July 17, 2019

Losharik's Intentional Flooding and Functions

Many readers would be aware that on July 1, 2019, 14 of Losharik’s estimated 19 crew were killed in a fire (burns, blast, smoke inhalation) as Losharik was in the process of docking in Orenburg’s belly (“moon well” floodable chamber).

Few may be aware that it has been reported that Orenburg’s crew intentionally “floodedLosharik to prevent the fire/explosions spreading to Orenburg. So some of Losharik’s crew may have been sacrificed to save Orenburg's crew.

The details below mainly drawing from excellent articles by:

Igor Delanoë (working in Moscow) “Losharik: drama in the depths” July 10, 2019,

and also

Pavel Felgenhauer (also in Moscow) "‘Losharik’ Submersible Disaster Handicaps Russian Naval Operations” July 11, 2019, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 99, The Jamestown Foundation. https://jamestown.org/program/losharik-submersible-disaster-handicaps-russian-naval-operations/ in square [...] bracket’s :

Losharik (bottom) and above it Orenburg "mother sub" (a "Delta III Stretch BS-136). (Diagram courtesy TechnologyNewsWorld July 2, 2019).

First described as nuclear submarine “AS-12”  Losharik turned out to be the AS-31, deep diving special operations submarine which operates from the belly of the much larger “mother sub”
BS-136 Orenburg  (modified from Delta III class SSBN K-129 in 1994).

What is Losharik used for? 
Using her underwater mechanical hands/manipulators and floodlights, Losharik is designed to carry out many sensitive, often risky missions:

Seizing and destroying submarine cables and tapping the cables with listening devices are 2 of the functions of LosharikFor example...in March 2016, the French press reported the presence of a Russian SSBN sitting on the bottom of the Bay of Biscay.  In fact of SSBN could well have been the Losharik-Orenburg combination spotted in an area where many vulnerable submarine cables are on the seafloor.

[Losharik can reportedly sabotage the US’ SOSUS [seafloor listening device arrays] in the Atlantic [Pete addition: Pacific, Arctic and Indian] Oceans. Atlantic sabotages would allow Russian submarines to break out of their Severomorsk base into the open Atlantic undetected (RBC, July 9).] [Just before the fire Losharik’s][...crew may have been searching for intelligence-gathering equipment potentially planted by the US military on the seafloor to monitor activities in the North Sea.]

Losharik also recovers Russian warheads, other weapons systems and sensors lost (or broken) at sea. For example, if new torpedo or UAV trials fail they need to be retrieved by Losharik before they fall into the hands of a foreign power [Pete addition: probably US, UK or China]. [Just before Losharik’s fire][...the Russian navy itself had lost something during exercises. Another possibility is that this was a mission to test some new equipment, which may explain the presence of a defense industry civilian specialist on board Losharik (RBC, July 9, 2019).]

Losharik can also recover the remains of foreign warheads and other weapons systems lost at sea [[Possible targets for Losharik or other Russian retrieval submersibles could be the] US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone...shot down by the Iranians in the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019. The Iranians gathered some floating debris, but there is surely a treasure trove left scattered on the seabed. In April 2019, a Japanese US-made F-35A crashed in the Pacific. Again, some floating debris was recovered, but more valuable technology could still be found underneath (Interfax, April 15).

 Losharik's many mechanical hands/manipulators, floodlights and additional helper submersibles are evident. (Artwork courtesy TechnologyNewsWorld July 2, 2019)

Technical Details for Losharik include:

Displacement: 1600 tonnes (surfaced), 2100 tonnes (submerged)
Length:            60 m or 70 m (unconfirmed)
Propulsion:      1 nuclear reactor E-17 [details eg. kW or MW, unknown]
Complement:  19 to 25
Estimates Diving Depth:  6,000 metres.

See Submarine Matters' earlier Losharik reporting here.
Pete (with thanks to Starshiy for spotting some references).

July 16, 2019

Australia's Future Submarines Likely To Keep Lead Acid Batteries.

