July 5, 2015

Russian Submarine Swarm Tactics Against Carrier Groups

Russia's Yasen (aka Severodvinsk) class SSN up to 40 (8 x 5) SLCMs using the VLS, 8 x 650mm torpedo tubes (and 2 x 533mm). Deep diving to 600m.

Another diagram of the Yasen SSN (not "Graney") partly Russia's response to the Seawolf SSN.

Inside an Akula 2 (commentary in Russian). Youtube uploaded April 2011. Large 8,500 tons (surfaced). No command center digital displays shown. Like other Russian weapons it looks low-tech but this also means "rugged" less delicate electronics to go wrong.  After the Nerpa disaster there is a gas drill.  

MHalBlaub's and Vigilis' have been having an interesting discussion at Current Heavyweight Russian Torpedos, July 1, 2015. This has prompted me to write about Russia's potential use of its most potent current torpedo, the over-the-horizon Type 65 650mm. This torpedo is unlikely to be used alone with its host submarine. Instead the host submarine for the 650mm (which seem restricted to Akula and Yasen SSNs) would launch these torpedos as part of a swarm attack also involving cruise missiles launched by that submarine This may be in the context of a medium intensity war  against high value targets, especially strike or amphibious carrier groups.

It appears Russia would logically take on a carrier group with a swarm attack both for targeting  (directing or redirecting) weapons and to overcome the defences of the escorts. Technological change has improved the ease of targeting. There are also improvements in Akula and Yasen launched cruise missiles (eg. the SS-N-27A "Sizzler"/Klub-S and a future SLCM the SS-N-26 "Strobile" (aka P-800 Oniks/Yakhont related to the Indo-Russian BrahMos)). These SLCMs need not be individual actors but can work as a team  eg. a higher altitude Klub working as scout to direct a simultaneous attack of sea-skimming Klubs and pre-launched 650mm torpedos to complicate the job of the carrier group escorts. 

The scouting Klub could coordinate the other missiles with direct radio links and coordinate the torpedos via satellite, mother sub and other links in the Russian SeaWeb. Submarine launched UAVs (small and stealthy) could also be part of the Russian communications (SeaWeb) network.

So Russian satellites, missiles and UAVs can all offer solutions to avoid the Russian over-the-horizon 650mm torpedos hitting the wrong targets. 

China may also have the capability to organise such a swarm attack (also noting China has the DF-21D anti-ship (or anti-sub) ballistic missile. 

A second Russian sub may be present that is closer to (in the path of) the carrier group. The second submarine might perhaps be a Kilo SSK that can deploy its shorter range 533mm torpedos and Klubs at the carrier group. The Kilo may also be well positioned to detect (passive sonar) any approach  of a US SSN that may well be a forward escort for the carrier group. In the major task of detroying a carrier group there may be a third submarine (an SSN) for redundancy. I'm hoping the US wins of course!

The land attack capabilities of Klub, Yakhont and other Russian SLCMs also improves the prospects of attacking a carrier group while in port. 


Russia has altered its SSN weapons' mix for the technical, strategic and and tactical reasons touched on in the description above.

Figures are that:

-  Kilo SSKs - in Russian service since 1982 - 6 x 533mm (18 x torpedos/missiles or 24 mines).

-  Akula SSNs (in service since 1984) are recorded as having 4 × 533mm torpedo tubes (28 x Type 53 torpedoes) and 4 x 650mm torpedo tubes (12 x Type 65 torpedoes) 

-  Yasen SSNs (Severodvinsk (first of class) in service 2014) being introduced with:

- 32 (8x4) VLS missiles OR can launch

- 40 (8x5) VLS missiles Klub or other SLCMs

Significantly the Yasen's heavy SLCM capability is supplemented by an increased 650mm torpedo capability (8 x 650mm torpedo tubes and 2 x 533mm).


So the Yasen's increase in number of quick launchable SLCMs and 650mm torpedos implies a rapid fire swarm intent. 

China, with its history of adopting Russian naval weapons and tactics, presents a special risk to US carrier groups in the South China Sea and open ocean.

"New Interceptor and Carrier-Killer Nuclear Submarines"

A report in the Moscow Times, July 5, 2015 "Russia Plans New Interceptor and Carrier Killer Nuclear Submarines" merely describes Russia's regular intention to gradually develop an SSN-SSGN replacement to follow on from the Yasen.  The generalist press are attracted by the terms "Interceptor and Carrier Killer" just as the generalists have been attracted by such terms a "stealth submarine" in the past. Such a post Yasen submarine might enter initial service in 2035.



