Saturday, April 30, 2016

Poland denies reports of collision between Russian, Polish submarines

Pawel Kononczuk, Polskie Radio
28 April 2016

Polish and a Russian submarine have been involved in a collision in the Baltic Sea, according to the Interfax agency, but the Polish defence ministry dismissed the report as “propaganda”.
Citing REN TV, Russia’s Interfax reported that the incident took place several days ago.
The agency said Polish submarine Orzeł needed to be towed away, while Russian ship Krasnodar was not badly damaged and was able to make its way to St. Petersburg.
But Bartłomiej Misiewicz, a spokesman of the Polish defence ministry said: "There was no collision between Polish and Russian ships. This is Russian propaganda looking for problems where there are none."
The Polish defence ministry told the news website that the Polish submarine had not left the Bay of Gdańsk in recent days.
The reported submarine incident comes after Poland's deputy defence minister last week condemned “aggressive” manoeuvres by a Russian fighter jet over the Baltic.
According to the U.S. military, a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane was on 14 April barrel-rolled by a Russian jet.
That incident followed the buzzing of warship the USS Donald Cook on 11 April, while the vessel was carrying out deck landing drills with a Polish helicopter.

Government defends Australian submarine decision

Staff, Sky News
29 April 2016

The government has defended the decision to build Australia's 12 new submarines here declaring the local build will grow jobs in Australian industries.
DCNS, the French company which won the $50 billion to build the submarines, wanted to complete some of the construction in France to speed up the process by two years.
But there are reports the defence department recommended all of the vessels be built in Australia.
Defence Minister Marise Payne refused to comment on the reports, despite comments from Industry Minister
Christopher Pyne that the department asked the National Security Committee of cabinet to ensure the submarines were built locally.
'I'm not going to talk about the finer nature of the recommendations to the National Security Committee of Cabinet,' she told Sky News. Former prime minister Tony Abbott has called for the process to be sped up.
'We need to get the next generation of submarines into the water and operational as quickly as is humanly possible,' Mr Abbott told Sky News.
Former defence minister David Johnston has told Sky News there's no doubt an Australian build is best for national security.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who is meeting with DCNS executives in France, says the company wants to start work immediately.
Mr Weatherill also said the current estimate of 2,900 South Australian jobs is a conservative figure, based on the initial number of eight submarines to be built.
'Obviously they have not yet been able to calibrate what that means for 12 submarines,' Mr Weatherill said.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Opinion: Australia's bad submarine decision has big holes but it's fixable

Jon Stanford and Michael Keating, The Age
28 April 2016

The government has made a bad decision on acquiring the future submarines (FSMs). It's bad for the Navy, bad for the taxpayer and a represents a major regression in terms of industry policy.
It's bad for the Navy because in terms of capability the decision fails to deliver on the objectives set out in the latest Defence White Paper. DCNS' conventional Barracuda class boats will not be "regionally superior" submarines in terms of their technology. By the 2030s, if operating in the South China Sea, they will be confronted by nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), of greatly improved performance compared to current models. The FSMs will not be, as the Prime Minister said, "the most sophisticated naval vessels being built in the world". But on a "bang for the buck" basis, they may well be by far the most expensive with the longest delivery timeline.
An advanced, nuclear powered Barracuda class submarine, with underwater endurance limited to 100 days only by crew resilience and a submerged speed of 30 knots, could claim regional technological superiority. But no conventional submarine (SSK), however advanced, will be technologically superior in the South China Sea in the 2030s, nor will it be safe to send RAN submariners on offensive operations there on such a platform.
The irony is that if the government's power projection ambitions were to be pursued, the nuclear
powered version of the advanced Barracuda class would be the ideal platform for the RAN. Yet Defence's requirements have led DCNS to remove the single element in the Barracuda class that provides its overwhelming technological advantage, namely the nuclear reactor, and replace it with an updated version of the diesel electric propulsion that powered Australia's first submarines over a century ago. It's the naval equivalent of removing the engine from a Ferrari and replacing it with a motor from a Citroen 2CV.
The ridiculous corollary of this is that it will cost Australia a lot more to procure the dumbed-down version of the Barracuda submarine than it would have done to buy far more capable nuclear powered Barracudas as a military off-the-shelf (MOTS) purchase from France. If the Navy had acquired, say, four nuclear boats supplemented by six conventional submarines of an existing design to undertake the other roles required of the FSM, the overall cost could have been around $20 billion, as against over $36 billion plus at 2016 prices (the oft-quoted $50 billion represents future inflated costs). The Navy would also have been much better off in terms of capability.
Another benefit of a MOTS purchase is that the new submarines would have been available a decade earlier, thereby avoiding some significant risks. There would be no need to attempt, at high cost, to upgrade the obsolescent Collins class, with a high risk of failure that would leave the Navy without an effective submarine capability for a decade or more. There are also major design risks in a new submarine, particularly in integrating American systems with the French platform and transferring power-hungry systems from a nuclear design with a high availability of electricity. This could delay delivery of the new submarine beyond the current unacceptable timeline and increase the already unacceptable cost.
The implications for industry policy constitute a particularly egregious element in the procurement decision. In this context, we need to remember that the Abbott government showed the door to the car industry. The end of the age of entitlement meant that around $500 million a year, not high by international standards, was too much to pay to support a high technology industry that, directly and indirectly, employed around 200,000 people.
Now the government is keen to support an industry with a cost disability, according to the RAND Corporation, of up to 40 per cent. Given the likely moderate local value added in an industry where all the sophisticated hardware is imported, the effective rate of protection (assistance to value added) will be much higher than this. Indeed a leaked paper from Defence last week suggested an effective rate of protection of 500 per cent would be required to build the submarines in Adelaide. Even at the height of the Fraser government's protectionist excesses in the early 1980s, the effective rate reached "only" 143 per cent for the car industry.
The government justifies a local build on the basis of job creation, building an innovative industry and the ability to undertake through life sustainment of the submarines in Australia. On the Prime Minister's figures, 2,800 jobs will be created directly and indirectly, a far cry from the 200,000 jobs that are related to the car industry. Some early estimates suggest we are looking at a cost of around $4 million for every job created.
There is only value in building an innovative industry if it is internationally competitive. Little thought appears to have been given to developing an industry plan directed towards this objective. If this were an issue, the government would have given much greater attention to the German bid, which offered a substantially lower price $20 billion), much earlier delivery, no cost penalty for a local build and the transfer of substantial digital technology to Australia.
The defence argument for local acquisitions can be the last refuge of a scoundrel; it used even to be applied to protecting the clothing industry. We already know that we do not need to build military assets, including missiles and systems, in order to maintain and upgrade them. We do not build RAAF fixed wing assets or missiles in Australia yet undertake high quality through-life support. Australian industry was perfectly well able to maintain the British-built Oberon class submarines and, indeed, to upgrade them.
It's not too late to amend the decision and deliver a better outcome. The submarines have not yet been designed, commercial terms have not been agreed and contracts have not yet been signed. A much improved approach could maintain DCNS as the preferred supplier, while providing the Navy with the capability it needs at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer and with positive industry benefits in South Australia.
The first step would be to negotiate with the French government (and the US) to acquire four nuclear powered Barracuda class submarines as a MOTS purchase. If agreed, the Navy could also acquire six conventional Scorpene class SSKs from DCNS, to be built in Adelaide on a fixed price contract if the cost penalty is acceptable. All these submarines would be delivered in the early 2020s.
If the acquisition of the four SSNs is ruled out, the capability requirement should be amended to exclude offensive operations in contested waters far from home. This would mean focusing on operations that are well within the capacity of a SSK, namely sea denial in Australia's littoral and reconnaissance and intelligence gathering in neighbouring waters and archipelagos. This would require acquiring between six and nine Scorpene class SSKs, to be built in Adelaide if the price is right.
Of course, there would be political difficulties in making these changes. This would require strong leadership by the Prime Minister. Better this, however, than taking significant risks with Australia's defence, imposing a large and unnecessary burden on taxpayers and going down in history as modern Australia's most protectionist Prime Minister.

