Monday, November 30, 2015

Future submarine combat system lab opens

Staff, Australian Defence Magazine
27 November 2015
Lockheed Martin today opened a new high-tech laboratory to support the design, delivery and sustainment of Australia’s future Submarine Force, bringing world-class defence innovation to South Australia.
Leveraging significant international expertise, the submarine combat system laboratory will create a collaborative environment where the best minds from industry, academia and government come together openly to create a world-best design that meets Australia’s unique national security and defence challenges.
In recognition of the laboratory’s contribution to future defence projects and the local South Australian economy, today’s opening was attended by the Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne and the SA Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith.
The laboratory will grow further to provide state-of-the-art equipment in a simulated operational environment, together with known and proven technologies, to realistically test and validate the Royal Australian Navy’s concept of operations for the next generation of Australian submarines.
The laboratory will generate many benefits for the SA economy and community by early provision of important technical transfers, and upskilling required in the initial stages of customer and partner collaborations. The longer term plan will achieve considerable skills transfer on cutting edge engineering and technology to the SA sector for further leverage.
“The combat system is essentially the eyes, ears and sword of the submarine and the tactical effectiveness of Australia’s future submarine capability will depend on a fully integrated suite of the best technologies from Australia and around the world,” Raydon Gates CEO Lockheed Martin ANZ said.
“Lockheed Martin’s ability to seamlessly integrate the best sensors, sonar, radar, navigation, imagery systems and weapons will give Australia’s future submarine the strategic advantage it needs to protect our nation. It is critical we get this right for Australia, which is why we have already invested more than $3 million in establishing the laboratory and engaging with the best minds across industry, academia and government.”
Lockheed Martin is collaborating with key partners Saab Australia and Thales ANZ on this initiative in SA who collectively have a very strong record and have well-respected maritime domain knowledge and expertise. Lab-based workshops are planned to commence in January 2016. Further, other collaboration partners such as Acacia Research and L3 Oceania are early Lab participants.
The laboratory capitalises on Lockheed Martin’s heritage of more than 40 years of demonstrated submarine combat systems integration methodology on submarines for seven nations. Lockheed Martin is a full life cycle combat system integrator with expertise in all phases of design, test, integration, certification, delivery and sustainment.

Germany's Thyssenkrupp promises Aussie submarine jobs

Staff, The Economic Times
30 November 2015
Germany's Thyssenkrupp could create up to 3,000 jobs in Australia if selected to build a new fleet of submarines there, its executive in charge of the project told Reuters.
Thyssenkrupp is competing with France's state-controlled naval contractor DCNS and a state-backed Japanese consortium for the contract, which is worth an estimated $36 billion and could be the biggest in the industrial and steel group's history.
We made a very solid bid," said Hans Christoph Atzpodien, the board member of Thyssenkrupp's Industrial Solutions division with responsibility for naval operations, after the Essen-based company said on Monday it had submitted its offer.
He declined to discuss details of the bid but said Thyssenkrupp would put in a fixed-price offer if selected to continue to the next phase of the process. It expects one of the bidders to be selected to pursue exclusive talks in the first half of 2016.
The German and French bidders have said they will make a full build in Australia part of their offer, prompting Japan to say it would match its European rivals and build the fleet entirely at Australian shipyards.
Atzpodien said Thyssenkrupp envisaged creating 2,000-3,000 new jobs if it won the contract. He estimated that the same number again could be created at suppliers drawn from a pool of around 400 firms. He said Thyssenkrupp could make Australia a regional base for its Asia-Pacific operations, including the design of frigates.
"There will be great demand for armaments in the Pacific region in the next years. China will upgrade its navy. That will strengthen demand in the region," Atzpodien said.

North Korea tests sub-launched missile but it reportedly failed

Jack Kim and Ju-min Park, Reuters
28 November 2015
SEOUL – North Korea appeared to conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test on Saturday but it ended in failure with no indication that the missile successfully ejected from the vessel and took off, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
The test, if confirmed, follows a test-launch in May of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which Pyongyang boasted as a success but has not been independently verified.
"There is no identification of a missile taking flight and only fragments of a safety cover was observed so it's highly likely that the launch was a misfire," a South Korean government source was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
South Korea's Defence Ministry declined to confirm the report citing its policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.
The North's May test launch of an SLBM fueled alarm in South Korea and the United States about the possibility of advances in the military capabilities of a state that is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
But a high-ranking U.S. military official and private rocket experts questioned the authenticity of photographs released by the North of the May launch saying they were likely modified.
The missile was likely launched from a specially designed submerged barge and not from a submarine and that the North is years away from developing such technology, some experts have said.
But South Korea said it believed the rocket was fired from a submarine and flew about 150 meters out of the water.
North Korea has defied U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests and is believed to be developing a nuclear device small enough to be mounted on a ballistic missile but it is believed to be some years away from perfecting the technology.
North Korea is technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea in combined defense with the South against the North.

U.S. seeking "game changers' in undersea world

Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News
27 November 2015
WASHINGTON - The United States builds, arguably, the world’s most capable submarines. But at about $2 billion apiece, there are only so many subs the US Navy will acquire, and it’s widely recognized the supply will never meet the demand.
Meanwhile, building and acquiring modern submarines is a worldwide growth industry. Russia, China and even India are designing and building multiple new classes of subs, armed and fit with a growing variety of weapons and sensors — and a number of nations are building or purchasing foreign-designed undersea craft.
Retired Vice Adm. Michael Connor, a former commander of the US Navy’s submarine forces, explained this activity in a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.
“The undersea arena is the most opaque of all warfighting domains,” Connor said during an Oct. 27
hearingat the House Seapower subcommittee. “It is easier to track a small object in space than it is to track a large submarine, with tremendous fire power under the water. That is why countries with the technical wherewithal to operate in this domain are pursuing advanced capability. The two countries that present the biggest challenge in the undersea are Russia and China, with Russia being the more capable of the two.”
Rather than simply building more submarines, Connor and others are urging more sustained development of weapons and sensors to increase the power of US undersea forces. Among Connor’s top recommendations is the desire to extend the striking range of submarine-launched weapons.
“This multiplies the impact of each submarine and multiplies the search challenge that each submarine presents to a potential foe,” he said.
Connor specifically wants torpedoes with ranges of more than 100 miles.
“This is definitely doable with chemical-based propulsion systems and will likely soon be achievable with battery systems,” he said. Such a range also will need better command-and-control systems, including the ability to communicate with the torpedo, perhaps via manned or unmanned aircraft or by satellite, he said.
“The torpedo will come to be considered along the line of a slow-moving missile,” he said, “with the advantage that it is more difficult to detect, carries a much larger explosive charge and strikes the enemy beneath the waterline, where the impact is most severe.”
Connor also wants the US “to get back into the business of submarine-launched anti-ship missiles” with the ability to “confidently attack a specific target at sea at a range of about 1,000 miles. We should be pursuing this more aggressively than we are.”
Connor also wants better and more-capable undersea vehicles.
“We need to improve the endurance of the vehicles, expand the payload set, and get to the point where any submarine can recover the mission data, if not the vehicle. We need to do this while keeping the cost of the vehicle down. The cost should be low enough such that, while we would always like to get the vehicles back, it is not a crisis if we don’t. The value is in the data, not the vehicle.”
Bryan Clark, a naval analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, appeared alongside Connor and urged greater development in undersea sensors — onboard submarines, unmanned vehicles and weapons, as well as deployed in the water and fixed on the seabed.
To coordinate the development and fielding of underwater systems, Clark said the Navy should “make its undersea warfare resource sponsor and acquisition organizations responsible for all undersea vehicles and systems once they transition out of research and development.”
Clark urged continued development in a wide range of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), including looking at ways to arm some. He pointed to the compact, very lightweight torpedo — now under development — as having potential not only as a defensive, anti-torpedo weapon but also as a weapon that could be carried and launched by larger UUVs.
Connor and Clark said Congress could aid these efforts by providing funding not tied to specific programs of record. “Programs should be defined broadly so that they can incorporate innovation without recreating the program,” Connor said.
The failure of some efforts, he said, should not necessarily be taken as a negative thing. He said Silicon Valley failure rates sometimes approach 90 percent.
“If we are innovating aggressively enough, perhaps half of our initiatives will fail,” he said.
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the subcommittee, agreed with many of the recommendations.
“There’s a recognition that if we’re going to keep up with undersea dominance, it’s not just about creating more platforms, but we have to create relatively sophisticated systems of systems with the ability to multiply capability but not just adding a platform,” he said in a post-hearing interview.
“We can create a platform to last 20, 30, 40 years,” he said, noting that many systems will be developed over that time. “So it’s important to find the process or architecture to create innovation and put it out in three to four year cycles.
“What I’m excited about,” he said, “is we’ve got people in the Pentagon, the private sector and in policy sectors who understand this and can create partnerships to actually get them done.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

India's first locally-built submarine test fires missile successfully

INS Arihant

New Delhi27 November 2015 India's first indigenously-developed nuclear-powered nuclear attack submarine, Arihant, has successfully test fired a dummy or unarmed missile, reliable sources said. The vital first test in ejecting a missile from its onboard silos was conducted on Wednesday, proverbially adding a feather to the cap of the Indian Navy and scientists from DRDO and BARC, the sources said.

