to the two Sierra II class submarines. From left to right, an Akula class submarine, the Sierra II class submarine Nizhniy Novgorod, the Sierra II class submarine Pskov, and the Sierra I class submarine Kostroma. The TV Zvezda footage also includes various shots of the inside of Nizhniy Novgorod, including the main command center onboard, where significant portions are blurred out. Various posters with details about warships, submarines, and aircraft operated by the United States and other potential adversaries are seen on the wall. Posters on the wall inside the submarine with details about various potential threat warships, submarines, and aircraft. We also get a look into other spaces, including the commander's personal quarters, bunks for other sailors, the mess, and the galley. Oh, and like some other Russian submarines, the Sierra II class boats have a banya, or sauna. We also get a look inside of Nizhniy Novgorod's detachable escape pod on one of the submarines. In addition to providing a way for the crew to get out of the boat if it gets severely damaged in combat, it could also be employed in the event of a major accident, something the Russian Navy's submarine force is, unfortunately, no stranger to. This episode of "Military Acceptance" also spends considerable time exploring how the Russian Navy protects these and other submarines from hostile combat divers and other security threats. At one point, TV Zvezda's reporter walks by a checkpoint on shore defended, in part, by an 8x8 BTR-82 wheeled armored vehicle.At one point, a group of Russian Navy combat swimmers is also seen training to more directly engage their enemy counterparts who might be trying to covertly attack submarines, or other ships, sitting pier-side. These personnel are seen armed with SPP-1M underwater pistols and APS underwater assault rifles. A diver armed with an APS underwater rifle deploys from a small inflatable boat. The SPP-1M features four separate barrels with their own chambers, each of which holds a single specialized underwater cartridge that fires a long dart-like projectile. The APS is visually similar to an AK-series assault rifle, but also fires a unique underwater round with a long dart instead of a traditional bullet. Both of these weapons have very limited range underwater, with the APS only being able to hit targets at around 100 feet away at relatively shallow depths. The SPP-1M can only hit targets at around half that distance. Both of their maximum effective ranges get progressively shorter at greater depths. They can be used above the water, if absolutely necessary, but with even greater range and accuracy penalties as their projectiles are designed to be stabilized in water, not air. An APS underwater assault rifle. One of the specialized rounds with its dart-like projectile is seen next to the magazine. All told, this episode of "Military Acceptance" is an interesting look at some of the Russian Navy's most unique submarines, as well as what it does to keep them safe. This presentation from TV Zvezda also comes as the service continues to modernize and expand its submarine, as well as surface fleets, something that continues to be an area of major interest and concern to the Kremlin's potential adversaries, including members of NATO, and chiefly the United States. As it stands now, the two remaining titanium-hulled Sierra IIs with their SOKS suites and other features look set to be important parts of the Russian Navy's submarine force for years to come.
Best submarine movies to watch before you watch Vigil
There's a new thriller coming from the makers of Line of Duty - one of the BBC's most watched shows - and it's called Vigil. The action is centred on HMS Vigil, when the disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and death on the Vigil draw together the police, Navy and security services. The new show is going to star Suranne Jones (Coronation Street, Doctor Foster), Martin Compston (Line of Duty) and Rose Leslie ("you know nothing Jon Snow") and is due to air on BBC One later in 2021.But before you get there, you'll want to make sure you're fully immersed in the best movies about submarines.
The best submarine movies
Das Boot (1981)
Nothing quite takes you as close to the edge of insanity as Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot. It's about the crew of U-96 and German submarine in the Atlantic in 1941. It explores the division between ideology and cynicism around the war, the excitement and fear of action, as well as the sense of confinement that comes with being on a submarine. It's not just a great submarine film, it's a great war film. Like Downfall, this is film to watch in its original German as this is so much better than the English dubbed version.
U-571 tells the story about the capture of an Enigma cipher machine by the US Navy. This fictious tale gets you into plenty of submarine action with an A list cast: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel. Set in 1942, the plot attracted criticism because it is pitched as the first capture of an Enigma machine; actually British destroyer HMS Bulldog captured the first Enigma machine from U-110 in May 1941. Still, it's a great submarine film.
K19 The Widowmaker (2002)
Set in 1961 it's the height of the Cold War and K19 is the Soviet Union's first nuclear missile submarine. This is the tale of a Soviet submarine, based on historical events with some great performances from Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. If you're not scared of radiation, you might be after watching.
Hunt for Red October (1990)
Probably the most famous Tom Clancy book and certainly one of the best films, it has a star-studded cast, fronted by Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius with his Scottish-Russian accent, Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, the CIA agent sent out to figure out exactly what's happening with Red October. This is a classic Cold War thriller. "Verify range to target, one ping only."
Crimson Tide (1995)
Crimson Tide pitches Captain Gene Hackman against XO Denzel Washington in a tense thriller aboard USS Alabama, a ballistic missile submarine. Beset by communication problems and repeated attacks from Russian submarines, the action revolves around one simple decision: whether to launch, or not launch, the ballistic missiles.
Hunter Killer (2018)
Hunter Killer has the advantage over some of the other sub films on this list in that it is newer, so more pacey and more action-packed. The plot doesn't deviate too much, but without a Cold War to lean on, it's instead a rogue faction in Russian that prompts the US into action. Gary Oldman, Gerard Butler and Toby Stephens bring the Hollywood clout, even if it's all a little farfetched.
Cuba’s Tiny, Lethal Attack Submarine
Like most of the Cuban military, the country’s Navy is characterized by inventive recycling of Soviet-era hardware. Modern systems are rare, but there are systems that are unlike anything you will see in other countries’ fleets. The Cuban fleet has fishing trawlers remodeled into warships and torpedo launching platforms that resemble party rafts. But perhaps the most dangerous platform is Cuba’s secretive, tiny submarine. The single submarine is known as Delfín. It can be found in commercial satellite imagery going back at least as far as April 2008. A few candid photographs have emerged over the years, but it has not been showcased publicly until recently. The Cuban Navy has been very secretive about the mere existence of this submarine. In more than ten years of service, Delfín was only shown in an official video this year. Now the guard has come down even further and a clear photograph of this unique submarine has been added to their official website. Delfín is a small boat – about 70 feet (21 meters) long. It has a crew of 5 or more and is armed with heavyweight torpedoes. The main sonar appears to have been built into the leading edge of the sail instead of the more common bow position, according to a photo released by the Cuban government. It’s unclear from the photo if the installation is an active sonar set, which could limit its potential to surprise warships. But submarines, even small and unsophisticated ones, cannot be easily discounted. If well-crewed and commanded they can pose a serious threat in their local area. In 2010, a North Korean miniature submarine successfully sunk the South Korean corvette ROKS Cheonan in 2010. It is perhaps because it is the most threatening vessel in their fleet that Cuba has been so keen to hide it. Delfín was not the only submarine recently shown in the new photos. Information about Cuba’s domestically developed SDV (Swimmer Delivery Vehicle) has also been slipping out over the years. Based on the variety of hull numbers seen to date there are likely a handful of these craft in service. On the surface, the Cuban SDV bears some resemblance to the Italian-made Seahorse and Trass vehicles of 1950s vintage. These were used by the U.S. Navy SEALs and UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams) could have informed the Cuban Navy’s design. But the current vehicle is not a direct copy – it only follows the overall arrangement. Two or more divers sit in an open cockpit over a sealed tube containing the batteries and a single electric motor. Where the Cuban SDV differs significantly from the Italian types is in its armament. Instead of limpet mines, a single 21-inch heavyweight torpedo is suspended under the fuselage. The torpedo appears to be a vintage Type-53 series Soviet one. Without a periscope for aiming, the SDV may have to broach the surface for the pilot to align the vehicle with the target. Very few other SDVs are armed with a torpedo-like this. The most obvious precedent are German sneak attack submersibles of World War II. But these were unsuccessful. More recently, in the 1980s, the U.S. Navy’s experimented with its Mk IX SDV that could carry two modified Mk 37 torpedoes, one on each side. These submarine devices do compare to the latest Western types, but underwater craft can never be completely written off. If used in the right way, they can cause considerable concern for a potential adversary, as seen by the 2010 sinking of Cheonan.
Italy’s Secretive Submarine Deal With Qatar: New Intelligence
Government hearings are sometimes a source of information on sensitive defense deals. Even ones of some magnitude, like the export of submarines. A slide shown to the Italian Parliament's hearing on Defense and Technology Research may give a fresh clue to a secret submarine project. The world of Italian midget submarine construction is famously secretive. Deals are not talked about in the same way that larger submarine purchases inevitably are. Currently an Italian boatyard is building two small submarines for the Qatari Emiri Navy. That much can be treated as fact, yet few other details are available through traditional reporting. In the absence of details, speculation has been rife. Which company is building them? What will their capabilities be? Now with careful study of open sources, combined with traditional defense analysis, we can start to paint a picture.The submarine purchase is part of a wider modernization and expansion of the Qatari Emiri Navy. Qatar has been on a spending spree in Italy for new naval vessels. Fincantieri are building four Doha Class corvettes, plus some patrol boats. A flat-deck amphibious transport dock, similar to Algeria’s Kalaat Beni Abbes class, is also on the cards. But the small submarines will add yet another new capability to this traditionally small navy. A presentation given to the Italian parliament on May 17 may show the first public images of the new submarines. It was by CABI Cattaneo, a well-established special forces submarine builder. They reported that they are collaborating with another company to build two midget submarines built for a foreign customer. While not explicit, this matches the Qatar deal. A screen shot of the presentation given to the Italian Parliament. It says that the company, CABI Cattaneo, is collaborating with another Italian firm on two submarines for a foreign customer. The appearance of the submarine, with a smooth teardrop hull, shoulder-mounted hydroplanes and no sail appears to confirm what some observers suspected. The other Italian company involved must be M23 S.R.L. In commercial terms M23 S.R.L. is a new submarine builder. Actually, this company is a spin-off of the military business from established submarine builder GSE Trieste. The two companies share a factory in Ciserano, Bergamo, Italy, around 100 miles from the industrial hub of Milan where CABI Cattaneo are based. The submarine shown in CABI Cattaneo’s presentation strongly resembles the unique GSE Trieste lineage.
A Rich Submarine History
GSE stands for Giunio Santi Engineering, named after its founder and noted naval architect. The history of Santi’s designs is rich in ingenuity. In the 1980s he was building AIP (air independent propulsion) mini-submarines under the Maritalia brand. Some used a unique tubular construction known as Gaseous Oxygen stored in the Toroidal pressure hull (GST). This consisted of steel pipes formed into a circle and then welded together to form the hull. This was both cheaper and more versatile than traditional construction. The best known of these subs was the 3GST9. This 9.5 meter (21 ft) long boat, with an almost fish-like appearance, gained a certain amount of attention as a potential Special Forces transport. Today we would call it a Dry Combat Submersible (DCS). Like so many promising designs of that era the end of the Cold War appears to have dashed its prospects. By the 2000s Santi’s firm, now known as GSE Trieste, was selling luxury minisubs to the mega-rich. They were also designing military types and some of there designs did end up in the peripherals of Navies. Most notable is the Button 5.60 Dry Combat Submersible which was tested by the US Navy. While very compact, potentially small enough to fit inside a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS), it retained Santi’s signature teardrop form with no sail.
The Qatari Submarines
This lack of sail may be one of the identifying features of the Qatari submarines. They are likely to look very much like the GSE and Maritalia submarines of the past. They will be incased in a strong plastic outer hull to create a very streamlined form. The shape of the control surfaces, the placement of the hydroplanes high on the shoulders, and clean lines will all bear the Santi trademark. Specifications for the submarine have not been published. However, it is possible that there is a clue in the company’s name, M23. The new submarine may be 23 meters long (75 ft). The maximum expected size, based on the dimensions of M23’s factory, is about 30 meters (98 ft). Significantly it appears that these submarines will be armed with at least two torpedoes. Two bumps, one either side of the rounded nose, could not really be anything else. The submarines are also likely to have a strong Special Forces capability. Between them is a door which may be for a large-diameter payload tube. The graphic used by CABI Cattaneo should be seen as indicative only of course. It lacks the propeller (screw) and does not show details like masts or access hatches on the deck. In the spirt of secrecy the presentation used publicly available third party illustrations to show some sensitive craft made by the company. I know because I drew some of them. However, the graphic does add up, for the moment it is a stronger hint for the Qatari submarines. Italian midget submarine builders cannot maintain the level of secrecy which they once did. Modern export documentation, together with an abundance of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) will make it virtually impossible. At some point the submarines will have to be transported by road to their port of departure, past masses of camera phones. But, based on the above analysis, we may already know something about these subs.
What’s Going On With the Finding Nemo Submarines at Disneyland?
Since Disneyland and California Adventure Park officially reopened April 30, Disneyland fans have been fulfilling their every Disney wish. Disney fans were amazed to find out this week that the parks are now allowed to operate at 35% capacity and more Guests can visit every day. Also to note, Disney fans are finding more time to spend in the parks as tons of theme park reservations have been added. To many of us, it seems life is returning to normal. As many of us plan our next Disneyland adventure, some Disney Guests wonder about the status of Disney attractions that have been at a standstill for so long and still remain closed, even though most attractions have reopened. One of the attractions that is not currently operating and that remains a mystery is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction. As we have previously mentioned last year, Nemo Submarine Voyage hasn’t been the most popular ride in Disneyland Park. It was speculated that it would not survive during the pandemic era given how Guests have to ride the attraction in such close quarters, but to so many Disney fans it does hold a huge piece of history. Located in the beautiful Tomorrowland lagoon, this Disney attraction started off quite popular and enjoyed a 39-year run, but later became a hassle to reimagine and keep afloat. Disney shared some history of this nostalgic ride, stating, The original Submarine Voyage debuted on June 14, 1959 and was one of the first “E” Ticket attractions. The attraction was loosely inspired by the 1958 voyage to the North Pole by the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, which shares its name with the fictional submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. As per Wikipedia, this Disneyland attraction was at a complete standstill for years as Disney Imagineers contemplated which Disney film would inspire a retheme including Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, and The Little Mermaid. The upkeep for this Disneyland attraction was expensive, but because the submarines still had many years ahead of them, Disney decided to keep this ride. Disney Imagineers were inspired by the new projection technology they had developed, and at the same time Pixar was in the middle of working on Finding Nemo. As Bob Iger’s first huge project since becoming the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was born on July 15, 2005. Disney’s website shares an adorable description of the ride: With all the humour and heart of the original film, this immersive submarine ride takes you on an unforgettable ocean adventure—to find a missing clown fish. Climb down into a yellow research submarine operated by the Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation Institute (N.E.M.O.). Peek through the portholes as you sail past scuba divers and artifacts of an ancient civilization scattered along the seafloor. Some familiar fins soon swim into view: it’s Nemo and his turtle pal, Squirt, with Marlin and Dory hot on their trail. During your underwater adventure, you’ll encounter other friends from the movie, including Bruce the Shark, Mr. Ray, Gill, Bubbles, Pearl, Peach, Crush and more—and thanks to special “sonar hydrophones,” you can hear what everyone’s saying! Since it opened with a new theme over 15 years ago, much has had to be done for this attraction to stay intact, and it has become a very expensive project to upkeep. So many times, Disney Guests have seen this ride under major refurbishments and have even seen the lagoon completely drained! Last year, while the pandemic was at an all-time high in California, David at FreshBaked on YouTube along with many other Disney fans expressed their concern for the survival of this ride, in particular. If you have been inside the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, then you know how cramped and enclosed this attraction feels. Some Disney visitors feel completely claustrophobic during this underwater ride. And as Disneyland has had to ensure Guests are social distancing and parties are separated on attractions, it became clear that this ride wouldn’t reopen with the parks did. So, naturally, the ride did not reopen with the parks. It seems, for now, this ride would very difficult to operate with social distancing practices in mind, so for the time being, Disney’s website states that Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is temporarily unavailable. But for how long? Will this attraction return? And do Guests want another experience to replace these submarines? Right now, Disney fans are excited to return to the parks now that vaccines are continuing to be distributed, virus case numbers are going down, and the world is getting “back to normal.” But will visitors feel comfortable sitting next to each other in an enclosed space again? I personally love this area in Tomorrowland, but I can see Disney going in a different direction. For example, Aquatopia in Tokyo DisneySea is a fun-filled attraction and water ride that is loved by many! Think of bumper cars, but on the water, and instead of being the front seat driver, this ride unpredictably turns and spins for you! If Disneyland in California were to open this attraction as a replacement for the submarines, it would allow Disney Guests to still enjoy a water ride in Tomorrowland’s Lagoon and eliminate the huge costs for Disney to upkeep this historic submarine ride afloat. Keep in mind, this is my personal opinion. We are still waiting for Disney to announce the current status of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction in Disneyland. Right now, it is still unclear when (or, really, if) the ride will reopen, but Disney hasn’t said what the future holds or given an indication that it will close for good. I think it’s key to remember that these older attractions such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds are always being refurbished over time due to their age. Nothing lasts forever, although sometimes with Disney attractions, I wish they could as they have been the most amazing memories I have kept inside my heart. Personally, I think Disney has done a wonderful job reimagining new ways for Disney Guests to experience the wonder and magic Walt Disney wanted.
Indonesia authorities say 53 submarine crew members dead
Military officials say the stricken sub was discovered broken into three pieces on Sunday. A missing Indonesian submarine has been found cracked apart on the seafloor in waters off Bali, the military said on Sunday, as it confirmed all 53 crew were dead. Rescuers found new objects, including a life vest, that they believe belong to those on board the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402, which lost contact as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill. “Based on the evidence, it can be stated that the KRI Nanggala has sunk and all of its crew have died,” military chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters. The submarine – one of five in Indonesia’s fleet – disappeared off the Indonesian holiday island of Bali. “There were parts of KRI Nanggala-402 – it was broken into three pieces,” said Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono. “The hull of the ship, the stern of the ship, and the main parts are all separated, with the main part found cracked. ”Authorities said they received signals from the location more than 800 metres (2,600 feet) deep early on Sunday and used an underwater submarine rescue vehicle supplied by Singapore to get a visual confirmation. Tjahjanto said more parts from the vessel were discovered on Sunday, including an anchor and safety suits worn by crew members. President Joko Widodo earlier confirmed the discovery in the Bali Sea and sent the families of the victims his condolences. “All of us Indonesians express our deep sorrow over this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew. ”On Saturday, the navy said fragments of the submarine, including items from inside the vessel, had been retrieved but its location had yet to be confirmed. Objects – including prayer mat fragments and a bottle of periscope lubricant were found near the submarine’s last known location.
Indonesia admits all 53 crew of lost submarine are dead
Indonesia’s military has officially admitted there's no hope of finding survivors from a submarine that sank and broke apart last week with 53 crew members aboard Indonesia’s military on Sunday officially admitted there was no hope of finding survivors from a submarine that sank and broke apart last week with 53 crew members aboard, and that search teams had located the vessel's wreckage on the ocean floor. The grim announcement comes a day after Indonesia said the submarine was considered sunk, not merely missing, but did not explicitly say whether the crew was dead. Officials had also said the KRI Nanggala 402's oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday, three days after vessel went missing off the resort island of Bali “We received underwater pictures that are confirmed as the parts of the submarine, including its rear vertical rudder, anchors, outer pressure body, embossed dive rudder and other ship parts," military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters in Bali on Sunday. "With this authentic evidence, we can declare that KRI Nanggala 402 has sunk and all the crew members are dead,” Tjahjanto said. The navy previously said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet), much deeper than its collapse depth of 200 meters (655 feet), at which point water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand. An underwater robot equipped with cameras and deployed by Singaporean vessel MV Swift Rescue provided the images, while the Indonesian vessel KRI Rigel had scanned the area where the submarine was believed to have sank using multibeam sonar and a magnetometer, Tjahjanto said. The cause of the disappearance was still uncertain. The navy had previously said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.
Man builds his own submarine and dives to bottom of lake
“I spent the summer fixing it all up and upgrading the hell out of it, and now it’s a nice, working little sub.”
While many spent the coronavirus pandemic hopping on to trending projects such as baking bread, making tie dye clothes and working on puzzles, one man took the lockdown to work on a different project: building a submarine in his garage. Yes, you read that correctly. Hank Pronk of British Columbia created the foundation of the sub with leftovers from a project he started eight years prior. “I spent the summer fixing it all up and upgrading the hell out of it, and now it’s a nice, working little sub,” Pronk said. The sub can reach a depth of 400 feet, carrying enough oxygen for one person to breathe for 72 hours. Propelled by golf cart batteries, with a separate battery for the lights, it can cruise for about four to five hours. Pronk has successfully taken it to the bottom of Premier Lake in British Columbia. “Because it has an acrylic cylinder for a conning tower, the visibility is fantastic,” he said. “You can see all around. ”The sub does have an escape system in the event it were to get tangled in something and stuck at the bottom of a lake. Pronk, who owns and runs a house-moving business, didn’t finish high school and had no training or engineering background when he embarked on the project. “It was difficult,” Pronk said. “Once the internet came along, then I could really build submarines, because then the world is your oyster. I just researched the hell out of everything.”
The 10 biggest nuclear submarines in the world
Wars of tomorrow will be fought with nuclear submarines. These sea leviathans can be longer than a football field, and fire dozens of nuclear missiles
10. Le Triomphant Class (France) - 138 metres. Le Terrible is the most recent of France's four Le Triomphant class SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines). It was commissioned in September 2010.
9. Vanguard Class (UK) - 149 metres. The UK has four SSBNs, making up a class known as Vanguard. The most recent, HMS Vengeance, entered service in November 1999. Each UK SSBN carries 40 nuclear warheads.
8. Dreadnought Class (UK) - 153 metres. The UK Ministry of Defence is planning to invest no less than £31 billion to develop a fleet of next-generation SSBNs. The Deadnought class, officially announced in 2016, is intended to take over from the Vanguard class, whose submarines date from the 1990s. The first of the four new submersibles is due to enter service in 2028. HMS Dreadnought will weigh 17,000 tonnes and will be equipped with 'innovative new lighting that will allow the crew to simulate night and day,' explains BAE Systems, the company in charge of the construction.
7. K-44 Ryazan (Russia) - 155 metres. The Delta III class K-44 Ryazan was commissioned by Russia in January 1982. Weighing just over 13,000 tons when submerged, it can accommodate 130 crew members.
6. Delta Class IV (Russia) - 167 metres. Commissioned between 1984 and 1990, the seven Delta IV class submarines each weigh just over 18,000 tonnes. They can operate at depths of between 320 and 400 metres. The submersibles carry RSM-54 Makeyev missiles, which have a maximum range of 8 300 kilometres.
5. Borei Class (Russia) - 170 metres. With four submersibles, the Borei class represents the second largest Russian fleet of SSBNs, after the Delta class. These submarines were the first built by Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Launched between 2008 and 2017, they are distributed between the Barents Sea and the Pacific Ocean. They reach 24,000 tonnes when submerged and can operate at a depth of 480 metres.
4. Ohio Class (USA) - 170 metres. The Ohio class was the largest submarines ever built by the United States when it was launched in 1981. Today, 14 submersibles make up this class; the latest, the USS Louisiana, was commissioned in September 1997. Each carries 24 Trident nuclear-tipped sea-to-ground ballistic missiles with a range of 7,400 kilometres.
3. Columbia Class (USA) - 171 metres. Like the British, the US is also planning to replace its Ohio submarines, which are reaching the end of their lives. The Columbia class will consist of 12 SSBNs, each weighing around 21 000 tons when submerged. Construction of the first submersible is due to start this year, with commissioning scheduled for 2031.
2. TK-208 Dimitri Donskoï (Russia) - 174 metres. The Dimitri Donskoi sea monster is the last representative of the Typhoon class, which included six submersibles. In service since the end of December 1981, this SSBN weighing nearly 27,000 tons when submerged can count on a power of 100,000 horsepower. It can embark up to 160 men over a period of 120 days in the depths.
1. K-329 Belgorod (Russia) - 184 metres. The K-329 Belgorod is not an SSBN but a nuclear submarine cruiser, which can also carry six Poseidon nuclear torpedoes. When it is commissioned this year, it will officially become the world's longest submarine at 184 metres. It is ten metres longer than its distant cousin, the Dimitri Donskoi, although the latter is wider. Under construction since 1992, it will be able to spend up to four months in the depths of the oceans.
Oceans' extreme depths measured in precise detail
There is a surprising amount of life in the darkness of the Mariana Trench. Scientists say we now have the most precise information yet on the deepest points in each of Earth's five oceans. The key locations where the seafloor bottoms out in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Southern oceans were mapped by the Five Deeps Expedition. Some of these places, such as the 10,924m-deep (6.8 miles) Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, had already been surveyed a number of times. But the Five Deeps project removed a number of remaining uncertainties. For example, in the Indian Ocean, there were two competing claims for the deepest point - a section of the Java Trench just off the coast of Indonesia; and a fracture zone to the southwest of Australia.
The rigorous measurement techniques employed by the Five Deeps team confirmed Java to be the winner, but this lowest section in the trench - at a depth of 7,187m - is actually 387km from where previous data had suggested the deepest point might be. Likewise, in the Southern Ocean, there is now a new place we must consider that region's deepest point. It's a depression called Factorian Deep at the far southern end of the South Sandwich Trench. It lies 7,432m down. There is a location in the same trench, just to the north, that's deeper still (Meteor Deep at 8,265m) but it's technically in the Atlantic Ocean. The dividing line with the Southern Ocean starts at 60 degrees South latitude. Its lead author is Cassie Bongiovanni from Caladan Oceanic LLC, the company that helped organise the Five Deeps Expedition, which had as its figurehead the Texan financier and adventurer Victor Vescovo. The former US Navy reservist wanted to become the first person in history to dive to the lowest points in all five oceans and achieved this goal when he reached a spot known as the Molloy Hole (5,551m) in the Arctic on 24 August, 2019.But in parallel to Mr Vescovo setting dive records in his submarine, the Limiting Factor, his science team were taking an unprecedented number of measurements of the temperature and salinity (saltiness) of the seawater at all levels down to the ocean floor. This information was crucial in correcting the echo-sounder depth readings made from the hull of the sub's support ship, the Pressure Drop. The reported depths therefore have high confidence, even if they come with uncertainties of plus or minus 15m. In this context, refining the observations any further will be extremely hard. The wider context here is the quest to get better mapping data of the seabed in general. Current knowledge is woeful. Roughly 80% of the global ocean floor remains to be surveyed to the modern standard delivered by the likes of the Five Deeps Expedition. "Over the course of 10 months, as we visited these five locations, we mapped an area the size of continental France. But within that was an area the size of Finland that was totally new, where the seafloor had never been seen before," explained team-member Dr Heather Stewart from the British Geological Survey. "It just shows what can be done, what still needs to be done. And the Pressure Drop continues to work, so we are gathering more and more data," she told BBC News. All of this information is being handed over to the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which aims to compile, from various data sources, a full-ocean depth map by the end of the decade. It would be a critical resource. Better seafloor maps are needed for a host of reasons. They are essential for navigation, of course, and for laying underwater cables and pipelines. They are also important for fisheries management and conservation, because it is around the underwater mountains that wildlife tends to congregate. Each seamount is a biodiversity hotspot. In addition, the rugged seafloor influences the behaviour of ocean currents and the vertical mixing of water. This is information required to improve the models that forecast future climate change - because it is the oceans that play a pivotal role in moving heat around the planet. And if you want to understand precisely how sea-levels will rise in different parts of the world, good ocean-floor maps are a must. The BBC made contact at the weekend with the Pressure Drop, which is currently sailing west of Australia in the Indian Ocean. Team-member and co-author on the new paper, Prof Alan Jamieson, is still aboard. He said the research ship was making discoveries every time it sent instrumentation into the deep. "For example, there are some major animal groups in the world for which we just don't know how deep they go. Just last month, we recorded a jellyfish 1,000m deeper than 9,000m, which was the previous record by us. So we've now got jellyfish down to 10,000m. "Three weeks ago, we saw a squid at 6,500m. A squid at that depth! How did we not know this? And during the Five Deeps Expedition, we added 2,000m on the depth range for an octopus. "These are not obscure animals; it's not like they're some sort of rare species. These are big animal groups that are clearly occupying much larger parts of the world than we thought," Prof Jamieson said. The deepest place in the Atlantic is in the Puerto Rico Trench, a place called Brownson Deep at 8,378m. The expedition also confirmed the second deepest location in the Pacific, behind the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. This runner-up is the Horizon Deep in the Tonga Trench with a depth of 10,816m.
LOCH NESS SUBMARINE
The "Loch Ness Submarine" which operated in 1994 and 1995. Its commercial dives were based at the Clansman Hotel marina, and up to five passsengers per trip were ferried out to the middle of the loch, where they transferred to the sub, climbed down the ladder in the conning tower, and took their seats for the dive.
Here the sub is seen on its arrival at the Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition. It was repainted more than once to reflect sponsor's requirements. The large forward viewing dome and lights are clearly visible, together with the lateral and aft thrusters.
This is the first view that passengers got as they approached the sub from the Clansman Marina aboard the support vessel. It tied up alongside the sub and the passengers then stepped, sometimes thoughtfully, between boat and submarine, climbed through the open hatch on the conning tower, and took their seats inside. If the water had been perfectly clear, and they could have seen the bottom some 200 metres ( 660 feet) below them, they might have reacted differently to the transfer! This is the view from the aft ( rear) compartment, looking forwards. Out of sight, below the field of view, is a large viewing window set in the floor of the compartment, making it resemble a glass-bottomed boat. The view forwards is through the original hatchway linking this, the divers compartment, with the other - "drivers" - area. The legs belong to the pilot, who is standing on the ladder up to the conning tower. From there, he can see where he is going while the sub is at the surface. The dark tub contains sodium hydroxide..."soda lime"...which is used to absorb carbon dioxide from the subs atmosphere. This view is from just aft of the conning tower, looking forwards during a dive. Apart from the very front, the entire right hand side of the crew space is taken up with equipment racks, while the seats are on the left.
The submarine's pilot, left and a passenger, right, enjoy the view through the dome window to the loch bed beyond. A magnetic compass is visible at the bottom centre of the picture, and outside the window the manipulator and sounding probe can be seen. The rectangular object attached to a cable is the control panel used by the pilot to navigate the vessel. When on ther surface, this unit is taken up to the conning tower. On the surface, with the internal lights off, this is the view from the front window. When operating from Temple Pier, with its limited water depth, the sub required an elevating pontoon to facilitate routine maintenance. In deep water, the sub was floated into the gap between the twin hulls, and the submerged platform was then jacked up to lift the sub clear of the water. The combined arrangement was then towed in to the shallows at Temple Pier by the tug "Precise", on permanent stand-by. The scaffolding allowed tarpaulins to cover the sub to create a dry workspace during inclement weather.
It wasn't always red inside the sub. This flash photo shows it was actually white with blue seats and carpets!
Submarines, or "submersibles" of various sizes and designs have been operated in Loch Ness since the 1960's. This one carried fare paying passengers during the summers of 1994 and 1995. It is difficult to see more than a very few metres, even when the sub has a large forward viewing port like this one. The external lights cast a yellow glow on the loch bottom, while inside, the crew members use red lighting to maintain their "dark adaptation". Machines like this, adapted from a "diver lock-out submersible" are usually "flown" just a few inches above the bottom, at a speed of about one mile per hour. This enables the pilots to stop within their "seeing distance" and so avoid obstacles and possible entanglement on debris. This vehicle carried a life-support capability for a full crew of six for over one week. This photo was taken at a depth of 450 feet.
Indonesia submarine with 53 on board goes missing north of Bali
The German-made submarine went missing on Wednesday when it was conducting a torpedo drill in waters north of Bali. KRI Nanggala-402 was conducting a torpedo drill in waters north of the island of Bali [File: Alex Widojo/Anadolu/Getty Images]21 Apr 2021.Indonesia’s navy is searching for a missing submarine with 53 people on board that went missing on Wednesday and is seeking help from neighbouring Australia and Singapore in the hunt. The 44-year-old German-made submarine, KRI Nanggala-402, was conducting a torpedo drill in waters north of the island of Bali but failed to relay the results as expected, the navy said. An aerial search found an oil spill near the submarine’s dive location and two navy vessels with sonar capability have been deployed to assist the hunt, the defence ministry said. Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from Jakarta, said: “Hopefully, that is something of a breakthrough which could help with finding the location of this vessel and the 53 individuals on board.” “We understand that the Indonesian navy is currently in the process of surveilling the area both by air and sea,” she said. A defence ministry statement said requests for assistance had been sent and Australia, Singapore and India had responded. “We are still searching in the waters of Bali, 60 miles (96 km) from Bali, (for) 53 people,” military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told Reuters news agency in a text message. Tjahjanto said the navy has deployed scores of ships to search the area, including a hydrographic survey ship. He said that contact with the vessel was lost at 4:30 am on Wednesday. CNN Indonesia reported that Indonesian navy official Julius Widjojono said he suspected the submarine had descended to a depth of 600-700 metres. Military analyst Soleman Ponto said it is too early to determine the fate of the submarine conclusively. “We don’t know yet whether the communication equipments were broken or the submarine has sunken. We have to wait for at least three days,” he said. The 1,395-tonne submarine underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012. The vessel has been in use in Indonesia since 1981.Indonesia in the past operated a fleet of 12 submarines purchased from the Soviet Union to patrol the waters of its sprawling archipelago. But now it has a fleet of only five including two German-built Type 209 submarines and three newer South Korean vessels. The country plans to operate at least eight by 2024.Indonesia has been seeking to upgrade its defence capabilities but some of its equipment still in service is old and there have been deadly accidents involving in particular ageing military transport planes in recent years. The country, the world’s largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands, has faced growing challenges to its maritime claims in recent years, including numerous incidents involving Chinese vessels near the Natuna islands.
