April 27, 2012

Agni V's first test - in April 2012

Rather chilling but informative youtube of the Agni V including its launch characteristics.

The inner circle (above) represents Agni II's range, middle Agni III's extended range and outer (probably) Agni V's average range.

see report of Agni V's second test - of September 15, 2013 - at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/a-second-agni-5-test-any-mirv.html

The first test of Agni V on April 19,  2012 from Wheeler Island, Orissa, India, is to a degree domestically aimed at justifying the high expense of missile development to the broader Indian Government (which has many competing interests for the money spent) and the public. The launch is a genuine source of pride for many in India and concern in Pakistan and China. Information on the Agni V ICBM (defined as 5,500+km range) test was highly detailed. Almost all parametres except multiple independently targetted reentry vehicle (MIRV) separation may have been tested.

The Agni V is arguably an Agni III with a third stage. The Agni V range may be 5,000 km with a 1,500 kg (3 RVs MIRVed) payload and (reportedly) 8,000 km with a 500 kg (one RV) payload. An Agni V could boost a 500 kg thermonuclear warhead to most of Western Europe, all of China and Japan and central Australia (just over Pine Gap, next to Alice Springs).

Agni V is specifically designed to have an average (probably 1,000 kg payload) range to strike all of China. While Agni V is vulnerable to satellite tracking its high mobility (on TELs and rail-carriages) gives it a second and first strike capability.

One of several reasons for developing the Agni V is as a response to China's similar weight, highly land mobile DF-21. While the DF-21 has an estimated range of only 3,000 km, when placed near the China-India border a DF-21 could hit all targets in India. In contrast an Agni V on the Indian side of the same border needs to boost warheads the length of China (5,000 km) to hit Beijing and Shanghai.

India's planned SLBMs in indigenous SSBNs will eventually provide the most survivable second and first strike option. Notably the US, France and UK have steadily shifted the majority of their active nuclear warheads to SSBNs over the last 30 years.

India's SLBMs from the defendable waters of the Indian Ocean will need a range of at least 6,500 km to hit any target in China. India's proposed plan of fitting 3 - 5,000 km range navalised Agni III SLBMs to its future SSBNs would require these SSBNs to transit the dangerous chokepoints in the Indonesian Archipelago to get within range. Chinese SSNs may guard these chokepoints. These high SLBM strategic and technical requirements in part explain why India at present is emphasising the land mobile Agni V component of its evolving nuclear triad.

Shorter range Prithvi  and Agni I and II missiles encompass Pakistan but Agni III+ are needed to reach much of China and Agni V all of China. The proposed future Surya ICBM class (Agni is just marginally and ICBM) will be able to hit any targets on the planet particularly other nuclear powers.

On MIRV? - See this page on Defence Forum of India . On this page 19-04-12 08:56 PM LethalForce has reproduced my Agni V post as it stood on 19 April before I revised it. At 19-04-12 09:07 PM LethalForce asked "Australian article says it is a 3 warhead MIRV? anyone have conformation of this? " . My point is I anticipated MIRV was an outstanding issue because at that time Indian authorities had not mentioned it in connection with this Agni V test. MIRV as it applied to Indian missiles first appeared on me blog in January 2008 then MIRV on navalised Agni III SL February 2011. Several hours later DRDO chief V K Saraswat appeared to respond to the MIRV issue ""We go from here to many other missiles which will have capability for MIRV..., for anti-satellite system, ..."

On 22 April 2012 "Anonymous provided additional information "Avinash Chander, DRDO’s chief controller of missiles, explained such a missile would be “all-composite”. The Agni-5 has three stages, with the second and third stage built of composite materials. The next missile will have a composite first stage as well, making it lighter and, therefore, able to carry a heavier payload than the 1.5-tonne payload of the current Agni-5. According to DRDO sources, an MIRV payload would be significantly heavier since it would consist of several nuclear warheads, each weighing about 400 kg. A five-warhead MIRV, therefore, would weigh two tonnes."

About five additional and successful Agni V tests will be required before Agni V can be deployed (perhaps in 2016) as India's long range deterrent missile.
See the extended Comments Section below which contributes much on the physical and political issues of the Agni V test and about ballistic missiles in general.


April 24, 2012

Former US nuke submarine officer: Australia's Future Submarine acquisition

Virginia Class SSN, ugly as sin but highly efficient - the best acquisition possibility for Australia.
On 20 April 2012 (in response to my post Australian Nuclear Submarine Option may be realizable. of 19 April 2012) a former US nuke submarine officer provided a very interesting comment on Australia's Future Submarine acquisition choices. Specifically he commented on the many drawbacks of diesel-electric propulsion, especially for Australia's geo-strategic situation and the superiority of nuclear propulsion.

The information in his advice is all Open Source. I've seen it elsewhere on the internet in fragments. But I've never seen such consolidated comments with such a good feel for the subject. Below are his comments:

Former US nuke submarine officer said:

I think it's very desirable that Australia invest in nuclear submarines - if not US, then French or British.

Diesel boats are quiet when running on their batteries or on their AIP systems (air-independent propulsion such as fuel cells). Unfortunately, such subs can only creep at very low speeds -- just a few knots. Traveling from Perth to Darwin might take 2+ weeks using AIP and/or a battery (except the battery doesn't have anywhere near that range).

Diesel subs can stay submerged and run on their diesels using a snorkel, but there are still problems. First, diesel engines are extremely noisy and easy to detect, acoustically. Second, snorkeling exposes a mast to radar, generates smoke, and produces a very visible wake. Third, snorkeling limits the boat's speed to under 10 knots to avoid snorkel mast problems.

Diesel boats are great for countries like Singapore, Sweden, Germany, and Israel that use them close to their own waters to passively "lurk". They're lousy for sending distances of more than a few hundred km.

If it was just about any other country, I'd say buy diesels, but Australia has such long distances to contend with, even in its own coastal waters.

Tellingly, when new diesel boats are sent from the shipyard to faraway customers, they're sometimes shipped in floating drydocks -- it's faster and easier than sending them under their own power.

Much has been made of Australia's lack of a civilian nuclear power industry -- the US didn't have one either when it developed nuclear submarines.

Australia can get its supplier to help it build the domestic infrastructure to maintain these boats.

If the US will sell Australia its Virginia class boats, it's a very good financial risk. That program is very economically stable (unlike so many other defense programs like the F-35). They've been making these boats for a while. You can probably get them under $2 billion each. The maintenance and life cycle costs will also be very predictable.

You've had a hard time retaining your submariners but that's a very fixable problem that the US has dealt with for years.

Finally, if you buy nukes, you probably won't need 12 nukes to get the same coverage as 12 diesels. The diesels would waste much of careers time at sea just creeping to and from their destinations. Nukes would have much more useful time on station.


April 20, 2012

Brazil's Nuclear Submarine Program

Brazil to build four conventional and one nuclear Scorpene (click to enlarge)

Professor Nikolas K. Gvosdev of the US Naval War College has written the following article Brazil's Nuclear Submarine Program in his blog the (ex) washington realist:

Brazil is going to try and develop an indigenous capability to build and deploy nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Ambassador Paul Taylor (of the US Naval War College) asks in the current issue of [US Naval Institute] Proceedings, "Why does Brazil need nuclear submarines?" A related question is how does this help or hinder U.S. interests?

