May 31, 2016

Australian Government Reveals Why DCNS Won

Cutaway diagram of most of the future TKMS Type 216. Note there is space for a Vertical Multi Purpose Lock (VMPL) or two behind the sail. There is also the option of a Horizontal Multi Purpose Lock (HMPL) (the thick tube) in the torpedo section. Perhaps Australian assessors rated the Multi Purpose Lock flexibility as a deficiency (Hence The Australian newspaper mentioned "The Australians told [TKMS] the pre-concept design submitted to Defence at the end of November [2015] was “not balanced” and design optimisation “was not achieved”). (Cutaway courtesy TKMS)

Reading Cameron Stewart’s The Australian, May 30, 2016 article The sound of silence - Why Germany lost its subs bid it appears:

The Australian Government in a document marked “PROTECTED — Sensitive”, gave some reasons for the Future Australian Submarine CEP decision that favoured the DCNS Shortfin proposal. TKMS’s loss was due to:

1.  An unacceptably high level of radiated noise’ of the TKMS Type 216 proposal. This was at a
   particular frequency that was very important to the RAN. This appeared to be while a 216 was
   intelligence collecting close to shore. This meant the 216 had a lower level of stealth.
   :  Australia assessed the Japanese Soryu for Australia (Soryu Aus) also had less stealth

2.  Australia accepted French calculations that the Shortfin would have a higher tactical silent speed
   than the 216 and Japan’s Soryu Aus. 

[Pete's Comment (PC) - A "higher tactical silent speed" could mean dash speed in the operational area as well as transit (with DCNS identifying 14 knots as transit in past statements].

-  DCNS has proposed a pumpjet (generally associated with higher silent speed on large submarines)
   for the Shortfin. This is instead of propellers fitted on past and current SSKs and all future SSKs
   except the Shortfin

[PC Comment - developed pumpjets only come from countries that have developed pumpjets for their own large nuclear submarines. With pumpjets equating to higher silent speeds that excludes Germany and Japan from the higher speeds criterion that Australia seems to have rated very strongly. In the end a pumpjet may not turn out to be viable for the Shortfin's propulsion - then where will Australia be?]

3.  "The Australians told [TKMS] the pre-concept design [like the cutaway above] submitted to
    Defence at the end of November [2015] was “not balanced” and design optimisation “was not

[PC Comment - Perhaps Australian assessors rated the Multi Purpose Lock flexibility as a deficiency.] 

 4.  Australia had concerns about the safety of Lithium ion Batteries (LIBs) being proposed by TKMS and Japan. While DCNS Australia did not publicly raise a LIBs danger issue DCNS in France did in March 2016

5.  Australia was concerned about the difficulty TKMS would have in upscaling its Siemens motors
   and existing 2,000 tonne hulls to a 4,000 tonne hull.

6.  Australia was concerned TKMS cost projections were too optimistic and not reflecting technical

[PC Comment - This begs questions what has DCNS estimated for DCNS hull + and total propulsion conversion and DCNS hull + propulsion + US combat system].

7.  Australia was concerned TKMS projections for the extra cost of building the submarines in Australia were too low and unrealistic.

Please connect with Submarine Matter's April 29, 2016 article on the future Shortfin Pumpjet.



Additional comments from an Anonymous Donor dated May 31, 2016:

The Australian Government’s behaviour is difficult to understand. Australia should not have explained the reasons Germany and to a lesser extent Japan were defeated. The article in The Australian that draws on a Classified Document itself proves that Australia has an information security system that leaks. Japan, is, in a sense, lucky it was defeated because Japanese submarine secrets were less exposed to Australian leaks.

Australia has publicly commented on the alleged noisiness of the German 216 proposal. How is Germany expected to accept such a comment?

Germany sells submarines worldwide. Australia tried to calm Germany, but, the result was the opposite. Germany has, instead, been insulted. Australia sometimes does not understand that other countries may have different ideas. Frankly this is a fault in Aussie thinking.

Australia has not mentioned the poor comparative indiscretion ratio of the DCNS Shortfin as it is limited to Lead-acid Batteries (LABs). In terms of indiscretion ratios the TKMS 216 may rate the best as it would have Fuel Cell AIP + LIBs, then the Japanese Soryu Aus with LIBs and then the poorest discretion with DCNS (no LIBs or AIP, only LABs).

