September 30, 2016

Why the Early signing of submarine design contract with DCNS?

The advertisement in The Australian, in mid September 2016, was put up by prominent Australians including Dick Smith and John Singleton, questioning the wisdom of the Turnbull Government's April 26, 2016 future submarine decision. This may have been a significant reason for the Government's early signing of the design contract with DCNS today. (This advertisement above was reproduced on the internet by Crikey)

In addition to the Lockheed Martin announcement Australia's Defence Ministerial duumvirate made another major announcement on September 30, 2016 :

“The Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne today announced the next significant step in the building of Australia’s Future Submarines with the signing of the [Design and Mobilisation contract] between the Government and DCNS to commence the design phase of the Program." Whole Announcement


-  signing of the contract “was ahead of schedule”
-  good for Australian industry especially Adelaide, South Australia's.

The Government has signed the design contract with DCNS earlier than intended to head off opposition to the decision to select the DCNS Shortfin. Basically signing nails down a legal relationship with DCNS that the Government could not plausibly walk away from. Walking away might today also involve the Government paying compensation to DCNS.

The design contract may set out an initial design period of about three years with design work mainly done at the DCNS submarine building yard/design center at Cherbourg, France and also significant design work in Adelaide. The design contract is just the first of a long series of Government-DCNS contracts and hurdles, involved in the Shortfin Project.

Other factors influencing the signing being “ahead of schedule” include:

1(a). Concern over the last few weeks that prominent Australians, including philanthropist Dick Smith and entrepeneur John Singleton, are running a campaign against the Australian Government’s decision to buy/build a new conventional submarine design (in the shape of the DCNS Shortfin Project) rather than buy a  cheaper, existing, off-the-shelf, submarine design. Stories have appeared in News Corp Australia newspapers which have an excellent standard of national security coverage. The newspapers are headed by The Australian, and The (Sydney) Daily/Sunday Telegraph and The (Adelaide) Advertiser. The Government is probably concerned that further articles and advertisements, critical of its decision, may resurface in the press.

1(b). The high cost nature of the AU$50 Billion Project might become increasingly unpopular nationally when placed against civilian health, education and welfare funding priorities.

The above opposition to the Project has boosted pressure from pro-Project forces including:

2. the South Australian State Government (see State Premier Weatherill’s concern).

3. Federal Liberal MPs and Federal Liberal Senators from South Australia (including concern from Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne who just happens to be a Federal MP from South Australia).

4. Prestige and political need to confirm one of the Turnbull Government’s major political achievements to crow about - specifically the April 26, 2016 submarine decision which selected the DCNS Shortfin.

5. The very ship/submarine building orientated Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) political party has a near balance of power in the Senate and House of Representatives in Federal Parliament, Canberra. This allows NXT, if unhappy, to hold up Government legislation.

6. DCNS concern that the anti-Project forces might significantly delay or impede the Project.

7. Workers, voters and unions in South Australia concerned the Project might be delayed or impeded.

8. ASC, other arms companies and other politicians in other States concerned the Project may be delayed or impeded, and

9. A political and/or legal need to simultaneously announce the DCNS signing decision with the Lockheed Martin selection decision.


Comments: Lockheed Martin Chosen Combat Systems Integrator for Australia's Shortfin sub

Just some of the components of the US made AN/BYG-1 Combat System to be Integrated by Lockheed Martin into Australia's future Shortfin submarines. The AN/BYG-1 is already integrated into Australia's current Collins submarines.

With the September 30, 2016 Australian Ministerial announcement:

“The Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne and the Minister for Defence Industry, The Hon Christopher Pyne MP today announced that Lockheed Martin Australia has been selected as the preferred Combat System Integrator for Australia’s Future Submarine Program, subject to further discussion on commercial matters…[see more]” 

many comments can be made:
A submarine's combat system has three main components: 
-  sensors (especially sonars), 
-  weapons (torpedos, missiles and mines), and
-  a massive onboard database (which benefits from the US/allies worldwide SeaWeb network).
Workstations in a submarine's main monitoring-decisionmaking Command Center form the user access portion of the combat system.
The Australian Government's announcement of Integrator of the AN/BYG-1 combat system benefits not just Lockheed Martin but Raytheon (which has not really "lost" the integrator competition) and General Dynamics. The three US companies are all players in providing the AN/BYG-1 combat system to SSNs of the US Navy. 
The integration of the US AN/BYG-1 was always required of the 3 competitors (DCNS, TKMS and Japan) for Australia's early 2016 future submarine competition. So DCNS had no option of integrating its standard SUBTICS combat system into its winning Shortfin design. The US AN/BYG-1 was always Australia's requirement because:

-  Having a common US-Australian combat system promotes interoperability between US nuclear
   submarines and Australian submarines (making this an important aspect of the US-Australian 
-  Integration of the AN/BYG-1 on Australia's future Shortfin provides continuity for Australia's
   submarine service - as this combat system is already used on Australia's current Collins class

The highly senstive nature of the AN/BYG-1 meant the US Government had to be confident that the DCNS document leak crisis of August 2016 was over. Sensitivity also meant only US companies (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) were allowed to compete in the Combat Systems Integrator limited competition. In the building of Australia future Shortfin submarine, from about 2025 onwards, there may still be security, technical and business issues that devide the US combat system companies from DCNS.
For background here is some pre-September 2016 decision bid publicity (likely to timeout by October 2016) for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon

September 29, 2016

Russia's Northern and Pacific Fleets - SSBN Program 3

Click here to vastly enlarge map. Note blue Northern sea route - handy for inter-fleet transfer of submarines between Murmansk naval region in nouthwest Russia and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's (Siberia's) Far East. (Map courtesy SOUTH FRONT Analysis Intelligence 2015)

Role of SSNs

For Russia's Northern and Pacific Fleet SSBNs SSNs may defend SSBNs at times of high tension and particularly if enemy SSNs are on the SSBN's tail. But Russia's current (Akula, Sierra, Victor and Yasen class) SSNs would not be in the vicinity of friendly SSBNs on routine patrols as the presence of SSNs may act as pointers to SSBNs nearby.

Enemy SSNs are a great threat to SSBNs. SSNs waiting outside of SSBN bases for SSBNs to enter or (especially) leave on patrol may be normal (eg. Russian SSNs outside Faslane, UK SSBN Base).

A Russian SSN may in future, or currently, launch one of its developing UUVs/AUVs on the approaches to Faslane to act as an extra picket.

Seabed Sensors

Lines of offensive and protective seabed sensors (with acoustic/SOSUS, wake motion, light etc) may be strung by Russia:

- from Kamchatka Peninsula down Kuril Islands chain to Japan
Kamchatka Peninsula to Aleutian Island chain
- Kamchatka Peninsula to Sakhalin Island
- across the Bering Strait
- many narrows in the Arctic Ocean as well as Barents Sea
- across the northern Atlantic (Norwegian Sea and Denmark Strait, etc)

Some other issues

As the ice retreats with global warming, secure year-round ice-free access to both the Atlantic and North Pacific from Arctic bases will also be a priority for the Russian Navy.

Submarines are also useful in protecting economic interests. "China isn’t an Arctic littoral state, but it has exhibited a growing interest in the Arctic, consonant with a growing strategic relationship with Russia and economic interests in Russia’s control of the more promising Northern Sea Route to Europe and of Arctic resources." 

Russian nuclear sites. Naval bases have blue balls.

Russia has two main SSBN bases:


SSBNs are at Gadzhiyevo (see Strategic Fleet entry)  (Yagelnaya Bay, Sayda Inlet) near Severomorsk within greater Murmansk area (see blue ball collection in northwest Russia). The Northern Fleet's base location gives it access to the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

Northern Fleet nuclear submarine Order of Battle (SSBNs, SSNs, no SSGNs) includes:

·       Delta IV-class SSBN Verkhoturye (K-51)
·       Delta IV-class SSBN Tula (K-114) currently undergoing overhaul
·       Delta IV-class SSBN Bryansk (K-117)
·       Delta IV-class SSBN Kareliya (K-18)
·       Delta IV-class SSBN Novomoskovsk (K-407)
·       Delta IV-class SSBN Ekaterinburg (K-84) (maybe permantly inactive after a huge fire in 2011).

