Thursday, May 26, 2016

China to send nuclear-armed submarines into Pacific

Tensions with U.S. mounting.

The Guardian
26 May 2016

The Chinese military is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, arguing that new US weapons systems have so undermined Beijing’s existing deterrent force that it has been left with no alternative.

Chinese military officials are not commenting on the timing of a maiden patrol, but insist the move is inevitable.

They point to plans unveiled in March to station the US Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after launch, as huge threats to the effectives of its land-based deterrent force.

A recent Pentagon report to Congress predicted that “China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016”, though top US officers have made such predictions before.

China has been working on ballistic missile submarine technology for more than three decades, but actual deployment has been put off by technical failures, institutional rivalry and policy decisions.

Until now, Beijing has pursued a cautious deterrence policy, declaring it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict and storing its warheads and its missiles separately, both strictly under the control of the top leadership.

Deploying nuclear-armed submarines would have far-reaching implications.

Warheads and missiles would be put together and handed over to the navy, allowing a nuclear weapon to be launched much faster if such a decision was taken. The start of Chinese missile patrols could further destabilise the already tense strategic standoff with the US in the South China Sea.

Last Tuesday, a US spy plane and two Chinese fighter jets came close to colliding 50 miles of Hainan island, where China’s four Jin-Class ballistic missile submarines are based. A fifth is under construction.

The two countries’ navies have also come uncomfortably close around disputed islands in the same region, and the chance of a clash will be heightened by cat-and-mouse submarine operations, according to Wu Riqiang, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing.

“Because China’s SSBNs [nuclear missile submarines] are in the South China Sea, the US navy will try to send spy ships in there and get close to the SSBNs. China’s navy hates that and will try to push them away,” Wu said.

The primary reason Chinese military officials give for the move towards a sea-based deterrent is the expansion of US missile defence, which Moscow also claims is disturbing the global strategic balance and potentially stoking a new arms race.

The decision to deploy Thaad anti-ballistic interceptors in South Korea was taken after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and the stated mission of the truck-launched interceptors is to shield the south from missile attack.

But Beijing says the Thaad system’s range extends across much of China and contributes to the undermining of its nuclear deterrent. It has warned Seoul that relations between the two countries could be “destroyed in an instant” if the Thaad deployment goes ahead.

“No harm shall be done to China’s strategic security interests,” the foreign ministry declared.

Behind the ominous warnings is growing concern in the People’s Liberation army that China’s relatively small nuclear arsenal (estimated at 260 warheads compared with 7,000 each for the US and Russia), made up mostly of land-based missiles, is increasingly vulnerable to a devastating first strike, by either nuclear or conventional weapons.

Missile defence is not their only worry. They are anxious about a new hypersonic glide missile being developed under the US Prompt Global Strike programme, aimed at getting a precision-guided missile to targets anywhere in the world within an hour.

China is developing a similar missile but officials in Beijing fear that the Chinese nuclear arsenal is so small it could be almost completely wiped out without notice, with the few missiles launched in reprisal being destroyed in mid-air by US missile defences.

Without that capability to respond with a “second strike”, China would have no meaningful deterrent at all. The government of President Xi Jinping insists the country has no plans to abandon its “no first use” principle but military officials argue US weapon developments give it no choice but to upgrade and expand its arsenal in order to maintain a credible deterrent.

There seems to have been some discussion of moving to a “launch on warning” policy, to fire Chinese weapons before incoming missiles land and destroy them. That appears to be a minority view, however.

The dominant approach is to stick with the current deterrent posture, which relies on hitting back in a devastating manner once China has been attacked. The core aim is to have a second strike capacity that is “survivable” and “penetrative”. Submarines, on patrol in the ocean depths, fulfil the first requirement, they say.

It has tested a missile, the Ju Lang (Giant Wave) 2, for that purpose, and each Jin submarine can carry up to 12 of them. Partly to help penetrate US missile defences, China has in recent months also started putting multiple warheads on its largest missile, the DF-5, another development that has set alarm bells ringing in the Pentagon, where some analysts view it as the first step towards a massive nuclear armament drive aimed at obliterating the US arsenal.

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Non Proliferation Programme at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, argues there is a danger of the two sides fatally misunderstanding each other’s intentions.

“Given China’s apparent desire to overwhelm US missile defences, it is not surprising that multiple warheads – whether independently targeted or not – would become a feature of Chinese deterrence. The surprise is that it took so long for them to be fielded,” Lewis writes in a book on multiple warheads (Mirvs) published last week by the Stimson Centre thinktank.

“What western strategic analysts might view with alarm, their Chinese counterparts might view as modest increments necessary to strengthen deterrence … Chinese strategic analysts, unlike their western counterparts, have so far adopted a surprisingly relaxed view of nuclear threats, while some of their US counterparts are inclined toward envisioning worst-case scenarios.”

Evidence for China’s more “relaxed” approach is the length of time it took to deploy multiple warheads, two decades after developing the necessary technology. China has similarly taken decades to deploy nuclear missile submarines.

Part of the reason has been technical: it is a hard technology to master. Wu Riqiang argues China’s Jin submarines (known in the Chinese military as Type 094) are still not ready, as they are too noisy and could easily be located by US attack subs. They would never get past the first island chain off China’s coast and into the mid-Pacific, where they would have to be to hit the continental US.

“My argument is that because of the high noise level of the Type 094 and China’s lack of experience of running a SSBN fleet, China cannot and should not put 094 in deterrent patrol in the near future,” he said.

The slow pace has not just been for practical reasons. China’s guiding principle has been to have a capacity for “minimum means of reprisal” while minimising the chance of accidental or unauthorised launch.

Deploying ballistic missile submarines poses a huge dilemma for Beijing. If it can only launch its weapons on receiving orders from the top, they risk being rendered unusable by a surprise “decapitation” strike on the Chinese leadership.

However, to follow the British Royal Navy model – in which each Trident submarine commander has a signed letter from the prime minister in his safe, to open in the event of a strike on London – would entail a huge leap in the alert status of the Chinese nuclear arsenal, and a similarly huge delegation of responsibility to one of the armed forces.