DCNS has the least proven technology. Last year, the French Navy showed in its home page that its SSNs had sunk half of the US Navy ships in a NATO exercise. I think that DCNS had definitely over-emphasized this tremendous (SSN not SSK) result for the benefit of the RAN.


On June 2, 2016 the Anonymous Donor provided additional comment:

The leakages of classified information of the Future Submarine CEP are still under investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). But, the article in The Australian carries yet another leak with serious damage to TKMS’ submarine business. The Australian Government is in a position to show discipline, but, instead it is laughing at the authority of AFP by pointedly ignoring or violating the law again.

Australian journalists have yet to criticise these continual leaks, but instead show implicit consent. This situation suggests another issue, i.e., loss of discipline, which is more serious than the submarine issue, because loss of the country’s discipline hurts values of society such as mutual trust, loyalty and common ideals, leading to loss of the country’s dynamism.

May 30, 2016

Part 2 - Undersea Webs - US-Japan-SE Asia-Indian Ocean SOSUS - 2005 on

The US-Japan "Fish Hook" SOSUS network. Map featured in the Ball and Tanter book The Tools of Owatatsumi (ANU Press, January 2015) Map 4, Page 54.


This continues Prasun K. Sengupta’s Undersea Webs article - the first part of which was republished as Part 1 - Undersea Webs - US-Japan SOSUS Against Soviets/Russia of May 29, 2016

Part 1 - Undersea Webs ended with the initial phase of the US-Japan SOSUS network which concentrated on tracking Soviet/Russian submarines entering and leaving Vladivostock-Sea of Japan. This limited network was permitted to rundown as the perceived threat from its initial Soviet/Russian target diminished in the 1990s.

Part 2 – Undersea Webs describes how in the early 2000s this limited SOSUS (+ with additional sensors eg. magnetic anomally) network was modernised and extended South (down through East China Sea, South China Sea/Philippine and Indonesian archipelagos through to the Indian Ocean) against the new Chinese Navy (PLAN) submarine threat. There were also key nodes at US naval bases at Okinawa, Guam and in Taiwan. The renewed threat from Russian subs and new threat from North Korean subs would also have driven the SOSUS+ expansion.


Part 2 – Undersea Webs 

"However, in the early 2000s, facing an increasing PLAN submarine force and more aggressive PLAN submarine patrols, the USN decided that it needed a new chain of fixed arrays designed primarily to monitor the movement of PLAN submarines between the East China Sea and South China Sea on the one hand, and between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean on the other. Thus was born the US-Japan ‘Fish Hook Undersea Defense Line’ in early 2005 [see map above], stretching from Japan southwards to Southeast Asia, with key nodes at Okinawa, Guam and Taiwan.

Beginning from near Kagoshima in the southwest part of Kyushu, it runs down the Osumi archipelago to Okinawa, then to Miyako-jima and Yonaguni in the southern part of the Ryukyu Islands, past Taiwan to the Balabac Islands in The Philippines, to Lombok in the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago, across the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, and from northern Sumatra to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Three major gaps—between Yonaguni and Suao in north-east Taiwan (120km), between Kaohsiung in south-western Taiwan and the Dongsha (Pratas) Islands (450km) where the East China Sea meets the South China Sea, and across the Bashi Channel (220km) between Hengchun at Taiwan’s southernmost tip and Luzon Island in The Philippines—were plugged. 

In addition, the USN installed a new SOSUS network, stretching from Sasebo down to Okinawa, in 2006, when the US cable-laying ship USNS Zeus [T-ARC-7] operated together with oceanographic survey vessels and nuclear submarines in this area. In July 2013, Beijing claimed that the US and Japan had jointly established ‘very large underwater monitoring systems’ at the northern and southern ends of Taiwan. One of these stretched from Yonaguni to the Senkaku Islands (about 150km), while the other covered the Bashi Channel down to The Philippines.

Thus, this US-Japan undersea trip-wire around the PLAN presently extends across the Tsushima Strait between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and from Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu down past Taiwan to The Philippines. The curve of the hook stretches across the Java Sea from Kalimantan to Java, across the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, and from the northern tip of Sumatra along the eastern side of India’s Andaman and Nicobar island chain. Real-time information-sharing between the US and Japan joins the undersea defence line-up, effectively drawing a tight arc around Southeast Asia, from the Andaman Sea to Japan."


May 29, 2016

Part 1 - Undersea Webs - US-Japan SOSUS Mainly Against Chinese Navy


A steady development of Internet writing on the all platform Western sea surveillance system SeaWeb (often referred to on Sub Matters) is becoming more specific.