4 Victor class SSNs including:
·       B-388 Petrozavodsk - commissioned November 1988
·       B-138 Obninsk - commissioned May 1990[7]
·       B-414 Daniil Moskovskiy - commissioned December 1990.
·       B-448 Tambov - commissioned September 1992

3 Sierra class SSNs are reportedly active including:
·       Sierra I-class SSN Kostroma
·       Sierra II-class SSN Nizhniy Novgorod[14]
·       Sierra II-class SSN Pskov (K-336)

6 Akula class SSNs
·       Akula I-class SSN Pantera (K-317)
·       Akula I-class SSN Volk (K-461)
·       Akula I-class SSN Leopard (K-328)
·       Akula I-class SSN Tigr (K-154) [14]
·       Akula II-class SSN Vepr (K-157)
·       Akula II-class SSN Gepard (K-335)


SSBNs, SSNs and SSGNs are at Vilyuchinsk (see Strategic Fleet entry)  – on Kamchatka Peninsula, giving Russia's (see blue ball collection in farthest East Russia/Siberia). The Pacific Fleet's base location gives it access to the Arctic and Pacific Oceans.

Meanwhile the Pacific Fleet HQ (with most surface vessels) is located at Vladivostok strategically landlocked in the Sea of Japan. The closed (to foreigners and the unauthorised) town/base of Vilyuchinsk (wiki entry) is just 20km from the open city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (Kamchatka Peninsula). Vilyuchinsk has the advantage of being just south of arctic ice protection allowing its nuclear submarines to travel via the Arctic Ocean (often under the Arctic ice) to/from the Northern Fleet base. This is known by the Russian Navy as an inter-fleet transfer

The first Borei SSBN (Alexander Nevskiy) arrived in Vilyuchinsk on September 30, 2015. Borei Vladimir Monomakh arrived in September 2016. See the Pacific Fleet nuclear subs below.
Year Comm
Vladimir Monomakh
Alexander Nevsky
Delta III
Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets
Delta III
Oscar II
Oscar II
Oscar II
Oscar II
Akula I
Akula I
Akula I
Akula II


Russia developing piezoceramic (sonar distorting) coating antennas

Could this be described as a piezorubber (polymer) coating? 
(Diagram unrelated to Sputnik or Russian defence industry). 

Russia's Sputnik news reports September 30, 2016

"New Antennas to Make Russian Submarines Invisible to Sonars"

"Russian submarines are going to be outfitted with new unique piezoceramic coating antennas capable of intercepting and distorting signals emitted by enemy sonars.

The new invention, developed by [the] OceanPribor Concern and the Krylov Research Center, under the auspices of the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, is essentially a polymer membrane designed to cover the entire hull of a submarine.

These new antennas are expected to be installed both on the next generation submarines and on the submersibles that are already employed by the Russian Navy.

A source in the [Russian] Defense Ministry, [who is] privy to the development of the new antenna, told Russian newspaper Izvestia that the work is proceeding as planned, and that testing is expected to begin soon:

"We’re talking about a polymer membrane based on lead, titanium and zirconium oxides that can both absorb and transmit a signal. Essentially, this piezorubber coating transforms the submarine’s entire hull into a hydroacoustic antenna," the source explained.

The project, designated as Korsas ('Corsair' in Russian) is being funded by the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, with OceanPribor designing antennas and sensors, and the Krylov Research Center working on integrating the piezoceramic coating into submarines’ outer plating.

The operating principle of the new antenna is fairly simple: the membrane captures a sonar signal, analyzes and distorts it, and then sends it back. The project’s cornerstone is a unique piezoceramic capable of absorbing and distorting acoustic signals. According to the source, research and development is expected to be completed by the end of the 2017."

September 28, 2016

Comparing Borei/Boreys with Ohios & Columbias - SSBN Program 2

Diagram 1. Displacements are submerged.

Diagram 2. Columbia class SSBN-X features.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to compare Boreis/Boreys with Ohios and Columbia class (SSBN-X).

The respective Russian and US SSBN programs are out of phase instead of being of the same generation.
-  Ohios were built 1976-1997 lasting until 2040s.
-  Boreis entered/entering service 2013-2023, lasting until 2050s.
-  Columbias entering service 2031-2050, lasting until 2080s.