Jill Biden ready for Saturday keel-laying for USS Delaware attack submarine

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press
27 April 2016

As a sailor's daughter, Jill Biden should feel at home Saturday at Newport News Shipbuilding, which will host the keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Delaware.
Her father, Frank C. Jacobs, served as a naval signalman during World War II. He and wife Bonny raised five daughters, Jill being the oldest.
Growing up outside of Philadelphia, dad took the girls to see the Navy's Blue Angels flying team whenever they came to town. Patriotic parades were a staple of entertainment. John Philip Sousa music played at home.
"Growing up, my father was very proud of his military service," Biden said Wednesday in a phone interview with the Daily Press. "He really instilled in us a sense of patriotism."
Biden serves as sponsor for Delaware, a Virginia-class attack submarine. But this is hardly her first foray into military affairs as the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
She has teamed with first lady Michelle Obama on the Joining Forces initiative, which seeks to enlist the public's support for the spouses, children and loved ones of U.S. troops.
As a ship's sponsor, a role steeped in Navy tradition, her public role begins with the keel laying, which celebrates the start of construction. A welder will burn her initials onto a steel plate that becomes part of the boat.
When construction is complete, she will break a bottle against the ship during the christening ceremony. When the Delaware is ready to join the fleet, she will call the crew onboard for its commissioning.
Biden said the role means a lot to her, and her husband likes the idea, too.
"Oh my gosh," she said. "He's really proud."
But her role will go beyond public appearances. She will get to know members of the crew, getting access to the close-knit submarine community. For those who believe in things unseen, it goes even deeper than that.
"The sponsor imbues the ship with her spirit," Biden said, leaving no doubt about the connection she hopes to achieve.
If she has her way, the message behind Joining Forces will somehow find its way onto the boat.
"Michelle and I have been focusing on military families for this administration," she said. "We've tried to create awareness for all Americans of what our military does, and the resilience of our military. We've reached out to Americans and asked them to commit to an act of kindness for our military families."
Kindness is not normally associated with a front-line attack submarine, but Biden said it is important for the sailors to their families are being supported back home. That can enhance a ship's mission in a different way than torpedoes or missiles.
Another positive vibe is emanating from the sub: For the state of Delaware, this whole thing is pretty cool.
"It means everything," she said. "It's been (nearly) a hundred years since we've had a ship named after Delaware, and it makes Delawareans very proud."
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the Delaware's name in November 2012, saying "it has been too long since there has been a USS Delaware in the fleet."
The last vessel to bear the name of America's first state was a battleship that served during World War I and was decommissioned in 1923. In all, seven Navy ships have carried Delaware's name into service, according to the Navy. The first was a frigate launched in 1776.
Nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines are built in a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn., and the Newport News shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Each yard assembles sections of the sub, then takes turns in final assembly and delivery to the Navy. The Virginia-class program is considered a Navy success story in terms of meeting or exceeding cost and schedule goals.
The submarines are also in high demand. Congress has recently focused attention on how to continue building two Virginia-class boats a year while embarking on a program to replace its aging fleet of ballistic missile submarines.

Want to see it?

Saturday's keel-laying ceremony is not open to the public, but Huntington Ingalls Industries will provide a webcast at HII will use hashtags #SSN791 and #USSDelaware on their social media accounts during the event.
Worth noting: Biden is not new to this role. She sponsored the littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords. It was christened in June 2015.

Back to Top

Are millennials a good fit for submarine duty?

U.S. Navy ro revise psychological screening for potential submariners.

Julia Bergman, The London Day
27 April 2016

GROTON – The Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory is revising its psychological screening test used to determine if those coming into the submarine force are mentally fit to serve on submarines.
"The millennials, the ones who are coming into the submarine force today, are tremendously different than the young men who came into the submarine force .... in World War II, different motivations, different aspirations, different understanding," retired Navy Capt. Ray Woolrich, of the lab, said during a lecture on submarine medicine Wednesday.
Woolrich's talk was part of Connecticut's Submarine Century lecture series and coincided with a ribbon cutting for a new exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum on the history of the Naval Submarine Base.
The 260-question test developed by the lab, called subscreen, looks at a number of different factors such as claustrophobia, "if you're a loner, if you can't get along well," Woolrich said.
"It is a close environment, and if you don't like your buddy, it's going to get ugly quickly," he said. "We try to screen those out as readily as we can."
The lab is looking to change the metrics it uses for the test, and the way it asks the various questions, for example.
"The population has changed and clearly women are in the submarine force," Woolrich said. "The question that I might ask a man would be very easily differently answered by a woman. So what are those differences that we should watch for because right now the metrics against which we measure are all male. That's what we're trying to do."
Woolrich's talk also covered the history of lab and its role in submariner health and well-being.
A member of the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association, Woolrich also spoke at the ribbon cutting for the museum's new exhibit.
"One of the problems I've got with 9-11 is that it pushed the military behind a wall so that the civilians can't get to see what we do. That's an issue. What this staff does is bring the submarine force out to the public," he said.
Starting with the creation of the New London Navy Yard, the exhibit covers the base and school's history up to present day.
Artifacts now on display include the engine order telegraph from the submarine G-2, one of the first to be stationed at the base, and a submarine school training aid from World War II.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

After extended deployment, USS Toledo returns to Groton

USS Toledo attack sub completed 31,000 nautical mile deployment.

Julia Bergman, New London Day
25 April 2016

GROTON – Chief Tyler White heard them before he could see them.
About 20 family and friends, sporting white T-shirts with the words "#teamtyler" on the back, chanted "Tyler" over and over as they stood on the pier waiting for the USS Toledo to dock and for White to get off. He was able to wave to the group once the boat got close enough since he was topside.
The USS Toledo, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, returned to Groton Monday afternoon after seven months at sea.
Loved ones had to wait a little longer than usual as the boat's deployment was extended by a month. Officials did not provide a reason for the extension.
"They handled it very well," Toledo's skipper Cmdr. Michael Majewski, a native of Toledo, Ohio, said. "A couple of guys were excited about the expanding mission set that we'd be going to execute ... nobody complained."
When asked about the large crowd that gathered to greet Chief White, his wife Jessica said, "Because that's how we do it."
"When we do things, we do things big," said Jessica White.
Some came from as far as Florida to see her husband, she said.
Majewski estimated that about 60 percent of crew members were returning from their first deployment.
Lakiah Handy Earl said it was her and her husband Adrian's, a logistics specialist on the Toledo, "first deployment," describing how it was a shared experience.
Handy Earl held a sign that read "Keep calm, here I am, like I promised."
After the two embraced, Adrian Handy Earl said he'd been waiting "seven months" for that moment.
Lakiah Handy Earl and her friend Kayla Lynch, whose husband is also stationed on the Toledo, said they relied on each other a lot the past seven months. It was also Lynch's husband Stephen's first deployment.
The two women would go to the grocery store and make dinner together.
"She's lived on my couch for months," Lynch said of Handy Earl.
Barbara and Marty Wilson flew from Denver, Colo., to greet their son Brett, who returned from his first deployment. They were planning to stay the whole week.
Brett Wilson is carrying on a long tradition on both sides of his family of serving in the Navy. His parents said they were really surprised he chose the submarine service.
"He's 6'4," Barbara Wilson said, laughing.
"He said he loves it though," said Marty Wilson, who also served in the Navy but never on submarines.
While deployed, the crew operated on a new watch-standing schedule, which the submarine force transitioned to last year.
Previously, crewmembers were on watch for six hours a day and off for 12 hours. Under the new schedule, they are on watch for eight hours and have 16 hours between watches.
The crew maintained eight-hour watches pretty much the whole deployment with the exception of "maybe only five or six days," Majewski said.
"I think the crew is a big fan of that ... I'm not a big fan of it because I'm what they call a day walker so I got probably less sleep than everybody else, but it's very good for the crew," he said.
He noticed a difference in the attentiveness of the crew and their day-to-day morale.
While deployed, the Toledo steamed about 31,000 nautical miles, equal to about six round trips from New London to San, Diego, Calif., by car, and made port visits in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, France, Spain and Greece.

France wins $50 billion contract to help build Australia's new submarines

David Wroe, Sydney Morning Herald
26 April 2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced all 12 of Australia's next fleet of submarines will be built in Adelaide from local steel, with France winning the hard-fought global race for the $50 billion contract.
Mr. Turnbull said in Adelaide on Tuesday morning that the decades-long program would create about 2800 direct jobs and help Australia transition to a 21st century economy.
The new fleet, the first of which will hit the water in the early 2030s, will be built using Australian steel, he said, declaring the pledge "part of our plan for the jobs and growth of the 21st century.”
"Over decades to come, the submarine project alone will see Australian workers building Australian submarines with Australian steel here, where we stand today, for decades into the future. Fifty years from now, submarines will be sustained [and] built here. Surface vessels will be built here because of the commitment we have made to this great national endeavour of building Australia's navy of the 21st century.
"We do this to secure Australia, to secure our island nation. But we do it also to ensure that our economy transitions to the economy of the 21st century."
He said the local build would ensure "that we have the technology and skills and the manufacturing" and would guarantee the "jobs of our children and grandchildren for decades to come.”
The economic flow-on effects would be "immense,” he said.
He said Defence experts' advice was "unequivocal" in favour of the French proposal.
French firm DCNS won the hard-fought contest over Germany and Japan to help design and build the fleet to replace the Collins Class fleet.
"The recommendation of ... the experts who oversaw [the process] was unequivocal. The French offer represented the capabilities best able to meet Australia's unique needs," Mr. Turnbull said.
Mr. Turnbull said that "the bulk of the work will be done here" in Adelaide though there would be a supply chain that stretched across the country and some components such as the U.S.-made combat system will be sourced overseas.
Defence Minister Marise Payne said the new submarine fleet would form a "vital part of our naval capability to 2060 and beyond, well beyond the lifespan of most of us who are standing here today.”
"National security has been the number one driver of this decision," she said. "It reflects the fact that we are a maritime-based trading nation and both our national and economic security are linked to the maritime environment of our region.
"We need submarines with considerable range. We need the capacity to remain undisturbed and undetected for extended periods of time. We need submarines that are quiet, that have advanced sensor technology to detect other submarines."
France's bid was seen as technically very strong, particularly its quiet propulsion system that uses a marine equivalent of a jet engine rather than a propeller.
DCNS makes a wide range of cutting-edge submarines, ranging from small attack boats to massive strategic nuclear missile submarines.
Their Shortfin Barracuda design will be a variant of an existing French nuclear-powered boat. It will be converted to a diesel-electric powered design.
The French were competing against designs by Japan and Germany. While former prime minister Tony Abbott favoured Japan, there were concerns that the country lacked experience in exporting such complex military hardware.
Rather Japan's bid rested partly on strategic arguments, in that it would bring two of the major democracies in Asia closer together at a time of rising instability caused by the emergence of China as a major power.