Two Australian Professors, Desmond Ball at the Australian National University and Richard Tanter at Melbourne University, produced a major book on how China’s naval forces are surrounded by undersea sensors. The book is The Tools of Owatatsumi (free Download from ANU Press) of January 2015. Using data from the book Hamish McDonald on April 18, 2015 published an excellent essay "Japan and US enclose Chinese coast within sensor net"

Readers may recall Submarine Matters’ How to Trap the Chinese Dragon – SeaWeb’s Fixed Undersea Array, September 4, 2015


In 2016 an increasing level of detail is surfacing on the (possible) undersea sensor array's extension (or pre-existence) northwest of Indonesia in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands region. 

Where all this is going is that Prasun K. Sengupta on his TRISHUL website has reported on discussions at Day 2 of DEFEXPO INDIA 2016 (March 28 -31, 2016) of April 15, 2016 titled. Prasun K. Sengupta's report is excellent (and 7 pages long). So I will brea it into 4 parts over 4 days.

A longer title could also be A SeaWeb (US, Japan, Australia, India) Quadrilateral Developing.

Part 1 - Undersea Webs
[I have highlighted parts and added links where useful]

"A web of strategic projects is now taking firm shape as India enters into closer multilateral military cooperation relationships with Japan, Australia and the United States, as well as regional powers like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Matters began taking on urgency in late September 2014, after US President Barack Obama and PM Modi have pledged to intensify cooperation in maritime security. Following this, on March 16, 2015 the defence ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the end of the two-day 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Langkawi, Malaysia, collectively stated that they wanted India to play a far bigger role in both the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the South China Sea.

In the near future, therefore, under the auspices of the US–India Defence Framework Agreement, foundational pacts like the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA), and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) [see explanation of BECA and other acronyms], are likely to be inked by the two countries later this year.

Concurrently, Japan can be expected to extend funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency for the upgradation of naval air bases and construction of new ELINT/SIGINT stations along the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands, which is made up of 572 islands (of which only 34 are presently inhabited), stretching around 470 miles north to south.

But most importantly, preliminary planning has commenced on a Japan-financed project that calls for

1) laying of an undersea optical fibre cable from Chennai to Port Blair; and

2) the construction of an undersea network of seabed-based surveillance sensors stretching from the tip of Sumatra right up to Indira Point. Once completed, this network will be an integral part of the existing US-Japan ‘Fish Hook’ sound surveillance (SOSUS) network [See The Tools of Owatatsumi (ANU Press, January 2015) Map 4, Page 54] that will play a pivotal role in constantly monitoring all submarine patrols mounted by China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) in both the South China Sea and the IOR. 

(Courtesy India Defense News)

This network will in turn be networked with the Indian Navy’s (IN) high-bandwidth National Command Control and Communications Intelligence network (NC3I) [above], which has been set up under the IN’s National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) project at a cost of Rs.1,003 crores [US$150 million]. At the heart of the NC3I is the Gurgaon-based, Rs.453 crore Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC), whose systems integration software packages were supplied by Raytheon and CISCO.

Oblique references to all these developments were made in the joint statement that was issued last month after the visiting US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter held delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar. The joint statement spoke about: A) new opportunities to deepen cooperation in maritime security and maritime domain awareness; B) commencement of navy-to-navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare; and

3) enhancing on-going navy-to-navy discussions to cover submarine-related issues.

The US-Japan "Fish Hook" SOSUS network. Map featured in the Ball and Tanter book The Tools of Owatatsumi (ANU Press, January 2015) Map 4, Page 54.

 US-Japan Fish Hook SOSUS network [Map above]

The US was always interested in Japanese and Indian locations for its SOSUS stations. Initially called Project Caesar, this involved running cables out on continental shelves and connecting them to hydrophones suspended above the sea bottom at optimum signal depths.

An ‘experimental station’ was established at the north-western tip of Hokkaido in 1957, with the cable extending into the Soya (La Perouse) Strait. It monitored all Soviet submarine traffic going in and out of Vladivostok and Nakhodka in the Sea of Japan.Undersea surveillance systems and associated shore-based data collection stations code-named Barrier and Bronco were installed in Japan in the 1960s. Acoustic data collected at these sites was transmitted by US defence communications satellites to US Navy (USN) processing and analysis centres in the US.In the 1970s, a network between between Japan and the Korean Peninsula was commissioned.

