October 31, 2016

Russia set to unleash carrier aircraft and SLCMs on IS in Syria


In defiance of Western criticism of Russia’s air war over Syria President Putin is assembling a small armada (fleet) of Russia's only carrier, cruise missile firing ships and submarines to demonstrate that the Russian navy is again becoming a powerful force. Russia’s land based aircraft and missile forces in the Syrian region are already sufficient to attack Islamist rebels. But Russian inter-service rivalry demands (and other reasons - see FURTHER COMMENTS below) the Russian Navy also gets to demonstrate its land attack abilities.

Western forces have had long histories of three or four services (army, navy, airforce and marines) jockeying for position to get the lion's share of elective warfighting. Hence all services in UK and US forces in the Middle East's First and Second Gulf Wars wanted to serve there, no matter the iinefficiencies. 

Now Putin wants all to know its Russia’s turn to show what it can do in the Middle East. Western powers resent Russia's new presence in the Middle East. A particular concern is that Russia, as the second largest oil exporter, should not also have large military forces right next to the world's major oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.


In late October 30, 2016 UK authorities were advised by Russia that it was sending three submarines  from north to south through the Irish Sea (between the UK and Ireland). These subs were from Russia's Northern Fleet, based in the Murmansk region. The subs may have stayed on the surface (in “innocent passage” mode) through the busy Irish Sea, to prevent collisions with ships, boats, rocks, avoid fishing nets and to avoid revealing submerged operational secrets to snooping UK ASW forces. 

The three subs consisted of two Akula SSNs  and one Kilo SSK. The Akulas and the Kilo can all fire Kalibr (3M14K variants) submarine launched land attack cruise missiles (SLCMs) through their horizontal torpedo tubes. They have no vertical launch tubes that I know of.

A sea baseed Kalibr land attack missile see the 3M14K (different reference) which may be approaching the performance of the US Tomahawk SLCM.

The blue arrow points to Tartus (Syria) Russia's only foreign naval base. A Russian fleet may tend to operate just offshore from Latakia (up the coast from Tartus) to be in closer carrier aircraft range to key targets (Aleppo and Islamic State HQ at Ar Raqqah). (Map courtesy Hashmonean). 

The subs are on their way to join the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group which is on station in the Mediterranean Sea, perhaps ready to strike IS in Aleppo or Raqqa, Syria. The group consists of the heavy nuclear propelled (and armed) missile cruiser Peter the Great, large destroyers/frigates Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov and smaller maintenance vessels. 

No-one, this side of military intelligence agencies, would know what the Russian strike plans are. This is talking carrier aircraft dropping bombs and cruise missiles from the Russian subs. Also, in early October, it was reported that three small missile corvettes (MirazhSerpukhov and Zeleniy Dol), armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, had left Black Sea Fleet anchorages, with an expectation they were sailing into the Mediterranean for missile strikes on Syria (and accompanying the Kuznetsov group). 

All of these Russian vessels can get missile and bomb reloads from Russia’s Tartus naval, air and sigint base on Syria’s coast (see map above). The Syrian targets could include Islamic State, the Free Syrian Army,  al Nusra or other Islamist groups.

As stated in COMMENTS (above) for Russia to lay high explosive on Syrian targets the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group is not really needed. Ground attack aircraft already operate from air bases in the Tartus base region and long range Russian heavy bombers have been operating from Russia and reportedly Iran to hit targets in Syria. Russia also has short to medium range surface-to-surface missiles.


The reasons Russia wants to project land attack firepower from the sea then falls to:

1.  inter-service rivalries

2.  propaganda, showing Russia's/Putin's rising military might, 

3.  weapons testing under real operational conditions. Russian testing of its Kalibrs has not
     yet been fully refined. Russia has never used its carrier aircraft to drop ordinance on an enemy.

4.  the West has naval might in the region, so Russia, to a limited degree, wants to match this.

5.  Russian ship and submarine intelligence collection on Western naval forces, and

6.  Russia wants to demonstrate it has legitimate interests, that it will service militarily, in the
     Middle East.

Please connect this with Submarine Matters article Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov may conduct first airstrikes (against IS) of October 17, 2016.


October 28, 2016

Excellent Vietnamese Military (eg. Navy) Details/Commentary in The Diplomat

(Separate to The Diplomat article described below). The above map identifies Vietnam's main naval bases and the major vessel types in them. The Navy consists mainly of Russian built or designed vessels. The (potentially Klub missile armed) Gepard class frigates and Klub armed Improved Kilo submarines are the most powerful units. The TT-400TPs gunboats and Molniya corvettes are locally built. The Navy is orientated toward  low to medium level reconnaissance and warfare against Chinese aggression. This includes countering Chinese coast guard and naval militia "trawler" tactics  in the South China Sea. 


