May 28, 2020

Great Aussie Convened Survey of SSBN & SSB Deterrence, Feb 2020.

A great new publication for SSBN-submarine and nuclear deterrence aficionados is:

The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey”. Edited by Rory Medcalf, Katherine Mansted, Stephan Frühling and James Goldrick. Published by ANU National Security College; February 2020, downloadable for free at


"Amid rapid geopolitical change at the start of the 2020s, nuclear weapons manifest grim continuity with the previous century. Especially persistent is a capability that has existed since the 1960s: the deployment of nuclear weapons on submarines. The ungainly acronym SSBN represents nuclearpowered ballistic missile submarines: the most destructive armaments carried on a supposedly undetectable, and thus invulnerable, platform.

In the new nuclear age, many nations are investing in undersea nuclear deterrence. In the IndoPacific region (the centre of strategic contestation), four major powers – the United States, China, India [see details below] and Russia – have SSBN programs, while Pakistan and North Korea are pursuing more rudimentary forms of submarine-launched nuclear [SSB] firepower. This complex maritime-nuclear dynamic brings deterrence but also great risk. Yet the intersection of undersea nuclear forces, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), geostrategic competition, geography, and technological change is not well understood. This has a major bearing on peace and security, in terms both of crisis stability and arms race stability.

To illuminate these critical issues, the National Security College at The Australian National University, with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is conducting an international research project on strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific. The project’s focus is on new technologies and risks relating to undersea warfare and nuclear deterrence over a twenty year timeframe. The present volume is the project’s second publication, bringing together the insights of leading international scholars and next-generation experts to produce a comprehensive and authoritative reference. The edited volume examines the interplay of strategic issues, including nuclear strategy and deterrence; maritime operational issues, including ASW; and technology issues, including new and disruptive technologies and potential game-changers in relation to deterrence. 

This volume represents a significant contribution to the field of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability. Its 22 authors span seven countries, and reflect world-leading academic and operational experience across nuclear strategy, deterrence and arms control, maritime operations, and the trajectory of emerging technologies.

This volume will help to advance critical conversations about undersea nuclear deterrence in the Indo-Pacific – a region of intensifying complexity, and uncertainty – and is of value to the policymakers and governments who must chart a course through these dynamics. 

Support for this publication was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York." 


within “The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey” at:
on India are:

-   Chapter 10 “India’s Deterrence Posture and the Role of Nuclear Strategy” pages 36-38,
    by C. Raja Mohan

[Dr C. Raja Mohan is Director, Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is one of India’s leading analysts of India’s foreign policy and an expert on South Asian security, great power relations in Asia, and arms control. He is the founding Director of the India Centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a foreign affairs columnist for The Indian Express newspaper and has served as a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board. He has a Master’s Degree in nuclear physics and a PhD in international relations. His most recent books are Modi’s World: Expanding India’s Sphere of Influence (2015) and India’s Naval Strategy and Asian Security (2016) (co-edited with Anit Mukherjee). His other books include: Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific (2012) and Power Realignments in Asia: China, India and the United States (2009).]


-   Chapter 11 “Atoms for Peace? India’s SSBN Fleet and Nuclear Deterrence” pages 39-42
     by Sudarshan Shrikhande

[“Rear Admiral Shrikhande retired in 2016 after 36 years in the Indian Navy. In flag rank he headed Naval Intelligence; was Chief of Staff/SNC; served in HQIDS and Strategic Forces Command among other positions. He is a graduate of the Soviet Naval War College in ASW weapon and sonar engineering in 1988; Indian Staff and Naval War Colleges and of the US NWC in 2003 with highest distinction. In retirement he teaches strategy formulation, operational art, force structuring, RMA, China, the Indo-Pacific, the Peloponnesian War, leadership and ethics in several military as well as civilian institutions. He writes regularl y for several Indian and foreign organisations. He is associated with the National Maritime, Vivekananda International and Observer Research Foundations as well as the Forum for Integrated National Security. He has participated in Track 1.5 dialogues with China and the US and in a US State Department Indo-Pacific Dialogue and Simulations conference in Sydney. He is studying for a PhD in sea-based nuclear deterrence.”]

These are just two chapters in a much broader work for SSBN, submarine and nuclear deterrence scholars everywhere.

May 26, 2020

Comments on Malaysian and Mainly Singapore Naval Issues

Shawn C has commented on Malaysian and mainly Singapore navy issues below – including Singapore’s Invincible class (Type 218SG) submarines might sport a mix of 533mm and 650mm torpedo tubes. Comments in square brackets [...] by Pete:

Drawing from Shawn C’s comments 1. on May 24, 2020 and 2. on May 25, 2020
1. Frankly speaking - Malaysia is too much of a close economic partner with Singapore and I don't think they are seen as strategic competitors, especially in terms of defense. The last decade has widened the gulf between the military capabilities of the two, and niggling border [maritime, water and aviation] issues aside, Malaysia benefits from a neighbour who is willing to help them in terms of data fusion and ISR, particularly around the Malacca Straits and parts of the SES[?]. [See this December 2018 Youtube Video on maritime dispute].