By 1980, three stations at Wakkanai (designated JAP-4), Tsushima (JAP-108) and the Ryukyu Islands (RYU-80) were operational in Japan, along with earlier stations built in the Tsushima Straits and the Okinawa area. The existence of old cables at Horonai Point in north-west Honshu, which during the Cold War led out to SOSUS arrays in the Sea of Japan, has been widely described by scuba divers. By the mid-1980s the SOSUS hydrophone arrays stretched from southern Japan to The Philippines, covering the approaches to China.

After the collapse of the USSR and the decline of the submarine threat to the US in the early 1990s, the USN allowed its SOSUS systems in the north-west Pacific to atrophy, although some arrays were retained in working order so as to support civilian scientific research (such as tracking whales and monitoring undersea volcanic activity). According to a USN directive issued in August 1994, all seabed-based fixed-arrays in the Pacific were placed on ‘hot standby’; personnel would ‘not be routinely assigned to monitor fixed-array data’ unless that data was required for operational purposes, but in practice the probability of being able to reconstitute them to full operational status was ‘extremely low’."

Part 2 is tomorrow


May 28, 2016

CHART of Every American Combat Vehicle (air, land and sea)

Chart is, of course, too small above BUT clicking HERE takes you to a huge version. It was originally produced and is being sold in hardcopy by Pop Chart Lab which has many other great charts. 

Here is a Chart of "Every Single American Combat Vehicle". This includes:

- aircraft/helicopters on top

- land fighting vehicles (middle) and

- navy boats, ships and submarines (lower third)

The vehicles are mostly not to scale - as this would not result in a viable chart.


May 27, 2016

US International Role Keeps Rebalance to Australia Way Below 2,500 Marine Target

 2,500 Marines won't rotate to Australia in 2016 or 2017 - this may not happen until 2020 - if not later. The grand vision for US rebalancing to the southern Asia-Pacific (ie. Australia) discussed between President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard in November 2011 has not happened. So there has been no steady increase in Marine numbers rotating through Australia. Major reasons include Western force buildups in the Middle East, inability to withdraw quickly enough from Afghanistan, concern about Russia in Eastern Europe, North Korean missile-rattling, and Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

Perhaps out of deference to a Chinese company that began a 99 year lease on the Port of Darwin in late 2015, the regular US Marine rotation in April 2016 was a minimal media affair.

The annual 6 month deployment of the US Marine Rotational Force-Darwin kicked off on April 13, 2016. Most of the Marines are from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Prior to the rotation US Navy ships unloaded a large quantity of needed supplies, vehicles and helicopters at China Port-Darwin.

The rotation is part of Obama's envisaged US "rebalance" or "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region. This rotation, negotiated by the President Obama and the Gillard Labor Governments in November 2011, is of considerable Australian defence and foreign policy importance. The rotation is also intended to reassure US allies in the Southeast Asian and South Pacific region while reminding China not to be too ambitious. Another, less visible US activity, is what is thought to be an increasing number of US Air Force bomber and refuelling aircraft flights to RAAF Base Tindal, 320 km southeast of Darwin. The least visible but still significant activity is the ongoing visit of US nuclear submarines to Australia’s Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling, Rockingham, Western Australia).

It may be embarrassing to the Australian and US governments that the number of US Marines rotating is unlikely to increase to 2,500 by 2017 as predicted. While 1,300 Marines rotated in 2014, then down to 1,150 marines in 2015, this year’s rotation is only a slight increase (or return) to 1,250  Marines. Obama had hoped for no return to Iraq and an almost complete withdrawal from Afghanistan as his legacies – but this won't happen. US concerns about the Russians in Eastern Europe, North Korea and China (South China Sea) have kept Marines in more pressing areas.

The deadline for full deployment to 2,500 has been pushed back till 2020. Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has blamed Canberra for the delay.The Northern Territory’s complaints may be more to do with the delay in full economic benefits of 2,500 Marines spending money in Darwin rather than strategic benefits. The Northern Territory after all, was quite enthusiastic about having China buy/lease the Port of Darwin at above market prices.