The disappearance of an Indonesian submarine off the resort island of Bali follows dozens of other disasters in the depths of the world’s vast seas. Military secrecy limits public access to details of accidents that show technological advances are still no match for dire risks at great depths. A search continued Frida y for the KRI Nanggala 402, with less than a day’s supply of oxygen left for its 53 crew members, as concern mounted that it may be stranded in waters too deep to reach or recover. That has been true of submarine disasters in the past. Here are some of them: Fourteen seamen died on a RUSSIAN nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea in 2019 due to toxic fumes from a fire. The Kremlin did not divulge the name of the sub, but Russian media said it was a nuclear-powered research vessel called the Losharik that was designed for sensitive missions up to 910 metres (3,000 feet) deep. Russia lost 20 crew aboard its nuclear-powered Nerpa, part of its Pacific Fleet, in 2008 after a firefighting system was accidently triggered. That was Russia’s deadliest submarine accident after an explosion caused the sinking of the Kursk naval submarine on Aug. 12, 2000, killing all 118 crewmembers.
ARGENTINA’S ARA San Juan disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017, killing all 44 crewmembers, as it was returning to its base in Mar del Plata after military exercises. The wreckage was found during a search by Ocean Infinity of the U.S. almost a year later at a depth of about 900 metres (nearly 3,000 feet) east of Patagonia’s Valdes Peninsula. A legislative probe found the disaster resulted from the inefficiency of naval commanders and budget limitations, not an attack or collision. The submarine had been cut in half when it was refitted in 2008-14 and experts said that could have compromised its safety.
CHINA’s Great Wall Ming 361 was reported lost in 2003 in the sea between Shandong and North Korea. The 70 people aboard suffocated when the sub’s diesel engines malfunctioned and consumed all its oxygen. It was the first time China disclosed a fatal submarine accident.
FRANCE, ISRAEL, THE U.S., AND USSR all lost submarines in 1968. France’s Minerve was not found until 2019, when it was discovered in waters east of its home port, Toulon. It sank in rough seas two days after the Israeli Navy’s INS Dakar disappeared in the eastern Mediterranean with more than 60 people aboard. That submarine’s location was unknown until 1999, when it was located 2,900 metres (9,500 feet) below the surface between Crete and Cyprus. The Soviet Union’s K-129 and the USS Scorpion also were lost that year.
FRANCE also lost the Daphne class submarine Eurydice and its 57 crew in 1970 when it exploded off the coast of Toulon.
The deadliest U.S. submarine disaster was the sinking of the nuclear-powered USS Thresher on April 10, 1963, killing all 129 crew on board during a test dive in the Atlantic Ocean about 360 kilometres (220 miles) off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. Documents made public in 2020 showed the sub imploded as it descended more than 240 metres (800 feet). The disaster helped drive safety improvements.
AUSTRALIA’S AE1 submarine was lost off the New Guinea island of New Britain in September 1914 with 35 Australian, New Zealand and British crew in the first Allied submarine loss of World War I. It was located 300 metres (984 feet) below the sea’s surface only in December 2017, 103 years later.
INDONESIAN navy officials say an electrical failure could have prevented the KRI Nanggala 402 from using emergency procedures to resurface. The discovery of an unidentified object with high magnetism in the area, at a depth of 50 to 100 metres (165 to 330 feet), raised hopes it might be the missing submarine. But the navy has said it may be at 600-700 metres (2,000-2,300 feet), much deeper than its collapse depth — the depth at which water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand. The vessel’s collapse depth was estimated at 200 metres (655 feet) by a South Korean company that refitted the vessel in 2009-2012
Indonesia’s search for submarine turns into salvage mission
The hunt for a missing Indonesian submarine with 53 crew on Sunday turned into a salvage effort after recovered debris suggested it broke apart as it sank off the coast of Bali. Warships, planes and hundreds of military personnel had led a frantic search for the KRI Nanggala 402 since it disappeared this week during training exercises, hoping for a miracle rescue before its known oxygen reserves ran out. But the navy acknowledged on Saturday that pieces of the submarine, including items from inside the vessel, had been retrieved. debris believed to be from the missing KRI Nanggala-402 submarine is displayed during a press conference in Bali on Saturday. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday conveyed his sorrow for the victims. “The army and navy have changed the status of the KRI Nanggala 402 submarine from having lost contact to being ‘sub-sunk’ or drowned,” he told reporters. “All of us Indonesians express our deep sorrow over this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew. ”Among the items recovered was a piece of the torpedo system and a bottle of grease used to lubricate periscopes. The navy also found a prayer mat commonly used in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. The relatives of First Lieutenant Muhammad Imam Adi, a 29-year-old father of a young son, clung to hope.“My wish for now is that my son and all the crew can be found,” Adi’s father Edy said from his home on Java island. “My son had wanted to become a soldier since he was a child. That was his dream.” Authorities have not given an official explanation for the accident, but said that the submarine may have suffered a blackout and left its crew unable to resurface.Navy chief Yudo Margono discounted an explosion, however, saying on Saturday that the evidence suggested the submarine came apart as it was crushed by water pressure at depths of more than 800 metres – well below what the Nanggala was built to withstand.On Sunday, the search team focused on pinpointing the sub’s exact location.Authorities have warned that any salvage operation would be risky and difficult in the deep waters. Singapore’s MV Swift Rescue has arrived in Indonesia. Singapore’s MV Swift Rescue – a submarine rescue vessel – had arrived to aid in the recovery effort, the navy said Sunday. Neighbouring Malaysia, as well as the United States, India and Australia, were among the nations helping in the search. Search vessels, reconnaissance aircraft and submarine rescue ships have been deployed to scour a zone of about 10 square nautical miles (34 square kilometres).The submarine – one of five in Indonesia’s fleet – disappeared early Wednesday while it was scheduled to do live torpedo training exercises off Bali. The crew asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after. Later, search teams spotted an oil spill where the vessel was thought to have submerged, pointing to possible fuel-tank damage, and a catastrophic accident. So far, authorities have not commented on questions about whether the decades-old vessel was overloaded, but they have said that the submarine – delivered to Indonesia in 1981 – was seaworthy.
USN Dry Combat Submersible
The Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) is a midget submarine designed and manufactured for USSOCOM by MSubs Ltd, a UK company located in Plymouth, Devon. MSubs are an underwater R&D company that have built a number of specialist unmanned and manned submersibles, primarily for the US DoD. MSubs is wholly owned by Submergence Group LLC, a small Texas based company that provides the linkages into the DOD and is responsible for contract support, most notably operator training. Due to the nature of the contract Lockheed Martin were nominated as the prime contractor with Submergence Group as the sub contractor. With the exception of a limited amount of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), manufacture, assembly and initial sea trials all take place in the UK. DCS is designed for use by the United States Navy SEALs for insertion on special operations missions. It will replace the canceled Advanced SEAL Delivery System and will serve alongside the Shallow Water Combat Submersible. As the name suggests, the Dry Combat Submersible has a dry interior, enabling longer mission durations in colder water. The DCS is designated the S351 Nemesis. Lockheed Martin and the Submergence Group were awarded the $166 million, 5-year contract to develop and build three DCSs in June 2016. By 2018, the total spent on the submersibles rose to $236 million. The Dry Combat Submersible is 12 metres (39 ft) long and has a beam and height of 2.4 metres (7.9 ft). The submersible weighs 14 tonnes (31,000 lb) fully loaded and has a displacement of 28 tonnes (62,000 lb). It can be transported in a standard 40-foot shipping container. The DCS has a crew of two–a pilot and a co-pilot/navigator–and carries eight fully equipped SEALs. The DCS has three dry, pressurized sections: a fore transport compartment for carrying troops, an amidships swimmer lock-in/lock-out compartment, and an aft command center where the pilot and co-pilot operate the sub. Though its exact performance remains classified, the DCS is stated to have a maximum depth rating of 100 metres (330 ft) and Lock In and Out maximum depth of 30 metres (98 ft). Its batteries give it a range of 60 nautical miles (110 km; 69 mi) at a speed of 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph), although its maximum speed is not public. Lockheed Martin claims that the DCS has an endurance greater than 24 hours, triple that of the current SEAL Delivery Vehicle and twice that of the Shallow Water Combat Submersible the DCS will serve alongside. Unlike its predecessor, the Dry Combat Submersible will be deployed from surface ships rather than from larger submarines. Surface ships will lower it into the water with a crane or deploy it from an opening in the bottom of their hulls. However, the Navy plans to study integrating the DCS with a larger submarine will begin in FY2020. The DCS' main advantage over its predecessors is its dry environment, which enables SEALs to undertake longer missions in colder water and be more combat-ready when they deploy. Another advantage is that the SEALs can communicate more easily in the DCS than in previous wet submarines, where they had to rely on intercoms and could not see each other. SEALs deploy from the DCS in diving gear and swim the rest of the way to their target. The DCS' navigational systems include an inertial navigation system and Doppler Velocity Log. The sensor suite consists of sonar and a fathometer, although additional sensors can be added depending on mission requirements. The communications equipment includes an underwater telephone and UHF radio. This vehicle is a response to the confirmed reports of Russian UUV's(underwater Autonomous vehicles) that the Russian navy has flexed in it war games since at least 2013Senate intelligence committee. The Dry Combat Submersible has been developed from MSub's existing S302 mini-sub, which is itself an improved version of the S301i. Both the S302 and S301i are produced for export by MSubs in collaboration with the Submergence Group. The S301i is capable of fitting in the dry deck shelters used on larger American and British submarines, although the S302 and the DCS are larger than the S301i and so cannot fit in dry deck shelters. The design and requirements for the DCS were initially formulated by the U.S. Special Operations Command as early as 2014, although the technology to make the DCS did not catch up to the requirements until more recently. The first lithium-ion batteries for the DCS were delivered to the Navy by General Atomics in February 2018. As of July 2019, the first of the subs is undergoing advanced sea trials in the US with the second in production in the UK Delivery of all three submersibles is expected to take place by January 2022. The first DCS with LiFT (Lithium-ion Fault Tolerant) battery system was accepted by USSOCOM on April 21, 2020. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is providing LiFT long-lifecycle batteries to power the propulsion and internal support systems of DCS.
Revealed: China’s New Super Submarine Dwarfs Typhoon Class
The new submarine, identified as the Type-100 Class, is armed with 48 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). It can also carry ginormous nuclear-powered nuclear-armed autonomous torpedoes. And a hangar on its back indicates a smaller submarine will also be supported. There is no doubt that this is the new god of submarines. For decades the Russian Navy’s mighty Pr.941 Typhoon Class submarine has been the largest ever built. And size is relevant, both for political messaging as well as military reasons. Giant submarines can have greater stealth (due to space for quieting), greater survivability, and can operate for longer. But the Typhoon’s reign is over. The Chinese Navy’s (PLAN – People’s Liberation Army Navy) latest submarine is even larger. Launched earlier today at the Bohai Shipyard in Huludao, China, the new submarine is believed to be the Type-100 ‘Sun Tzu’ class. The timing, together with its type number, appear to refer to the 100th year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).The vessel is approximately 210 meters (690 feet) long and about 30 meters (100 feet) across. This compares to a paltry 175 meters (574 feet, sources vary) and 23 meters (75 feet) for the Typhoon Class. Although figures for the new submarine’s displacement are not known, it is almost certainly greater than the 48,000 ton Typhoon. The Pr.941 Typhoon Class is widely known as the largest submarine in the world. But it’s reign has come to an end thanks to a new Chinese Navy submarine, the Type-100. Photo Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) To put this into perspective, the new super submarine is three-to-four times the size of the U.S. Navy’s Ohio class boomer. And while the Ohio class carries 24 ballistic missiles, the Chinese submarine can carry 48. The Typhoon class only carried 20 although that was partly a political decision. This undoubtedly makes the new class the most heavily armed in the world. It is possible that some of the missile silos will be used for carrier-killing anti-ship ballistic missiles. In the bow are at least 8 Intercontinental nuclear-powered nuclear-armed hydrosonic torpedoes. These weapons are similar to the Russian Navy’s Poseidon weapon. These have an effectively unlimited range and will be very hard to counter with current weapons. Its development, so soon after Russia moved forward with Poseidon, suggests that Poseidon has been exported. Or that some degree of a technology transfer has taken place.The shift to a massive submarine may hint, like Typhoon, at an Arctic role. China regards itself as a Near-Arctic country and may intend to use the ice cap to protect its at-sea nuclear deterrence. Despite being the largest submarine in the world, its dimensions are just within the boundaries of Suezmax. This means that it is still small enough to squeeze through the Suez Canal. This will be critical as China increasingly looks to the Mediterranean as the frontier with Western powers. On the back is an open hangar which is about the same size as a special submarine previously identified. The ‘sailless’ submarine (it’s official designation is not known) has been built in Shanghai. Possibly its purpose is to be carried by the Type-100.One potential use for this is to provide layered self-defense for the host submarine. Another possibility is that it tis is for severing undersea internet cables in times of war. It has been suggested that this tactic could be used to bring about the immediate collapse of Western economies. The new submarine is expected to be the centerpiece of a massive military paraded in Beijing as part of the CCP’s 100 years celebrations in July. More than anything, this previously unreported submarine is a sign of the changing times. April 1st 2021 will go down in history as the start of a new era in submarines.
Reactor core unloaded from fire-hit Losharik submarine
After long delays and one month of preparation, the spent nuclear fuel elements are now lifted out of the reactor, paving the way for modernization of the mysterious deep-diving spy-submarine at the yard in Severodvinsk. On July 1st, 2019, Russia’s Russian deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine AS-31, nicknamed Losharik, was seriously damaged in a fire, killing all 14 officers on board. The accident happened as the sub was working on sea-floor installations in the Motovskiy Bay not far from Russia’s maritime border to Norway. After the accident, AS-31 was transported to Zvezdochka, a part of the Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation and Russia’s largest ship repair center, located in Severodvinsk on the coast of the White Sea. In March this year, specialists at the yard completed the task of extracting the deep-diving submarine’s nuclear reactor core. Losharik was supposed to originally undergo restorations in 2020, however, the reconstruction was postponed and rescheduled for 2021. According to state-affiliated news agency TASS, the operation lasted approximately one month and happened without problems. A source speaking to TASS, who claims to have close connections to the Russian Defense Ministry, states that Losharik is now starting to undergo restoration after the fire and modernization. Losharik is constructed from seven, spherical, titanium hulls. The front five hulls are interconnected, while the last two are paired up and hold AS-31’s nuclear reactor and machinery. According to TASS’s source, the deep-diving submarine’s titanium hull suffered practically no damages. The nuclear reactor itself, powering the submarine, will not be replaced and are ready to work with the new uranium fuel elements in place. The submarine, which was first laid down in 1988 but was only launched in 2003 due to financial issues, could be utilized for deep-sea operations down to depths of six kilometers. Based on project 19831’s objectives, under which Losharik operates, AC-31’s tasks include providing light for surrounding landscapes, exploration missions, and manipulating various external products, such as installing sensors and cutting underwater cables, according to Lenta. Home» News» Arctic exercise Umka-2021 shows Russian SSBN can deliver massive strike.
Arctic exercise Umka-2021 shows Russian SSBN can deliver massive strike
Umka-2021 Arctic exercise of the Northern fleet showed a possibility of covert preparation and delivery of a massive strike by Russian SSBN, the Independent Military Review writes. The previous surfacing through the Arctic ice demonstrated Russian Navy capabilities in mid-1990s. The Severstal SSBN of project 941 sailed to the North Pole, surfaced in the ice and test launched a missile. In March 2021, three nuclear submarines simultaneously surfaced near Alexandra Island of Franz Joseph Land Archipelago. Two of them were Dolphin-class SSBN of project 667BDRM. The third one was the Knyaz Vladimir latest Borey-A-class SSBN of project 955A. The three submarines carried 48 ballistic missiles. Open sources said each Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) has six to ten individually targeted reentry vehicles. Sineva SLBM has four to ten vehicles. It makes the total potential number of 480 reentry vehicles. The Independent Military Review estimated the three submarines carried 288 vehicles. Russian Navy Commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said the Arctic expedition comprised 43 events. It engaged over 600 military and civilian personnel and close to 200 arms and hardware. The expedition proceeded in a harsh weather with average temperature of minus 30 degrees Centigrade, over 1.5-meter thick ice, and wind of 32 m/sec. He said the event was unprecedented for the Navy. Besides the surfacing of three SSBN, a pair of MiG-31 fighter jets flew over the North Pole and refueled in the air. One submarine fired a torpedo from under the ice. It was later found and extracted through an ice hole. The Arctic motorized rifle brigade held a tactical exercise in bad weather and in unknown terrain away from the main base. The engaged arms and hardware confirmed the tactical and technical characteristics in high latitudes and low temperatures. Sailing under the ice is a complicated training element. The ice is thick and sometimes reaches the seabed. It provides the highest secrecy level to submarines. The wake of a submerged submarine can be tracked by satellites, however ice makes it invisible for spacecraft.The Arctic sorties of Russian SSBN confirmed the highest training level of the crews. The three submarines surfaced in parallel courses in a radius of 300 meters from each other. Three submarines took part in this “ICEX”. Project 667BDRM submarines are third-generation SSBN and will remain the backbone of Russian maritime nuclear deterrence until the fourth-generation SSBN of project 955A with Bulava missiles become operational. The submarines joined the Navy in 1980s. There are six of them at present. The SSBN were upgraded in mid-2000s. The electronic equipment, radars, propeller-rudder system were replaced. The submarines were armed with new Sineva ballistic missiles. Project 955A SSBN are armed with 16 Bulava SLBM. The Russian Navy currently operates the Yuri Dolgoruky, the Alexander Nevsky, and the Vladimir Monomakh SSBN of project 955 and the Knyaz Vladimir of upgraded project 955A. The Yuri Dolgoruky and the Knyaz Vladimir operate in the Northern fleet, while the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh in the Pacific fleet.Sevmash Shipyard is building the Knyaz Oleg, the Generalissimo Suvorov, the Emperor Alexander III, and the Knyaz Pozharsky SSBN of project 955A. Another two submarines are to be laid in 2021.The US Navy has numerously demonstrated the ability of covert Arctic missions in the framework of ICEX exercise, which also engaged UK submarines and Canadian Air Force.
Three Injured After Japanese Submarine and Bulker Collide
The Japanese submarine reportedly collided with Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Ocean Artemis. A Japanese submarine and a commercial vessel were involved in a crash off the Pacific coast on Monday and three of the submarine’s crew suffered minor injuries and it was slightly damaged but still able to sail, government officials said.The submarine, operated by the Maritime Self-Defense Force, as Japan’s navy is known, and the ship crashed off Kochi prefecture in southern Japan, chief cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular news conference.Kato, quoting the Coast Guard, said that there was no damage to the private ship.Authorities were looking into details, such as the type of the ship and in which country it was registered, Kato said. The Maritime Self-Defense Force said three crew members on the submarine suffered minor injuries and the vessel’s mast was damaged but not enough to hinder its ability to sail.
The first Russian submarine
This 18th-century invention was intended to be the wonder weapon of the Russian Empire and bring the Baltic Sea under sway. In the early 20th century, submarines became an integral part of the armed forces of all the Great Powers. Russia, however, could have created a submarine fleet 200 years earlier. Why didn’t it? The idea to build a "stealth vessel" capable of sailing underwater and “knocking a warship out from below” belonged to Yefim Nikonov, a simple carpenter who worked in a shipyard in the 18th century. He had no engineering background and was illiterate. But that did not stop him from being a master shipbuilder.Nikonov sent numerous technical specifications (written down by others) to Peter the Great for a submarine that would “lie quietly under the waves then destroy warships, at least ten or twenty, with a projectile.” If it failed, he said, he was ready to answer with his head. In 1719, the tsar finally paid attention to the project and invited Nikonov to discuss the idea in person. Although the concept was by no means new (Dutch engineer Cornelius Drebbel had tested the world’s first submarine in the Thames in London back in 1620), Peter became transfixed by it. He appointed Yefim as his “master of stealth vessels” and gave him a workshop in St Petersburg and the right to choose his assistants.Thirteen months later, a small prototype was tested in the Neva. Halfway across the river, the vessel submerged, then surfaced on the other side. The second dive did not go so smoothly, and the vessel failed to rise. The tsar, looking on, personally took part in the operation to raise the ship using ropes. Despite the failure, he ordered the construction of a full-fledged model. Nikonov’s “stealth vessel” was completed in 1724. When entering it in the books, the clerk miswrote one letter, writing “Morel” instead of “Model”. The name stuck. The first Russian submarine was shaped like a large wooden barrel six meters long, two meters high. It was fastened together with iron hoops and wrapped in leather. Ten tin plates perforated with tiny holes were built into the body. Through them, outboard water flowed into leather bags, causing the vessel to submerge. On surfacing, the water was discharged overboard using a copper piston pump. The five-crewed submarine was powered by oars. Morel’s main weapon was to be flamethrowers ("fiery copper pipes"). In addition, a diver would climb out and, using special tools, damage the hull of the enemy ship. Nikonov even designed a "diving suit" for this new profession. In the spring of 1724, the "stealth vessel" was again tested in the Neva, once more in the presence of Peter the Great and naval officers. It successfully sank to a depth of 3-4 meters, but then scraped the ground with its keel. The hermetically sealed Morel was ripped open, and the crew had to be urgently rescued. But despite this second failure, Peter refused to condemn either the vessel or its inventor, ordering that he "not be blamed for this discomfiture." However, the tsar’s death soon afterwards put paid to the ambitious project. The now patronless Nikonov had far less money, manpower and materials to play with. The last “stealth vessel” tests took place in 1727. After another unsuccessful attempt, Nikonov was demoted from the rank of master shipbuilder to simple “admiralty worker” and sent from the capital to remote Astrakhan. As a result, Russia had to wait nearly two more centuries before acquiring its first submarine fleet.
The first submarine to sink a warship was more deadly for its own crew than for the enemy
On February 17, 1864, Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley attacked and sank USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor, killing five Union sailors. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, but Hunley and its eight crew members didn't make it back. On the night of February 17, 1864, US Navy sailors aboard the sloop-of-war USS Housatonic were watching the approaches to Charleston Harbor. They were part of the Union Navy's blockade force, which was approaching its third year of operation outside Charleston. At about 8:45 p.m., Acting Master J.K. Crosby noticed a large semi-submerged object slowly making its way toward the sloop. It was believed to be a porpoise or log, but as the object came closer, its size and metal body made clear that it was a man-made vessel. The sailors raised the alarm, but the vessel was too close to be hit by the sloop's 12 guns, forcing some of the crew to shoot at it with muskets and pistols. But they were too late. The vessel was the H.L. Hunley, one of the first submarines in history, and the first to successfully sink an enemy ship — at the cost of the lives of its entire crew. The Confederate States of America were at a naval disadvantage as soon as the war began. The Union maintained control of virtually all of the US Navy's vessels and destroyed those in vulnerable ports in the South. The Union also began a massive ship-building program that would see its Navy swell from 90 warships in 1861 to over 600 by 1865. Recognizing the importance of isolating the CSA from any foreign markets or assistance, President Abraham Lincoln ordered a massive blockade. By 1863, it had largely succeeded in cutting off nearly every major port along 3,500 miles of Confederate coastline. The blockade had a devastating effect on the South's economy, which relied heavily on selling agricultural products, like cotton, abroad. The Confederates built a very modest navy from scratch, and although some vessels became successful commerce raiders, it was nowhere near large or strong enough to break the blockade.By 1863, the Confederates were desperate to end the blockade, going so far as to offer bounties for the destruction of blockading Union ships. They were forced to develop revolutionary new designs in an attempt to make up for their shortcomings. Horace Lawson Hunley, a former deputy collector of customs in New Orleans and state legislator in Louisiana, recognized the importance of breaking the blockade early in the war. In 1862, he and a small team built a small submarine called the Pioneer in New Orleans, but they were forced to destroy it when Union forces captured the city. A second attempt, the American Diver, was built in Mobile, Alabama, but sank while being towed. Finally, in July 1863, Hunley successfully launched his third submarine, which would eventually be named after him. The sub was made of iron and had the shape of a cigar with the front and end sections wedged. It was nearly 40 feet long and only 4.3 feet high. It was powered entirely by hand, with seven men continuously cranking levers to move the propeller, while the commander steered and operated pumps for the two ballast tanks. Two small conning towers containing hatches were on either end of the sub.After a successful demonstration, it was hurriedly sent by rail to Charleston in August, where the man in charge of the city's defense, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, wanted to use it immediately. Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg had increased the need for an end to the blockade.But the submarine wasn't ready. By October, it had sunk twice during training missions, killing 13 men, including Hunley himself. Beauregard began to lose confidence. "I can have nothing more to do with that submarine boat," he declared. "It is more dangerous to those who use it than the enemy." But Beauregard was convinced the sub could still work by Lt. George Dixon, who raised a new crew and became the sub's commander.After its second sinking, the Hunley was forbidden from completely submerging. The plan changed from towing an explosive device under a Union ship to using a spar torpedo. The torpedo, a 16-foot pole with a 135-pound explosive at the end of it, was attached to the lower bow at a 45-degree angle, and would be detonated on contact or by a trigger-pulled device. After months of training, Dixon and his men were ready and waiting for a night with good weather. Their moment came on February 17. They left their base on Sullivan's Island and began their attack on the USS Housatonic at 8:45 p.m. The small-arms fire failed to stop the Hunley, and its torpedo detonated shortly after it made contact near the rear of the sloop. The massive explosion tore a huge hole in the ship and instantly killed five sailors. Within five minutes, the Housatonic sank. The rest of the crew survived by escaping in two lifeboats or by climbing the masts, which remained above the water, until they could be rescued. The crew of the Hunley were not so lucky. Eyewitnesses claimed that lights signaling a successful operation could be seen from the submarine. However, the sub never returned to Sullivan's Island. The Confederates never attempted a similar attack, the Union blockade was never broken, and the war ended 15 months later. The Hunley was not seen again for 131 years, when a search party found it in 1995. It was raised in 2000 and placed in a tank at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where it is on display. The cause of Hunley's sinking has never been definitively established. In 2017, a team from Duke University led by Rachel M. Lance, a biomedical engineer and blast-injury specialist, released a study arguing that the crew likely died instantly from air-blast trauma.Lance, who wrote a book about her research, concludes that the pressure inside the sub from the blast "put each member of the Hunley crew at a 95% risk of immediate, severe pulmonary trauma." The crew's skeletons were all found at their duty stations, with no signs of physical injuries, and not near the hatches, which were closed, suggesting there was no attempt to escape. There was also no damage to the hull that is believed to have caused flooding. The Hunley's final resting place was also almost 1,000 feet farther out to sea than the wreck of the Housatonic, suggesting the submarine drifted with the current before sinking. The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy warship, a feat that would not happen again until World War I.
India, Singapore navies sign submarine rescue pact
The Indian Navy and the Republic Singapore Navy (RSN) have signed a bilateral submarine rescue agreement, establishing mutual underwater emergency assistance between the two services. The agreement, which is known as the submarine rescue support and co-operation implementing arrangement, was signed at the fifth iteration of the India-Singapore defence minister’s dialogue that was held via video conference on 20 January. “The submarine rescue support and co-operation implementing arrangement will allow both navies to extend submarine rescue assistance to each other as well as conduct bilateral rescue exercises and familiarisation visits to enhance interoperability and proficiency in submarine rescue operations”, said Singapore’s defence minister, Ng Eng Hen, in his remarks on the pact. The RSN currently operates a fleet of two Archer-class and two Challenger-class diesel-electric submarines and is anticipating the delivery of four new Invincible (Type 218SG) boats from Germany. The service also operates the 84 m submarine rescue ship, Swift Rescue , which is capable of conducting intervention, and hyperbaric rescue operations. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy operates four submarine classes, and one 70 m submarine rescue vessel, Nireekshak (15), which is equipped with a six-man recompression and can accommodate up to two deep-submergence rescue vehicles (DSRVs). In 2016 the Indian Navy signed a contract for two DSAR-650L DSRVs with JFD, and the first unit was delivered in 2018. Besides the submarine rescue agreement, India and Singapore have also agreed to step up military co-operation, including in the areas of cyber defence and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.
Submarines: Chinese Breath Easier
?February 3, 2021: At the end of 2020 China revealed its new individual SEIE (Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment) suit, This item allows submarine crew to escape from a submarine disabled at shallow depths of up to 183 meters (600 feet). The Chinese SEIE is based on the British SEIE design developed in the 1960s and regularly updated since then, and widely used in Western navies. The SEIE was an improvement on the American developed Momsen Lung from the 1930s and the later 1960s Steinke Hood. These two devices provided escaping submarine crew with an air breathing system that minimized decompression sickness. While these two breathing devices worked, they did not protect escaping submarine crew from freezing to death if they were surfacing in anything but tropical waters. The SEIE incorporated a thermal suit and individual life raft that automatically inflated when the sailor reached the surface. The SEIE was augmented by existing SRVs (Submarine Rescue Vehicles) that had been around in one form or another since the 1930s. China was ahead of Russia when it came to submarine rescue equipment, and since the 1970s has adopted British gear to equip their submarines and submarine rescue ships that carry SRVs, decompression chambers and related submarine support equipment. These ships spend most of their time serving as “submarine tenders” that supply submarines at sea with needed supplies and emergency services. One of the more extreme emergencies is a disabled sub on the ocean floor with survivors inside. Russia neglected its submarine rescue capability until the August 2000 disaster that wrecked the five-year-old pride of the Northern Fleet, the 14,000-ton nuclear submarine Kursk. Explosions sank the Kursk and it came to rest on the sea floor at a depth of 108 meters (354 feet). Some of the Kursk crew who survived the initial disaster died inside the sub after their air ran out because Russia had no equipment available to detect and rescue them. The Kursk was equipped with an automatic locating buoy that would go to the surface automatically if the sub sank. The buoy was disabled duringan earlier operation and not repaired. Same problem with the two SRVs the Russian Navy had. Both had been sidelined for repairs that the naval budget did not have money for. As a result it took too long to find the Kursk, which was sunk when one of its own torpedoes exploded. Only 23 of 118 crew survived. They were all in one compartment that only had air for about six hours, and no access to other equipment that would enable them to get to the surface alive. If the location buoy was working and at least one of the nearby DRSVs were in working order, the 23 surviving Kursk crew could have been rescued. The Kursk disaster was a major scandal for Russia and forced them to do what China had done in the 1970s, obtain the latest submarine rescue equipment and keep it operational. Russia chose the British SRV rescue sub because Western firms pioneered the development of this equipment and were the foremost manufacturers. Western firms also established international standards in this area. Back in 2008, NATO successfully completed tests of the NATO SRV. This $95 million SRV1 is a deep-water rescue device that can be airlifted to anywhere in the world on short notice, fit on the deck of at least 140 identified ships, and mate with the escape hatches on most of the worlds’ submarines. The SRV1 has a crew of three and can carry up to 15 men at a time to the surface. It can go down once every four hours. This allows time to deal with decompression, battery recharging, and maintenance before each trip down. The two Russian SRVs were in need of repairs because they were used regularly for supporting espionage and naval commando training rather than submarine rescue. The SRV1 system is shipped in eleven waterproof cargo containers that can be flown by military or civilian cargo aircraft. Including flight time, set up time on the ship, and movement time to the site of the distressed submarine, the NATO SRV should be able to get where it is needed and have the SRV in the water within 72 hours. The SRV itself is 10 meters (31 feet) long, weighs 27 tons, and can go as deep as 1,000 meters (3,000 feet), which is the maximum depth for most submarines. Britain, Norway, and France cooperated to design and build SRV1. The Americans built a similar system, providing two rescue systems to deal with any of the several hundred subs in service. The NATO SRV is based in Clyde, Scotland and is managed by the UK Ministry of Defense. After 2000 Russia established links with NATO that included sharing undersea rescue capabilities. This was first used in 2005 when an unmanned British minisub was flown Pacific coast in the Russian northeast. Within six hours of landing to work, the minisub had cut free a small Russian rescue sub. This allowed the trapped sub and its crew of six to come to the surface. The Russian sub had gotten snagged in abandoned fishing nets three days earlier. The United States also flew out two minisubs, but the British got there first and were aided by some American transport troops who had already arrived. The Russians thanked the British and other nations who had rushed assistance to the remote area. Russia also decided to buy two of the minisubs that Britain used. These minisubs are used for all sorts of underwater work and cost about a million dollars each. Quickly calling in foreign assistance was a major change in Russian Navy practice. The navy was under tremendous pressure to ask for foreign assistance after they refused to do so in 2000 when the Kursk went down. The 2005 rescue was a direct result of the 2003 agreement between Russia and NATO to instantly cooperate if anyone's submarines went down and quick rescue attempts were needed. This agreement was a direct result of what happened when the Russian Kursk three years earlier. Back then NATO nations immediately offered rescue ships but the Russians dithered and the Kursk sailors who survived the initial disaster died. The agreement meant more regular transfer of information on who has what submarine rescue capabilities as well as rescue exercises between NATO navies and Russia. Over half the submarines in European navies belong to Russia, including most of the nuclear subs. China began developing its own SRVs in the 1970s using Western SRVs as a model. The first of four Type 7103 DSRVs entered service in 1987 and all underwent refurbishment in the mid-1990s. While similar to Western SRVs the Chinese 7103s lack several features common in Western models. As a result, a new generation of SRVs are being developed. China has not had a Kursk-level disaster to prompt them to join existing international submarine rescue organizations. One reason for the lack of Chinese submarine disasters is that China does not operate its submarines as frequently as Western navies or as carelessly as the Russians.