Japan set to submit its bid to build Aussie submarines by Monday's deadline

This Dec. 5, 2007 photo, shows Japanese navy submarine Soryu during a launching ceremony at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Kobe dockyard in Kobe, western Japan. Japan says it is preparing to make a bid Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 on joint development and production of an Australian submarine, Tokyo's first major military transfer since the World War II. Officials refused to give details, but Japanese media speculate that the proposals feature the Soryu-class diesel-powered propulsion system with advanced stealth capabilities. (Kyodo News via AP)

27 November 2015
TOKYO (AP) — Japan is set to bid on joint development and production of an Australian submarine, Tokyo's first major military transfer since the World War II.
The National Security Council approved the transfer of sensitive submarine technology to Australia and the proposal will be submitted to the Australian government by Monday's deadline, Japanese defense officials said.
Australia will choose from three bidders — from Japan, Germany and France — by the end of 2016.
Defense officials said a military partnership between Japan and Australia will enhance peace and stability, especially maritime security, in the Asia-Pacific region amid China's military buildup in the East and South China seas.
Officials refused to give details, but Japanese media speculate that the proposals feature the Soryu-class diesel-powered propulsion system with advanced stealth capabilities.
If chosen, the submarine deal would be Japan's first fully-fledged military technology transfer since World War II. In April 2014, Japan eased its decades-old ban on military exports, allowing some Japanese participation in the international weapons market. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hawkish government also enacted a divisive law in September to allow Japan's military a greater role in international peacekeeping.
Japan is proposing to jointly design and build future Australian submarines and also to provide support for operation and maintenance of the fleet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MP Donaldson stands by offer to base Trident submarines in Northern Ireland

Vanguard-class British submarine berthed in Scotland.

The fear is that Scotland might leave the U.K., forcing a relocation of the sub base there.

Dan Griffin, The Irish Times
25 November 2015
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said he has no intention of withdrawing an offer to base the British nuclear deterrent Trident in Northern Ireland.
The Green Party has criticised the offer, made during a House of Commons debate, as “cavalier” and “arrogant”.
MPs are debating the renewal of the multi-billion pound weapons system, which involves four nuclear powered Vanguard submarines, one of which is constantly armed and at sea.
The Tory government is in faviour of renewal but the Scottish National Party opposes the Clyde-based programme, describing it as “unusable and indefensible”. The party, which has 56 MPs, said plans to renew the system were “ludicrous on both defence and financial grounds”.
Mr Donaldson said if Scotland was ever to leave the United Kingdom, then Northern Ireland could become the new home of Trident.
“The Scottish nationalists were saying that they didn’t want Trident imposed upon them and I suppose at some time in the future there’s alwas the possibility that if Scotland left the United Kingdom then a new home would have to be found for Trident.
“I understand that the only suitable location that might work in Northern Ireland is Belfast Lough and obviously if we were in a situation to compete for the 10,000 jobs that go with Trident then that is something we would want to look at.”
He added that it would be “by far the preferred outcome” for Trident to remain at its current base in Scotland because of the costs involved in transferring it to the North.
“I suppose I’m just putting down a marker that if ever the opportunity arose I think Belfast would want to compete because the jobs alone would be a major boost for our local economy.”
Green Party councillor for Louth Mark Dearey called on Mr Donaldson to withdraw the remarks made in the House of Commons . He said: “Given that his fellow MPs in the SNP who have direct experience of the Trident presence are deeply worried, it would serve Mr. Donaldson well to reflect before making offers without any public discussion or consultation in Northern Ireland or in the Assembly.
But Mr Robertson said he would “absolutely not” withdraw the remarks, adding “given the demise of the Green Party in the Irish Republic I don’t think many people are going to listen to what they have to say”.
Since 1969, a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons has always been on partol somewhere in the world’s oceans. Proponents say it keeps Britain safe by enabling the country to carry out a major attck even if all its other defence capablities are wiped out.
Each of the four submarines involved in the Trident programme, which replaced the Polaris system in the 1980s, carry a sealed “letter of last resort” from the prime minister, containing instructions to follow if the UK has suffered an overwhelming attack.
The British government has said replacing Trident will cost between £15 billion and £20 billion. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the figure is closer to £100 billion.
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The newest USS Colorado is a phenomenal submarine

Jeff Dumas, Daily Camera
25 November 2015
I read with interest the front page article in the Veterans Day issue of The Daily Camera regarding the arrival at the CU campus of the original ship's bell from the first two warships christened the USS Colorado. As the article mentioned, there is a second even larger bell already to be seen in the University Memorial Center on the CU campus — that belonging to the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45), which was commissioned in 1921 and decommissioned in 1947. However, what the article did not mention — and which should be made widely known — is that in early 2017 (after a 70-year hiatus), the fourth USS Colorado will hit the waves — or, perhaps we should say, slip beneath the waves. The next nuclear attack sub to be commissioned will be christened the USS Colorado (SSN-788), the Navy's newest Virginia Class attack submarine.
By the way, for those former sailors (like me) who are becoming dated on their "seamanship rates," here are some of the highlights of the USS Colorado: Instead of periscopes, the USS Colorado will have a pair of extendable "photonics masts" entirely outside the pressure hull — each of which contains several high-resolution cameras (with light-intensification and infrared sensors), an infrared laser rangefinder, and an integrated electronic communications and electronic emissions detection arrays.
Interestingly, signals from the masts' sensors are transmitted through fiber optic data lines to the control center, which can now be more comfortably located away from the restricted spaces beneath the conning towner/sail. Unlike its predecessors, the USS Colorado has a reactor core which will last the life of the ship, thereby avoiding an expensive and extended (two-year) shipyard maintenance period to refuel the reactor midlife for pre-Virginia Class boats.
Lastly, although I don't quite know what it means (and I probably don't have the requisite "need-to-know"), the USS Colorado makes use of "pump-jet propulsors" for quieter operations. I'm told that this very important feature required an extensive re-engineering of both the submarine's reactor and its turbines.
Another significant technical innovation that will be first tried in the USS Colorado is the installation of vertical revolver-chamber type rotating missile housing that will allow multiple launches from a single aperture in the hull. And, that aperture has been significantly enlarged to enable the launch of the next-generation Tomahawk guided missiles. The hull has also been configured to accommodate external Navy Seal operations. Total tab: $2.6 billion.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and various members of the Colorado congressional delegation have been preparing for the official commissioning ceremony for the USS Colorado, which is currently slated to take place at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., in February or March of 2017. In that process, the Colorado Legislature has created a formal "commissioning committee" for the USS Colorado.
In so doing, the commissioning committee has selected Boulder resident Captain John Jay Mackin, USN (Ret), to serve as the committee chairman. Captain Mackin (known to his friends and shipmates as "JJ"), first arrived in Boulder in 1995, after a long Navy career in nuclear submarines, to help decommission Rocky Flats. Captain Mackin was selected to chair the commissioning committee in part due to his service as the former skipper of an earlier attack boat, the USS Lapon (SSN-661).
In his capacity as chairman, Captain Mackin has been working closely with the skipper of the USS Colorado, Commander Ken Franklin, the governor and the Colorado Legislature to celebrate and commemorate the launch of the newest USS Colorado. One visible result of this effort has been the creation of an attractive USS Colorado license plate that is now available for all new registrations. To find out more about the activities of the commissioning committee, or to get involved, visit the committee's website at On that website, it might be noted that the official "ship's crest"was just selected from over 50 entries submitted from all over the country. The winning design was created by LTJG Michael Nielsen, USN, of Arvada, who has just been assigned to the crew of USS Colorado.
Boy, I'm glad I'm long out of the ASW ("Anti-Submarine Warfare") business!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

U.K. raises cost estimate for new submarines

Estimate is 25 percent more and no sub delivery until the 2030s.

