July 17, 2019

Losharik's Intentional Flooding and Functions

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

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

The details below mainly drawing from excellent articles by:

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

and also

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical Details for Losharik include:

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

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

July 16, 2019

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

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

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

Bio Details

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

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


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

The advantages of LIBs are that:

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


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

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

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


July 15, 2019

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


July 5, 2019

Pete's Foggy Friday Poetical Affirmations


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

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

Shorten name
Short in luck
Feet with flippers


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2019

24 or 36 Australian conventional subs? Baby Boomer SSGNs.

1.  Politicians and the public can count. 

So radically multiplying Australian conventional submarine numbers creates reader interest

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

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

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

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

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


July 3, 2019

Fatal Fire on Russian Nuclear Spy Submarine "Losharick" - Further Background at bottom!

On July 3, 2019 the Australian Government owned ABC News reported a fatal fire on the Russian nuclear spy submarine Losharick.


As well as research the Losharick is a spy submarine, which conducts top secret missions. For example Losharick is used for tapping Western undersea cables (some perhaps from Australia) and laying secret fixed anti-submarine sensors in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. The Losharick has been described as a “small...or mini-submarine” but it is reported as weighing 2,000 tons which is a full sized submarine! Losharick is also called Losharik - see this 2015 Submarine Matters' article about Losharik.


The ABC News article, at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-03/russia-submarine-fire-kills-14-losharik-nuclear-vladimir-putin/11273188 begins:

“Fire on 'top secret Russian mini-submarine' kills 14 sailors, Vladimir Putin demands Defence briefing

The Russian Defence Ministry says 14 sailors have been killed in a fire on a navy submersible, with media reporting the stricken vessel is the country's most secret mini-submarine.
Key points:
·       Russian media reported the vessel was the nuclear-powered AS-12 Losharik, a mini-submarine
·       A Defence Ministry statement said the fire was put out thanks to the self-sacrifice of crew members
·       The incident happened near Barents Sea, where the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in 2000

The ministry did not say what the vessel was, explain how the fire broke out, or if there were any survivors.
Russian media reported the incident happened on the AS-12 Losharik, a small nuclear-powered vessel designed for sensitive missions at great ocean depths.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the fire broke out while the vessel was measuring sea depths in Russia's territorial waters, and the submersible had since arrived at the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base of Russia's Northern Fleet.
"According to preliminary data, 14 sailors died from being poisoned by combustion products," he said.
In a televised meeting with his Defence Minister, President Vladimir Putin said two "Heroes of Russia" were among the dead, referring to the highest military award issued in the post-World War II period.
"This is not a regular vessel ... it's a scientific research vessel. It's a highly professional [Russian Navy] crew," he said.
"Seven out of the 14 dead are first-class captains, two are Heroes of Russia.
"It is a big loss for the fleet and for [the] army in general."
The Ministry said the fire was put out thanks to the "self-sacrifice of crew members" but did not say how many people were on board.
Norway [is] monitoring for radiation in Barents Sea
The blaze marks the most serious Russian naval incident since 2008, when 20 people died after a firefighting system was accidentally triggered while the Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine of Russia's Pacific Fleet was undergoing trials.
In the deadliest naval incident in post-Soviet Russia, the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded and sank on August 12, 2000, during naval manoeuvres in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 crew members.
The latest incident also took place in the vicinity of the Barents Sea, but authorities in nearby Norway said they were monitoring, but had not detected, abnormally high levels of radiation.
Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, said Russian officials had told his agency that a gas explosion took place on board the submarine, though Russia denied this.
Secret vessel reportedly has a unique titanium hull design
The [Losharick] was constructed and launched under a veil of secrecy, but some details of the project have been reported by Russian media.
According to an archived [Russian language] report in Russian newspaper Izvestia, the [Losharick] was launched in 2003.
It is described as the most advanced and most obscure Russian submarine and is reportedly named after a Soviet-era cartoon character — a toy horse made of small spheres.
The name is apparently explained by the unique design of its internal hull, which is made of several titanium spheres capable of withstanding high pressure at great depths.
It is reportedly powered by a nuclear reactor and was built over a 15-year period under a veil of secrecy.
None of the claims have been independently confirmed...."


