March 21, 2019

Good March 2019 Youtube Russian Zircon hypersonic missile SUBMARINE launched

Russia's is developing and trial deploying the Zircon (or Tsirkon) 3M22 (NATO SS-N-33) hypersonic missile. It is too early to tell how operationally workable and effective it is.

Its main strengths are:
-  its hard to shoot down or react to Mach 8 to 9 speed at high altitude and plunging
-  reported manoeuvrability, and
-  small enough for many "shots" from multiple platforms

Its main weaknesses are:
-  its limited range (maybe only 400km from a submarine, though 1,000 from an aircraft), and
-  light warhead (maybe only 200kg).

In the above Youtube (South Front, March 6, 2019):

-  4 mins 50 secs in - it can be vertically launched from Russian Oscar and Yasen submarines and
    [may be small enough to be 533mm or 650mm torpedo tube launched from Akula or Kilo

-  5m 22s - could be launched from Russian submarines to hit US command and control facilities on
    the US Atlantic coast. But given Zircon's limited range [assuming US SOSUS, RAP/FDS and
    ASW platforms on the Atlantic coast] this would put the Russian submarines in danger of
    “detection and destruction”.

Russia may be in a joint venture to help India develop a Zircon-looking BrahMos-2 "HSTDV".

Russian Zircon vs Kinzhal hypersonic missiles (Artwork, table courtesy IDA Strategic Intelligence).


March 20, 2019

US nuclear weapons in, around South Korea - including SSBNs

Following Submarine Matters' US-North Korea Missile Issues Much Broader Than Korean Peninsula, March 12, 2019, Josh on March 12 2019 made interesting comments regarding the recent history of US nuclear weapons in and around South Korea. I have bolded, added, extra links and comments in square [...] brackets. Josh wrote:

“US nuclear weapons were previously based in South Korea for decades until their removal at the end of the cold war in 1991. Around the same time, USN vessels also offloaded all tactical nuclear weapons (this would have included the B61 [nuclear bombs on US aircraft carriers]. BGM-109 [cruise missiles with nuclear warheads on US] SSNs, and probably a collection of [nuclear] depth bombs,  ASROC, and  SUBROC warheads.

[See Document A A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea” (2017) at]

It's worth noting the weapons in Korea were probably directed at Russian Pacific Fleet bases more than North Korea; Japan would not allow warhead basing on their soil (though it didn't question whether docked ships had such weapons, unlike New Zealand).

In the current context, the only relevant US weapons that could reach North Korea are strategic weapons or tactical weapons that are based on US soil. So there is no reasonable posture for the US to adopt that would further denuclearize the Korean peninsula. There are of course tens of thousands of US troops in the ROK that could be traded as a bargaining chip, as well as the economic sanctions which are far more important to the [North Korea]. However the US position is that [North] Korea must make the compromises first - which is understandable given how many previous agreements it has breached or worked around.

Realistically the only thing that will change the status quo is Kim dying of natural causes or some kind of conflict.

Document A is very interesting on US submarine issues as they relate to the Korea’s.

Document A is by Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea” (2017) Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 73, 2017, Issue 6, Pages 349-357, Published online: 26 Oct 2017. The whole Document is published at

Snippets on submarines in 18 page Document A include:

“Since [1991] the United States has protected South Korea (and Japan) under a nuclear umbrella made up of several types of weapons: dual-capable fighter-bombers and strategic nuclear forces in the form of bombers and submarines.1

“...In addition to tactical nuclear forces, US strategic nuclear weapons also played (and continue to play) an important role in defending South Korea. This role has taken several forms over the years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, the US Navy suddenly began conducting port visits to South Korea with nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)...

“...The reason for [US nuclear armed submarine] port visits is still unclear, but the timing coincided with the period when the United States significantly reduced deployment of nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Korea. This period overlapped with the years when the United States discovered and attempted to stop South Korea’s secret program to develop nuclear weapons.4...”

“...The SSBN visits ended when the remaining Polaris submarines were retired in 1981, and even though the US Navy gradually built up its fleet of new Ohio-class submarines in the Pacific, American SSBNs have not visited South Korea since January 1981. 