Nicholas Winning, Wall Street Journal
24 November 2015
The U.K. government on Monday raised its cost estimate for the manufacture of four new nuclear-weapon armed submarines by almost a quarter to £31 billion ($47.1 billion), with a further £10 billion contingency, and expected the first boat to enter service in the early 2030s, later than previously thought.
The sharp increase in costs for the Successor submarine program from the previous estimate of £25 billion is likely to fuel debate about whether the U.K. needs a weapon system that some argue is outdated, is unlikely to be used, and doesn't protect against the growing threat from groups such as Islamic State.
Speaking in parliament Monday Prime Minister David Cameron said the nuclear deterrent was the “ultimate insurance policy in an unsafe and uncertain world that you can never be subject to nuclear blackmail.” He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to replace four existing Vanguard Class submarines that are due to leave service in the early 2030s. Parliament would have the opportunity to debate the issue at the “appropriate moment,” he said, adding that he was keen for a vote.
The new estimate for the 20-year submarine program—one of the government’s largest—came in the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defense and Security Review, which sets out the government’s military priorities for the years ahead.
Replacing the U.K.’s nuclear warheads wasn't required until the late 2030s at the earliest, according to the review, but a decision may be required in the five-year parliament ending 2020 or early in the next.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has said he is against the replacement of the nuclear armed submarines, although other senior party figures are in favor, and the party is reviewing its position. The Scottish National Party is also against the replacement of the nuclear weapon subs and has campaigned for the money to be spent in other areas.
The defense review also sets out plans for a 7% increase in the country’s military equipment budget to £178 billion for the next 10 years for projects including nine new maritime patrol aircraft, the creation of two new rapidly deployable brigades by 2025 and the Typhoon jet fighter, which it hopes to extend.
The government also said it plans to buy 138 Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters with 24 in operation on its two new aircraft carriers by 2023, a larger and quicker rollout than many had expected.
The planned Successor nuclear-armed submarine program, which was originally planned to begin service in 2028 was, “clearly not squeezing out other defense requirements,” Mr. Cameron said.
The defense review also included plans for a 30% cut in both the number of civilians in the Defense Ministry and the size of the department’s real estate. The government said it would not reduce the size of the regular army any further.
In the last defense review in 2010 the emphasis was on sharp reductions in spending and military personnel to trim the U.K.’s budget deficit. Mr. Cameron said Britain’s renewed economic strength meant it could now afford to invest further in national security.
“This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing. From the rise of ISIL [Islamic State] and greater instability in the Middle East, to the crisis in Ukraine, the threat of cyberattacks and the risk of pandemics, the world is more dangerous and uncertain today than five years ago,” he said in the foreword to the defense review.
It remains to be seen if the review and the government’s commitment to meeting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s target for military spending convinces observers that the U.K. has the muscle to take a significant role in global affairs. The government’s defense cuts over the last five years have been so severe that some U.S. officials have raised concerns that Britain’s military capability is being curtailed at a time of increased global conflict and instability.
Mr. Cameron is set to lay out the government’s strategy on Thursday for combating Islamic State, including extending U.K. airstrikes against the group to Syria from Iraq where British warplanes have been bombing for more than one year.
He has said the Paris attacks strengthen the case for Britain to join the U.S., France and others bombing in Syria, but has emphasized he would hold a parliamentary vote on such a move only if he is confident he will win. Earlier Monday, he met French President Fran├žois Hollande in Paris to discuss the counterterrorism cooperation and the fight against Islamic State and then together visited the Bataclan theater, the scene of the bloodiest of the attacks in the city.
“As far as I am concerned an attack on Paris is an attack on us, it’s an attack on our way of life, an attack on our values. Standing outside the Bataclan theater this morning you feel that with every sense of your being,” he said.

Monday, November 23, 2015

RAF search for 'Russian submarine' spotted off Scotland

Staff, BBC
22 November 2015
An RAF plane is "conducting activity" off the Scottish coast, the Ministry of Defence says, amid reports of a Russian submarine being spotted in the area.
A Royal Navy Frigate and submarine are also thought to be involved in the search, along with Canadian and French maritime patrol aircraft.
The Telegraph reports the French plane has searched for the submarine for at least 10 days.
The RAF currently has no maritime patrol aircraft of its own.
But according to the BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Beale, this lack of patrol aircraft is expected to be addressed in Monday's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The submarine was detected north of Scotland. The Ministry of Defence did not confirm it was looking for a foreign submarine.
"We can confirm that allied maritime patrol aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth for a limited period are conducting activity with the Royal Navy," a statement said.
"We do not discuss the detail of maritime operations."
There have been previous concerns that Russia could be developing plans to have submarines sever key internet communications during future wars, following a spike in its naval activity near the locations of undersea cables.

Japan links Aussie submarine bid to regional security

Staff, Agence France-Press
23 November 2015
Japan's defense minister urged Australia Sunday to award a huge submarine contract to his country, saying such a deal would help bolster regional security.
Australia has put out to tender a project worth up to Aus $50 billion (US $36 billion) to replace its current diesel and electric-powered Collins Class submarines.
France and Germany are also in the running with Japan to secure the order, with a Nov. 30 deadline to submit final proposals.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said picking Tokyo could help ensure maritime security in the Asia-Pacific, alluding to the importance of regional allies such as the US, Japan and Australia working together in the face of China's growing military might.
He said after talks with his counterpart Marise Payne in Sydney that awarding Japan the contract would be of "strategic importance, significant strategic importance, and this is not just about transfer of defense equipment and capabilities."
"This will lead to operational cooperation between Japan and Australia... Japan and Australia and the US."
Nakatani added that if Japan were chosen, it would be a "model for strategic cooperation between Australia, US and Japan."
For Australia, cooperating with Japan — whose Soryu is widely seen as the best submarine of its type — risks angering its biggest trading partner China.
Payne said Japan was "a key defense partner" with "similar values, shared strategic interests."
"We have a common alliance with the US and a significant proportion of our discussions today was devoted to talking about enhancing that defense cooperation, with growing engagement between the Australian Defence Force and the Japan self-defense forces," she added.
But she said this was separate to the tender process, which she did not want to preempt.
Besides matching the range and endurance of the Collins Class, the new generation of subs are expected to offer superior sensor performance and stealth capabilities.
The tender process has been politically sensitive, with Canberra keen to maximize Australian industry involvement and jobs. There are fears that any off-the-shelf purchase could kill off the domestic shipbuilding industry.
French naval contractor DCNS told a parliamentary inquiry in July that it would be able to carry out more than 70 percent of construction in Australia.
John White, the Australian head of Germany's TKMS, which is also in the running to win the contract, has said his defense firm could also build all the submarines locally with some imported parts.
Nakatani said Japan would try to maximize the participation of Australian companies.

Electric Boat to add thousands of workers to build submarines in new facility

Paul Edward Parker, Providence Journal
20 November 2015
Governor Raimondo and the state’s congressional delegation joined officials from General Dynamics Electric Boat on Friday to celebrate the opening of a new facility where the shipbuilder will construct the hulls of the next generation of the nation’s ballistic missile nuclear submarines.
The company’s automated frame and cylinder facility portends thousands of new manufacturing jobs coming to Rhode Island. It also is the most visible evidence of progress toward replacing the aging fleet of Ohio-class submarines, part of the country’s nuclear triad of land-based missiles, long-range bombers and sub-launched missiles.
“Today is a shining symbol of the momentum we have going here in Rhode Island,” Raimondo told a crowd of Electric Boat employees gathered in front of a giant American flag in the new building, which cost $50 million to build and will house $75 million of specialized hull-building equipment.
Electric Boat, which has hired 600 workers at its Quonset Point shipyard in the last year to reach a total of just under 3,700 employees, expects to boost that number to 6,000 to build the new ballistic missile submarines.
“The Ohio-class replacement is the Navy’s No. 1 priority,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said. “From a national security perspective, this is the most important program that is under way right now.”
Current plans call for 12 ballistic missile submarines to replace the Ohio class of 14 subs. Two fewer subs are needed because the new ones will be designed so
that the nuclear reactors that power the ship do not need to be refueled during the lifespan of the submarine. Refueling an Ohio-class sub takes several years, so the additional subs are needed to cover patrols while subs undergoing refueling are in drydock.
The new submarines are expected to be 561 feet long — two feet longer than the Ohios — and 43 feet in diameter — a foot wider than the Ohios. They will have 16 missile tubes, compared with 24 on the Ohios.
“We may be Little Rhody, but we build big things,” U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said.
While Electric Boat will start building the missile compartment of the lead ship in the new class next year, construction of the full ship is not expected to start until 2020. The first ship is expected to take seven years to build, while those later in the class will take closer to six years. The 12th and final sub of the new class is expected to be ordered in 2035 and delivered to the Navy in the early 2040s.
The missile compartment is being built ahead of the rest of the boat, in part, to accommodate the British Royal Navy, which is also beginning to replace its ballistic missile submarines. The two nations will share a common design for the missile compartment. Electric Boat will design the compartment and build the first as a prototype, and then each nation will build the missile compartments for their own submarines, Electric Boat President Jeffrey S. Geiger said.
William P. Lennon, the company’s vice president for engineering and design programs, said the missile compartments will be built with an innovative construction technique in which sets of four missile tubes, called a “quad pack,” will be fitted into a section of the hull as it is built, rather than the tubes being installed after hull construction.
That won’t be the only new technology used to build the submarines or found in them. “This next submarine has to get you to 2080,” Lennon said.
Most of that new technology is classified, he said, but some of it can be seen in the Virginia-class fast-attack submarines that the company is now building. As an example, a system of electronic cameras and sensors mounted on a “photonics mast” and hooked to computer display screens have replaced the traditional submarine periscope.
The Virginia class has been built in a teaming arrangement with Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with each company building parts of all the boats and alternating which shipyard finishes a submarine and delivers it to the Navy. Reed said that will change with the new ballistic-missile submarines. Newport News will build some components, but final assembly of all boats will be done by Electric Boat.
While fast-attack submarines are designed to hunt and sink surface ships and other submarines, ballistic-missile subs head out to sea and disappear, hiding in the depths with their nuclear arsenals, ready to destroy any nation that attacks the United States, hopefully deterring such attacks in the process.
“It’s the strongest leg of the nuclear triad,” Reed said. “They’re the hardest to find. They’re mobile.”
And, he said, they’re needed as much today as in the chilliest periods of the Cold War.
Russia and China are developing new military technology, he said. “And then you have rogue states like the North Koreans.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

French submarine maker surfaces new offer to woo Australia

DCNS promises Australia exclusive design for cutting-edge submarines in bid to beat rivals for $20 billion contract

Shipbuilding giant DCNS is offering to build Barracuda submarines (modeled above) to Australia.