The continually high quality and informative website The Diplomat has produced an excellent 4,000 word (including graphs) article, Vietnam's Military Modernization. The article is dated October 28, 2016 and has a wealth of detail and commentary. The full article includes sections on Vietnam’s defence force modernization, (line, bar and pie) charts on the Defense Budget and arms imports in comparison to other ASEAN countries, Defense White Paper, Navy, Air Force, Ground Force, Missiles, ISR and Conclusion.

The article is by Zachary Abuza, PhD, Professor at the National War College (in Washington DC.) where he specializes in Southeast Asian security issues. The views expressed here are his own, and not the views of the Department of Defense or National War College. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbuza. and by 

Nguyen Nhat Anh is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, where he focused on International Political Economy. You can follow him on Twitter @anhnnguyen93

To convey an idea of its quality, the following is a 515 word extract of the 4,000 word article. The extract is on recent changes in the Vietnamese Navy including detail on its Kilo submarine force. I haven’t seen this quality of Vietnamese submarine detail elsewhere on the Internet.


No service has benefitted more from modernization than the Vietnam People’s Army Navy (VPAN). Vietnam has acquired six Russian-built Kilo-class submarines, five of which have been delivered, and the sixth will arrive in early 2017. That gives Vietnam the most advanced submarine fleet in the region. Vietnam has already trained nine of 12 submarine crews and at least one submarine is currently patrolling without its Russian trainers and advisers. Vietnam surprised many when it successfully purchased submarine-launched Klub anti-shore missiles from Russia. Yet most evidence, to date, is that the ships are spending most of their training time on the surface, with only occasional dives, rather than prolonged underwater training missions.
Vietnam acquired two Gepard-class frigates in 2011, its largest and most modern surface warfare ships. Two more are currently under construction, to be delivered late 2016 or early 2017; these will be equipped with advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities. A third pair is currently being negotiated.
Vietnam acquired two fast Molniya missile attack crafts from Russia. More importantly, it purchased the production license for six more that have already been built, and is currently negotiating the license to build four more. The new Molniya-class will have additional capabilities, including being armed with Klub ship-to-shore missiles, in addition to the existing Uran anti-ship missile. These will give Vietnam the ability to target any facilities China has constructed in the Spratly or Paracel Islands.
India provided a $500 million line of credit to Vietnam for the acquisition of Indian defense systems during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Hanoi in September 2016. There has been no information on exactly how that fund will be used, aside from $99 million allocated to produce an undisclosed number of patrol craft for Vietnam’s coast guard, including the license for Vietnam to begin local production. Vietnam may also move toward the acquisition of the BrahMos anti-ship missile (discussed below), though no agreement was reached during Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar’s visit to Hanoi in June 2016.
Vietnam is also trying to acquire niche capabilities to make up for shortfalls in its existing arsenal. One example is the Italian Pluto Plus mine-identification unmanned underwater vehicle, which was revealed in May 2016. It will assist Soviet 1960s Yurka minesweepers currently, but at the very end of their service life, with the VPAN. This acquisition also shows the VPA’s penchant for integrating older Russian systems with new Western weapons and equipment, and for looking westward for new purchases when it needs to. That being said, the skeleton of the VPA’s armory remains Russian, now and at least in the near future. And attempts at integrating Western and Soviet/Russian platforms have historically not gone well.
In sum, Vietnam’s naval developments to date have been impressive. Between 2011 and 2015, naval vessels accounted for 44 percent of defense imports. We expect in the coming years for Vietnam to continue with this trajectory, though at a slower rate as the new focus will be on the ground force. Maritime acquisitions will continue, yet the navy remains a small service arm that is unlikely to grow significantly.”
See the WHOLE 4,000 WORD ARTICLE at The Diplomat (subscription site) .

Japanese Approaches That Reduce Hazards of Submarine Lithium-ion Battery Use

Japan's main submarine battery producer, GS Yuasa, does not advertise the secret Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) for its new class of Soryu submarines (the Soryu Mark 2s designated 27SS and 28SS). But a budding mole (probably already working for China) would find such LIBs in GS Yuasa's Large "Industrial and Military" (LIM) production division. Above is one of Japan's manned civilian submarines, the "SHINKAI 6500 Deep Submergence Research Vehicle" which, powered by GS Yuasa LIBs (driving a motor) can dive to 6,500 meters.