Wu argues Beijing would be better off sticking to its present policy of hiding its land-based ICBMs in more ingenious ways.

Under Xi’s assertive leadership, China seems determined that the Chinese nuclear deterrent will take finally to the ocean, and it has already taken thestep of putting multiple warheads on its missiles. Those steps are mostly in response to US measures, which in turn were triggered by unrelated actions by the North Koreans.

The law of unintended consequences is in danger of taking the upper hand. “The two sides may thus be stumbling blindly into severe crisis instability and growing competition by China with respect to strategic forces,” Lewis argues. “A competition between unevenly matched forces is inherently unstable.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Asia's arms race dives underwater

Adm. James Stavridis, USN Ret., Nikkei Asian Review
16 May 2016

The ocean depths of the Pacific are becoming crowded in the latest stage of Asia's arms race, as the region's military powers rapidly increase their submarine fleets and deploy the very latest technology.
Australia's decision to buy 12 highly advanced diesel-powered submarines from France's well-regarded defense contractor DCNS is the latest example. The 4,700-ton Shortfin Barracuda boats will cost nearly $40 billion, but will allow Canberra, a key U.S. ally, to double the size of its underwater fleet and add significant extra firepower.
The decision comes at an opportune moment; many of the most senior U.S. admirals in the Pacific Fleet are very
concerned about the rapid improvement in Chinese subsurface capability and the United States Navy has taken steps in recent years to mitigate it.
The Americans have introduced advanced anti-submarine warfare systems, including integrated computer systems, highly sensitive sensors towed behind ships which can "hear" the acoustic signature of submarines over hundreds of miles, and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, commercial jets with very long range that can listen for submarines across huge expanses of the ocean.
Whether or not these measures will enable the U.S. to retain its edge in undersea combat over China remains to be seen. As a senior U.S. Navy official said: "We know they are out experimenting and looking at operating, and clearly want to be in this world of advanced submarines."
At present, the United States, with its all-nuclear powered submarine fleet, remains the undisputed king of the underwater seas.
Fourteen of its submarines are ballistic missile boats capable of launching long-range nuclear weapons; four are guided missile boats, which can launch long-range conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles; and 53 are attack submarines, which can find and kill other submarines and surface ships. Some 60% of the underwater fleet is routinely deployed in the Pacific, but all of the boats can be moved there via the Panama Canal if needed.
Russia has roughly the same numbers of submarines (13 ballistic missile and 50 attack boats) while China has only 4 of the ballistic missile boats and around 50 mostly diesel-powered attack boats.
The important question, of course, is not numbers but quality. In the intricate cat-and-mouse game of submarine operations, the technological edge and the skill of the crew are more important than raw numbers.
China, for example, does not have a long tradition of subsurface operations at a high level of competence, but is improving rapidly. Given that its key objective would be finding and killing U.S. aircraft carriers in the event of a dispute over Taiwan, it needs to improve the broad area targeting and reach of its force. Beijing also has its ballistic missile boats as a strategic nuclear deterrent.
Russian military plans up to 2020 include a strong focus on the navy, with plans to purchase eight nuclear submarines. Russia has also started work on designing fifth-generation non-nuclear and nuclear-powered submarines, which are far quieter and can operate at greater depths.
As well as putting an increasing percentage of its defense budget into submarine operations, Russia is also returning them to Cold War deployment patterns. It is sending its boats deeper into the Atlantic Ocean and into the Arctic and is making more aggressive patrols around the Pacific, especially in the north. Moscow's technology is second only to that of the U.S., and its experience is top-notch.
Japan operates a smaller number of diesel-only submarines (14), but given its superb training programs and long history of effective submarine operations, it belongs in the top tier. Japan has considerable indigenous construction capability and can be expected to increase the size of its diesel fleet by at least 50% over the next decade.
Both the Japanese and Australians appear determined to maintain strong diesel submarine forces, and appear unafraid to deploy them at range from home waters.
This benefits the U.S.-led coalition in the region and provides significant opportunities for joint exercises. One key skill for any subsurface force is the ability to find opposing submarines and destroy them, and such operations are typically conducted along with surface ships (destroyers, frigates, and cruisers), short-range helicopters and long-range maritime patrol aircraft.
Anti-submarine warfare is the ultimate team pursuit, and by working together, the subsurface forces of the U.S., Japan, Australia and a fourth key ally, South Korea, will be very strong. This will be particularly true as the new Australian submarines come on line.
For South Korea, with 13 high-tech diesel-powered boats, the obvious challenge is the sheer size of the opposing North Korean submarine force – 86-strong, though many are very small and have a range of less than a couple of hundred miles; their main "payload" is special forces teams and relatively crude torpedoes. Some could be used on suicide missions, loaded with explosives and blown up at the entrance to harbors or alongside high-value tankers. Thus far, Kim Jong Un has used them principally to deliver special forces to the south and to occasionally attack South Korean surface ships with torpedoes.
In the local waters of the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang's boats already present a significant threat to both South Korean and U.S. warships. Ominously, the North Koreans are developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile which could eventually be coupled with a nuclear warhead – a very dangerous potential threat.
The remaining Pacific nations possess a handful of boats that are not operated with particular skill or experience, generally diesels with missile-launching capability: Vietnam has six, Singapore five, Taiwan four, and Indonesia and Malaysia two each.
Over time, both Vietnam and Singapore can be expected to operate reasonably capable diesel submarine forces in the range of 6-12 boats each. Singapore is a reliable and well regarded defense partner for the United States, and it seems likely that Vietnam will become one as well, given its need to maintain independence from an assertive China.
Overall, it seems clear that the accelerating arms race in Asia will mean increasingly powerful submarine fleets; military competition on the surface will be dangerously reflected in the deep waters of the Pacific.
Admiral James Stavridis was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (2009-2013) and spent over half his naval career in the Pacific. He is now Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Wonky welds keep Canada's West Coast submarines stuck in port