Rob Taylor, The Wall Street Journal
17 November 2015

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – The French contender in a $20 billion contest to build Australia's next undersea fleet said it won't offer its cutting-edge design to other nations like India bulking up their underwater capabilities, as bidding intensifies for one of the world's most lucrative defense contracts.
The French shipbuilding giant DCNS has sold smaller submarines to India, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil, but its chairman and CEO said Tuesday that only Australia is being offered advanced sonar and stealth technology similar to systems on French nuclear missile submarines.
"What France is offering to Australia is absolutely unique and has never been offered to anybody else in the world," DCNS's head Herve Guillou said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal at a conference bringing together bidders for the new submarines. "Nobody else will be offered, by far, the same type of package that we are offering."
DCNS is a state-controlled company that is one of Europe's largest defense firms, building submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers.
Also vying to build Australia's next-generation submarine fleet are Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and Japan''s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.
Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne said the government will pick the winning company early next year, as it plans to replace its six aging submarines with eight to 12 state-of-the-art vessels. The two-day conference was scheduled long before the weekend's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, which Mr. Guillou said he expects will spark countries to speed up buying of sophisticated weaponry.
Germany's TKMS has also offered a larger and more advanced submarine than it has offered elsewhere. Japan, which has never before offered its proven Soryu design for sale, is hoping a sale of its submarines could solidify Tokyo's growing strategic ties with Australia, while also boosting the country's ambitions to take a greater slice of the global arms market.
Australia is one of many Asia-Pacific nations looking to modernize its submarine fleet with diesel-powered vessels. More than half of the world's submarines are expected to be in Asia by 2030, as such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore look to hedge against instability by building undersea fleets, which are harder for enemies to detect than conventional ships.
Canberra wants its new fleet to maintain the advantage its small but technically proficient military has held over regional neighbors, including China, which is also modernizing its fleet of around 70 submarines as it flexes its muscles over disputed islands in the East and South China Seas. The submarines are part of Australia's ambitious naval modernization worth A$89 billion, which includes new destroyers, frigates, submarines and patrol ships.
All of the submarines being offered to Australia would give the country one of the most potent undersea forces in Asia, while adding to the capabilities of Australia's chief ally the U.S. Modern conventional submarines add to the ability of the all-nuclear U.S. undersea fleet by being able to operate in shallower Asian coastal waters and rest undetected with engines off on ocean floors-something nuclear vessels cannot do.
DCNS is offering Australia a smaller version of its Barracuda nuclear submarine against Germany's new Type 216, also designed specifically to prowl Australia's sprawling coastline and reach far north into Asia. Japan, which has fallen from favoritism after a change in Australia's prime minister, is offering a modified version of its Soryu submarine.
Australia's navy chief Vice Admiral Timothy Barrett told the submarine conference that Canberra would choose a submarine that offered unrivaled "lethality" in the face of Asia underwater arms race and which was able to operate "up-threat" far from home.
Uncertainty over China's intentions is driving Japan and South Korea to strengthen their submarine fleets, while India is also building six smaller DCNS-designed submarines in Mumbai, and may increase that.
Mr. Guillou said DCNS was offering Australia exclusive designs because it is a Western ally in the same region of French strategic interests in Tahiti and Noumea, as well as the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
Mr. Guillou said the Paris terrorist attacks would renew the focus of strategists on security against cyberattacks by terrorist groups or hostile states, as well as more on capable naval ships to support intensified land operations by soldiers.
"There [will be] a real gain in investment in military

China's Navy 'restrained' in face of U.S. provocations, according to Chinese admiral

Adm. Wu Shengli

John Ruwitch, REUTERS
20 November 2015
SHANGHAI – China's top admiral said his forces have shown "enormous restraint" in the face of U.S. provocations in the South China Sea, while warning they stand ready to respond to repeated breaches of Chinese sovereignty.
Beijing, which claims almost the entire energy-rich South China Sea through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes yearly, has stepped up a program of land reclamation and construction in disputed islands and reefs there that has sparked concern in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States has called for a halt to China's artificial island building, and in recent weeks has tried to signal its determination to challenge Beijing over the disputed sea by sending military ships and planes near the islands.
"The Chinese navy has closely monitored the provocative actions of the United States and issued several warnings, while exercising enormous restraint in the interests of safeguarding the overall situation in bilateral relations," said Wu Shengli, commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy, according to a report on the defense ministry's website late on Thursday.
"If the United States carries out repeated provocations despite China's opposition, we have the ability to defend our national sovereignty and security."
Wu made the comments in a meeting in Beijing on Thursday with Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the United States' Pacific fleet, the report said.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea.
China's Defence Ministry said on Friday that the navy had recently carried out anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea, with submarines, warships and ship-born helicopters.
State television showed warships conducting live-fire drills and troops deploying from amphibious vehicles on to beaches.
It did not say when the exercises happened, nor where exactly. Such drills are not uncommon.
In the Philippines on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said China must stop the land reclamation.
Obama planned to raise the South China Sea dispute at another summit this weekend in Malaysia, his main Asia policy adviser Daniel Kritenbrink said.
Swift was in Shanghai earlier this week where the USS Stethem, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, made a port call.
It was the third visit first to China by a U.S. navy vessel this year and the first since a similar guided missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, angered Beijing by sailing near one of China's man-made islands late last month to challenge the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China claims around the artificial islands.

U.S. allies recall and renew scientific ties born in 'Desperate Act of Trust' 75 years ago

19 November 2015
ARLINGTON, VA. – In the somber wake of recent attacks in Paris, three World War II allies honored decades of defense-critical scientific collaboration – and re-affirmed their partnership for years to come.
On Nov. 17, at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the British Embassy and the Canadian Embassy co-hosted a one-day, 75th-anniversary commemoration of the Tizard Mission – a pivotal moment of transatlantic political cooperation and scientific collaboration that contributed to Allied victory in World War II. It also led to a range of technological advances that resonates even today – including the critical cavity magnetron, which made possible small, powerful radars that could be placed on aircraft, ships and land-based platforms.
“The recent atrocities in Paris highlight the unpredictability of today’s external threats, and with that, the compelling need to rapidly deliver relevant, innovative technology solutions,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter. “That was true in 1940, it is true today and will be true in 2040.”
The Tizard Mission – named after Sir Henry Tizard, the prominent British scientist who organized it – traveled to the U.S. and Canada in 1940, during the Battle of Britain, when that nation was fighting an onslaught by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The British shared information about more than 20 of the greatest scientific advances of the war thus far, in the hope of securing help in producing a range of new technologies.
In addition to the cavity magnetron, other breakthroughs included designs for rockets and jet engines, submarine-detection devices and gyroscopic gunsights – as well as a memorandum outlining the feasibility of an atomic bomb.
“The Tizard Mission, and the partnership resulting from it, showed that the way we develop technology is just as important as how we use technology,” said Dr. Vernon Gibson, chief scientific adviser, U.K. Ministry of Defence. “Tizard was a desperate act of trust that sowed the seeds for future victory and collaboration.”
Gibson’s words supported the prevailing theme of the ceremony: Complex future challenges require the three nations to continue Tizard’s legacy. Representatives from
the nations’ defense S&T organizations signed a renewal of commitment to future collaboration.
The commemoration included several panel discussions during which distinguished scientists, engineers and historians talked about the importance of transatlantic S&T cooperation. Attendees also were able to view a display showcasing various artifacts from the Tizard Mission, including several cavity magnetrons.
“In the U.S. Navy, the most important ships we have are partnerships,” said Winter. “The nations represented here today must build on our history of scientific cooperation and mutual respect and reliance, in order to defend against future adversaries.”

