April 22, 2024

Collins LOTE Now Budgeted. Saab, LM & MTU.

The Collins Life of Type Extension (LOTE) has been little discussed of late drawing suspicions it may be cancelled like many RAN ship and submarine projects. However I consulted the Australian Submarine Agency (ASA) website which has recently added more certainty to the LOTE project, budget and all. 

See https://www.asa.gov.au/aukus/collins-class-submarines    

"...Australia's Collins Class submarine fleet will undergo a life-of-type extension (LOTE) at Osborne shipyard in South Australia. 

The LOTE will keep the Collins Class submarine operationally capable and available into the 2040s, supporting the transition to Australia's nuclear-powered submarines.

Budget: $4.3 - $6.4 billion

Timeframe: First LOTE scheduled for mid-2026

Industry: more than 1500 jobs

Location: Osborne South Australia (LOTE) and Henderson Western Australia (sustainment)" 

PETE COMMENT

The estimated range of the Budget: $4.3 - $6.4 billion (Australian dollars) is clearly quite broad. 

Some defence commenters, with some accuracy, claim it is best to triple an Australian government defence program budget estimate due to the many uncertainties impacting multi-year projects. Such uncertainties include:

-  shortage of skilled shipbuilding labour in the "white" Western world generally (meaning higher wages than intended are required to attract labour). No such shortage exists in Northeast Asian countries.

-  higher than expected inflation, which has already hit Australia since January 2023

-  project deadlines not met, part caused by:

-  the Australian defence industry tendency to add many more upgrade items "bells and whistles" than originally envisaged.

So the new "Rule of Triples" ((you saw it coined here first) in Australian budgeting may mean (with 2 years of LOTEing for each of the 6 Collins = 12 years) by 2038 the budget may well balloon to between A$13 Billion and A$19 Billion.

Some might now say - "well if LOTEing costs that much why don't we buy/build a new class of Interim Conventional Submarines?

To which I counter: 

It would take about 3 years (ie. by 2027) for the Australian Government to summon up the support for New Conventional Submarines.

Then 2 years minimum to choose the foreign main contractor (2029).

Then the Build in Osborne Political Reality (ie. no whole sub foreign build) pans out to Signing the Contract (2030).

Then the always slow Osborne build takes 15 years (2045) until first of class is launched.

The 2 years ironing out working up bugs until Commissioning first of class (2047).

Then each successive submarine in the class would take around 18 months (ie. June 2048. December 2050, June 2052 etc).

The kicker is these New Conventional "Interim" Submarine timing realities would directly clash with the SSN-AUKUS timings which may start to be built in Osborne in 2042.

So LOTEing makes sense especially if the Saab Kockums is involved, in part because Saab did the Mid-Life Upgrade of Sweden's Gotland-class, similar to Collins in significant ways. A new Combat System for the Collins, integrated by Lockheed Martin, may be a high price aspect. New diesels needed, probably MTU 4000s, will also be expensive. Submarines are always expensive.

April 19, 2024

Israel's Target List eg. Iranian Nuclear Facilities

Over the last 12 hours Israel began missile strikes on Iran, initially targeting an air base https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2024_Israeli_strikes_on_Iran near the Isfahan/Esfahan nuclear research center 400km south of Tehran. Depending on the Iranian reaction Israel may escalate the conflict to targeting Iranian nuclear sites over the next few days.

Created since the Israeli strike here and below is an excellent explanatory video from University of Pittsburgh Political Science Professor William Spaniel.



Possible Targets

The maps below indicate Iran's nuclear sites. The nuclear facilities in Tehran itself are particularly problematic because they are believed to be deep dug under that highly populated city. Is Israel prepared to justify the high "collateral" deaths of perhaps 1,000s of Tehran civilians? 

Also hitting surface reactors might cause Fukushima or Chernobyl style meltdowns and explosions spreading clouds of radioactive dust throughout the region. In the case of the very large Bushehr reactor complex, on the Persian Gulf, radioactive air and water dispersal might impact populations in the Gulf States including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

Overall concerted air attacks on Iran would increase the world oil price sharply because the high oil producing Gulf States it between Israel and Iran. I filled my car's fuel tank yesterday - just in case. 