Dean Beeby, CBC News
17 May 2016

More bad news for Canada's problem-plagued submarine fleet: two of the boats will be out of commission for most of this year because of shoddy welding.
HMCS Chicoutimi and its sister, HMCS Victoria, are stuck in their Vancouver Island port for months because several hundred welds can't be trusted to hold tight when the boats dive.
"Numerous welds are located outside the boats' pressure hull, which will require docking to complete the review and effect repairs," says a briefing note for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.
"Both submarines will be alongside or in the dock in Esquimalt [B.C.] for several months."
Weld problems on HMCS Chicoutimi are costing the navy about eight months' downtime, with the submarine returning to sea only in the autumn. Beginning in February this year, technicians had to inspect 344 suspect welds on the boat and found at least 30 needed re-welding, often in tight spaces where work is difficult.
Technicians are scheduled to inspect 325 dubious welds on HMCS Victoria. There's no word yet on how many of those will need re-welding. Weld analysis alone will keep Victoria in port for five months this year, with additional time for actual repairs.
Troubled history
The wonky welds are the latest troubled chapter in the story of Canada's four Upholder subs, acquired used from the British in 1998. The Liberal government of Jean Chretien touted the price tag of $750 million as a bargain.
The tiny fleet has been a maintenance and repair headache from the start. HMCS Victoria arrived in Halifax in 2000 with a dent the size of a pizza pie in its hull. HMCS Chicoutimi had a serious electrical fire during its 2004 voyage to Canada from Britain, which killed one crew member and required extensive repairs. HMCS Windsor had a hydraulic malfunction on its first training mission from Halifax.
The latest round of problems actually arose in 2014, when some bad welds were noticed on a surface ship, the frigate HMCS Ottawa. Further inspections showed the same welding issues with two more frigates, Vancouver and Winnipeg, as well as in the air pipes and hydraulic pipes in the two West Coast subs.
Only 16 welds had to be fixed on the three frigates, but submarines have more stringent technical standards. "Given the hazardous environment that submarines operate in, they are managed with the highest standards of materiel integrity, more akin to aircraft than ships," says the Sajjan briefing note.
"The situation is the result of a sub-contractor not performing work to required standards."
The main contractor for refurbishing HMCS Chicoutimi, Babcock Canada Inc., is picking up most of the costs of the inspections and repairs under warranty. The navy says it's not yet clear who will pay for the weld problems with HMCS Victoria. No penalties have been levied against any suppliers.
Navy spokesman Desmond James said the frigate repairs were done at the same time as the vessels were undergoing modernization, with all work completed by May 2015, so no scheduled sea time was lost.
Confined workspaces
"The timeline for submarine repair is longer than that of the frigates due to the number of high pressure systems and confined workspaces," he said, adding that East Coast ships and submarines are not affected by the problem.
The navy says its Upholder submarines have thousands of welds, so the number requiring repair is a  fraction of the total.
Michael Byers, a defence expert at the University of British Columbia, said problem welds can be dangerous.
"If a weld blows on a submarine while it's 100 metres below the surface, every person on board dies," he said in an interview. "There's no margin for error when you're talking about submarines."
Byers added he was not surprised at the latest maintenance problems affecting the diesel-electric boats, which he said have been available for operations an average of one month each year over the last 20 years.
"These are unusually bad submarines. These are submarines that were rejected by the British Royal Navy, which tried to sell them to South Africa and Greece, both of which rejected them," Byers said.
With the Upholders nearing the end of their lifespans, Byers said the new Liberal government must decide whether to buy new diesel-electric subs from French, Spanish or German shipyards — or follow the example of Denmark, which has decided not to operate any submarines either at home or in Greenland.

South Korean Navy assembels first homegrown submarine

The submarine will include firing tubes for ballistic missiles.

Staff, The Korea Herald
17 May 2016
South Korea’s military on Tuesday held a ceremony to formally start the assembly of its first domestically developed submarine, slated to be deployed in the 2020s.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said the keel laying ceremony -- which officially recognizes the start of a ship’s construction -- for batch 1 of Jangbogo-III submarine was held by its builder Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. The steel cutting ceremony for the vessel was held in November 2014.
Daewoo had also built the Navy’s 209-class Jangbogo-I and won a maintenance contract for the submarines, according to the company’s officials on Tuesday.
Jangbogo-III, named after the legendary admiral during the ancient Korean dynasty of Silla, will be the first 3,000-ton submarine operated by the Navy. The largest submarine currently in use is the 1,800-ton 214-class submarine, the most recent of which was launched last year.
The new submarine will be equipped with six vertical launching systems capable of firing ballistic missiles. The navy will reportedly equip the Hyunmoo-2B surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 500 kilometers and payload of 500 kilograms.
Acquisition of the 3,000-ton submarine has garnered attention here in light of North Korea’s test-firing of a submarine launched ballistic missile last month. The Defense Ministry said the launch demonstrated some level of progress in the North’s SLBM program, including an underground ejection of the projectile.
Seoul’s official position on the expected deployment of the SLBM is that it will take three to four years. But officials have said it may take less time if the communist country concentrates unconventionally large amounts of resources into the project, which hinges on the will of its leader Kim Jong-un.
A military official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that North Korea is believed to be developing a 3,000-ton submarine that will equip multiple SLBMs. The currently used 2,000-ton Sinpo-class can only equip one ballistic missile.
“Being a dictatorial state that operates under orders from Kim, we can’t accurately predict how much time it will take to launch (the 3,000-ton submarine),” the official said.
North Korean navy is currently thought to have over 80 submarines, far outnumbering the 14 operated by the South.
But its larger submarines are mostly comprised of the 1,800-ton Romeo-class submarine, and the Pyongyang-operated Romeo-class submarines are reportedly designed without considering the equipment of ballistic missiles.
Pyongyang is believed to have one Sinpo-class submarine that was influenced by the designs of the Russian-built Golf-class it brought in the 1990s.
In a 2015 report, the Research Institute for National Security Affairs said that technical difficulties would hinder the North from equipping SLBM on a Romeo-class. It added that a new vessel influenced by a more modern Golf-class would be able to equip the SLBM.
There have been calls that the South should develop asymmetric military capabilities by powering the new Jangbogo-III -- at least from batch-2 -- with a nuclear reactor.
Moon Geun-shik, a defense analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, stressed that the strategic values of a nuclear-powered submarine far outweighs vessels that have diesel engines. He warned that absence of a nuclear-powered vessel would mean that South Korean continues relying heavily on the U.S. for anti-submarine operations.