The safety of a submarine Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) system is essential, just like all systems on a submarine. Submarines, even in peacetime, are full of systems inherently dangerous to crews. Safety for LIBs is even more essential because:

i)   LIBs are a new technology for submarine compared to Lead-acid Batteries (LABs). LABs have been used since at least the 1880s (135 years ago). LIBs have never been used operationally.
ii)  the high energy density of LIBs (compared to LABs) makes them more prone to fire if their 
     design, management and monitoring systems are deficient or faulty.

Drawing on comments from Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) safety experts mid to late October 2016.

In Japanese LIBs for submarines, the manufacturer of even a single cell or battery has to satisfy:

i)    safety management system requirements and
ii)   product requirements.

Only a few Japanese manufacturers can conduct risk assessments and reduction measures for whole systems through a submarine's entire operational life. Satisfaction of all LIBs for submarine requirements needs detailed knowledge and comprehensive prior experience of providing LABs for submarine. This likely makes GS YUASA the appropriate LIBs manufacturer in Japan.

The LIBs process requires intensive identification of risks/hazards at all stages: production process, battery assembly, installation on the submarine, operation (see [1] below) on the submarine, removal from the sub and disposal of LIBs.

Analysis of hazard source, risk assessment and risk reduction are as follows:

i)    Modelling, Testing and Observation to identify and remove potential hazards and/or hazardous
       practices - such as recharging after over-discharging, Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC),
       shock resistance, etc - should be carried out,
ii)   risk should be assessed based on magnitude of effect and probability of hazard source, and
iii)  the performance targets of safety standards should be established and activities of risk reduction
       should be conducted.

In the above process the following approaches should include: Fault Tree Analysis, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, and Safety Integrity Levels.

As an example of a Japanese standard on “secondary” lithium cells and batteries for a ship’s-electrical energy storage equipment is JIS (Japan Industrial Standard) C 8715-2 Secondary lithium cells and batteries for use in industrial applications-Part 2:Tests and requirements of safety Appendix E Establishment of target of safety level and risk reduction.

Secondary batteries (secondary cells or rechargeable batteries) must be charged first, before initial use, discharged into a load, and are typically recharged many times. LABs, LIBs and LSBs (described in a future article) are secondary batteries.


Unsurprisingly Submarine Matters is particularly interested in how LIBs function safely when actually operating in the sub. The LIBs safety experts advise:

i)    LIBs should be operated within a specified temperature range (10C - 45C).
ii)   For lower temperature operation (under 10C) adequate measures, such as environment controls
       should be taken into account at the design stage to prevent thermal runaway caused by a 
       build-up of metallic lithium deposits.
iii)  A ventilation system, fire detector and a fixed fire extinguisher system should be fitted in the
       submarine. Carbon dioxide or nitrogen gas should be used as the extinguishing agent. Fresh
       water and/or sea water should not be used. Carbon dioxide is probably used instead of nitrogen,
       because carbon dioxide is heavier than air and nitrogen is lighter.
iv)   There should be highly detailed and complete understanding of effects on an operating sub’s:
        -  inclination in an aft/fore direction, port/starboard and at diagonal directions (noting the
           X-plane rudders) 
        -  vibration, and
        -  temperature effects on the electrochemical properties of LIBs (such as current-voltage, capacity-voltage, charge-discharge relationships and aging).
v)     As the above mentioned safety system of LIBs is quite different from that of LABs, thorough
        experimental then practical trials of the LIBs on the first two LIBs-only Soryus (27SS and 
        28SS) is very important. Simultaneously, a great many supplementary laboratory tests including
        "stress tested to destruction by fire" should be conducted. 


The Japanese Government and private industry have been methodically analysing the performance of Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) intended for use in submarines for more than a decade. Japan has actually been mounting LIBs during that time into older now-non-operational submarines designated "training" or more revealingly "testbed". LIBs may be the technology area that Japan has the greatest lead over its French (DCNS) and German (TKMS-HDW) competitors.

It appears that recent performance data on LIBs for submarine are kept very confidential by all 3 countries - on Commercial-in-Confidence and National Security grounds. This makes it very difficult to ascertain whether any of the 3 have superior or mature (for use on operational subs now) LIBs.

The US is also be developing LIBs for very small (ie. less than 30 tonnes) battery only Special Forces/SEALS Submarines. It is unknown whether the US Government (and US private industry) would exchange more LIB technical information with the US’s Pacific ally, Japan, or its NATO allies, Germany and France.

It is possible the Japanese Government (or companies) may share some LIBs technology with the US Government/Navy/companies under secret deals.

Please connect with Japan's Lithium-ion Battery Advantage..., October 15, 2015.

-  The LIB safety experts - who did most of the research and most translation.
-  Pete and Local Helpers - some research and translation, the General Background.