Further Background On Losharick/Losharik

"Losharick/Losharik" is a Russian nickname for a toy horse connected by spheres. The Losharik submarine contains at least 2 layers of Titanium alloy pressure hulls - with the innermost hull (or hulls) being spheres around the crew of about 25. It is nuclear powered for scientific, operational and secrecy reasons.

Losharick/Losharik is also variously known as "Project 210", "Hull Number AS-31", Project 10831” and NATO reporting name "NORSUB-5".

A source with expert knowledge of Russian submarines advises that the Russian Navy/Government considers the manning of Losharick/Losharik so difficult, dangerous and specialised that the crew are not called "submariners" but "Hydronauts" - a deep sea equivalent of Cosmonauts/Astronauts. Hence most "Hydronauts" are officers.

The much smaller US Nuclear Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1 is an earlier, equivalent example of a nuclear powered deep diving submarine. 


July 2, 2019

Coming Military Crackdown in Hong Kong?

The radical rioters who stormed the Hong Kong Parliament in the past 12 hours (Youtube above) are reminiscent of the hopeful heroes who sat in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The world press are fooling themselves when they underestimate how Chinese military forces, responsible for Hong Kong, may react.

Radical rioters (photo above courtesy Reuters) smashing into the Hong Kong Parliament. Hundreds briefly occupied the Parliament. Note that the policemen behind the glass initially withdrew (surrendering the Parliament to rioter occupation) perhaps in order to provide a pretext for a more powerful crackdown soon.

Map indicates the location of Legislative Council Complex/Hong Kong Parliament that radical protesters smashed July 1-2, 2019. (Map courtesy Agency France Press via CAPITALNEWS)

Surveillance of the rioters likely includes: records on surveillance cameras; smartphone tracking and  intelligence gathering; and, Chinese security (MSS) informers working undercover within the rioting group. There is also a possibility that Chinese government agent provocateurs operated to heighten the violence in the Parliamentary building. 

In terms of smartphone intelligence gathering MSS would have improved its capabilities compared to its 2014 anti-protester measures. It is likely the student protester's smartphones continue to be tapped by MSS working with China’s "NSA" (Peoples Liberation Army (PLA)-IT)(with various other real and cover-names-to-confuse). 

Reading INTELNEWS in 2014 MSS most probably exploited protesters reliance on downloads of the FireChat smartphone app. Security intelligence gathering malware was part of the app download. The malware gave MSS access to the address books, communication logs and other private data stored on the protesters’ smartphones. The malware also allowed MSS to take secret pre-protest planning group photos and at-protest individual and crowd photos using the cameras in the compromised smartphones. Quietly always-on smartphone microphone monitoring? So even if protesters were not actually arrested at the protest sufficient evidence was quietly collected to round them up days or weeks later. 

Military Crackdown?

So damage to the Hong Kong Parliament may provide a pretext for a paramilitary police and then a military crackdown. Perhaps a broader circle of democracy activists in Hong Kong will also be arrested.

The Beijing Government can suspend the legal convention that the PLA cannot interfere in Hong Kong's internal affairs. This is because the PLA has always had an underlying or active role in internal security for all regions of China. 

The 6,000 PLA troops based in Hong Kong can quickly be reinforced with several brigades of armoured vehicles from the mainland. The PLA's Hong Kong Garrison is under the direct leadership of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission and under administrative control of PLA's Southern Theater Command.


See my earlier article on the 2014 Hong Kong protests. The main difference now is radical smashing within Hong Kong’s Parliament will goad the Communist Party far more than the 
student-protestor 2014 sit-in (that stopped traffic on Hong Kong crossroads).