China Navy tests of individual Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment
According to information published by the Chinese MoD (Department of Defense) on January 4, 2021, a new individual Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment (SEIE) has completed the combat performance test in the waters of a sea area of the East China Sea recently, indicating that the PLA Navy submariners' self-rescue and escape capabilities have reached the advanced international lThis new individual equipment is developed by the Special Medical Center of the PLA Naval Medical University. It comprises four components, including a fast floating escape suit, hood inflation system, escape suit detection device, and hood inflation detection device. Owing to the lightweight, wear-resistant, waterproof, and anti-aging new materials, and the design of the inner thermal liner and the individual life raft, the new SEIE is more convenient to use and provides better protection for the submariner on keeping warm and reaching for surface rescue. Fast ascent and escape is a development direction widely recognized by the world for self-rescue and escape of submariners. The new SEIE takes into account two submarine escape modes, including rapid ascent escape and depressurized escape, which can be applied in various types of submarines of the PLA Navy.
Russia's Mike-class Submarine: Technological Wonder (Safety Nightmare)
K-278 was a unique boat that served well until it made a terrible fate. The only model of its class, the K-278 Komsomolets, or what many refer to as the Mike-class, was intended as a testbed for Soviet fourth-generation submarines. Instead, it emerged as a potent SSN in its own right—albeit one with a deeply tragic fate. By the late 1960’s, the Soviet Navy was enmeshed in a procurement search for a new design platform to guide the next generation of its nuclear-powered attack submarines. In 1974, Rubin Design Bureau introduced a submarine that seemed to excel by every performance metric that mattered to the Soviet shipbuilding industry. The Project-685 K-278 Komsomolets was known in the west by its North Atlantic Treaty Organization reporting name as the first Mike-class submarine. It was fast, packed a punch, and broke military submarine deep-diving records. Komsomolets’ inner hull was made from titanium, a 1960’s Soviet design innovation that facilitated greater dive depths and potentially faster speeds. However, titanium is also highly expensive and notoriously difficult to work with, requiring special treatment in argon-infused warehouses. Nonetheless, Komsomolets’ titanium construction allowed it to withstand an impressive 1,500 psi of pressure—in 1984, the submarine reached a then-diving record of 3,350 feet. But Komsomolets’ innovations didn’t stop there. The submarine was armed with secretive Shkval supercavitating torpedoes that employed a novel propulsion system to travel at a maximum speed of up to 200 knots or 370 kilometers per hour. The submarine itself could travel up to thirty knots, a fairly typical speed for flagship Soviet submarine lines, and featured a displacement of up to 8,000 tons. In addition, Komsomolets featured the standard-issue six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes found across numerous other submarine lines. As technically impressive as the Komsomolets was, it also perpetuated the unfortunate Soviet trend of haphazard radiation safeguards and what is often described as a weak submarine safety culture. Komsomolets was commissioned in 1983 and tasked with running a series of field tests to generate performance data for Soviet scientists and engineers. Disaster struck in 1989. While submerged over 1,000 meters deep in the Sea of Norway, a fire broke in a compartment near Komsomolets’ aft. According to investigations into the incident, a ballast malfunction apparently caused an air rupture that led to an oil leak. The oil then made contact with a running turbine, causing a conflagration that wrought havoc across the submarine’s control systems. The fire and resulting smoke could not be effectively contained, causing a raft of cascading electrical malfunctions throughout the vessel. Five of the crew, including Captain Evgeny Vanin, attempted to eject through the designated escape pod. Shortly after rising to the surface, the pod catastrophically malfunctioned— only one escaped the hatch, while Captain Vanin and three others were either killed instantly or incapacitated. Komsomolets surfaced, but compressed air leaks continued to spread the fire. The submarine sank several hours later, sustaining severe structural damage. The government promptly responded by dispatching rescue aircraft, but the effort proved ineffective. Of the sixty-nine-strong crew that had successfully abandoned ship, forty-two proceeded to die from hypothermia in the freezing waters of the Barents Sea. Komsomolets, or what is left of it, sits on the Barents Sea floor at a depth of 1,680 meters. Recent investigations have found that the site remains radioactive, but the threat of further environmental contamination is reportedly minimal.
How Israel's Submarine Scandal Was Buried
As early as 2009, an inquiry was held into possible corruption in Israel's bid to buy submarines from Germany. The secret probe, triggered by an anonymous whistle-blower, took testimony from high-ranking officials about signs of bribery – but the powers-that-be covered it up. Every criminal affair has a seminal moment, a kind of opening salvo for the unsavory plot. It’s the moment when the interests of the protagonists intersect, a moment after which there is no turning back. The affair of Israel’s purchase of submarines and patrol boats from Germany, known as Case 3000, had a moment like that. According to the state prosecution, it took place in 2009, in two meetings, held in the bureau of the finance minister at the time, Yuval Steinitz, and in the office of the then-commander of the navy, Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom. Marom was in the forefront of a group that wanted to replace the Israeli agent of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, the middleman between Israel and Germany in the submarine deal. For years that role had been played by Brig. Gen. (res.) Yeshayahu “Shaike” Bareket. Marom and his group wanted to replace Bareket with businessman Miki Ganor.Bareket was a senior intelligence officer in the Israel Air force and former Israel Defense Forces’ attaché in Bonn. Against the background of the ties he forged with Germany’s leaders, he had acted as the broker in Israeli-German submarine deals for two decades. Ganor was mainly involved in real estate at time, in the European market. Why was it so urgent for the Israeli group to influence the choice of a broker in the talks with Germany? What led them to “parachute” an entrepreneur from the private market into the job? According to Israel’s State Prosecutors Office, the answer is clear: As an agent, Ganor would make a killing of millions. The lobbying on his behalf didn’t derive from charitable motives. Ganor was allegedly required to repay the move with bribe money.Looking back, it’s hard not to imagine what would have happened if someone had intervened at that stage and blocked Ganor’s peculiar appointment. In that case, perhaps, there would have been no submarines affair. If the security authorities had asked themselves about Ganor and probed the unusual lobbying on his behalf – the chain of criminal activity could have been broken. It now turns out that someone did intervene. And that the authorities did ask questions. And that they even investigated. Yet in the end, they whitewashed or ignored what they found.Toward the end of 2009, an unsigned letter arrived in the office of the Defense Ministry’s ombudsman. “We in the corps are very uncomfortable with the behavior of the commander of the navy,” the anonymous writer stated. “Vice Admiral Marom organized a meeting with the finance minister. The meeting was attended by a businessman [Ganor] who is well acquainted with the finance minister, as he paid for office space for his use in the [Likud party] primary. He is acting as the shipbuilder’s representative, but at the same time also as the [navy] commander’s representative and friend. Is this proper? What’s behind this?” That wasn’t the only letter. Two more letters followed, both also anonymous. They showed a keen grasp of what was going on behind the scenes: the planning of a bribery deal involving senior Israeli figures. Ganor was intended to be its executor. Marom and Ganor knew each other from the period they served together in the navy. It was no more than a basic acquaintanceship, but in 2009 the relations between them warmed up. According to the prosecution, Marom was approached at that time by another navy veteran, Rear Admiral (res.) Avriel Bar Yosef. According to the state prosecution, Bar Yosef, who coordinated the activity of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the time, mentioned Ganor’s possible appointment to Marom, who acceded and set up a meeting between Ganor and the general manager of the German shipyard, Walter Freitag. Ganor flew to Germany, but Freitag told him that the corporation already had a representative in Israel. Unfazed, the intended broker asked to remain behind with Freitag for a private conversation. Not long after that meeting, when Freitag visited Israel, the operation to replace Bareket was already in high gear. Marom took advantage of the visit to press aggressively for Ganor. He invited Ganor to an official meeting that he gave for the Thyssenkrupp executive with the top brass of the Israel Navy, as well as to a meeting with Freitag that Marom held in his office. It was aimed at showing the German guest that Ganor had the support of the navy commander. Freitag apparently got the message. Within a few weeks, the Germans launched negotiations with Ganor and finally appointed him their representative. That job would ultimately enrich him by more than 10 million euros – and, it’s suspected, not only him. According to the state prosecution, in 2014, Ganor began the transfer of more than a half-million shekels (about $130,000, in 2014) to Marom, in installments. The seeds that had been planted five years earlier were beginning to bear fruit. Back to 2009. The anonymous letter warning about the connection between Marom and Ganor didn’t remain in the ombudsman’s office. It was forwarded to the Defense Ministry Security Authority, known by the Hebrew acronym Malmab – the secretive body charged with ensuring that nothing is amiss in the ministry, the military industries and bodies associated with Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission. Malmab provides these units with physical security, information security and protection against cyberattacks, and instigates investigations into instances of possible corruption and leaks of classified material. Malmab’s staff are empowered to conduct criminal investigations. The suspects might be arms merchants, but by the same token they might be senior civil servants. The director of Malmab at the time was Amir Kain, a confidant of Gabi Ashkenazi, then the IDF chief of staff (and today foreign minister). Prior to his appointment as army chief, when Ashkenazi served as director general of the Defense Ministry, Kain was his personal aide. When the Harpaz affair (involving a feud between Ashkenazi and Ehud Barak, then defense minister) erupted in 2010, Kain was questioned on suspicion that he had given information to Ashkenazi about the Shin Bet security service’s intention to track down individuals who leaked details from deliberations about the Iranian nuclear project. The case against Kain was closed. When the first letter landed on Kain’s desk, he updated the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division. In response, the latter asked Malmab to conduct a preliminary examination of the material, in order to decide whether there was anything in the allegations that would necessitate an investigation of Vice Admiral Marom. Kain entrusted the inquiry to a senior member of Malmab’s investigations unit, Noah Nadler. The code name chosen for the inquiry was “Yellow Submarine.”While Nadler was gathering information, Kain received another anonymous letter, which reiterated most of the allegations concerning Ganor and Marom in the first letter, while supplementing the warnings with a few bombshell comments: “There’s a feeling that this connection of Mr. Ganor, a rich man who deals in real estate and spends a lot of time with the navy commander, is dubious, and both of them know why… To every question that any of us ask the navy commander, [about] who this person is and what’s going on, he responds sharply and threateningly. The navy is dear to us, and it’s worth looking into what’s behind the facts.” At this point, something unusual happened: Instead of forwarding the new letter to the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division and to Malmab’s Nadler, Kain forwarded it to Chief of Staff Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi had appointed Marom commander of the navy, and the two enjoyed good relations. Earlier that year, Marom had been spotted in a Tel Aviv strip club and had gotten into trouble by providing apparently inaccurate information about what he did and how long he spent there. Female MKs and women’s organizations demanded he be removed from his position, but the chief of staff decided to make do with a notation in his personal file. When Kain forwarded the second letter to Ashkenazi, he added the following remark: “Gabi, this is a copy for you. I didn’t forward this letter [to Military Police Investigations]. Only the earlier one. It’s my understanding that the Military Police updated the military advocate general [Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, today the attorney general]. I arranged with the investigators for them not to send anything to MPI before they see me (and I, you)… Keep or destroy this at your discretion. Amir.” According to the letter of the anonymous whistle-blower, ‘There’s a feeling that this connection of Mr. Ganor, a rich man who deals in real estate and spends a lot of time with the navy commander, is dubious, and both of them know why...’Ashkenazi responded by writing in his own hand: “Amir, in my opinion, an open meeting… and organizing a meeting for the finance minister, is not a problematic act.” The commander of the navy, which is the client in the submarines deal, is pressing to appoint as middleman a real estate entrepreneur, who will rake in millions on the deal, and the chief of staff doesn’t see a basis for looking into the matter? Kain understood well that it would be best if as few people as possible saw Ashkenazi’s reply. When he gave the letter to his secretary for filing, he asked her to blur any traces of the chief of staff. “Gabi Ashkenazi’s comment should not be scanned. To be kept in the investigations memoranda file.” In the meantime, Nadler, from Malmab’s investigations department, met with three individuals: the head of the Defense Ministry’s procurement directorate, Aharon Marmarush; his deputy, Yossi Amir; and the ousted representative of the German shipyard, Shaike Bareket. Amir made it clear to the investigator that big money was involved. He related that Israel’s political leadership was seriously considering the purchase in the near future of submarines at a cost of billions of shekels. “We only learned now about Ganor’s appointment,” Amir admitted to Nadler. “It is not an official position and it’s possible to live without it. There is no need for it.” Here he touched on the very heart of the submarines affair: the fact that between the governments there was a broker who was pocketing fat commissions and who, it was alleged, may have corrupted officers and officials along the way. Marmarush told Nadler that in his view, Bareket’s ouster and Ganor’s appointment were evidence of “someone’s vested interest.” Nadler asked whether Ganor could have been appointed as the agent for the German corporation without the support of the navy commander or some other figure of influence. “The formal answer is yes, and the practical one is no,” Marmarush replied. In the informal part of the conversation, Marmarush and Amir shared with Nadler the suspicions they harbored. “We’re talking about a project worth more than one billion euros, and there’s a rumor that the agent is getting one percent of the deal’s value. It can’t be ruled out that moneys from that sum were promised to certain figures who support Ganor’s appointment.” Moreover, the two told Nadler, “the navy commander will be concluding his term in one to two years, and support for the right person can advance his personal affairs.” That was only speculation, but of a sort that must be examined. In his meeting with the ousted middleman, Bareket, Malmab investigator Nadler heard about his network of connections in Israel, Germany and the United States. Bareket told him how he had become a broker in defense transactions following a request from the ministry’s procurement directorate back in 1985. Nadler asked Bareket whether he had worked under contract during this period and had been paid for his services. Nadler noted later that Bareket “responded angrily that he is not ready to talk about that and that he is not obligated to make a report.”Bareket told Nadler that Vice Admiral Marom had broken off ties with him one day, with no explanation. He described the dinner that was held for Freitag, the German shipyard executive, at which the latter was introduced to Ganor. Bareket, who was also at the dinner, had asked Ganor about his relations with navy personnel. Ganor, he said, replied simply that he was a friend of the navy commander. After the dinner, Marom accompanied Freitag and Ganor to a bar. The following day Bareket had met with Freitag and heard from him about the evening with Ganor and Marom. According to Bareket, Freitag related that Ganor had made it clear to him unequivocally that if he were not appointed as the new Israeli agent, there would be no project with the shipyard, because the navy commander would not work with any other broker. To round things off, Bareket maintained that a source – whom he refused to name – told him, “For sure, Chayni [Marom’s nickname] will get a lot of money.”At this stage, it appeared that the material collected warranted an expansion of the examination. It was almost obligatory. Senior officials from the Defense Ministry Procurement Directorate had warned about the possibility that Marom was out to pad his post-navy life, Bareket had supplied explosive testimony, and there was also something else: Malmab’s Nadler discovered that neither Bareket nor Ganor had a permit from the Defense Ministry to act as agents – something that should have raised suspicions especially with respect to the real estate man who had suddenly popped up. After all, Malmab’s principal task is to ensure that sensitive information does not fall into the hand of unauthorized individuals. Ganor was an unauthorized individual.But the warning lights didn’t flash, and the inquiry was concluded. “It’s scandalous,” said a former senior official from Malmab, who was apprised of the details.No one took testimony from Marom and Ganor. Not about the ties between them, not about the actions Maron undertook on Ganor’s behalf – nor about the fact that Ganor was privy to security secrets without a permit.Nadler signed off with a feeble bottom line. He stated that on the basis of the material he had collected during his examination of the events – just three testimonies – there was no evidence justifying a more formal investigation. At the same time, he added, “On the face of it, there is something amiss about the way things were handled, and the possibility exists that behind the overt actions lurk intentions and facts that at this stage have not yet been revealed.” He recommended sending the materials on to the commander of the Military Police’s investigations unit, who “will decide and act on the matter as required.” Kain, however, forwarded the findings of the examination to Ashkenazi, as he’d promised. In a properly run world, Malmab would have deepened the probe, and afterward the chief of staff and the military advocate general, Mendelblit, would have pushed the Military Police to get to the very bottom of the matter. “Ashkenazi should have called Mendelblit and ordered him to send in the Military Police, full steam ahead, in order to verify or refute suspicions,” the head of the investigations unit in Malmab, Gadi Waterman, said afterward. “If they didn’t do that, then the chief of staff and the military advocate general should be hanged from a tree.” He added that it is inconceivable that Mendelblit didn’t know, and if by chance he didn’t know, that is “the screw-up of screw-ups.” In fact, the Military Police never launched any such investigation. Despite the information in the hands of the defense establishment, no one took testimony from Marom and Ganor. Not about the ties between them, not about the actions Maron undertook on Ganor’s behalf – nor about the fact that Ganor was privy to security secrets without a permit. In the meantime, the persistent letter writer sent another anonymous missive, this time to the state comptroller. In it he again noted the unacceptable connection between Marom and Ganor. “It didn’t happen in the Third World, it happened here, among us,” he wrote. “I served for many years in the navy, in missile boat units and at headquarters. Not long ago I got a phone call from a person I didn’t know. His name is Miki Ganor. He offered me work at a tempting salary… He claimed to have established a company for security matters, for which he needed people like me. ‘You see that the Germans appointed me their representative here, this is an opportunity for you. No one will lose and the state also benefits.’ I thanked him and added that I had previous commitments. It turns out that my friends are very uneasy about what is happening in the navy in this matter, and that the money involved has an important role in the way this Ganor was appointed. The state is important to us. The behavior of the navy commander is exploitation of the power of authority and borders on the expression ‘hon-shilton’ [capital (influencing) government]!” Instead of looking into the issue himself, the state comptroller passed the letter along into the wrong hands – those of Malmab head Kain. Long weeks passed without a response. The state comptroller asked for an update and Kain finally replied, “Even though this is an anonymous complaint, I asked Malmab’s investigations unit to conduct a preliminary examination to see if there is any substance to it. From the results of the preliminary investigation no evidence was found to raise suspicion of a criminal offense that would justify an investigation. Because the person involved is the commander of a major arm [of the IDF], I decided to forward the letter to the chief of staff for his perusal, and for him to handle it according to his judgment. I also updated the director general of the Defense Ministry about my decision.” In May 2010, indeed, Kain met with Defense Ministry director general Udi Shani. In the meeting Kain effectively submitted to Shani the death certificate of the “Yellow Submarine” investigation. According to the summation of the discussion between the two senior officials, Kain explained to the director general that “the chief of staff was apprised of the findings. The chief of staff dealt with the matter and spoke with the commander of the navy, and from his point of view the subject is closed.” Kain himself added that he “[doesn’t] intend to deal with the subject anymore.” It was another seven years before the submarines affair resurfaced. When Lahav 433, the Israel Police’s anticorruption unit, launched an investigation into the suspicion that bribes had been paid in connection with the purchase of submarines from the German shipyard, both Ganor and Marom were among those detained for questioning. Ganor decided to turn state’s evidence. He related the steps Marom had taken to promote his appointment as the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp, and how he had paid him a bribe in return. Ganor then retracted his agreement with the state prosecution. A judicial source observed recently that Ganor’s turnabout had caused evidentiary difficulties in the bribery case against Marom, and that it was too early to say whether the investigation would result in an indictment. From the investigators’ point of view, it appeared that there was more than a grain of truth in the information contained in the anonymous letters. The meetings in the office of the navy commander and in the bureau of Finance Minister Steinitz were indeed meant to showcase Ganor’s network of connections to the Germans. Marom’s activity on Ganor’s behalf were intensive. After Marom retired, he received hundreds of thousands of shekels from Ganor. Ganor also apparently donated to Steinitz’s Likud primary campaign in 2012, through fictitious third parties. During their investigation, the police took testimony from cabinet ministers and senior figures in the defense establishment. Kain, the Malmab director who left his post in 2015, was summoned for a brief interrogation and stated that he didn’t remember the examination of the process by which Bareket was replaced. Ashkenazi’s turn came in July 2017. The former chief of staff testified that he had spoken with Marom several times ahead of the start of the investigation, had reassured him that all would be well and hoped that “the truth will come to light.” Asked by the investigators what he knew about Ganor’s appointment in 2009, the man who is today Israel’s foreign minister suffered an attack of amnesia. Ashkenazi was asked whether he was aware of the relations between Marom and Ganor. He replied that he didn’t remember. Asked about the replacement of Bareket, he replied that he “did not know a thing about the subject.” When told that the evidentiary material indicated that Marom was involved in getting the agent replaced, Ashkenazi stuck to the same line: “I don’t recall that I knew.” He told the investigators that if they had different information, they were invited to refresh his memory. “At a certain stage, the cards were revealed to him,” a knowledgeable source told Haaretz. But even when shown the anonymous complaint, Ashkenazi replied that he didn’t remember, and the same when he was reminded that Malmab had launched an inquiry and referred the subject to him for handling. “If it had reached me,” he told the investigators, “I would have referred it to the navy commander. It’s possible that in this case, too, I referred it to him for his response, which I found satisfactory.” When asked it if it was customary for the chief of staff to intervene in examining complaints against senior officers, Ashkenazi replied that Malmab is an independent body, and in any event he doesn’t recall that he intervened. He also professed not remembering that the Malmab director was in touch with him about the subject and sent him the findings of the examination. As a rule, Ashkenazi observed to the investigators, anonymous letters are a common tool for settling personal accounts. The investigators wondered whether the chief of staff had known that the Marom was in possession of the contract between Ganor and ThyssenKrupp, including details of the commission the middleman would receive. Ashkenazi replied in the negative. The investigators wanted to know whether involvement of this sort by an IDF officer in procurement processes was customary. “No,” the former chief of staff said, “the IDF should not intervene in the appointment of agents. It’s precisely for that reason that the civilian system – the Defense Ministry – was established.” At the beginning of 2019, Ashkenazi joined the leadership of the Kahol Lavan party. At the time, so-called Case 3000 was a weapon in the hands of the party’s leaders against Netanyahu. Ashkenazi, who as chief of staff in 2011 had opposed the acquisition of a sixth submarine for Israel’s fleet, spearheaded the campaign. Like party leader Benny Gantz, he too undertook to establish, immediately after the election, a state commission of inquiry to examine the submarines affair. “Submarines are the holy of holies of Israel’s security,” he reiterated on more than one occasion. If he had acted determinedly in real time, and pushed the gatekeepers to get to the root of the matter, this affair would have been dead in the water, a decade ago. A spokesperson for Gabi Ashkenazi stated: “The minister previously provided the various investigative bodies with an account concerning the affair of the naval craft, during which he was also asked about the comportment of the commander of the navy at the time and Malmab’s findings in the wake of the anonymous letters. Minister Ashkenazi does not recall any complaint that arose concerning the issue of the changing of the [ThyssenKrupp] agents.” Amir Kain declined to comment. Haim Sasson, former head of Military Police Criminal Investigation Division, didn’t remember the anonymous complaints, but said that in cases of such criticism being leveled against senior officers, they are supposed to be brought to the attention of the military advocate general. The spokesperson of the Justice Ministry stated that to the best of Avichai Mendelblit’s recollection, the subject did not arrive on his desk. Eliezer Marom denies the suspicions against him, maintaining that he received money from Miki Ganor for consultation services – legitimately. From his perspective, he worked for Ganor’s appointment as ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel for reasons of state, because Ganor had been a navy man, the commander of a missile boat and an engineer.C
The Saga Of This Long-Busted Submarine
Canada's four Victoria class submarines have been plagued with problems and haven't gone on an operational cruise in two years. The Royal Canadian Navy's Victoria class diesel-electric submarine HMCS Corner Brook will be out of commission until at least next summer after a recent leak caused damage to the boat, which has already been undergoing maintenance for some six years. The plight of the Corner Brook in many ways reflects the at best disappointing service career of all four of the Victorias, which Canada first agreed to acquire second-hand from the United Kingdom more than two decades ago and that have spent far more time laid up than at sea. The Canadian Department of Defense confirmed the leak aboard Corner Brook, which is presently at Victoria Shipyards in British Columbia, on Dec. 21, 2020. The incident occurred during a test back in March by personnel from Babcock Canada, which has been under contract to support the Victoria class submarines since 2008. "During the test, the normal procedure for draining the tank was not followed and a leak was subsequently discovered," Jessica Lamirande, a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Defense, told The Canadian Press. “The tank was immediately depressurized and further testing was put on hold pending an investigation,” Lamirande said in a separate statement to CTV News. "Babcock Canada Inc. conducted an internal investigation to determine the root causes of the incident, modified its procedural controls, and has since resumed tank pressure testing." As it stands now, the Corner Brook isn't scheduled to return to service until at least June 2021. This is more than a year longer than the submarine's overhaul, which began in 2014, was originally supposed to take. The boat had already been largely out of commission after hitting the seabed off in the Nootka Sound during an exercise off Vancouver Island in the Pacific Ocean in 2011. An official inquiry subsequently blamed the incident on human error and there were concerns that the accident might have damaged the submarine's pressure hull beyond repair. In April 2019, a fire also broke out on Corner Brook as it continued to undergo maintenance at Victoria Shipyards, but it was thankfully extinguished quickly. Unfortunately, as particularly hapless as Corner Brook is, the state of the other Royal Canadian Navy's other three Victoria class boats, the only submarines presently in Canadian service, already woefully small number for a major navy, is not much better. Their entire history has been an outright saga. The U.K. Royal Navy had first commissioned all four of these boats between 1990 and 1993, but retired them in 1994 after it was decided that the service would shift to only operating nuclear-powered types. U.K. authorities had also tried, unsuccessfully, to sell them to Pakistan. The United Kingdom agreed to transfer the submarines, then known as the Upholder class, to Canada as part of a lease-to-buy plan in 1998. Under the deal, Canadian authorities would pay $427 million for the boats over eight years, at which point the U.K. government would officially sell them for exactly one British pound. The arrangement was also tied to a tangential agreement for the U.K. armed forces to retain access to various Canadian military bases. The first boat, the ex-HMS Unseen, subsequently renamed HMCS Victoria, was formally commissioned in the Royal Canadian Navy in 2000. The ex-HMS Unicorn and ex-HMS Ursula, which became the HMCS Windsor and HMCS Corner Brook, respectively, followed in 2003.The last boat, the ex-HMS Upholder, which would become the HMCS Chicoutimi, caught fire after seawater entered the conning tower while sailing from the United Kingdom to Canada in 2004. A Canadian sailor died and eight more suffered injuries in the accident. A heavy-lift vessel eventually brought the stricken submarine to Canada in 2005 and authorities in that country finally decided to repair it in 2009. Ultimately, it was not formally commissioned into Canadian Navy service until 2015. The Canadian acquisition plan also included major overhauls and refits for all four boats, which had been in mothballs for years before the purchase, at the cost of an additional $98 million in total. In the process, the boats lost their ability to fire Harpoon anti-ship missiles from their six torpedo tubes, as well as their mine-laying capabilities. They did gain a new Lockheed Martin Librascope submarine fire-control system, enabling them to employ the U.S.-designed Mk 48 Mod 4 heavyweight torpedo. Those refits, as well as subsequent maintenance availabilities, have been beset by their own issues. A dent was found in Victoria's hull in 2000, which prevented the submarine from actually entering service for three years. That same submarine also suffered "catastrophic damage" to its electrical system when Royal Canadian Navy personnel attempted to install a more modern generator in 2006. There have been a host of other issues, including the discovery of dangerous sub-standard welds across all four boats, that plagued the class over the years. Victoria ultimately spent just 115 days at sea between 2000 and 2010. Corner Brook had only 81 days of sailing time between 2006 and 2008. By all accounts, all four Victoria class submarines have seen relatively limited use in the past two decades. To date, Chicoutimi holds the record for the longest cruise of any of these boats in Canadian service at 197 consecutive days, or around six months, a journey it completed in 2018. The next year, none of the Victoria class submarines made it out to sea, with all of them being in various stages of further maintenance. The plan had been to have all but the Corner Brook back in service again this year, but this was upended in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Victoria finally returned to the fleet, but at the time of writing it is still undergoing its post-maintenance shakedown. Windsor is presently scheduled to return to service early next year, but it's unclear when work on Chicoutimi will be completed. The entire future of the Victoria class submarines is very much up in the air. HMCS Victoria is set to reach the end of its stated operational lifespan in 2022 and the other boats could follow soon after. Since 2017, the Canadian government has stated that it plans to conduct a major life-extension program for these submarines, but has not yet formally authorized it. The cost of that project, which would keep the boats sailing into the late 2030s or early 2040s, is estimated to be around two billion Canadian dollars, or around $1.5 billion at the present rate of exchange. "While chronologically 20 years older, they have not been operated extensively during that time," one 2016 briefing on the then-proposed life-extension plan reportedly said. The suggestion here is that the fact that the Victoria class submarines have been pierside for decades, collectively, would make it easier to keep them in service beyond their original out-of-service date. At the same time, "while it is considered unrealistic to predict the material state of 40-year-old platforms, 20 years into the future, certain items such as the pressure hull and main motor will require additional monitoring and maintenance above the current regime, since unpredicted degradation in such areas may not be cost effective to repair and mitigate," that same briefing warned. Given the Victoria class's history, so far, it's not at all clear what kind of operational utility the boats really offer the Canadian Navy, no matter how easy or hard it may be to technically keep them in service for another two decades or so. The Canadian government has already spent more than a billion dollars in the past 20 years to keep them running at all. There have been, unsurprisingly, calls to pursue the acquisition of new submarines. All of this comes at a time when the Royal Canadian Navy is looking to modernize and improve its overall capabilities, both when operating independently and together with its allies and partners, especially fellow members of NATO. That Alliance is particularly attuned to an uptick in Russian submarine activity and the potential threats that poses, which has led to a renewed focus among its members on submarine and anti-submarine warfare. Canada also has national security interests in the Pacific, where Chinese naval capabilities, above and below the waves, are notably growing, as well as in the increasingly strategic Arctic region. Canada is already in the process of acquiring a new, highly capable class of guided-missile frigates that will significantly increase the country's naval power projection capabilities, as we at The War Zone have previously discussed. However, submarines are unique valuable assets for any modern navy, presenting entirely different kinds of challenges for potential opponents compared to surface warships and also having inherent capabilities to act as discreet intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms. The Royal Canadian Navy definitely has a need for submarines, but attempting to keep the Victoria class operating in some fashion for years to come, after they have already spent most of the careers in various states of disrepair pier side, would seem to present increasingly diminishing returns.