Other high priority Israeli targets may include Iran's leading politicians and generals, regular army, navy and air force bases and Revolutionary Guard bases.

Particularly drone missile bases. 

Any chemical weapon production and warhead facilities would be very high priority targets. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_and_weapons_of_mass_destruction#Chemical_weapons
 

Above Map of Iran's highest priority nuclear facilities. This includes the research complex at   Isfahan/Esfahan (from which Submarine Matters' site-meter years ago picked up Iranian reader interest in computer simulations of nuclear weapon explosions).
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See a more detailed nuclear facility map below (Courtesy Business Insider https://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-the-day-iran-nuclear-sites-2010-6 )



Since 2014 Iran has been near nuclear weapon breakout status - with the three components being:

- substantial stocks of semi-enriched uranium (perhaps between 5% and 20%), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enriched_uranium#High-assay_LEU_(HALEU)  which could become bomb grade (90+% HEU) within weeks/months using Iran's thousands of centrifuges and possible hidden laser enrichment capability.

- delivery means - including the Sejjil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sejjil solid fuel IRBMs within range of Israel, and

- enough nuclear device plans and components acquired from Pakistan's A. Q. Khan network to have constructed crude fission devices (minus the HEU and/or Plutonium explosive) around 2006.

For much more Iranian nuclear program history and details see: 


and

April 1, 2024

India Has 2 Stage Thermonuclear Weapons

For some years my friend and long distance mental sparing partner, Ghalib Kabir, have been debating how far India has progressed in thermonuclear weapons.

Ghalib last argued here
on March 22, 2024:

“My sense is Agni V very likely could sport 3 x 60-80 kt boosted fission warheads and a number of decoys. Not a bad start. I did hear 3 is likely the realistic number due to certain pertaining issues (likely miniaturization, warhead design-> yield related issues)

I know you set store by Israel or Russia sharing data for Indian 'cold tests'... however such a thing is unlikely as such a support would be 'too juicy' for known India baiters in the western and local 'non proliferation menagerie' to let go.”

+++++++++++++

I (Pete) counter-argue:

I recognize it is part of the deal India made, with the Western powers, that India (at the public level) minimises its achievements in nuclear device progress.

This was one of the terms the West required when it generally accepted India, by 2010, as a semi-legal member of the nuclear weapons Club.

I have heard offline that there is no way India's top political leadership would permit India's nuclear program to lag 57 years behind India's largest opponent, China's. Meaning it is 57 years since 1967, the year China tested a three-staged thermonuclear device - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_No._6

Boosted fission weapons alone are simply old school, with several downsides. Two stage thermonuclear devices can be miniaturised far smaller - with higher yields - and permit more MIRVs than alleged 3 x 60-80 kt boosted fission warheads.

See https://web.archive.org/web/20171024045228/http://pib.nic.in:80/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=52814  
"The two-stage thermonuclear device, with a fusion-boosted fission trigger as the first stage and with the features needed for integration with delivery vehicles, was tested at the controlled yield of 45 kt and had the purpose of developing nuclear weapons with yields up to around 200 kt [on May 11, 1998 as "Shakti-I" being one of five nuclear tests at Operation Shakti/Pokhran-II] .


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokhran-II#Specifications_and_detonation
Shakti I was “A thermonuclear device yielding 45 kt, but designed for up to 200 kt. The yield of this device was deliberately kept 
low in order to avoid civilian damage and to eliminate the possibility of a [dangerous and detectable] radioactive leak." 

Looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_weapon#India
"After the Pokhran-II tests, Rajagopala Chidambaram, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India said that India has the capability to build thermonuclear bombs of any yield at will." [Actual quote above from here https://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/18/world/nuclear-anxiety-the-overview-india-detonated-a-hydrogen-bomb-experts-confirm.html ]

 


Diagrams courtesy Brittanica.
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Conclusion

I’ve now come to the conclusion that we are both right. The “boosted fission” weapon Ghalib talks of was the Primary Stage setting off a Secondary Sage of an Indian Two stage thermonuclear device at the “Shakti-I” Test. See diagrams above.

March 31, 2024

New NATO Country Sweden's Ship & Sub Challenges

Indomitable commentator Shawn Chung discussed offline Sweden's Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Ewa Ann-Sofi Haslum talking about updates in the Youtube here and below. 