During the six-month rotation, the Marines are participating in activities and exercises with the Australian Defence Force and other armed forces (including Japanese and Chinese forces) in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US chose Darwin as a place for rotation (an economical form of deployment) for several reasons:
-  Alliance value to Australia. Australia has felt vulnerable about Darwin since the WWII Japanese 
   bombing raids.
-  Darwin is close to major shipping lanes (Straits of Malacca and lesser known Straits in the 
   Indonesian archipelago)
-  But far enough away from the Strait of Malacca flashpoint to defend RAAF Base Darwin 
   and Tindal Air Base from Chinese air/missile attack.
-  The Marines can be part of the defence force for these Air Bases.
-  The Darwin region has low-traffic skies for aerial training and a bombing range near Tindal.
-  There are huge, sparsely populated, interior regions of land for Marine live-firing exercises.
Please connect with Submarine Matters article US told 2 Days After Sale of Port of Darwin to a Chinese Company, November 24, 2015. 

An Osprey in Australia during the 2013 Marine rotation.


May 26, 2016

How to Donate - a 2 Page Submarine Matters Report Each Month


I have been considering what extra service I could provide to Donors and decided to email a special Submarine Matters Report to Donors on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. This will start on  Wednesday June 8, 2016.

My thanks to Donors who have donated the $50 (per year).

Please donate by: 

1. going to the right sidebar of Submarine Matters at  

2. then clicking on the Donate button which allows payment through the Paypal system.

I shall email the Report (a 2 page Word Attachment) to Donors' email addresses.

Proposed topics for Reports include:

-  Southeast Asian Submarine Developments - to be emailed to Donors on June 8, 2016.

-  Chinese Arms Sales to Southeast Asia

-  SeaWeb Developments

-  South Asian Submarine Developments

-  Chinese Submarine Developments

-  Australia Naval Shipbuilding Plan (due late 2016)

-  French and German Submarine Developments

-  Japanese Arms Export Prospects

-  Australia's Submarine Combat System Selection (due late 2016)

If a Donor would like to suggest a Report on an additional topic please email me to discuss it.



May 25, 2016

Submarine Trends since 1990 - Actually fewer nuclear.

The diagram/map above is "Changes in the global submarine market since 1990" in The Military Balance 2015 Chapter 2: Comparative defence statistics, pp: 21-28. (Courtesy the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) London, Febuary 2015).

The biggest changes since 1990 have been:
-  far fewer US + Russian submarines overall by 2014, along with  
-  far fewer nuclear submarines worldwide.

United States

Under the Reagan Administration 1981-1989 there was very rapid US submarine building in pursuit of the 600 ship navy. During the Reagan years alone this included completion of 11 Ohio-class SSBNs and 28 Los Angeles-class SSNs. This rapid building program was in addition to high pre-existing numbers. So by 1990 the US had 125 nuclear = 36 SSBNs + 89 SSNs). No operational US SSKs.

The reduction in the Russian threat 1990-2010 permited a gradual decline in US numbers under the "peace dividend". From 125 there has been a steady decline in SSBN and SSN categories - though a  small rise of 4 in SSGNs.  

Soviet Union/Russia

Architect of the Soviet Navy Fleet Admiral Gorshkov believed that "quantity had a quality of its own" meaning high tempo, post WWII building of nuclear and conventional subs, with very few subs retired. By 1990 the Soviet Navy consisted of a large (Soviet Empire breaking) total of 273  submarines including: 
-  63 SSBNs
-  72 SSGNs
-  64 SSNs
-  65 SSKs

-    9 “auxiliary” (mothership and testbed)

Lack of money for crews, operations, maintenance and new subs led to the decommissioning of 200  Soviet/Russian nuclear submarines in the early 1990s.

Other Countries

In the 1990s many other countries slowed submarine procurement as part of the peace dividend. But regional tensions and some technical improvements have maintained or increased submarine numbers. Rising submarine aspirations of China and North Korea, from a very low base, have substantially added to the numbers of conventional subs in Asia.

Regional Tensions

Have included:

Turkey vs Greece
Israel vs Arab countries vs Iran
India vs Pakistan
India vs China
China vs all surrounding powers (Russia, US, Japan, South Korea, India)
North Korea vs all surrounding countries (Japan, South Korea, US, arguably China and Russia)
Vietnam vs China
Japanese and South Korean distrust (maintaining numbers).
Japan vs (Russia, China and North Korea)
Russia vs (all nuclear powers and Japan)
Southeast Asian nations distrust of each other and China
Latin America distrust and anti-drug smuggling

Business Opportunities 

Arms companies making submarines an essential naval component and political prestige item in all regions.

Some middlemen in some countries seeing the high costs of submarines as an opportunity to seek  "commissions" to provide necessary permissions.