Goodbye to Gosport’s iconic SETT
Yet another memorable aspect of 2020 was that the Royal Navy’s world-renowned submarine escape training tank (SETT) in Gosport closed in January. Possibly the most-iconic building in the Royal Navy, the SETT dominates the Gosport skyline. Since it became operational in 1954, it has been viewed with a sense of dread and achievement by thousands of submariners from Britain and the Commonwealth. But like all who passed through the hallowed gates of HMS Dolphin, its time in the senior service has come to an end. Submarine escape training for the Royal Navy will be carried out at the Clyde Submarine Base in Faslane, Scotland. On my visit to the SETT, I was lucky to be be accompanied by former Royal Navy Petty Officer, Alan ‘Goldie’ Goldsmith, an ex-submarine escape instructor and member of the sub-sunk parachute assistance group, or SPAG, as it was known; an elite group of submariners, who are world leaders in submarine escape. They make up the body of instructors at the SETT and the teams that parachute into the sea when a sub is lost, ready to rescue submarine crews escaping from the depths, putting into practice for real everything taught at the SETT. There is no doubt about it, the SETT is imposing. It has a distinctly foreboding feel. As military buildings go, with a way of dissuading the unwelcome, this one is right at the top of the list. The building’s purpose is simply to house a 30m tank of water. Personnel from the submarine service get into the tank via airlocks at various depths and make their way to the surface. It is a cramped and unforgiving experience and, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s dangerous. During the SETT’s operational years, a number of people have died. Just being up close to the building itself reminded me of my own escape training here at the SETT as a young submariner. The nerves, the butterflies and a genuine wonder of why I had volunteered for submarines all came flooding back! Climbing into the lift with Goldie, we made our way to the top of the tank. Coming out of the lift, the sight is quite breath-taking. The tank is essentially a very deep swimming pool, with the water temperature maintained at around 32°C. Looking down I could see the faint shimmer of the airlock doors at 9m and 18m and the two upper lids of the deepest escape chambers, side by side at the bottom, almost 30m below. Showing its age, the light blue circular walls of the tank were carrying a little rust. When in use, at the top, sits the ‘boss’, the officer in charge of the escape training operations. Behind him lies the grim reminder that this doesn’t always go as planned – the emergency decompression chamber, available to quickly take a submariner back down to depth for therapeutic recompression, to try to arrest a case of the decompression illness (the bends), where a build up gases in the blood stream and tissues of the submariner, expands on ascent, with sometimes devastating effects. Around the top of the tank, a series of ladders allows access and egress to and from the water. But of course, other than to practice surface skills, that’s not how submariners get in. They get in down there, through one of those airlock doors or the upper lids! Down at the 9m lock, Goldie and I clambered in. It was even more cramped than I remembered. A class of around ten submariners plus one instructor would escape from here. In effect a box stricture on the outside of the tank, the lock was damp and dark. In an escape, the instructor would shut the outer door and flood the lock. Think of being in tiny room that is flooding. You have no breathing equipment. No regulator. You are wearing a pair of shorts and a mask. “Take a good, deep, breath!” The instructor calls out and the first submariner takes that breath, ducks under the water and is pulled out into the tank by the instructing staff, lurking outside the hatch, and let free in the direction of the surface. It’s worth noting here that members of the instructing staff make all of their descents and ascents without diving gear. They are freedivers. Travelling up and down (all the way down, to 30m) on a breath. At the side of the 30m chambers, is a diving bell from which the member of the instructing staff work. Next stop, the 18m lock! This is deep. The adrenaline is pumping. Just getting in again all these years later, I could feel it. I would never like to even contemplate this from a stricken sub. Even in training, the water is still the master. Get it wrong, forget what the instructing staff tell you, and you are in for a bumpy ride. For real, in the darkness and cold on the open ocean, in a compartment crammed with people trying to survive, it doesn’t bear thinking about. I’m quickly taken back to my training. For the trainees that were in the 18m lock, there was no let up. The water level has crushed the air and the pressure is on. Drawing that good, deep, breath, the mask leaks a little, and I feel the panic rising, this is it. I move through the water. It is strange to be passing the legs of my fellow lambs going to the slaughter as I see the door to the lock and the instructing staff diver on the outside. Hands spin me around. I’m facing back into the lock. I am totally confused. The breath is burning in my chest, now. I feel pulling and jerking, and I am yanked backwards, out from the lock into the body of water in tank. I’m now at 18m, with no diving gear. No BCD and weight system to keep me buoyant. No regulator to keep me supplied with air. I’m in another world now. Thousands of years of evolution is screaming at me to bolt, to try to get out of the water, but the instructing staff diver, calmly floating in front of me, is holding me, jabbing my torso. Yes, breathe out, breathe out. He sees me breathe out, a steady stream, lips no wider than a pencil, as has been shouted at me, for the last few days. I’m sure that the instructing staff diver is laughing at my eyes which are now so wide that they fill my mask! Then, released, I’m racing upwards towards the surface. The air is gushing out of my lungs, like I’m vomiting gas, and the desire to hold my breath takes over. No, no, no. Do Not Hold Your Breath. Holding your breath means lung expansion injuries which gets you a ride in a Royal Navy helicopter and a nice cool resting place in the morgue at Haslar Royal Navy Hospital (as it was when I did escape training). Whoosh! I gasp air and realise that I am alive! I am now bobbing on the surface. “Okay, shipmate, over to the side.” Is that it. Don’t I get a medal for lunacy! In true Royal Navy style, the relief, the sense of pride and the sense of one-upmanship that some other poor unfortunate candidate has yet to do it, is soon taken away. With the exercise completed at 18m, it’s time for the trainee submariners to take the lift to the bottom, for the 30m escape. The access area to the two-person escape chamber, is made out as the escape compartment of a sub, cramped, with not even enough room to stand fully upright. After scaling the ladder, into the escape chamber itself, the claustrophobia is palpable. The ultimate, final destination! The hatch rim is very unforgiving on the shins and hauling myself in without whacking my head of elbows was quite a task. Inside the chamber, closing the lower hatch starts the heavy breathing. For the trainee, this is the big one. Again, I am quickly taken back to when I was in here for real. The second person in the chamber on that occasion was the instructor. With the bright orange escape suit plugged into the air supply, filling the hood, visibility is distorted and the heart pounds. Then it happens – gushing in, filling the chamber, rising up the body, the water takes over. The instructor operates the flood valve. The trainee can do nothing but face what’s about to come. As the water fills the tower, the trainee becomes bouyant in the chamber and when the water and compressed air pressure equals the water pressure, the upper lid of the chamber can be pushed open. The air leaves and water rushes in to make up the space. This whole process is very disorientating.Once having managed to get out of the chamber, the trainee is met by more freediving instructors, who make sure the trainee is clipped to the ascent wire running to the surface, and then they’re off! Thirty meters in about 13 seconds! Trying to remember everything that’s been drilled into them – breath normally in the hood. Normally! What!? Flare the legs, look up! On the surface there is a mix of elation and fear! Lying flat in the escape suit, pulled to the side by the instructing staff, the egress ladder is climbed with wobbly legs. The usual dose of shouting at the trainee ensues, Royal Navy style. Stood to attention, still in shock, the smiles beam on the face of those that can say they’ve done it!
Submarines reportedly being used for smuggling cocaine into U.S.
Central and South American drug runners are continuing to create new specialized smuggling vessels to move narcotics into the U.S., as evidenced by a sophisticated electric submersible seized earlier this month. On Nov. 5 the Colombian Navy, assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement agencies, raided an artisan boatyard near the Cucurrup River in the Choc area of Colombia. Under a makeshift roof they discovered a high-capacity narco submarine, the Colombian Navy announced on Twitter. The submarine is estimated to have cost $1.5 million to construct, according to officials. Based on the plans that were seized by Colombian authorities, had it sailed, it would have carried some six metric tons of cocaine towards the American market, valued at around $120 million. Put into perspective, most narco submarines interdicted by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard carry around 1.6 metric tons of cocaine, worth approximately $30 to 35 million. The trend had been towards smaller payloads per trip, but the discovery of the new submarine points toward a trend reversal. Another significant difference compared to other narco-submarines is that this seized vessel is fully submersible, at least for short periods of time. Virtually all narco submarines interdicted at sea have been more correctly termed low-profile vessels (LPVs). Also known as semi-submersibles, these are craft designed to run exceptionally low in the water to avoid detection. But they cannot fully submerge. This submarine's cylindrical hull, sealed roof hatch and hydroplanes all point to some degree of submerged running. Underwater it uses batteries to power two electric motors. Ten tons of batteries give it an estimated endurance of 12 hours, which would equate to about 32 nautical miles if the submerged speed is around three knots. Clearly, even if the cruising speed is higher, an electric submersible like this cannot make the entire trip unaided. A towing ring on the nose points to the answer: the craft is designed to be towed by a larger vessel until close to its destination. It would then make the final leg on its own. Once unloaded, it would be scuttled and join the hundreds of discarded narco subs which litter the seafloor. The design is reminiscent of another rare electric narco submarine which was found in the same area in July 2017. That also had twin electric drive, four large hydroplanes and a tow ring. This suggests that the same master boat builder was behind it, or at least some common human thread. Although this vessel's design appears to have been active for at least three years, none have been interdicted at sea. This latest discovery by the Colombian Navy is a reminder that these sophisticated drug transports are still being built, inferring that spending more than $1 million is worth the effort for the traffickers. The engineer behind this latest vessel was arrested during the raids, but it's unclear if his design will live on with a new engineer filling in his role.
Sales of £2m personal SUBMARINES to the mega-rich.
Sales of mini-submarines are soaring as super-rich turn to deep sea exploration. Only 15 to 25 vessels are sold a year but the numbers have doubled in two years. Super-rich are changing yachts from party boats to centres of scientific study. Sales of mini-submarines are soaring as they became the latest must-have toy for the super rich. Roman Abramovich and the emir of Abu Dhabi are among the early adopters of the deep-sea vessels which are increasingly seen descending to the ocean's depths beside luxury yachts. The three companies which make nearly all mini-submarines believe the market to be worth £75million a year. Sales of mini-submarines are soaring as they became the latest must-have toy for the super rich. The three companies which make nearly all mini-submarines believe the market to be worth £75million a year. While this only translates to sales of 15 to 25 vessels, the numbers are expected to double in 2021 compared to 2019. James Bond could also drive sales after the advert for the upcoming No Time To Die featured a glider that transforms into a submarine. The demand has increased every year since the 1990s when the gadgets first came on to the market. The super rich are now looking for more thrills and adventures for their yacht guests rather than lounging on deck, insiders say. Roman Abramovich and the emir of Abu Dhabi are among the early adopters of the deep-sea vessels. James Bond could also drive sales after the advert for the upcoming No Time To Die featured a glider that transforms into a submarine. The demand has increased every year since the 1990s when the gadgets first came on to the market. Bruce Jones, chief executive of Triton in Florida says sales have increased by nearly a third this year alone during a global pandemic. He said: 'In the beginning you could go to a boat show and people would come by and laugh at you. They wouldn't give us the time of day, but now they're constantly beating on the door.' he boss added that he has up to five orders to close before the end of the year and aims to sell four every quarter. Triton's most hi-tech mini-submarine, the DSV Limiting Factor, broke the record for the deepest sea dive last year. Bruce Jones, chief executive of Triton in Florida says sales have increased by nearly a third this year alone during a global pandemic. It descended 35,843ft to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest known part of the ocean. Owners, which included the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen, are said to be eager to make discoveries with the vessels themselves. They are changing their yachts from party platforms to centres for scientific discovery, Mr Jones said. 'My owners are typically heroes to their families and friends because you can present an experience that you can't get anywhere else,' he said. Seamagine's Aurora can carry up to eight people to a depth of 3,000ft as the super rich become interested in exploration. Owners, which included the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen, are said to be eager to make discoveries with the vessels themselves. Some, including hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio, are even inviting scientists on their trips to the deep. Roy Heijdra from Netherlands-based U-Boat Worx said owners are now wanting their yachts to be specifically designed for exploration rather than just leisure and pleasure. He said ten vessels have been sold this year, costing up to £2.2million each. The Nemo model, which costs £875,000 is 2.8m tall and can dive more than 300ft with two people on board. Seamagine, which was founded in 1995, has vessels which carry up to eight people to a depth of 3,000ft.
Why the U.S. Navy Never Built Titanium Submarines Like Russia
In hindsight, there are numerous reasons why the U.S. Navy did not follow the Soviet shipbuilding industry down the path of titanium hulls.During the late Cold War, the Soviet shipbuilding industry invested substantially into titanium-constricted submarine hulls—but its U.S. counterpart never followed suit. There’s a reason for why the U.S. Navy passed on titanium submarines. Project 705 Lira, better known by its NATO designation Alfa, was among the most innovative Soviet submarines of the 1960s. Powered by a technically impressive lead-cooled fast reactor design, the Alfa class registered performance numbers that remain unbeaten to this day. Lira is the fastest serial submarine ever built, second only to the prototype Papa-class submarine. It could also operate at a depth of twenty-two hundred feet, far outmatching even its contemporary NATO counterparts. These innovations were enabled, in no small part, through the Alfa’s revolutionary use of a titanium alloy hull. An extremely light and durable metal, Titanium brings several advantages over a standard steel hull construction. A titanium construction facilitates higher pressure tolerances, allowing a submarine to operate at significantly greater depths. As seen with the Alfa and Papa classes, the comparative lightness of titanium bears the potential for record-breaking speeds. The metal is likewise resistant to corrosion and paramagnetic, meaning that it can be harder to detect by naval vessels using magnetic anomaly detectors (MAD). The Alfa’s impressive performance prompted alarm from the U.S. military, which expressed concern that the Alfa travels too fast, and too deep, to be reliably countered by the U.S. Navy’s existing arsenal of anti-submarine torpedoes. But Washington, wisely, did not try to reproduce Soviet advancements in submarine design. Instead, the navy invested in new, high-speed anti-submarine warfare (ASW) weapons—such as the Mark 48 Torpedo—that were thought to be capable of catching Alfa boats. In hindsight, there are numerous reasons why the U.S. Navy did not follow the Soviet shipbuilding industry down the path of titanium hulls. To begin with, titanium is an extraordinarily rare and expensive metal that’s much more complex to process than iron. Titanium panels are more difficult to bend into shape, especially on the scale of military submarines. To be successfully manipulated, titanium had to be handled in specially constructed, argon-infused warehouses by trained welders equipped with an outside supply of oxygen. A costly and time-consuming process of trial and error reaffirmed that titanium is subject to embrittlement by hydrogen at higher temperatures, potentially causing design imperfections that may compromise the submarine’s structural integrity. There was simply no conceivable supply chain in place to make the serial production of titanium even remotely cost-efficient. The Papa-class prototype cost an astonishing 1 percent of the Soviet Union’s entire 1968 GDP, and that doesn’t factor in titanium’s unique maintenance and component degradation costs. For the U.S. military, it was exponentially cheaper and markedly more effective to develop torpedo countermeasures against titanium-constructed boats than to embark on the uncertain journey of copying costly Soviet designs. There is little question that the Alfa’s titanium construction was groundbreaking—so much so, that some U.S. intelligence operators refused to believe it at first—but some innovations are meant to be merely studied rather than emulated. The Soviets’ ill-fated attempt to serially produce titanium submarines is certainly one of them.
The story of an innovative navy ‘mafia’
Could anyone imagine that Hellenic Navy officers would follow the written advice of an anonymous top Italian mafioso to execute one of the most critical missions of their careers? Or that in their effort to activate our most advanced nautical weapons, navy officers would manage to come up with solutions to serious technological issues at a cost of less than 3% of the amount demanded by foreign suppliers?In Greek Kathimerini on November 8, 2020, reporter Vassilis Nedos described crucial aspects of the Type 214 submarines’ odyssey and how they ended up being the superweapons in the conflict against Turkey, even though, until recently, they had been mocked as the “listing submarines.”Nedos’ article noted that one could write a separate history of the navy personnel who innovated in order to solve the huge problems that kept these submarines from being completed for years.This article is the story of that storied navy team which applied strange and novel management principles that the Mafia itself would envy. It negotiated with unions, outsmarted US and German tech giants and took unprecedented initiative on a Greek and global scale in order to finally succeed in activating the Type 214 submarines, saving the Greek state tens of millions of euros.It is 2013. Work at Hellenic Shipyards has ground to a halt. The three Type 214 submarines and the one Type 209, under overhaul, are locked in, their completion state much less than the officially acknowledged 80%. Whatever has been completed has been completed by Hellenic Shipyards under the direction of German shipbuilding firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW). German and US firms involved in the construction of the four submarines are either AWOL or demanding tens of millions of euros to help. The shipyard workers are unemployed and owed months of back pay and the unions are pushing for exorbitant salaries, mostly for some of their favorites, in the midst of a financial crisis. Under these desperate conditions, the navy leadership decides to take matters into its own hands and is given the OK by the civilian leadership to take over Hellenic Shipyards to complete the construction of the four subs. Responsibility for this historic mission falls upon the then commander of the Skaramangas Naval Detachment (SND), an enlightened officer who proved to have magical powers in managing both personnel and resources. From its establishment in 1987, SND’s exclusive role was to monitor Hellenic Shipyards’ progress in completing the navy’s procurement programs and make sure the contractual terms were followed. Overnight, SND morphed from a simple observer and inspector at the shipyards to manager of all their operations and personnel. The first concern of the SND commander was to choose a “dream team” of line and non-commissioned officers from the Submarine Command who would be responsible for organizing and managing the construction program. This was a wise decision, because no one knows the submarines – and cares for them – more than those who use them and the Submarine Command is one of the most demanding in its training and contains some of the navy’s best professionals, like the SND commander himself. Next, the commander and his team had to ensure the adequate staffing of the shipyard by rehiring more than 700 laid-off managers, administrative staff and workers. Here, however, there was the potential for a culture clash, because naval officers have great experience in managing personnel, but within the framework of the rules and regulations of the Hellenic Navy. How could they manage hundreds of civilian employees and the unions? The commander realized he was facing an unprecedented problem, which demanded an unprecedented solution. His solution included unusual management methods and practices, taking advice even from the Mafia. Specifically, the commander turned for help to the classical management handbook “The Mafia Manager,” principles of corporate management written by a high-ranking Italian-American mafioso, which he recommended that all the officers in his team read. The story of how the team applied the book’s principles is unique and could easily form the material of a movie script. Where the navy team really triumphed was in managing the technological challenges of the construction. The team was split into 10- to 20-strong teams per submarine, each charged with leading and coordinating the workers’ teams on the heaviest building works. Each team also contained line and non-commissioned officers highly specialized in electronics, who undertook the most sensitive electronic works themselves, so they could be in complete charge of the management of each vessel’s sophisticated operational systems. The naval team realized very quickly that there were huge issues with supply delays in replacement parts as well as overcharging. For example, a German firm asked for €60,000 for a power supply that would take months to deliver. Finally, the navy technicians managed to build it themselves in less than an hour, with components bought at local stores for less than €1,500. That is, for 2.5% of the cost charged by the Germans. There were instances, however, when, after tinkering with very sensitive electronics, the SND had to ask a big US military equipment producer for help. The Greek technicians thought they had solved the problem, but, given the complexity of the system, it was important to get the builder’s opinion. When the US technician examined the component, he could not believe the ingenuity of the Hellenic Navy team and took pictures to show his colleagues. “This has never happened,” he said. “It is the first time I’ve seen this component opened; normally, once it leaves the factory, we never open it again.” These small, successive triumphs boosted the morale of the navy officers, who were working at an exhausting pace. But it was worth the effort, since they saw daily that they had created a well-oiled system that identified problems and solved them immediately, and this experience was stored to solve future problems faster. Many described the experience as the best and most satisfying years of their long navy service careers. Finally, with the help of the shipyard technicians, the naval team managed to activate the first Greek Type 214 submarine and the overhauled Type 209 sub within six months. The rest followed shortly afterward, saving the Greek state tens of millions of euros. Besides the submarines, this process had many benefits.At this moment, the Submarine Command probably has the best technologically trained line and non-commissioned officers in the world in this very specialized subject. One of them, still a submarine commander, was responsible for the activation of the electronics systems of all three Type 214 subs. This particular officer and his team solved the electronic systems’ compatibility issues that the builders themselves could not. If they had worked in the private sector, the young officer and his team would get huge bonuses. What they did was take over essentially inactive metal husks that had cost billions and turned them into vessels respected and feared by the Turkish Navy. The work of those involved was recognized by the Hellenic Navy’s top brass. Some were rewarded by the commander of the service and most were put into critical posts so that they continued to serve using the knowledge, the experience and, above all, the flexibility and outside-the-box thinking that they acquired while trying to activate the submarines. The knowledge from this unique experience has been transferred to the crews of all Greek submarines and the Submarine School to be disseminated to all future submarine officers. Success, though, has been bittersweet, in that capable officers from the navy, but also the air force and army, are increasingly turning to the private sector. Officers from the submarine activation program – and not just that program – have joined the domestic and global private market. Of course I don’t know how we could solve this. What I do know is that these people are our ultimate deterrent against an ever-more-aggressive Turkey, so solving this brain drain should be an immediate priority. The “mafia man” himself, the former SND commander who organized it all, rose to the rank of vice admiral and retired in September 2020, aged 57. Maybe he could be put at the helm of a big state agency instead of staying at home? Maybe his next mission ought to be to set up and organize a special state agency that could train and use similarly capable and motivated people to those of the submarine “dream team.” They could be our real superweapons. Submarines are divided into nuclear and conventional. Nuclear submarines have essentially unlimited autonomy: They can remain submerged for as long as is operationally desirable – for months, even, in theory, years. By contrast, conventional submarines, like the six older Type 209 ones, use batteries that must be charged every few days. To charge them, the submarine must be near the surface to be able to use its snorkel to let air in. The air is needed to operate the battery chargers. During this operation, the submarines are vulnerable. The overhauled Type 214 submarines and the newer Type 214s are fitted with a revolutionary technology that allows them to remain underwater for over a month, as we saw in the recent tension with Turkey. The technology works as the reverse of electrolysis, in which a current is applied to two electrodes to separate the water into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The Type 214 subs combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electricity, which charges their batteries. This procedure is quiet and anaerobic – that is no outside air is needed. Thus, in combination with our crews’ competence, the submarines can remain undetected.
Japan Submarines: Super Soryu Successor
November 15, 2021: In October 2020 Japan launched the first (of seven) Taigei class submarines. These are successors to the twelve Soryu class subs. The last two Soryus made the Taigeis possible because these subs These two Soryus were called “Super Soryu” because of their new lithium-ion battery tech and the higher cost that went with this new feature. One of the Super Soryus is unfinished but expected to enter service in 2021. The first Super Soryu entered service in early 2020 and it was different because the last two Soryus had a number of improvements, especially the lithium-ion batteries. The Taigeis are basically similar to the Super Soyus with a few additional enhancements. The Taigeis are also 3,000-ton subs with a crew of 70, six torpedo tubes and a top speed of 37 kilometers an hour (submerged) and 24 kilometers an hour on the surface. Several nations (South Korea, China, Germany and the United States) have been working on making lithium-ion battery technology work in subs and those efforts became particularly intense after 2015. The main obstacle was the safety of lithium-ion batteries in a submarine. Lithium-ion batteries are known to be dangerous under certain conditions. Consumer products like cell phones and laptops have had problems. Not a lot but enough of the hundreds of millions of cellphones and laptops using lithium batteries have burst into flames or exploded to make the general public aware of the risk. These overheating problems had to be minimized to levels that made lithium-ion batteries safer than the current lead-acid batteries used for over a century in submarines. Several nations believe they have achieved the needed safety levels and Japan is the first to put a lithium-ion boat into service. This is encouraging for China, South Korea and Germany who are planning on offering upgrades from lead-acid to lithium-ion for existing subs. Orders for such conversions have not been forthcoming because there have not been any military subs in service with the new battery tech. Now there is one boat and another will join it in 2021. The advantages of lithium-ion batteries are many. First, lithium-ion stores twice as much power as equivalent (in size and weight) lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries can release more power than lead-acid and take less time to recharge. Lithium-ion batteries do not degrade over time and have more recharging cycles. Lithium-ion batteries can enable subs to move faster under battery power. Putting out low levels (for low speed) of power, lithium-ion batteries can provide almost as much submerged time as current AIP (Air Independent Power) systems. This means that smaller coastal subs can be designed without diesel engines because lithium-ion batteries provide enough power for the short voyages coastal subs are designed for. These coastal boats don’t even have to return to port to be recharged as this can be done by a surface ship equipped with the proper cables and power regulation system to quickly recharge lithium-ion batteries. Users of cell phones and laptops have already been getting this fast-charge capability and for those who used the older battery tech appreciate how much shorter recharge times are now. The last two Soryu class subs are dispensing with the AIP systems they were designed to use and rely on lithium-ion batteries to provide the underwater endurance similar to that provided by AIP. This approach is also being watched closely by submarine builders because adding AIP is more expensive than installing lithium-ion batteries. The key factor is the safe operation of submarine lithium-ion batteries under all conditions, including accidents that damage the hull and internal equipment. This is something you can’t really test, only design for. The Japanese lithium ion battery manufacturer insists they have all this covered. Only time at sea will tell. The quantity and quality of its submarines is important for Japan. Since the 1970s, Japan has maintained a fleet of at least 18 diesel-electric submarines. A decade ago, in the face of growing Chinese naval power, it was decided to increase the submarine force to 21 or 24 boats. Currently, there are 22 subs in service; 11 Soryu class and 11 Oyashio class. Two of the Oyashios now serve as training boats and are used to produce sailors qualified to serve in submarine crews. Since 1980, Japan has replaced their subs after about 25 years, with newer designs based on experience with the previous classes. The current expansion was accomplished by building more of the new Soryu class. A decade ago there were two Soryu class boats in service and four under construction. These 2,900-ton boats have a crew of 65, six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and 30 torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles. There are also two 76mm tubes for launching acoustic countermeasures. Sonar and electronics are superior to the previous class. These boats also have AIP that enables them to remain submerged for a week or more at a time. These subs cost about $665 million each. Currently, Japan also has eleven 2,700 ton Oyashio class subs, built 1994-2008. With a crew of 70, they are armed with six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and 27 torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Their sonar equipment is superior to that of the Harushio class. Top surface speed is 24 kilometers an hour, top submerged speed is 37 kilometers an hour. Japan has retired its seven Harushio class boats, including two diverted to training duties. These 2,400-ton boats were built 1987-1997 and have crews of 65-70 sailors. They are armed with six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and 26 torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles. They have hull-mounted and towed sonar. Top surface speed is 24 kilometers an hour, top submerged speed is 37 kilometers an hour. China currently has about 76 submarines, none of them as effective as the Japanese boats, despite 19 of them being nuclear. The Japanese crews are also better trained, but the Chinese are building better ships with more intensively trained crews. Two other Chinese neighbors, South Korea and Australia are also increasing their submarine forces.
The Chinese Navy’s Most Powerful Attack Submarine: The Type-093A
China’s foreign policy is becoming more assertive. With this the Chinese Navy (PLAN) is increasingly willing to show its might. Their growing naval presence in the South China Sea is being augmented with new overseas bases to increase their reach. These are in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, in Cambodia, and maybe in the future in Pakistan. These match potential flash points where the PLAN may clash with other navies, such as the South China Sea, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. The visible signs of the naval expansion include new aircraft carriers, assault carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. And underpinning it all is something which goes unseen: increasingly potent submarines. The most modern of China’s current submarine fleet are the Type-093A Shang-II Class (aka 09-IIIA). These ~7,000 ton nuclear-powered boats are roughly the same size as the Royal Navy’s Astute Class. In fact, in size terms it sits between the latest French Navy Suffren Class and the U.S. Navy’s Virginia Class. Their relatively large size may provide more space for noise reducing features. Acoustic stealth is one of the most prized attributes of modern submarines. The quietness of the design is classified information, but we can assume that they are becoming increasingly stealthy. It’s estimated load of 22 torpedo-sized weapons is fewer than any of those boats however, although close to the smaller Suffren Class. Within this load-out it can carry the YJ-82 anti-ship missile, rocket mines and torpedoes. Both the Yu-6 thermal torpedoes, which are loosely equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Mk48, and electric torpedoes will be carried. They are also believed to be able to carry the YJ-18 supersonic cruise missile. This will likely form its main weapon against both warships and land targets, providing a first-night strike capability. The YJ-18 launch canisters may have been visible when President Xi Jinping visited a Type-093A on June 11, 2018. Possibly the greatest difference to Western submarines is not part of its specification. Chinese submarines have a dual leadership model with the Captain joined by a political officer. These Commissars are of the same or similar (sometimes higher) rank. Generally the commissar is responsible for the crew’s welfare and moral, as well as monitoring political cohesion. Exactly how this joint leadership will perform in combat, where quick decisions are often critical, remains to be seen. In the near future China may build a variant with a vertical launch system (VLS) for land-attack cruise missiles. There was speculation that the Type-093A model already had a VLS in the raised casing behind the sail, but this appears to be the towed sonar array. A cruise missile variant of the Shang may be a lower risk intermediate step before the altogether more powerful Type-095 Sui Class enters service. No 095s have yet been launched but the first tantalizing hints at a new class of nuclear submarines has recently been seen in commercial satellite imagery. China’s nuclear submarines are built at Huludao on the Bohai Sea. The site is being expanded to allow an increased rate of submarine construction. The Type-093A Class is currently the most powerful attack submarine in China’s arsenal. It is already a cause for concern for potential adversaries, the unseen component of China’s increasing confidence in the naval Arena. But the next class of Chinese submarine are likely to close the technological gap even further. We may soon find out.
MDL Launches Fifth Scorpene-class Submarine for the Indian Navy
Indian shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) launched today "Vagir", the fifth Scorpene-class. The launch event took place at the shipyard in Mumbai with VIPs attending via video conference because of the health crisis. Vagir is named after the Sand Fish, a deadly deep sea predator of the Indian Ocean. “The state-of-art technology used in the submarine has ensured superior stealth features such as advanced acoustic absorption techniques, low radiated noise levels, and hydro- dynamically optimised shape and also the ability to attack the enemy using precision guided weapons. With the launching of Vagir, India further cements its position as a submarine building nation. This is in sync with the current impetus of the government towards Make in India and Atma Nirbhar Bharat.” Six Scorpene-class submarines have been ordered by India in 2005 as part of the Project 75 program. They are constructed locally by the Mazagon Dock Limited shipyard in Mumbai, with assistance of Naval Group, designer of these submarines. Two submarines, Kalvari and Khanderi, have already been commissioned into the Indian Navy. The third and fourth submarines of the class, Karanj and Vela, are conducting sea trials, whilst construction of the sixth and final submarine, Vagsheer, is ongoing. According to official documents, the Indian Navy has two ongoing conventional submarine programs, with a third one on the way.
Phase I – P-75
Six submarines of Scorpene class (P-75) are to be constructed at Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai. Two Submarines of the project namely INS Kalvari and Khanderi have been commissioned in December 2017 and September 2019 respectively. The balance submarines are likely to be inducted every nine months. The last submarine is likely to be delivered in June 2022.
Phase I – P-75(I)
Six submarines are to be constructed under P-75(I) under the Strategic Partnership model promulgated by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on 31 May 2017. AoN for the case has been accorded by DAC on 27 February 2019. A multidisciplinary Empowered Project Committee (EPC) has been constituted by MoD on 15 February 2019 to steer the project from ‘EoI issuance’ to ‘Contract Conclusion’. The Request for Expression of Interest (REoI) for shortlisting of SPs and Foreign, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs) was issued on 20 June 2019 and 02 July 2019 respectively. The response of SPs have been received on 11 September 2019. The response of Foreign OEMs have been received on 24 September 2019. The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the case would be issued in mid-2020. The induction of the submarines would be between 2027-2032.
Twelve submarines of an indigenous design are envisaged to be constructed in India in this phase with the experience gained and technology absorbed from construction of submarines under Phase I.
About Scorpène type submarine
Scorpène is the conventional submarine designed by Naval Group for the export market. It demonstrates both Naval Group’s ability to deliver best in class submarines and to conduct successful transfers of technology. Today 14 Scorpène submarines are in operational service or being built, for the Chilean Navy (2 units), the Malaysian Navy (2 units), the Indian Navy (6 units) and the Brazilian Navy (4 units). The Scorpène design is adapted to fit each navy’s specific requirements. Thus, the Brazilian Scorpène is slightly longer to carry a larger crew, almost double the patrol range, and be able to cover greater distances. Scorpène is ideally suited for action and operational effectiveness. Robust and enduring, it’s an ocean-going submarine also designed for shallow waters operations. Multipurpose, it fulfils the entire scope of missions such as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, special operations, offensive minelaying and intelligence gathering. Integrating improvements from French Barracuda-Class fast-attack submarine, Scorpène has cutting-edge capabilities.
P75 Kalvari-class by the numbers
One of the tasks of Naval Group India Private Limited is to source, train and qualify local industrial companies involved in production and maintenance of P75 ships. ©Naval Group
Atlantis Submarines Barbados debilitated by COVID.
