July 25, 2016

North Korea building new submarine pens (probably)

The new construction (probably submarine pens) is less than 3km from Mayang Do Primary Naval Base on the east coast (see See Naval Bases and Fleet HQs map above) of North Korea. Sinpo "SSBs" might operate out of Sagin Ni (under West Sea Fleet Command) and Sinpo/Mayang Do (under East Sea Fleet Command).  (Map courtesy US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)) For Sinpo class "SSBs" (see diagram below) 

For Background on Submarine Pens (WWII and Cold War) see the previous article of July 25, 2016.

IHS Jane’s, July 22, 2016, reports North Korea is constructing a concrete fortified structure near the port of Sinpo that looks like pens capable of covering conventionally powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBs). I would guess that UK and US naval intelligence have been doing the observing and analysis then feeding the following to Jane’s (the conduit to we the public).

The construction is 2.25 km south of Sinpo shipyard and close to the Mayang Do Primary Naval Base (see it marked on map above), on the east coast of North Korea.

Commercial satellite imagery shows construction began August 2009 - November 2012 with the harbour blocked off by a sea wall and filled in by November 2012. Visible dock excavations have been made and concrete pored for protective slab roofs. 

Two pens are approximately 150m long, 10m wide, and 14m apart. I would say these are large enough to take 5,000 – 6,000 tonne submarines that have beams less than 10m.

Satellite imagery from 8 May 2016 revealed construction on the pens had progressed to portions  being covered with earth. Construction was still ongoing on the front of both pens and a barge was tied to the seawall. The new pier, now 137m long and 13m wide, was nearing completion.

North Korea already has several submarine bunkers, at least some of which are capable of accommodating its obsolescent Romeo class SSKs.

This diagram of the Singpo clas SSB (at 68m long, 6.5m beam) is clearly small for the pens. Maybe 2 to 4 could be squeezed into the larger pen space of 137m long and 13m wide. H I Sutton of Covert Shores has produced excellent artwork, photos and description here depicting a North Korean "Gorae" Sinpo class SSB with two SLBMs mounted in the fin. 


Background on Submarine Pens (WWII and Cold War)

A submarine pen (U-Boot-Bunker in German) is a type of submarine base that acts as a bunker to protect submarines from air attack. The term is generally applied to submarine bases constructed during World War II. Note the open sides.

The Nazis built submarine pens with thick concrete roofs in France (photo above), Germany and Norway. These proved almost impervious to common, garden, Allied bombs. Explosions were fine but penetrating thick concrete was the difficult part.

This is where deep penetrating 12,000 lb "Tallboy" bombs dropped by the "Dambusters" of No. 617 Squadron came in (in 1944 - 45). They penetrated the thick roofs of the pens - destroying the subs and all inside. Near misses resulted in mini-earthquakes - also sub-wrecking. 

In the Cold War (about 1948 - 1992) new build submarine pens needed to be WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Resistant. Due mainly to the danger of deep penetrating nuclear weapons pens-bunkers were preferably dug from harbours into mountains. Doors, were also needed, to shield from sideways flash-blast and fallout.

Hence the youtube below features not just a sturdy roof but a whole town/base complex under the ground, behind heavy doors.

Youtube uploaded by Seth Miller Sep 6, 2012. In the 1950s the Soviets built the Balaklava (in Crimea) submarine pen and nuclear weapon bunker complex (above). The complex was surrounded by base worker accommodation in what was yet another Soviet "secret city" (only authorised entry and not marked on map). The base was decommissioned in the 90s for various reasons including Russia terminating almost all SSN and SSBN patrols. 

Balaklava complex become a nuclear museum with a small surrounding community. But I don't know whether the museum is still open to the public after Russia's takeover of Crimea in 2014?


July 23, 2016

Submarine Matters Articles - Excellent Opinion Piece

Great minds think alike :)

This Opinion Piece of July 23, 2016 provides an excellent discussion on Turnbull electoral and  shipbuilding strategy, as well as steel and original Australian content issues for the DCNS Shortfin submarines.

I’d like to think there was some inspiration from my special report “Australian Election and Shipbuilding” (to donors) and Submarine Matters’ articles (written for free) over the last few days, weeks and months.

Before each of the paragraphs of the Opinion Piece below I will provide a quote or link to “Australian Election and Shipbuilding” (of 13/7/2016) and the relevant Submarine Matters article(s) with the date(s).

Submarine Matters Articles and a Comment
From Opinion Piece
My comment of 19/7/2016 "This new Turnbull Ministry contains an unusually high number of Cabinet Ministers and junior Ministers. The reason for that is Turnbull is insecure. He feels compelled to bestow positions on all the factions and personalities of the Liberal National Party Coalition Government who can bring him down."

“…An unwieldy cabinet of 23 …underline Turnbull’s weakened position and the fact he can’t afford to make more enemies.”