October 23, 2016

Estimated Production Costs of Current-Future Lithium-ion Batteries for Submarine

Further to Submarine Matters' Cost of Lithium-ion Batteries One Major Reason Why RAN Won't Adopt Them, of October 21, 2016.

Thanks to new data, we have more insight into the price of Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs).

12 million yen/battery-module for LIBs is a reasonable price, though it looks very expensive. Both operating life and energy density of LIBs are twice as much as those of Lead-acid Batteries (LABs) according to Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD). The price of LIBs actually corresponds to four times (=  twice operating life x twice energy density) the price of LABs.

Translation of Parts of Sources [1] and [2] Produces

"Quantitative Research on Scenario for Realization of Low Carbon Society”
 by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Feb/16/2016, reference 2, page 9.

 "Construction of Technology Scenario based on Structuring of Basic Technology: Secondary Battery” by JST, on page 36, is Figure 2-5-3 Relationship between production cost (yen/Wh) and scale for lithium ion batteries
(Bars mean labor, equipment, utilities (electricity, etc) and raw material costs from top to bottom)

2.5.2 Calculation of Production Cost of Lithium Ion Battery by Sructuring Pocedure
(1) Calculation of Production Cost by Structuring of Production Process

Cost calculations show that the production cost of cylindrical LIBs with annual production scale of 10 GWh is 17 yen/Wh as shown in Figure 2-5-3 (standard case, middle). Raw material and utilities costs in variable cost are 77% and 4%, respectively. Equipment and labor costs in fixed cost are 15% and 3%, respectively. Raw material cost is highest.

Current Status and Future Senarios for Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) [based on Sources [1] and [2]?]

Current (2016)
FY 2020
FY 2030

Ni based battery
Ni based battery
Li2O based battery
Production Scale [GWh/y]
Yield [%]
Energy Density [Wh/kg]
Cathode/Anode Capacity Density
Ratio of actual capacity vs theoretical capacity of Cathode /Anode
Production Costs [Yen/Wh]

Variable Cost
Raw matterial
Fixed Cost

Total Production Cost  [Yen/Wh]


As the LIBs cost and efficiency estimates progress from 2016, to 2020, to 2030:

-  Production (in terms of GWh/y) Scale increases by a factor of 10.

-  Yield increases frrom 66% to 90. [how is Yield calculated?]

-  Energy Density, in Wh/kg, increases from 250, to 340, to 500.

-  Cathode/Anode substances change from LiNi0.85Co0.12Al0.3O2 /graphite  to  Co-Li2O/SiO

-  note that "Cathode/Anode Capacity Density [nAh/g]"  AND  "Ratio of actual capacity vs 
   theoretical capacity of Cathode /Anode"

-  Production Costs (both Variable and Fixed) decline.

-  Total Production Costs, in terms of Yen/Wh, decline.

Other conclusions?

Friend - all the translation, calculations and data.
Pete - derived COMMENTS ON TABLE

October 22, 2016

Israel seeking three Dolphin 3 subs from Germany - perhaps 1st delivered 2027

Israel plans to buy 3 new submines from TKMS for delivery in the late 2020s. They will likely be called TKMS Dolphin 3s. Israel aleady has 3 Dolphin 2 subs (last one to be received 2017) + 3 Dolphin 1s = 6 submarines. (See cutaway of Dolphins above. Note the 12 torpedo/missile tubes (4 to 6 more than usual) to take nuclear land attack missiles. The image is much larger/more readable here.)

Israel's announcement that it plans to buy three new (and larger) submarines will maintain its desired level of six submarines. 

See more details in this article https://www.yahoo.com/news/israel-seeking-three-submarines-germany-report-094813311.html . 


To maintain Israel's fleet of 6 submarines Israel will introduce one (possibly 3,000 tonne) Dolphin 3 when retiring each of its aging-by-then Dolphin 1s. The TKMS Dolphin 1s were commissioned in 1999 and later, non-AIP and derived from TKMS Type 209s. Note - to maintain the six submarine fleet Israel also has three Type 214 derived Dolphin 2s (with AIP). See curret Dolphin numbers here.

The most important mission of Israel's Dolphin submarine fleet is as nuclear armed second strike platforms. Iran is on top of the hit list.

The first of the three new submarines is due to be bought by, or delivered to, Israel in 2027. If larger they could be of the 3,000 tonne class that TKMS is designing with South Korea. Israel's current larger subs (the Dolphin 2s) are just 2,000 tonnes (surfaced).

At a very low "combined price of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) [for the three Dolphin 3s]" it appears Germany is continuing the tradition of heavily subsidizing submarine sales to Israel. This is a German post Holocaust "reparations" policy.