Secrecy often makes specifications, like diving depth and submerged speed, ballpark figures rather than actual.

Quietness, discretion and efficiency of combat systems (including sonars, other sensors, databases and weapons), drives and crew quality are also impossible to compare with open sources or even in a technical sense. The will be more about Russian sonar and other equipment makers on September 30, 2016.

The Borei class are built by Sevmash, the largest shipbuilding complex in Russia.

Russia’s SSBN force consists of:

-  3 Boreis with further commissioning exercises and technical upgrades yet to be completed. One
   Borei is deployed in Russia's Northern Fleet and two are in the Pacific Fleet. A fourth Borei is due
   to be commissioned later in 2016.
-  6 Delta IVs (all near end of service life at 26 to 32 years old) and
-  4 Delta IIIs (on extended service life of 34+ years)

At least two Deltas are under long term maintenance at any one time.


SLBM Numbers

Boreis can deploy only 16 SLBMs currently (on the first 4 Borei Is, 64 total), perhaps 20 SLBMS for the 4 to 6 future build Borei IIs in the 2020s (up to 20 total) (64 + 120 = 184 all up). This is less than the 14 Ohio SSBNs, each capable of deploying 24 SLBMs = 336 total.

Variables make precise SLBM counts very uncertain. Numbers of MIRVs per SLBM, empty missile containers, future introduction of 16 SLBM US Columbia (SSBN-X)) class and New START regulations may mean eventual parity at 336 SLBMs each by the 2040s.

Submerged Speed/Noise

According to submerged speed for the Borei may be up to 30 knots (good for fleeing from danger and faster redeployments but noisy). Boreis also have pump jets for relatively quiet operation at 20+ knots. No quieter electric drive known.

Ohios have a quiet standard official figure of 20 knots. Keeping at 20 knots or below may be sensible for Ohios as they were built in the era of no pump jets. Their bare propellers are assumed to be noisy at over 20 knots. No quieter electric drive.

Columbia's are expected to have pump jets and quieter electric drive.


The Borei has two ОК-650 nuclear reactors of a 1970s design and only up to 45% HEU which means 3 or 4 refuels are likely needed (perhaps every 10 years) over a 40 year Borei service life.

The Ohio class's S8G reactor last about 19 years between HEU refueling. See page 3 of Ronald O'Rourke’s Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, of August 18, 2016 CRS 7-5700 R41129

The S1B reactor for the Columbia class does not need HEU refueling. The reactor meant to last the 42 year service life (see page 8

Crew size

Boreis have a smaller crew (probably Blue/Gold exchange system) of 107. Blue/Gold crews for Ohios and in future Columbias are/will be 155. This gives Ohios/Columbias an advantage in reducing crew exhaustion, decreased errors, increased attention, more coverage if crew members become ill, increased resources for damage control/safety.

Diving Depth

Boreis have a listed operational depth of 450m while Ohios are 240m. This may give Boreis a tactical advantage for evasion from SSNs, torpedos and depth bombs, and less chance of detection from the surface. But Boreis are still vulnerable to seafloor sensors and bottom rising mines. As Borei's main goal is being effective SSBNs their deep diving ability will be of little help to place them just below the surface to launch their SLBMs.

Protection of SSBNs

Russia has far weaker air and naval forces overall including: 9 mainly older Akula SSNs, 1 modern Yasen SSN, 5 Oscar class SSGNs (not specifically built to defend SSBNs) and 26 Kilo SSKs (probably too slow, and noisy when snorting, to guard SSBNs).

The US Navy has far larger naval and air forces to defend its SSBN force, including (at March 8, 2016) 55 high quality SSNs,


There has been a sharp drop in Russian SSBN deterrent patrols since the fall of the Soviet Union around 1991. Patrols by selected year have dropped from:

1984       102
2002           0
2008         10
2011           5
2015           5

The 14 US Ohios might each average about 2.5 patrols to 3 patrols a year. Hence about 35 to 42 patrols per year total for the force. 

Columbias are expected to have a higher number of patrols over their service lives due to less overhaul/refueling periods. For the 12 Columbias this may also average a total of 35 to 42 patrols.

These are just a few imprecise types of comparison.

Pete and Anonymous