Unmanned underwater vehicles: Is bigger better?

Edward Lundquist, Marine Technology News
16 May 2016 
The U.S. Navy has many mundane, messy and perilous underwater missions that are better performed unmanned vehicles. When considering the right vehicle for the mission, size does matter.
Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) are classified into three basic size categories: man-portable, lightweight, and large displacement based on size (as measured by displacement) and endurance. The Navy considers vehicles that are larger in diameter than the standard submarine 21-inch torpedo tube as “large displacement” UUVs. 
 In his 2016 posture statement to Congress, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said that Autonomous Undersea Vehicles (AUV) are a key component of the Navy’s effort to expand undersea superiority AUVs are conducting sea sensing and mine countermeasure tasks today with human-in-the-loop supervision. 
“By removing the need for environmental control systems – things like oxygen generation, G-force limitations, we can develop platforms that stretch the bounds of our imagination. Endurance is another important advantage unmanned technology brings to the fight. Our UUVs need to be able to stay out for months at a time, allowing them to observe large areas for prolonged periods, without interruption and without degradation,” Mabus said. “While nominal force structure requirements for FY25 have not been determined, the Navy is committed to growing both the size and composition of the AUV force. In the near-term, AUVs present an opportunity to increase undersea superiority and offset the efforts of our adversaries,” he said. “LDUUV will be launched from a variety of platforms, including both surface ships and submarines. The craft’s missions will include ISR, acoustic surveillance, ASW, mine countermeasures, and offensive operations.”
The LDUUV differs from other unmanned underwater vehicles built or evaluated by the Navy in that its large displacement allows for greater energy capacity to support increased persistence. “The greater energy capacity extends the reach of Navy UUVs,” said Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesman Dale Eng. 
According to Eng, the LDUUV is planned as an unmanned undersea vehicle to conduct “dull, dirty, dangerous, and otherwise impossible” missions relative to manned platforms. The LDUUV will not only extend the mission capability of its host platform, but it will also allow the host to conduct concurrent operations due to its significant persistence—measured in weeks instead of hours. “As a result, the LDUUV effectively acts as a force multiplier. In addition, the LDUUV will support advances in technology and future payloads (such as advanced ISR capabilities, deployable payloads, and advanced, longer duration energy sources) via its modular open architecture.”
The LDUUV program will design and build a modular, reconfigurable Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) with Open Architecture (OA) software (SW) focused on introducing a new class (large displacement) of UUVs to the Navy to provide increased endurance, payload hosting, and delivery capability. The LDUUV will be modular in design and include hotel functionality (guidance and control, navigation, autonomy, situational awareness, core communications, and power distribution), energy and power, propulsion and maneuvering, mission sensors (payloads), and communications links. 
“It is intended that modules will have well defined interfaces for the purposes of implementing cost-effective upgrades in future increments to leverage advances in technology,” said Eng.
The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport Division will serve as lead system integrator. “We anticipate releasing additional opportunities in the future to industry to support LDUUV Prototype fabrication,” said Eng. “Testing will be conducted by the government. Specific details such as testing location are still under review.”
The effort is projected to include industry, academia and governmental field activities. NUWC Newport Division will release LDUUV-related opportunities for industry under FBO announcements, Eng says.

Innovative Naval Prototype

The Navy’s “program of record” LDUUV is different than the Office of Naval Research Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype (LDUUV-INP) experimental UUV. “The LDUUV-INP advances the state of energy, autonomy, and endurance
technologies in a large UUV format,” said Eng. “Technologies developed under the ONR LDUUV-INP have informed, and will continue to inform the Navy LDUUV associated program of record. Further LDUUV-INP advances will enable future missions envisioned for this system.”
ONR has long been involved in undersea technology and the development of underwater vehicles, including LDUUVs. According to Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter, ONR’s Innovative Naval Prototype LDUUV program will design and build five LDUUVs: two preliminary designs, two pier-to-pier vehicles, and one submarine compatible vehicle. “The program is developing energy, autonomy and core systems to operate in a complex ocean environment near harbors, shorelines, and other high traffic locations. Goals include doubling air-independent UUV energy density, using open architecture to lower cost, and enabling pier to pier autonomy in over-the-horizon operations. Achieving these goals will reduce platform vulnerability and extend the Navy’s reach into denied areas. ONR is developing a long endurance, fuel cell-based power plant to be incorporated into LDUUV prototypes. A long endurance mission demonstration is scheduled in FY 2016.”
Critical to the success of LDUUV is the energy source. “The Navy is reviewing multiple energy sources to include Silver-Zinc batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries, PEM (or Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells, and various metal burner advanced energy systems such as aluminum combustors,” Eng says. “Each energy source under review will be considered based on its energy density, safety, and procurement and life cycle cost.”
Eng Chief of Naval Research the Navy plans to utilize multiple host platforms for LDUUV in support of worldwide operations. This includes surface ships such as LCS, and submarines (both SSGNs and Virginia class SSNs) via Large Ocean Interfaces (LOIs) such as the extended Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) and the Universal Launch and Recovery Module (ULRM). The Navy plans to utilize dedicated and specifically trained Sailors from an unmanned undersea vehicle detachment (Det. UUV) at Commander, Submarine Development Squadron 5 located at Bangor, Washington. Eng said the Sailors will be specifically trained to conduct mission planning, and will embark supporting host platforms in support of launch and recovery operations. 
In fact, missions for some large unmanned vehicles, like the DARPA ACTAUV and Boeing’s Echo Voyager XLDUUV (see story page 22) do begin and end at the pier, instead of being launched or recovered by a host ship.
A great example of a value-added role of a very big system is Theseus (see below), which laid 220 km of cable under Arctic ice a decade ago. 