[Brazilian] President Lula sees the ability to master this complicated military technology as an important national interest, recently noting that "Brazil will be one of the select group of nations that possess this indispensable capability for effective deterrence." The Brazilian Navy sees having nuclear submarines as part of a toolbox of being able to play a greater role in regional and global efforts to patrol the seas and keep lines of communication open.

Taylor quotes Rear Admiral Antonio Ruy de Almeida Silva, who argues that Brazil has to take much more responsibility for protecting its maritime patrimony:

"The Navy has actually strongly defended a larger participation in the effort to protect the maritime area under national jurisdiction, suggestively named Amazania Azul (the Blue Amazon). Keeping control of this maritime area is a big challenge that grows as sea-related activities, connected to the exploitation of living and non-living resources, increase as happens with oil exploration in the Brazilian continental shelf."

And as Brazil increases its cooperation with South Africa and India for patrolling and securing the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans, having such capabilities increases the clout of this regional organization.

What's the U.S. interest? Do we want more states to have advanced capabilities that previously were largely an American preserve? Would a nuclear submarine capability make Brazil more assertive against U.S. interests? Or can burdens be shared or passed along to other states? In other words, is this a positive step which shows that an emerging great power like Brazil is preparing to shoulder greater responsibilities for the defense of "international public goods" like the sea-lanes?

Discussion of France's Scorpene construction offer, Brazilian and Argentinian nuclear developments, and the future Australian submarine were all contained in a Australia in the Indian Ocean post Will Australia Go the Nuclear Powered Submarine Route? of March 3, 2008.

Development of nuclear propulsion is a huge undertaking - more complex, I think, than producing an enriched uranium bomb. A naval reactor normally needs uranium enriched to bomb grade so the enrichment requirements are similar.

If Brazil builds up the advanced level of nuclear expertise to build naval reactors and stockpiles the necessary bomb grade uranium then nuclear weapons for Brazil are a tempting next step, particularly for warheads on land attack missiles deployed by nuclear propelled submarines.

Argentina, which has a moderately advanced nuclear sector (less so than Brazil) would feel
nervous having a nuclear propelled or armed neighbour and would wish to follow Brazil's lead.

Under subheading "The Submarine Project" of his article Ambassador Taylor advises:

"Visiting Brazil in December 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a "strategic partnership" agreement providing for transfer of technology to Brazil for construction there of four diesel-powered Scorpene attack submarines as well as joint development of the hull for a nuclear submarine. An announcement by the Brazilian Ministry of Defense emphasized that Brazil would develop all of the nuclear part."

The US ordinarily resents foreign powers meddling in Latin American arms industries especially on a large scale and nuclear level. But the US may have made an exception with France (newly cooperative concerning NATO) and a partial counterbalance to Russian influence (mainly Venezuela) in Latin America.

The stipulation that France not help with the Brazilian reactor should taken with a pinch of salt. Development of hull for a nuclear sub involves many technical pointers as to the dimensions and other characteristcs of a reactor. The French technicians and engineers assisting spend most of their careers building nuclear submarines and reactors for France. A huge amount of verbal advice can be given - avoiding some of the need for written technical instructions - that would so embarrass the Americans.

From the American point of view its better that France a friend help proliferate nuclear submarines (as France helped Israel build the Bomb) than have the Russians do it instead.

A Brazilian nuclear submarine (extra smooth, of course ;) also provides a political opening (excuse) for Australia to develop its own - with French or even US help. Perhaps Australia might build 6 nuclear subs after the first six large conventional subs built in 2020-30.

Professor Gvosdev implies that Brazilian nuclear subs may operate in the Indian Ocean in time.

Wouldn't proliferation of nuclear subs to middle ranking powers, like Brazil and Australia, complicate the job of the Indian Navy?

April 19, 2012

Australian Nuclear Submarine Option may be realizable.

The Virginia Class Submarine - buy it if we can - best SSN in the world (along with the Akula II). Will the US trust Australia with Virginia technology? Click image to expand so its readable.
For an excellent description of the Roles and Requirements for Autralia's Future Submarine see Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, April 6, 2011 http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/articles/134/ROLES-AND-REQUIREMENTS-FOR-AUSTRALIA-S-FUTURE-SUBMARINE .

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has written an update on the Future Submarine SEA 1000 program. This ASPI Report is 'Mind the gap: getting serious about submarines' Strategic Insights 57 -  Thursday, 19 April 2012 http://www.aspi.org.au/publications/publication_details.aspx?ContentID=335&pubtype=-1 (see 'Download PDF' which is free).

On page 15 the option of buying nuclear has received an increasingly serious airing, though significant problems remain - particularly US willingness to transfer extremely sensitive nuclear technology. The ASPI update includes (p.15) a nuclear issue I raised in 2009 - that is any US export of a submarine reactor would probably include 85% HEU (low end weapons grade) fuel - a complex proliferation issue.

Australia's future submarine program is desperately late as ever but the longer the wait the higher the chance that US Virginia Class nuclear submarines might be selected. France, should also be watching this process as Brazil might not be the only nuclear submarine customer.

I think Australia should put its long term submarine acquisition planning on hold until the US is serious in making the nuclear submarine option possible.

April 17, 2012

South Korean Submarine Developments

A very sketchy artist's impression. Might the KSS-III to be launched from 2020 look like this?
Click to expand. Is the proposed DSX-3000 the same as the KSS-III?

Please connect with Submarine Matters latest South Korea update South Korean Submarines, 3,000 Ton KSS-III, Nuclear Potential of April 15, 2015.

From The Korea Times, May 10, 2009 comes:

"The Ministry of National Defense plans to deploy 3,000-ton [surfaced, 3,500 ton submerged] attack submarines after 2020, a two-year delay from the original Defense Reform 2020 initiative, a report said Sunday.

...The development of an [indigenous] 3,000 ton KSS-III submarine is a key part of the Navy's modernization programs. The KSS-III sub is to be fitted with domestically built submarine combat systems aimed at automating target detection, tracking, threat assessment and weapon control, according to Navy officials.

[Is the proposed DSX-3000 the same as the KSS-III?]

The 1-trillion-won heavy attack submarine will also be armed with indigenous ship-to-ground cruise missiles and be capable of underwater operations for up to 50 days with an advanced Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, they said. The AIP system has improved the submarine's underwater performance and gives it stealth capability." full article
A Korean nuclear propelled submarine option?:
On South Korea's past consideration of a 4,000 ton nuclear propelled submarine (various names including "KSSX-N") option see this globalsecurity.com report

South Korea's top in-service submarine at the moment is the 1,800 ton Son Won-Il (KSS-II) class. It is a HDW U-214 sub built under licence by Hyundai. Two are in service with four more to be built.
The photo is from "Manoeuvre' in Maritime Asia" a very interesting website on South Korean naval matters that I've just come upon.
Drawn from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KSS-III - The first KSS-III ship will be ready for service by 2022. The previous plan was to have an operational unit ready by 2017. Due to the relatively heavy displacement of the ship (3000~3500 tons) and the fact that it will be built with local Korean technologies (sensitive technologies might be blocked from export) this new class of ship will have the Vertical Launch System, the first submarine in the Republic of Korea Navy to have this kind of capability. It will also have many other improvements compared to its predecessors.