Technological Improvements Leading to Gradual Arms Race

-  Several countries seeing subs as platforms for nuclear ballistic missiles. Ballistic include India, 
   China and North Korea. Nuclear cruise include Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.
-  SSNs, SSGNs and SSKs as platforms for "carrier killing" anti-ship missiles
-  SSBNs as second nuclear strike platforms and for some countries (like the UK) the only national
   nuclear weapon platform
-  Ability of SSNs, SSGNs to launch conventional warhead land attack cruise missiles used by the
   USN and UKRN since the 1990s and by Russia since 2015. Land attack cruise missiles are
   increasingly envisaged by some navies in Europe, Vietnam and maybe Indonesia and Australia.

Air independent propulsion (AIP), nuclear propulsion, and Lithium-ion Batteries have made little impact on overall numbers of submarines compared to the numbers of plain diesel-electic submarines operating in the late 1940s and 1950s. But the size and firepower of nuclear submarines is much greater than diesel-electic submarines.


May 24, 2016

The UK Trident SSBN Debate MAY be settled this year

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon talks to journalist Kirsty Wark (who asks some searching questions). This is 6 minutes of UK Newsnight special on the future of the Trident SSBN. 

For years the UK has debated whether to replace the UK's existing Vanguard class SSBNs with a new set of four SSBNs. As the Vanguards are armed with Trident missiles, as is intended for the replacement SSBNs, (the Successor class) the issue is frequently called the Trident Debate. 

Arguments against a new class of UK SSBNs appear to be rather naive. In a world with countries like North Korea and Iran developing hypersonic ballistic missiles (then arm them with nuclear warheads) some in the UK believe that the UK's new submarines could merely be armed with slow subsonic cruise missiles. Some in the UK go further in suggesting that Russian nuclear aggression could be deterred by British fighter bombers carrying freefall nuclear bombs 1950s style.

The issue is major because UK's Trident missiles are the UK's only active nuclear deterrent. Trident is also an important aspect of the UK's alliance with the US. The Trident missiles and SSBNs apparently cost just 6% of the UK's defence budget.

Another issue is whether there should be a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent (CASD). If a SSBN does not need to be at sea 24/7 the implication is that a smaller force of only 2 or 3 submarines would be adequate. But this assumes an enemy (say Russia) would not spring surprises.

Some in the British Labour Party reason that the rift between the unilateral disarmament Labour Left and the shipbuilding Unions (who want to build new SSBNs) could be healed if the Unions built four SSBNs but did not arm them with nuclear missiles ($50 Billion white elephants).

Oh the idiocy!

The final decision (known as "Main Gate") to build new SSBNs (or not) is meant to be made by the UK Parliament later this year. Trident alternatives, in more detail, are below.

See much larger image here (Diagram courtesy SIPRI and the Financial Times)


May 23, 2016

Turnbull's Vote-Magnet Shipbuilding Promises are Labor Proof

(Flow-chart courtesy The Daily Telegraph based on Defence Teaming Australia advice, mid August 2015). In terms of cost estimates the A$17 Billion might be for a build of just 8 submarines. 12 submarines and the lower Australian dollar, since August 2015, may boost 17 up to A$25 Billion. As most of the submarine build will likely be in 13 years time (the 2030-2040s) inflation could double the figure, hence 2 x 25 = A$50 Billion (the most frequently quoted build estimate). 

Submarine Matters will comment about once a fortnight on Australian ship (especially submarine) building issues in the runup to the July 2, 2016 Election.

After Prime Minister Turnbul's rush of shipbuilding announcements on:
-  April 18, 2016 (Offshore Patrol Vessels, Future Frigates, Pacific Patrol Boats) and
-  April 26, 2016 DCNS winning the submarine CEP, with build in Adelaide

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) Opposition and Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) have found it very difficult to criticise Turnbull's continuous shipbuilding strategy. They cannot criticise the extravagance of the shipbuilding promises because Turnbull is offering money and jobs for:
-  unionised workers (the ALP's natural constituency) and
-  workers and managers in South Australia (NXT's main constituency)

Even the ALP Government of South Australia under Premier Jay Weatherill has praised the Turnbull Government's South Australian centric shipbuilding program. 

The only opportunity for the ALP and Xenophon's NXT to criticise Turnbull was over the already 2 month old decision to have 2 naval supply ships built by Navantia in Spain. A criticism that did not "stick".