Abe's bid to boost Japan defense exports flounders with sub contract loss

Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg News
26 April 2016

Soon after a Japanese Soryu submarine sailed out of Sydney Harbour on Tuesday, the Australian government rejected Japan’s bid for a $39-billion contract to renew its aging sub fleet.
The decision dealt a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s effort to globalize Japan’s defense industry and build a bulwark against China’s growing naval power. Australia chose France’s DCNS Group to produce the 12 vessels over Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Thyssenkrupp AG of Germany.
Japan’s bid was a manifestation of Abe’s push to loosen the restrictions of Japan’s seven-decade-old pacifist constitution in the face a territorial dispute with an increasingly assertive China. A successful bid would also have helped Abe promote his idea of a “security diamond,” linking Japan with Australia, the U.S. and India to counter China’s maritime expansion and secure freedom of navigation in the region.
“Abe has really put his neck out there,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “He had to contend with 50 years of reluctance to export arms. A big sale like this would have really proven the rightness of his cause."

Fierce Opposition

Abe has faced fierce public opposition to his plan to ease the constraints of the postwar constitution to expand the role of the country’s self-defense forces and strengthen alliances. His decision to abandon a ban on weapons exports in 2014 was meant to help build defense partnerships with allies, as well as nurture Japan’s defense
industry, whose exclusive focus on the small, domestic market has resulted in high prices for its weaponry.
Winning the Australian deal, one of the world’s largest current defense tenders, would have spelled a sea change for the fragmented industry. In 2014, Japanese companies manufactured about 2.3 percent of the arms produced by the 100 biggest defense contractors, excluding China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That compared with the U.S. at 54.4 percent, the U.K. with 10.4 percent and French companies with 5.6 percent.
As part of his effort to win the bid and promote his “security diamond,” Abe cultivated bilateral ties, and also formed a close personal bond with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to build on the joint declaration on security cooperation signed in 2007. A winning bid would have meant Japan sharing sensitive submarine technology, which is not even shown to its only formal ally, the U.S., and would have bound the two countries into an intimate security relationship for decades to come.
"We will now join up in a scrum, just like in rugby, to nurture a regional and world order and to safeguard peace," Abe said when he became the first Japanese prime minister to address the Australian parliament in 2014.
One reason that cultivating Abbott didn’t pay off was that the Liberal leader was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull in a party revolt in September, a shakeup that also led to a new defense minister, Marise Payne, overseeing the final decision on the subs.
"The sub decision would have taken the relationship a quantum leap forward,” said Murray McLean, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute of International Policy and Australia’s ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2011. “There would be deep disappointment on the Japanese end."
Payne on Tuesday cited superior sensor performance and stealth characteristics among the reasons for picking the French offering. Considerations also included cost, schedule and Australian industry involvement, she said. Mitsubishi Heavy said after the decision that Japan’s proposal had not been fully understood.

Not Ready

But Tetsuo Kotani, senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, said Japanese companies and defense officials did not share Abe’s enthusiasm and didn’t go flat-out to win the contract.
"Neither Japanese defense companies nor the Maritime Self-Defense Force were very willing to provide sensitive submarine technology. They didn’t even want to provide secrets about our submarine technology to the U.S.," he said. "Although Prime Minister Abe himself was very willing to provide the technology, which meant the government officials had to do something, overall the Japanese government wasn’t ready."

Military Drills

The strength of the Japan-Australia alliance was on display this month when the two countries participated in drills with the U.S. in the Java Sea and with the visit by the Soryu sub this week. Even with military cooperation increasing, Australia needed to weigh the risk of angering China, its biggest trading partner, if it chose Japan for the sub contract. Resentment in China over Japan’s past aggression in Asia still runs deep and the two countries remain locked in a dispute over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands close to Taiwan.
The onus will now be on the Turnbull government to make clear to Japan that appeasing China was not the reason for the decision and to find other ways of cooperating on defense, said Mark Thomas, a defense economics analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Sending Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to Japan soon would be a good start, he said.
"There’s no way you can paint a happy, smiling face on losing a multi-billion dollar contract," Thomas said. "Whether it’s a serious blow depends upon how both Australia and Japan handle it going forward."

Friday, April 22, 2016

India's nuclear submarine test troubles Pakistan

Staff, The Statesman
22 April 2016

Pakistan has showed serious concerns at the recent Indian tests of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile and development of a nuclear submarine fleet.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman termed the Indian move as serious developments, which impact the delicate strategic balance of the region.
"The reported Indian tests have resulted in the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean, which should be a very worrisome development for the region and the international community," spokesman, Nafees Zikria said at weekly briefing on Thursday.
"The reported SLBM test was not notified to Pakistan," Zikria said, adding that any missile test, whether launched from the surface or submerged platform, can be mistaken by the other country as an offensive missile.
"We, therefore, believe that in line with the spirit of the agreement on the pre-notification of test launch of ballistic missiles, the test should have been notified to Pakistan," he said.

Aussies confirm investigation into 2nd lead of classified information on $50 billion sub program

Matthew Doran, ABC News Australia
22 April 2016

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are investigating another leak of classified information relating to the bids for the $50 billion submarine program.
The ABC this week revealed Federal Cabinet's National Security Committee had met to discuss the three international bids for 12 new submarines.
It was reported the Japanese bid had been all but dismissed, leaving France and Germany still in the race.
The AFP lice has confirmed the Department of Defence has asked it to investigate how that information got out.
"The AFP can confirm it has received a referral from the Department of Defence regarding the possible unauthorised release of government information," a statement said.
"As the matter is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further."
News of the Japanese bid falling behind its competitors has led to the Japanese Government considering top-level diplomatic action to promote its case to be the successful builder.
The ABC has been told a direct call by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to plead Japan's case is among the options being considered.
It is the second investigation of leaks from the submarine program.
In March, Mr Turnbull announced the AFP would investigate how sections of the draft defence white paper were leaked to The Australian newspaper.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott was quoted in the story, launching a scathing attack about a potential delay in bringing the new multi-billion-dollar submarine program online.
South Australian federal Coalition politicians are awaiting the announcement, which will heavily influence their re-election hopes.
Popular independent Senator Nick Xenophon has been campaigning for the fleet of submarines to be built in his state, and his support has led some Government MPs to fear for their political survival.

Japan's last ditch subs effort

Hints have emerged that the two European bidders have trumped the Japanese.

Gerg Jennet, The New Daily
22 April 2016

The Japanese government is weighing options for a top-level intervention to promote its flagging bid to build Australia’s $50bn future fleet of submarines.
The ABC has been told a direct call by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to plead Japan’s case is among the options being considered.
After 14 months assessing bids by Japanese, French and German submarine builders, the Competitive Evaluation Process is reaching a conclusion and the National Security Committee of Cabinet is now considering a final decision.
Hints have emerged that the two European bidders have trumped the Japanese offering of an adapted version of its 4,000 tonne displacement Soryu class boat for Australia’s next fleet of 12 submarines.
Alarmed by media reports that its bid is languishing behind the French and Germans, Tokyo is scrambling to make a counter-move to revive its prospects before an expected public announcement by the Turnbull government within a week.
Japanese government sources have let it be known that Mr Abe is keeping a close watch on the bid, led by contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Diplomatic cables, media reports and all available intelligence on rival bidders is being assembled by a team in Tokyo to brief the Prime Minister on his options.
If it was not for a series of earthquakes on the island Kyushi, which have killed more than 40 people, sources have suggested the fate of the submarine deal would have dominated Mr Abe’s attention.
Japan’s interest in what would be its first export of a major defence platform was originally driven by an informal agreement between Mr Abe and then prime minister Tony Abbott.
But domestic political considerations linked to Mr Abbott’s “near death” leadership experience in February 2015 gave rise to the rigorous Competitive Evaluation Process, which has pitted the Japanese boat against European bidders.
Both the French DCNS shipbuilder and the German thyssenkrupp Marine have experience in building submarines for export.
Figures close to the assessment process have suggested Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is running a poor third for technical and engineering reasons, but also because of a lack of experience in foreign military sales.

