Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Is World Ready For An Undersea Missile? Supercavitating Torpedo Offers Speed of 230 Miles Per Hour

These undersea missiles achieve their speed essentially by encasing the torpedo inside a bubble.


John Keller, Military Aerospace
19 June 2018

Military forces throughout the world are obsessed, it seems, with speed. Jet aircraft, the missile, even the lowly bullet typically go faster than the speed of sound. Everywhere is an obsession with speed except in undersea warfare. In fact, today's most advanced militaries are working on so-called hypersonic missiles that eventually could travel through the air at about seven times the speed of sound, or 5,320 miles per hour.
That kind of speed means a hypersonic missile could hit a target 100 miles away in little more than a minute -- not much time for countermeasures and evasive maneuvers. It's little wonder that speed is a top priority among military weapons developers.
Not everything military, though, is blazingly fast. Main battle tanks can roll at about 60 miles per hour over gentle terrain. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter cruises at about 174 miles per hour. A submerged attack submarine can go about 50 miles per hour flat-out -- we don't really know. These relatively slow systems typically don't have the notoriety of the fast ones. Still, they typically can shoot weapons that are very fast, like smart munitions, rockets, and soon even laser weapons.
How is it that the obsession for speed hasn't extended into the realm of undersea warfare? Submarines aren't too fast, but they shouldn't be. Their job is to lurk
silently and undetected until that fateful moment when they launch a missile or torpedo.
The torpedo -- signature weapon of the submarine -- isn't very fast, either. The U.S. MK 48 torpedo achieves a top speed of about 55 knots, or 63 miles per hour. That's about as fast as a mini van full kids in the slow lane of the freeway ... not exactly the best comparison when describing a formidable modern weapon. It certainly pales in comparison to missiles and rockets.
But what if a torpedo could move at 200 knots? That's 230 miles per hour -- not even close to supersonic, but still a mind-boggling speed underwater. A 200-knot torpedo essentially would be an underwater missile. Is this even possible, and if so, why don't we hear more about it?
Well, the underwater missile is real. It's called the supercavitating torpedo. The Russians have built one called the The VA-111 Shkval, which can reach underwater speeds in excess of 200 knots. Iran reportedly has developed a variant of the Russian Shkval called the Hoot. The German navy is credited with developing the Superkavitierender Unterwasserlaufkörper supercavitating torpedo, but it never went into production. The U.S. Navy is said to be toying with supercavitating torpedo technology.
These undersea missiles achieve their speed essentially by encasing the torpedo inside a bubble to eliminate the water's hydrodynamic drag. Once inside this bubble, and free of the water's drag, a rocket engine shoots the munition through the water faster than a NASCAR racer.
Supercavitation, by the way, refers to phenomenon in which water is forced around an object like a ship’s propeller at high speeds. This causes the pressure around the object's trailing edge to below the water's vapor pressure, causing bubbles. This is bad for modern submarine propellers, because it creates noise that can enable an enemy to detect it. It's good, though, when attempting to shoot objects like torpedoes through the water at high speeds.
So why haven't supercavitating torpedoes come to revolutionize war at sea? It seems this technology also causes big problems with torpedo guidance, control, and precise targeting.
Conventional torpedoes steer themselves toward their targets with control surfaces that, in the water, act like an airplane's wings, rudder, and elevator in the air.
One big problem with supercavitating torpedoes is they can't stick control surfaces outside their protective bubble, lest the bubble bursts. No control surface contact with the water means no control of the torpedo; it goes in a stright line, period. This means they're prone to missing their targets.
Modern torpedoes home in on their targets with passive and active sonar. They must be able to hear the sound emitting from their targets, as well as a return signal from a sonar ping.
Supercavitating torpedoes don't have this advantage because they're really, REALLY LOUD -- too loud to hear much of anything. From a guidance standpoint it can't tell the difference between an enemy ship or submarine, and a rock formation.
So a supercavitating torpedo is fast, but it's also can't steer very well, and can't hear its target. Is it a viable weapon today? That's questionable. It's only been tested, and never used in combat.
All that could change, though, once someone figures out an efficient way to maneuver them, and enable them to home-in on their targets. Then they will be formidable weapons, and that day may not be too far off.