- Pete

April 11, 2012

Trident Debate - Cruise Missiles Ineffective in Leading a UK Nuclear First Strike

One of four British Vanguard Class SSBN - at its Scottish base area (from UK DailyMail).
The UK Trident missile system on the current Vanguard submarine platform (from UK DailyMail).
A British Royal Navy Tomahawk Cruise missile - which may replace UK Trident - or more likely a mixed Trident ballistic and cruise missiles on each sub solution..
The UK has been unable to decide for the last decade or so whether it will replace its Trident SLBMs (its only current SSBN missiles) with an updated SSBN of 3 or 4 subs. The UK might choose nuclear tipped cruise missiles as the new deterrent or a combination of Trident and cruise. Fortunately US Multiple All-Up-Round Canister (MAC) technology could provide for each Trident tube to carry a Trident ballistic missile (with several MIRV'd warhead) or up to 7 Tomahawk cruise missiles. 
The issue of Britain's post Vanguard SSBN nuclear armed submarines is naturally an issue for the Royal Navy, Ministry of Defence, UK financial departments, shipyards, unions and pacifists. Many pacifists argue for no replacement SSBNs or Tomahawk cruise only.
Concerning ballistic missiles vs cruise, the UK Ministry of Defence appears to primarily rely on the alleged technical disadvantages of cruise (in terms of payload, range, speed and vulnerability) compared to ballistic missiles - see The Future of United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent (Trident White Paper) 2006, page 25 http://www.mod.uk/nr/rdonlyres/ac00dd79-76d6-4fe3-91a1-6a56b03c092f/0/defencewhitepaper2006_cm6994.pdf .

I've conjured up the scenario of a first strike by Britain against a nuclear enemy to highlight the downsides of cruise. Speed (in a first strike scenario - say against Russia, China or a nuclear armed Iran) might be the most compelling issue. If a ballistic missile armed enemy detects a UK cruise missile attack early on (say by satellite infrared detection or signals traffic analysis) - the enemy may be able to launch and complete a second strike even before the UK cruise missiles have hit their targets.
The risk exists that UK cruise would arrive too late, destroying, the enemy's now empty missile silos and truck/train mobile launchers. The enemy (particularly an efficient Russia or China with S-400 SAMs) may also have shot down a significant number of UK cruise.
Trident also permits rapid multiplication of a nuclear warheads by producing theoretically up to 12 MIRVs (or a mix of MIRVs and decoys) per Trident missile. While cruise's are very stealthy they can't split into MIRVs.

Another problem with cruise is the inherent ambiguity of that missile mode with both nuclear and conventional traditions. The enemy may not know whether a UK cruise missile attack consists of all nuclear, some non-nuclear WMD, all conventionally armed warheads or a mixture. An enemy may therefore cover all UK cruise possibilities with a nuclear response against UK targets.
An untrustworthy future Iran may also work on a nuclear missile use them or lose them basis due to Iran's likely relatively small number of ballistic missiles within the next two decades. Hence any US, UK, Israeli, or French concept that conventional weapons are "safer" when used against a nuclear state may all go horribly wrong and lead to nuclear retaliation by that state (especially a newly nuclear armed state that has only "narrow" nuclear options). 

 The deterrent "benefit" of nuclear MAD also becomes more complex if conventional, or non-nuclear WMD's make uncertain the 'comfortable certainties' of nuclear MAD.

I agree that the option of installing four Trident missiles tubes in perhaps four  modified Astute SSN's may avoid the vast development costs and inevitable time delay of building four new (single role) Trident/cruise SSBN's. See http://navy-matters.beedall.com/astute.htm (scrolling 3/4s down):

Satellite Detection of Submarines.

Please connect with Submarine Matter’s:

-  China Launches More Ocean Surveillance Satellites – October 3, 2014 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/china-launches-more-surveillance.html and

-  Chinese Military and “Dual-Use” Satellies – March 16, 2014 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/chinese-reconnaissance-surveillance-or.html

The US Lacrosse Satellite uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to see through cloud cover and is possibly sensitive enough to detect Chinese submarine snorkels, periscopes and wakes. Asia Times Online published this groundbreaking article US satellites shadow China's submarines on May 13, 2010, concerning satellite (and Space Shuttle) detection of submarines.

The article's author, Peter J Brown, is a a satellite journalist from Maine, USA who was part of the team that worked on the 1991 PBS documentary, Submarine: Steel Boats, Iron Men.

I've reproduced the whole long article, partly because articles with sensitive information have a habit of being quietly pulled off the Internet. My extra comments are between {....} brackets.

"US satellites shadow China's submarines

By Peter J Brown, May 13, 2010

The People's Liberation Army's Navy (PLAN) submarines cannot spot United States satellites high overhead as the submarines leave their bases at Sanya on Hainan Island, Qingdao in Shandong province and Ningbo in Zhejiang province, and head for deeper water. {However Chinese optical and radio telescopes on the ground can see the US Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites in question and then transmit their presence to Chinese submarines. Chinese satellites may also be able to detect US satellites}.

Plenty of very deep water can be found in the South China Sea, {which is one reason why China built the Hainan-Sanya submarine base on the perimetre of the South China Sea} especially in the zone north of the Spratly Islands, east of the Paracels, and south of the Luzon Strait.

"A more challenging area for submarines to operate undetected is the East China Sea, which is quite shallow from the Chinese coastline up to the Okinawa Trough with a depth of only 30 to 60 fathoms {55 to 110 metres} in most places," said associate professor Peter Dutton with the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.

"Much of the water space [in the South China Sea] is more than 2,000 fathoms {3,658 meters}deep," said Dutton.

Detecting submarines via satellite is a form of Non-Acoustic Anti-Submarine Warfare (NAASW){see DARPA activity here . Lasers, infrared and other detectors and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) {such as the US "Lacrosse" satellite} in space may be used as part of this NAASW activity. Satellites might see subtle undersea disturbances caused by submarines, watch wave patterns on or beneath the sea surface, or detect subtle variations in ocean temperature.

This is not to be confused with satellite communications, nor is an "EO" or "Earth Observation" satellite to be confused with "EO" as in an "Electro-Optical" means of detecting submarines.

Over the next 18 months, the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) - operator of the US spy satellite fleet - is planning multiple satellite launches, and China must assume that one or more of these new US surveillance satellites will help support US Navy efforts to locate and track PLAN submarines.

Satellites form a network along with undersea sensors and detectors fixed on the sea floor or drifting in the open ocean as well as devices mounted on other submarines, ships, unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs), aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Many are skeptical that satellites can perform NAASW missions effectively, reliably and at reasonable cost.

"The natural disturbances of the sea surface due to wind and tides, it seems to me, are very likely to mask any disturbance due to a submarine passage, and so even if this were a viable detection technique, it seems to me so limited in application that it would not be worth the investment," said one former US Navy sonar expert.

In April, a source told RIA Novosti, a Russian newspaper, that Russia had developed a novel satellite module "used for both defense and civilian purposes, in particular, providing meteorological data", and it can "carry out remote sensing of the sea and detect submerged submarines". This will be tested in space perhaps as early as next year. [1]

"Submarine detection, by any means, is a classified and highly guarded topic. The fact that the Russians are talking about it is the most interesting aspect of this announcement," said Brian Whitehouse, president of Nova Scotia-based OEA Technologies, Inc. He co-authored a paper with Daniel Hutt in 2008 about spaceborne sensors, ocean intelligence, and the maritime battlespace. [2]

The satellite in question is apparently the first of three small Russian Kanopus (Konopus) remote sensing satellites.