Aboard the Israeli Navy's most expensive submarine

Yoav Zitun, Y-Net News
22 April 2016

It cost half a billion dollars and it is 68 meters long (10 meters longer than the existing Dolphin submarines), but the secret to its military might is the fact it can stay deep underwater for longer periods of time, 10 times, and at times even longer, than other submarines.
The stealth capabilities of the new submarine, and of its "sister" INS Tanin, allows them to be completely silent while underwater, thanks to their electric engines.
"The operational effectiveness is much higher," Col. D., the commander of the Submarine Flotilla, explained. "Tanin has already performed quite an extensive and diverse range of operational duty, and has performed better than usual. We've implemented the lessons learned from the Tanin's integration process, which lasted several months. This allowed us to make arrangements while still in Germany and with that shorten by half the process of making it operational."
Col. D. said the new submarine's bigger size compared to existing submarines provides "an advantage and is of considerable importance to the comfort of the submariner. It allows remaining more effective and fit for duty for longer periods of time during missions. Even the lighting in the new submarine is stronger and more economical than in the INS Dolphin."
The colonel spoke of the cooperation between the Submarine Flotilla and the Army, and described an unusual cooperation in training areas in southern Israel.
"We come to Armored Corps exercises to see what we could offer the tank brigade commander, what are they missing. This personal acquaintance, which includes reciprocal visits by Army officers to the submarines, will help us work together better," he said.
While the IDF prides itself on having more than 90 percent of the positions in the military open for women, including many combat roles in infantry, artillery, IAF fighter squadrons and the navy, Col. D. admits that women cannot serve in the submarine.
"As you walk from one end to the other on a submarine, you can't avoid physically touching one another, because of the crowdedness and small space," he said.
"There are some cultures, like in Denmark and Sweden, in which shared showers and sleeping quarters are part of the culture, so they don't have a problem," Col. D. continued. "There are other navies that built different submarines, significantly bigger, and included rooms, bathrooms, showers, and spaces for female fighters. This allows them to serve alongside the male fighters, while maintaining clear separation. For us, the submarines are small and I don't see how in our culture, in such a small space, this could happen. It's not that I have any doubt about women's abilities, I'm sure they can be as good as male submariners, but on the submarine it's impossible to avoid physical touch and that creates situations that, on the cultural level, are unacceptable in the IDF and in Israeli society. Perhaps it will be possible in the future, if they build submarines that are three times as large."

Analysis: Preserving America's naval dominance in an increasingly dangerous world

21 April 2016

Over the last few months we have heard increasingly urgent testimony about the growing concern regarding our ability to meet the demand for undersea capabilities.
Recent events around the world clearly demonstrate, the presence and capabilities of our forces on, below and above the seas are in higher demand than at any other time in recent history. Yet these forces are under significant pressure in meeting growing operational needs and keeping pace with developments around the world in the face of limited resources.
The 2017 budget request made, in my view, a number of meaningful investments in the capabilities of our air, marine and naval forces while also ensuring that they have the capacity to utilize them. For shipbuilding, the budget requested $18 billion for seven new ships and well as continued construction and overhaul of our carriers – putting our nation on track to reach the goal of a 308 ship Navy in five years.
Our mark builds on this foundation, adding three new ships, including a third Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to address concerns about our ability to meet the Navy’s stated force requirements of 52 small surface combatants. We also added additional funding to complete a third DDG-51 destroyer that was partially funded last year, and fully authorized continued development of the game-changing Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). We also add resources for an additional amphibious ship – with flexibility for the Navy to pursue an additional LPD or an accelerated LX(R).
Our mark also supports and adds to the range of capabilities called for in the 2017 budget that will increase the reach and punch of our forces, such as fully supporting the budget request for continued development of the B-21 long range strike bomber and 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft, both of which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
We also supported the department’s revised way forward on integrating unmanned capability in our carrier air wings, ensuring that as we move forward on the tanking and ISR focused approach for the near-term, we also preserve precision strike capability as part of the platforms future growth.
We’ve supported a wide range of upgraded weapons and capabilities aimed at increasing the range and lethality of our forces, such anti-surface capability to programs like the SM-6, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), incorporating over the horizon capabilities into the LCS, and doubling the number of Tomahawk cruise missiles, among others. A few other items of particular interest I would like to highlight.
First, over the last few months we have heard increasingly urgent testimony about the growing concern regarding our ability to meet the demand for undersea capabilities. Our combatant commanders have made clear to us that the current fleet of 54 attack submarines – let alone the future force of 41 or even 48 – cannot adequately meet the demand for undersea capabilities.
To this end, our mark not only supports the construction of two Virginia-class submarines in 2017, but also directs the Navy to provide us with a full assessment of the ability of the industrial base to sustain the current two-a-year build rate not just in 2021 but also through the 2020’s. And, we fully support the continued development of the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) to ensure that our submarines are able to meet future strike and payload delivery needs.
We also provided full support to the requested funding levels for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine, ensuring that we continue to make steady progress on this foundational component of our nation’s security. The 2017 budget is particularly significant because it marks the first time that funds for this national priority appeared in the shipbuilding account – making the debate over the funding strategy for this essential program, and the full range of shipbuilding needs in the coming decades, more urgent than ever before.
Last year saw much debate over, and solid bipartisan support for, the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund. Chairman Forbes and I – with the backing of our subcommittee – have been outspoken about the use of the NSBDF to address the well-known challenges ahead in funding both the ORP and the rest of the shipbuilding plan. As we heard from experts from the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office in December, the fund, and the expanded authorities that Congress has provided in it, could generate savings on the order of tens of billions of dollars and reduce pressure on the shipbuilding account. That not only means savings for the ORP, but also represents resources that can be reapplied to build the other ships, submarines, amphibs and carriers that we know we will need in the coming decades.
To that end, our mark continued the strong and bipartisan support for the NSBDF by shifting funding requested for detailed design of the ORP from the shipbuilding account into the fund. The bill also adds to the range of authorities provides through the NSBDF by allowing for “continuous production” of components that we know we will need, like missile tubes, in the most cost-effective and optimal manner. Notably, an interim report we just received from the Navy this week found that continuous production would save 25 percent of the cost of procuring missile tubes alone by buying them in a cost efficient and level loaded approach.
Shifting gears, one area of intense interest in Connecticut, and states across the country, is the modernization of our C-130H cargo aircraft fleet. The “Flying Yankees” of the 103rd Airlift Wing is in the final stages of transitioning to their C-130H mission, ending years of uncertainty caused by the 2005 BRAC. One concern, however, was the need to modernize their eight aircraft, and the full Air National Guard fleet, to ensure that
the aircraft remain capable of meeting the missions assigned to them.
To address this challenge, I was proud to work with many of our colleagues on the committee to provide the Air Force with the authority to move forward on its two-phase modernization plan for these aging but effective airlifters – AMP increment one, to provide near term avionics upgrades needed to meet the looming domestic and international airspace restrictions to begin in 2020, and increment two focused on longer term upgrades to other systems to ensure the longevity of the aircraft well in to the future.
We heard testimony this year from the Air Force that with that authority and the funding provided, they have been able to greatly accelerate programming for the upgrades. Namely, that all aircraft in the C-130H fleet will be airspace compliant by 2020, and that the further increment two upgrades will be complete by 2028. This is tremendous progress, and an achievement we should be proud of in this subcommittee. Our mark supports the budget to keep this plan on track, invests in additional propulsion and propeller upgrades to further enhance the fleet, and makes clear our intention to work closely with the Air Force to ensure the success of the modernization plan.
Our mark also brings much needed attention to the growing concern over the pipeline of qualified mariners that our nation will need in the future. According to testimony by the Maritime Administration provided to us last month, without replacement of the aging training ships assigned to the State Maritime Academies located across the country, our nation will be unable to meet the demand for qualified mariners we expect in decades ahead. In fact, according to MARAD, loss of just the oldest ship in the fleet – the 55 year old TS EMPIRE STATE attached to SUNY Maritime College – without replacement would cause a loss of 36 percent of the existing training ship capacity needed for mariner education, portrayed as “a major setback to meet the rising national demand for mariners” by the agency in its 2017 budget request to Congress.
This is both a concern for our nation’s economy and our security, and I was disappointed that the budget submitted to us this year did not take action to move forward on a replacement ship. To this end, the mark provides authority for the Maritime Administration to start work on a new National Security Multi-Mission Vessel to serve as a platform for replacing the aging fleet of training ships assigned to state maritime academies. Additionally, the ships would be used for disaster response and other priority and emergency response operations.
Finally, last year Congress made meaningful and bipartisan progress in limiting the impact of sequestration and the Budget Control Act. Even since passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act last fall setting budget levels for 2016 and 2017, several world events have further demonstrated just how important it is for all of us on this committee and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, to come together to make the compromises needed to protect our security and support the needs of our nation.
As nearly every military official has testified before our committee this year, the lack of action on a long term budget compromise will greatly impact our ability to build the ships, aircraft and capabilities we know we will urgently need in the coming decades. This is an issue that we cannot solve in this committee alone, but I hope that we can continue to make the bipartisan case for action with our colleagues in the House as we move forward.
Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He is ranking member of the Seapower & Projection Forces subcommittee and he also serves on the Readiness subcommittee.

