January 24, 2023

Suggested VLS for UK SSN(R)s on Aug 2, 2022

See expanded image, by H I Sutton, here. H I Sutton wrote an interesting January 19, 2023 article on Naval News (with image above) in which H I, in part, writes: "Naval News understands that the SSNR [aka SSN(R)] will, unlike any previous Royal Navy attack submarine, have a vertical launch system (VLS)." and many other accurate judgements on the value of a VLS.

Just to note, earlier, on August 2, 2022, I wrote:

"Donor Report: UK and Australian Future SSNs Will Need VPMs

Future Australian and UK SSNs (aka SSN(R)) will need at least two vertical firing Virginia Payload Modules (VPMs). This is because the hypersonic missiles being developed will be of larger diameter and likely longer/taller than the UK RN's 533mm torpedo tube fired 520mm Tomahawks. VPMs will very likely be in US Virginia Block Vs and maybe VIs and VIIs.

Instead the most likely hypersonic missile the USN is likely to adopt and adapt is the US Army's Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) reportedly 880mm diameter (right sidebar) with a range around 1,725 miles at Mach 5+. The USN intends to procure a ship/submarine-launched variant of the missile as part of the USN's Intermediate-Range Conventional Prompt Strike (IRCPS) program.

Peer-enemies are increasingly capable of firing supersonic or hypersonic anti-submarine, anti-ship and land attack missiles over distances greater than a subsonic Tomahawk's. This is a technology driver for hypersonic missiles in the future US, UK and eventually Australian SSN corps.

The RN is likely to adopt the hypersonic missile the USN adopts out of interoperability, commonality, lower development and unit cost considerations. This is in the tradition of the RN adopting US Harpoon, Tomahawk, Polaris and Trident II missiles. 

Instead of 7 x Tomahawks in a VPM only 3 x 880mm Hypersonic Missiles might fit. There is also a possibility that in the more distant future a longer/taller hypersonic missiles, range 3,000+ miles, might need to fit into VPMs.

The UK Astute's current 6 x 533mm torpedo tube arrangement could possibly be upgraded to 650mm tubes (like US Seawolfs) but horizontal tubes of 880+mm with increasing lengths would be out the question.

There would not be a larger horizontal tube retrofitting option for the RN either, as this would mean weakening the hull (with major cutting and widening of holes) and major torpedo room rearrangements, including substantial lengthening.   

VPMs also allow faster dedicated ripple firing in the face of increasing rapid detection by the enemy who may fire new generation torpedo carrying ASROC missiles in response. 

Also perhaps 2 of a UK SSN's 6 torpedo tubes may need to carry torpedoes leaving just 4 tubes for missiles, with the need for follow-on reloading.

VPMs can also be adapted to handle Diver/Special Forces stores, rapid diver access, diver delivery vehicles and also large UUVs better than horizontal arrangements. Whether buying US Virginia Block Vs or UK SSN(R)s Australian SSN selectors would do well to include VPMs."


On January 7, 2023 I wrote "US Nuclear Weapon Sharing Under AUKUS? Addition." at https://gentleseas.blogspot.com/2023/01/us-nuclear-weapon-sharing-under-aukus.html

which included:

"Regarding SSN platforms 4 or perhaps 12 (3 per Virginia Payload Tube (VPT)) vertically launched hypersonic missiles, called Long-Range Hypersonic Weapons (LRHWs), could be carried on each SSN. LRHWs, with a range of 3,000km, may be deployed by the US Army as early as 2023 and on USN Virginia SSNs by the late 2020s. UK SSN(R)s, maybe available in the 2040s, might also be armed with 4 VPTs (hence 12 hypersonic missiles)."

January 17, 2023

Nuclear Ambiguity Beats the MAPW, CND & NPT Any Day

Hi French Anonymous. Concerning your January 15, 2023 comment:

We of the RO-NW-WG thank you for detailing the special nature of the French-Israeli nuclear and conventional weapons relationship in the 1950s to 1962. I also suspect that many from the Jewish diaspora who had been working in France’s civil and military nuclear industry has shifted to Israel by 1962.

US intelligence was aware of all of this French help from many sources (French, Israeli, Jewish diaspora, human and technical) as early as the late 1940s. This is even though the official fiction still exists that US inspectors were "fooled" in the 1960s by hastily constructed brick walls in odd places within what the US knew to be Israel's “Dimona”-Negev nuclear weapons, HEU and Pu "factory" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimon_Peres_Negev_Nuclear_Research_Center#Inspections

I won’t even go into US foreknowledge of India’s 1998 test program https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokhran-II except to say the US was quite happy that India was developing weapons to almost match those of the mutual Indo-US enemy, ie. China.

As you say the US was too distracted by Vietnam in the 1960s to enforce any Israeli non-proliferation. Also with the Soviets sponsoring the “frontline Arab states” (eg. Egypt and Syria) against Israel, Israel’s enemies were generally America’s enemies (still are).