127,724 square mile Malaysia is very large compared to 280 square mile Singapore.

Some of the Singapore-Malaysia disputes in late 2018

That is not to say that Singapore doesn't ignore any Malaysian 'posturing'. There's plenty of stories by Singaporean National Servicemen of some of the 'mobilization exercises' they've gone through.

Singapore is a signatory of the NPT and does not have a nuclear industry - also no place to put a nuclear plant with a 30km safety zone.

It's a certainty that Singaporean and Israeli submariners have 'bumped into' each other during the construction of their respective submarines at TKMS, but what systems are shared is of course conjecture at this time, and I don't think the Israelis would let sailors of other nations into their super-secret subs. More likely the Singaporean crewmen trained on Type 212 boats.

We know from launch images of the RSS Invincible/Type 218SG [and see Wiki link] that while the sub has a family resemblance to the Dolphin II, the sail is located centrally, there are four X- rudders instead of the seven (four rudders and three fins) on the Dolphin II, and a broader keel that runs almost the whole length of the submarine.

What wasn't shown in the images, was the Invincible's eight torpedo tubes, and it may be that, like the Type 212, they have an asymmetrical torpedo tube layout, and could even be a mix of 533mm and 650mm tubes [like the Dolphin 1s and 2s!], which would make a lot of sense for special forces and UUV use, amongst other things.

Did TKMS torpedo Kockum with Australia and Singapore? The Swedes think so.

Ultimately Kockums was removed from the SEA 1000 project because "they hadn't built a submarine in twenty years". In a What If scenario - TKMS-Kockums get awarded the A26 project in 2010, and in 2012, with some delays, cuts steel on the first boat. In 2013 Singapore signs in for a customised version, so Kockums now has a 4 submarine order book. This keeps them in the SEA 1000 downselect.

2.  [Pete never mentioned any Scorpenes had AIP. Only the 3 DCNS (now Naval Group) designed Pakistani Navy Agosta-90Bs have DCNS MESMA AIP. It was Wikipedia that wrongly implied MESMA AIP on Scorpenes here and in Wikipedia’s right sidebar]. 
You might be interested that the Republic of  Singapore Navy (RSN) trains in the Andaman Islands with the Indian Navy

The Chief Trainer of Submarine Forces RSN, is a Perisher graduate:

Checked up on the Polish A17 story, and I think there's a lot of unsubstantiated conjecture in the article, specifically with Sweden 'buying back' the Archer class submarines in 2023.

The RSN currently operates two Challenger class and two Archer class subs. The Challenger boats are over fifty years old [originally launched in 1968 and 1969] and in RSN commission for twenty years, so their replacement by the first pair of Invincibles is urgent. With the Archers its a little more complicated - they were extensively modernised over five years and have been in service for about 9 years, which means they should be able to remain in RSN commission till 2030 without any major life-extensions needed.

While most commentators see the RSN's intent is to replace the Archer's with the second pair of Invincibles, this won't happen till the boats are delivered in 2024-2025 (not 2023). The RSN may also be planning to expand its submarine forces to six submarines, and keep the Archers in commission while ordering a third pair of [Invincible class] Type 218SG boats for delivery later in the decade.

May 22, 2020

Hanks "Greyhound" Submarine movie on small screen(?) "digital debut"

As usual I was perusing (not WashPost nor NYT) but the higher profile news website of the West African country of Ghana (BusinessGhana, of course!) which reports, May 21, 2020:

“Tom Hanks Submarine Drama ‘Greyhound’ Skips Theaters to Debut on Apple TV Plus...” see whole BusinessGhana article 


This is a shame, because I wanted to see Greyhound (on now COVID-19 cancelled June 12) on the big cinema screen.

Checkout this trailer video:


May 20, 2020

Sweden's Loss was Germany's Submarine Selling Gain

After Sweden made the grave error of selling its submarine maker (Kockums) to the Germans 
1999-2014 the Germans hobbled Kockums submarine export-ability. This was particularly evident in Germany's sale of Type 218 Invincible class subs to Singapore. Singapore hitherto being a regular buyer of Swedish submarines (Challengers and then Archers).

Even since Sweden's Saab bought Kockums back in 2014 Sweden has been desperately trying to renew exports - to such markets as Australia, Poland and the Netherlands by feeding news/sales  updates like  

No Swedish luck so far, although a sale of 2 secondhand submarines to Poland may be in the offing. The Germans, Russians, South Koreans, Chinese and French have maintained a lead in conventional submarine sales, but Sweden keeps on trying.


May 15, 2020

India’s INS Arihant SSBN compared to US Ohio-class SSBNs

In this short Youtube India’s first generation INS Arihant SSBN is compared to the US sixth generation Ohio-class SSBNs.