Easier Said Than Done

The promise of modularity and commonality are powerful. A UUV that can perform multiple missions makes sense, but the reality is more difficult. Many systems were rushed to the customer to meet an urgent need, without the benefit of common logistics, or the ability of systems to operate or communicate together. Many proprietary systems can mean that most of them will not truly mature. 
“Successful system integration and true modularity don’t come from just designing to requirements – they require a different mindset,” said Ethan Butler, Director of Strategic Systems at Bluefin Robotics in Quincy, Mass. 
 “It’s vital to be thinking ‘modular’ from the very beginning, so that when the time comes to adapt to a different mission or payload you don’t find yourself fighting against design decisions that only work for one.”
Bluefin, which was an MIT spinoff in 1997 and was acquired by General Dynamics Mission Systems earlier this year, has integrated hundreds of different payloads into its vehicles, Butler said.
Butler points out that while the Knifefish mine countermeasures UUV is a highly specialized instantiation of the company’s Bluefin 21 vehicle, it was the fundamentally modular design of the parent Bluefin 21 vehicle that made specialization possible. “Our architecture is modular down to the very lowest level so that we don’t have to redesign the vehicle for every different mission.”
The concept of modularity, and plug-and-play, is not as simple as it sounds, said consultant Mike Good. “We had a lot of people tell us that they had systems that were ready to use ‘off the shelf.’ 
 But many weren’t at the technical maturity level they claimed,” Good said. “These systems have to be tested in a rigorous environment – as a stand-alone system, and then as a system-of-systems (SoS). Integrating multiple systems into a new capability is much harder than most people realize.”
Good said we’ve become used to the idea with our computers and USB connections. “But the simplicity of a USB thumb drive to the user can be misleading with respect to the enormous effort that is behind making it work. As an example, the current USB specification is several hundred pages long and the evolutionary product of over 22 years of work across many industry players,” he says. “And that’s just the paperwork for the agreed upon interface standard, not the final product itself.”
Good, a retired Navy captain and former program manager for LCS mission modules, says that in conversations with OPNAV and Congressional staffs, he’s found that the significant effort behind integration is not well understood – and almost always undervalued – which leads to it being under resourced. 
“That drives us to ‘standalone’ capabilities. We don’t get the more powerful results we could with integrated ones.”

U.S. Navy to deploy submarine-launched drones

Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense
16 May 2016

The Navy is moving ahead with plans to deploy small drones from submarines and undersea robotic vehicles, further advancing the military’s push toward autonomous weapons systems. 
Underwater-launched drones have been tested for at least a decade by the Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command. After experimenting with several vehicles, the Navy selected the “Blackwing” miniature tube-launched unmanned aircraft and will begin deploying them from manned submarines and from underwater robots, Blackwing manufacturer AeroVironment announced May 16.
The drone can be launched from fully submerged undersea platforms, including attack and guided missile submarines, and unmanned underwater vehicles. 
The Blackwing is an offshoot of the company’s Switchblade miniature kamikaze missile that AeroVironment has produced for U.S. ground forces. The California-based company developed the Blackwing under a 2013 Navy and U.S. SOCOM sponsored technology demonstration called “advanced weapons enhanced by submarine UAS against mobile targets.”
The demonstration was completed in September 2015 with a “strong recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet,” AeroVironment said in a news release at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition at National Harbor, Maryland. 
Weapons like the Blackwing — autonomous systems that can provide “eyes and ears” to the fleet and also can be used in killer roles — are viewed as central to the Pentagon’s broad strategy to fight wars in highly defended waters and coastal areas. The thinking is that U.S. adversaries increasingly are developing “anti-access area denial” weapons that would limit the U.S. military’s freedom of movement, its ability to identify distant targets and prevent it from gaining air, space and maritime superiority. Of special concern to the Pentagon are China anti-access, area denial weapons designed to disrupt U.S. forces in Asia Pacific. 
The Blackwing is small but comes with advanced electronics typically found in much larger missiles — electro-optical and infrared sensors, selective availability anti-spoofing module GPS and a secure digital data link. The Navy has requested funds in its fiscal year 2017 budget to buy 150 Blackwings.
“In addition to operating from undersea vehicles, Blackwing can also be integrated with and deployed from a
wide variety of surface vessels and mobile ground vehicles to provide rapid response reconnaissance capabilities,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of unmanned aircraft systems.
The Navy’s decision to acquire the Blackwing is a big win for AeroVironment, a company that has become known for its miniaturized drones. For years it has supplied small UAVs such as the Raven, the Wasp, the Puma and the Switchblade to U.S. infantry units. They all operate with a common ground control system. The company said it has delivered thousands of new and replacement small unmanned air vehicles to the United States and to more than 30 foreign governments.
The Switchblade is battery powered, equipped to carry surveillance cameras and also small warheads. It folds its wings back and slams into a target like a missile. After finding a target, Switchblade can be guided in to strike it. It detonates a small explosive charge on impact. 
“Infantrymen can take it out of a backpack, put it in the tube and use it as a weapon immediately,” an AeroVironment spokesperson told National Defense in 2010.  Switchblade was launched from U.S. Navy submarines tubes during Trident Warrior 2010. In another test last year, the Switchblade was launched from a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey.
Financial commentator Rich Smith reported that in just 10 years as a publicly traded company, AeroVironment has sold more than 25,000 drones to military and other customers, and 1,500 of those drones are Switchblades.