Israel's Navy Tests New Long-Range Heavy Torpedo

Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post
19 June 2018

The Israel Navy successfully completed a test of a new torpedo system set to enter operational use on Israel’s submarine fleet, a senior Navy officer announced Tuesday.
The trial of the heavy torpedo, which was carried out on Monday night against targets simulating enemy ships, was the final test of a series of pre-planned experiments to test the system’s competence.
“The implementation of the system constitutes a significant step in the strengthening of the Navy and in maintaining the superiority of the IDF in the naval arena,” the senior officer said, adding that the new torpedo systems have more accurate attack capabilities and can reach farther distances.
According to the senior Navy officer, the new state-of-the-art long-range versatile heavy torpedo can reach targets dozens of kilometers away-both on land and underwater- and is set to become the submarine fleet’s main missile.
The digitalization of the weapons system (as opposed to the older analog systems) will also the Navy to continuously upgrade its software.
Israel is highly dependent on the sea with over 90% of Israel’s imports arriving via the sea and while the country’s navy is relatively small compared to other IDF corps, it has a significant amount of territory to protect since the expansion of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from 40 miles to 150 miles from shore years ago.
While there is no hermetic protection on the sea, due to the threat posed by Hezbollah’s arsenal of Grad rockets and other longer-range projectiles, the navy has upgraded its weapons and defensive systems on its entire combat fleet.
“The naval arena is becoming very complex and this new torpedo preserves Israel’s freedom of action and the secrecy of Israel’s submarines which are an indispensable strategic tool for state security,” the senior officer said.
Israel’s small but deadly submarine fleet has been very active in recent months, the first naval officer said, explaining that 60% of the hours that the fleet has been active were operational hours.
Israel currently has three Dolphin-class submarines and two Dolphin 2-class submarines with another one expected to be delivered later this year. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, a magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, the first batch of the three new submarines are expected to be operational in 2030.
The new submarines being built by Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) are expected to replace the older Dolphins at a cost of combined price of NIS 5 billion ($1.3 billion).

Navy Columbia-Class Submarine Quieting "Electric Drive" - Stealthiest Sub Ever?

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven
18 June 2018

Columbia-Class is a new generation of submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world.
The Navy has now issued at least one-fourth of the design work and begun further advancing work on systems such as a stealthy "electric drive" propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines by 2021.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Columbia class is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from earlier this year states.
Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, Navy officials explained.
Navy developers explain that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat's propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines,” author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science and technology work and initial missile tube construction has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 20 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
Formal production is scheduled for 2021 as a key step toward fielding of a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced
construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.