Yet Ohio SSBNs continue to play an important role in targeting North Korea. With their much longer-range missiles, Ohio SSBNs can patrol much further from their targets than earlier submarines. A 1999 inspection of the Trident submarine command and control system identified the SSBNs as “mission critical systems” of “particular importance” to US forces in South Korea (Defense Department 1999Inspector General, Year 2000 Compliance of the Trident Submarine Command and Control System. Report Number 99-167, May 24, 1999, p. 1. [Google Scholar], 1). Except for a lone SSBN visit to Guam in 1988, though, Ohio-class submarines did not conduct port visits to the Western Pacific for 35 years.

That changed on October 31, 2016, when the USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) arrived in Guam for a highly publicized visit to promote US security commitments to South Korea and Japan. Military delegations from both countries were brought to Guam and given a tour and briefings onboard the submarine, which was carrying an estimated 90 nuclear warheads. “This specific visit to Guam reflects the United States’ commitment to its allies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” the US Strategic Command publicly announced, apparently a signal that the US nuclear umbrella also extends over the Indian Ocean (US Strategic Command 2016 Public Affairs, “USS Pennsylvania Arrives in Guam for Port Visit.” October 13. [Google Scholar]).


See the whole interesting Document A by Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris A history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea” (2017) Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 73, 2017, Issue 6, Pages 349-357, Published online: 26 Oct 2017 at


March 19, 2019

France least efficient Attack Submarine Builder - much more than "three-year delay"

On February 6, 2019 I wrote: “France's Barracuda SSN Submarine Launching in 2019 – Maybe at with the text:

“The launching of France's delayed (laid down 2007) first of class Barracuda-Suffren class SSN will free up a good part of Naval Group's design and construction labour force.

...Once freed up the Naval Group design and construction labour force can begin to fully address Australia's huge Shortfin Barracuda (Attack class) SSK Program."

Six days later, Australia’s ABC “France maintains it will deliver Australia's $50 billion 'Barracuda' submarines on time” of February 12, 2019 at includes:

"France's visiting Defence Minister Florence Parly has assured Australia the future submarine program will run on time, despite a similar build project [of the Barracuda SSN] running three years late in her country.

In France, Naval Group has faced serious delays with another [the Barracuda] submarine project, the construction of new 'Barracuda' nuclear-powered submarines.

Despite Naval Group's three-year delay with its project in France, Ms Parly says there will be no flow on effects for Australia's program.

"It's very much related to the nuclear part of our submarines and related to new norms and controls that did not exist before," she said."


France's current attack submarine delay is much more than a "three-year delay".  The US and UK have built nuclear attack submarines in less time. Why can't France? Is France having trouble funding or prioritising its whole submarine program?

Comparing the latest Japanese, US, UK and French attack submarine builds on a time, efficiency basis:

-  the Japanese laid down first of class Soryu in 2005 and launched in 2007 = just over 2 and 2/3

-  the US laid down first of class Virginia in 1999 and launched in 2003 = 4 years,

-  the UK laid down first of class Astute in 2001 and launched in 2007 = 7 and 1/2 years
   and even that UK period to launch was considered excessive and embarrassing with “cost

Compare the above to France’s first Barracuda Suffren laid down December 2007 and not yet launched as at March 2019 = 11 and 1/4 years (so far)

So compared to the most efficient Japanese and the efficient (4 years) US we enter the less efficient, zone of the UK (7 and 1/2 years) with the French being the least efficient at "11 and 1/4 years (so far)".

This French inefficiency does not bode well for France’s next attack submarine build, which just happens to be Australia's future submarine. France's next domestic submarine project is to build a new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) class. 

Australia's future submarine will need to compete for limited French resources with that future French SSBN.


March 18, 2019

Interesting Saab-Damen Presentation on their Walrus Replacement Plan

(Courtesy Saab), the following is an infographic, text and Youtube presentation of some Saab-Damen industrial plans to replace the Netherland's 4 Walrus submarines. Pete has added some background and comments in square [...] brackets.

"How the Saab-Damen consortium will meet the Dutch requirement in replacing the Walrus class

02 March 2019:
See larger, clearer infographic here.

Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group [website] have joined forces to develop an expeditionary submarine for the Netherland´s Walrus Replacement Programme (WRES). 

[Backgound on the Netherland's Walrus subs and replacement here. Pete comment - there will most likely be 4 Walrus replacement subs, (weighing 2,350 - 2,650 tons) in service in the early 2030s.]

Take a look at the infographic above to get an overall understanding of the various steps of the program, or watch the film below. The production process will see sections made in Sweden and then assembled in Vlissingen in the Netherlands.

3 minute Saab youtube published March 15, 2019.