May 12, 2020

China's JL-3 SLBMs utilise carbon fiber booster casings for longer range

As usual I peruse Beijing’s Chinese language SINA News Agency website for submarine articles. I have translated the article below into better military technical English to give it a wider audience outside China. 

JL-3 SLBMs utilise carbon fiber booster casings for longer range of May 12, 2020 at [I added the links in the text.]

The outside world believes that the domestic “new generation of giant wave submarine missiles [JL-3  SLBMs (Chinese巨浪-3; pinyin: Jù Làng Sān; literally: “Giant Wave 3”] may be equivalent or similar to the French M51 SLBM.
On May 11, 2020 at the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) announced the Selection of the Second National Innovation Competition Award for the underwater solid fuel launch vehicle development team. The outside world believes that this move indicates that the new JL-3 has been successfully developed, and "we have added a sharp sword".
As is widely known the first-generation domestic JL-1 submarine missile was tested in the 1980s, and the second-generation JL-2 submarine missile was first tested at the early 2000s. The JL-1 is nearly 40 years away, and JL-2 is close to 20 years. Obviously, these older JLs would not have been selected for the national innovation competition award. Therefore, the outside world speculates that this award is for the new JL-3.
The key characteristic of the Chinese produced JL-3 is larger diameter. The length of SLBMs are limited by the diameter of a submarine’s pressure hull. The larger the diameter of the pressure hull, the higher the technical difficulty and cost. Therefore, the length of the SLBM is higher than the diameter. Previously, the length of the JL-1s and 2s exceeded the diameter of China’s Type 092 and Type 094  SSBNs. Therefore, their missile compartments protruded beyond the hull, distorting the SSBN’s smooth cylindrical shape. This increased hydro-dynamic noise and drag.
Therefore, a solution is to reduce the SLBM’s length as much as possible. But increasing the range requires increasing the internal volume to accommodate more propellant, so increasing the diameter becomes the first choice. The early American Polaris A2 SLBM was 9.3 meters long and 1.3 meters in diameter. The length of the Trident I SLBM increased only to 10.3 meters, but its diameter increased to 1.9 meters. Judging from overseas data, the JL-2 is about 2m in diameter, about 13m in length, and has a range of about 8,000-10,000 kms (the range of the missile will also vary depending on the payload).
The largest diameter (beam) of the pressure hull of the competing US Ohio-class SSBN is only about 13 meters. Taking into account factors such as technical difficulty, cost and price, the diameter of the pressure shell of China's next-generation Type 096 SSBN should not exceed 13 meters, so the length of the JL-3is estimated to be controlled at about 13 meters. The JL-3’s range is bound to increase if its diameter increases. So larger diameter for the JL-3 is the key characteristic.
It has been speculated by the outside world that the JL-3 SLBM is about the same as or similar to the French M51 SLBM, which is 13m long and 2.35 meters in diameter. The M51 submarine missile can carry up to 12 MIRVs, but in most cases only 6 are carried. At this time, the maximum range is 13,000 kms. In 2019, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation completed the test run of a domestic large-diameter solid [fuel] rocket engine. Its diameter has reached 2.65 meters [see photo below], which has exceeded the diameter of the M51 submerged missile. Missiles are not difficult.
The domestic 200-ton solid rocket engine has a diameter of 2.65 meters, and the black shell indicates that it uses carbon fiber

M51 submarine missile is made of carbon fiber winding.
China’s 200-ton thrust solid [fuel] rocket motor has adopted a number of advanced technologies, one most notable is the large-diameter carbon fiber winding composite material shell technology. This should be the first time that we have mastered the large solid rocket motor carbon fiber winding composite material shell technology. This technology is also one of the key technologies of the M51 submarine missile. It makes the missile lighter providing a longer range.
According to overseas sources, the shell of the JL-2’s solid fuel rocket engine is made of aramid, which is lighter than metal but heavier than carbon fiber. Since the year 2000 Chinese carbon fiber has advanced by leaps and bounds. T800 grade carbon fiber has achieved a production capacity of 1,000 tons, T1000 has reached 100 tons, and M60J grade carbon fiber has also been successfully developed, which shows that domestic carbon fiber has three important directions (high strength, high modulus, high Strength and high modulus) have achieved breakthroughs, which laid a solid foundation for the use of carbon fiber on domestic missiles and launch vehicles. Therefore, it can be speculated that China’s JL-3 SLBM solid fuel rocket engines also use a carbon fiber shell, for lighter weight and longer range.
From here, we can roughly speculate that the JL-3 is equivalent to or similar to the French M51 submarine missile, using a large-diameter solid rocket engine and a carbon fiber shell. In the case of carrying 6 MIRVs, the range reaches 13,000 kms or more, and it can cover the main targets of the strong enemy in China's offshore waters. After this type of missile is in service, our strategic counterattack capability will be significantly enhanced to better safeguard national security and rights.
See the article in its original Mandarin and initial translation.