Report: Australia close to eliminating much-hyped Japanese bid for $50 billion sub contract

Jesse Johnson, Japan Times
20 April 2016

Canberra has all but eliminated the much-hyped Japanese bid to build the country’s 50 billion Australian dollar fleet of new submarines, a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Wednesday.
The Cabinet’s National Security Committee reportedly discussed the bids by France, Germany and Japan on Tuesday evening, moving closer to a decision that is expected by the end of the month.
While a final decision has not been made, the ABC report said that reservations among officials had likely sunk any potential Japanese deal to build 12 Soryu-class submarines that would replace the Royal Australian Navy’s aging Collins-class fleet.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Wednesday that Tokyo was aware of the media report.
“Details of when it will decide is up to the Australian government and the Japanese government is not in a position to comment at his point,” Suga said.
Nick Bisley, a professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, said Canberra had been telegraphing its intentions for weeks.
“The government has been flagging that Japan was not a ‘done deal’ for at least three weeks,” Bisley said by email.
Concerns about the Japanese bid had apparently been festering since at least the time of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was ousted in a party coup last September.
Chief among these concerns, the ABC report said, were reservations among Australian Defence Department officials about the early stages of the Japanese offer, and
how it had initially emerged as an “understanding struck between Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.”
Australian media had reported that Abbott and Abe, who had close personal ties, privately agreed in 2014 that Japan would get the contract. Both sides denied the existence of such a secret deal.
Australian officials also cited an apparent lack of enthusiasm for the deal among Japanese bureaucrats, which they feared could ultimately undo any deal with Tokyo.
In its campaign for the contract, Japan has pushed hard on the strategic angle, hinting at even closer ties between Tokyo and Canberra – and their mutual top ally, the United States.
This strategic aspect appeared earlier to resonate in all three capitals as Beijing stoked international concern with its massive land-reclamation projects in the contested South China Sea.
Australia’s Defence White Paper, released earlier this year, also played up the strategic aspect, noting that the new subs would be built “with a high degree of interoperability with the United States.”
Analysts had said the DWP added weight to their view that the Japanese bid was the front-runner.
With Australia and the U.S. set to jointly develop a combat system to be installed in the new subs, a Japanese deal was seen as bringing the three countries’ militaries even closer.
But some officials in Washington had reportedly been quietly pushing the Japanese bid by raising the prospect that the U.S. might not allow its most advanced combat systems to be installed in European subs.
Wednesday’s report, however, threw cold water on these claims, with the Australian government now saying that it is convinced that there would be no such complications – no matter which bidder is chosen – after a senior source said U.S. President Barack Obama had made it clear to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that the deal was a sovereign issue for Canberra.
According to La Trobe’s Bisley, there are two schools of thought as to what this means.
The Australian government could be “managing Japanese and U.S. expectations that they’re going for someone else or trying to signal that Australia is not on autopilot and taking instructions from the U.S., which clearly would prefer Australia opt for Japan.”
What is certain, added Bisley, is that Canberra “wants to make clear that the decision is ‘on the merits’ and not about alliances ... which is also about trying to manage third-party expectations, i.e. China.”
An agreement to build the subs would be Japan’s first large-scale weapons export deal in decades after Abe’s Cabinet approved new rules in April 2014, ending an almost 50-year ban on the practice.

India's first boomer leaves on acceptance trials

Sam LaGrone, U.S. Naval Institute News
20 April 2016

India sent its first domestically built ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) on new trials this week ahead of an expected commissioning later this spring, according to local press reports.
INS Arinhant left the Shipbuilding Centre (SBC) in the port of Visakhapatnam, on the southeastern coast of India, week for the at-sea tests, according to The Times of India.
“INS Arihant is now undergoing sea acceptance trails as it had already passed several deep sea diving drills. The submarine will be commissioned after completing all the sea trials,” Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Naval Command, Vice-Admiral H.C.S. Bisht, told reporters in a press conference.
The 6,000-ton ballistic missile submarine can field 12 K-15 Sagarika with a 450 to 1,200 mile range – depending on the payload – or four intermediate range K-4 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with a range of 2,200 miles. The Indian Navy plans to build three to six of the submarines as a strategic deterrent platform. In a previous set of trials in March, Arinhant launched a test K-4 missiles without a warhead.
The trials – for both the SLBMs and the submarine – is a big win for the domestic shipbuilding industry, Eric Wertheim – naval analyst and author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World – told USNI News on Wednesday.
“This is an important step forward for India’s defense industrial base, nuclear deterrent, and its submarine capabilities,” he said.
“Submarine design and development has always been one of the most challenging undertakings for both governments and shipyards, and this is especially true for nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines such as Arinhant.”
In addition to Arinhant, India has 45 other ships under construction including its first domestic aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

Russia expands submarine fleet as rivalry grows

Eric Schmitt, New York Times
21 April 2016

NAPLES, ITALY – Russian attack submarines, the most in two decades, are prowling the coastlines of Scandinavia and Scotland, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic in what Western military officials say is a significantly increased presence aimed at contesting American and NATO undersea dominance.
Adm. Mark Ferguson, the United States Navy’s top commander in Europe, said last fall that the intensity of Russian submarine patrols had risen by almost 50 percent over the past year, citing public remarks by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Viktor Chirkov. Analysts say that tempo has not changed since then.
The patrols are the most visible sign of a renewed interest in submarine warfare by President Vladimir V. Putin, whose government has spent billions of dollars for new classes of diesel and nuclear-powered attack submarines that are quieter, better armed and operated by more proficient crews than in the past.
The tensions are part of an expanding rivalry and military buildup, with echoes of the Cold War, between the United States and Russia. Moscow is projecting force not only in the North Atlantic but also in Syria and Ukraine and building up its nuclear arsenal and cyberwarfare capacities in what American military officials say is an attempt to prove its relevance after years of economic decline and retrenchment.
Independent American military analysts see the increased Russian submarine patrols as a legitimate challenge to the United States and NATO. Even short of tensions, there is the possibility of accidents and miscalculations. But whatever the threat, the Pentagon is also using the stepped-up Russian patrols as another argument for bigger budgets for submarines and anti-submarine warfare.
American naval officials say that in the short term, the growing number of Russian submarines, with their ability to shadow Western vessels and European coastlines, will require more ships, planes and subs to monitor them. In the long term, the Defense Department has proposed $8.1 billion over the next five years for “undersea capabilities,” including nine new Virginia-class attack submarines that can carry up to 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles, more than triple the capacity now.
Last week, unarmed Russian warplanes repeatedly buzzed a Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea and at one point came within 30 feet of the warship, American officials said. Last year some of Russia’s new diesel submarines launched four cruise missiles at targets in Syria.
Mr. Putin’s military modernization program also includes new intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as aircraft, tanks and air defense systems.
To be sure, there is hardly parity between the Russian and American submarine fleets. Russia has about 45 attack submarines – about two dozen are nuclear-powered and 20 are diesel – which are designed to sink other submarines or ships, collect intelligence and conduct patrols. But Western naval analysts say that only about half of those are able to deploy at any given time. Most stay closer to home and maintain an operational tempo far below a Cold War peak.
The United States has 53 attack submarines, all nuclear-powered, as well as four other nuclear-powered submarines that carry cruise missiles and Special Operations forces. At any given time, roughly a third of America’s attack submarines are at sea, either on patrols or training, with the others undergoing maintenance. American Navy officials and Western analysts say that American attack submarines, which are made for speed, endurance and stealth to deploy far from American shores, remain superior to their Russian counterparts.
The Pentagon is also developing sophisticated technology to monitor encrypted communications from Russian submarines and new kinds of remotely controlled or autonomous vessels. Members of the NATO alliance, including Britain, Germany and Norway, are at the same time buying or considering buying new submarines in response to the Kremlin’s projection of force in the Baltic and Arctic.
But Moscow’s recently revised national security and maritime strategies emphasize the need for Russian maritime forces to project power and to have access to the broader Atlantic Ocean as well as the Arctic.
Russian submarines and spy ships now operate near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians could attack those lines in times of tension or conflict. Russia is also building an undersea unmanned drone capable of carrying a small, tactical nuclear weapon to use against harbors or coastal areas, American military and intelligence analysts said.
And, like the United States, Russia operates larger nuclear-powered submarines that carry long-range nuclear missiles and spend months at a time hiding in the depths of the ocean. Those submarines, although lethal, do not patrol like the attack submarines do, and do not pose the same degree of concern to American Naval officials.
Analysts say that Moscow’s continued investment in attack submarines is in contrast to the quality of many of Russia’s land and air forces that frayed in the post-Cold War era.
“In the Russian naval structure, submarines are the crown jewels for naval combat power,” said Magnus Nordenman, director of the Atlantic Council’s trans-Atlantic security initiative in Washington. “The U.S. and NATO haven’t focused on anti-submarine operations lately, and they’ve let that skill deteriorate.”
That has allowed for a rapid Russian resurgence, Western and American officials say, partly in response to what they say is Russia’s fear of being hemmed in.
“I don’t think many people understand the visceral way Russia views NATO and the European Union as an existential threat,” Admiral Ferguson said in an interview.
In Naples, at the headquarters of the United States Navy’s European operations, including the Sixth Fleet, commanders for the first time in decades are having to closely monitor Russian submarine movements through the maritime choke points separating Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom, the G.I.U.K. Gap, which during the Cold War were crucial to the defense of Europe.
That stretch of ocean, hundreds of miles wide, represented the line that Soviet naval forces would have had to cross to reach the Atlantic and to stop United States forces heading across the sea to reinforce America’s European allies in time of conflict.
American anti-submarine aircraft were stationed for decades at the Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland – in the middle of the gap – but they withdrew in 2006, years after the Cold War. The Navy after that relied on P-3 sub-hunter planes rotating periodically through the base.
Now, the Navy is poised to spend about $20 million to upgrade hangars and support sites at Keflavik to handle its new, more advanced P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. That money is part of the Pentagon’s new $3.4 billion European Reassurance Initiative, a quadrupling of funds from last year to deploy heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, to deter Russian aggression.
Navy officials express concern that more Russian submarine patrols will push out beyond the Atlantic into the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Russia has one Mediterranean port now, in Tartus, Syria, but Navy officials here say Moscow wants to establish others, perhaps in Cyprus, Egypt or even Libya.
“If you have a Russian nuclear attack submarine wandering around the Med, you want to track it,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian military specialist at the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington.
This month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency christened a 132-foot prototype drone sea craft packed with sensors, the Sea Hunter, which is made with the intention of hunting autonomously for submarines and mines for up to three months at a time.
The allies are also holding half a dozen anti-submarine exercises this year, including a large drill scheduled later this spring called Dynamic Mongoose in the North Sea. The exercise is to include warships and submarines from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the United States.
“We are not quite back in a Cold War,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “But I sure can see one from where we are standing.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Aussie sub delay would be 'politically suicidal' for Liberal Christopher Pyne, Labor leader says