Australian submarine expert Derek Woolner and Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) expert David Glynne Jones have warned that Australia’s future Attack-class submarines could be inferior on commissioning in the 2030s if they don’t use LIBs. This has been reported in more detail here and here

Those countries with “superior” LIBs for submarine include Japan which is building LIBs submarines right now. South Korea and China are likely to build LIBs submarines within the next 15 years.

Bio Details

Derek Woolner co-authored The Collins class submarine story: steel, spies and spin. He has performed contractual services for Australia’s future Attack class submarine program.

David Glynne Jones is an advocate of transport electrification using renewable sources, including those hooked up to Lithium-ion batteries.


It appears that the Australian Government and Naval Group intend to build the future Attack class with old style, but proven, lead-acid batteries. The Australian Government are concerned that LIBs for submarines are unproven operationally and there are safety concerns that LIB batteries have a higher chance (than lead-acid batteries) of overheating, burning and even exploding if not managed properly.

The advantages of LIBs are that:

-  they can be recharged more quickly meaning quicker/more discrete snorting periods


-  can be hold more electrical power than lead-acid batteries. LIBs have a greater average
   charge/discharge efficiency of
85% (see LIB sidebar) compared to lead-acid batteries which have a
average of around 72.5% (see lead-acid battery sidebar). Submarines with LIBs
prudently (ie. always retaining 50% battery capacity for rapid tactical movement
   /emergencies) snort every 5 days or more. Estimates are vary
variable. That would mean longer
submerged submarine operation of 5 days or more. This is compared to every 1 to 2 days
   prudent snorting for subs with lead-
acid batteries.

The Attack class will use an unknown number of MTU 4000 or, perhaps less likely MTU 396 diesels.

The Australian Government has implied that it may adopt LIBs in future. Pete Comment - However this is unlikely for the first batch of 6 Attack class as LIBs require whole new space and buoyancy solutions and new electrical fittings throughout a submarine.


July 15, 2019

Dry "Launch" of France's First Barracuda/Suffren SSN - K15 Reactor?

On July 12, 2019 (Naval Group advises) a ceremony, presided over by French President Macron (above), "launched" the first Barracuda named Suffren. Suffren is the first of 6 Barracuda SSNs being built in Cherbourg for the French Navy. The 6 Barracudas will replace the 6 much smaller Rubis class SSNs (operating since 1983).


The "launch" of first of class vessels (including subs) is a highly political act (hence the French President participated). The first is generally "launched" remaining on dry land (wheeled out of its shed for the ceremony - then back in the shed again after the ceremony) not truly launched into the water. This is for a variety of reasons, including: safety, need for continued assemblage inside the sub (including fully installing the reactor). Many other technical issues (eg. electronics software and hardware and weapon systems) would still need resolution. 

First of class submarines typically take between 2 and 5 years from launch till full commissioning/operating in a navy. Commissioning follows all necessary tests and resolution of the many inevitable technical problems - especially the reactor. So Suffren might not be fully commissioned into the French Navy until 2023-24 if major problems are encountered.


At the Barracuda/Suffren (hereinafter called "SSN") launch ceremony Hervé Guillou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Naval Group, thanked all the entities involved in building the SSN, including the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) and


These 2 French naval reactor builders may have resolved the main reason for the program's delay, ie. the development of the miniaturised (for SSN) version of the existing K15 naval reactor (mainly in Cadarache, southeast France (see map)). See Submarine Matters' previous articles on the K15 problem here and, much more detailed, here. The K15 has presumably been fitted into the SSNGuillou said the K15 reactor will first be tested (run critical?) in Cherbourg shipyard "in the coming weeks".   

The long delayed [Suffren was laid down 2007] launch is reassuring for builders of the Australian Attack-class (was the "Shortfin") conventional diesel-electric (SSK) version of the SSN. Reassuring because many of the hydrodynamic efficiency and acoustic stealth characteristics for the SSK must be first tested during the SSN's full scale submerged trials (which may begin 2021-22). Also many of the Naval Group staff (managers, designers and builders) hitherto assigned to SSN development will gradually become available for Australia's SSK development. Although we must keep in mind that many of the Naval Group's SSN staff will now also be reassigned to the new SSBN program (known as 3rd Generation SSBN - known as 3G SNLE (or SNLE 3g)) to replace France's Triomphant SSBNs (operating since 1997).]