My article of 18/7/2016 “Where I indicated in Australian Election and Shipbuilding (of July 13, 2016) that Prime Minister  Turnbull's imminent post Election Ministerial reshuffle would likely involve:
"However, [Defence Minister Marise Payne's] portfolio, with its domestically influential shipbuilding programs, is now attractive to others, including Abbott"..."Alternatively the centrist (and significantly South Australian) Christopher Pyne may take her position."
The message of a diminuation of Marise Paynes' defence industry power appears accurate. 
Mr Pyne has made unsolicited comments on submarine building policy for at least a year - as these articles on Submarine Matters reveal.
Just announced today (July 18, 2016) in Turnbull's post Election Ministerial reshuffle is Christopher Pyne's new role of Minister for Defence Industry.

“Central to the promise to deliver an economic transformation and the most significant change in cabinet was the gutting of Marise Payne’s defence ministry and the huge portfolio promotion for Christopher Pyne as Defence Industry Minister.”

My article of 21/9/2015 "While the promise of 70% of submarine work in Australia has been mentioned by the outgoing defence minister Andrews in Parliament this is not yet a formal commitment. 70% involves complex costings over a 20 year period. The new Australian Defence Minister, Marise Payne, will be faced with a highly complex $90 Billion shipbuilding situation. 
She and the whole Australian Federal Cabinet will have to:  plan, conduct and complete submarine/ship selections which heavily rely on the knowledge/designs/industrial capacity/contractural clarity of overseas companies…"
Yet on every count there are signs Turnbull’s strongly stated intentions may not be fulfilled, and that includes the central economic transformation of $90bn in defence spending.

“…Yet at the same hearing she would not commit to giving a percentage of how much of the subs would be built in Adelaide, refused to say a minimum would be 70 per cent and said the aim was “to maximise Australian industry involvement”.”

Further from Submarine Matters Articles
From Opinion Piece
From my “Australian Election and Shipbuilding” in WORD that I emailed out to donors on 13/7/2016. “The Australian July 2, 2016 Election result confirms the Government was on the right political track pursuing a South Australian-centric shipbuilding strategy. But it also leaves scope for much instability… The result appears to re-affirm that the Government followed the right electoral strategy in its April 2016 announcements (here and here) that most of the surface shipbuilding tonnage and all of the new submarines should be built in South Australia (SA)… Turnbull in Opposition proved he was not a stayer when confronted with the frustrating grind of negotiation and conflicting interests. The clash of interests now include centrists and conservatives in his own Government. The election results have proven Turnbull does not have the sure hand (that many expected him to have) to win elections.”

My article on Arrium of 4/April/2016 “The steel plant at Whyalla, owned by Arrium, makes “long steel” products - mainly steel reinforcing bars and beams for homes and buildings. 

It is possible that Arrium could gear up to make the few hundred tonnes of steel beams needed in Australia's Future Submarine project. But this would only be needed in the mid 2020s based on the Turnbull Government's plans to delay the Future Submarines build until the late 2020s. For an Australian submarine build, first steel might only be cut in 2028.

The example of any Australian company making submarine steel overwhelmingly involves a fundamentally different type of product, that is flat steel for submarine hulls. 

The precedent of an Australian company producing submarine steel seems limited to Port Kembla-Wollongong based Bisalloy Steels Pty Ltd. This only involved Bisalloy making 8,000 tonnes of steel in the 1980s-1990s for the Collins submarine program. There was research and development involvement from BHP. 

Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) was also involved - see "High-strength steel and welds" here

My article of 26/4/2016 “Collins steel mainly made in Port Kembla,-Wollongong, NSW”

My article of 20/1/2015 “Australian companies approached by Japan may include BHP-Billiton and BlueScope Steel. However the main company Japan approaches is likely to be current naval steelmaker Bisalloy Steels Pty Ltd based in Port Kembla-Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. 

In the 1980s-1990s Bisalloy supplied 8,000 tonnes of hardened steel for the Collins submarine program with research and development involvement of BHP and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

Bisalloy Steels Pty Ltd (company website) has connections to Indonesia (PT Bima Bisalloy), Thailand (Bisalloy Thailand) and from July 2011 investment in the Chinese CJV - Bisalloy Jigang (Shandong) Steel Plate Co. Ltd. It would be crucial that Japanese-Australian submarine steel technology does not find its way to foreign affiliates - particularly China.”
“Turnbull’s announcement of the successful French bidder for the subs on the eve of the election to “see Australian workers building Australian submarines with Australian steel” was at the heart of the Liberal attempts to stave off defeat in several seats in South Australia.”

“What’s more, naval chiefs said the strength of the steel needed for submarines was not produced at Whyalla’s Arrium and only Bisalloy, in Wollongong, NSW, had produced the necessary grade of tensile steel used in the Collins-class submarines.”

More from Opinion Piece of July 23, 2016.

“They also said the same steel had to be used in all parts of the submarine, which could include bits produced in France. Evidence was also given that by Turnbull’s prediction of 2019 for the next election, the design process for the new Barracuda Shortfin French sub would be only three years into its five-year starting phase.