"This satellite is planned for 2011 and it will carry an Earth observing payload that includes a sensor for studying the underwater light environment," said Dr Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts-based Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is also the editor of Jonathan's Space Report. "I cannot evaluate the claim that this will let them detect the wakes of submarines.{see Wavelet-Based detection algorithms obviously high tech and super-computer enabled} I do not believe that such technology is being used operationally at the moment {If it were it would be highly classified - perhaps on the USNS Impeccable with a bit of DARPA, USN Intelligence and NSA assistance}. I am not aware of relevant flight experiments, but they may have occurred."

Russia has previously demonstrated its satellite sub-hunting skills. Swedish satellite expert Sven Grahn identified the Russian Almaz-1 satellite which was launched in 1991 as a submarine-detection satellite that could see the surface wake or trail of a submerged sub. Besides this satellite, the Russians deployed other large, nuclear-powered and radar-equipped ocean surveillance satellites.

"Russian satellites known as RORSATs used radar to track surface ships, but the US Navy was not concerned that our subs could be detected, much less tracked. The signals, even if they existed, would be so wrapped into random noise that extracting any usable intelligence from them proved impossible," author James Oberg, a top US expert on Soviet and Russian space programs, told Asia Times Online. "The cancellation of that [Soviet] satellite program followed at least three accidental re-entries of debris. The laws of physics compelled them to orbit as low as possible, creating high air drag."

The theoretical boundary below which satellites cannot successfully maintain their orbits is approximately 160 kilometers above the Earth.

The Soviet space station Mir may have served as a platform for related research activities in the same way that the US Skylab once served as a platform for space radar testing in 1970s.

In the late 1990s, sub-hunting satellites made headlines. An American scientist, Peter Lee, was caught and convicted of passing sensitive information to China about the so-called Radar Ocean Imaging (ROI) joint project which involved the United K and the US. A decision by the US Navy based on concerns about further disclosures about the nature and scope of the ROI project echoes to this day.

"Peter Lee's case was they had this guy giving this very sensitive data to the Chinese on underwater detection of submarines. They ran into this case where the navy wouldn't allow a court case against him because of the data. So they had a bargain plea, and he got off, basically. For stealing very high-level stuff, he gets probably, what, a couple of months in a halfway house," former US ambassador to China, James Lilley, told PBS in 2004. [3]

China obtained relevant information from Russia, too.

"Chinese experts reportedly received technical assistance from Russian satellite experts in years following the Soviet Union's collapse," said associate professor Andrew Erickson at the China Maritime Studies Institute. "Specialists at the State Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environmental Dynamics have researched ship detection using [SAR]."

Maritime surveillance became a top priority at the national level when China's so-called, "863 State High-Technology Development Plan" was activated. And China's fleet of Haiyang ocean surveillance satellites will grow to three when Haiyang-2A is launched later this year

Prior to the ROI program, the US SEASAT ocean satellite project which was launched by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1978 carried a SAR into space for maritime surveillance purposes. After just over 100 days in space, SEASAT suddenly stopped working due to a short circuit in the design of its solar panels.

"Rumors suggested it had been turned off or sabotaged. There was a claim that SEASAT had mapped a field of World War 2-era shipwrecks on the floor of the English Channel," said Oberg.

A US Navy oceanographer from Australia, Paul Scully-Power, who became the first oceanographer in space, flew on the space shuttle Challenger (STS - 41G) in 1984. The US Navy later admitted that the mission had successfully detected the undersea or internal waves generated by a submarine which had been tracked successfully at relatively shallow depths. This was deemed, "incredibly important to us" and was reported by the Washington Post in 1985 - quoting a senior US Navy admiral at the time. [4]

In mid-May, by the way, the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-132) will include a longtime submariner, US Navy captain Stephen Bowen.

According to naval analyst and author Norman Polmar, certain satellites can track submarine wakes, but are unable to do so continuously nor all the time, and not in all underwater environments. A submarine's depth, and speed along with the characteristics of the ocean bottom and water clarity, among other things, come into play here.

"A submarine is a relatively small, finite object - perhaps 300 to 500 feet [91 meters to 152 meters] in length in most cases - but the submarine's wake is persistent and stretches out for miles," said Polmar.

While the PLAN submarine fleet is the largest and most diverse in Asia, and very soon the fastest growing in the world, the PLAN's nuclear submarines are relatively easy to find. It is the diesel/electric submarines - and those equipped with so-called air-independent propulsion systems in particular - that are much harder to detect.

"The US Office of Naval Intelligence's unclassified July 2009 report on the PLAN suggests that some of the PLAN's diesel submarines are already extremely quiet, but its nuclear submarines remain relatively noisy," said Erickson.

US satellites play an increasingly important communications role in ASW, and are critical to the US Navy's Persistent Littoral Undersea Surveillance Network (PLUSNet), ForceNet and Sea Shield programs, to name a few. In addition, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the Tactical Relay Information Network which uses lasers to instantly beam vital messages to submerged US subs as they are underway and perhaps chasing down other subs.

This writer speculates that as many as a dozen countries have operated sensors aboard satellites involved in some form of NAASW research. Others may disagree with this assessment.

Whitehouse and Hutt, for example, stated that, "many of these sensors are not of immediate practical benefit to military operations".

Keep in mind that commercial satellite ventures, and public - private partnerships such as Germany's RapidEye AG offer all sorts of satellite imagery.

Smaller, less expensive satellites possibly flying in formation over the ocean may offer significant advantages here. They can train their sensors and cameras on a single spot as they pass by in formation. California-based Microcosm Inc, for example, is developing the NanoEye small-satellite system, which comes equipped with basic or advanced electro-optical and infrared sensor payloads.

"Smaller satellites flying in formation may seem attractive for reasons of cost and coverage, but larger satellites offer far more advantages in terms of real capabilities," said Polmar. "Simply because of their small size, the smaller satellites are less capable, offer less electrical power and you cannot put much on them unlike much larger satellites."

The real advantage comes from the entire satellite-enabled infrastructure - or systems of systems - which links the powerful space-based sensors and detectors with those mounted on surrounding ships, subs, UUVs, aircraft, helicopters and UAVs - including the new "Sea Avenger" - so that all this surveillance data merges together to form a "common undersea picture" which can be instantly shared across the entire ASW community.

Aircraft and UAVs lingering overhead can mimic surveillance satellites, and their presence is an important aspect of the US "Maritime Domain Awareness" strategy. Another option involves inserting additional maritime surveillance assets above conventional aircraft and UAVs, and beneath the satellites.

For example, the US Navy is interested in DARPA's "Integrated Sensor Is the Structure" (ISIS) program, which is, in effect, an integrated stratospheric airship/radar - the stratosphere is found at an altitude of roughly 10 to 50 kilometers above Earth - featuring a 600-kilometer-wide sensor radius. In fact, DARPA included a slide during a briefing last year that showed how a single ISIS on station over the Luzon Strait could conduct surveillance operations covering the entire Strait from Taiwan to the northern Philippines, and almost as far west almost as the coast of China.

"No single sensor/platform combination has all the answers. Every sensor has its limitations. As a result, each application usually involves a suite of sensors, platforms and computer-based models," said Whitehouse and Hutt.