A 3,000 tonne sub could:
-  have greater range/endurance time on station 
-  accommodate larger, longer range, nuclear tipped land attack missiles (probably fired
    horizontally from the 
650mm (or larger)) torpedo tubes.
-  a more powerful combat system with more potent sensors, including passive sonars.
-  longer time totally submerged
-  accommodate more crew to minimise exhaustion and
-  can accomodate larger/longer range/heavier warhead missiles (fired vertically or horizontally).


October 21, 2016

Cost of Lithium-ion Batteries One Major Reason Why RAN Won't Adopt Them

A friend, with a wide knowledge of submarine battery usage rates and pricing, advised in late September 2016:


Japan is adopting new technology Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) for the two Soryu Mark 2 submarines (27SS and 28SS)(see SORYU TABLE  below)  as well as the new Japanese class submarines (29SS onwards).

LIBs represent a major future submarine technology, but Japan may be the only (or at least the first) country that is fully moving to LIBs for newly commissioned submarines (ie. 27SS from 2020 onwards). The increased cost of LIBs appears to be one of the major reasons other navies are not shifting to LIBs.

The budgets for future Japanese submarines (including 27SS, 28SS and 29SS) suggests that LIBs are AUS$130 million (for one 6 year replacement cycle) more expensive than the existing LABs per Soryu submarine.

According to cost calculations (by the Japanese government) of mass produced LIBs, the equipment cost accounts for around 15% of total cost. So the cost of a battery modules consisting of 10 LIBs for the Soryu Mark 2s (27SS/28SS) is estimated as 1.5 million yen. This is significantly less than the actual cost of around 20 million yen and suggests that in very low volume production of submarine LIBs, the equipment cost accounts for more than 90% of total cost.


In constrast the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) appears to have rejected LIBs in favour of sticking with current Lead-acid Battery (LAB) technology. 

When increased LIBs/submarine costs are considered over Australian 12 Shortfin submarines  operating for 30 years, each with twice the quantity of LIBs than Soryus, and considering LIBs need replacing every 6 years, then you get the following estimate:

(+AUS$130 million per sub) x 12 subs x 2 (amount of LIBs per sub) x 5 (replacements) = AUS$15.6 billion higher than if the Shortfins used LABs.

Putting costs in context - assume DCNS proposed the LAB cost for the whole Shortfin program, over the Shortfin's 30 year lives, would total AUS$50 billion. Then assume the RAN used LIBs instead - then Australia would be pay the extra AUS$15.6 billion, hence totalling AUS$65.6 billion just for LIBs over the operating life of the Shortfins. Quite large figures.

But as the LIBs cost reduces with increases in production of LIBs, the adoption of a Japanese submarine by the RAN woud have considerably reduced price of LIBs (e.g. from 20 to 12 million yen per unit battery module).

SORYU TABLE (with earlier Oyashios) as at October 21, 2016

Build No
MoF approved amount ¥ Billions & FY
Laid Down
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
10 subs
¥52.2B per sub
LABs only
 Feb 1994
Mar 2008
Soryu Mk 1
¥60B FY2004
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
¥58.7B FY2005
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
¥56.2 FY2006
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
¥53B FY2007
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
¥51B FY2008
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
No 21SS built
¥52.8B FY2010
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
¥54.6B FY2011
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
¥54.7B FY2012
Mar 2013
2 Nov 2015
Mar? 2017
¥53.1B FY2013
22 Oct 2013
13 Oct 2016
Mar? 2018
¥51.7B FY2014
Mar 2019?
27SS First
Soryu Mk 2
¥64.3B FY2015
LIBs only
28SS  Second
Soryu Mark 2
¥63.6B FY2016
LIBs only
Mar 2021?
29SS First of
New Class
¥76B FY2018
LIBs only
Table courtesy of information provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries,  AIP = air independent propulsion, LIBs = lithium-ion batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen.


So, not only do LIBs present a new technology, with the RAN reluctant to take increased project and operating risks adopting them, but the substantial extra costs of LIBs are a reason the RAN appears to be rejecting the LIB option.

Put against the increased risks and cost of LIBs is the higher fully submerged range and higher fully submerged speed performance they provide, compared to LABs alone. See some related comparitive figures for Collins LABs vs TKMS Type 212A LABS+AIP vs Soryu LIBs. IF a future Australian submarine avoided imminent destruction because it had LIBs then the risks and costs of having LIBs might turn out to be worth it.

Pete  - Some translation and the Conclusions.
Friend – Most translation, all the calculations, data and views.