One of Barbados’ major tourist attractions, which shut its doors in March, does not expect to be back in business until November 2021. The grim news came from Roseanne Myers, wwwgeneral manager of Atlantis Submarines Barbados Ltd, as she participated in an online panel discussion hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) on the topic, Beyond Staycations. Myers, a former president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), disclosed that the popular submarine ocean dives company, which has been in operation for 34 years, went on its last tour at the end of March. According to Myers, it became necessary to shutter operations and cancel bookings as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to explode around the world. “We took the decision to shut down because we weren’t sure what exactly we would face, and we were not comfortable to expose staff . . . . We cancelled the . . . last cruise ship bookings. We said ‘thank you but no thanks’ and we took the position that it was important to protect the staff rather than go after every cent until the business dried up,” she said frankly. Myers, who joined fellow panelists Renee Coppin, the general manager of Pirate’s Inn and Infinity on the Beach and Jeffrey Roach, president of the BHTA, said the forced closure of the business has had a direct impact on employees, many of whom have been working there for more than a decade. With more than 60 per cent of her company’s winter business coming from cruise passengers and the summer business divided between locals and regular air arrivals, Myers said the COVID-19 shock to the company was extremely debilitating. The tourism executive said among the major challenges confronting the attraction was zero income for at least 20 months, high utility costs, and major severance commitments. “The next major opportunity was the return of the cruise ships, but we are not getting that back until October 2021 . . . . That chunk of business is hard to replace,” she noted. Beyond this, Myers said Atlantis Submarines was still stuck with high electricity bills, as it had not invested in alternative energy and “we have staff who have been around for up to 30 years, so we were looking at high severance”.
Why India Leases Some of Russia's Best Nuclear Submarines
In the latest instance of long-standing military cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi, India is set to rent additional Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines as a stepping stone on its path to acquiring an indigenous nuclear submarine force. A somewhat unusual arrangement, India’s willingness to lease—rather than procure or import outright— submarine technology from Russia has clear precedent in recent history. In 1986, the Soviet Union became the first state to lease a nuclear submarine. In an attempt to cultivate the Sino-Soviet defense relationship, the Kremlin inked a deal with New Delhi for the 10-year lease of a Charlie-class nuclear cruise missile submarine. The transfer was accompanied by a myriad of Soviet-imposed restrictions: the K-43 submarine, which entered service in the Indian Navy as the INS Chakra, was subject to frequent Soviet inspections and maintenance sessions, could not be loaded with certain types of weapons, and was severely restricted for purposes of offensive wartime operations. Further still, the contract stipulated that parts of the INS Chakra were to be manned entirely by Soviet crews; Indian servicemen were reportedly denied access to the reactor. Partially due to these restrictions, New Delhi opted to terminate the lease agreement. The INS Chakra was returned to the Soviet Union in 1990 and decommissioned one year later. The K-43 contract disintegrated, in no small part, because the Soviets’ onerous terms ignored the reasons why India was interested in renting the K-43 in the first place. Namely, the INS Chakra was meant to provide the Indian Navy with the crucial experience of maintaining and operating a nuclear submarine as if it were their own. Secondly, the Indian Navy-- which has long planned on making the leap into domestically produced nuclear attack submarine production-- sought access to Soviet nuclear reactor designs. With the former greatly curtailed and the latter denied outright, New Delhi lost all interest. The Putin administration, in 2008, negotiated the lease of another nuclear attack submarine, this time the K-152 from the Akula-class. Under the $900 million lease agreement, Indian engineers and sailors traveled to Russia to receive training on how to operate and service the submarine. The K-152, commissioned as the INS Chakra II, was partly meant to check Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean. Despite significant operational differences between the submarines (one is an attack sub, and the other a ballistic missile submarine), the Indian navy used Chakra II to prepare its submarine crews for the introduction of its nuclear-powered Arihant-class submarine line in 2016. New Delhi was apparently much more interested in renting a submarine from Russia’s new Yasen cruise missile submarine line, but there were none available-- other than the older Severodvinsk, all of the new Yasen-M submarines remain in various stages of testing and construction. With the Chakra II lease set to expire in several years, India has rented yet another Akula-class vessel. Dubbed the Chakra III, the Akula submarine will be transferred to India by 2025 as part of a $3 billion contract. According to an Indian official, the deal includes the refurbishment of the submarine with Indian sensors and communications components. From what little has been publicly revealed, it appears that this latest contract imposes few restrictions on what the Indian navy is allowed to do with the Chakra III. Though its primary purpose is likely as a testbed to facilitate India’s plans to indigenously produce six nuclear attack submarines, it remains to be seen if the Chakra III will become embroiled in the ongoing Sino-Indian tensions in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
Kalvari class submarine and its strategic significance
The Kalvari-class submarines have capability of operating in a wide range of Naval combat including anti-warship and anti-submarine operations, intelligence gathering and surveillance and naval mine laying. Indian Navy’s fifth Kalvari-class Diesel Electric attack submarine INS Vagir was launched at Mazgaon Dock in Mumbai on Thursday. A look at this modern and stealthy class of submarines having been built under Project 75 and whose design is based on the Scorpene class of the submarines. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vagir, launched on Thursday, is the fifth among the six Kalvari-class submarines being constructed by the public sector shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai. The design of Kalvari class of submarines is based on Scorpene class of submarines designed and developed by French defence major Naval Group formerly DCNS and Spanish state owned entity Navantia. This class of submarines have Diesel Electric transmission systems and these are primarily attack submarines or ‘hunter-killer’ type which means they are designed to target and sink adversary naval vessels. The Kalvari-class submarines have capability of operating in a wide range of Naval combat including anti-warship and anti-submarine operations, intelligence gathering and surveillance and naval mine laying. These submarines are around 220 feet long and have a height of 40 feet. It can reach the highest speeds of 11 knots when surfaced and 20 knots when submerged. The modern variants of the Scorpence class of submarines have what is called the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) which enables non-nuclear submarines to operate for a long time without access to surface oxygen. It also needs to be noted that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has an ongoing programme to build a fuel cell-based AIP system for Indian Naval Submarines. The Kalvari class of submarines are capable of launching various types of torpedoes and missiles and are equipped with a range of surveillance and intelligence gathering mechanisms. India currently operates one submarine each in nuclear powered Classes of Chakra and Arihant and in addition to 14 submarines belonging to three classes of Diesel Electric category — Kalvari, Shishumar and Sindhughosh, some of which are ageing.The nuclear powered and diesel electric submarines have their designated roles in the Carrier Battle Groups, which are formations of ships and submarines with Aircraft Carriers at the lead role. As per the basic principles of submarine deployment and minimum requirement for India to create a strategic deterrence, there is a specific number of submarines of both types that India needs to have in active service. Currently India has less number of submarines than what is required with some more of those from both types being at various stages of construction. In the late 1990’s, around the time of Kargil war, a three decade plan took shape for indigenous construction of submarines which is known to have two separate series of submarine building lines – codenamed Project 75 and Project 75I — in collaboration with foreign entities. The Ministry of Defence is also known to have put place a roadmap for indegenious design and subsequent construction submarines which will further add numbers to the Navy’s arsenal. The submarine which was till now identified as ‘Yard 11879’ was launched on Thursday at Kanhoji Angre Wet Basin of Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). Minister of State for Defence Shripad Yesso Naik presided over the ceremony via videoconferencing from Goa and the submarine was formally named Vagir in accordance with the Naval traditions by his wife Vijaya Naik. The ceremony was also attended by senior naval officers and dignitaries both from Integrated Headquarters Ministry of Defence (Navy), Headquarters Western Naval Command and officials from Naval Group, France.
Australia's submarine fleet multi-million-dollar contract dispute.
The Defence Department may be forced to pay out tens of millions of dollars to a US company over a contract dispute involving crucial new escape and rescue equipment for Australian submarines. A confidential report recommended the contract with American-owned Phoenix International (Australia) be "terminated by agreement". The head of Defence's Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board stated in the report that the relationship between both parties was "dysfunctional". In a brief statement, Defence acknowledged problems with the contract. The ABC can reveal the program to provide a "Submarine Escape Rescue and Abandonment System" by 2022 has now been placed on the department's 'Project of Interest' list, marking it as a concern, after a year-long bitter standoff. A confidential report completed for Defence last month recommends the contract with American-owned Phoenix International (Australia) be "terminated by agreement". In his report marked "sensitive", the head of Defence's Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board concludes the relationship between both parties is "dysfunctional" and neither is "blameless". Professor Don Winter's report also describes the contract drawn up by Defence's Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG) as "inappropriate". Under the 'SEA1354 Phase 1' project signed in December 2018, Phoenix is scheduled to deliver a Submarine Rescue System to support both Australia's aging Collins Class fleet, as well as the yet-to-be-built future Attack Class submarines. Australia's Collins Class fleet currently uses a submarine escape and rescue capability built by the British owned JFD company, which will no longer be certifiable after 2024. The total cost of acquiring the new escape and rescue equipment was expected to be $279 million, with lifetime costs totalling close to $1.4 billion over 35 years. In a brief statement, Defence acknowledged problems with the contract which industry insiders have described as "diabolical" and "very, very messy". "There have been delays in progressing rescue system design activities to schedule, and the project was declared a Project of Interest in June 2020," a Defence spokesperson told the ABC. "Defence has initiated an independent review of the project to inform consideration of the way forward by Government." Sources close to the project say the contract drawn up by CASG is "among the worst" they have seen but warn around up to $100 million could be wasted if it is torn up. Several mainly Perth-based defence sub-contractors have also been caught up in the contractual dispute with Defence acknowledging the department is also "engaging" with them. The Australian program director for Phoenix International, Ian Milliner, said he was unable to comment due to contractual restrictions.In June, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds attended a sod-turning ceremony at Western Australia's Henderson shipyard for a new purpose-built facility to house the new Submarine Rescue System. "In a time where our submarines are operating more than ever, we must continue to ensure our submarines are prepared for any mission, including rescue operations," Senator Reynolds said at the time. The Defence Department insists delays with the project "do not impact our ability to provide an ongoing submarine rescue capability for our submarine fleet". Last week Defence announced that the Royal Australian Navy’s contract for a new submarine rescue system is on the department’s ‘project of interest’ list. US company Phoenix International may receive millions of dollars in compensation after a report recommended that the contract it was awarded be terminated. Defence has assured the public that the delays ‘do not impact our ability to provide an ongoing submarine rescue capability for our submarine fleet’. That’s wrong. For starters, Australia has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its submarine crews. As the material quality of submarines has improved, accidents have become less frequent. When they do occur, though, they attract a lot of attention. Almost exactly three years ago, the Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan disappeared with all hands and the global submarine rescue community mobilised on a scale not seen since the loss of the Russian submarine Kursk in 2000. Many navies can operate collaboratively to meet their rescue responsibilities. But Australia’s geographic isolation creates an obligation for a sovereign capability, since the amount of time it would take for any other country’s system to react, transport and mobilise exceeds the ‘time to first rescue’, which is usually 72 hours from the time of an accident. If a submarine sinks and can’t surface, it’s because it has taken in more water than its buoyancy can address. Submariners are trained to escape individually through an escape tower (similar to an airlock), but beyond a depth of 180 metres (approximately equivalent to the continental shelf), a submarine rescue vehicle is necessary. The rescue vehicle, fitted with a skirt that resembles an inverted teacup, is positioned on the flat surface (or seat) surrounding the escape tower. Pumps are used to reduce the pressure inside the skirt so that the vehicle is ‘stuck’ to the seat by hydrostatic pressure. Once the water is pumped out, the hatches are opened and survivors transferred into the rescue vehicle. The vehicle then returns to the surface and those rescued are transferred to a support vessel. Australia established its submarine escape and rescue project in 1994. In just 13 months, the project delivered a complete capability centred around a tethered remotely operated rescue vehicle, known as Remora, and a comprehensive hyperbaric transfer and treatment system. Remora could be used to rescue survivors down to the collapse depth of the Collins-class submarines and could operate in all the environmental conditions that prevail in Australia’s submarine operating areas. Sadly, Remora suffered a severe mishap in 2006 and, after its two crewmen were rescued, sank to the seabed. Although recovered and restored, it was refused certification. In its place, the government acquired the services, based in Australia, of the UK’s LR5 piloted submersible, which had just been superseded by the NATO submarine rescue system. LR5 can accommodate 16 distressed submariners at a time and can make up to eight trips to the target submarine before it needs to recharge its battery, meaning a rescue capability of 120 personnel. Since 2009, submarine rescue firm JFD has maintained, operated and upgraded the system. It is now approaching the end of its lifecycle. As a result, in 2015, the government approved project SEA 1354 Phase 1 to deliver a submarine escape rescue and abandonment system, or SERAS, capability that will be compatible with the new Attack-class submarines before LR5 reaches its end of life in 2024. LR5 is not the solution for SEA 1354 but, in the absence of a workable arrangement to deliver the new SERAS, it may become the gap-filler. There are several areas where its operating limitations give cause for concern. The most serious of these is that the LR5’s maximum operating depth of 425 metres is about 25% less than the crush depth of the Collins-class submarine. While the area between 425 metres and crush depth could be small in some places because of the slope of the seabed beyond the continental shelf, such a situation would be unacceptable to the offshore oil industry, for example. If a submarine sinks in water too deep for the rescue vehicle but too shallow to be crushed, a nation should possess the capability to rescue the survivors. Should a submarine accident occur, this capability gap would require mobilisation of the US Navy’s submarine rescue system. It would be a struggle to mobilise that system to Australia within four to five days of an accident. The system proposed for SEA 1354 by Phoenix International is a follow-on capability—essentially a third-generation Remora controlled remotely from the surface. The proposed design would comfortably exceed the depth requirement for the Collins and Attack classes and feature a launch and recovery capability in all expected sea states. It would also be able to ‘mate’ at any angle up to 60° in all prevailing currents where Australia’s submarines regularly operate. The cancellation of the contract will delay the introduction of a new rescue capability for five or six years. The LR5, which is unsuitable anyway, will be out of service in 2024 and Australia will be dependent on other countries’ submarine rescue systems with little prospect of achieving an acceptable time to first rescue of 72 hours in the event of an accident. Defence needs to work towards a solution with the current contractor and rationalise some of the features of the contract described as ‘inappropriate’ in the report written for Defence. Negotiations between the government and the contractor must progress more quickly for such a serious capability requirement. A more radical approach, akin to that taken with the Remora project, is needed. There will be solutions to the engineering requirements that seem to be at the heart of the problem and Defence may need to call for more internal assistance to help the navy achieve this. A traditional approach to procuring a new submarine rescue system would not only cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but also take time, a commodity that is in short supply.
China breaks national record for Mariana Trench manned dive
China has broken its record for the deepest manned dive into the world’s oceans, sinking an estimated 10,909 metres (35,790 feet) into the Mariana Trench, state-run news agency Xinhua said. The submersible landed on the seabed at the bottom of the deepest oceanic trench on Earth. The dive beat China’s previous dive into the Mariana Trench by over 800 metres (2,624 feet). Ye Cong, the chief designer of the submersible, told Chinese state-run media that the seabed was abundant with resources.High-tech diving equipment can help us better draw a ‘treasure map’ of the deep sea, Ye said in an interview quoted by Xinhua. According to CNN Travel, rare earths, which are essential for the production of high-tech products such as smartphones, missile systems and radar, are currently controlled in a major part by China. Beijing is working hard to ensure it retains its dominance in this area. In July, the Chinese government raised its quota for rare earth mining to a record high, as high as 140,000 tonnes (140 million kilograms). According to the state-owned China Daily newspaper, Chinese businesses have been investing in rare earth companies in Greenland as economic opportunities emerge in the Arctic region. The crew were expected to work for six hours in data collection and actual exploration when the vessel reached the deepest spot, says CGTN. That spot, known as the Challenger Deep, is roughly 10,900 metres deep. The water pressure is 110 kPa, equivalent to 2,000 African elephants. The cabin shell uses titanium, a perfect material with low density and high strength that allows the submersible not only to bear water pressure at 10,000 meters, but also to reduce self-mass and expand interior space.Powered by a lithium battery, the Striver can unload the equipment onboard and pick up samples from the surrounding environment with its flexible robotic arms. The arms can operate at an accuracy of one centimetre, the research team said.
Russia's Papa-Class Submarine Was a Speedy Titanium Wonder Weapon
The intense power from the reactors, combined with the lightweight titanium hull, allowed the submarine to reach truly impressive speeds underwater. When one considers the main attributes of a submarine, speed is not generally top of the list. While the ability to remain underwater for extended periods of time is well-known, its endurance and notably the quietness of the submarine are usually the key distinctions. However, sixty years ago, Soviet engineers developed an innovative submarine that established a still-unbeaten underwater speed record. The K-162—later re-designated the K-222—was the first titanium-hulled submarine. It came about as a result of Project 661 and was produced under direct orders from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the country’s Council of Ministers during the summer of 1958. The submarine proved so expensive and so complicated that only one was produced, The directive called for a “high-speed submarine,” which eventually earned the nickname “Golden Fish” due to the cost of development and construction. What was unique about the submarine was that Project 661, known as the Papa-class, was built on a comprehensive, so much so that the design engineers were expressly forbidden from borrowing on prior design principles. As previously noted, it was the first submarine constructed out of titanium—which in itself was a massive undertaking that required the establishment of new supply chains and extensive trial and error. For one, titanium—which had only been “discovered” in 1791 and later named after the Titans of Greek mythology—is not mined like iron and it is also far rarer. It is also typically only found bonded to other elements, which made the processing more expensive. But it has numerous advantages including the strength of steel while being far lighter, and it is also resistant to corrosion. The Golden Fish was laid down in December 1963 and launched five years later, before being commissioned in December 1969. The nuclear-powered submarine was powered by two light-water VM-5 reactors that produced up to 177 megawatts of power to turn two side-by-side propeller shafts. However, the boat lacked any diesel generators, so batteries were the only emergency power source. The Project 661 was a large but conventional-looking double-hulled design that displaced 7,000 tons submerged. It measured 107 meters long and had a complement of eighty-two officers and seamen. Armed with ten SS-N-7 Starbright missiles in individual tubes forward of the sail, the K-222 was more than up to its intended task—to intercept and attack aircraft carrier groups. These were the first under-water launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) ever deployed. However, as with other Soviet submarines of the era—including the Charlie-class, the cruise missiles could only be reloaded in port. Yet, for its self-defense, the K-222 had only four torpedo tubes with just twelve torpedoes for self-defense. For her entire service, the K-222 was assigned to the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet. The intense power from the reactors, combined with the lightweight titanium hull, allowed the submarine to reach truly impressive speeds underwater. During its sea trials it reportedly even reached speeds of more than 51 miles per hour—considerably impressive when compared to the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, which have a top speed of just 23 miles per hour when submerged. However, the speed created excessive noise and also put a significant amount of wear and tear on the submarine. In September 1980, one of the boat’s nuclear reactors was damaged during maintenance and four years later was placed in the reserve fleet. The submarine was officially dismantled in 2010—with the reactors and nuclear fuel onboard as no provisions had been made for the reactor’s removal. While the Golden Fish was a one-off, its use of titanium and other technologies has been seen as a precursor to the Soviet Navy’s Alfa- and Sierra-class submarines.
First submarine tours of the Titanic launch
YOU can now explore the wreckage of the famous Titanic ship on a submarine tour - if you have £96,000. Launched by tour company OceanGate Expeditions, the experience will be part of an eight-day trip from Newfoundland in Canada, taking nine people at a time. The trip will include travelling to the underwater shipwreck, 370 miles away, as well as a six to eight hour submarine tour of it. You will be joined with just two other guests underwater, but the entire trip costs a pricey $125,000 (£96,368). You also won't just be a tourist - you will be deemed a "mission specialist" -and will help the experts doing technical surveys of the site, which stretches as far as 25 nautical miles.To be able to join the expedition, you need to fill in an application which includes a video interview and training. However, it is already pretty popular - 36 people have signed up for the first six trips planned next year, some of which, according to Yahoo, have also been the few to sign up for the $250,000 Virgin Galactic space launch. Ocean Expeditions has already completed expeditions in the deep sea across the Bahamas and Hudson Canyon and, if this trip is successful, it will be the first time the public will see the wreckage in 15 years. Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions explained what to expect down there: "All the bones are gone. There are no bodies down there. "There are boots and shoes and clothes that show where people were 100 years ago, and that is very somber."The world's largest passenger ship at the time, the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg, just five days after departing New York on April 10, 1912. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew on board, more than 1,500 people were killed.
Japan built plane-carrying subs to attack US cities during World War II.
Enormous I-400-class subs were supposed to bring the fight to US shores, launching planes to drop bombs on American cities and bases during during World War II. But wartime shortages limited the program, and the tide of the war turned against Japan, foiling the ambitious project.On August 28, 1945, two US destroyers intercepted a massive Japanese submarine several miles off the coast of Honshu, Japan's biggest island. The submarine, which was larger than either US ship and nearly as wide, surrendered without incident. A day later, the US submarine USS Segundo found a similar Japanese submarine nearby. After a brief escape attempt, the Japanese crew, knowing the war was over and they were out of options, surrendered. The captured submarines were enormous — 400 feet long and 39 feet wide, easily making them the largest submarines in the world at the time. They also had a massive empty chamber in their center, leading the first Americans who boarded them to believe they were for cargo. Later the Americans learned the truth: The chamber was actually a hanger, and the two vessels were I-400-class submarine aircraft carriers — one of the Japanese Empire's greatest secret weapons. I-400-class, known to the Japanese as the Sen Toku type, was the brainchild of Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Combined Fleet and mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack. Yamamoto, knowing Japan could not withstand the US's full might once it recovered from Pearl Harbor, was convinced that attacks on mainland American cities would dissuade the US from striking back in the Pacific.But Japan could not spare the carriers or battleships needed for such attacks. Inspired by the success of Germany's U-boats, Yamamoto decided on a new weapon: submarine aircraft carriers. The concept was not new. Submarines had experimented with carrying aircraft as early as World War I, and Japan's new Type B-1 submarine was equipped with a hangar for a Yokosuka E14Y1 floatplane. But those subs could only carry one aircraft used only for reconnaissance. Yamamoto wanted subs capable of holding multiple aircraft that could carry the largest bomb or torpedo in the Japanese arsenal. Yamamoto submitted a proposal for such submarines on January 13, 1942. A little over a year later, Japan began building the first purpose-built submarine aircraft carriers in history. The subs were truly a marvel of engineering. Double-cylinder hulls supported the sub's massive weight and provided stability on the surface. The hulls were also covered in an anechoic coating, based on a German design, to absorb sonar waves. They had a heating system to warm aviation fuel before takeoff, a compressed air catapult to launch the planes, and a hydraulic crane to lift the planes from the water after they landed. The hangar carried three specially designed Aichi M6A1 Seiran floatplanes that could fold their wings, tail fins, and horizontal stabilizers. The planes could carry one Type 91 torpedo, two 551-pound bombs, or one 1,874-pound bomb. For takeoff, the Seirans would be loaded on the catapult, fitted with floats, armed, and then launched. All three could be launched in 30 to 45 minutes. The subs were also heavily armed, with one 14 cm deck gun aft of the hangar, three triple-mounted and one single-mounted 25 mm AA guns on the deck, and eight torpedo tubes. They were designed to travel thousands of miles without refueling. The original plan called for 18 I-400s to be built to bomb cities on US coasts. But by the time the first I-400 was completed, Japan had suffered major setbacks that hampered the project. Yamamoto, the subs' chief advocate, was killed in an air battle in April 1943. Without his backing, the program was no longer given top priority and the order was cut from 18 to 5. Wartime shortages meant only three were completed. The first, I-400, was commissioned in December 1944. I-401 followed a month later and I-402 in July 1945. By the time the first two subs were completed, the war had turned decisively against the Japanese. Conventional bombing of US cities with so few aircraft was pointless, and plans to drop plague-infested flea bombs to start a pandemic were called off because they were too extreme. A plan was made to use the subs to launch a kamikaze attack on the Panama Canal to slow down American ships, but by July 1945, most of the US Navy was already in the Pacific. A final plan was made to attack the major US Navy base at Ulithi Atoll. I-400 and I-401, each with an accompanying sub, would rendezvous off Ulithi and launch six Seirans in a kamikaze attack. The Seirans were even painted in US markings in an attempt to deceive the Americans, a violation of the rules of war. But the attack never happened. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, forced the Japanese to surrender on August 15. A day later, the subs were ordered to cancel their attack. As they returned to Japan, they launched their Seirans into the sea, fired all torpedoes, and destroyed all documents. Shortly after the subs surrendered, the commander of the Ulithi attack, Cmdr. Tatsunosuke Ariizumi, shot himself. After the war, the Soviets made it known they wanted to inspect the I-400s. Unwilling to let the new weapon fall into the wrong hands, the US scuttled them. I-402, damaged in a previous US air raid, was sunk off the Goto Islands on April 1, 1946. The other two were taken to Pearl Harbor and studied extensively before being scuttled in May and June 1946. Their final locations were kept secret until I-401 was discovered in 2005. I-400 and I-402 were discovered in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Although they never saw action, the I-400-class revolutionized submarine warfare, showing that subs could carry offensive weapons capable of hitting land-based targets. This led directly to today's ballistic-missile submarines — in fact, the I-400s were the largest submarines ever constructed until the nuclear-powered missile submarines of the 1960s.
Australia's Collins Class submarine has limited ability to save trapped submariners
A former Navy clearance diver who helped produce the first rescue system for Australia's Collins Class submarines has warned the fleet's interim safety equipment has limited ability to save trapped submariners. Former Navy clearance diver Captain Anthony Miller warns Australia's submarine rescue system is inadequate and must be quickly replaced. Defence insists the current equipment is suitable and can be sustained into the late 2020s. Independent senator Rex Patrick fears crews of Collins Class submarines are at risk. Last week the ABC revealed Defence was considering cancelling a $297 million contract with a US company to provide a new "submarine escape rescue and abandonment system" by 2022. The revelations have prompted a 50-year veteran of the military to warn Australia's ageing submarine rescue system has severe limitations and any delays in acquiring a replacement could open a dangerous capability gap. Captain Anthony "Dusty" Miller, who helped introduce the "Remora" remotely operated rescue vehicle to Australia in 1995, said he was speaking out publicly over deep concerns held within the submariner community. "Seeing what's happening today with the possible cancellation of the current contract, myself and others are very concerned with the safety consequences from this," he told the ABC. Since 2009, the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) submarine rescue system has been the British-built LR5 manned submersible. That system is scheduled to reach its end of life in 2024. Captain Miller warned the LR5 could only dive to a maximum depth of about 400 metres in mild sea conditions. "Our main concern is what happens if we have a submarine sink in a depth further than 400 metres," he said. "How do we rescue the submariners? "It can only launch in very calm conditions and it can only swim or operate in currents that are benign. Here in Australia, we have some of the worst conditions". In 2018 Defence signed a deal with Phoenix International (Australia) to supply an LR5 replacement able to support both the Collins Class fleet and Australia's yet to be built Attack Class submarines. "SEA1354 Phase 1" has now been placed on Defence's list of troubled projects but Captain Miller warns if the Department cancels the deal it could delay a new rescue capability by five or six years. "A good estimate [is] five years before we get a top-rated system as against the stop-gap system that we have at the moment," he said. Defence insists the current submarine rescue system "can be sustained in operational service into the late 2020s" and it has rejected suggestions it has limited ability to save submariners. "The current submarine rescue capability has an operating profile suitable for conduct of rescue operations with the Navy's submarine fleet," the Department said in a statement. "This takes account of our operating areas and consideration of the potential scenarios under which submarine rescue would be performed." The Chief of Navy insisted the Collins Class boats were safe and said the Navy had appropriate measures in place in case a rescue operation was needed. In a statement, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan insisted safety was Defence's "number one priority" and said the Navy's rescue systems were tested and certified annually. But former submariner and now independent senator Rex Patrick backed concerns about a capability gap. "Submarine escape capabilities are a little bit like an insurance policy; you don't need it until you really need it and then it's got to be the best insurance policy around," he said. Senator Patrick said he was also concerned crews on board Collins Class submarines were exposed because the RAN had cancelled pressurised escape training.
Unisex bedrooms for submarines.
Separate sleeping quarters for men and women on submarines have been scrapped - a move the federal government says should offer women more career opportunities. Both sexes will now bunk together on all three of Australia's operational submarines, doing away with the usual female-only six-berth cabins. Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said the old setup meant that women sometimes missed out on postings because of a lack of bed space. "This move will ensure that our female submariners access the same training and career progression opportunities as their male crew mates," he said in a statement on Wednesday. Women, who began working onboard the navy's submarines in 1998, were previously restricted to working on only two Australian navy submarines which had female cabins. He said officers and senior sailors had completed successful trials of the new system. Strict rules will apply to privacy. Mr Snowdon said new rules relating to women will also be brought in, preventing women from being posted where they are the only female onboard, or where there are no senior female officers. If there are only two women serving on a submarine and one is posted elsewhere, she will be replaced by another female. The first unisex bedrooms for junior sailors will open in July, shortly after a community forum is held in Rockingham, Western Australia on June 23 to seek feedback on implementation. It's considered a first for the defence force, which usually provides separate accommodation for men and women. There are currently 560 submariners, and 44 of them are women, a spokeswoman from Mr Snowdon's office said.
$750,000, Visit Challenger Deep, the Deepest Point on Earth
This June, EYOS is offering the first-ever opportunity for well-heeled travelers to visit the deepest part of Earth’s oceans. The one-of-a-kind expedition will journey 35,853 feet down to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Paying travelers will spend roughly eight days as “Mission Specialists” (although no actual work will be required) with the Ring of Fire Expedition. The submarine dives will last as much as 14 hours. The one-way descent covers more than seven miles and takes more than four hours. The crew will spend another four hours exploring the bottom of the Pacific Ocean before beginning the more than four-hour ascent back to the surface. EYOS Expeditions teamed up with Caladan Oceanic to use the company’s flagship Limiting Factor submersible. The undersea vessel features a 90mm-thick titanium shell that’s been pressure-tested to nearly 46,000 feet with zero physiological stresses. It has already descended the Mariana Trench five times and is among the world’s only submersibles capable of multiple dives to that depth. Because of this near-crushproof design, passengers experience no change in atmosphere. EYOS claims the sub’s interior is actually quite peaceful and relaxing. Mission Specialists can kick back in one of two comfortable seats and take in the underwater scenery via three large viewports or multiple high-definition surround cameras. They will serve as fully integrated crew members who can oversee research work, help with film production, assist with sonar navigation, or do nothing at all. To visit Challenger Deep is a rare experience indeed. EYOS Expeditions founding partner Rob McCallum confirms, “This is the most exclusive destination on Earth. Currently, only three manned expeditions have ever been made to the bottom of Challenger Deep and more people have been to the moon than to the bottom of the ocean.” To put a finer point on it, more than 4,000 climbers have summitted Everest, and 562 have journeyed to space. The number of humans who have reached Challenger Deep? Just seven. This experience is available for $750,000. EYOS Expeditions is only accepting three Mission Specialists on a first-come-first-served basis. If you’d rather explore the oceans on your own, the Triton 1000/2 MKII personal submarine is available for $2.7 million.
The Million-Dollar Nemo Personal Submarine Is Towable with an SUV
U-Boat Worx. At just 5 feet tall and roughly 8 feet square, the ultra-compact vessel boasts the smallest footprint of any such submarine on the market. It takes up less storage space than two Jet-Skis. What’s more, U-Boat Worx relied on featherweight materials to keep the Nemo’s total weight to about 2,500 kilograms (roughly 5,500 pounds), making it the lightest manned submarine available. That means it can be transported on a traditional boat trailer by most mid-sized pickup trucks and SUVs. The design of the hydrodynamic shell uses a transparent nosecone and octagonal thruster ducts to propel the Nemo to depths of more than 300 feet at up to 3 knots. Inside, the side-by-side occupants enjoy a comprehensive wireless communication system, plus exterior spotlights and floodlights and state-of-the-art navigation for exploring the ocean depths.
Among the world’s most well-heeled adventurers, personal submarines have grown into a surprising niche market in the last decade. The most luxurious feature onboard amenities worth of a high-end yacht, including climate control, premium audio, and a bevy of touchscreens. With its $2.7-million Triton 1000/2 MKII, for example, companies like Triton cater to James Cameron wannabes looking to explore the oceans on their own terms. For those interested in making a whole party of it, the Hyper-Sub is large enough to ferry entire groups of people up to 1,200 feet below the surface. The price? Reportedly north of $3.5 million. The Nemo is available for order with a base price of €975,000 (approximately USD $1.06 million). The good news is that U-Boat Worx is slating the submarine for series production. That means, unlike custom, built-to-order alternatives that require months of waiting to receive, the Nemo could be available immediately after purchase. Because no one should ever suffer a wait for their million-dollar underwater play toys.