Contract Awarded for US Submarines’ Expanded Launch Capacity

Steven Stashwick, The Diplomat
14 June 2018

BAE Systems has been awarded a contract to build Virginia Payload Modules (VPM) that will more than triple the number of cruise missiles future Virginia-class attack submarines can carry, while providing them the flexibility to accommodate a range of future weapons still under development.
The Virginia-class is the U.S. Navy’s most modern nuclear-powered attack submarine, built to replace the aging Cold War-era Los Angeles-class attack submarines. The first ten Virginias were built with twelve individual vertical launch tubes in their bow section for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. Blocks III and IV of the class, which will eventually comprise eighteen boats, replace the twelve individual vertical launch tubes with two large-diameter tubes that accommodate round canisters that hold six Tomahawk missiles each, simplifying the reloading process.
The new modules will effectively turn future Virginia-class subs into mini guided-missile subs.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. Navy converted its four oldest Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, designed to carry nuclear missiles, to carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles in canisters of seven that fit into the submarine’s large-diameter launch tubes. These original canisters were the inspiration for the large-diameter bow tubes installed on the later Virginias. As the Ohio guided missile submarines reach retirement in coming years the VPM-equipped Virginia-class submarines will replace some of their lost strike capacity.
Nine of the ten planned Block V Virginia-class submarines will be built with the Virginia Payload Module. The module will lengthen the midsection of the Virginia’s hulls to accommodate four large-diameter vertical launch tubes able to carry the same canisters installed on the converted Ohio-class submarines that hold seven Tomahawk cruise missiles. The additional tubes will allow the Virginia’s to carry up to 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of twelve.
The tubes’ large diameter will also allow the Virginias to carry future, larger weapons, like a future hypersonic weapon, a top priority for the Defense Department to compete against China and Russia.
Maneuverable hypersonic weapons travel at greater than five times the speed of sound, making them exceptionally difficult to defend against. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons efforts fall under the Conventional Prompt Global Strike program, whose goal was to enable a conventional strike against a target anywhere on earth in under an hour.
Last October, the U.S. Navy successfully tested a hypersonic conventional prompt strike vehicle at a test range in Hawaii that utilized the same kind of Ohio-class launch tube that will be installed with the Virginia Payload Module.
Concerned about China’s advanced anti-ship missiles and maturing hypersonic weapons, procuring hypersonic strike capabilities was a top priority for Admiral Harry Harris, the former head of U.S. Pacific Command. Admiral Philip Davidson, his relief at the now-renamed Indo-Pacific Command shares Harris’ concern, and testified that a hypersonic capability was essential to compete, deter, and win against China.
Hypersonic weapons are also the Pentagon’s top research and engineering official highest technical priority. In Undersecretary of Defense Michael Griffin’s first public remarks since taking office recently, he said that his goal was to leapfrog the hypersonic advances made by Russia and China, which some other defense officials admitted have already surpassed the United States’ efforts.
“I didn’t take this job so that we could regain parity with our adversaries,” he explained, “I want to make
them worry about catching up with us again.” He said that if China deploys a tactical or regional hypersonic weapon system they would be able to hold U.S. carrier strike groups and forward naval forces. In response, the United States needs to be able to defend against hypersonic systems, vulnerability identified in an Air Force Studies Board report in 2016, and have an equivalent offensive capability to hold Chinese forces similarly at risk.
Without its own hypersonic capabilities of its own, the United States would be forced to either let China have its way, or respond with nuclear weapons, Griffin concluded, “and that should be an unacceptable situation for the United States.”

New sub-launched nuke clears congressional hurdle

Joe Gould, Defense News Online
13 June 2018

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to scuttle legislation that would have forced the Trump administration to seek congressional approval for a new low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon.
The narrow 47-51 vote that tabled that legislation — a proposed amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act — was the latest move in a partisan chess game over development of a new, tactical submarine-launched nuclear missile.
The Pentagon and congressional Republicans advocate for the systems to deter Russia from using its own arsenal of low-yield nuclear weapons, but many Democrats and other opponents see it as lowering the threshold for a nuclear war.
The vote saw only Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Rand Paul, R-Ky., cross party lines to vote with Democrats. It was not enough, and Democrats lost the vote.
The Senate on Wednesday was close to ending debate on its $716 billion NDAA. That bill contains a provision that would remove statutory restrictions on the U.S. development or deployment of such a weapon without congressional authorization.
That language would grant the energy secretary new authority to carry out the weapon’s energy development phase, or any subsequent phase, without Congress’ specific approval.
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I., offered the amendment to preserve congressional oversight.
“It simply maintains the status quo and says if we’re going to develop a new weapons system, come to us,” Reed said of his amendment before the vote.
“We get to debate it, we approve it or we don’t approve it. But the American people can rest assured that this is not something that has simply moved through the administrative channels of any executive ― this president or any other president.”
The panel’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe — who stewarded the bill while SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., is battling cancer at home — opposed Reed’s amendment, citing the administration’s call for the new weapon in the new Nuclear Posture Review.
“I think we ought to have every capability that the Russians have,” said Inhofe, R-Okla. “Of course we won’t have that unless we have the low-yield capability. I’d hate to have our country in a position where the only choice we have is to do nothing or to use the high-yield weapons that we don’t want to use.”
Reed’s House counterpart, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., has voiced outright opposition to the weapons.
A vote to pass the Senate version of the NDAA is expected early next week. From there, the sweeping 1,140-page bill must be reconciled with its analogue in the House, where Republicans there parried other Democratic attempts to thwart the new nuclear weapon.