The NPT from the late 1960s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons#Israel changed little of what the (US, UK, Western European and Soviet) intelligence world already new since the 1950s about Israel’s nascent nuclear weapons program. That program included French supplied aircraft (Mystère IV nuclear fighter bombers protected by Mirage IIIs) and Jericho I SRBMs onwards.

Yes Israel’s nuclear ambiguity permitted plausible denial of what every major intelligence agency (and their governments) knew about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. 

Nuclear ambiguity permitting Western plausible deniability beats Australia's MAPW, the CND and NPT (that the little nuclear have nots mistakenly trust) any day.

January 16, 2023

Terrorism Suspect: Heathrow Uranium Seizure

The Guardian, January 16, 2023, reports 

"Man arrested on suspicion of terror offence after Heathrow uranium seizure"

"[UK] Police launched investigation after traces of radioactive element found in material at the airport in December [2022].

The man was arrested after counter-terrorism officers searched an address in Cheshire on Saturday, on suspicion of an offence under section 9 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which covers the making and possession of radioactive devices…”

Pete Comment

The man's package (in the aircraft hold not on him?) from Pakistan, via Oman, to the UK, carried a "trace amount" (less than 100 grams?) of Uranium. See video here and above.

It sounds likely the man arrested is a Muslim, hence terrorism is immediately suspected.

Does he work in the Uranium mining industry? 

Muslim majority countries with large Uranium mining industries (a country that extracts more than 1,000 tonne/year) include Niger, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan mined an estimated 45 tonnes of (non-enriched) Uranium in 2021.

The main risk from a large quantity (1+kg) of HEU is a radiological "dirty" bomb While a better known nuclear fission bomb usually consists of several kgs of 90+% HEU and other booster substances. 

January 12, 2023

Japanese VLS Submarines?: Nuclear Warhead Tendency


Looking at Wispywood2344's article below, my own research and here. Japan has begun a research program of SSK submarine firing land attack missiles (categorised as "cruise" "ballistic" "hypersonic" "standoff" or a combination in one or two missiles). Japan's research extends to launch by torpedo tube (in the Israeli Dolphin SSK or UK Astute SSN fashion) or possibly vertically launched systems (VLS).

If 533mm torpedo tube fired Japan's existing Soryu and Taigei class SSKs, which already fire torpedoes, ASMs and mines, could be retrofitted (say within the next 5 years = 2028) to fire land attack missiles.  

If the Japanese Government decides on VLS this may be:

A.  by new post Taigei-class SSKs, less likely to carry nuclear warheads. Japan's practice of usually building 10 SSKs per class, tends to indicate a new class, which may have VLS, would be laid down in 2029 with commissioning in 2034.


B.  for a dedicated hypersonic/ballistic missile carrying SSK known as a conventional submarine with ballistic missiles (SSB) more likely carrying a nuclear warhead option from the late 2030s. My reasoning being "Why would South Korea (SK) and Japan go to the expense of building a class of SSBs if their principal weapon, hypersonic/ballistic missiles, are merely conventionally armed" and "For a nuclear armed target country (eg. NK) SK and Japanese missiles would be considered "nuclear/conventional warhead ambiguous" and in any case would prompt "NK to use its nuclear weapons or risk losing them - leading to an NK nuclear response". 

Either A. or B. could be useful for pre-emptive or second strikes against military or command targets in China, Russia (and islands owned by either) or more likely against North Korea (NK).

Japan's VLS study has an element of design-capability competition with South Korea's KSS-III SSBs, including the tendency of SSBs to be nuclear armed. Noting  it is highly unlikely that South Korea would ever by Japan's target. 

As conjectured above a Japanese SSB would tend towards eventually carrying nuclear warheads. Or Japanese SSBs would be further encouragement for the US to maintain its existing (though increasingly unlikely) nuclear umbrella protecting Japan.

See varying US attitudes, over time, to the possibility of South Korean and also Japanese nuclear weapon programs right up to 2016 https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/henry-kissinger-nuclear-vault/2017-03-22/stopping-korea-going-nuclear-part-i


Wispywood2344, on Jan 8 2023 commented:

The Japanese government has decided to make a major military build-up and has declared that the defense budget for FY2023 will be 27% higher than in FY2022. [1]

It also announced a policy of developing weapons such as [medium-long ranged] standoff missiles.

Here, I would like to introduce matters related to submarines. 

(A) Development of [Japanese] VLS-equipped submarines [4] 

(B) Submarine-launched missiles

Two types of cruise missiles will be developed.