So the Turnbull Government is finding building of ships (and subs) in Australia to be a sound Vote-Magnet. But the inability of the ALP to criticise extravagant shipbuilding plans may encourage over-spending at the expense (opportunity cost) of other defence and civilian projects. 

There are two major milestones that may undue Turnbull's nicely played shipbuilding strategy:

1.  as announced April 26, 2016 the Turnbull Government is releasing a Naval Shipbuilding Plan AFTER the July 2, 2016 Election with a “review of the workforce, skills and infrastructure needs” for the “Future Submarine program…Future Frigate program and…Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) program…”. This may well allocate shipbuilding work to States that are less electorally unpredictable than the main shipbuilding beneficiaries (South Australia and Western Australia). That is Turnbull might give more of the ship/submarine section building work to Coalition leaning New South Wales (NSW) with NSW also receiving the submarine steel-making contract (at Port Kembla), And

2.  if the ALP wins the Election its leader, Bill Shorten, may well allocate more OPV and Frigate section building work to the ALP heartland in Williamstown, Victoria. Williamstown should also "win" on its own merits - having proved itself an efficient shipyard in the ANZAC class frigate and Canberra class LHD builds.

Aside from milestones there is a speed-bump. South Australians may underestimate how long the necessary submarine design negotiations between Australia and DCNS may stretch. It may take 3 to 5 years before the Future Submarine project begins to generate a substantial number of jobs in South Australia.

Turnbull may have done well in the shipbuilding program, so far, but the industry can expect some surprises. 

Please connect this with Submarine Matter's Turnbull's Pre-Election Shipbuilding Rush - Table of Ship/Sub Acquisitions, May 5, 2016.


May 22, 2016

Secret German High Tech Submarine Propeller Covertly Photographed

At great personal risk an agent has taken these rare photos of a complex propeller used to power one of the latest German Type 212A submarinesNatürlich the agent's modus operandi remains forever secret. However, so as not to "blow his cover" he may well have used a button camera to take these incriminating photos. The strange small propeller at the end of the 212A's more conventional 7 blade propeller is called a Propeller Boss Cap Fins (PBCF).

An effective submarine is made more efficient using a wide range of small, but significant, improvements. 

Up to a point the greater the number of propeller blades the slower the propeller needs to rotate to allow the submarine to reach the average patrol speed of around 5 knots. Slower rotation is one way to delay any onset of noisy, propeller damaging cavitation.

The strange small propeller at the end of the German Type 212A submarine's more conventional 7 blade propeller is called a Propeller Boss Cap Fins (PBCF).

An open Japanese website explains

"PBCF device was developed in 1987 by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, West Japan Fluid Engineering Laboratory, and Mikado Propeller (Nakashima Mitsuwa Propeller) and it has been adopted by installed on more than 3,000 vessels worldwide. Its fundamental mechanism and effects have been repeatedly verified through numerous series of model tank tests and actual ship measurements from the first stage of the development."

Figure 1 courtesy PBCF website.

PBCFs are small fins fitted to a propeller’s boss cap and are made of the same material as the boss cap as shown on the righthand diagram of Figure 1.

Tests on over 60 ships (and preumably Type 212A submarines) have shown benefits of 4-5% in fuel savings and an increase in speed of about 2% (at the same rotation rate). Without the fins, the flow of water around the propeller generates a hub vortex that wastes almost 10% of the engine's energy. The PBCF may also reduce a submarine's stern vibrations, hence reducing underwater noise. A quiet propeller, of course, adds to submarine stealth.

  This June 2015 PBCF promotional video indicates at:

  0:27 - the Propeller Boss Cap Fins developers
01:10 - why PBCF is successful?
02:10 - testing concept it in a cavitation tank
03:35 - adding PBC Fins efficiency advantages
06:45 - PBCF effects graphs

An effective submarine is made more efficient using a wide range of small improvements. The Propeller Boss Cap Fin is just one improvement that might be present on many more submarines than the Type 212A.


May 21, 2016

DARPA Upward Falling Payloads Program swimming slowly

Above, this chap describes the DARPA Upward Falling Payloads project in 2013. It seems a very gradual program. Below in a 2016 newspaper report.

On May 14, 2016, Mark Prigg, UK DailyMail, excitedly reported about secret pods being developed that will hide swarms of hibernating US Navy drones deep below the sea for years at a time.