The US is Worried About Russian Submarines Spying on the Internet

Greg Walters, Vice News
11 June 2018

Western military commanders have grown increasingly worried about Russian submarines lurking around internet cables at the bottom of the ocean.
On Monday, the U.S. did something about it.
The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on a string of Russian companies for allegedly helping to develop cyber capabilities and submarine hardware for Russia’s main spy agency, the FSB. The department also warned that Moscow may be monitoring internet cables at the bottom of the ocean.
The new measure sanctions a handful of companies and their executives, including a Russian submarine-maker called Divetechnoservices, which got paid $1.5 million to deliver a special submarine to the spy agency, according to the Treasury’s statement.
“Today’s action also targets the Russian government’s underwater capabilities,” the statement reads. “Russia has been active in tracking undersea communication cables, which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunications data.”
Western military leaders have expressed anxiety about Russian subs reportedly hanging around at the bottom of the ocean near the long cables that carry much of the world’s data between continents.
The concern is that Russia could either tap into those cables to do some next-level internet espionage — or, in the event of a crisis, cut the cables and sow chaos through the global economy.
In December, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO's submarine forces, issued a public warning about Russian submarines prowling around near subsea telecommunications links.
“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don't believe we have
ever seen,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations' undersea infrastructure.”
The FSB itself was sanctioned back in March, and Monday’s new measures took aim at its high-tech contractors, like Divetechnoservices.
“Since 2007, Divetechnoservices has procured a variety of underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, to include the FSB,” the Treasury’s statement read. “Further, in 2011, Divetechnoservices was awarded a contract to procure a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million for the FSB.”
Nobody at Divetechnoservices’ headquarters in St. Petersburg answered phone calls from VICE News on Monday.
The sanctions came in response to a series of aggressive moves by Russia in cyberspace, according to the Treasury, including last year’s NotPetya cyberattack, intrusions against the U.S. energy grid, and global compromises of network infrastructure devices, including routers and switches.
“The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

On Sunday, This Russian Submarine Dived To 500 Meters In Norwegian Sea

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer
10 June 2018

“At a depth of half a kilometre, the submariners tested the operation systems and mechanisms, performed maneuvering and worked in cooperation with the instructions from the command post on board the rescue vessel «George Titov», the press-service of the Northern Fleet informs.
The dive, which took several hours, involved both military and civilian personell.
Since the Barents Sea north of the Kola Peninsula is too shallow, the Russian navy sails further west where the Barents Sea meets the Norwegian Sea. Here, between mainland Finnmark and the Bear Island, waters are down to about 2,000 meters.
Sunday’s deep-dive is the second testing in the area for the special mini-rescue submarine AS-34. Also last year, the same submarine dived in the same area, then down to a depth of 1,000 meters.
The dark blue area shows where waters are deeper. Map: Google / Barents Observer The Northern Fleet’s red and white rescue submarine became world famous in August 2000 when it repeatedly failed to assist the ill-fated «Kursk» submarine that sank in the Barents Sea killing all 118 personnel on board. AS-34 was one of two Russian mini-submarines participating in the rescue efforts. At first attempt, the rescue sub reported colliding with the stern stabiliser of «Kursk» and had to surface to repair the damage. In a second attempt after the damage was repaired batteries were depleted before able to attach to Kursk’s escape trunk. After surfacing, waves of up to 2,4 meters made it impossible to put the sub on the sea again. Two other attempts in the days after also failed, first when AS-34 again was damaged when it struck a boom while being lowered into the sea and second when it managed to dive but failed two times to attach to the escape hatch.
Russian navy tries to put the rescue submarine AS-34 into the waters in a failed rescue attempt where the Kursk submarine sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000. Photo: Russian Northern Fleet Five days after «Kursk» sank, President Vladimir Putin accepted an offer from the Norwegian and British governments to assist. Seven days
after the disaster the Norwegian ship «Normand Pioneer» carrying a British rescue submarine and deep-sea divers arrived and a few days later managed to open the hatch only to fine the rescue trunk full of water.
The trench northwest of mainland Norway is also used by the Russian navy’s warfare submarines for deep-sea testing and exercises. It was during deep-sea diving tests here in 1989 that the Soviet nuclear-powered submarine «Komsomolets» sank after a fire to a depth of 1,680 meters about 180 kilometers southwest of Bear Island. The waters between North Cape and Bear Island are also of key importance for the Northern Fleet’s submarine sailing out on patrols to the North-Atlantic.
AS-34 is 13,5 meters long, has a displacement of 55 tons, a crew of 3-4 people and can carry up to 20 rescued. It has a autonomy of navigation of up to 120 hours. AS-34 was modernized in the period 2014-2016.