Czar of U.S. Navy's unmanned systems: 'Autonomy is not a solved problem'

Richard R. Burgess, Seapower Magazine
19 November 2015
ARLINGTON, VA. — The Navy Department’s top civilian who oversees the development of unmanned systems said much work is yet to be done in developing autonomous systems and that those systems will not diminish the importance of people.
“Despite the ample research that has been done, and despite the claims of some, autonomy is not a solved problem,” Frank L. Kelley Jr., the Navy’s first deputy assistant secretary of the Navy (DASN) for Unmanned Systems, said Nov. 19 before the House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee. “There is much work to be done before we can realize our vision of a fully integrated manned and unmanned force. Autonomy still provides a host of unique challenges. Furthermore, autonomy alone will not ensure a secure America.
“We must understand the limits of autonomy and in so doing come to more fully appreciate the advantages of being human,” Kelley said. “This way we will be able to build an effective team relationship between people and autonomous systems. The development of trust within this team will be critical to the success of all of our missions.
“Unmanned and autonomous systems are going to transform the future of how we operate as a Navy and as a military,” he said. “However, unmanned technology will not diminish the importance of our most fundamental asset: our people. Instead, unmanned and autonomous systems which allow us to exceed human limitations will be used as powerful force multipliers across our fleet,” he said.
“Using autonomous systems in roles for which machines are best suited allows us to strategically employ Sailors and Marines for roles in which people are best suited. Innovations in autonomy need to be nurtured and introduced in a manner which will gain the trust of our Sailors and Marines and the public we are here to protect. Realizing the vision of a fully integrated manned and unmanned naval force will depend as much on significant military cultural evolution as on a technology innovation. We had to change the way we think to evolve the way we fight,” Kelley added.
In September, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus established Kelley’s DASN position and also a resource sponsor in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Code N99, the latter headed by RADM Robert Girrier, “so that all aspects of unmanned [systems] in all domains would be coordinated and championed,” Kelley said.
Kelley praised the ground-breaking research work of the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Laboratory in advancing unmanned systems technology.
“We have a moral imperative to equip our Sailors and Marines with the best capabilities to do their missions,” he said. “However, we also have amoral imperative to ensure that in addition to technological innovation, we develop an ethical, legal and policy framework for how we will employ unmanned and autonomous systems. We also recognize that we have to be able to robustly defend against adversaries that do not play by our rules.”

Unmanned systems: U.S. Navy enhancing warfighting capabilities today and in the future

Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, NAVY LIVE BLOG
19 November 2015
This is an exciting time for me to be serving as the Navy’s Director, Unmanned Warfare Systems (N99) partnered with Secretary Frank Kelley as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) for Unmanned Systems. We were able to speak a couple of weeks ago at an event for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, and I want to share with you some thoughts and information about our newly formed directorate we discussed at the event.
We are living in a world that is connected more than ever with the surge of technology and rapid information sharing. We are also living in an increasingly dangerous world with contested regions on the sea, in the air, under the sea and in cyberspace. My job, drawing on fleet experience, is to see how unmanned systems and technology can help solve problems we face in contested regions around the world. How can unmanned systems help leverage the capabilities of our ships, submarines and aircraft?
While many of you are broadly aware of unmanned capabilities today, some of you have actually worked with these vehicles first hand. Fire Scout and Scan Eagle have been used for several years supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Currently, Fire Scout is employed in conjunction with a manned helicopter aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). This past May, USS North Dakota (SSN 784) deployed and recovered unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) while operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
As the resource sponsor for unmanned warfare systems, I’m charged to serve as champion for Pre-Milestone B systems, or systems that have not begun the official start of a program in the acquisitions process. In simpler terms, N99 will be focused on the prototype and demonstration of unmanned systems in a rapid development cycle. We will work with Naval Warfare Development Centers and the fleets to find out where the capability gaps exist and where unmanned systems might fill those gaps and requirements. Next, with the DASN for unmanned systems, we will survey technologies across the research and development enterprise to find the right match of technology to fill those capability gaps identified. Our team will then prioritize these matches for prototyping and demonstration.
This process informs our Rapid Development Plan that executes within a two-year period. Within those two years, we’ll also look to terminate those demonstration efforts that are not working out for the fleet in order to reinvest money into more promising initiatives. Through this approach, resources are optimized and technical risk is reduced, saving time and money. I also want to point out that unmanned systems directly support our Sailors, making their jobs easier, more efficient and ultimately, a more effective combat team. As Secretary Mabus has said, the N99 stand-up isn’t just about producing improvements to platforms and weapons, it’s about implementing a cultural change. As unmanned systems continue to come online and mature, we’re changing how we think and how we operate, so we’re not just reacting to the challenges we face today, but focusing creativity and initiative to ensure we prevail in the future.
I’m excited to move out with Secretary Kelley with this important portfolio, and remain committed to developing and integrating unmanned systems into our broader warfare areas. I look forward to hearing the input from the fleet and seeing you out there – on the job.
Rear Adm. Robert Girrier is Director, Unmanned Warfare Systems. (OPNAV N99)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BAE wins U.K. contract for Anson submarine

Astute-class submarine: Britain's most advanced.

Contract is worth $2 billion.

Staff, Marketwatch
19 November 2015
Defense and aerospace firm BAE Systems PLC (BA.LN) said Thursday it has been awarded a contract by the U.K. Ministry of Defense for the fifth Astute Class submarine, taking the total value for work on the vessel to 1.3 billion pounds ($2.0 billion).
The contract covers the design and remaining build, test and commissioning activities on Anson, the fifth of seven technologically-advanced submarines in the class, BAE said.
Manufacturing started in 2010 and Anson is now at an advanced stage of construction and on schedule to leave for sea trials in 2020.

Japan gunning for world's biggest defense deal: Aussie submarines

Isabel Reynolds and Jason Scott, Bloomberg News
18 November 2015
Less than two years after lifting a decades-old ban on arms exports, Japan is navigating one of the most complex and sensitive areas of the defense market: submarines.
The country faces a Nov. 30 deadline to submit a final proposal to Australia for its next-generation submarine, the largest such tender in the world right now. A team of government officials, military officers and corporate executives with no experience in international arms marketing is facing off against global heavyweights ThyssenKrupp AG of Germany and DCNS of France for the A$50 billion ($36 billion) program.
More than commercial interests are at stake. Winning the race to design and build the submersibles would cement the "special" relationship Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to build with a fellow U.S. ally against an assertive China. For Australia, cooperating with Japan – whose Soryu is widely seen as the best submarine
of its type – risks angering China, its biggest trading partner.
"We are basically prepared to share all our technology," Masaki Ishikawa, a Ministry of Defense official working on Japan’s bid, said in an interview Friday. "Until now, we had never even shown our submarine technology to our ally, the U.S.”
Japanese Pacifism
The submarine competition comes as Japan agonizes over how far to loosen the constraints of the pacifist constitution imposed by the U.S. after World War II and revered by many Japanese. The passage of laws to expand the role of the military met with huge street protests over the summer.
“Make no mistake: a decision in favor of Japan would have tangible strategic implications," said Mark Thomson, a defense economics analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. "It would assist Japan down the path of military normalization, and it would also send an unambiguous message to both Beijing and Washington about the willingness of Australia and Japan to work together."
With Australia and the U.S. set to jointly develop a combat system to be installed in the new submarines, a Japanese deal could tighten ties between the three countries’ armed forces, Ishikawa said.
Sales Pitch
The A$50 billion contract would be to build the subs and service them over their decades-long lifetime. Defence Minister Marise Payne said at the Submarine Institute of Australia Tuesday the number of subs would be announced next year, though the country needs between eight and 12, analysts say.
Japan is set to ratchet up its sales pitch. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani leaves Thursday to meet South Australian premier Jay Weatherill and shipbuilder ASC, with that state a hub for naval manufacturing. He’ll join Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida for a meeting with Payne and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Nov. 22. Nakatani plans to raise the deal at the meeting, he told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday.
New Design
Japan has deployed its conventionally powered, 4,000-ton Soryu class subs – the largest of their type in the world – since 2009. The latest models cost about 60 billion yen ($487 million). The Soryu, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, is a close match for the Australian Navy’s needs, though the new submarines would be a fresh design, Ishikawa said.
ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s largest steelmaker, has said its marine unit could build 12 submarines for Australia for about A$20 billion. Germany has experience exporting submarines, but it hasn’t constructed one to the size Australia requires.
“Our design will be customized according to Australia’s requirements and will be exclusively offered to Australia,” John White, chairman of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in Australia, said Wednesday. The company targets about 70 percent Australian involvement, pledging to create thousands of jobs.
‘Zero Experience’
The German government “is confident that our company is able to offer good quality” and “interesting” possibilities to produce locally, Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week at a briefing with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Berlin.
Japan has “zero experience bidding in an international competition of this size, complexity and political sensitivity, so it is flying blind," said James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s.
"It’s a fact we have no experience selling submarines overseas," Ishikawa said. "I have seen in the newspapers the view that our pitch has not been good enough. I think it’s necessary to explain in detail why this is the best choice for the Australian Navy’s needs and for Australian companies."
In response to criticism that Japan wasn’t providing enough information, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has held meetings with more than 100 Australian firms, Ishikawa added.
Three Options
Australia has asked for three build options: Australia only, overseas only or a hybrid of the two. Japan’s teams is willing to build in Australia, Ishikawa said. The process would start with the establishment of design centers in Japan and Australia, and add an Australian training facility for local workers.
"The concept is similar to the way that Japanese motor manufacturers like Toyota and Honda work with overseas production," Ishikawa said.
Australia is likely to announce its decision next year, Ishikawa said, adding Australian officials have told him the ousting in September of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, known for his close relationship with Abe, in favor of Turnbull won’t affect the process. Abe and Turnbull met Nov. 14 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Turkey.
It’s not just Japan’s pride in its technical prowess that could be dented by a rejection, bilateral ties could also suffer, Thomson said.
"If it’s a purely commercial matter, a loss would merely be disappointing," said Thomson. "But my instinct is that the original deal had much more to do with strategy than money," he said. "If I’m right, a Japanese loss would amount to, or at least be perceived as, Australia rejecting a closer strategic relationship with Japan."