Anonymous said...

Given the range differences (300km+ versus 100km) between Klub/Oniks and torpedoes, I do not see a combined AShm and torpedo attacks from one sub as effectve, may be from different subs. Regardless how good an Ashm is, a swarm attack will always present increased probabilities given the needs to overwhelm the radar and close in defenses from more than one quadrant as well as accounting for misses from the electronic countermeasures.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Indeed Anti-Ship Missiles (AShm - I'm calling them SLCMs...) have a longer maximum range than torpedos (100km). All depends on the particulars of the battle.

Submarines - being stealthy - are built to creep up 100km to a target. Launching SLCMs at 100km ensures shorter flight time, hence greater surprise. The torpedos would complicate the job of the escort and may finish off the crippled carrier.

Yes in an attack against a carrier group of around 10 ships a second Russian sub would also wish to participate - mainly for redundancy reasons.

If a sub launched most of its SLCMs at a carrier group the infrared signatures of the missiles rising above the water may well be detected by US satellite sensors - thus exposing the sub to destruction. With the probability of detection-then-destruction would the sub just leave its torpedos in their tubes?



Anonymous said...

Dear folks,

I would not think about what the someone could do with Russian technology. The Atlas SeaHake Mod4 ER fits quite well to the UGM-84A Harpoon according to range.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Yes 140km for the Atlas is far. Maybe even longer range (at lower speed) if hitting a stationary ship in harbour.



Anonymous said...

Dear Pete,

I think the 140 km are only possible at an optimum speed for cruise. At high speeds drag is extremely increased (due to nonlinear drag). The propulsion system is optimized for high speeds. So it will be less efficient at low speeds.

Much more interesting due to this range would be the length of torpedo's fiber wire. Fiber wire is capable of transmitting data over hundreds of kilometers without the need of amplification somewhere in-between. The SeaHake Mod4 with its rather big sonar array therefore is a real UUV.

It is very hard to estimate how long the wire could be:
At 20:20 you can see how far to the side the sonar detectors are positioned inside the head of the torpedo.
At 20:45 you can see the thin fiber wire at the end of the far bigger protection hull which is taped to the fins.

Here is a picture of a fiber wire:
Kernglas: core glass
Mantelglas: hull glass
Primörbeschichtung: 1. protection layer
Sekundärbeschichtung: 2. protection layer

So with just 1 protection layer the wire is just 0.2 to 0.3 mm thick. So an estimation would be the wire needs a area of about 0.25 mm² to be stored on a coil. Space is about 0.5 m in diameter. That would be a surface 0.2 m² or about 785 m fiber wire per 0.25 mm tube length or about 30 km for each cm tube length for 5 cm about 150 km length.

At 21:23 you can see the coil on which the fiber is wound around. Hard to tell how thick the wire really is. The orange handle is about 10 cm long. I guess the coil will be removed and the wire is released through the center. Coil diameter about 100 mm and 400 mm length. A volume of 12,500,000 mm³. Divided by 0.25 mm² the length is about 50 km.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Yes I suppose a different setting or different formula for the propellent would be needed for lower speed Atlases. Also I suppose an Atlas moving at lower speed might have a lower element of surprise.

If the wire is unexpectly cut (fishing boat propeller or trawlnet?) I suppose that predictable SEAWEB links like:

- a land VLF station or

- geo-stationary satellite

could still send signals/commands to the torpedo to complete its mission. Mission maybe a UUV-like round trip reconnaissance or destroying a ship/sub.



Anonymous said...

Even for single mode fiber, 100km will be at the limit without optical repeater. The transmit power will be very high so that may not be suitable in a torpedo. Of course there are variables like bit error rate, wavelength, bit rate, transceiver power, fiber core used, etc. I doubt there will be any control at 140km

Peter Coates said...

Thanks Anonymous [at July 8, 2015 at 9:52 PM]

With "Of course there are variables like bit error rate, wavelength, bit rate, transceiver power, fiber core used, etc" you bring clear expertise to Submarine Matters.

Anything to do with submarines is endlessly complex and open to debate.



MHalblaub said...

Dear Anonymus,
Just check Wikipedia standard range for computer networks using fiber wire. The cable length is fixed from start on. Laser are very efficient today.