AeroVironment to supply Blackwing mini UAVS for Navy attack, guide missile subs

Sam LaGrone, USNI
16 May 2016
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Navy has selected the unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer AeroVironment to supply miniature UAVs for the service’s fleet of attack and guided missile submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles, the company announced on Monday during the Sea-Air-Space 2016 Exposition.
The three-inch Blackwing UAVs, “are part of Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM) demonstrates submarine launch, data sharing and control across the Joint Force,” read a March statement from the Navy to USNI News on the program.
Blackwing employs an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, Selective Availability Anti-spoofing Module (SASSM) GPS and AeroVironment’s secure Digital Data Link (DDL), all packaged into a vehicle that launches from manned and unmanned submarines,” read the statement from the company.
AeroVironment had begun developing Blackwing in 2006 using technology inherent in the company’s backpack transportable Switchblade design, David Sharpin, AeroVironment vice president of UAS business development told USNI News on Monday.
Sharpin would not release range or speed information on the 20-inch long, four pound Blackwing but said the endurance of the platform was about an hour.
The service recently decided to move from a test program to operationalize the program and start acquiring more units for the entire submarine fleet, the Navy’s director for undersea warfare Rear Adm. Charles Richard told USNI News in March.
“So there’s 150 small unmanned aerial systems coming in on submarines, so we’re now buying them,” Richard said.
“It’s not something that you would [just] see on a PowerPoint presentation. These are fully integrated they’ll go in, talk back to the ship, talk to the combat control system.”
In a 2013 briefing on the AWESUM program, the Navy said the Blackwing could communicate with submarines antennas and provide targeting information to aircraft through Link 16 data links. The Blackwings can also be weaponized to provide additional protection to submarines operating closer to shore. The program was developed in conjunction with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and could also provide information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) for Special Operations Forces (SOF).
Shaprin said AeroVironment Blackwing could also be used from surface ships or ground vehicles.
“The basic platform can do ISR. It can do communication relay and so if you wanted to do… third party targeting, that’s possible,” he said.
“How they employ it in the future? We’ll see.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Australian submarine visits Japan

Staff, 9 News Australia
10 May 2016

An Australian submarine has just finished a port visit to Japan, which Defence says highlights the growing security relationship between the nations.
Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin spent four days in Kobe and will participate in joint exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
That follows the visit of a Japanese submarine to Australia last month, which departed shortly before the government announced that Australia's new submarines would be French, not Japanese.

S. Korea to host 6-nation sub rescue exercise this month

Staff, Yonhap News Agency
10 May 2016

SEOUL – South Korea will host a joint multinational submarine exercise in its southern seas later in the month, involving the United States, Japan and other Asian Pacific countries, the Navy here said Tuesday.
The Pacific Reach 2016 will kick off on May 25 for a 10-day run in the waters off South Korea's naval port city of Jinhae on the southeastern edge of the Korean Peninsula as well as around Jeju Island, the Navy said.
The rescue exercise will bring together submarines and rescue forces from five other countries: the U.S., Japan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.
Another 12 foreign countries, including China and Russia, will take part as observers, the Navy said.
The focus of the exercise is on increasing the participating countries' interoperability in submarine rescue operations which involve the deployment of deep-submergence rescue vehicles and pressurized rescue modules.
At the end of the exercise, the submarines will enter the Navy's base on Jeju Island for a closing ceremony, the first port call there by any foreign ship since the base opened in February.
The forthcoming exercise is the seventh of its kind since the multilateral event was launched in 2000 in Singapore. This is the second time South Korea is leading the drill after playing host in 2004.

U.S., Russia vying for undersea nuke supremacy

Leonid Nersisyan, National Interest
9 May 2016
In a previous article, we examined the overall number of strategic nuclear warheads and carriers in the United States and Russia, including their compliance with the New Start Treaty. We also analyzed in detail the abilities of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the arsenals of both countries, and their prospects for development. Here, we will look at both countries’ submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
Let us briefly return to the Treaty for the Further Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) and the second-to-last report on its performance, dated January 1, 2016 (the most recent one contains no data on the number of specific types of strategic carriers), prepared by the U.S. Department of State. According to the report, 236 of 762 deployed strategic carriers are Trident II SLBMs. Furthermore, they carry 1,012 (around 66 percent) of the 1,538 nuclear warheads available in the U.S. arsenal (according to data from April 1, the overall amount of warheads has reduced to 1,481, though it is difficult to tell which carriers caused the change). At the same time,
Minuteman III land-based ICBMs carry 441 warheads (around 28.5 percent), while strategic bombers add up to eighty-five carriers with one warhead each (around 5.5 percent).
Thus, ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs) constitute the backbone of the U.S. strategic nuclear force.
Now let us find out which percent of Russia’s warheads is carried by SLBMs. First of all, it should be noted that the existing data is somewhat less accurate, since there has been no detailed official report on the number of specific types of carriers and the number of warheads in recent years. Nevertheless, the existing unstructured data allows us to assess the situation accurately enough. According to this information, among 1,735 declared nuclear warheads, around nine hundred are located aboard 299 land-based ICBMs (approximately 52 percent), and around seven hundred of them on 160 SLBMs of various types (approximately 40 percent), while that there are around fifty combat strategic bombers (3 percent). The margin of error, revealing 5 percent of the weapons “missing,” indicates some inaccuracy in the existing information. But it does not change the situation significantly—the majority of Russian strategic forces are located on land-based ICBMs (what is more, the 5 percent error is apparently due to the new land-based ICBMs), while the overall situation is more balanced, with a very large SLBM share.
Now let us move from quantity to quality, and look at the parties’ SSBNs and their armament. We will also analyze the prospects of development of this field of nuclear deterrence forces.

Does the United States Own the “Perfect” Carrier?

The U.S. Navy uses only one type of strategic subsurface missile carrier: Ohio-class nuclear submarines. Currently, there are eighteen submarines of this class in service, though four of them have been redesigned into the carriers of Tomahawk cruise missiles, so they present no interest for us in this analysis. One Ohio missile SSBN is able to carry up to twenty-four Trident II SLBMs, which is a record—for example, Russian nuclear submarines of Project 941 Typhoon (there is one modernized sample redesigned into the carrier of new Bulava SLBMs left in service) and Project 955 Borei carry twenty and sixteen R-30 Bulava SLBMs, respectively, although their displacement significantly exceeds the parameters of their American rival.
Ohio-class submarines were produced between long-ago 1976 and 1997, and nevertheless maintain a very high ability, proving to be highly reliable machines: only one crew member death has ever taken place, and then only due to the violation of safety measures.
As for the Trident II SLBM itself, it has unique characteristics for a solid-fueled missile. Though the missile is not very new (it was put into service in 1990) compared to counterparts such as the Russian solid-fueled R-30 Bulava SLBM, it has a larger throw weight—2,800 kilograms, against 1,150—and a higher range capability, as well as world-beating precision: the circular error probable (CEP) of the warheads is only 90–120 meters, whereas the Bulava’s is 250–350 meters. Such precision allows the Trident II to be equipped with fourteen light W-76 warheads, each with a capacity of one hundred kilotons, since said precision ensures elimination of the opponent’s well-protected pits of land-based ICBMs. Besides, the missile has established yet another record: 134 successful launches in a row (with only four of 156 having been unsuccessful).
Today, an Ohio replacement program, also known as the SSBN(X) program, is being developed in view of the fact that the stock of Ohios in service will gradually start running out in 2027. By 2040, the last nuclear submarine of this type will have seen its expiration date.
According to the latest data available in the Congressional Research Service report dated March 31, 2016, the first SSBN(X) submarine should be laid down in 2021 and built by 2030. A total of twelve new-type submarines will be built, with the overall value of the program estimated at $95.8 billion.
The SSBN(X) design recalls the Ohio-class in many aspects, including its dimensions. However, there are also some serious differences: the new submarine will carry sixteen instead of twenty-four SLBMs, like its predecessor (the launching silos will be the same, designed to carry the Trident II missile). Moreover, the new nuclear reactor of the submarine will require no refueling during the life cycle (for Ohios, this process takes up to four years), while new systems will allow it to significantly reduce submarine noise.
As for the new SLBM, no thematic information is available on its development. It may resemble a modernized version of the most successful model, Trident II.