Submarines: On women and China

The view from U.S. Rear Adm. Fritz Roegge

Jeanette Steele, San Diego Union & Tribune
18 November 2015
It’s an interesting time to be in the submarine business.
China’s expansion of its submarine fleet poses a credible threat to U.S. warships if tensions over Taiwan or the South China Sea turn hot.
That’s according to a RAND Corp report this year that estimates China’s modern submarine force stands at 41 vessels, up from two in the mid 1990s.
Meanwhile, roughly 60 percent of the United States’ 72 submarines — or about 43 — operate in the Pacific. However, the American Navy is also on a building spree. Sixteen new Virginia-class fast-attack submarines are in the works.
Also, the U.S. submarine force has slowly integrated women since 2010, when the Navy announced it would begin opening the formerly all-male bastion.
The transition has not been perfectly smooth.
Enlisted sailors on the Georgia-based submarine Wyoming secretly recorded shower-room videos of female submarine officers. Ten sailors were punished for involvement earlier this year.
These are some of the issues facing Rear Adm. Fritz Roegge, named commander of the Navy’s Pacific submarine fleet in September.
Roegge visited San Diego’s Submarine Squadron 11 this month and spoke to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
In part because of China’s rise, he said, “I think our Navy looks to the submarine force — being able to stay hidden underwater, taking advantage of our stealth. Our Navy expects our submarine force to lead the way.”
Q: A Navy submarine test fired a Trident II D5 missile on Nov. 7 off the Southern California coast. The unannounced evening test was highly visible and spurred widespread public speculation about meteor showers and UFOs. Can you give the larger context of what that was about?
A: It wasn’t unusual. We shoot ballistic missiles for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s testing of improvements to missile systems, or it’s to validate the effectiveness of missiles we have in inventory.
Q: Why was it so visible, and was the Navy surprised by the public reaction?
A: With a nighttime shot, that fiery plume from the booster is highly visible. We had great atmospheric conditions as well that allowed it to be seen for a long way. If it had been cloudy, you might have seen it for five seconds.
I would expect there to be some attention. We don’t publicize in advance what we intend to do operationally. We’ll notify mariners of areas to stay out of. But beyond that, we’re not looking to inform our competitors of what we’re doing ahead of time.
Q: What does the growth of China’s submarine force mean for American subs in the Pacific?
A: It means there’s a lot of very interesting activity going on out there. Part of what combatant commanders might task us to do is to go and understand what’s going on in the undersea environment.
The better prepared we are to fight and win, the less likely we will ever have to. That goes back to the importance of testing, like with the missile launch. We are satisfying ourselves that our systems work, but we are also clearly signaling our capabilities to those who might otherwise want to try to challenge us.
Q: Was the Trident test a show of force?
A: It was a test. But if there are other messages that people want to (see,) I understand they will draw their own conclusions.
Q: Female officers started serving on submarines in late 2011, but the Navy only this summer named the first enlisted women who will train for submarine work. What’s taken this long?
A: I don’t think it’s because of an obstacle or any particular challenge. It’s because we in the submarine force, we are all engineers and nukes (nuclear technicians) at heart. We are very methodical in how we do things. This was a phased approach.
In many cases, it requires modifications to the ships in order to ensure basic privacy. On the officer side, it required no modifications. But on the enlisted side, it required modification to the hull.
On an Ohio-class submarine, the crew is berthed in nine-person bunk rooms. They took a bunk room adjacent to a (bathroom), and they provided direct access.
Q: What about on the majority of U.S. submarines, which are the smaller, fast-attack variety? The Navy has announced enlisted women won’t serve on the older Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines, which are the backbone of the current fleet. (Five Los Angeles-class submarines are assigned to San Diego.)
A: What we determined we could execute quickly but cost effectively is, beginning with the next Virginia-class submarines to be built, to build them from the ground up with male and female spaces.
Q: The Navy won’t retrofit the 12 existing Virginia-class fast-attack submarines?
A: We might. But currently the plan is to try to get this right from the ground up.
Q: Was it a cost-savings decision to not retrofit?
A: Not necessarily. We already have more than enough work to do when we get submarines into (shipyards).
Q: What’s your assessment of how integration of women is going?
A: We are now at the point where the first female officers have completed their initial tours at sea and rotated to shore duties. Now they are approaching decisions on what to do with their remaining naval service. Ultimately, the best metric of our mutual success is to what extent those women decide they want to continue to serve as submariners.
Q: Regarding the videotaping of women in showers, what’s your comment? Is there something about the isolated nature of the submarine service at play here?
A: It was simply sailors who did not understand what it means to treat a fellow shipmate with dignity and respect. The submarine force has tried to communicate very clearly our expectations of professional conduct. It’s not professional conduct of men to women. It’s conduct of shipmates to shipmates.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Panel: China establishing a 'grey zone of coercion' in S. China Sea

John Grady, U.S. Naval Institute News
17 November 2015
The coral reefs on which China is building airstrips are “not just a bunch of rocks, ”but the transit point for about half of the world’s maritime containerized cargo,” Michael Green, vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Monday.
Speaking as part of a panel discussion on China’s growing maritime influence at the Washington, D.C., think-tank, he added those reclamation projects allow Beijing to “maintain a constant presence” with a growing number of aircraft and ships that “you have to deal with ... in U.S. planning and [are] intimidating smaller states,” such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
Like Russia in Ukraine and with its neighbors and Iran in the Middle East, China was establishing “a gray zone of coercion,” Green added, designed to “shake the credibility of the U.S. commitment” to the Pacific among its allies and partners.
The Chinese now “are in the assessment phase” of what the transit of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG-82) in the Spratlys in the South China Sea means, particularly in light of the United States’ signaling it intends to conduct freedom of navigation operations there twice a quarter, Christopher Johnson, Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, said.
Green pointed out that the Chinese routinely conduct such operations, including Alaskan waters in the transit.
Lassen’s transit through waters claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam “was absolutely necessary,” but caused “so much angst” among American allies and partners. The United States does not recognize few of the three countries’ claims to the Spratlys.
Johnson said he was in the region at the time of the transit and he was being asked “is there steps two through nine” afterwards? “What are the U.S. goals?” was the follow-up question. For the United States, it is a matter now of “how do we signal them [China, Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as Australia, Japan and Korea] we are still here and capable.”
While the land reclamation projects were surprising, Johnson said they were part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s development of “a coherent maritime strategy,” a strategy beyond territorial defense to now include open-sea operations on its periphery.
In the strategy is a position “to safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests ... This is new,” he said.
“We must be prepared for some level of tension,” short of war, Green said, adding that military-to-military relations between China and the United States are improving.
Johnson noted the 15-year buildup in China’s maritime and air forces with its doubling of the defense budget every five years has covered everything from aircraft carriers, submarines, a large coast guard to electronic warfare and improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
But there are still gaps in these efforts.
Johnson cited the Chinese military’s own recognition of its weakness in “conducting truly integrated joint operations” as it continues to use tightly scripted exercises.
All branches of the People’s Liberation Army are “limited by the PLA’s standing as the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The military’s command structure remains outdated, still oriented against Russia and maintaining internal stability.
Green said that more money should be set aside to help build maritime awareness, defense and patrol capacity
and organization of armed forces among allies such as the Philippines and partners such as Vietnam. In that area Japan and Australia, strong U.S. allies, can help.
The Transpacific Partnership can be of great assistance to show “countries [they] don’t just have to rely on China for growth.”

'Russia's deadliest sub' test fires 2 ballistic missiles

The Bulava is specifically designed to evade Western ballistic missile defense shields.

Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat
18 November 2015
After repeated delays, the Borei-class (aka Dolgorukiy-class), Project 955 fourth generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Vladimir Monomakh successfully test fired two Bulava (RSM-56) ballistic missiles from a submerged position in the White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia, RT reports.
According to a press release by the Russian Defense Ministry, the two missiles successfully hit targets in the Kamchatka region in Russia’s Far East on November 15:
Salvo firing from a submerged position was made in accordance with the plan of combat training. The parameters trajectory of two ICBM “Bulava” worked normally. As confirmed by objective monitoring, the missile warheads successfully arrived at the Kura test site in Kamchatka.
The Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, a variant of the land-based Topol-M SS-27, is one of the most expensive Russian weapons programs and intended to be the cornerstone of the sea-based component of Russia’s nuclear triad.
Since 2004, the missile has been tested 24 times with varying degrees of success. (The last four tests, conducted in the period of September 2014 to November 2015, were all successful.)
The Bulava is specifically designed to evade Western ballistic missile defense shields. It can engage in rapid evasive post-launch maneuvers, deploy decoys, and launch other countermeasures to avoid interception. Each missile carries ten hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads, yielding 100-150 kilotons apiece. The Bulava’s range is estimated at around 8300 kilometers.
A Borei-class SSBN can carry between 12 to 16 Bulava (RSM-56) ballistic missiles for a total of up to 160 warheads per submarine. The Vladimir Monomakh, the sub from which the missiles were launched on November 15, was commissioned in December 2014 and is currently undergoing sea and weapon trials.
As I reported before, the arrival of the Borei-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh in the Pacific Ocean has been postponed to 2016 due to outstanding trials (some sources indicate that the delay has been, in fact, due to a failure of the Russian defense industry to deliver a full set of Bulava ICBMs).
Designed by Rubin Marine Equipment Design Bureau and built by Northern Machine Building Enterprise (Sevmash shipyard), the Borei-class (“North Wind”) is intended to replace the aging Project 941 Typhoon-class and Project 667 BDRM Delta IV-class submarines. As I noted in another article (See: “Russia’s Deadliest Sub Is Heading to the Pacific”):
All in all, the Russian Navy plans to build eight SSBNs of this class (with an option to construct two more) by 2020. The next vessel in the class, the Knyaz Vladimir, is designated as a Project 955A Borei II. It could field four more additional missile tubes (bringing the total number of missiles potentially up to 20) and is currently under construction.
Four Borei-class SSBNs are slated to join Russia’s Pacific Fleet over the next few years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What you need to know about underwater drones

General Dynamics' Knifefish UUV is on cutting edge of undersea drones.