It is possible that even by 2019 it won’t be certain as to what steel will be needed for the hull and the government will again run the risk of going to an election with an unresolved promise to South Australia on submarines.

The government has already given the impression of an all-Australian build, with Australian workers using Australian steel, when it cannot possibly be known what percentage will be Australian made and neither the builders nor the Australian navy can give any real assurance.

But Pyne kept boosting the benefits after his first official meeting as Defence Industry Minister with the leaders of the Future Submarine program on Wednesday, saying it “will bring unprecedented economic benefit to Australia, driving jobs and growth across the country”.

The appointment of Pyne as a South Australian “fixer” to ensure promises are kept is a sign that Payne was not seen as assertive enough and that her cabinet colleagues were anxious. Having made a great deal only nine months ago of appointing Australia’s first female Defence Minister as part of a promotion of women into cabinet, Turnbull could do no more to address the concern….”


July 22, 2016

Intelligence on a Russian SOSUS System

The following are slides describing Russian research company, Morinformsystem-Agat's 

   The MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System in a satellite, strike fighter and surface ship surveillance     network (above).

   The MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System used for Harbour Protection.

The MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System used for anti-submarine detection with the potential for destruction.

In researching evidence of Chinese or Russian SeaWeb systems I thought I'd have to rely on obscure, fragmentary mentions. Instead the Russian SOSUS (fixed passive sonar) system is comprehensively described in slides (above) and description (below).

Instead a Russian arms research and sales company (with online sales brochures in English and other languages) is selling SOSUS systems to foreign customers - which could easily include the Chinese Navy (PLA-N).

That Russian company is the Morinformsystem-Agat Joint Stock Company (JSC). Morinformsystem-Agat has been developing electronics systems for submarines and naval ships for over sixty years. More see http://concern-agat.ru/en/about-us and http://concern-agat.ru/en/about-us/enterprises/morinsis-agat-kip

Here is a Morinformsystem-Agat sales brochure that I retrieved on July 22, 2016]  

MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System

MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System is a group of linear phased arrays of hydrophones mounted on the sea floor at a distance from dozens to several hundreds of kilometers from the coastline.

The signals received by the hydrophones are additive combination of signal-independent noise interference of distributed long-range vessel and local source noises that are located within the system detection range. Having been filtered and amplified the signals are transformed into digital form and are transmitted to the coastal post via the fiber-optic cable channel.

MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System is designed for sea surveillance in the predetermined area of responsibility. The system performs the following tasks:

-          detection of underwater and surface objects using their hydroacoustic field parameters;
-          hydroacoustic monitoring of detected underwater and surface objects, as well as determination of their heading, speed and behaviour;
-          computer-aided object classification according to object noise emission;
-          record and archiving of detected object data;
-          computer-aided diagnostics of the technical state of MGK-608E Passive Stationary Sonar System at startup, and performance monitoring during system operation;
-          automated output of data on detected objects.

MGK-608E system includes:

1. Underwater equipment:„
·            long hydroacoustic antenna groups;
·            signal collection and analogue-to-digital conversion equipment;
·            digital cable data links;
·            mounting kit;
·            single SPTA set.

2. Coastal-based equipment:„
·            computing system with display devices;
·            power supply system;
·            single SPTA set;
·            mounting kit;
·            user manual.

Main specifications

Number of hydroacoustic antennas in the system
up to 60

Antenna offshore distance

200 km
Deployment depth

up to 1000 m
Underwater object classification probability

Object positioning inaccuracy

1.5–2 km
Underwater object velocity determination inaccuracy

Underwater object heading determination inaccuracy
6 deg
Maintenance crew           

2 persons/shift
Service life
10 years

Special features

Efficient detection and output of hydroacoustic data to the operator.

Maximum antenna offshore distance – up to 200 km.

It is interesting Russia is marketing the system so openly.

I'm unaware of a Western SOSUS system being offered like this.


Mr Pyne, Minister for South Australian Defence Industry, Bottom Lips

Christopher Pyne, Minister for (South) Australian Defence Industy puts on a brave face in Federal Parliament during criticism that he is merely South Australia's boy.

The South Australian Adelaide Advertiser has gone the full ten yards in arguing that Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, is interested in states outside of  South Australia.

Mr Pyne, Member for the Adelaide, South Australian electorate of Sturt, has been valiant in co-opting the media in his attempts to appear a national politician.

The Adelaide Advertiser, on July 21, 2016 argued:

"Mr Pyne’s immediate priorities will include finalising the contract with French shipbuilder DCNS to act as the design partner on the submarine project that will create thousands of jobs in Adelaide and around Australia.
His appointment was met with sneers from some critics, who suggested there was something wrong with a minister being responsible for major defence procurements that will benefit his state."
Criticism of a federal politician who has been known to venture outside Adelaide and Canberra, is unbecoming.

As Submarine Matters gallantly argues, Mr Pyne is believed to have represented the interests of Whyalla, South Australia, which is not in Adelaide.