One will be launched from a torpedo tube and probably fly at subsonic speeds. [5][9]

The other will probably be launched from a VLS and fly at hypersonic speeds. [2]

The latter has a land-launched version, reportedly has a range of 2000-3000 km. [8][10]

 (C) Procurement of new torpedoes

The quieter version of the Type 18 torpedo. [3]

The development project to apply a new turbine engine has been underway since FY2018 and will be completed as planned. [8] 

(D) Research on UUV control technology

Establish target detection, class identification, motion analysis technology using passive sonar onboard UUVs, automatic obstacle avoidance technology, and position control technology using inter-UUV underwater communication. [7]

For new information on standoff missiles such as HGM, please refer to the list I prepared if you are interested. [11]

[1] FY Reiwa05(2023) Defense Programs and Budget of Japan


[2] ibid.


*Look at a submarine firing "極超音速誘導弾" (Hypersonic Cruise Missile).

[3] ibid. 


[4] Defense Force Development Plan : Composition of the JSDF


[5] FY Reiwa04(2022) preliminary project evaluation : Submarine launched missile


[6] FY Reiwa04(2022) preliminary project evaluation : Research on hypersonic cruise missile


[7] FY Reiwa04(2022) preliminary project evaluation : Research on UUV control technology 


[8] FY Heisei28 (2017) preliminary project evaluation : New torpedo equipped with silent engine


[9] Summary of Proceedings of the 43rd Expert Committee on Policy Evaluation of the MoD


*An outside expert asked about the missile's launcher, and the official replied "Conventional torpedo tube is considered".

[10] Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) [article translates as it is in html] : Long-range missiles will be deployed in phases "in 5 years" and "in 10 years".


[11] http://blog.livedoor.jp/wispywood2344/others/Japanese_Stand_Off_Missile_Development.html

Australian Nuclear Deterrent: French Missile Help?

The Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) carries a very interesting article: French “Arianespace Increases Engagement With Australian Industry” of January 11, 2023.


French-Australian space cooperation would be a useful addition to Australia’s very long range military missile prospects. This would be an alternative to Australia’s Abbot Point (Gilmour) Spaceport project which is heavily US orientated. 

It is significant that civilian ArieneSpace’s military associate is French ArianeGroup which designed France’s latest M51 SLBM – basically a submarine launched ICBM. 

France Helping Israel

The extent of French booster/missile help to Israel might have possibilities for Australia.  Going back to the early 1960s a past generation of French dual civilian-military rocket/missile technologists, working for Dassault, assisted Israel with the Syria-Egypt targeted Jericho I SRBM and Israel’s nascent satellite launch industry. 

Covert French contractor assistance later contributed to Israel’s:

Jericho II MRBM within range of Arab, Turkish and, of course, Iranian targets, 


–  Jericho III ICBM which entered service in 2011, with possible targets including Pakistan, Russia and China.

The Jericho III has booster commonalities to Israel's Shavit 2 space launch vehicle, which, launched in Israel, can deploy large Low Earth Orbiting military satellites. 

Australia is already experiencing the US’s typical mixed-message, indecisive signals that it won't supply Virginia SSNs. This signals that Australia cannot rely on the US to assist in the more politically difficult Australian nuclear weapon capability. 

The US has an unpredictable and inconsistent non-proliferation position  versus de facto acceptance of new nuclear weapon "haves" (eg. India and Israel) record to uphold.

Israel and France’s nuclear weapon industry (less reliant on US Anglosphere direction) might assist an Australian ICBM, SSK or SSN hypersonic missile and aircraft delivered nuclear weapon program. 

In that regard Australia can barter secure re-entry landing and other testing services at Woomera, other space observation facilities, submarine communication facilities and Uranium as part “payment” for French-Israeli assistance.

January 8, 2023

Helicopters Collide : Australian Gold Coast

As well as subs and other weapons this blog covers major transport mishaps. jbmoore from Texas kindly drew my attention to the video, here and above, concerning the tragic Australian Gold Coast, Queensland, Helicopter Collision of Jan 2, 2023. 

The video by California pilot/air safety analyst Juan Browne, provides vastly more detail than has been provided by the Australian mainstream media to Australians.

Particularly note:

3:56 onwards "was there anything different on the day of the accident

regarding the [helicopter = "helo"] landing patterns and take-off patterns"

4:40 both helos were in respective pilot "blind spots" (in part caused by new, unfamiliar seating arrangements, in the NEW helos the pilots were probably getting used to)

5:57 a view that was screened on Aus media

8:07 the blind spot problem is well known in the helo industry generally

Both helos seemed to be flying too low (eg. below the height of the tallest buildings around them) for "ADSB" navigation network which could have alerted air traffic controllers and the pilots to the oncoming crash.

9:30 did the helo flights, every 5-10 minutes, represent too high a number of air movements, leading to lapses in inter-helicopter communication, lower  "situational awareness" and too high a workload for the pilots?

10:00 Juan Browne raises many other questions and issues.