Royal Navy Used a Mini Submarine to Take out Hitler's Battleship.
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. 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. 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. 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. These remarkable men were destined to play pivotal roles in what was to be one of the most daring exploits of the entire war. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 despondency of 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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-Crier 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.
Triton 24-seat DeepView tourist submarine
Triton submarines is the biggest name in deep-sea exploration submersibles, having built the extraordinary DSV Limiting Factor, a "deep-sea elevator" capable of popping down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench several times a week for extended visits. Now, the company has launched an incredible-looking tourist sub that can take 24 passengers, a pilot and a co-pilot down to 100-meter (328-ft) depths in air-conditioned comfort, providing panoramic views of the aquatic world through colossal 5.5-inch-thick (140-mm) acrylic windows. Where other subs offer restricted views, this thing is very close to a giant transparent tube, like a glass walkway through an aquarium, tall enough to stand in. The DeepView 24 is the first of a range of DeepView tourist submarines that can be specified in different lengths to accommodate between 12 and 66 passengers. Additional sections can be added six seats at a time; with the 24-seat version already 15.4 m (50.5 ft) in length and weighing 121,250 lb (55,000 kg), a 66-seater would certainly be a sight to behold and a pain in the butt to pull a u-turn in. Unlike the Deepflight Dragon 2-seater, which operates more or less like an upside-down underwater quadcopter and maintains positive buoyancy so it'll float to the surface if the power cuts out, the DeepView uses nearly 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) of variable ballast in addition to 8,820 lb (4,000 kg) of fixed main ballast to control rise and fall. Propulsion and steering are electric, and the work of two 20-kW (27-hp) main thrusters and four 12.6-kW (17-hp) Vertran thrusters. A big ol' lead-acid battery stores 240 kWh of energy; submarines are an interesting case in which energy density is more or less irrelevant since you need plenty of ballast on board, and lead-acid is significantly cheaper than lithium to boot. That battery is good for a full 14 hours of underwater tourism, with top speeds of 3 knots (3.5 mph/5.5 km/h). And if things get a little dark as you head a few hundred feet down, ten 20,000-lumen LEDs will light up the depths beautifully. The cabin looks like it means business, with screens and radios and rows of serious-looking red switches, but at the end of the day, the pilot drives the thing with a joystick and touchscreen. There are manual overrides in case of malfunction, and the whole thing is certified to International Classification Standards by DNV-GL. It's designed to float steady on the surface, where passengers can stand on a railed-in deck, and you won't have to be shaped like a submariner to get in the thing either, as it's got a "generous access hatch" suitable for "passengers with reduced mobility." Triton built this DeepView 24 for Vinpearl, a luxury hotel and resort chain in Vietnam that will start making ticketed dives in December this year off Hon Tre island in Nha Trang. Triton says it's a "quantum leap" forward from every other tourist sub built in the last 34 years – of which where have been less than 60 – and "competitively superior in all respects." To look at it, we don't doubt it. This looks like by far the comfiest and most immersive way to explore the sea floor that we've ever seen.
One of the Best Submarines.
While the United Kingdom’s powerful Vanguard-class grabs a lot of attention, the smaller Astute-class is also nuclear powered—and the UK’s largest nuclear attack submarines. The Astute-class is the Royal Navy’s most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the successor of the previous Trafalgar-class. The first of the class, the Astute, was launched in 2007. Though the class is approximately 50 percent longer than the Trafalgar-class, it supports a smaller crew due to higher operation automatization. Thanks to its weapons suite, sonar package, and other onboard technologies, the Astute-class is one of the most advanced submarine designs in the world. The Astute-class’ onboard weapons array is impressive. Astutes are equipped with 6 torpedo tubes that can fire 533-millimeter Spearfish torpedoes. These heavyweight torpedoes travel in excess of 150 kilometers an hour, or about 92 miles per hour while underwater, and were originally designed to intercept fast Soviet submarines. They are triggered by contact with an enemy hull or by using an acoustic listening device, are capable of detonation below a ship’s hull to maximize blast effect. Though the Astute-class does not have vertical onboard missile silos, it is nonetheless capable of firing American-made Tomahawk cruise missiles. Tomahawks are also fired from the Astute’s torpedo tubes. These missiles are ejected inside watertight containers, which launch the missile into the air once contact with the surface is made and can strike targets up to 1,000 kilometers, or over 600 miles away. Interestingly, the Astute-class have forgone traditional periscope masts in favor or two shorter and more compact optronic masts. These new masts are essentially video cameras capable of thermal imaging and feed to high-resolution video monitors. They are also stabilized, ensuring their use in rough, pitching seas. In addition to a bow sonar array, the Astute-class also carries a towed array, and flank arrays on both the starboard and port sides. The Astute-class’ sonar has been mentioned as one of the best in the world. In addition to advanced sonar, the Astute-class is covered in tens of thousands of anechoic tiles, essentially rubberized tiles injected with air cavities that adhere to the sub’s hull and are designed to absorb enemy sonar and reduce a submarine’s sonar “reflection.” Since the Astute-class are nuclear powered, they have virtually unlimited range. Endurance is limited only by crew requirements, namely food and water, which must be replenished once every 90 days. Onboard purification systems filter both water and air and allow the Astute-class to circumnavigate the world—without needing to surface. Despite the formidable armament and capabilities, the Astute-class has been involved in several incidents that call into question their capabilities. In 2010, the first of the class, Astute, ran aground while on a training exercise near the Isle of Skye, suffering minor damage. On the first day back at sea, the Astute again had to return to port due to a problem with a part in the onboard propulsion system. Additionally, the Astute had minor issues with reactor monitoring instrumentation and onboard electronics. The second Astute-class, the Ambush was also not problem-free, colliding with a merchant ship in 2016. The conning tower sustained a significant amount of costly damage, though the error was probably human in nature, as the Ambush’s Capitan had been training a group of students at the time of the accident. Despite the early mishaps, the Astute-class is quite capable, and likely one of the quietest submarine classes ever built for the Royal Navy. As such, it will likely ply the waves for many years to come.
Pakistan’s Mystery Submarine
An article that appeared last month in foreign media talked of a new mystery submarine in Pakistan which presumably meant for marines of the Special Services Group – SSG (N). Spotted on the quayside of Pakistan’s naval base in Karachi (PNS ‘Iqbal’), the submarine is assumed to be some 55 feet long by 7-8 feet across – much smaller than a regular submarine. Yearbook 2015-2016 of Pakistan’s Defence Production Division (MoDP) had listed the “Indigenous design and construction of one Midget Submarine” as a target for 2016-2017.In 1965, Pakistan had awarded a contract to the Italian shipbuilding firm ‘Cos.Mo.S’ to design a SX-404-class midget submarine for Pakistan Navy, to be used as a Diver Propulsion Vehicle for launching marines. The SX-404 was the smallest submarines class then but could carry 12 personnel for special tasks and reconnaissance in shallow water. There were teething problems in torpedo specified by Pakistani Navy not matching with the SX-404 and compatibility with the mother submarine that would deliver the midget submarines. These were eventually delivered in 1971. During 1972-1973, Pakistan Navy bought six more SX-404-class submarine from Italy. One of these was lost in an accident and two were decommissioned in 1982-1983. The SX-404-class submarine program was phased out in early 1990s.Since then the SSG (N) has been operating three types of MG-110 submarines built locally in period 1993-1996 which are due for replacement. The Italian firm Cos.MO.S that designed these midget submarines has shut down but Italian submarine manufacture Drass has continued with these designs. However, the mystery submarine sighted at Karachi was even smaller than the midget submarine DG-85 produced by Drass. China revealed its new midget submarine design ‘MS200’ at Thailand’s Defense & Security 2017 exhibition held at Bangkok. This 200 ton single-hull submarine greatly differs from previous Chinese midget submarine designs. Speculation is that the MS200 is meant exclusively for export to countries like Pakistan. The MS200 is 30m long, carries 6 + 8 PAX, has an operating range of 1500nm, endurance of 15 days and carries 2 x 53mm torpedoes. At the same exhibition, China also displayed models of two more new midget submarines, MS600 and MS1100, both larger than the MS200. Both have endurance of 20 days can carry 15 personnel and a greater number of 53mm torpedoes. In 2015, Pakistan approved purchase of eight Hangor (Type 042 Yuan-class) submarines with a provision to construct four at Karachi Shipyard and Transfer of Technology (ToT) from China. In 2016, Pakistan awarded the contract to Turkey-based firm STM for modernizing its Agosta 90B submarines. The Type 042 and Agosta 90B are not midget submarines but Turkish firms STM (Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.S.) were reportedly jointly developing a midget submarine with Pakistan. It is possible that either this new mystery midget submarine has either been purchased by Pakistan from Turley or produced locally in Pakistan under ToT from STM. Pakistan has very close relations with Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan has repeatedly raised the Kashmir issue at international forums, even comparing Kashmir with the Palestine issue. Turkish shipyards are major supplier of warships to Pakistani Navy. Besides four new corvettes, Turkey has designed a fleet support vessel (FSV) for Pakistan, supports its submarine fleet and has signed a deal to sell 30 x T-129 attack helicopters that have been developed in collaboration with Italian company Finmeccanica (now Leonardo). In September 2019, Erdogan raised the Kashmir issue during the launch ceremony of new corvettes for the Pakistani Navy. Erdogan visited Pakistan in February 2020, where he said Turkey is Pakistan’s side over Kashmir and would support Pakistan from censorship by the Financial Task Force (FATF). The joint Pakistan-Turkey declaration made multiple references to Jammu and Kashmir. India issued a strong statement and gave a demarche to the Turkish envoy also. India signed a $2.3 billion (Rs 15,000 cr) deal with Turkey to jointly manufacture five 45,000 ton FSVs in the same month – February 2020. In the joint project between Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) and Turkey’s Anadolu Shipyard (TAIS), TAIS will provide the ship design, supply key machinery equipment and provide technical assistance. TAIS was the lowest bidder for the contract to manufacture the FSVs in HSL. It appears the lowest bid and the $2.3 billons deal weighed in favour of Turkey, overlooking Erdogan’s anti-India attitude, Turkey-Pakistan’s naval cooperation (TAIS included) and the hardcore Islamist Pakistan-Turkey nexus. According to photos shared by TAIS, the FSVs to be built at HSL could be similar to Pakistan Navy’s fleet tanker PNS Moawin, built in Pakistan under the design provided by Turkey’s STM. Pakistan has been using midget submarines since long which can be used for launching the SSG (N). Indian Marine commandos (MARCOS) similarly have their own 500-ton midget submarines designed by Larsen & Toubro and built by HSL. But the Pakistan-Turkey and Pakistan-China naval cooperation and boosting of the naval capabilities of Pakistan which has become the conduit for projection of China’s power towards the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf needs to be monitored. Chinese submarines have been observed parked in Pakistani ports periodicity. Increase in underwater capabilities will embolden Pakistan to use midget submarines to not only augment the sea denial of its harbours but launch the SSG (N) for offensive tasks along the coasts of India including for mining and sabotage of offshore installations. Chinese marines are already deployed in Djibouti and are to be deployed in Pakistan. They have been conducting joint exercises with Pakistan’s SSG (N) and will be based in Gwadar. A Chinese SEZ is coming up in proximity of Sir Creek and SSG (N) operations against India in this area is a possibility. Gwadar is projected as a commercial port at south end of the CPEC and considered unsuitable for submarine operations because of inadequate depth. But it would be naïve to assume China has taken it over for 49 years purely for commercial activity. It would indeed be dual use. Increasing the depth of harbours is no big deal for China considering what it has done in South China Sea for establishing military bases and reclaiming land at sea. Chinese vessel ‘Tian Kun Hao’ can dig as deep as 35 meters under the sea floor and dredge 6,000 cubic meters in one hour. In addition to Gwadar, a joint China-Pakistan naval and airbase is being constructed at Jiwani in the Gulf of Oman, as reported in Washington Times in January 2018. Chinese troop presence at Jiwani and Gwadar in conjunction Pakistani ports of Pasni, Omara and Karchi will provide control of the entire Pakistani coast to China. Recent reports in media indicate that China has been resorting to building underground tunnels to house its submarines and even warships as protection against surprise attacks. For China’s strategic submarine force, such tunnels have been built at Jianggezhuang Naval Base near Qingdao and another one at Yulin. Smaller tunnels have been dug at Xiachuan Dao and at Xiangshan. There are other tunnels that are away from submarine bases in order to avoid suspicion. Since the Pakistani coastline is the future oceanic front for supporting Chinese operations in the Indian Ocean, it stands to logic that China will resort to similar tunneling activities in conjunction Pakistan to provide added protection for their submarines. A recent article in US media speculates a futuristic submarine with electrical hull connectors, power generation and other systems to mount a laser weapon. Possibly this is already being worked upon by countries including China and should be a challenge for our R&D as well.
The explorers who set one of the last meaningful records on earth.
Sea level—perpetual flux. There is a micromillimetre on the surface of the ocean that moves between sea and sky and is simultaneously both and neither. Every known life-form exists in relation to this layer. Above it, the world of land, air, sunlight, and lungs. Below it, the world of water, depth, and pressure. The deeper you go, the darker, the more hostile, the less familiar, the less measured, the less known. A splash in the South Pacific, last June, marked a historic breach of that world. A crane lowered a small white submersible off the back of a ship and plonked it in the water. For a moment, it bobbed quietly on the surface, its buoyancy calibrated to the weight of the pilot, its only occupant. Then he flipped a switch, and the submarine emitted a frantic, high-pitched whirr. Electric pumps sucked seawater into an empty chamber, weighing the vessel down. The surface frothed as the water poured in—then silence, as the top of the submersible dipped below the waterline, and the ocean absorbed it. Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom. Sunlight cuts through the first thousand feet of water. This is the epipelagic zone, the layer of plankton, kelp, and reefs. It contains the entire ecosystem of marine plants, as well as the mammals and the fish that eat them. An Egyptian diver once descended to the limits of this layer. The feat required a lifetime of training, four years of planning, a team of support divers, an array of specialized air tanks, and a tedious, thirteen-hour ascent, with constant decompression stops, so that his blood would not be poisoned and his lungs would not explode. The submersible dropped at a rate of about two and a half feet per second. Twenty minutes into the dive, the pilot reached the midnight zone, where dark waters turn black. The only light is the dim glow of bioluminescence—from electric jellies, camouflaged shrimp, and toothy predators with natural lanterns to attract unwitting prey. Some fish in these depths have no eyes—what use are they? There is little to eat. Conditions in the midnight zone favor fish with slow metabolic rates, weak muscles, and slimy, gelatinous bodies. An hour into the descent, the pilot reached ten thousand feet—the beginning of the abyssal zone. The temperature is always a few degrees above freezing, and is unaffected by the weather at the surface. Animals feed on “marine snow”: scraps of dead fish and plants from the upper layers, falling gently through the water column. The abyssal zone, which extends to twenty thousand feet, encompasses ninety-seven per cent of the ocean floor. After two hours in free fall, the pilot entered the hadal zone, named for the Greek god of the underworld. It is made up of trenches—geological scars at the edges of the earth’s tectonic plates—and although it composes only a tiny fraction of the ocean floor, it accounts for nearly fifty per cent of the depth. Past twenty-seven thousand feet, the pilot had gone beyond the theoretical limit for any kind of fish. (Their cells collapse at greater depths.) After thirty-five thousand feet, he began releasing a series of weights, to slow his descent. Nearly seven miles of water was pressing on the titanium sphere. If there were any imperfections, it could instantly implode. The submarine touched the silty bottom, and the pilot, a fifty-three-year-old Texan named Victor Vescovo, became the first living creature with blood and bones to reach the deepest point in the Tonga Trench. He was piloting the only submersible that can bring a human to that depth: his own. For the next hour, he explored the featureless beige sediment, and tried to find and collect a rock sample. Then the lights flickered, and an alarm went off. Vescovo checked his systems—there was a catastrophic failure in battery one. Water had seeped into the electronics, bringing about a less welcome superlative: the deepest-ever artificial explosion was taking place a few feet from his head. If there were oxygen at that depth, there could have been a raging fire. Instead, a battery junction box melted, burning a hole through its external shell without ever showing a flame. Any instinct to panic was suppressed by the impossibility of rescue. Vescovo would have to come up on his own. For more than a year, the team trying to reach the deepest point in every ocean faced challenges as timeless as bad weather and as novel as the equipment they invented. Magnum Seven miles overhead, a white ship bobbed in Polynesian waters. It had been built by the U.S. Navy to hunt Soviet military submarines, and recently repurposed to transport and launch Vescovo’s private one. There were a couple of dozen crew members on board, all of whom were hired by Vescovo. He was midway through an attempt to become the first person to reach the deepest point in each ocean, an expedition he called the Five Deeps. He had made a fortune in private equity, but he could not buy success in this—a richer man had tried and failed. When the idea first crossed his mind, there was no vehicle to rent, not even from a government. No scientist or military had the capacity to go within two miles of the depths he sought to visit. Geologists weren’t even sure where he should dive. Vescovo’s crew was an unlikely assemblage—“a proper band of thieves,” as the expedition’s chief scientist put it—with backgrounds in logistics, engineering, academia, and petty crime. Some on board had spent decades at sea; others were landlubbers. For more than a year, they faced challenges as timeless as bad weather and as novel as the equipment they had invented for the job. They discovered undersea mountain ranges, collected thousands of biological samples that revealed scores of new species, and burned through tens of thousands of gallons of fuel and alcohol. In 1969, when Vescovo was three years old, he climbed into the front seat of his mother’s car, which was parked on a hill outside their house. He was small and blond, the precocious, blue-eyed grandson of Italian immigrants who had come to the United States in the late nineteenth century and made a life selling gelato in the South. Vescovo put the car in neutral. It rolled backward into a tree, and he spent the next six weeks in an intensive-care unit. There were lasting effects: nerve damage to his right hand, an interest in piloting complex vehicles, and the “torturous compulsion,” he said, to experience everything he could before he died. Victor Vescovo made a fortune in private equity, but he couldn’t buy success in this—a richer man had tried and failed. He grew up reading science fiction, and aspired to be an astronaut; he had the grades but not the eyesight. As an undergraduate, at Stanford, he learned to fly planes. Afterward, he went to M.I.T., for a master’s degree in defense-and-arms-control studies, where he modelled decision-making and risk—interests that later converged in overlapping careers as a Reserve Naval Intelligence officer and a businessman. Vescovo was deployed as a targeting officer for the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and, as a counterterrorism officer, he was involved in a hostage rescue in the Philippines. He learned Arabic and became rich through finance and consulting jobs, and, later, through a private-equity firm, Insight Equity, in the suburbs of Dallas, where he lives. Vescovo started going on increasingly elaborate mountaineering expeditions, and by 2014 he had skied the last hundred kilometres to the North and South Poles and summited the highest peak on every continent. He had narrowly survived a rock slide near the top of Mt. Aconcagua, in the Argentinean Andes, and had come to embrace a philosophy that centered on calculated risk. Control what you can; be aware of what you cannot. Death, at some point, is a given—“You have to accept it,” he said—and he reasoned that the gravest risk a person could take was to waste time on earth, to reach the end without having maximally lived. “This is the only way to fight against mortality,” he said. “My social life was pretty nonexistent, but it just wasn’t a priority. Life was too interesting.” He grew his hair down to his shoulders, and touched up the color, even as his beard turned white. On weekends, he used his private jet to shuttle rescue dogs to prospective owners all over the U.S. At sea, according to members of his expedition team, he spent hours in his cabin alone, playing Call of Duty and eating microwaved macaroni and cheese. But every age of exploration runs its course. “When Shackleton sailed for the Antarctic in 1914, he could still be a hero. When he returned in 1917 he could not,” Fergus Fleming writes, in his introduction to “South,” Ernest Shackleton’s diary. “The concept of heroism evaporated in the trenches of the First World War.” While Shackleton was missing in Antarctica, a member of his expedition cabled for help. Winston Churchill responded, “When all the sick and wounded have been tended, when all their impoverished & broken hearted homes have been restored, when every hospital is gorged with money, & every charitable subscription is closed, then & not till then wd. I concern myself with these penguins.” A century later, adventurers tend to accumulate ever more meaningless firsts: a Snapchat from the top of Mt. Everest; in Antarctica, the fastest mile ever travelled on a pogo stick. But to open the oceans for exploration without limit—here was a meaningful record, Vescovo thought, perhaps the last on earth. In 1961, John F. Kennedy said that “knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it.” Yet, in the following decades, the hadal trench nearest to the U.S. became a dumping ground for pharmaceutical waste. In September, 2014, Vescovo sent an inquiry to Triton Submarines, a small manufacturer in Vero Beach, Florida. He noted that he was a jet and helicopter pilot familiar with the “procedure-driven piloting of complex craft,” and outlined what became the Five Deeps Expedition. Patrick Lahey, the president of Triton, took up scuba diving when he was thirteen years old, and discovered that he felt more at home underwater than he did on land. The muted silence, the slow, deep breaths—diving forced him into a kind of meditative state. “I love the feeling of weightlessness,” he told me. “I love moving around in three dimensions, instead of two.” Lahey attended commercial diving school, to learn underwater welding and construction for dams, bridges, and oil-and-gas installations. “Just about anything you might do out of the water you could do underwater,” he said. “You bolt things, you cut things, you weld things together, you move things, you recover things.” Water conducts electricity, and sometimes, he added, “you can feel it fizzing in your teeth.” In 1983, when he was twenty-one, he carried out his first submarine dive, to fourteen hundred feet, to inspect an oil rig off the coast of Northern California. He was profoundly affected by the experience—to go deep one hour and surface the next, with “none of the punitive decompression,” he said. By the time Vescovo contacted him, Lahey had piloted more than sixty submersibles on several thousand dives. An expedition leader who has worked with him for decades told me that he is, “without question, the best submarine pilot in the world.” Patrick Lahey, the president of Triton Submarines. “It wasn’t really a business decision,” one of his engineers said, of the creation of the Limiting Factor. “He wanted to build this. Giving up was not an option.” Lahey co-founded Triton in 2007. The business model was to build private submersibles for billionaires, including a Russian oligarch and a member of a Middle Eastern royal family. (In the years leading up to the first order, Lahey used to be laughed at when he attended boat shows; now there are companies that build support vessels for yachts, to carry helicopters, submarines, and other expensive toys.) But his deeper aspiration was to make other people comprehend, as Herman Melville wrote, in “Moby-Dick,” that in rivers and oceans we see “the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.” After a few dives, many of Lahey’s clients started allowing their vehicles to be used for science and filming. Vescovo didn’t care if Lahey sent him to the bottom of the ocean in a windowless steel ball; he just wanted to get there. But Lahey declined to build anything that didn’t have a passenger seat, for a scientist; a manipulator arm, for collecting samples; and viewports, so that the occupants could appreciate the sensation of submergence. Such features would complicate the build, possibly to the point of failure. But Lahey has a tendency to promise the reality he wants before he’s sure how to deliver it. “It wasn’t really a business decision,” a Triton engineer told me. “He wanted to build this. Giving up was not an option.” Lahey saw Vescovo’s mission as a way to develop and test the world’s first unlimited hadal exploration system—one that could then be replicated and improved, for scientists. Vescovo flew to the Bahamas, and Lahey took him for a test dive in Triton’s flagship submersible, which has three seats and is rated to a depth of thirty-three hundred feet. The third seat was occupied by an eccentric British man in his thirties, named John Ramsay, who didn’t seem to enjoy the dive; he was preoccupied with what he didn’t like about the submersible—which he had designed. “I never really had a particular passion for submarines,” Ramsay, who is Triton’s chief submarine designer, told me. “I still don’t, really.” What he does love is that he gets to design every aspect of each machine, from the central frame to the elegant handle on the back of the hatch. Car manufacturers have entire teams design a seat or a fender, and then produce it at scale. But nearly every Triton submarine is unique; Ramsay determines how he wants things to be, and a dozen or so men in Florida start building. Ramsay, who works out of a spare bedroom in the wilds of southwest England, has never read a book about submarines. “You would just end up totally tainted in the way you think,” he said. “I just work out what it’s got to do, and then come up with a solution to it.” The success or the failure of Vescovo’s mission would rest largely in his hands. The Limiting Factor is the only vehicle “that can get to the bottom of any ocean, anytime, anywhere,” Rob McCallum said. A submariner thinks of space and materials in terms of pressure, buoyancy, and weight. Air rises, batteries sink; in order to achieve neutral buoyancy—the ability to remain suspended underwater, without rising or falling—each component must be offset against the others. The same is true of fish, which regulate their buoyancy through the inflation and deflation of swim bladders. Ramsay’s submarines typically center on a thick acrylic sphere, essentially a bubble; release it underwater and it will pop right up to the surface. But acrylic was not strong enough for Vescovo’s submersible. At the bottom of the deepest trench, every square inch would have to hold back sixteen thousand pounds of water—an elephant standing on a stiletto heel. Ramsay settled on titanium: malleable and resistant to corrosion, with a high ratio of strength to density. The pressure hull would weigh nearly eight thousand pounds. It would have to be counterbalanced by syntactic foam, a buoyant filler comprising millions of hollow glass spheres. For the submarine to stay upright, the foam would have to go above the hull, providing upward lift—like a hot-air balloon, for water. “As long as the heavy stuff hangs in balance below the buoyant stuff, the sub will always stay upright,” Ramsay explained. The hull required the forging of two slabs of titanium into perfect hemispheres. Only one facility in the world had a chamber that was sufficiently large and powerful to subject the hull to pressures equivalent to those found at full ocean depth: the Krylov State Research Center, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Lahey attended the pressure test. There was no backup hull; an implosion would end the project. “But it worked—it validated what we were doing,” Lahey told me. Nearly every Triton submarine is unique. For the Limiting Factor, John Ramsay, its principal designer, said, “You’re solving problems that have never existed before, with parts that have never existed before.” The submarine is fitted with acoustic tracking and communications equipment, so that Vescovo can talk to the ship and the ship can triangulate his position in the water. Trunk pumps churn water into the empty chamber above the hatch. As water replaces air, the submarine descends to the ocean floor. Thrusters allow Vescovo to move in any direction as he explores the ocean floor. In designing the submarine, Ramsay took inspiration from rugby balls and bullet trains, which are the only two objects he could think of that have two axes of symmetry and can go equally fast in both directions. To leave the bottom, Vescovo drops a five-hundred-and-fifty-pound weight to the ocean floor. Hours later, as the submarine bobs at the surface, one-way valves allow water to pour out of the trunk, creating enough buoyancy for the pilot to exit the sub. It was the middle of summer, 2018, in South Florida, and Triton’s technicians were working fifteen hours a day, in a space with no air-conditioning. Lahey paced the workshop, sweating, trying to encourage his team. The men who were building the world’s most advanced deep-diving submersible had not attended Stanford or M.I.T.; they were former car mechanics, scuba instructors, and underwater welders, hired for their work ethic and their practical experience. The shop foreman used to be a truck driver. The hydraulics expert had a bullet in his abdomen, from his days running cocaine out of Fort Lauderdale, in the eighties. One of the electricians honed his craft by stealing car radios, as a teen-ager. (“I was really good at it,” he told me.) Lahey, for his part, said that he was named—and later exonerated—by the federal government as an unindicted co-conspirator in a narcotics-trafficking operation involving a Soviet military submarine and a Colombian cartel. Every major component of Vescovo’s submarine had to be developed from scratch. The oil-and-gas industry had established a supply chain of components that are pressure-rated to around six thousand metres—but that was only half the required depth. Before assembling the submarine, the Triton team spent months imploding parts in a pressure chamber, and sending feedback to the manufacturers. “You’re solving problems that have never existed before, with parts that have never existed before, from venders who don’t know how to make them,” Ramsay said. The rest of the expedition team was on a ship docked in the harbor at Vero Beach, waiting. Vescovo remained at home in Dallas, training on a simulator that Triton had rigged up in his garage. On Lahey’s recommendation, he had hired Rob McCallum, an expedition leader and a co-founder of EYOS Expeditions, to inject realism into a project that might otherwise die a dream. For every Vescovo who goes to the South Pole, there is a McCallum making sure he stays alive. (McCallum has been to Antarctica a hundred and twenty-eight times.) “I love it when clients come through the door and say, ‘I’ve been told this is impossible, but what do you think?’ ” he said to me. “Well, I think you’ve just given away your negotiating position. Let’s have a glass of wine and talk about it.” McCallum—who is trim but barrel-chested, with a soft voice and a Kiwi accent—grew up in the tropics of Papua New Guinea, and became a polar guide. He is a trained medic, dive master, firefighter, aircraft pilot, and boat operator, a former New Zealand park ranger who has served as an adviser to the Norwegian Navy. He speaks three Neo-Melanesian languages, and can pilot a Zodiac boat standing up, in sixteen-foot waves. He is the subject of a “Modern Love” column, in the Times. (“My father warned me about guys like you,” the author recalls telling him, before marrying him anyway.) McCallum and his associates have discovered several high-profile shipwrecks, including Australian and American warships and an Israeli military submarine. A few months ago, he showed me on his computer an object on a sonar scan, which he believes to be Amelia Earhart’s plane. Rob McCallum, the expedition leader. “I love it when clients come through the door and say, ‘I’ve been told this is impossible, but what do you think?’” he said. Vescovo asked what McCallum required from him. “The first thing I need is for you to triple the budget,” he replied. He also shot down several of Vescovo’s proposals, from the antiquated (no alcohol or spouses on board) to the insane (installing fake torpedo tubes on the bow; bringing his dog to the deepest point on earth). Five oceans, five deeps—a journey around the world and to both poles. McCallum explained that the expedition would have to be anchored by the polar dives. The likely dive spot in the Arctic Ocean is covered by ice for much of the year, but there is a two-week dive window, beginning in late August. The Antarctic, or Southern Ocean, dive could be done in February, the height of summer in that hemisphere. The team would have to avoid hurricane season in the Atlantic, and monsoon season in the Pacific, and otherwise remain flexible, for when things inevitably went wrong. Lahey persuaded Vescovo to buy the U.S.N.S. Indomitable, a two-hundred-and-twenty-foot vessel that he had found at a drydock in Seattle. It was built as an intelligence-gathering ship, in 1985, and spent much of the next fifteen years prowling the world’s oceans, towing an undersea listening device. “It was owned by the Navy but operated by civilians,” McCallum told me. The Arctic-dive window was fast approaching, and it seemed unlikely that the submersible would be ready. “That’s when Patrick Lahey’s overflowing optimism went from being an incredible, endearing personality trait to being a huge issue,” Stuart Buckle, the Pressure Drop’s captain, said. “Every day, Patrick would say, ‘Oh, yes, it’ll be ready in one or two days.’ And then two days pass, and he’d say, ‘It’ll be ready in two days.’ ” The final step in building a submarine is to put it in a swimming pool or in the water at a marina. “You need to know how much it weighs and how much it displaces,” Ramsay said, because the average density of the craft and its passengers must be equal to that of the water in which it is submerged. “You’ve only calculated the volume of each object through computer models, which can’t possibly represent the actual thing, with all its tolerances. Things are a bit bigger, things are a bit smaller, cables are fatter.” But there was no time to do this before loading it onto the ship and setting off for sea trials, in the Bahamas. They left Florida without knowing how much the submarine displaced. “It had never even touched the water,” Ramsay said. “It was just ‘Right, off we go. Let’s see if it works.’ ” When Stuart Buckle, the captain of the Pressure Drop, first walked up its gangplank, he wondered why Triton had chosen the ship. The hull was watertight, but there were holes in the steel superstructure, and every functional component had been stripped. “When people talk about sea trials, they always think about testing a ship or testing a sub,” McCallum told me. “But, really, what you’re doing is you’re testing people. You are testing systems, processes, conditions, and teams.” Buckle, the captain, dropped anchor near Great Abaco Island, in the Bahamas, and immediately became alarmed by the Triton crew’s cavalier approach to safety. He had grown up in the Scottish Highlands, and gone to sea when he was seventeen years old. “Me and my guys were trying to adjust from the oil-and-gas industry, where you need a signed bit of paper to do anything, and to go out on deck you have to have your overalls, hard hats, goggles, earmuffs, and gloves,” Buckle said. “Whereas a lot of the Triton guys were used to walking around in shorts and flip-flops, like you watch on ‘American Chopper.’ They were grinding and drilling and using hydraulic awls, looking at it, sparks flying everywhere, not wearing safety glasses or anything. To them, if something catches fire, it’s funny—it’s not an issue.” Vescovo named the submarine the Limiting Factor, for another spaceship from the “Culture” series. It was secured to a custom-built cradle, which could be rolled backward on metal tracks, to lower the sub into the ocean from the aft deck of the ship. During launch operations, the Triton crew attached it to a hook that hung down from a crane, known as an A-frame, shaped like an enormous hydraulic swing set. Buckle had asked Vescovo to buy a larger A-frame—one that was “man-rated” by a certification agency, so that they could launch the submersible, which weighs around twenty-six thousand pounds, with the pilot inside and the hatch secured. But there was no time to install one. So the Triton crew lowered the empty submersible into the water, and the ship’s crew, using a different crane, launched a Zodiac boat over the starboard side. McCallum climbed into the Zodiac, and drove the pilot to the sub as it was being towed behind the ship. The ship had no means of tracking the submarine underwater. “Once he left the surface, I had no idea where he was,” Buckle said. “All we had at that point was one range.” Buckle could see, for example, that the Limiting Factor was five hundred metres away, but he didn’t know in which direction. “As long as that number was getting bigger, that meant he wasn’t surfacing directly under me,” he said. “If it just kept getting smaller and smaller, I’m in trouble.” “The thing about driving a ship is that unless you know how to drive a ship you never see the bad stuff,” McCallum told me. “It’s only when the captain’s going ‘Christ, that was close!’ that you go ‘Really? Was it?’ ” Other incidents were unambiguous. “I was seeing Triton guys bouncing up the ladders without holding the handrails, wanting to jump on top of things while they were still swinging from the crane,” Buckle recalled. Ropes failed, deck equipment snapped under stress. “One of the big ratchet hooks blew off the top of the hangar, and missed Patrick’s head by that much,” McCallum said, holding his fingers a couple of inches apart. “Just missed him. And he wasn’t wearing a helmet, so that would have killed him.” Lahey piloted the sub on its earliest dives—first to twenty metres, then fifty, then a thousand. Electronic systems failed. The hatch leaked. Emergency lights malfunctioned, and drop weights got stuck. Pre-dive checklists labelled several switches “inoperable.” Post-dive checklists noted critical components lost and fallen to the seafloor.