 



The Chief of the Swedish Navy spoke to Naval News on the side-lines of Sydney's Indo-Pacific 2023 and Sea Power Conference, held in November 2023. Like most senior Swedish officers she speaks English clearly. 4:50 in she foreshadows Sweden will eventually order the "[A]30...next generation submarine" to eventually replace the A26 Blekinge-class. She spoke about the challenges the Swedish Navy is facing, especially with NATO membership and seabed warfare. One the latter she talked about the sabotage of the NordStream undersea gas pipelines. 

[Pete Comment: The US has been implacably opposed to these pipelines delivering Russian gas to Europe. The relative lack of West European curiosity as to who blew up those pipelines on Sept 26, 2022 might suggest the country with the motive and best equipment to do so.]

Sweden will be eventually replacing the 73m long Visby-class large patrol boat sized vessel with the future >100m long large corvette sized Lulea-class future surface combatant, https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2023/06/swedens-future-surface-combatant-to-be-known-as-lulea-class/ which looks a bit like some of the designs that were bandied about for Singapore's future MRCVs.  

Little is known about the Lulea-class (which has four ships named after Swedish coastal cities) - the size and capabilities are unknown, except it will be larger than a standard  corvette (over 100m), as Sweden now will participate in NATO naval missions. The Swedish Navy also wants the ships from 2030, which is quite a rush.. like the 6 MRCVs (from 2028), so we may find out at a later date that the Lulea-class hulls could be produced in Denmark, or Singapore, and delivered to Saab Kockums for outfitting. 

Saab Kockums has a three decade relationship with Singapore - The Bedok-class mine countermeasure vessels are Landsort-class variants. Singapore emptied out Kockum's used submarine yard by buying the Sjoormen-class (renamed Challenger-class) in the late 1990s, and two Vastergotland (now the Archer-class) in the 2010s. Saab Kockums also contributed to the design of the Independence-class littoral mission vessel. 

I also reckon that the Swedish government was lining up Singapore to buy into the A26, but the various issues with Kockums in 2014 (then owned by TKMS) scuppered any deal. Sweden basically lost over $3 billion that would have kickstarted the A26 program.

Further Background

Wiki advises "In January 2021 Saab Kockums was awarded a contract for the product definition phase of the Visby gen 2 corvettes by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). These [still patrol boat sized] ships were intended to be an evolved version of the Visby-class corvettes currently in service with the Swedish Navy. 

However, a rapidly changing geopolitical situation in large part due to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and Sweden's subsequent application to join NATO led to the cancellation of the Visby gen 2 in favour of a clean sheet design, the [corvette sized, with many more missiles] Luleå class."

Singapore's MRCV will use IFEP from GE Vernova

Illustrious contributor, Shawn Chung, has commented offline that the power type for Singapore's frigates are improving. The power types are progressing from Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD), in the current Formidable-class frigates, to Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP), in the Singapore Navy’s six-ship future frigate currently called the Multi-Role Combat Vessel (MRCV).

GE Vernova’s Power Conversion business has been awarded a contract by Singapore shipbuilder ST Engineering Marine Limited to supply its Ship’s Electric Grid with Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP) equipment for the MRCV program.

https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2024/03/ge-vernova-to-supply-full-electric-propulsion-systems-for-singapores-mrcv/

The MRCVs are being built by Saab, Odense and Singapore Technologies ST Engineering Marine Ltd's at Singapore's Shipyard probably drawing on the Absalon/Iver Huitfeldt designs. Back in 2020, when Pete posted about the MRCV, Shawn commented that his  personal favourite guess was that the future MRCVs would be based on the UK Type 26 design.

[Pete Comment: Australia as usual made a poor decision in actually choosing
UK BAE's underdeveloped Type 26 design. Like all RAN projects since 2010, the Hunter-class variant is late and overbudget. Not to be forgot BAE is the builder of the equally late overbudget Astute SSN. With some foreboding BAE has been chosen to design and mainly build the SSN-AUKUS. In contrast Singapore always chooses ships and subs more wisely and vastly more cheaply than Australia.] 

Back to Shawn's MRCV - So the MRCV now looks like it'll be related to the UK Type 31 [with the UK Type 31 due in service 2027] which is itself a derivative of the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate but larger. 