“Replacing the Walrus-class submarines requires a unique approach. Swedish modular submarine design and production techniques coupled with the Dutch shipbuilding tradition bring together the capabilities needed to deliver an assured operational capability”, says Gunnar Wieslander, Senior Vice President, head of business area Saab Kockums.

The Expeditionary Submarine builds on the capabilities of the Swedish A26 [Saab is building 2 x A26s for the Swedish Navy - see some Saab details] combined with Dutch Submarine technology and puts into practice the experience of the Dutch designed Walrus submarine class and of the Swedish designed Collins-class submarine [Wiki] in-service with the Australian Navy.

“The result of the collaboration will be a customer-adapted submarine for expeditionary missions. This will ensure that the Royal Netherlands Navy continues to play an important role in European waters as well as globally”, says Hein van Ameijden, managing director of Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding.

In addition, the Walrus replacement will also benefit from the operational lessons reflected in the Swedish Navy’s Gotland [Mid Life Upgrade]. As a result the Expeditionary Submarine will be equipped with state of the art technology whilst benefiting from de-risking on four submarine classes. Saab and Damen are thereby creating one of the most modern [Saab ("Kockums") Stirling] Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines in the world, which if selected by the Royal Netherlands navy, will be done in consultation with the customer using a ‘design to cost’ approach.

Having secured the cooperation of many Dutch companies, Saab and Damen are set to enhance the domestic submarine competence. This cooperation will also extend beyond the Dutch submarine project, as the two companies see a growing market for this type of advanced conventional submarines.

Both Saab and Damen are based in relatively small countries, which means that both companies must naturally be extremely good at collaboration to be able to operate successfully on an international level; it almost seems to be embedded in the DNA of both organisations. This in combination with a similar design philosophy based on cost-efficient quality and adaptive modularity means that Saab-Kockums is a perfect partner within the Dutch triple helix."

See the original on the Saab WEBSITE: at

March 15, 2019

Russian Submarine AIP project “Suffocating” due to "Underfunding"

"Soumarsov", an expert on submarines built by Russia, has pointed Pete to a Russian language FlotProm (FP) article written by Dmitry Zhavoronkov, dated March 7, 2019 indicating:

The development of Russian air independent propulsion (AIP) for submarine is “suffocating” due to underfunding. [Modern AIP allows a diesel-electric submarine to remain fully submerged for around 3 weeks rather than about 3 days].

Russian companies involved in AIP development, “have suspended work due to underfunding.” According to sources in Russia's Rubin Submarin Design Bureau and the Central Research Institute of Ship Electrical Engineering and Technology (TSNII SET).

This underfunding situation has occurred for 18 months.

The difficult to translate FP article appears to indicate underfunding may delay AIP for Russia’s Lada class submarine (Project 677) until 2027.

In January 2018, industry sources told FP  the Malakhit Central Design Bureau (part developer of AIP) was waiting for funds to continue work on its part of the AIP Project. “More than a year later” [in March 2019?] “the situation has not changed”.

Hard to translate words maybe implying: India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO) might help fund Russia’s AIP Project as Russia’s Lada (export design Amur-1650 )
submarine is a competitor in India’s Project-75(I) for 6 AIP conventional diesel electric submarines (SSKs) for India.

See more on the Indian-Russian Lada-Amur connection in this Russian language FlotProm (FP) article of February 22, 2019.


With Russia's limited GDP, stretched defence budget and inefficient system of competing design bureaus, Russia has had trouble finding the money for all submarine sectors. This means Russia's highest priority is:

-  nuclear submarine development, 
-  then non-AIP Kilo (Project 877 and 636) diesel-electric submarine upgrades
-  and finally a relatively small budget is being shared among competing design bureaus for AIP
    (Lada class Project 677-Amur) development. However Russia has a chicken-and-egg problem in
    trying to export Amur submarines (with AIP being the main selling point) before Russia has
    actually developed AIP. 

Understandably there have been no serious Amur buyers (not even Morocco). Hence Russia has received no AIP development funding from Amur export sales.

India has bought many high priced Russian weapons systems, even part funding Russia's troubled stealth fighter program. But even India's DRDO might hesitate to fund Russian AIP. This is because AIP takes decades to develop and only Germany, Sweden and maybe China have developed modern AIP.


see this August 5, 2014 Submarine Matters article in part on the "Russian Kristall-7E AIP"

Pete (with much help from Soumarsov's tipoff)