“In a sea trial, you’re trying to break stuff—you’re trying to work out where your weakest link is,” McCallum said. “It’s incredibly demoralizing. You never feel as if you’re making any meaningful forward progress.” Each morning, he delivered a pre-dive briefing to members of the ship and submarine crews. “Don’t be disheartened by the long list of things that broke,” he told them. “Rejoice, because those are things that are not going to fail in the Southern Ocean. ” On the sub’s earliest dives, electronic systems failed, the hatch leaked, and drop weights got stuck. On September 9, 2018, Patrick Lahey piloted the Limiting Factor to the bottom of the Abaco Canyon, more than three miles down. It was the ninth time that the submersible had been in the water. Everything worked. The next day, Lahey repeated the dive, with Vescovo as the lead pilot. When they reached the bottom, Vescovo turned on the control unit that directs the manipulator arm. Something wasn’t right. He and Lahey glanced at each other. “Do you smell that?” Lahey asked. “Yes.” There was a puff of smoke in the capsule. Vescovo and Lahey grabbed the “spare air”—scuba regulators, with two-minute compressed-air cannisters—so that they wouldn’t pass out while preparing the emergency breathing apparatus. A circuit breaker tripped, automatically switching off the control unit for the manipulator arm, and the acrid smell dissipated. Lahey, who was training Vescovo to handle crises underwater, asked what they should do. “Abort the dive?” Vescovo said. “Yes.” They were two hours from the surface. Ramsay and Tom Blades, Triton’s chief electrical designer, had devised numerous safety mechanisms. Most systems were duplicated, and ran on separate electrical circuits, in case one of the batteries failed. The thrusters could be ejected if they became entangled; so could the batteries, to drop weight and provide buoyancy. The five-hundred-and-fifty-pound surfacing weight was attached by an electromagnet, so that if the sub lost electricity it would immediately begin its ascent. There was also a dead-man switch: an alarm went off if the pilot failed to check in with the ship, and if he failed to acknowledge the alarm the weights would automatically drop. John Ramsay, the principal designer of the Limiting Factor, has never read a book about submarines. “You would just end up totally tainted in the way you think,” he said. After the Limiting Factor’s manipulator arm fell off, “Tom Blades hot-wired the sub,” Lahey said, about the submarine’s chief electrical designer. “There was literally a jumper cable running through the pressure hull.” “Whenever we had any significant failure of some kind, the only thing that mattered was why,” Vescovo said. “If you can identify the problem, and fix it, what are you going to do? Give up? Come on. That didn’t even cross my mind. Maybe other people get freaked out. I’ve heard of that happening. But if you’re mountain climbing and you fall, are you not going to climb again? No. You learn from it, and keep going.” By the middle of September, the sea trials had given way to “advanced sea trials”—a euphemism to cover for the fact that nothing was working. The Arctic Ocean dive window had already passed. Buckle was especially concerned about the launch-and-recovery system. The cranes were inadequate, and poorly spaced. One of the support vessels, which had been selected by Triton, was eighteen years old, and its rubber perimeter was cracking from years of neglect in the Florida sun. “I was pretty pissed off at that point,” Buckle told me. “I had put my guys in a difficult situation, because they were trying to compensate for structural issues that you couldn’t really work around. You can only piss with the dick you’ve been given.” McCallum redesigned the expedition schedule to begin with the Puerto Rico Trench, in the Atlantic Ocean, in December, followed by Antarctica, in early February. The adjustment added cost but bought time. When Alan Jamieson, the expedition’s chief scientist, contacted Heather Stewart, a marine geologist with the British Geological Survey, and told her that Vescovo wanted to dive to the deepest point of each ocean, she replied that there was a problem: nobody knew where those points were. Most maps showing the ocean floor in detail are commissioned by people looking to exploit it. The oil-and-gas and deep-sea-mining industries require extensive knowledge, and they pay for it. But, with a few exceptions, the characteristics of the deepest trenches are largely unknown. As recently as the nineteen-sixties, ocean depths were often estimated by throwing explosives over the side of a ship and measuring the time it took for the boom to echo back from the bottom. “Most marine science is gritty as fuck,” Alan Jamieson, the chief scientist, said. “It’s all the weird vessels we end up on, the work of hauling things in and out of the water.” It may appear as if the trenches are mapped—you can see them on Google Earth. But these images weren’t generated by scanning the bottom of the ocean; they come from satellites scanning the top. The surface of the ocean is not even—it is shaped by the features beneath it. Trenches create mild surface depressions, while underwater mountain ranges raise the surface. The result is a vaguely correct reading—here is a trench!—with a ludicrous margin of error. Every pixel is about five hundred metres wide, and what lies below may be thousands of feet deeper or shallower than the satellite projects, and miles away from where it appears on the map. Vescovo would have to buy a multibeam echo sounder, an advanced sonar mapping system, to determine precise depths and dive locations. He chose the Kongsberg EM-124, which would be housed in a massive gondola underneath the ship. No other system could so precisely map hadal depths. Vescovo’s purchase was the very first—serial number 001. When Jamieson contacted Heather Stewart, a marine geologist, and said that Vescovo wanted to dive to the deepest point of each ocean, she replied that there was a problem: nobody knew where those points were. That November, Buckle sailed the Pressure Drop to Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela, to have the EM-124 and a new starboard crane installed. But there was still no time to order a man-rated A-frame—its purchase, delivery, and installation would require that they miss the Antarctic dive window, adding a year to the expedition. “He’s a wealthy dude, but he’s not like Paul Allen or Ray Dalio,” Buckle said of Vescovo. “He hasn’t got that kind of money. This is a huge commitment of his resources.” Stewart prepared a list of possible dive locations, which earned her a spot on the expedition. For others, participation was largely a matter of luck. Shane Eigler had started working at Triton the previous year, after Kelvin Magee, the shop foreman, sent him a Facebook message asking if he’d like to build submarines. They had met in the two-thousands, after Eigler had saved up enough money by growing marijuana to pay for dive lessons. Magee was his instructor. Later, Eigler worked as a car mechanic. “Building submarines—this shit is exactly the same as cars, just different components,” Eigler told me. On December 14th, the Pressure Drop set off for the Puerto Rico Trench, from the port of San Juan. “Been feeling a little queasy ever since we got underway,” Eigler wrote that night, in an e-mail to his wife. It was his first time at sea. In the beginning, the ship had no means of tracking the submarine underwater. “Once he left the surface, I had no idea where he was,” Buckle said. Vescovo and Lahey went for a test dive down to a thousand metres. It was Lahey’s last chance to train Vescovo in the Limiting Factor before he would attempt an eight-thousand-metre dive, solo, to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench. A scientific goal for the expedition was to collect a rock sample from the bottom of each trench, so Lahey switched on the manipulator arm. Seconds later, on the Pressure Drop, a transmission came up from below. “Control, this is L.F.,” Lahey said. “We have lost the arm. It has fallen off.” It was December 17th. After surfacing, Vescovo and Lahey walked into McCallum’s office, toward the stern of the ship. “Patrick was under immense pressure that would have crushed almost anybody else I know,” McCallum said. “He had applied a huge amount of his team’s intellectual capital to this project, at the expense of all other projects, and yet things were just not quite where they needed to be.” Vescovo called off the expedition. “I think I’m just going to write this whole thing off as bad debt,” he said. The manipulator arm had cost three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and there was no spare. Lahey begged for more time. “Give my guys one more day,” he said. Vescovo relented, and went up to his cabin. No one saw him for the next thirty-two hours. “The more time I spend with Victor, the more I think he is Vulcan in his decision-making but not in his emotions,” Buckle told me. “He’s one of those guys who has a veneer of calm, but then probably goes into his cabin and screams into his pillow after he’s been told the fifth bit of bad news that day.” (Vescovo denies screaming into his pillow.) Blades noted that the loss of the manipulator arm had freed up an electrical junction box, creating an opportunity to fix nearly everything else that was wrong with the electronics. “Basically, Tom Blades hot-wired the sub,” Lahey explained. “There was literally a jumper cable running through the pressure hull, tucked behind Victor’s seat.” On December 19th, Vescovo climbed into the Limiting Factor and began his descent. “The control room was just packed, and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife the entire way down,” Stewart told me. “Patrick was just in his chair, ear to the radio, just wringing sweat.” At 2:55 P.M., Victor Vescovo became the first person to reach the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, eight thousand three hundred and seventy-six metres. It was his first solo dive, and it was flawless. That night, “Victor was wandering around, drinking out of a bottle of champagne,” McCallum said. “It was the first time we’d seen Victor relax. It was the first time we’d seen Victor touch alcohol. And from that point we knew we were going to take this around the world.” Waves are local—the brushing of the ocean by the wind. Swells roll for thousands of miles across open water, unaffected by the weather of the moment. On January 24, 2019, the Pressure Drop set off from the port of Montevideo, Uruguay, to dive the South Sandwich Trench, the deepest point of the Southern Ocean. Buckle and his crew had loaded the ship with cold-weather gear, and provisions for more than a month. There was a five-thousand-mile journey ahead of them, and the ship could barely go nine knots. “Captain, can I have a word?” Peter Coope, the chief engineer, asked. “Is this ship going to be O.K.?” “Yes,” Buckle replied. “Do you think I would invite on board all the people I like working with most in the world, and then sail us all to a certain death?” But Buckle wasn’t so sure. A year earlier, when he’d first walked up the gangplank, he wondered why Triton had chosen this ship. The Pressure Drop hadn’t been in service in several years. The hull was watertight, but there were holes in the steel superstructure, and the shipyard had stripped every functional component. The steering system had been wired in reverse; turn one way and the ship went the other. “It’s a classic case of people who have spent a lot of time on boats thinking they know boats,” Buckle told me. “I’ve spent a lot of time on planes, but if Victor said, ‘I want to buy a 747,’ I wouldn’t go up and say, ‘Yes, that one is great—buy that one.’ I’d get a pilot or a flight engineer to do it.” Buckle’s first officer recalled, “The ship was fucking breaking apart.” After the purchase, Buckle and a small crew of mostly Scottish sailors spent two months living near a dock yard in Louisiana, refitting and repairing the ship. “Stu took a huge risk—not only for himself but for all his officers,” McCallum told me. “He handpicked the guys, pulled them off of very well-paying oil-and-gas jobs, and got them to follow him to bumfuck nowhere.” In the evenings, Buckle and his crew drank beer on the top deck, and tossed pizza slices to alligators in the bayou. The ship came with no manuals, no electrical charts. “It was just a soul-destroying, slow process,” Buckle said. Now Buckle was steering the Pressure Drop into the Southern Ocean, the site of the most reliably violent seas in the world. After a few nights, Erlend Currie, a sailor from the Orkney Islands, shoved a life jacket under the far side of his bunk, so that the mattress would form a U shape, and he wouldn’t fall out. “You get these nasty systems rolling through, with just little gaps between them,” McCallum told me. McCallum has seen waves in the Southern Ocean crest above ninety feet. He had carefully mapped out a dive window, between gales, and brought on board an ice pilot and a doctor. “If something goes wrong, there’s no port to go to, and there’s no one to rescue you,” he said. Albatross trailed the ship for the first several days. Soon they disappeared and the crew began seeing whales and penguins. “Filled with trepidation, we steamed into the teeth of the area where, on the old maps, they used to write, ‘Here Be Monsters,’ ” Vescovo told me. Cassie Bongiovanni and her sonar assistants ended up mapping an area of the ocean floor about the size of Texas, most of which had never been surveyed. On the forecastle deck, in the control room, a cheerful, brown-haired Texan named Cassie Bongiovanni sat before four large monitors, which had been bolted to the table. Bongiovanni, who is twenty-seven years old, was finishing a master’s degree in ocean mapping at the University of New Hampshire when Rob McCallum called and said that he needed someone to run a multibeam sonar system for one and a half laps around the world. She graduated at sea while mapping Vescovo’s dive location in the Puerto Rico Trench. As the head sonar operator, Bongiovanni had to make perfect decisions based on imperfect information. “The sound is generated from the EM-124, housed inside the giant gondola under the ship,” she said. “As it goes down, the width of each sound beam grows, so that in the deepest trenches we’re only able to pick up one point every seventy-five metres or so.” In these trenches, it takes at least seven seconds for sound to reach the bottom, and another seven seconds to return. In that gap, the ship has moved forward, and has pitched and rolled atop the surface of the sea. Bongiovanni also had to account for readings of sound speed at each dive site, as it is affected by variations in temperature, salinity, and depth. The purchase and installation of the EM-124 cost more than the ship itself, but its software was full of bugs. Each day, Bongiovanni oscillated between awe and frustration as she rebooted it, adjusted parameters, cleaned up noisy data, and sent e-mails to Kongsberg, the maker, to request software patches. The expedition wasn’t merely the first to dive the South Sandwich Trench but the first to map it as well. Steve Chappell, a Triton mechanic, was one of a few crew members assigned the role of “swimmer,” leaping into the water and disconnecting the towline from the Limiting Factor before it descended. Buckle positioned the ship over the dive site. A Triton mechanic named Steve Chappell was assigned the role of “swimmer,” meaning that he would balance atop the Limiting Factor as it was lowered into the water, and disconnect the towline before it went down. He wore a dry suit; polar waters can rapidly induce involuntary gasping and vertigo, and even talented swimmers can drown within two minutes. For a moment, he lay on a submarine bucking in the middle of the Southern Ocean, fumbling with wet ropes, fingers numb. Then a Zodiac picked him up and took him back to the Pressure Drop, where he warmed his hands by an exhaust vent. Vescovo started the pumps, and the Limiting Factor began its descent. Dive protocols required that Vescovo check in with the surface every fifteen minutes and announce his depth and heading and the status of his life-support system. But, after forty-five hundred metres, the communications system failed. The ship could still receive Vescovo’s transmissions, but Vescovo couldn’t hear the replies. Aphids and krill drifted past the viewports. It is customary to abort a dive thirty minutes after losing communications, but Vescovo knew that he might never have another chance to reach the bottom of the Southern Ocean, so he kept going. He liked the sensation of being truly alone. Sometimes, on the surface, he spoke of human nature as if it were something he had studied from the outside. Another hour passed before he reached the deepest point: seven thousand four hundred and thirty-three metres. The point had never been measured or named. He decided to call it the Factorian Deep. That night, Alan Jamieson, the chief scientist, stood on the aft deck, waiting for biological samples to reach the surface. “Most marine science is gritty as fuck,” he told me. “It’s not just ‘Look at the beautiful animal,’ or ‘Look at the mysteries of the deep.’ It’s all the weird vessels we end up on, the work of hauling things in and out of the water.” Jamieson, a gruff, forty-two-year-old marine biologist, who grew up in the Scottish Lowlands, is a pioneer in the construction and use of hadal landers—large, unmanned contraptions with baited traps and cameras, dropped over the side of a ship. In the past two decades, he has carried out hundreds of lander deployments in the world’s deep spots, and found evidence of fish and critters where none were thought to be. Now, as snow blew sideways in the darkness and the wind, he threw a grappling hook over the South Sandwich Trench and caught a lander thrashing in the waves. There were five landers on board. Three were equipped with advanced tracking and communications gear, to lend navigational support to the sub underwater. The two others were Jamieson’s—built with an aluminum frame, disposable weights, and a sapphire window for the camera, to withstand the pressure at depth. Before each dive, he tied a dead mackerel to a metal bar in front of the camera, to draw in hungry hadal fauna. Now, as he studied the footage, he discovered four new species of fish. Amphipods scuttled across the featureless sediment on the seafloor, and devoured the mackerel down to its bones. They are ancient, insect-like scavengers, whose bodies accommodate the water—floating organs in a waxy exoskeleton. Their cells have adapted to cope with high pressure, and “they’ve got this ridiculously stretchy gut, so they can eat about three times their body size,” Jamieson explained. Marine biologists classify creatures in the hadal zone as “extremophiles.” The following night, one of Jamieson’s landers was lost. “Usually, things come back up where you put them, but it just didn’t,” Buckle said. “We worked out what the drift was, and we then sailed in that drift direction for another three or four hours, with all my guys on the bridge—searchlights, binoculars, everyone looking for it. And we just never found it.” On the Arctic and Antarctic dives, the swimmers wore dry suits; polar waters can induce gasping and vertigo, and even talented swimmers risk drowning within two minutes. The second one surfaced later that night. But during the recovery it was sucked under the pitching ship and went straight through the propeller. By now, there was a blizzard, and the ship was heaving in eighteen-foot waves. “I lost everything—just fucking everything—in one night,” Jamieson said. Vescovo suggested naming the site of the lost landers the Bitter Deep. The Pressure Drop set off east, past a thirty-mile-long iceberg, for Cape Town, South Africa, to stop for fuel and food. Bongiovanni left the sonar running, collecting data that would correct the depths and the locations of key geological features, whose prior measurements by satellites were off by as much as several miles. (Vescovo is making all of the ship’s data available to Seabed2030, a collaborative project to map the world’s oceans in the next ten years.) Meanwhile, Jamieson cobbled together a new lander out of aluminum scraps, spare electronics, and some ropes and buoys, and taught Erlend Currie, the sailor from the Orkney Islands, to bait it and set the release timer. Jamieson named the lander the Erlander, then he disembarked and set off for England, to spend time with his wife and children. It would take several weeks for the ship to reach its next port stop, in Perth, where the Triton crew would install a new manipulator arm. At the time, the deepest point in the Indian Ocean was unknown. Most scientists believed that it was in the Java Trench, near Indonesia. But nobody had ever mapped the northern part of the Diamantina Fracture Zone, off the coast of Australia, and readings from satellites placed it within Java’s margin of error. The Pressure Drop spent three days over the Diamantina; Bongiovanni confirmed that it was, in fact, shallower than Java, and Currie dropped the Erlander as Jamieson had instructed. When it surfaced, around ten hours later—the trap filled with amphipods, including several new species—Currie became the first person to collect a biological sample from the Diamantina Fracture Zone. The Java Trench lies in international waters, which begin twelve nautical miles from land. But the expedition’s prospective dive sites fell within Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone; according to U.N. conventions, a country has special rights to the exploration and exploitation of marine resources, as far as two hundred nautical miles from the coast. McCallum had spent much of the previous year applying for permits and permissions; he dealt with fifty-seven government agencies, from more than a dozen countries, in order to plan the Five Deeps. For several months, the Indonesian government ignored McCallum’s inquiries. Then he was bounced among ten or more agencies, to which he sent briefing materials about the submersible, the ship, the crew, and the mission. Between the Atlantic and the Antarctic dives, Vescovo flew to Jakarta to deliver a lecture, and he offered to bring an Indonesian scientist to the bottom of the trench. But when the ship arrived in Bali McCallum still hadn’t received permission to dive. Officially, this meant that the team could not carry out any scientific work in the Java Trench. But the international law of the sea allows for the testing of equipment, and, after Java, the next set of dives, in the Pacific Ocean, would be the deepest of all. “So we tested the sub a few times,” McCallum said, smiling. “We tested the landers, we tested the sonar—we tested everything.” The Java Trench is more than two thousand miles long, and the site of violent seismic activity. Surveys in the northern part show evidence of landslides, from the 2004 earthquake that triggered a tsunami with hundred-foot waves that killed a quarter of a million people across Southeast Asia. Farther south, satellites had detected two deep pools, several hundred miles apart. The Pressure Drop mapped both sites, and Bongiovanni discovered that, in fact, the deepest point was between them, in a small pool that had previously gone unnoticed. It may be a new rupture in the ocean floor. Buckle positioned the Pressure Drop over the pool, and turned off the ship’s tracking and communications equipment. McCallum hoisted a pirate flag. The climate was tropical, eighty-six degrees, the ocean calm, with slow, rolling swells and hardly a ripple on the surface. On the morning of April 5, 2019, the Triton crew launched the Limiting Factor without incident, and Vescovo dived to the deepest point in the Java Trench. Mountaineers stand atop craggy peaks and look out on the world. Vescovo descended into blackness, and saw mostly sediment at the bottom. The lights on the Limiting Factor illuminated only a few feet forward; the acrylic viewports are convex and eight inches thick. Whatever the true topography of the rock underneath, hadal trenches appear soft and flat at the deep spots. Flip a mountain upside down and, with time, the inverted summit will be unreachable; for as long as there has been an ocean, the trenches have been the end points of falling particulate—volcanic dust, sand, pebbles, meteorites, and “the billions upon billions of tiny shells and skeletons, the limy or silicious remains of all the minute creatures that once lived in the upper waters,” Rachel Carson wrote, in “The Sea Around Us,” in 1951. “The sediments are a sort of epic poem of the earth.” Vescovo spent three hours at the bottom, and saw a plastic bag through the viewports. In the Puerto Rico Trench, one of the Limiting Factor’s cameras had captured an image of a soda can. Scientists estimate that in thirty years the oceans will hold a greater mass of plastic than of fish. Almost every biological sample that Jamieson has dredged up from the hadal zone and tested in a lab has been contaminated with microplastics. “Does it harm the ability of these animals to feed, to maneuver, to reproduce?” McCallum said. “We don’t know, because we can’t compare one that’s full of microplastics with one that’s not. Because there aren’t any.” The walls of trenches are filled with life, but they were not Vescovo’s mission. “It’s a little bit like going to the Louvre, putting your running shoes on, and sprinting through it,” Lahey said. “What you really want to do is to go there with someone who can tell you what you’re looking at.” The next day, Vescovo told Lahey that he could take Jamieson to the bottom of the trench. “I don’t want to go to the deepest point, because that’s boring,” Jamieson said. “Let’s go somewhere really cool.” After a series of failures, Vescovo came close to calling off the expedition. “I think I’m just going to write this whole thing off as bad debt,” he said. Four and a half miles below the ship, the Australia tectonic plate was being slowly and violently subsumed by the Eurasia plate. Bongiovanni had noticed a staircase feature coming out of a fault line, the result of pressure and breakage on a geological scale. It extended more than eight hundred feet up, beyond vertical, with an overhang—an outrageously difficult dive. Lahey would have to back up as they ascended, with no clear view of what was above the sub. The hatch started leaking during the descent, but Lahey told Jamieson to ignore it—it would seal with pressure. It kept dripping for more than ninety minutes, and stopped only at fifteen thousand feet. The Limiting Factor arrived at the bottom just after noon. Lahey approached the fault-line wall, and headed toward some bulging black masses. From a distance, they looked to Jamieson like volcanic rock, but as Lahey drew closer more colors came into view—brilliant reds, oranges, yellows, and blues, cloaked in hadal darkness. Without the lights of the submarine, the colors may never have been seen, not even by creatures living among them. These were bacterial mats, deriving their energy from chemicals emanating from the planet’s crust instead of from sunlight. It was through this process of chemosynthesis that, billions of years ago, when the earth was “one giant, fucked-up, steaming geological mass, being bombarded with meteorites,” as Jamieson put it, the first complex cell crossed some intangible line that separates the non-living from the living. Lahey began climbing the wall—up on the thrusters, then backward. Jamieson discovered a new species of snailfish, a long, gelatinous creature with soft fins, by looking through a viewport. The pressure eliminates the possibility of a swim bladder; the lack of food precludes the ossification of bones. Some snailfish have antifreeze proteins, to keep them running in the cold. “Biology is just smelly engineering,” Jamieson said. “When you reverse-engineer a fish from the most extreme environments, and compare it to its shallow-water counterparts, you can see the trade-offs it has made.” The wall climb took an hour. When the last lander surfaced, Jamieson detached the camera and found that it had captured footage of a dumbo octopus at twenty-three thousand feet—the deepest ever recorded, by more than a mile. The Pressure Drop set off toward the Pacific Ocean. McCallum lowered the pirate flag. Seven weeks later, Jamieson received a letter from the Indonesian government, saying that his research-permit application had been rejected, “due to national security consideration.” By the end of the expedition, the ship and submarine crews had so perfected the launch and recovery that, even in rough seas, to an outsider it was like watching an industrial ballet. Buckle sailed to Guam, with diversions for Bongiovanni to map the Yap and Palau Trenches. Several new passengers boarded, one of whom was unlike the rest: he had been where they were going, six decades before. Hadal exploration has historically prioritized superlatives, and an area of the Mariana Trench, known as the Challenger Deep, contains the deepest water on earth. On January 23, 1960, two men climbed into a large pressure sphere, which was suspended below a forty-thousand-gallon tank of gasoline, for buoyancy. One of them was a Swiss hydronaut named Jacques Piccard, whose father, the hot-air balloonist Auguste Piccard, had designed it. The other was Don Walsh, a young lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, which had bought the vehicle, known as a bathyscaphe, and modified it to attempt a dive in the Challenger Deep. The bathyscaphe was so large that it had to be towed behind a ship, and its buoyant gasoline tank was so delicate that the ship couldn’t travel more than one or two miles per hour. To find the dive site, sailors tossed TNT over the side of the ship, and timed the echo reverberating up from the bottom of the trench. There was one viewport, the size of a coin. When the bathyscaphe hit the bottom, stirring up sediment, “it was like looking into a bowl of milk,” Walsh said. A half century passed before anyone returned. The bathyscaphe never again dived to hadal depths. Jacques Piccard died in 2008. Now Don Walsh, who was eighty-eight, walked up the gangway of the Pressure Drop. It was a short transit to the Mariana Trench, across warm Pacific waters, over six-foot swells. Above the Challenger Deep, Vescovo pulled on a fire-retardant jumpsuit, and walked out to the aft deck. A gentle wind blew in from the east. Walsh shook Vescovo’s hand. Vescovo climbed into the Limiting Factor, carrying an ice axe that he had brought to the summit of Mt. Everest. Hatch secured, lift line down, tag lines released, towline out—pumps on. Vescovo wondered, Is the sub able to handle this? He didn’t think it would implode, but would the electronics survive? The thrusters? The batteries? Besides Walsh and Piccard, the only other person to go to the bottom of the Challenger Deep was the filmmaker James Cameron, in 2012. Multiple systems failed at the bottom, and his submersible never dove deep again. The depth gauge ticked past ten thousand nine hundred metres, thirty-six thousand feet. After four hours, Vescovo started dropping variable ballast weights, to slow his descent. At 12:37 P.M., he called up to the surface. His message took seven seconds to reach the Pressure Drop: “At bottom.” Outside the viewports, Vescovo saw amphipods and sea cucumbers. But he was two miles beyond the limits of fish. “At a certain point, the conditions are so intense that evolution runs out of options—there’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Jamieson said. “So a lot of the creatures down there start to look the same.” Vescovo switched off the lights and turned off the thrusters. He hovered in silence, a foot off the sediment bottom, drifting gently on a current, nearly thirty-six thousand feet below the surface. That evening, on the Pressure Drop, Don Walsh shook his hand again. Vescovo noted that, according to the sonar scan, the submarine data, and the readings from the landers, he had gone deeper than anyone before. “Yeah, I cried myself to sleep last night,” Walsh joked. The Triton team took two maintenance days, to make sure they didn’t miss anything. But the Limiting Factor was fine. So Vescovo went down again to retrieve a rock sample. He found some specimens by the northern wall of the trench, but they were too big to carry, so he tried to break off a piece by smashing them with the manipulator arm—to no avail. “I finally resorted to just burrowing the claw into the muck, and just blindly grabbing and seeing if anything came out,” he said. No luck. He surfaced. Hours later, Vescovo walked into the control room and learned that one of the navigation landers was stuck in the silt. He was in despair. The lander’s batteries would soon drain, killing all communications and tracking—another expensive item lost on the ocean floor. “Well, you do have a full-ocean-depth submersible” available to retrieve it, McCallum said. Lahey had been planning to make a descent with Jonathan Struwe, of the marine classification firm DNV-GL, to certify the Limiting Factor. Now it became a rescue mission. When Lahey reached the bottom, he began moving in a triangular search pattern. Soon he spotted a faint light from the lander. He nudged it with the manipulator arm, freeing it from the mud. It shot up to the surface. Struwe—who was now one of only six people who had been to the bottom of the Challenger Deep—certified the Limiting Factor’s “maximum permissible diving depth” as “unlimited.” The control room was mostly empty. “When Victor first went down, everyone was there, high-fiving and whooping and hollering,” Buckle said. “And the next day, around lunchtime, everyone went ‘Fuck this, I’ll go for lunch.’ Patrick retrieves a piece of equipment from the deepest point on earth, and it’s just me, going, ‘Yay, congratulations, Patrick.’ No one seemed to notice how big a deal it is that they had already made this normal—even though it’s not. It’s the equivalent of having a daily flight to the moon.” McCallum, in his pre-dive briefings, started listing “complacency” as a hazard. The crew quickly became accustomed to the expedition’s achievements. “No one seemed to notice how big a deal it is that they had already made this normal—even though it’s not,” Buckle said. “It’s the equivalent of having a daily flight to the moon.” Vescovo was elated when the lander reached the surface. “Do you know what this means?” McCallum said to him.“Yeah, we got the three-hundred-thousand-dollar lander back,” Vescovo said. “Victor, you have the only vehicle in the world that can get to the bottom of any ocean, anytime, anywhere,” McCallum said. The message sank in. Vescovo had read that the Chinese government has dropped acoustic surveillance devices in and around the Mariana Trench, apparently to spy on U.S. submarines leaving the naval base in Guam; he could damage them. A Soviet nuclear submarine sank in the nineteen-eighties, near the Norwegian coast. Russian and Norwegian scientists have sampled the water inside, and have found that it is highly contaminated. Now Vescovo began to worry that, before long, non-state actors might be able to retrieve and repurpose radioactive materials lying on the seafloor. “I don’t want to be a Bond villain,” Vescovo told me. But he noted how easy it would be. “You could go around the world with this sub, and put devices on the bottom that are acoustically triggered to cut cables,” he said. “And you short all the stock markets and buy gold, all at the same time. Theoretically, that is possible. Theoretically.” After a maintenance day, Lahey offered to take John Ramsay to the bottom of the trench. Ramsay was conflicted, but, he said, “there was this sentiment on board that if the designer doesn’t dare get in it then nobody should dare get in it.” He climbed in, and felt uncomfortable the entire way down. “It wasn’t that I actually needed to have a shit, it was this irrational fear of what happens if I do need to have a shit,” he said. Two days later, Vescovo took Jamieson to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. They returned with one of the deepest rock samples ever collected, after Vescovo crashed into a boulder and a fragment landed in a battery tray. Buckle started sailing back to Guam, to drop off Walsh, Vescovo, and the Triton crew. “It’s quite mind-blowing, when you sit down and think about it, that, from the dawn of time until this Monday, there were three people who have been down there,” he said. “Then, in the last ten days, we’ve put five more people down there, and it’s not even a big deal.” The Pressure Drop, anchored in the Svalbard archipelago. The least-known region of the seafloor lies under the Arctic Ocean. It was early May, and there was only one ocean left. But the deepest point in the Arctic Ocean was covered by the polar ice cap, and would remain so for several months. The Pressure Drop headed south, toward Tonga, in the South Pacific. Bongiovanni kept the sonar running twenty-four hours a day, and Jamieson carried out the first-ever lander deployments in the San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Trenches. “The amphipod samples are mostly for genetic work, tracking adaptations,” he told me. The same critters were showing up in trenches thousands of miles apart—but aren’t found in shallower waters, elsewhere on the ocean floor. “How the fuck are they going from one to another?” Bongiovanni mapped the Tonga Trench. The sonar image showed a forty-mile line of fault escarpments, a geological feature resulting from the fracturing of an oceanic plate. “It’s horrendously violent, but it’s happening over geological time,” Jamieson explained. “As one of the plates is being pushed down, it’s cracking into these ridges, and these ridges are fucking huge”—a mile and a half, vertical. “If they were on land, they’d be one of the wonders of the world. But, because they’re buried under ten thousand metres of water, they just look like ripples in the ocean floor.” Bongiovanni routinely stayed up all night, debugging the new software and surveying dive sites, so that the Limiting Factor could be launched at dawn. “Day Forever,” she dated one of her journal entries. “Sonar fucked itself.” Now, before taking leave, she taught Erlend Currie, who had launched Jamieson’s makeshift lander in the Diamantina Fracture Zone, how to operate the EM-124. “When you give people more responsibility, they either crumble or they bloom, and he blooms,” Buckle said. In the next month, Currie mapped some six thousand nautical miles of the ocean floor, from the Tonga Trench to the Panama Canal. “Erlend’s doing a good job,” another officer reported to Bongiovanni. “He’s starting to really talk like a mapper. He just hasn’t quite learned how to drink like one.” I boarded the Pressure Drop in Bermuda, in the middle of July, seven months into the expedition. The crew had just completed another set of dives in the Puerto Rico Trench, to demonstrate the equipment to representatives of the U.S. Navy and to the billionaire and ocean conservationist Ray Dalio. (Dalio owns two Triton submarines.) Vescovo hoped to sell the hadal exploration system for forty-eight million dollars—slightly more than the total cost of the expedition. During one of the demonstrations, a guest engineer began outlining all the ways he would have done it differently. “O.K.,” McCallum said, smiling. “But you didn’t.” We set off north, through the turquoise waters of the Gulf Stream. It would take roughly three weeks, without stopping, to reach the deepest point in the Arctic Ocean. But the Arctic dive window wouldn’t open for five more weeks, and, as Vescovo put it, “the Titanic is on the way.” For several nights, I stood on the bow, leaning over the edge, mesmerized, as bioluminescent plankton flashed green upon contact with the ship. Above that, blackness, until the horizon, where the millions of stars began. Sometimes there was a crack of lightning in the distance, breaking through dark clouds. But most nights the shape of the Milky Way was so pronounced that in the course of the night you could trace the earth’s rotation. The air turned foggy and cold. Buckle steered out of the Gulf Stream and into the waters of the North Atlantic, a few hundred miles southeast of the port of St. John’s, Newfoundland. After midnight, everyone gathered on the top deck and downed a shot of whiskey—a toast to the dead. We would reach the site of the Titanic by dawn. At sunrise, we tossed a wreath overboard, and watched it sink. A few years ago, Peter Coope, Buckle’s chief engineer, was working on a commercial vessel that was affixing an enormous, deepwater anchor to an oil rig off the coast of Indonesia. The chain slipped over the side, dragging down one side of the ship so far that the starboard propeller was in the air. Water poured into the engine room, where Coope worked. It was impossible for him to reach the exit. British ship engineers wear purple stripes on their epaulets. Many of them think of this as a tribute to the engineers on the Titanic, every one of whom stayed in the engine room and went down with the ship. Now Coope, whose father was also a chief engineer, resolved to do the same. “I saw my life blowing away,” Coope recalled. “People say it flashes in front of you. I was just calm. I felt, That’s it—I’ve gone.” The bridge crew managed to right the ship after he had already accepted his fate. The next day, Vescovo piloted the Limiting Factor down to the Titanic, with Coope’s epaulets, and those of his father, in the passenger seat. The debris field spans more than half a mile, and is filled with entanglement hazards—loose cables, an overhanging crow’s nest, corroded structures primed to collapse. (“What a rusting heap of shit!” Lahey said. “I don’t want the sub anywhere near that fucking thing!”) Large rusticles flow out from the bow, showing the directions of undersea currents. Intact cabins have been taken over by corals, anemones, and fish. That evening, Vescovo returned the epaulets, along with a photograph of him holding them at the site of the wreck. Coope, who is sixty-seven, had come out of retirement to join this expedition—his last. The Pressure Drop continued northeast, past Greenland and Iceland, to a port in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago about six hundred miles north of Norway. Huge glaciers fill the inlets, and where they have melted they have left behind flattop mountains and slopes, crushed and planed by the weight of the ice. Most of the archipelago is inaccessible, except by snowmobile or boat. The population of polar bears outnumbers that of people, and no one leaves town without a gun. McCallum brought on board two EYOS colleagues, including a polar guide who could smell and identify the direction of a walrus from a moving ship, several miles away. By now, McCallum had adjusted the expedition schedule ninety-seven times. The Pressure Drop set off northwest, in the direction of the Molloy Hole, the site of the deepest point in the Arctic Ocean. The least-known region of the seafloor lies under the polar ice cap. But scientists have found the fossilized remains of tropical plants; in some past age, the climate was like that of Florida. It was the height of Arctic summer, and bitterly cold. I stood on the bow, watching Arctic terns and fulmars play in the ship’s draft, and puffins flutter spastically, barely smacking themselves out of the water. The sun would not set, to disorienting effect. When I met John Ramsay, he explained, with some urgency, that the wider, flatter coffee cups contained a greater volumetric space than the taller, skinnier ones—and that this was an important consideration in weighing the consumption of caffeine against the potential social costs of pouring a second cup from the galley’s single French press. Ice drifted past; orcas and blue whales, too. Buckle sounded the horn as the ship crossed the eightieth parallel. One night, the horizon turned white, and the polar ice cap slowly came into view. Another night, the ice pilot parked the bow of the ship on an ice floe. The Pressure Drop had completed one and a half laps around the world, to both poles. The bow thruster filled the Arctic silence with a haunting, mechanical groan. Bongiovanni and her sonar assistants had mapped almost seven hundred thousand square kilometres of the ocean floor, an area about the size of Texas, most of which had never been surveyed. Jamieson had carried out a hundred and three lander deployments, in every major hadal ecosystem. The landers had travelled a combined distance of almost eight hundred miles, vertically, and captured footage of around forty new species. Once, as we were drinking outside, I noticed a stray amphipod dangling from Jamieson’s shoelace. “These little guys are all over the fucking planet,” he said, kicking it off. “Shallower species don’t have that kind of footprint. You’re not going to see that with a zebra or a giraffe.” The earth is not a perfect sphere; it is smushed in at the poles. For this reason, Vescovo’s journey to the bottom of the Molloy Hole would bring him nine miles closer to the earth’s core than his dives in the Mariana Trench, even though the Molloy is only half the depth from the surface. On August 29th, Vescovo put on his coveralls and walked out to the aft deck. The ship and submarine crews had so perfected the system of launch and recovery that, even in rough seas, to an outsider it was like watching an industrial ballet. The equipment had not changed since the expedition’s calamitous beginnings—but the people had. “This is not the end,” Vescovo said, quoting Winston Churchill. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” He climbed inside the Limiting Factor. The swimmer closed the hatch. Vescovo turned on the oxygen and the carbon-dioxide scrubbers. “Life support engaged,” he said. “Good to go.” For the first few hundred feet, he saw jellyfish and krill. Then marine snow. Then nothing.