The power load for the 8,000 tonne MRCV will be quite high, as apart from a communication system that can simultaneously handle multiple drones (and recharge them), the class will also use large fixed array Sea Fire AESA radarthe larger variant for big frigates and destroyers (bigger than the Sea Fire 500 equipping the FDi) IFEP is still quite a cutting edge technology for naval ships.


45 seconds into the above (and here) Youtube, Naval News' Xavier Vavasseur is interviewing about the MRCV.
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FURTHER BACKGROUND

Gordon Arthur for Naval News, March 14, 2024 reported https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2024/03/singapore-cuts-steel-on-its-first-multirole-combat-vessel-mrcv/ in part:

“Singapore’s future class of Multirole Combat Vessels (MRCV) took a significant step forward on 8 March [2024], when ST Engineering Marine cut steel on the first of six vessels.”…

The MRCV design – resembling ST Engineering’s own Vanguard 130 concept (that is 130m long and displaces 5,000 tonnes) features an integrated mast, stern flight deck, helicopter hangar and twin stern ramps for deploying small craft. A strong candidate for the integrated mast must be the Saab Lightweight Integrated Mast (SLIM), since it is already employed on Singapore’s eight Independence-class vessels.

The MRCV will replace six 595-tonne Victory-class missile corvettes within the RSN, but Singapore’s MINDEF remains tight-lipped about exact specifications and equipment. However, it is obvious that the MRCVs will be far more capable and larger than the six-corvette Victory class that dates from the early 1990s.

Naval News learned from various industry sources during IMDEX Asia 2023 that the MRCV would have a displacement of around 8,000 tons and a crew complement of about 80 sailors, indicating a high level of automation in the platform. Naval News understand that the mothership vessels would feature: 

Leonardo’s 76mm naval gun in the STRALES variant;

·  MBDA’s VL MICA NG and Aster B1 NT air defence missiles;

·  ST Engineering / IAI Blue Spear anti-ship missiles;

·  Thales’ SeaFire multifunction radar (in four fixed array configuration as aboard
         the FDI frigate);

·  Safran’s PASEO XLR EO/IR system;

·  Safran’s NGDS decoy launching system.

The MRCV is set to become the first surface combatant fitted with a combination of ASTER and VL MICA missiles. The RSN is an existing user of both missiles: ASTER are fitted aboard the Formidable-class frigates while VL-MICA are fitted aboard the Littoral Mission Vessels.

The vessels are set to host, launch and recover ST Engineering’s VENUS family of unmanned surface vessels (USV), both in their mine warfare and maritime security variants. The MRCV will also accommodate a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

During the naval defense event held in Singapore last year we also learned that competitions were still ongoing for the secondary gun systems (between Leonardo’s Hitrole and Rafael’s Typhoon), the sonar suite (between DSIT and Thales) and the torpedoes (between MU90 and A244 MOD.3 LWT), among other equipment. 

Story by Gordon Arthur with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur”

March 29, 2024

AUKUS SSNs Excellent Nuclear Weapons Platforms

Unpublicized is the main value of the future AUKUS SSNs. That is as long range strike platforms for nuclear missiles to deter China.

Australia is considered equivalent to a NATO partner by the US and UK.

Within NATO the US shares an estimated 20 nuclear weapons each to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. These are deterrents against Russia. Europe's geography permits these weapons to be deployed on relatively short range platforms, fighter-bomber aircraft, dropping free-fall B61 nuclear bombs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_sharing

Australia's requirements are for much longer range nuclear platforms - to put mainland China at risk. Hence the plan for AUKUS by the late 2040s is to supply Australia with the best nuclear weapon platforms, which are nuclear propelled submarines.

Only multi-mission SSNs (unlike huge specialised SSBNs) are affordable for a middle power like Australia. SSNs have the speed and range to quickly be in striking distance of China's major cities (mainly talking Shanghai and Beijing). This is if China attempted to attack or blockade Australia.

Within patrol areas considerably east of Taiwan, Australia's SSNs will mount 6 to 8 future submarine launched hypersonic missiles (SLHMs - first coined here) with a range of around 4,000km. These would be a generation or two after LRHWs. Missiles China would have a great deal of trouble stopping quickly enough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-Range_Hypersonic_Weapon