ARTICLE - Technical Characteristics
The technical characteristics of the Barracuda Suffren-class SSNs, provided by Naval Group's 12 July 2019 Media Release, are:

  • Surface displacement: 4,700 tonnes
  • Diving [submerged] displacement: 5,300 tonnes
  • Length: 99 metres
  • Diameter [beam]: 8.8 metres
  • Armament: naval cruise missiles, F21 heavy-weight wire-guided torpedoes, modernised Exocet SM39 anti-ship missiles, [mines, weaponised UUVs and Naval Cruise Missiles (NCM - MdCN) for long range land attack, armed Special Forces - divers using wet or dry diver delivery vehicles/minisubs].
  • Hybrid propulsion: [propulsor-pumpjet with a secret structure, hence shrouded at launch ceremony] and pressurised water reactor derived from the [K15 (150 MW) reactors on board the Triomphant-class SSBNs [see right sidebar] and Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier [right sidebar], two propulsion turbines, two turbo generators and two electric motors
  • Crew: 65 crew members + commandos [Special Forces]
  • Availability: > 270 days per year [K15s need refueling every 7 to 10 years. There is also shorter term and longer term "deep" maintenance for many other parts of the SSNs generally.]


Above is an excellent (less than 7 minute) Youtube with commentary (1 minute, 3 seconds in) by Xavier Vavasseur, Chief Editor, Naval News. As well as the French President and officials Xavier mentions the presence of the Australian Defence Minister [Senator Linda Reynolds] and Australian military.


July 5, 2019

Pete's Foggy Friday Poetical Affirmations


(Noting Bill "Shorty" Shorten, lost the May 2019 Australian Election. Hence "Shorty" was rapidly replaced, as Labor leader, by Anthony "Albo" Albanese.)

A blessing not to see Shorty's
Sad little face on TV

Shorten name
Short in luck
Feet with flippers


Of Hawkie's funereal rapture
He was a man short in stature
But BIG in speedo
Ladies Lined up
Ta Luv’im y'know :)


Here I sit good sense denied
Excess booze last night imbibed.

Here I sit good sense maintained
Booze last night, I refrained.

MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY would Begg-ineth
(with a hat tip to Eric Idle)

Life is like a flash 12 metre yacht on Sydney Harbour. It’s alright if you have one.
My life as a failed pessimist.
Of course I have my faults, but you won’t read about them here.
Writing about yourself is an odd mix of therapy and lapdancing; exciting yet a little shameful.

[Now Stop That! Stop That! This is all silly, indiscrete, and totally lacking in literary merit, OK?! Vee haff a gut mind to permanently delete it under the Read it, Burn it, Then put out our own eyes Act of  19?? ...OK?

But just don't tell anyone its no longer there. OK?!]

July 4, 2019

24 or 36 Australian conventional subs? Baby Boomer SSGNs.

1.  Politicians and the public can count. 

So radically multiplying Australian conventional submarine numbers creates reader interest

Calls to radically multiply Australian submarine numbers and other weapons, is somewhat traditional - seen in Ross Babbage's 2008 "rip an arm off a giant" with perhaps 300 to 400? F-35s and 20 to 30? submarines. 

But if Australia can hardly crew and captain 6 Collins how will we handle the already planned 12, let alone 24 or 36? A more reasonable plan may be 6 conventionally propelled Attack / Shortfin class submarines operating by 2038 followed by 6 nuclear propelled Attack class (aka French Barracuda SSNs) by 2050. 

Nuclear reactors are the only way to make Australian submarines reach the Government’s goal of "regionally superior" as expressed in this 1 page summary from Australia's 2016 Defence White Paper. That is for Australian submarines to be a match for the most serious nuclear sub owning threats (Russia, more particularly China and perhaps, one day, India)

2.  Nuclear propulsion is also ideal to make 4 Australian submarines adequate Baby Boomers” that is small carriers of SLBMs for a credible nuclear deterrent .

An ideal Baby Boomer SSGN would be the superior (whole of life fueled reactor) late model US Virginia class Block V...