Staff, ABC News
18 April 2016

Leaving Australia's submarine contract announcement until after the federal election would be "politically suicidal" for one of the masterminds behind South Australia getting the go ahead to build offshore patrol vessels, the Premier has said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced Adelaide would be home to the early construction of 12 offshore patrol vessels in 2018 before shifting to Western Australia in 2020.
South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill described the announcement as a "great win" for the state and gave credit to Liberal Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne, who could have a fight ahead to retain the SA seat of Sturt at the federal election.
"We want to knock him off [at the election], but I think he has done a great job," Mr Weatherill said.
"I'm a Labor bloke and I've got a Labor candidate running against him and we want him to win but look credit where it's due, he's done a fantastic job here.
"This has been I think a fantastic community effort, I mean every South Australian should be proud of this."
Mr. Weatherill said the campaign for the submarine work had been two years in the making and the patrol boat announcement pointed to an Australian build for the project.
"I hope Christopher and the team are able to get that organised before the federal election is announced because I think it would be politically suicidal for him not to do so," he said.
Mr. Pyne said he would not reveal information that had been taken to Cabinet or the national security committee regarding the next step for the submarine project.
"We will keep putting our best foot forward for the submarines obviously, and I hope to have an announcement before the election," Mr Pyne said.
"I've said all along if the election is in September it would be much easier, if it is in July it will be harder."
Mr. Pyne said it was important to put political differences aside to do what was best for South Australia.
"I'm grateful that the Premier Jay Weatherill has given me credit for the offshore patrol vessels and I thank him for that," he said.
"It is important that South Australians, proud South Australians like he and I work for our state not our political parties."

Turkish procurement office seeks domestic drone sub-systems

Burak Ege Bekdil, Defense News
18 April 2016

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s procurement agency has launched a competition promoting domestic development of key sub-systems used in drones.
The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) said some of the systems it wants to develop domestically include turboprop engines, spare cruise systems, perceive-and-avoid systems, wide band satellite communication systems, automatic takeoff and landing systems, high-resolution cameras, surveillance systems, electronic support pods, electronic ground support systems and search-and-rescue systems.
Companies interested in developing those systems should apply to SSM no later than May 2, the office said.
Initially, the systems would be mounted on the Anka, a medium-altitude, long-endurance drone developed by Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) that made its debut flight in February.
The drone reached an altitude of 19,000 feet and successfully carried out a four-hour exploration and observation flight.
TAI started its work on the Anka in 2004. In 2013, the company won a contract from the Turkish government to supply 10 Ankas and their ground control stations.
In 2014, military and defense officials moved ahead with a plan to add satcom capabilities to the Anka, while also bringing together a task force that would design and develop an indigenous engine for the drone. That drone, the Anka S will be delivered by 2017.
The Anka is TAI’s first indigenous design in aerospace.
In December, Turkey's domesitc industry successfully tested an armed, tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The tactical UAV tested for armed flight is the Bayraktar produced jointly by two Turkish private companies, Baykar and Kale Kalip.

Electric Boat to hire thousands as military strategy shifts back to submarines

18 April 2016

GROTON – For the first time in a generation, Electric Boat is hiring thousands of workers as military strategy again turns to submarines to project U.S. sea power.
As many as 850 high-skilled, well-paid manufacturing and other jobs are being filled this year and nearly 4,000 in the next 15 years, establishing a workforce of 18,000 at the submarine manufacturer's sites in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I.
About 4,000 workers have been hired since 2012 as Electric Boat builds two submarines a year, a coveted expansion of the fleet that was eclipsed by shifting military policies at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the drive against terrorism.
Finding and recruiting workers has stirred a regional network of community colleges, vocational schools and training and recruitment centers coordinating efforts for job training and curriculum development to match applicants with jobs at Electric Boat and small manufacturers.
Maura M. Dunn, vice president of human resources and administration at Electric Boat, said the subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp. has nearly doubled its recruiting staff and expects to spend more than $1 billion to build workplaces for submarine construction. She compared the recruiting and personnel screening to fully staffing several companies.
Electric Boat also needs to replace between 275 and 300 workers who retire annually from the company's aging work force, Dunn said.
"It's been 20 years since we've had to do this kind of hiring," she said. "The numbers are big and our ability to staff and maintain our employment level is really critical to our nation."
The types of jobs needed to build a submarine – a massive machine with more than 1 million parts – include engineers, machinists, carpenters, painters, welders and others. Administrative workers such as managers and procurement specialists also are required.
Demand is so strong that John Hyde has been conditionally hired as a machinist at Electric Boat while still a student in a manufacturing class at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton. Hyde, 31, lost his shipping job of six years when WestRock Paper Mill in Uncasville closed earlier this year.
He said he enjoys the "hands-on aspect of doing things" and has long been interested in manufacturing. "But at the time I had a decent job," he said.
Workforce development in eastern Connecticut is not new. But Electric Boat's large-scale hiring "certainly contributed and definitely sharpened our focus," said John Beauregard, executive director of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board, a key agency organizing recruitment and training.
Gene Harper, Electric Boat's retired hiring manager who is now helping to recruit, said finding work was a mystery to many.
"How do I get into manufacturing? That was the main question," he said. "We didn't have a good answer."
About two dozen regional agencies, schools and colleges, representatives of federal offices and others organized worker recruitment and education and training programs, meeting regularly and making sure "everyone is responsible for certain actions," Harper said.
Most new workers seeking retraining range in age from their 20s to their 50s, "looking to improve or change careers," said Kelli Vallieres, president of the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, a group of 53 companies.
Hiring at Electric Boat is expected to spur more work among suppliers, and manufacturers in eastern Connecticut are organized to capitalize on job growth. The Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance is working with Three Rivers and Quinebaug Valley community colleges and area technical high schools to "make sure what is taught at colleges is what industry wants," Vallieres said.
Electric Boat and manufacturers in the alliance "get good first dibs on hiring," she said.
The boost in manufacturing jobs is good news for Connecticut's slow-growth economy. The state's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in March is stubbornly higher than the U.S. rate of 5 percent and a state Department of Labor economist said job growth is insufficient to employ all the workers entering the labor force.
Hiring at Electric Boat follows a shift in military policy. Submarine construction slackened after the Cold War ended in the early 1990s and following the 9/11 attacks a decade later, submarines were sidelined in favor of drones and stepped-up intelligence targeting terrorist groups.
Submarines are now getting renewed attention as the U.S. confronts different threats: Russian advances in Europe, Chinese moves in the South China Sea and Iranian activity in the Middle East.
President Barack Obama's budget this year included $7 billion to $8 billion for submarine work, up 11 percent from the previous budget, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said.
"Believe me, there is no other program I'm aware of in the Department of Defense getting an 11 percent increase," said Courtney.
Dunn, Electric Boat's personnel chief, said the shipbuilder has spent the past two years preparing for the increased workload.
"It's a big job, but we're up to the task," she said.

Monday, April 18, 2016

U.S. to sail submarine drones in South China Sea

By lifting the veil on drone subs, some of which it hopes will be operational by the end of the decade, the Pentagon is trying to deter potential rivals such as China and Russia by pointing to its continuing military superiority. 