More soberly this is the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) Program consisting of pods laid first by US Navy ships, subs, aircraft or by large UUVs. Then:

1. perhaps months or years later if a Threat (like a passing ship or sub) emerges a Trigger (perhaps triggered by passive sonar or remotely triggered from a US Base) will

2.  release the pod (called the "Riser") from the seabed or from its tether. The Riser floats up near to the surface or to the surface and then releases

3.  the Payload, which may be a group of very small UAVs or UUVs then unfurl their wings or fins and start moving toward the Target.

DARPA call the pods 'Upward Falling Payloads' here launching UAVs to follow ships or spy on land targets.

The UAVs and UUVs could be used for:

1.  Surveillance including chasing slower moving subs and ships

2.  Act as (wireless (no wires needed)) distributed communications links OR

3.  more darkly and not official policy, to destroy a sub, small ship or UAVs destroying a land target.

Advantages over much more expensive reconnaissance submarines are that subs may only be on station for a maximum mission length of 6 months (for an SSN) while Upward Falling Payloads can sit on, or near, the seafloor for years.

Nearly 50% of the world's oceans are deeper than 4 km. So another advantage is that instead of only waiting at the 500 meter maximum depth of a submarine, Upward Falling Payloads can theoretically operate down to a very deep seafloor.

There are disadvantages however. Upward Falling Payloads could be:

-  captured and "turned" to operate against the US Navy or against civilian ships and land targets
-  jammed, rendering them useless, or
-  wear out faster than predicted making them less reliable than a submarine.

Here's the actual DARPA Upward Falling Payloads Website.


May 20, 2016

Evolution towards the Barracuda SSN


Submarine Matters has had its first request from a Donor:

    JHM asks - "Can you advise me of the evolution of French submarines that 
    have resulted in the Barracuda SSN?"


In the long term the design of the Barracuda SSN is based on knowledge accumulated by French designers from more than a century of French submarine building and operating. Basic design ideas also come from broader international submarine community. For example, viewing a surfaced Virginia SSN and talking photos might be very useful when the photos are combined with advanced submarin design computer programs. 

More immediately the Barracuda design descends from SSKs, SSNs and SSBNs built in France over the last 50 years See the Table I have compiled below..


(how many built?)
First Sub Laid Down
Last Sub Commissioned
Some still building?

Redoutable SSBN
6 built

Agosta SSKs
13 built
Early 1970s S 620 for French Navy
2006 for Pakistani Navy
Rubis SSNs
6 built

AMETHYSTE rebuild of Rubis
1989 (rebuilding began)

Triomphant SSBNs
4 built

Scorpene SSKs
5 completed
1999 O’Higgins Chile
Sep 2016 Kalvari India
5 x Kalvaris India
1 planned
DCNS designing non-nuclear portion. Brazil building reactor.

Maybe launched in late 2020s
Barracuda SSNs
6 planned
2029 for the last of the six

12 planned
2052? Assuming one sub built every two years

The Table indicates that there are a wide range of submarines providing experience for DCNS staff when they designed and build the first Barracuda.

The Barracuda is only the second SSN generation France has produced so it will be far more capable. than the first generation (th Rubis)

Interestingly Brazil envisages developing a submarine reactor and then installing it into Brazil's first nuclear sub (SN-BR).

Note the striking similarity between the Barracuda's sideview (bottom of wallchart) with the  Scorpene's (second from bottom). (Artwork courtesy DCNS Australia)

Clearly the Barracuda's hull and sail/fin are heavily infuenced by design work done for the Scorpene. Using the same external design has advantages in perfecting such critical traits (without reinventing the wheel) as low acoustic signatures and an efficient hydrodynamic design. 

Lessons learned in the operation of reactors in the Rubis and Triomphant submarines would have assisted Barracuda designers. More specifically DCNS designers and French Naval crews are experienced with the K15 reactor. The K15 has also become a mature design - as it is already fitted in Triomphants - and will be installed in the Barracudas. 

Experience with Scorpenes, Triomphants and Rubis also would have assisted Barracuda design in  less obvious features such as:

-  the positioning of on-hull sonar sensors
-  similar combat systems and weapons
-  use of a pumpjets on Triomphants acting as a testbed before using them on Barracudas
-  proving more crew comfort for long missions.
-  quieting technology including from anechoic tiles, elestic mounts to dampen sound and active noise

So clearly Barracuda technology has been evolving from previous submarine designs. Increasing French Naval experience in using this technology contributes to even more evolution.