June 28, 2019

Japan's Kamikaze Klasse (29SS) Future Submarines

With the Covert Shores - Popular Mechanics articles yesterday what can we learn about Japan's Future Submarine class, classified 29SS?:

29SS (see Table below) with a little more color, will be the lead boat in the new Japanese Kamikaze
 (神風 - "Divine Wind") class. Such mythical winds follow Japan's Oyashio (mythical currents ) and Soryu (mythical dragons) class submarines.

Japan relied on brave Japanese pilots in Kamikaze aircraft to sink or damage allied ships in WWII, in part because of inadequate use of Japan's submarine force (see page 2, paragraph 1 of this source). It is therefore fitting that Japan's new submarines, faced with overwhelming Chinese submarine numbers and Chinese SSN qualitative superiority, will carry on such sacrifice. 

Popular Mechanics advises:

"The designation “29SS” is derived from the 29th year of the reign of Emperor Akihito, otherwise known to everyone else as 2017, and SS is the international shorthand for non-nuclear attack submarine

... 29SS retains the general hull form of earlier submarines but with some important changes. The sail is substantially reduced and blended into the hull, which should reduce hydrodynamic drag. This will make the submarine quieter, perhaps a little faster, but also more energy efficient. Non-nuclear powered submarines, operating underwater under combat conditions, must carefully manage their power or risk being forced to surface. The dive planes have also been moved from what’s left of the sail to the hull.

...The research and development phase will take place from 2025 to 2028, and the first ship of this class will probably hit the water around 2031."

The Kamikazes will, with the benefit of heavier, more voluminous, NCA formula Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) have longer (maybe 10 day) fully submerged performance .

Of course the Kamikazes (like the Australian Under Attack class) will be as good as sunk against the superiority of Chinese and Russian nuclear propelled attack submarines (SSNs).

Japan and Australia currently, and out to 2040, will be totally reliant on the whims of increasingly isolationist US SSN management to take on Chinese and Russian SSNs.

China's and Russia's increasingly sensitive fixed and mobile anti-submarine sensors demand more discrete performance from these Japanese and Australian diesel-electric submarines. But even with LIBs, these Japo-Aussie subs still need to loudly snort with supercharged diesel engines every 10 days. Thus blowing their residual discretion out of the water.

What might the new Kamikaze - 29SS class look like (courtesy H I Sutton's Covert Shores and anticipated by Submarine Matters on June 14, 2017 ):

With a pumpjet/propulsor and (Alfa, Akula slightly Type 212A) smaller, faired fin/sail on a Soryu looking hull (above). Inspired by artwork released by "Kobe Shipyard" (KHI, MHI, Japanese MoD)  via Covert Shores (below): 

Putting 29SS in Japanese sub evolutionary context:

TABLE.  Japanese Soryu and Oyashio Programs as at June 27, 2019 

Diesel Type
Build No
MoF approved amount ¥
Billions FY
Laid Down
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
10 subs
¥52.2B per sub
LABs only
 15SS Feb
Mar 2008
Soryu Mk I
¥60B FY2004
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
¥58.7B FY2005
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
¥56.2 FY2006
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
¥53B FY2007
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
¥51B FY2008
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
No 21SS
No 21SS built
¥52.8B FY2010
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
¥54.6B FY2011
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
¥54.7B FY2012
¥53.1B FY2013
22 Oct 2013
12 Oct   2016
end of SMC-8s
6 Nov 2017
27SS First
Soryu Mk II
first SMC-8B
LIBs only
(NCA type)
4 Oct
28SS  Second
Soryu Mk II
¥63.6B FY2016
"2,900t" surfaced
LIBs only
(NCA type?)
Oct 2019?
Mar 2021?
29SS New Class
¥76B FY2017
large budget rise for sub of 
larger "3,000t" 
class page 3
implies many new
features. New class?
LIBs only






30SS New Class
¥71.5B FY2018
LIBs only
Table from information exclusively provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries, AIP = air independent propulsion, LIBs = Lithium-ion Batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen. MHI = Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, KHI = Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation of Kawasaki Heavy Industries.