Russia’s Navy Was the First to Obtain Fourth-Generation SSBNs

Russia’s submarine forces have not yet reached the uniformity of the United States’. Currently, there are three 667BDR Kaľmar (Delta-III) submarines, with liquid-fueled R-29R (SS-N-18, NATO classification “Stingray”) SLBMs; six 667BDRM Dolphin (Delta IV) submarines, equipped with the most advanced liquid-fueled R-29RMU2.1 Liner and 29RMU2 Sineva (SS-N-23 Skiff under the NATO classification) SLBMs; and three new-generation Project 955 Borei submarines in service. The only Project 941 Typhoon submarine redesigned for tests with the new solid-fueled R-30 Bulava SLBM is in service as well.
As for the Project 667BDR submarines, their stock is near its end, and they will most probably be phased out in the early 2020s. Their R-29R SLBMs carry three warheads each, with a CEP of 900 meters—an unsatisfactory parameter for modern products. On the other hand, the Dolphin third-generation submarines will operate for a good while longer and, most likely, will exit service
alongside their major opponent the Ohio class. They are equipped with liquid-fueled SLBMs, which surely have their disadvantages compared to solid-fueled ones (difficult and expensive maintenance, toxic and hazardous fuel, etc.), but their battle characteristics are still very good. The “freshest” SLBM modification, R-29RMU2.1 Liner, is capable of carrying four medium-capacity warheads with an anti-missile defense penetration system, or twelve low-capacity warheads to a distance of up to eleven thousand kilometers. The missile’s throw weight is identical to that of the Trident II, but its launch weight is ten tons lower. The submarine of this type has established the most important record—it remains the only strategic missile carrier in the world to shoot all its ammunition at one time (sixteen SLBMs). This happened in 1991, during an operation named Behemoth-2.
Now let us address Russia’s most advanced strategic subsurface missile carrier, the Project 955 Borei SSBN. This is the first fourth-generation submarine of its class. Currently, there are three Boreis in service; by 2021 they will already be eight, with the newest five built in a modernized variant, with lower noisiness. Another two to four submarines will likely be built later.
In general, the submarine concept is very similar to the promising American submarine SSBN(X). While they are similar in dimensions and displacement, both submarines carry sixteen solid-fueled SLBMs and have a significantly lower noisiness than third-generation submarines. However, unlike the SSBN(X), still available on paper only, the Borei is already in operational service.
As for the new solid-fueled R-30 Bulava SLBM, its creation progressed in a very difficult way. Eight of twenty-four launches appeared unsuccessful, but after a series of successful launches, the SLBM was put into service in 2013. At first sight, the Bulava’s characteristics are not very exciting—its throw weight is twice as low as that of R-29RMU2 and Trident II, while its CEP is estimated at 250–350 meters (there is no exhaustive information on this matter). The missile carries ten light warheads with a 150-kiloton capacity. However, it is known that the missile’s active trajectory leg is significantly shorter than that of its competitors (one of the anti-missile defense system penetration elements), while the flight trajectory itself is lower (the so-called low trajectory, which allows the missile to cover the distance to the target faster by reducing the opponent’s decision-making time). Thus, the missile creators explain the Bulava’s seemingly low characteristics by a large number of anti-missile defense penetration means featured in this SLBM.
The missile’s security issues should sooner or later be resolved. Another test is scheduled for June 2016, when a mass launch of two Bulavas will be performed.


Presently, the United States has the most optimal SLBM: Trident II. Nevertheless, Russian liquid-fueled R-29RMU2s dig in the heels of their competitor; moreover, experiments have already proved that a mass launch of all sixteen SLBMs of this type is possible, whereas more than four Trident IIs have never been launched at a time. As for the R-30 Bulava missile, it is still “raw” and needs certain improvements to qualify for a reliable means of deterrence. There is enough time for this: Project Dolphin SSBNs will operate at least until 2025–30.
Regarding the most strategic missile carriers, the Russian Borei is clearly and by far exceeds the Ohio in low noisiness, which means that until the introduction of the first SSBN(X)s in the 2030s, Russia will have an obvious technological advantage over the United States in this area.
What can be said for sure is that both the Russian and U.S. submarine groups may presently cause an irrecoverable damage to any opponent, thereby ensuring strategic deterrence.
In the final material, we will talk about the balance in the field of strategic aviation, summarizing the results based on the information of all the three articles.