Associate professor Kazuto Suzuki of Hokkaido University's Public Policy School described Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) as "one of the best ASW forces without using satellite capability".

"There is no discussion of a satellite infrastructure for ASW. Satellites are only useful for detecting activities [at submarine bases]. MSDF and the 7th Fleet of the US Navy are sharing the work for ASW, and there is a strong confidence between them," said Suzuki.

However, over the years, Japan has launched many advanced remote sensing/earth observation, meteorological, and engineering test satellites - exactly the types of satellites which are ideally suited for conducting satellite-based NAASW research and development.

One relevant joint NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency project on the International Space Station recently tested a maritime hyperspectral imager. This coincided with work on the same type of imager done as part of the US Navy's Tactical Space Innovative Naval Prototype program involving so-called TacSats and their maritime satellite links to buoys and "unattended" sensors - perhaps UUV-mounted sensors.

China routinely uses ocean-centric satellite imagery provided by the US, Japanese and Europeans. Their own undersea mapping projects such as one done recently as part of a larger and more comprehensive Chinese survey of the South China Sea rely heavily on access to this data. [5]

The world's vast oceans have not been rendered completely transparent, but for over three decades, satellites have been transforming the way we view them.

As the US Congress scrutinizes the US-Russian START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) successor and possible restrictions on the future use of US submarine launch tubes for anti-missile purposes, new potential threats to submarines need to be examined carefully.

Finally, the sinking in March 2010 of the South Korean destroyer Cheonan - important evidence in the form of "satellite imagery" is surfacing although the investigation is still underway [6] - serves to remind everyone that work must continue to help thwart future surprise attacks.


1. Hotlink here Russia to build submarine-detecting satellite, RIA NOVOSTI, Apr 15, 2010.

2. Ocean intelligence in the maritime battlespace: the role of spaceborne sensors and hf radar, Canadian Military Journal, July 14, 2008.

3. PBS interviews James Lilley, PBS.org, June 4, 2003.

4. "Shuttle Flight Yields Data on Hiding Subs," The Washington Post, March 22, 1985, p A10. (Not available online.)

5. Using satellite data to map coral reefs in the South China Sea, Spie, February 21, 2007.

6. South Korea Concludes That North Korea Sank Ship, Chosun Says, Bloomberg.com, May 7, 2010."

A big thankyou to Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd for originally publishing the article at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/LE13Ad01.html . Australia by the Indian Ocean is a free, non-profit, blog, accessable to all.

Link with the following on this "gentleseas" website

LIDAR an anti-submarine warfare sensor, January 16, 2014, http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/lidar-anti-submarine-warfare-sensor.html

The DASH Program anti-submarine sensors - TRAPS & SHARK, April 8, 2013, http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/the-dash-program-anti-submarine-sensors.html , and


Chinese Submarine Reactors

China's Type 093 SSN. Does this sub boast the advanced high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR)?

Several days ago Sujith expressed interest in any information about Chinese nuclear submarine reactors. The US appears to have collected most of the available overt information on this subject. Further information might be available to any Indian students of the US Naval War College or Indian naval intelligence talking to US opposite numbers.

From Undersea Warfare (2006) Official Magazine of US Submarine Force.


"The development of Chinese naval nuclear power followed a slow and painful process. The lack of trained technical personnel, a weak industrial base, and the political upheavals of the late 1950s and 1960s restricted the pace at which China’s first indigenous submarine and its propulsion plant were developed. The final product was marginal by international standards, being noisy and apparently plagued with significant technical problems. It is nevertheless impressive that a country that was so politically chaotic and economically backwards could produce one of the most complex

Chinese naval nuclear power program started in July 1958 when Mao Tse-Tung and the Central Military Commission gave approval to start the 09 submarine project.1 The Institute of Atomic Energy (IAE) started the 09 project by looking at information on the U.S. and Soviet submarine programs. Available information convinced them that a pressurized water reactor (PWR) based on the Russian icebreaker Lenin’s propulsion plant would be the best choice. It was also decided early on that a land-based prototype would be built first for testing and training. The IAE created the Reactor Research Section (RRS) and within a few months had recruited over 200 engineers and technicians to start designing the plant.2

RRS personnel scrutinized foreign textbooks, reports and any other resources available to determine the specifications for the plant. The design was completed and approved by mid-1960. The Second Ministry of Machine Building was given control of dozens of factories that were capable of producing the specialized instruments, controls and major components required for a nuclear propulsion plant.

The project was severely affected by the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), the Cultural Revolution (1965-1975), and the Third Line movement – government-run economic and social transformation programs. These three movements resulted in major program delays, funding cuts, and the loss of talented engineers due to political issues. Despite these delays, the land-based prototype design was completed by 1967 and construction started in March 1968. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was required to participate in the construction effort in July 1968 to compensate for the disruptions caused by the Cultural Revolution, and the plant was completed in April 1970. The plant conducted full power operations in July 1970. The prototype was a success, and the basic design of the plant proved adequate.3 The infrastructure built up around Jiajiang, named the Southwest Reactor Engineering Research and Design Academy, or, First Academy, became China’s largest nuclear power industrial complex.

At the same time, the submarine design progressed along with the development of the reactor plant. The layout of the submarine and its subsystems was determined by the use of a full-size wood and steel model used to test fit all the components. This slowed construction but avoided costly rework to the actual hull, and the reactor was in place by early 1971. The submarine was able to get underway for the first time on August 23, 1971. Not surprisingly, many technical abnormalities occurred during sea trials, and it was not until 1974 that the submarine was deemed ready to join the fleet.

Overall, the story behind the building of the Chinese nuclear submarine is also the story of building the Chinese nuclear industry, and in some ways was the basis for building the entire Chinese industrial system. The technology that was developed by Chinese scientists and engineers on the 09 submarine project and other strategic weapons systems helped to build the confidence of a nation that had never had a significant industrial base. Overcoming a vast number of technical challenges amidst the political chaos of the 1960s showed the extraordinary determination of the Chinese to complete the submarine project, and the potential they had to accomplish other high technology projects.

The Organization of China’s Nuclear Industry - The Chinese nuclear industry traces its roots back to January 15, 1955, when Chairman Mao and the Central Secretariat decided to develop atomic weapons. This decision made it imperative to develop the technical and scientific knowledge required to build bombs, which also developed the technology base for building nuclear-powered submarines and eventually a robust civilian nuclear power industry.

The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) is the main research and devel and 092opment organization of CNNC. It was created in the early 1950s and directly supervised the development of the first submarine nuclear power plant as part of the 09 submarine project. [The first Chief Designer of China's 091 and 092 nuclear submarines was an engineer and scientist of nuclear propulsion engineering Mr. Peng Shilu.] The CIAE created the Reactor Engineering Research Section in 1958 and this became the Reactor Engineering Institute in 1964. The Reactor Engineering Institute (Code 194) did the initial design studies for the 09 submarine project and today is still the primary design institute for submarine propulsion plants.

...China’s Prospective Nuclear Submarine fleet

[Following Chinese development of its first nuclear submarines - the  Type 091 SSBN and 092 SSN] - "The development of China’s type 093 [SSN] submarine started sometime in the 1980s or before. Construction of the first unit began in 1994, but it was not launched until 2002. It is speculated to be similar to a Russian Victor III using two Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) and other Russian technologies. However, various sources state that the 093 has an advanced high temperature high efficiency reactor plant. Whatever the case, the use of the technology gained by the civilian nuclear industry has the potential to greatly improve submarines designed and built in China.