Worst Russian Submarine Disasters of All Time
While some of the accidents could be blamed on the lax safety features of Cold War-era Soviet submarines, since 2000 the Russian Navy has also seen several submarine disasters, including some in port. Last year 14 Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out on a secret Russian submarine. The boat was identified 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. “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 TASS news service. There is no denying that it takes a special type of sailor to volunteer to serve aboard a submarine. You literally live underwater in a steel tube for weeks—sometimes months—on end. You need to get used to foul air, a lack of sunlight and very tight quarters; and then there is the fact that the steel tube could all too easily become a watery metal tomb! Since the American Civil War, when the Confederate Navy launched the first successful military submarine, the CSN Hunley, submariners have known the risk. Even using the word “successful” in the same sentence with the Hunley is questionable as it succeeded in its attack, but 21 crewmen were lost in three sinkings of the boat. Many more submarine crews would face a similar fate. The Soviet and later Russian Navy have unfortunately seen more than their fair share of modern submarine disasters. So much so that a line at the end of the film The Hunt for Red October, based on the book of the same name seems almost ominous when the American National Security Advisor questions his Soviet counterpart, “you mean you lost another submarine.” Sadly, the Soviet Navy did lose a number of submarines during the Cold War. Among these was S-80, a diesel-electric submarine that sank in an accident in the Barents Sea. It dropped below its snorkel depth and because its de-icing system was off the vessel, it quickly flooded and sank to the sea floor with 68 crew members. In January 1962, the Soviet B-37 exploded after a fire broke out in its torpedo compartment while it was docked at the Northern Fleet’s base in the city of Polyarny. The explosion killed 122 sailors including those from the B-37, but also the S-350 submarine tied up next to it, which was badly damaged as well. Several men from other ships and the shipyard were among those who lost their lives due to the horrible accident. The diesel-powered submarine K-129, part of the Soviet’s Pacific Fleet, was lost approximately 2,890 kilometers northwest of Hawaii after it was believed to have slipped below its operating depth, which resulted in flooding. Other theories suggest it suffered a hydrogen battery explosion or collided with the USS Swordfish, but whatever the cause, its wreck has never been found—while reports suggest the U.S. Navy may have recovered parts of the submarine. On April 12, 1970 the K-8, a Project 627A Kit-class (NATO: November) nuclear-powered submarine sank after a fire broke out in its engine room. It was actually the second fire, as a first one resulted in the crew abandoning ship. After a rescue vessel arrived the crew attempted to regain control of the submarine, which sank in heavy seas due to the second fire while the boat was being towed—killing 52 sailors. A total of 42 out of 69 crew members were killed aboard the K-278 Komsomolet, which was one of the highest performance submarines ever built. It had an operating depth greater than 3,000 feet, but sank on April 7, 1989 after a fire broke out on board. While only four died of a direct result of the fire, the rest were killed from exposure and more would have been saved if the Soviet Navy had mounted a rescue operation sooner. While some of the accidents could be blamed on the lax safety features of Cold War-era Soviet submarines, since 2000 the Russian Navy has also seen several submarine disasters, including some in port. Among the first was also one of the worst, when in August 2000 the nuclear-powered Kursk sank in the Barents Sea due to an explosion in its torpedo room, which killed all 118 of its crew. The Kursk’s wreckage was recovered and the accident was ultimately traced to the Type-65-76A torpedo. Though the weapon is powerful enough to destroy an aircraft carrier with a single hit, the Soviet Union inexplicably designed the torpedo to run on hydrogen peroxide fuel, which is highly volatile and requires careful handling. The crew had not been adequately trained to handle those weapons. Nine crew members were killed in August 2003 on the K-159, a nuclear-powered submarine that sank in the Barents Sea during a storm, while it was being towed to a harbor to have its nuclear reactors stripped when the storm broke out. Three years later a fire aboard another nuclear-powered submarine Daniil Moskovskiy broke out in the mechanics room and killed two sailors. The deadliest submarine disaster since the Kursk occurred on November 8, 2008 when 20 sailors and shipyard workers were killed and 20 more injured. This happened aboard the K-152 Nerpa when the fire extinguishing system was accidently activated, which caused mass suffocation. In December 2011 and again in September 2013 a number of sailors were injured in separate accidents at shipyards. The first in 2011 occurred aboard the nuclear submarine Yekaterinburg in the city of Murmansk when a blazing fire burned for nine hours, with flames reaching 10 meters in height! Another fire broke out on the nuclear submarine Tomsk at the shipyard in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, injuring 15 sailors.
Watch a Submarine Movie.
This Memorial Day (May 25), we shouldn’t forget U.S. Navy submarines that sacrificed comfort and sometimes lives. (In World War II more than 3,500 men perished on 52 sunken American subs.) We can remember them as we shelter at home without being confined to such claustrophobic spaces. We can watch Hollywood’s nods to submarines, films that break through the surface like the dolphins on the insignia of the Navy’s “silent service”: they crash through, unexpected and lively. In filmmakers’ subs, people are isolated and endangered, with characters and conflicts trapped together in smelly, hot, metal eggshells: refuges and prisons. Subs are ruthless and helpless, the ultimate in maneuverability and vulnerability. Recent decades’ sub flicks have ranged from “Phantom” with Ed Harris to “Crimson Tide,” featuring a struggle between Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington (plus a sub confrontation). Other ambitious efforts include “K-19: The Widowmaker” (starring Harrison Ford, based on a true story) and this year’s “Underwater” (a sci-fi/horror pic with Kristen Stewart). Whether action films or thrillers, movies that use subs as settings or plot devices number in the dozens, from exploration and rescue to combat and comedy. They include “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea,” “Operation Petticoat” and “Torpedo Alley.” The offbeat “Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” with Bill Murray and “U-571,” the actioner starring Matthew McConaughey, are OK. Other decent, if more obscure, sub films are “The Deep Six” with Alan Ladd, “Corvette K-225″ with Randolph Scott, and “Submarine Command” with William Holden. Directors who “got their feet wet” in sub films include Frank Capra (“Submarine” was his first A picture), John Ford (“Submarine Patrol”) and Samuel Fuller (“Hell and High Water”). Some are barely adequate, such as “Gray Lady Down” with Stacy Keach and Christopher Reeve, and “Hellcats of the Navy” with Ronald Reagan. Others simply sink, like the comedy “Down Periscope,” and the dull “Sub Down.” So, if you like the sea, you’re dealing with close quarters and are entertained by ocean-going cat-and-mouse games, check out this “Diving Dozen”: “Das Boot” (“The Boat,” 1981). Jurgen Prochnow stars as the stoic, heroic captain in director Wolfgang Petersen’s Oscar-winner. A World War II German U-Boat and its crew of cynical vets and scared recruits, loyal Nazi’s and “good Germans” all endure a mission of predictable danger. “Crash Dive” (1943). Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews star as an ambitious officer and a selfless commander, respectively. Together on board, ashore they compete for the affections of Anne Baxter. “Destination Tokyo” (1943). Cary Grant commands a typical melting-pot crew, who idolize him. “I’d follow him to the Mikado’s bathtub,” one says. They almost do, invading Tokyo harbor. John Garfield co-stars. “The Enemy Below” (1957). Actor-turned-director Dick Powell made this superior outing starring Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens as commanders of opposing ships facing off – and developing a relationship. “The Hunt for Red October” (1990). Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin star in an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s best-selling thriller about a Soviet captain who defects to the United States in his sub. Praised for accuracy, it didn’t sacrifice drama for authenticity. James Earl Jones and Courtney B. Vance are featured. “On the Beach” (1959). Filmmaker Stanley Kramer directed Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire in this excellent adaptation of Nevil Shute’s novel about the universality of doomsday – even one caused by nuclear war. “Operation Pacific” (1951). John Wayne is Duke Gifford, a zealous submariner in this war yarn. Ward Bond is superb as “Pops,” and Patricia Neal is sweet as Duke’s ex-wife. “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958). Robert Wise’s drama focuses on growing resentment between two leaders (Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster) over management style on their sub. “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966). The premier submarine comedy, this Norman Jewison picture stars Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner and Jonathan Winters. The romp follows a hapless crew from a disabled Soviet sub off U.S. shores, appealing to equally hapless Americans for help. “Torpedo Run” (1958). Glenn Ford is a commander chasing the ship that led the Pearl Harbor attack. After missing (and sinking a ship carrying his imprisoned family), he’s obsessed. Ernest Borgnine co-stars. “Up Periscope” (1959). This exciting war movie has demolition man James Garner joining Edmund O’Brien’s sub for a reconnaissance mission to a remote enemy island. Alan Hale Jr. co-stars. “Yellow Submarine” (1968). Thematically different, this animated hit follows the Beatles’ battle with the Blue Meanies – using their remarkable smiling sub!
Italian Navy New Submarines
Italy’s Near Future Submarine (NFS) design will be Italian in nature. Currently the backbone of Italian Navy’s (Marina Militare) submarine force are four Type-212A submarines. These are equipped with fuel cell Air Independent Power (AIP), which makes them among the most stealthy submarines anywhere. But the Type-212A is best known as a German design, not Italian. In many respects the NFS is a return to the proud tradition of fiercely independent Italian submarine building.
The NFS will be a direct development of the Type-212A. Although the baseline Type-212A is largely a German design, Italy was a partner in the program. In a cost-conscious defense collaboration typical of the post-Cold War ’90s, Germany was to build six boats and Italy four. Italy’s were built locally by Fincantieri and incorporate some local systems. In particular they are armed with the Italian Whitehead A184 Mod.3 and newer Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes. And they carry an array of unique special forces equipment. The NFS will feature a slight increase in overall length to accommodate a new intelligence gathering mast. This improvement is a parallel of Germany’s second batch of Type-212As, but with an Italian system. More significantly, it will incorporate Italian developed lithium-ion batteries in place of lead-acid. This is significant and is likely to be the first Western submarine to feature this technology. Currently only Japan fields submarines with this battery technology, although South Korea, and possibly China, are close behind. Lithium-ion batteries promise greater capacity which should translate into longer underwater running. Combined with the AIP this should make the NFS even more stealthy. Although it had previously been suggested that Italy would join German and Norway in the ‘Common Design’ version of the Type-212, there are indications that Italy is intent on creating its own waves. The Italian Navy states that there is to be no international collaboration. This is because "the high strategic value of the systems and their technological contents as well as the underlying capabilities industrial, historically protected exclusively nationally." It will be a small step in a return to a proud submarine design tradition. The Italian Navy was an early mover in submarine warfare, commissioning its first boat, Delfino, in 1895. This predates the famous USS Holland, which was the U.S. Navy’s first modern submarine. And unlike the early submarines in many other countries, the Delfino was good enough that it served for many years. During the World War One period Italy was an exporter of submarines, and it continued a strongly independent design philosophy into World War II. There was a break in submarine building following the War but production resumed in the 1960s. So it was a blow to adopt a German led design in the 1990s when Italy joined Germany's Type-212 project. Together with a mysterious submarine contract to build unspecified submarines for Qatar, the NFS could pave the way to a resurgence of Italian submarine building.
World’s Lightest Submarine: Nemo From U-Boat Worx
Now that you’ve settled on your next superyacht purchase or already own one, how about water toys? Jet skis and powerboats are so yesterday, why not get your very own submersible for the best underwater experience. In April this year, Dutch submersible maker U-Boat Worx announced their first series-produced submarine, the Nemo. U-Boat Worx has been in the business since 2005 but, until Nemo, they’ve only been making order-to-build toys for the rich. The Nemo is still a toy for the rich, make no mistake about it, but it will be mass-produced, with a limited array of customization options available. Using some of the tech and the know-how from the Super Yacht Sub series and C-Researcher Series, U-Boat Worx set out to deliver a submersible that is light and compact as to not be an inconvenience in terms of transport or storage, but still reliable enough to deliver the expected performance. The Nemo is the lightest manned submarine in the world and it’s also very small, about the size of two jet skis side by side, so they delivered on that first count. U-Boat Worx says it will also deliver on the latter. Weighing just 2,500 kg (5,510 pounds) and measuring only 155 cm (61 inches) in height, the Nemo can easily and safely be towed by an SUV. This is a first for any submersible. Its compact form allows storage in the tender garage of a yacht, but also on deck or on basically any other flat surface, without having to use a davit or a cradle. That’s another first right there. Although very compact, the Nemo can comfortably seat two passengers in a glass bubble that offers breathtaking underwater views. The entire experience is crafted around the driver, the maker says, so the Manta controller allows the pilot to share driving responsibilities with the passenger. It can dive as deep as 100 meters (330 feet) and can reach underwater speeds of about 3 knots. Arguably, that latter feature is not that impressive, but it surely beats what you can do while scuba diving. Even more impressively, the Nemo comes with an 8-hour autonomy. On-board tech includes pilot assist features, like auto-heading and auto-depth, and the Nemo also offers the possibility of remote control away from the yacht or shoreline. With every purchase of a Nemo submersible, owners will receive a 12-day training session at the U-Boat Worx Sub Center Curaçao facility. However, a certified pilot will have to be present while operating it, so if you’re considering the purchase, you might as well think about getting the proper certification. The Nemo comes with air conditioning and wireless underwater communications system, four spots and one floodlight as standard options. Additional options include a manipulator, extra lights, sonar and navigation package, and they will drive up the final price. “The ultra-modern design, sharp lines, hydrodynamic form and optimal power to weight ratio, combine to create an instant classic,” U-Boat Worx says of its latest product. “The NEMO’s fine detailing – including transparent nosecones, octagonal thruster ducts, car-like stern, and a fully acrylic pressurized hull – create a submarine with personality and performance.” This perfect combination of personality and performance, with a healthy serving of convenience, unlike anything else that’s been done before, comes with a price to match. Pricing for the standard version starts at €975,000, which is roughly $1.06 million at today’s exchange rate, excluding VAT. As of the time of writing, U-Boat Worx is still taking pre-orders on the Nemo, saying that the submarine will go into production as soon as market demand is met. That is to say, in order to start mass-producing it, they first want to make sure there are enough buyers for all examples made. When this happens, the Nemo will also become the first ever production-series submarine in the world. This sounds like the perfect occasion to get in on this exclusive deal, if you’ve been in the market for a submersible to take on your megayacht.
More Iranian Mini subs
Iran recently announced that it had put four more mini-submarines into service, for a total of eleven in the last five years. Over the last decade, Iran has, apparently with technical help from North Korea, been building mini-submarines for operations along its coasts, and throughout the Persian Gulf. The first two entered service about five years ago. The sub has a two man crew, and can carry three divers, or several naval mines, or a torpedo. The Iranians say they will use the mini-subs to lay mines or launch underwater commando attacks. While the North Koreans provided some technical assistance, the Iranian sub is a local design, smaller than most North Korean mini-subs, which is a reflection of the more turbulent seas found off the Korean coast. The Iranian subs appear to be based on the North Korean M100D, a 76 ton, 19 meter (58 foot) long boat that has a crew of four and can carry eight divers and their equipment. The North Koreans got the idea for the M100D when they bought the plans for a 25 ton Yugoslav mini-sub in the 1980s. Only four of those were built, apparently as experiments to develop a larger North Korean design. There are believed to be over 30 M100Ds, in addition to eleven of the Iranian variation.
Building subs like this are not high tech. A drug gang in Ecuador was recently caught building a 30 meter/98 foot long submarine on a jungle river. This boar was three meters/nine feet in diameter and capable of submerging to about 30 meters. The locally built boat had a periscope, conning tower and was air conditioned. It was captured where it was being assembled, and a nearby camp, for the builders, appeared to house about fifty people. This was the first such sub to be completed, but not the first to be built. Nearly a decade ago, Russian naval architects and engineers were discovered among those designing and building a similar, but larger, boat. However, that effort did not last, as the Russian designs were too complex and expensive. It was found easier to build semi-submersible craft. But more and more of these are being caught at sea. The recently discovered sub was not military grade. It could travel submerged, but not dive deep. It was built using the same fiberglass material used for the semi-submersible craft, but was larger, and had berths for six crew. There was space for about ten tons of cocaine. It probably cost several million dollars to build and was weeks away from completion and sea trials. The drug sub was similar to the small subs being built since the 1970s for offshore oil operations and underwater tourism.North Korea has developed several mini-sub designs, most of them available to anyone with the cash to pay. The largest is the 250 ton Sang-O, which is actually a coastal sub modified for special operations. There is a crew of 19, plus either six scuba swimmer commandos, or a dozen men who can go ashore in an inflatable boat. Some Sang-Os have two or four torpedo tubes. Over thirty were built, and one was captured by South Korea when it ran aground in 1996. North Korea is believed to have fitted some of the Song-Os and M100Ds with acoustic tiles, to make them more difficult to detect by sonar. This technology was popular with the Russians, and that's where the North Koreans were believed to have got the technology. The most novel North Korean design is a submersible speedboat. This 13 meter (40 foot) boat looks like a speedboat, displaces ten tons and can carry up to eight people. It only submerges to a depth of about ten feet. Using a schnorkel apparatus (a pipe type device to bring in air and expel diesel engine fumes), the boat can move underwater. In 1998, a South Korean destroyer sank one of these. A follow on class displaced only five tons, and could carry six people (including one or two to run the boat). At least eight of these were believed built.
Asif Ali Zardari Looted Millions of Dollars of Bribes Paid to him in a French Submarine Corruption Deal. Official Pakistani documents detailing how the country’s [illegal] president, Asif Ali Zardari, benefited from massive, secret payments connected to the sale of French submarines to Pakistan have been seized as evidence by a Paris magistrate investigating a suspected widespread scam surrounding the deal. The documents, revealed here for the first time by MediaPart, show that the payments to Zardari and others took place on the fringes of the sale of three Agosta-class submarines by the French defence contractor, the DCN, to Pakistan in the 1990s. The French sale succeeded against rival offers by Swedish and German contractors. The sale, and the payment of bribes associated with it officially termed as commissions are at the core of what has become known as the ‘Karachi Affair’, currently the subject of two French judicial investigations and which has rocked the French political establishment with its potential far-reaching ramifications within France. A key allegation in the developing affair is that the cancellation of commissions paid out in the submarine deal was the motive behind a ‘suicide’ bomb attack in Karachi on May 8th, 2002, that left 11 French engineers dead. They were in Pakistan to help build one of the Agosta submarines. Increasing evidence suggests that cancellation of the commissions, ordered by former French President Jacques Chirac, was decided after it was discovered they were in part re-routed back to France to fund political activities of Chirac’s principal political rival, Edouard Balladur. The documents, now in possession of Paris-based judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, were found during a French police search in June 2010 of the home of Amir Lodhi, one of the intermediaries involved in securing the Agosta contract. Lodhi held a copy of a report by a Pakistani anti-corruption service, the Ehtesab [Accountability] Cell. Lodhi, 61, the brother of a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States [Maleeha Lodhi], is a close friend of Zardari, who [illegally] became president of Pakistan in 2008 one year after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. The raid on Lodhi’s home in the French capital [Paris] was carried out by detectives from the French police national financial investigation division, the DNIF, (Division nationale des investigations financiers). The Ehtesab Cell documents were the object of a formal report by the DNIF, established on June 17th, 2010, and reveals that Zardari received backhanders worth 6,934,296 euros between October and December 1994. That report is now among the evidence collected by Van Ruymbeke in his investigations launched last autumn into the financial aspect of the Agosta submarine sale, and in particular whether commissions paid abroad were re-routed to fund political activities within France. Originally written in English, the Pakistani document was translated by the DNIF investigators and now provides the first clear details about the scale of the payments made to Zardari, amounting to several million euros, as well as the channels used, including offshore companies, bank accounts and a British tax haven. Bank Transfers to the Virgin Islands.The Agosta submarine contract was signed between the two countries [France and Pakistan] on September 21st, 1994, just weeks before the first payments began. At the time, Zardari was a minister in the Pakistani government then led by his wife, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Importantly, Zardari was the key figure for all public contracts signed with foreign countries. That position earned Zardari the unflattering nickname in his own country of “Mister 10%”. The main document seized by French investigators is a photocopy of an original dated November 9th, 1997, concerning a request by Pakistan to Switzerland for cooperation in a judicial investigation. The request by the Pakistani authorities to Switzerland aimed, according to the officer, “to obtain all the necessary information to pursue a criminal investigation and to try the former prime minister of Pakistan, Madame Bhutto, her husband, Monsieur Asif Ali Zardari, her mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto and the other members of the Bhutto government, public servants and civilians implicated in the conspiracy of Madame Bhutto and/or her husband to misappropriate public funds for their own profit.” The French police report said the document explicitly referred to the Agosta contract: “This request concerns several cases of malpractice including that of the purchase of French submarines.” According to the DNIF investigators “the chronology and the currency [of the sums paid] suggest that these payments are secret commissions paid by the DCN-I [the commercial arm of the submarine builders DCN] to Monsieur Zardari and Monsieur Lodhi for their considerable service in assuring that DCN-I got the contract.” Huge sums are recorded at the end of 1994 alone, when a company called Marleton Business Inc. was set up through a lawyer in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands for use by Zardari. A first payment of some of 5.5 million francs (about 838,000 euros) took place in October 1994 “of which 70% goes to Monsieur Zardari (AAZ) and 30% to Monsieur Lodhi (AL),” noted the French police report.
Sarkozy’s Ministry ‘Approved’ Bribe Sums.
A second transfer took place two months later, in December, for an altogether larger sum of 59.48 million francs, (about 9.06 million euros) “divided into 41.636 million [francs] for Monsieur Zardari and 17.844 million for Monsieur Lodhi”. That represented 6,934,296 euros for the current [unlawful] president of Pakistan, and 2,971,841 euros for his partner. According to the French investigators, the official Pakistani documents seized in Lohdi’s Paris home also explain that “Messieurs Lodhi and Zardari received their bribes in the bank accounts of a series of offshore companies.” The report says they are all based in the Virgin Islands and they are identified by the DNIF as: Marvil Associated Inc., Penbury Finance, Oxton Trading, Crimities Holding and Dustan Trading. The banks involved in the payments were also recorded in the Pakistani documents, as well as the bank accounts used. “The commissions paid into the accounts, notably opened by these companies at the Pasche bank and the bank of Piguet et Cie, in Switzerland, were probably supplied by transfer from the Banque francaise du Commerce exterieur [French bank of Foreign Trade], account number 2700 0008358 or IV10000083580.” Several high-profile witnesses questioned in November and December 2010 by judge Van Ruymbeke have insisted that the bribes paid in 1994 were perfectly legal and were approved by France’s then-Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, and its budget minister, now France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy. In a statement he gave to Van Ruymbeke on November 9th, 2010, former DCN-I Finance Director, Gerard-Philippe Menayas, said “the total volume of the commissions was validated, contract by contract, by the ministers of the budget and defence.” In a statement given to judge Van Ruymbeke on December 7th, 2010, Jacques Dewatre, who in 1994 was head of the French foreign intelligence service, now called the DGSE, testified that “The approval for commissions is the responsibility of services which depend upon the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Budget.”
MediaPart has learnt Van Ruymbeke’s investigation has already established that, in order to convince the Pakistani authorities to choose the French submarines, a very structured network of corruption was established by a French state company dedicated to such activities. This was the Societe francaise de materiels armement, the SOFMA, which partnered the designers and builders of the submarines, the DCN. Van Ruymbeke has evidence that the SOFMA set aside the equivalent in francs of 51.6 million euros for bribes to be paid out in the Pakistan deal. Influential agents working with the SOFMA used the money to gain the favours of numerous Pakistani dignitaries, in both military and political spheres. While the practice of commission payments was then legal for France, the reception of bribes was illegal in Pakistan. Asif Ali Zardari was one of the main benefactors of the paid bribes, according to a former SOFMA Managing Director, Henri Guittet. He evaluated the sum paid to Zardari as being 4% of the total value of the sales contract, which amounts to a value of 33 million euros. “I believe there was one percent paid upon the signature of the sales contract, which means at the moment when everything can get underway and when notably the deposit and [partial] down payment has been paid, and one percent later,” he said in a formal statement. “The remaining two percent was pro rata with the payment of the clients.” But French judicial investigators are investigating whether the Agosta contract also involved illegal payments in France. It was in the summer of 1994, despite the fact that negotiations with Pakistan over the sale were already successfully concluded, that the government of then-Prime Minister Edouard Balladour imposed two Lebanese intermediaries in the contract, Ziad Takieddine and Abdulrahman El-Assir. They were promised supplemantary commission payments worth more than 30 million euros. Both judge Van Ruymbeke and judge Marc Trevedic, who is heading investigations into the murders of the French engineers, have collected evidence suggesting that part of the supplementary commissions was destined for Balladur’s 1995 presidential election campaign. Trevedic’s investigation has discarded the theory touted by the Pakistani authorities that the engineers were targeted by al-CIA-da. He is now centering on suspicions that the bomb attack was directly or indirectly linked to the secret financial arrangements surrounding the Agosta deal. More precisely that it was in retaliation for the non-payment of commissions promised to Pakistanis after they were all blocked by Balladur’s rival Jacques Chirac, after he won the 1995 elections.
Canada to buy Nuclear Submarines.