Geoff Dyer, The Financial Times
17 April 2016

Ashton Carter, US defence secretary, made special mention of drone subs in a speech about military strategy in Asia and hinted at their potential use in the South China Sea, which has large areas of shallower water.
The Pentagon’s investment in subs “includes new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads that can, importantly, operate in shallow water, where manned submarines cannot”, said Mr. Carter, who visited a US warship in the South China Sea on Friday.
By lifting the veil on new technologies such as drone subs, some of which it hopes will be operational by the end of the decade, the Pentagon is trying to deter potential rivals such as China and Russia by pointing to its continuing military superiority. The drones are part of a push by the US military into robotics as it tries to keep one step ahead.
“The idea is that if we were ever to get into a bust-up in the South China Sea, the Chinese would not know for sure what sort of capabilities the US might have,” says Shawn Brimley, a former White House and Pentagon official now at the Center for a New American Security. “This might have some deterrent impact on the potential for provocative behaviour.”
Mr. Carter’s trip to the USS Stennis on Friday was part of a visit to the Philippines aimed at expanding military co-operation between the two countries that is partly aimed at checking China’s growing influence. The Philippines, which will now host US fighter jets, is one of the countries that has contested claims with China for some of the land features and islands in the South China Sea.
“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarisation in the South China Sea,” Mr. Carter said in Manila on Thursday.
As military competition intensifies in the western Pacific between the US and China, submarines have become one of the key areas. China’s heavy investment in missiles has put at risk US land-based forces in the region and some of its surface vessels. As a result the US is investing $8bn next year in submarines to “ensure ours is the most lethal and most advanced undersea and anti-submarine force in the world”, as Mr. Carter put it last week.
Small, remotely operated subs have been used for some time in search and rescue and the Navy has been using Remus drones to search for mines. The new investments are in more autonomous vessels that might eventually carry weapons.
Last autumn, the US Navy unveiled a 10-foot, semi-autonomous sub drone known as the large displacement unmanned underwater vehicle , which is due to conduct its first test voyage in open seas in the summer. Officials hope that a squadron will be operating by 2020 if tests go well. As well as being able to operate for 30 days at a time, other distinguishing features of the submarine include being yellow.
The initial function of sub drones is expected to be surveillance, however naval planners believe there are endless potential uses. One model is what one official calls a Russian doll approach — with a mother sub or surface vessel that can then release a series of much smaller drones that could be mines or used to track subs or even launch their own missiles.
Small sub drones would be much harder to monitor using sonar systems that are designed to find large objects in deep waters. It might be possible, for instance, for a vessel to enter an enemy harbour unobserved.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been testing a programme it calls upward falling payloads — robot pods that would hide on the ocean floor for years and release sub drones or small surveillance aircraft once activated. Another reconnaissance drone under development is shaped and swims like a small fish.
“The use of undersea drones opens up a whole new area of capabilities,” said Mr. Brimley.
The principal obstacles at the moment are providing enough power for the drones so that they can stay underwater for long periods and communicating with them.
Officials are also debating how much autonomy they will want to give sub drones — an issue that will become more difficult if and when they start to carry weapons.
As well as investing in undersea drones, the US is developing unmanned surface vessels. Last week the Pentagon unveiled what it calls the Sea Hunter, the prototype of a sub hunter. Robert Work, deputy secretary of defence, said the vessels could be used in the western Pacific in the next five years.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Japanese submarine since WWII enters Sydney Harbor for naval exercise

The exercises will provide the Australian military with an up-close look at the Soryu-class submarine ahead of a 50 billion Australian dollar decision on a contract to build 12 new subs to replace its aging Collins-class vessels.

Jesse Johnson, The Japan Times
15 April 2016

A Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine arrived in Sydney Friday — the first time a Japanese sub has entered the harbor since World War II — to participate in bilateral exercises with its former foe.
The Soryu-class submarine Hakuryu was dispatched with the destroyers Umigiri and Asayuki for the latest round of Exercise Nichi Gou Trident, which kicked off the same day.
“This exercise, which has been conducted between Australia and Japan since 2009, is an opportunity to develop and enhance the bilateral naval relationship by practising maritime skills and improving levels of interoperability between our two navies. This is the first opportunity to conduct the exercise off Sydney,” the Australian Defence Department said in a statement.
The drills are expected to focus on anti-submarine warfare.
The exercises will also provide the Australian military with an up-close look at the Soryu-class submarine ahead of a 50 billion Australian dollar decision on a contract to build 12 new subs to replace its aging Collins-class vessels.
A Japanese defense source denied the visit was an attempt to influence the bidding process, but did note that it was a good chance for Tokyo to show off interoperability between the two allies.
Japan is seen by some analysts as the front-runner in a three-way race with France’s DCNS and Germany’s TKMS to build Australia’s new sub fleet.
According to Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, the visit was an excellent chance for Japan showcase the Soryu’s long-range capability and other performance characteristics.
“The interoperability advantages speak for themselves,” Graham said. “But of course it presents a perfect opportunity to do some A-grade export promotion in parallel. Aside from the favorable optics of being seen to
train alongside the potential purchaser’s navy, it will also give the Royal Australian Navy a chance to evaluate how the Soryu performs under local conditions, and how it measures up against the Collins.”
Graham also said the entry into Sydney “appeared deliberately low-key, without fanfare, and there appears to have been little effort to drum up media attention.”
The visit came as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was leading a business delegation to China that was due to wrap up Friday. Australia has close trade ties with China but growing security ties with Japan.
“Since Hakuryu doesn’t depart Sydney until 26 April, and is doing a series of exercises in the vicinity of Sydney, it could be that the welcome is being staggered so as to avoid hostile questioning from Chinese media during Prime Minister Turnbull’s visit to Beijing,” Graham added.
Turnbull said earlier this month that the evaluation process was being conducted in a “very thorough way” and that a decision on the contract is expected “shortly.”
During a visit to Tokyo in February, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country’s relationship with Japan was at an “all-time high,” and acknowledged that the Japanese side had emphasized “the strategic importance” of the submarine bid.
The joint drills also come amid increased tensions with Beijing over China’s land-reclamation projects and maneuvers in the disputed South China Sea.
The United States has conducted what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations near disputed islands in the waters and has urged both Australia and Japan to conduct similar operations.

Electric Boat could benefit from ambitious Navy sub replacement plan

The problem is, will Congress OK the money?

Ana Radelat, Hartford Courant
14 April 2016

WASHINGTON — Forced to retire aging submarines and facing an increased need for subs to fend off potential threats from China and Russia, the Navy has an ambitious, $100 billion plan that would boost work at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn.
But despite its strategic vision and detailed timeline for the new fleet of boats that still has no name – the class is still called the Ohio-class replacement – the Navy doesn't know how it will pay for the ambitious program.
Nor does the Navy know how Congress will react to its requests for tens of billions of dollars in additional funds for the new subs because of the threat that it will strip money from other Navy shipbuilding programs.
"I am concerned that the extraordinary cost of the Ohio-class submarine replacement program will place tremendous stress on our already constrained shipbuilding budget, unless funding from outside this account continues to be provided," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the head of the seapower subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The problem is an aging fleet of Ohio-class submarines, armed with Trident nuclear missiles, that patrols the globe and is a key element of the nation's strategic defense.
Electric Boat built the 18 Ohio-class subs from 1974 to 1991 at its facilities in Groton and Quonset, R.I. They were originally designed for a 30-year service, but the Navy has extended their operational life to 42 years, the limit that submarines can safely serve.
Replacing those subs "is our top-priority program," said Sean Stackley, the head of the Navy's acquisition office, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
While Electric Boat will be the prime contractor on the 12 Ohio-class replacement subs the Navy wants to buy, Stackley said the question of how to pay for the $100 billion program is still up in the air.
"If we don't find an innovative way to pay for the Ohio-class replacement, the Navy is going to look far different," he said.
Just in the first year of construction, 2021, the Navy's shipbuilding budget would have to jump from a current $16.5 billion to more than $20 billion.
Navy officials have testified that unless a new source of money is identified, the Navy would need to eliminate from its 30-year shipbuilding plan a total of 32 other ships, including eight Virginia-class attack submarines that are built by Electric Boat, eight destroyers, and 16 other combatant ships.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who is a big supporter of the Ohio-class replacement, conceded, "We have this bulge on the horizon."
"But shipbuilding is the long game. You have to look to the horizon," he said.
To the dismay of Connecticut lawmakers, the Navy's present plan calls for the current two-per-year construction pace of Virginia-class submarines to drop to one in 2021.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., questioned Stackley on that decision at the hearing on the shipbuilding budget.
Stackley responded that the Navy's current plan is to build two submarines a year for 30 years.
"But those two submarines are going to be — in years when you have an Ohio Replacement, it would just be one Virginia, and that's a fiscal issue … largely because of the significant cost associated with the Ohio-replacement program," Stackley said.
Stackley said the Navy would support the construction of a second Virginia-class ship in 2021 – if Congress found a way to pay for it.
"We've got to nail down what it's going to cost to add a second Virginia in 2021," he said.

Building In Batches

In a new report, the Congressional Research Service developed some options to pay for the new submarines.
One is a "block buy option" of several subs at a time that could drive down costs by about 10 percent. The CRS said the Navy is also investigating the possibility of using a block-buy contract that would cover both Ohio replacement boats and Virginia-class attack submarines.
"Such a contract, which could be viewed as precedent-setting in its scope, could offer savings beyond what would be possible using separate block buy or [multi-year procurement] contracts for the two submarine programs," the CRS report said.
Another option is one that Courtney has championed and was able to include in the last two defense authorization bills approved by Congress.
It's the idea of a separate account, called the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, that would pay for the cost of the Ohio-class replacement subs in an account that's separate from the Navy's budget.
Supporters argue that the ballistic-missile subs will meet a national strategic military need rather than a Navy-specific need and that funding for the Ohio-replacement program could be pulled together from the Pentagon's budget as a whole, rather than from the Navy's budget in particular.
"This [sub] has one mission and one mission only," Courtney said, referring to the sub's role as a critical leg of the nation's nuclear deterrent. "In my opinion you really have to take it out of the (Navy shipbuilding) account."
The CRS said establishment of such a fund "could marginally reduce the procurement costs of not only Ohio-replacement boats, but also other nuclear-powered ships, such as Virginia-class attack submarines and Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carriers, by increasing economies of
scale in the production of ship components and better optimizing ship construction schedules."
But there's opposition in Congress to the plan.
"We want to build them as quickly as we can and as efficiently as we can," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of the Ohio-class replacement subs.
But, he said, he is opposed to establishing a separate fund to pay for them, citing concerns about "transparency."
"We should authorize and appropriate everything according to established congressional procedure," he said.
The CRS also proposed building the boats in "batches" instead of in serial fashion and stretching out the current planned 15-year production schedule.
To Loren Thompson, defense analyst for the Lexington Institute, there is no doubt the Navy will move on its plans for the new class of submarines.
"Replacing the Ohio-class submarine is the most important project the Pentagon has," he said. "The real issue isn't where the Ohio-class replacement will be funded but whether the Navy will continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year."
But with the retirement of the original nuclear ballistic submarines coupled with the decommissioning of the Los Angeles-class subs, a nuclear attack sub that predated the Virginia-class boats, Thompson predicted there's a good chance Electric Boat will be building three subs in 2021.