The transfer of technology has most likely played a part in providing the 093 and future submarines with advanced I & C equipment, a better-designed reactor fuel cell, and higher quality construction of the reactor plant. This is the minimum that the Chinese would be able to get from the technology that they had obtained by the mid-1990s when the 093 was started. The delays on the ship could very well have been caused by continuous attempts to update the design as construction progressed. The 093 was laid down in 1994, but construction began on the Qinshan 2 nuclear power plant in 1996 (with French assistance), Qinshan 3 in 1998 (Canadian), and Ling Ao in 1995 (French). The Yinbin Fuel Plant was upgraded by the French in 1994 and from 1994 to 1996, Westinghouse made the plans for the AP600 (its most advanced civilian nuclear power plant) available for the Chinese to study. Thus, the nuclear technology flowing into China during the period from 1994 to 2002 was – by any measure – very substantial. The Chinese may have made the decision early on to delay the 093 in order to incorporate the maximum amount of foreign nuclear technology possible.

Given the technology transfer described above, it is at least possible that China has developed a submarine-compatible high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). This possibility is worth considering for several reasons. The first is that, if successful, a HTGR would allow for a much lighter power plant. A HTGR is twice as efficient as a PWR so it would require a substantially smaller core for the same power output. It is also cooled by helium at a relatively low pressure instead of by high-pressure water. This reduces the weight not only of the coolant but also of the piping. The reduced weight would potentially allow the submarine to be faster and smaller.

The second reason is that the Chinese have stated that their goal in designing weapons is to use the latest technology to leap ahead. Developing a unique reactor system would be a dramatic example of this policy. The research on HTGR in China started in the 1970s, before a substantial amount of development in the civilian nuclear power industry began; this tends to indicate that some type of military use was envisioned. This would also help to explain why it has taken so long to build the 093. The conventional theory that the 093 is similar to a Victor III design, and that the Russians assisted in its construction, by contrast, would predict rather rapid development. This, however, has not occurred, suggesting at least the possibility that there is something significantly different about this submarine.

The technical difficulties that would have to be overcome with the blowers (i.e. the need for magnetic bearings) and the fuel loading system to make a HTGR compatible with a submarine are formidable. This makes the probability of the 093 being equipped with a HTGR small. Nevertheless, it should be taken into consideration that if not the 093, then a future Chinese submarine could have a reactor of this type. Such a vessel could take a form that would represent a significant departure from current nuclear submarines that are designed for open ocean long endurance operations.

Chinese strategy for the near and medium term appears to be focused on pushing its defenses out to the first island chain, which includes Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. This will require more shallow water access denial platforms, instead of long-range open ocean submarines. A small submarine, similar to a diesel electric submarine but equipped with a small HTGR to recharge the batteries, would be an ideal sea denial platform. It could stay submerged for extended periods of time while lying in wait for a passing ship. This submarine could have technology currently available from the recently purchased Kilo-class submarines for the batteries and propulsion while using a reactor on the scale of the HTR 10 (2500 KW generator). The reactor would have to be quiet, but a HTGR equipped with an integral gas turbine/blower outfitted with magnetic bearings could – in fact – be designed to be very quiet.


We would be foolish to dismiss China’s ability to develop complex weaponry. The 091 submarine is often cited as an example of Chinese engineering incompetence, since the submarine is viewed as one of the worst in the world. But when considered in the context of when it was built and the state of the Chinese economy and political system at that time, it is actually impressive that the submarine was ever finished. No one denies that the Chinese economy and industrial base have made extraordinary strides since that time and that the level of technical expertise in China has risen dramatically. Combine this with the advanced technology currently available to China, and it seems evident that the 093 submarine is unlikely to be a simple copy of a 1970s vintage Russian design, but rather something significantly more advanced."

Another US source is:

Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, "China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force: Insights from Chinese Writings," Naval War College Review, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Winter 2007), pp. 54-79 http://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/Research---Gaming/China-Maritime-Studies-Institute/Published-Articles/Erickson-Goldstein_China-s-Future-Nuclear-Submarine-Force_NWCR_2007-01.pdf

Here are fragments - best to read the original PDF article.

"...China will field a total of six 094 SSBNs, divided into patrolling, deploying, and refitting groups.
source suggests that these groups will comprise two SSBNs each.

Chinese sources universally recognize that noise reduction is one of the greatest challenges in building an effective nuclear submarine. For instance, experts at China Ship Scientifi c Research Center
developed a relatively advanced guide-vane propeller by the late 1990s.  China already has advanced seven-blade propellers with cruciform vortex dissipaters on its indigenous Song-class and imported Kilo-class
diesel submarines, suggests that the 093 and 094 will have signifi cantly improved propellers.

A researcher in Qingdao’s 4808 Factory also demonstrates Chinese attention to the need to use sound-isolation couplings to prevent transmission of vibrations to the ocean from major fresh-water circulating pumps in the steam. One Chinese researcher states that the 093 is not as quiet as the [latest US subs] .
analyst estimates that the 093’s noise level has been reduced to that of the Russian Akula-class submarine at 110 decibels [acoustic signature has been reduced to 120 decibels.

It is conceivable, if unlikely, that the PRC has achieved a major scientific feat concerning the propulsion system for nuclear submarines. A wide variety of Chinese sources claim that China has succeeded in developing a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) This development is described as a “revolutionary breakthrough” [its] volume is small, [its] power is great, [its] noise is low—it is the most ideal propulsion system for a new generation of nuclear submarines. The United States and Russia have both not achieved a breakthrough in this regard.

This same analyst suggests that the need to incorporate the new HTGR explains why 093 development has stretched out over a number of years. Despite the above speculation, there are substantial reasons to doubt that China would be willing or able to put such an immature technology in its second generation of nuclear submarines, as this would constitute a substantial risk on the investment. Moreover, as Shawn Cappellano-Sarver points out, “The technical diffi culties that would have to be overcome with the blowers (the need for magnetic bearings) and the fuel loading system to make an HTGR compatible with a submarine are formidable. This makes the probability of the 093 being equipped with an HTGR small.”

Submarine reactors - thorium technology? Proliferation still constant.