Dan Gettinger, ROBOHUB
16 November 2015

Late last month, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus appointed Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley to become the first deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for unmanned systems, a position that was created in April. “The change to the organization is a reflection of the priority we’re placing on this emerging capability,” Secretary Mabus said in a speech at the Unmanned Systems Defense 2015 conference on October 27.
Kelley will be responsible for a variety of programs ranging from the high-flying Triton surveillance drone to experimental projects like the Navy’s fleet of swarming patrol boat drones. The new deputy secretary will also be overseeing drones that plumb the depths of the oceans. The development of torpedo-like submarine drones, also known as unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) or autonomous undersea vehicles (AUV), is a major priority for the Navy. These drones, some of which could potentially remain submerged for months at a time, will serve in a variety of roles including surveillance and mine-hunting. At the Unmanned Systems Defense 2015 conference, Secretary Mabus said that the Navy is aiming to launch a squadron of autonomous UUVs by 2020 that can operate independently from manned vessels.
According to the Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Applications Center, a non-profit industry advocacy organization, there are 251 unique configurations of UUVs in service today, including 144 different vehicle platforms. That number is likely to grow in the coming years as the technology improves. Here’s what you need to know about UUVs:
Submarine drones are generally classified either as remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) or as UUVs. The former is a tethered vehicle that is piloted by crew members aboard a nearby vessel, while the latter is not tethered and is designed to operate largely independent of a human operator. In 1957, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory developed the Special Purpose Underwater Research Vehicle, also known as SPURV. One of the first UUVs, the SPURV was funded by the Office of Naval Research and it could dive up to 10,000 feet and operate for four hours. By the time the SPURV program ended in 1979, other ROVs and UUVs were being developed in the United States, particularly for marine exploration and research. In 1985, the Argo, a remotely operated underwater vehicle, found the wreckage of the Titanic and, in 1989, the Bismarck, a World War II battleship. As a September 15 article in the New York Times pointed out, due to the lower operating costs and ability to stay underwater for extended periods of time, UUVs remain extremely attractive option for deep sea researchers.
In the 1990’s, after two U.S. Navy ships were badly damaged by Iraqi sea mines in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, the Navy began investing heavily in Mine Countermeasures and initiated a program to build UUVs that could disable enemy sea mines. The Navy’s 1994 Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) Plan set the priorities for the program; topping the list was the need to develop UUVs for organic and clandestine mine detection. In other words, the Navy needed a system that could avoid detection by operating underwater and in advance of dedicated minesweepers on the sea surface. In 1996, Northrop Grumman developed the Near-Term Mine Reconnaissance System, a two-vehicle platform that was designed to be launched from the torpedo tube of a submarine and connected to the vessel by a fiber-optic tether. The NMRS was replaced by the Long-Term Mine Reconnaissance System. The LMRS program produced the 20 ft.-long Boeing AN/BLQ-11 drone.
The UUVs of Today
In the years since the Navy’s foray into UUVs with the NMRS and LMRS, a number of underwater drones with varying capabilities have emerged. With the release of the Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Master Plan in 2004, the Navy set out nine priorities for future UUV capabilities that
ranged from disabling enemy submarines to delivering supplies and launching weapons. Among the most prolific unmanned undersea drones are the REMUS family of UUVs. The Remote Environmental Monitoring UnitS program was initiated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Hydroid, a Massachusetts-based UUV manufacturer that is owned by Kongsberg Maritime. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, a REMUS UUV was used to help clear sea mines from the waterways around the port of Umm Qasr, marking the first time a UUV was deployed in a combat environment. One of the most capable Hydroid UUVs is the REMUS 600, a torpedo-shaped underwater drone designed to carry a large payload of sensors to great depths for meteorological and oceanographic surveying. The MK18 Mod 2 Kingfish, a variant of the REMUS 600, costs the Navy around $1.3 million apiece. Although the Marine Mammal Program, the Navy’s effort to use dolphins and sea lions to detect sea mines, is still running, it is expected that the Kingfish will replace the mammals within a few years.
While the Navy has adopted an expansive view of what UUVs could possibly achieve, countering enemy mines remains a high priority. The Navy traditionally fields an array of air and sea systems to counter enemy mines, including fleets of minesweepers and low-flying helicopters that use sonar to detect mines. Instead of sending out human divers, UUVs can be used to disable the devices with a small explosive charge, eliminating the risk to sailors. UUVs are also fitted with sonar and other sensors that can autonomously map out minefields. The Battlespace Preparation Autonomous Vehicle, a Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21, the Surface Mine Countermeasures, a General Dynamics Knifefish UUV, and the Remote Minehunting System, a Lockheed Martin Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle, all provide varying anti-mine capabilities. The Navy is under pressure to develop and deploy these systems, as existing platforms like the Avenger-class minesweeper and the Sea Dragon helicopters are quickly reaching the point for retirement. Instead of fielding specialized minesweepers, the Navy decided to couple mine countermeasures to existing manned vessels, including to the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), creating the MCM “module” for the LCS.
Funding for the UUVs is spread across several different procurement packages and research items. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Department of Defense is on track to spend around $232.9 million on UUVs, a $86.7 million increase over FY2015. However, this figure represents dedicated UUV spending, and does not necessarily include funds that are within larger spending packages. For example, while a large part of the Navy’s research into anti-submarine warfare surveillance, a $83.4 million project, will be spent on developing a UUV for detecting enemy submarines, the exact amount to be spent on this aspect of the program is unclear.
On the procurement and acquisition side, the Navy’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016 includes $51.7 million in funding for the Underwater Explosive Ordnance Disposal Programs, a fund that encompasses a large number of acquisition efforts for counter-mine technology, including the MK18 Mod 2 Kingfish. Another procurement line is the Remote Minehunting System, for which the Navy has allocated $87.6 million. The main product of the RMS is the Lockheed Martin’s Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle, an autonomous UUV that is intended to be deployed from a Navy ship to help search for mines by towing a sonar. The concept for the RMS was actually developed in the late 1990s, and it has had a checkered history. According to the latest Selected Acquisition Report for the RMS, the acquisition cost of a single system has doubled from $13 million to $27.7 million between 2007 and 2015. In September, Senators John McCain and Jack Reed criticized the Navy’s Remote Minehunting System program, arguing that the RMMV had failed to meet requirements and could be scrapped altogether. Last month, the Navy formed an independent board to review the RMS program.
“Put simply, while estimated overall spending on RMS is only a little higher than originally planned, it is only yielding half the number of systems, at more than double the unit cost, and it is taking twice as long to field it,” Sen. McCain wrote in a review of the RMS program. “Also, it doesn’t work.”
Military funds for UUV research and development are likewise scattered across a number of different programs. Two of the most well-defined research programs are the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – $17.4 million – and the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle – $38.8 million. Unlike UUVs intended specifically for countering mines, the LDUUV is designed to have multiple mission types including persistent intelligence gathering capabilities and payload delivery. When Secretary Mabus announced that the Navy is planning a squadron of autonomous underwater drones last month, these were platforms that he was referring to. According to Inside Defense, the Pentagon is expected to start soliciting bids from contractors to build the new systems within the next month or so. Yet, like the RMS program, the development of the LDUUV has not always been an easy sell on Capitol Hill. The Senate draft of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act included comments that the planned LDUUVs are “too large and expensive to deploy in quantity but are likely too small to host the systems needed for long-endurance independent operations.” The final version of the FY16 subtracted $5 million in research funding for the LDUUV.
The Department of Defense has also allocated funding for more experimental UUV programs, sometimes within larger line items. For example, a portion of the $4 million allocated to the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell will go towards Project NEMO, which is developing biomimetic UUVs that can swim like a fish. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has allocated $32.7 million towards Hydra, a project to develop a network of unmanned underwater assets that could be deployed quickly to respond to emerging threats. Like the
Hydra project, the goal of DARPA’s Upward Falling Payloads initiative, to which it has allocated $22 million, is to design affordable unmanned systems that are deployed to multiple locations and that, when remotely activated, can rise to the surface to deliver either a waterborne or airborne payload of explosives or supplies. Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting, another DARPA project to which $8.5 million is allocated, includes the development of UUV that tracks submarines.
Compared to unmanned vehicles in the air and on the ground, maritime drones are less well known. The impending retirement of manned vessels like minesweepers and recent geopolitical events indicate that that could change within the next few years. In the race to develop unmanned systems, other countries are pursuing UUV programs. In 2014, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan and the U.S. were collaborating on a 33-ft.-long UUV that would be used to help patrol areas using sonar along a pre-programmed route. A RAND report on Chinese drones that released earlier this year found that Beijing is funding at least 15 different university research programs into unmanned undersea and surface vehicles with particular emphasis on UUV projects. A Russian news broadcast last week unintentionally confirmed suspicions that Russia was building a long-range UUV capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Unmanned submersibles could provide decisionmakers with a low-cost alternative to manned platforms for missions like minesweeping that are particularly dangerous or for mission that are tedious, like patrolling. UUVs, particularly those envisioned by DARPA, could also be a way to assert military presence in an area that is difficult to reach or geopolitically contentious. Like the minesweeper concepts, UUV platforms could be built into the capabilities of existing manned platforms like the Littoral Combat Ship or submarines. Alternatively, larger UUVs may be deployed from ports and conduct missions independent from manned ships.
The development of ingenious new unmanned systems like Boeing’s hybrid UUV and UAV Rapid Deployment Air and Water Vehicle shows that the technology is progressing quickly. However, as a thorough 2009 RAND study of UUV systems pointed out, some of the Navy’s proposed UUV missions were not practicable and remained out of reach. Issues with reliability, specifically within the realms of underwater communications and propulsion, suggests that the technology has yet to mature. The controversy over the Remote Minehunting System is one example of how the Navy has struggled to develop an adequate countermine alternative to minesweepers. While UUVs present significant advantages in terms of cost and safety over manned platforms, it will be some years before UUVs are accepted into the fleet.