Why the U.S. needs conventional submarines

While one Virginia-class submarine costs roughly $2.7 billion per unit, the same money could buy six to seven conventional submarines of the German Type 212 class. While U.S. nuclear-attack submarines are superb, many examples have shown that sophisticated conventional submarines aren’t just a match for surface fleets but also for older SSNs under the right circumstances.

Torsten Heinrich, The Diplomat
15 April 2016

The U.S. Armed Forces operate a wide array of sophisticated weaponry, in many cases superior to anything else in the world. But while the new destroyers, carriers, or the F-22 might have no equal, the U.S. Armed Forces face a significant gap in their capabilities: the total lack of any conventional submarines.
The United States hasn’t produced any conventional submarines since the Barbel-class in the late 1950s; every submarine class since then has been nuclear powered. This might have made sense in the context of the Cold War, where Soviet nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines had to be shadowed, but times have changed.
While previously conventional submarines had to snorkel roughly at least every two days of time under water to recharge their batteries, air-independent propulsion (AIP) has changed the game. German Type 212 submarines can stay under water without snorkeling for up to three weeks, traveling 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) or more. Without emitting heat and with no need for constant cooling due to the lack of a nuclear reactor, these German submarines and comparable designs are more than a match for nuclear-powered submarines in terms of stealthiness.
Whereas the Soviet Union had submarines cruising the globe’s waters, the next big naval challenge for the United States isn’t a revitalized Russian navy, but the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s subs and ships lurking in the South China Sea and East China Sea. These submarines could play a key role in trying to enforce China’s A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) strategy against a superior USN, with the goal of preventing the United States from intervening in any conflict involving the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Senkaku Islands, and Taiwan.
With the PLAN’s mostly conventional submarine force, the USN’s superior anti-submarine warfare capabilities will continue to severely hinder any Chinese submarine operations outside the first island chain and outside of China’s land-based air cover. This limits the theater of operations to a high degree and puts it well into range for conventional submarines using only their AIP based in Okinawa, Singapore, Subic Bay, Guam, or possibly Zuoying Naval Base on Taiwan.
Whereas China can and will create a bigger subsurface fleet than the USN by mixing conventional submarines with nuclear powered ones, the financial burden of matching hull with hull is practically impossible for the United States, at least as long as it limits the USN to SSNs. Conventional submarines might change this.
While one Virginia-class submarine costs roughly $2.7 billion per unit, the same money could buy six to seven conventional submarines of the German Type 212 class. While U.S. nuclear-attack submarines are superb, many examples have shown that sophisticated conventional submarines aren’t just a match for surface fleets but also for older SSNs under the right circumstances.
In case of a conflict with China, the majority of naval combat will happen well within the first island chain, where a purely nuclear-powered fleet seems like a waste of assets. Neither their range nor their speed will be needed in most cases. As conventional submarines will be able to handle most tasks, the dramatically more expensive SSNs could stay out of the first island chain concentration on shadowing the PLAN’s SSBNs and SSNs outside this area, while keeping enough in reserve and out of harm’s way to maintain a credible deterrence against Russia at the same time. Additional conventional subs would also prevent the projected sub shortfall starting in 2021.
But going back into the business of building conventional submarines for the USN wouldn’t just make sense from an fiscal point of view for a navy that has limited resources. It would also offer various economic and political options for the United States.
President George W. Bush promised Taiwan eight conventional subs in 2001, which were never delivered. If the United States were to start building conventional submarines again, the pledge to Taiwan could finally be fulfilled. Moreover, the market for conventional submarines is gigantic. Most Asian nations are looking to establish, increase, or modernize their submarine fleets; Germany and France have both enjoyed particular success marketing their submarines to countries like South Korea, Indonesia, India, and Malaysia. Many of these nations are close U.S. allies or friends. The market for modern conventional submarines built in the United States would probably amount to several dozen hulls within the next two decades.
Built in the U.S., employing U.S. workers, and spreading the development costs over ever more hulls, Washington could seriously consider subsidizing some of those submarines for navies which are direly in need for a naval deterrence against an ever more aggressive China. If the United States doesn’t want to hand Asia over to China on China’s terms, a price might have to be paid in the end. It’ll be either money or blood. Subsidized submarines for the Philippines and Taiwan might just be what it takes to show the steadfast commitment for the status quo and the support for those two nations, which are under heavy pressure from the Middle Kingdom.
Conventional submarines with AIP wouldn’t just bolster the USN’s capabilities in this crucial theater for a comparative bargain, they would also allow the U.S. to enter a sizable weapons market while giving it the power to supply precious allies with exactly those tools they need for deterrence. The technology transfer necessary for building subs like the Type 212 could very easily be attained by a joint venture or even licensing the German subs from a company desperately looking for sales like Howaldwerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tension on the South China Sea draws concerns, so should submarine warfare underneath

Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post
13 April 2016

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter is in Asia this week, making stops in India and the Philippines to bolster relationships that the United States could call on in a time of crisis. Discussion has focused at least in part on the South China Sea, where tensions remain high as China has deployed surface-to-air missiles and other equipment and several countries have made conflicting territorial claims.
Security concerns about the South China Sea often focus on the ships that traverse it, including in so-called freedom of navigation operations run by the U.S. Navy and recent efforts by Chinese fishermen and coast guard units to take control of the lucrative fishing business in the region. But another element of maritime security has received less attention: submarines. The Navy’s “Silent Service” rarely discloses its operations, but is part of a diverse and growing international fleet of submersibles that is deployed across the Pacific region broadly and in the South China Sea specifically.
Adm. Scott Swift, the top officer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an interview that submarines are a “critically valuable asset” to him. Surface-to-air missiles and other weapons in the region are deployed as part of a concept known as anti-access area denial (A2AD) to hinder the movement of adversaries, but submarines aren’t affected by them like surface ships and aircraft because they’re below the surface, he said.
“It gives me much more open access to areas that would be more contested in a conflict for surface units, for instance, or air units, potentially,” Swift said.
The United States, China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia are all among the countries looking for ways to upgrade submarine operations in coming years. Swift said it’s in part a “reflection of the angst” in the theater with respect to not just China, but others as well.
“It’s certainly centralized in the minds of many in the South China Sea, but we see it more broadly and certainly in the East China Sea and elsewhere,” Swift said.
The Pentagon expects to spend about $97 billion alone in coming years on what it calls the Ohio-class replacement program, phasing out 14 existing nuclear missile submarines with a new generation of vessels that includes 12 more. Additionally, it has been buying a new generation of attack submarine called the Virginia class since 1998, phasing out old attack subs in its Los Angeles and Seawolf classes while also investigating how it can expand operations with unmanned submarines.
“We’re investing over $8 billion just next year to ensure ours is the most lethal and most advanced undersea and anti-submarine force in the world,” Carter said last week while previewing his trip to Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “That includes new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads that can, importantly, operate in shallow water, where manned submarines can’t.”
Some national security analysts have speculated that part of China’s desire to take over all or part of the South China Sea is to create a sanctuary for its submarines. It includes some areas that are more than 1.5 miles beneath the surface, and underwater canyons where a submersible could hide.
In December, China deployed its first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the JIN-class, adding a vessel capable of carrying sea-based nuclear missiles for the first time. China also deployed attack submarines to the Indian Ocean for the first time in 2014, ostensibly to support counter-piracy operations but more realistically to gain familiarity with the region and to demonstrate an emerging capability, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on China military operations released last year.
Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, predicted in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is likely to continue adding more military equipment in the South China Sea, something that could again increase China’s A2AD abilities in the region.
Stewart said China’s vocal opposition to freedom of navigation operations by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea demonstrates “that Beijing recognizes the need to defend these outposts and is prepared to respond to any military operations near them.”
Freedom of navigation operations occur when the Navy sends a ship, usually a destroyer, through a region in which a country such as China has made maritime claims that the United States considers excessive. The Navy ran them through the South China Sea with the USS Lassen in October and the USS Curtis Wilbur in January, prompting allegations from Beijing that the United States violated Chinese law by entering what it considers its territorial seas.
The United States considers the operations legal through the right of innocent passage, in which a ship travels through a territorial sea while meeting a series of restrictions outlined by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The restrictions include using weapons of any kind, launching or landing aircraft, or interfering in any way with the communications of a coastal state nearby.