Should thorium reactors be replacing this enriched uranium submarine reactor? Click on diagram to enlarge this standard uranium reactor.
jbmoore has spotted this article from DefenseNews November 16, 2009:
"The recently passed fiscal 2010 U.S. National Defense Authorization act initially contained a mandate for the Department of Defense to study thorium, a radioactive metal found abundantly in the United States that could change the future of nuclear energy. The initial section called for the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to "jointly carry out a study on the use of thorium-liquid fueled nuclear reactors for naval power needs." Unfortunately, this section was absent from the final version of the bill. ...
Thorium is a safer alternative for the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered fleet that is more proliferation-proof than uranium, and also three times more abundant. It is not fissile on its own, but can be combined with a small amount of uranium to serve as a "feeder" material for a nuclear chain reaction.
Thorium cycles do not generate usable plutonium as a byproduct, and they produce as little as half the nuclear waste uranium cycles do. For these reasons, thorium can help reduce the concerns about nuclear proliferation that are commonly associated with nuclear power...article in full..
Surely only America's adversaries (the Russians and Chinese) would wish thorium reactors on the US Navy.
After 30 more years of further development thorium may be useful in land based reactors but at present starting with submarine reactors as testbeds for thorium possibilities seems a misapplication. Increasing use in power reactors on land would be a better start.
Submarine reactors need to be miniature, light and uncomplicated enough to be adjustable by the crew at sea. Thorium, I believe, puts out a relatively low amount of radioactive "power' per pound compared to the 93% enriched uranium now used in US submarine reactors. With thorium reliance - subs would either be forced to slow down or carry a much larger, heavier, more complicated thorium reactor.
Thorium is also a messy, substance which tends to make reactors shut down unexpectedly - not a good look under the waves. Thorium reactors generate more residue that needs cleaning out - hence more downtime for subs in port.
While the article extols the lower proliferation advantages of thorium for the US Navy's nuclear carriers and subs reducing the proliferation risk seems almost a contradiction in terms. They all might carry nuclear weapons when the US goes to higher stages of defence alert. Furthermore all US SSBNs carry many nuclear warheads in peacetime. Temporary proliferation is often their job.
Numerous US laws and policies, national security considerations and the NPT prevent export of US submarine reactors to other countries or nuclear weapons (except to the UK) . So US sub reactors, be they uranium or thorium dependent, or weapons would not be proliferated.
On a tangential note, the US bans proliferation to all allies except the UK see 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement ). Australia may one day be seeking nuclear propulsion assistance elsewhere - from France - as Brazil is already doing. And for weapons - French and Israeli assistance worked for South Africa.

April 7, 2012

China's Yuan Class Submarine related to Russian Kilo and possibly Lada classes

jbmoore drew my attention to this interesting Strategypage article of September 23, 2010, which confirms the relationship between China's Yuan submarine series and the Russian Kilo:

"China Tweaks Russian Designs - China recently launched a new diesel-electric submarine. There was no official information released, but based on photos available it appears to be another development in China's taking Russian submarine technology and adapting it for Chinese designs. China has been doing this for as long as it has been building subs (since the 1960s). But this latest version of what appears to be the Type 41 design, shows Chinese naval engineers getting more creative.

The Type 41A, or Yuan class, looks just like the Russian Kilo class. In the late 1990s, the Chinese began ordering Russian Kilo class subs, then one of the latest diesel-electric design available. Russia was selling new Kilos for about $200 million each, which is about half the price other Western nations sell similar boats for. The Kilos weigh 2,300 tons (surface displacement), have six torpedo tubes and a crew of 57. They are quiet, and can travel about 700 kilometers under water at a quiet speed of about five kilometers an hour. Kilos carry 18 torpedoes or SS-N-27 anti-ship missiles (with a range of 300 kilometers and launched underwater from the torpedo tubes.) The combination of quietness and cruise missiles makes Kilo very dangerous to American carriers. North Korea and Iran have also bought Kilos.

The Chinese have already built three Yuans, the second one an improvement on the first. These two boats have been at sea to try out the technology that was pilfered from the Russians. The third Yuan is the one just launched, and appears to be a bit different from the first two. The first Yuan appeared to be a copy of the early model Kilo (the model 877), while the second Yuan (referred to as a Type 41B) appeared to copy the late Kilos (model 636). The third Yuan may end up being a further evolution, or Type 41C. This one also appears similar to the Russian successor to the Kilo, the Lada.

The first Lada underwent three years of sea trials before they were declared fit for service last year. Another is under construction and eight are planned. The Kilo class boats entered service in the early 1980s. Russia only bought 24 of them, but exported over 30. It was considered a successful design. But just before the Cold War ended in 1991, the Soviet Navy began work on the Lada. This project was stalled during most of the 1990s by a lack of money.

The Ladas are designed to be fast attack and scouting boats. They are intended for anti-surface and anti-submarine operations as well as naval reconnaissance. These boats are said to be eight times quieter than the Kilos. This was accomplished by using anechoic (sound absorbing) tile coatings on the exterior, and a very quiet (skewed) propeller. All interior machinery was designed with silence in mind. The sensors include active and passive sonars, including towed passive sonar. The Ladas have six 533mm torpedo tubes, with 18 torpedoes and/or missiles carried. The Lada has a surface displacement of 1,750 tons, are 220 feet long and carry a crew of 38. Each crewmember has their own cabin (very small for the junior crew, but still, a big morale boost).

When submerged, the submarine can cruise at a top speed of about 39 kilometers an hour (half that on the surface) and can dive to about 800 feet. The Lada can stay at sea for as long as 50 days, and the sub can travel as much as 10,000 kilometers using its diesel engine (underwater, via the snorkel). Submerged, using battery power, the Lada can travel about 450 kilometers. There is also an electronic periscope (which goes to the surface via a cable), that includes a night vision capability and a laser range finder. The Lada was designed to accept a AIP (air independent propulsion) system. Russia was long a pioneer in AIP design, but in the last decade, Western European nations have taken the lead. Construction on the first Lada began in 1997, but money shortages delayed work for years. The first Lada boat was finally completed in 2005. A less complex version, called the Amur, is being offered for export. The new Chinese Yuan class boat is larger than the Kilos or Ladas, but has similar external design features. It will be a while before more details can be uncovered.

Preceding the Yuans was the Type 39, or Song class. This was the first Chinese sub to have the teardrop shaped hull, and was based on the predecessor of the Kilo, the Romeo class. The Type 41A was thought to be just an improved Song, but on closer examination, especially by the Russians, it looked like a clone of the Kilos. The Yuan class also have AIP (Air Independent Propulsion), which allows non-nuclear boats to stay underwater for days at a time. China currently has 13 Song class, 12 Kilo class, three Yuan class and 25 Romeo class boats. There are only three Han class SSNs, as the Chinese are still having a lot of problems with nuclear power in subs. Despite that, the Hans are going to sea, even though they are noisy and easily detected by Western sensors."

Connect With:

German Diesels and AIP? for Chinese Submarines, June 5, 2015 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/german-diesel-engines-and-aip-for.html

Russian Conventional Submarine Development – Kalina Class, April 4, 2014 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/russian-conventional-submarine.html which describes the 5 classes (generations) of Russian SSKs; and

Russian Submarine Development, Rubin Designer’s Views, January 23, 2014 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/russian-submarine-development-rubin.html


Tentative Vietnamese plans to buy Kilo Subs and a Russian land based reactor.


Improved Kilo Class/Project 677 Lada class/Project 1650 Amur class. Note 10 tube VLS option - something Australia should consider for its own future submarines.
Russia has more proposed sales of Kilo submarines than its proven capacity (typically delivered late or overprice or not at all. It is not an HDW). The agreement to sell six Kilos to Vietnam, announced in mid December 2009, is the latest paper milestone. Not only is this blog interested in nuclear enrichment and weapons but also the first and second strike platforms of choice i.e. submarines.

Vietnam has been engaged in several skirmishes over the years concerning the Spratly Islands in the South China sea. Possession of one or most of the islands has deep strategic and economic value. The islands themselves have little value, but the fishing and potential of oil reserves below them have great value. The islands are legal lodgements from which undersea zones and exploitation rights flow.

However, as Vietnam has no submarine tradition outside of owning two old midget Yugo Class submarines it will take years of expensive Russian training and control of at least the first three submarines to make Vietnam's submarine flotilla efficient and independent. Russia will regain some of the naval intelligence and military power it lost when it withdrew from Cam Ranh Bay.