The next big U.S.-China military challenge: Beijing's underwater nukes

14 November 2015
If America can credibly threaten China's nuclear deterrent, Beijing’s paranoia might become more risk-acceptant, rather than less. However, the Cold War might offer some perspective.
How vulnerable are China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs, or boomers), and what does that vulnerability mean for U.S. strategy?
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has devoted considerable time and expense to developing a maritime nuclear deterrent. The United States Navy, on the other hand, has forty years of experience in hunting down Russian boomers. Chinese boomers present no major problem.
But the paradox of nuclear weapons is that one player’s insecurity can make the other player less secure. If the United States can credibly threaten the Chinese nuclear deterrent, Beijing’s paranoia might become more risk acceptant, rather than less. This makes the decision to exploit the vulnerability of China’s boomers fraught with danger.
Fortunately, the United States faced a similar dilemma in the Cold War, when U.S. attack boats (SSNs) hunted Soviet boomers in the arctic. That experience, and the debates that flowed from it, can help inform U.S. decision-making today.
In the latter stages of the Cold War, the United States Navy (USN) came to the understanding that the Soviet Union did not intend to use the bulk of its surface and submarines units on interdiction in the North Atlantic. For most of the Cold War, the U.S. and the United Kingdom had assumed that the USSR would use its submarines (and later its surface ships) much like Germany had used them in both World Wars; as part of an effort to destroy the commercial and military linkages between North American and Western Europe. The USN and the Royal Navy (RN) developed their anti-submarine doctrine around this assumption.
However, it became clear by the 1970s that the Soviet Union considered the protection of its SSBN force a more critical need than interdiction. The Soviets built their surface fleet, and much of their submarine fleet, around the idea of creating “bastions” that would allow the SSBNs to patrol, unmolested by U.S. and British attack submarines. Even Soviet carriers concentrated on this mission, at the expense of offensive capabilities.
Eventually, the USN decided upon an offensive strategy, designed to force the Soviets to allocate ships and submarines to defending the bastions. Strategic anti-submarine warfare (or ASW directed against strategic targets) had obvious escalatory implications. If the Soviets came to believe that the United States intended to sink its maritime deterrent, Moscow might become paranoid enough to use the submarines before it lost them. Conversely, a significant threat to the bastions might force the Kremlin to the peace table. Either way, Soviet ships and subs devoted to the bastions could not create mischief elsewhere.
A 1987 study by Ronald O’Rourke worked through the upsides and pitfalls of offensive strategic ASW. The study concentrated on the question of whether the Soviets would perceive attacks against the bastions as dangerously escalatory, explaining the Navy’s view that such an offensive strategy would not likely incur a nuclear Soviet response. Of course, given the enormous advantages that the Soviets enjoyed in the arctic, this plan was probably impracticable in any case, but may have had considerable value as a bluff designed to tie down the Soviet Navy.
Bastions of the South China Sea?
NATO and the Warsaw Pact never went to war, so we never got to work out the implications of threatening the USSR’s most precious strategic assets. The Sino-American naval competition differs in many ways from its Cold War antecedent, but some parallels endure. The SSBNs of the PLAN have yet to undertake a deterrent patrol, and so Chinese nuclear strategy remains uncertain. However, several factors point to the likelihood of a bastion strategy, including the relative noisiness of Chinese boomers.
If the U.S. and China went to war, how might the escalatory logic of attacks against Chinese boomers (and Chinese boomer bases) differ from that of the Cold War? Key variables include:
•The vulnerability of the subs themselves
•The robustness of the “bastions”
•The security of the other legs of the deterrent triad
•The paranoia of the leadership
•The effectiveness of USN ASW efforts
By almost all accounts, Chinese SSBNs are noisier in absolute terms than their Soviet counterparts. This suggests that they could conduct independent deterrent patrols only at great risk, and that in time of war American SSNs could hunt them with significant hope of success. The Chinese also have far fewer SSBNs (less than 10, versus 40+) than the Soviets operated during the Cold War, making the overall deterrent more vulnerable. Projected attrition of the Chinese SSBN force would happen much faster than the Soviet, telescoping the Chinese response process.
The early post-war Soviet Navy lacked much in the way of serious anti-submarine capabilities. However, during the 1960s the Soviets began to pursue ASW with much greater seriousness, introducing a variety of ASW specialized surface vessels and aircraft-carrying ships.
China has yet to pursue ASW with the same degree of enthusiasm, although Chinese ASW has reportedly improved in the last decade. Overall, however, the ability of the PLAN to protect its bastions is probably less than that of the Soviet Navy during its heyday.
By the 1970s the Soviets had deployed large numbers of bombers and ICBMs, easily capable of providing secure second strike capability. While a surprise U.S. attack might decapitate the Soviet leadership, the Americans could not hope to destroy the entire Soviet second strike capability on the ground. And while China’s nuclear forces have taken a step forward in the past decade, they do cannot yet match the robustness of Soviet nuclear forces in the latter part of the Cold War. Attacks on Chinese SSBNs would attrite the entire Chinese nuclear deterrent at a faster rate than the Soviet.
During the Cold War, the Soviet leadership exhibited spectacular paranoia about the prospect of a decapitating strike against the Kremlin. Various systems, including stealth aircraft and land-attack cruise missiles, threatened to detach the leadership from the broader Soviet military machine. The Chinese leadership, on the other hand, has accepted nuclear vulnerability for at least fifty years, relying instead on a minimal deterrent posture combined with the exploitation of superpower tension. Thus, we can hope that the CCP will react in measured fashion to the loss of its nuclear deterrent.
What of the effectiveness of USN attack submarines? U.S. SSNs have never stopped monitoring Russian SSBN deployments, but they have increasingly taken on other missions, such as the launch of land-attack cruise missiles. Modern Seawolf and Virginia class submarines surely exceed the capabilities of the boats deployed during the late Cold War, however.
Taken together, these factors suggest a strategic situation that differs in important ways from the late Cold War balance. Even protected by bastions, China’s boomers will suffer greater vulnerability than did their Soviet cousins. At the same time, the Chinese leadership has historically accepted a greater degree of nuclear vulnerability than the Soviets entertained at any point past the 1950s. Consequently, there is some reason to hope that attacks against China’s boomer bastions would not result in nuclear escalation.
Notwithstanding the differences between the respective undersea competitions with the Russians and the Chinese, the United States needs to think very carefully about whether and how it will pursue the PLAN’s SSBN in case of war, or even heightened tension. Operators have a laudable tendency to push the borders of the possible; if Chinese boomers can be hunted, then why not hunt them, and hunt them well? But these operations need a strategic logic to animate them. Threatening Chinese boomers may serve U.S. strategic interests better than attacking them; refraining from threatening behavior could convey an interest in restraint.
In any case, if the United States and China go to war, or even draw close to war, both sides will pay a great deal of attention to the PLAN’s boomers. The best case for the United States would probably be for China’s SSBNs to remain safe and sound behind an elaborate set of air, sea, and surface defenses, thus drawing considerable forces away from more critical theaters of action. Posing a threat that is credible, but not too credible, is the problem that faces the silent service of the USN.
Robert Farley is a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.