Submarines are, after all are intelligence collection devices in peacetime. Essential Russian crew members and a sigint relay feed via the Vietnamese submarines to the Russian naval base at Vladivostok will be an importance asset to Russia's military presence in the western Pacific. For Vietnam submarines are an asymmetric way to counter Chinese and Taiwanese power projection into the Spratly islands. Vietnamese submarines will also provide parity with Malaysia's claims and exceed the naval power of the Filipino and Bruneian competitors.

Furthermore the asymmetric power of Vietnam's submarines will also provide limited defence of Vietnam from the risk of Chinese sea-based invasion.

DefenceStudies, December 17, 2009 reports:

MOSCOW - Vietnam and Russia signed a major arms deal and a nuclear energy agreement Dec. 15, a sign of reviving ties between Moscow and its former Soviet-era ally in Southeast Asia.

Hanoi agreed to buy Russian-made submarines and aircraft in the arms deal, which was signed in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his visiting Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung.

"Vietnam signed a contract for the purchase of submarines, planes and military equipment with the corresponding cooperation of the Russian side," Dung said in remarks translated into Russian.

Details were not released on the deal between Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport and Vietnam's defense ministry.
However the Interfax news agency, citing an unnamed defense industry source, reported that Vietnam had agreed to buy six Russian-made submarines for a total price tag of about $2 billion (1.37 billion euros).

The six
Kilo-class diesel-electric subs would be built for the Vietnamese navy at a rate of one per year, Interfax reported.
[While Russia is supposed to have replaced new build Kilo's with the new Lada Class it appears that the "Lada Class" are now merely termed "improved Kilos".]Moscow and Hanoi also inked a deal on the construction of Vietnam's first atomic power plant.
Last month, the Vietnamese parliament approved building the country's first nuclear power station, a lucrative project that has been keenly watched by potential foreign partners.

The agreement signed in Moscow was described as a memorandum on cooperation between Vietnamese electricity company EVN and Russia's state-owned atomic energy firm Rosatom, which had been interested in the project.

"Vietnam officially invites the Russian side to cooperate in the building of the first atomic energy plant in Vietnam under adherence to the necessary conditions," Dung said.

[The Russian built reactor may be one of two 1,000 MW reactors Vietnam has planned at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province to be constructed from 2014 and come into operation from about 2020, followed by another 2000 MWe at Vinh Hai in the Ninh Hai district. These plants would be followed by a further 6000 MWe by 2030, subsequently increased to having a total of 15,000 MWe by 2030. The anticipated cost of the first two plants is about $11 billion, and some 85% of this would need to be found from overseas loans.]

Australia's New Submarine Program - On Drawing Board

A Collins Class Submarine - new sub will probably be similar

For ABC News, March 18, 2009 Andrew Davies of the Australian Strategy Policy Institute, has written a useful commentary on Australia's program for a new and unique locally built submarine. The reasons for it are similar to India's ATV program:

"New submarine fleet a long way off
So far only a few things are clear - there will be a replacement for the Collins submarine, and it will be delivered sometime after 2020.

There has been a recent flurry of media reports about the plans for Australia's future submarine fleet. Depending on who you read, the number of subs to be built is anywhere from six to 18, and the project budget is somewhere between $12 and $35 billion.

So who is right? As it happens, the correct answer is 'none of the above' - yet. The road to a future submarine is a long one and there are many decision points to be negotiated before the final solution emerges. In fact, this project is a very good example of just how complex defence projects can be. It's easy to be critical in hindsight when projects like the Seasprite helicopters go wrong, but this is a good case study of just how hard it can be to see the right path in advance.

So far only a few things are clear; there will be a replacement for the Collins submarine, it will be built in Adelaide and delivered sometime after 2020, and nuclear subs are out of the question. Pretty much everything else is still to be settled. Even very basic questions such as how large the subs need to be, what technologies they will have and who is going to design and build them are still to be answered.

The complexities of the submarine project arise from a number of sources, but they all owe their existence to a single observation: there is no submarine on the world market that does what we want. When deciding to build the Collins class, the Australian government of the day decided that the country would be best served by having a submarine fleet that could conduct extended patrols thousands of miles from home. There is no suggestion that that requirement will be relaxed. In fact, the Prime Minister has stated that Australia's naval forces will be strengthened in order to play a role in an increasingly contested Asia-Pacific region, the countries of which will field dozens of new submarines over the next few decades.

The world's submarines fall into two broad classes - long-range and high-endurance nuclear subs and much shorter-range conventional ones. The only submarines that fall in between are our own Collins (a design now over 20 years old), Japan's fleet [Soryu and Oyashio class] (constitutionally banned from export) and a South Korean [KSS-III] design only just starting to take shape. So chances are that nothing on the world market will do the job we want. And even if it did, any submarine versus submarine engagement would look uncomfortably like an even fight if both sides were operating subs bought in the same marketplace.

Australia is almost uniquely well-placed to do better than that. We have a close alliance with the United States that gives us access to sensitive systems, weapons and technologies, and we have a hard-won national capability to build those technologies into a European-sourced submarine design. (The Collins was based on a Swedish [Kockums] design.) In other words, we can have the best of both worlds - US systems [especially Raytheon's combat system] developed for their very capable but all-nuclear fleet coupled with state-of-the-art European conventional submarine technology. The resultant boat could give us the edge we seek.

But there is a very delicate balancing act to be performed in doing that. For a start, there are technical issues to be surmounted in marrying the different design philosophies. For example, nuclear submarines have essentially no power limitations, so equipment designed for them does not take into account the power budgets that have to be managed in conventionals.

But just as importantly, the Americans and Europeans hold their submarine technologies very closely and don't want them to 'leak' (admittedly not a propitious word to use when writing about submarines) to other countries. Australia would have to manage the process very carefully to keep the potential providers confident that their secrets were safe with us. So the Australian Government will act as a trusted broker in government-to-government and navy-to-navy negotiations. Industry will be brought in progressively as the design firms up.

So where are we now? Basically, at step one. Defence has asked a number of submarine design houses for a 'concept design', essentially a high-level 'sketch' of what the future submarine might look like. That concept will be refined over the next two years, after which preliminary designs will be refined for another couple of years. Between 2013 and 2016 the detailed design will be developed, with construction not starting until (at the earliest) 2016.

Before the concept is fully developed, there can be no firm decision on the number of submarines - after all, how do we know how many we need before we know what each one can do? Similarly, costs won't be known until the design is well advanced. And, of course, we need to be convinced that the manning and support of any expanded submarine fleet could be managed.

So take any dramatic headlines in the near future about the size, shape and cost of Australia's future submarine fleet with a grain of salt.
Australia built the Collins Class and is planning a future conventionional submarine for similar reasons to the much more ambitious Indian ATV program (currently under construction). That is because they:
- provide the best technical solutions to specific national requirements
- provide greater national security through self reliance - independent of foreign suppliers
- further the national R and D bases
- maintain national naval construction-industrial bases, and
- boost national and ruling government prestige.
I think all these factors are legitimate reasons for paying a higher cost for indigenously built submarines.
Australia appears to have excluded the nuclear propulsion option due to cost, reliance on the US nuclear submarine shield (under ANZUS) and US pressure on Australia to remain diesel/electric. The US earlier dissuaded Canada from considering nuclear propulsion as that would give that dependent allie a measure of independence.