Monday, May 9, 2016

STRATCOM deputy chief: Air Force should have protected fund for bomber, nuke missile modernization

Dan Parsons, Defense Daily
6 May 2016
Both the ground and air legs of the U.S. nuclear triad are in need of replacement and the Air Force would welcome a dedicated fund to pay for their modernization, according to Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, deputy Commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
When the Navy made the case to Congress that replacement of its Ohio-class nuclear submarines was a national imperative, it was given the National Sea-based Deterrence Fund where it could stash cash to pay for new subs. Wilson, speaking Friday at a Peter Huessy breakfast on Capitol Hill, said the same argument could be made for walling off funding for ICBM and long-range bomber recapitalization.
"In the main, we think that makes sense," Wilson said of establishing a fund specifically for modernization of the air and ground legs of the triad. "These are a national priority...The Navy said we need this fund for the Ohio-class replacement and they got the seabased deterrent fund. I think that same argument could be made for the other pieces, because this is something we recapitalize about every 50 years and to be able to set aside a fund to do that makes sense."
The Navy's protected fund has been dismissed as a gimmick to move funds around without increasing the service's topline. Former Pentagon Comptroller and current fellow for Booz Allen Hamilton [BAH] Bob Hale, told Defense Daily that protected funds were not a viable approach to tackling modernization challenges without an increase in overall defense spending.
"They don't provide any added resources," Hale said in a recent interview. "It feels to me like we're rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when we need to focus on not hitting the iceberg.Moving the money around, somebody else is not going to get that money and some of those needs are legitimate as well and if not as highly visible as the Ohio-class replacement, are nonetheless important."
Regardless, the Air Force has a Herculean task ahead in bringing its legs of the nuclear triad into the modern, digital age.
Wilson said the ICBM arsenal is the most responsive leg of the nuclear triad that also includes bombers and submarines. But the 450-plus missiles spread across five states were fielded in the early 1960s and upgraded to the current Minuteman III configuration in the late 1970s. The Air Force has plans to sustain those missiles with upgrades to avionics, targeting and command-and-control capabilities until 2030 when the new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) comes online.
"It is vital that our new ground-based strategic deterrent remains on track," Wilson said. "It needs to be a fully integrated flight system with the command and control, with all the supporting infrastructure."
Minuteman I was fielded before the first satellite was put in orbit, before the Internet when computing capacity and capability were minute fractions of what is available today, Wilson said.
To shave cost and improve interoperability, the Air Force and Navy are attempting to maximize commonality between the GBSD and the maritime Trident D-5 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Spread across 14,000 square miles, the existing ICBM arsenal forces any nation that attacks the United States to "go all in" to take it out, Wilson said. Without that force, a nuclear-capable enemy nation could hold U.S. bomber and submarine bases at risk with about 10 warheads, the low-end number North Korea is thought to possess, Wilson said.
Ten nuclear weapons could take out the air and naval delivery platforms except for deployed subs. Another handful could target national laboratories where nuclear weapons are produced and the facilities where they are stored.
"For the same number of weapons.that North Korea possessed, they would have the ability to destroy our intellectual capability, our production capability and our delivery capability for about 20 years," he said. "That's what the Chinese told me a couple years ago."
In future conflicts where air defenses could hold U.S. forces at ranges out of reach for fighters and other platforms, bombers and standoff munitions will become more important, Wilson said. The Air Force bomber fleet of B-1 Lancers, B-2 Spirits and B-52s are aging and the service simply does not have enough airframes to provide effective nuclear deterrence and a convincing conventional strike capability, he said.
"I would argue.that when you look at what bombers bring in terms of range, persistence and payload, we have a deficit in long-range strike capability," Wilson said. "What that number is going forward, I can't tell you what it is, but I would say we are not where we need to be on that."
The B-52 fleet was introduced beginning in the 1950s while its younger brother the B-2 is 25 years old.
"I'm really heartened and pleased to see the progress we are making on a new bomber, the B-21," Wilson said. "As adversaries continue to build advanced anti-access, area-denial capability that keep forces further out.bombers will become more important."
Bombers need to do more than fly to be taken seriously by enemies with integrated air defenses and established anti-access, area-denial capabilities, he said. That means continuation on development of the new Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon and a model 12 B61 nuclear bomb, he said.
Like most of the elements that make up the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Air Force's air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) are aging. They were designed in the 1970s, built in the 1980s and intended to last a decade. The weapons are on their fifth service life extension.
The plan for LRSO is take warheads from legacy ALCM and put it on a new missile body with contemporary technologies that will allow it to fly to a target within a contested environment, Wilson said.
"We're not building new weapons," he said. "We are taking the current ones that we have, the warheads out of the ALCMs and making them more safe, more secure. We're putting it on a bomb body that can make it to the target.Without that, we really don't have an air leg of the triad because the majority of capabilities will be delivered by B-52s, which are a standoff platform."

New 30-year shipbuilding plan falls short of U.S. Navy goal

Austin Wright, Politico
6 May 2016
The Navy's new 30-year shipbuilding plan projects a fleet of 292 ships in 2046 - a fleet that is short of the service's 308-ship goal, is down from the 305 ships projected last year and raises questions about the Obama administration's vision of a larger Navy.
The projected 292 ships would be a 20-ship increase from today's battle-force fleet of 272. But the shipbuilding plan - obtained by POLITICO ahead of its planned delivery to Congress in the next few days - acknowledges that getting to that number would require "funding that exceeds levels the Navy has historically committed to new ship construction."
The size of the Navy has been an issue on the presidential campaign trail, both in 2012 - when President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney famously tangled over the issue during a debate - and in the current cycle, with several of the now-vanquished Republican contenders calling for big shipbuilding boosts.
This latest annual shipbuilding plan shows the impact of Defense Secretary Ash Carter's decision in December to order the Navy to cut its total planned purchases of Littoral Combat Ships from 52 to 40, saying the Navy was too focused on ship quantity and should instead invest more in ship lethality.
Carter has butted heads over the issue with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has defended the service's emphasis on quantity as key to providing "presence."
"That unrivaled advantage, that presence - on, above and beneath the seas - reassures our allies and deters our adversaries," Mabus said in a speech earlier this year, blasting politicians who've described the Navy as shrinking. "In the seven years following 2009, we will have contracted 84 ships, more than the last three Navy secretaries combined."
Under the new shipbuilding plan, the Navy would not shrink - as a number of prominent Republicans have charged - but it also wouldn't grow as much as projected just a year ago.
The plan projects the Navy getting to 300 battle-force ships in fiscal 2019 and peaking at 313 ships in fiscal 2025, achieving a milestone of reaching a 300-ship force. But the size of the fleet would then begin dropping, reaching 292 ships by 2046, the result of aging ships being decommissioned and fewer LCSs than previously envisioned to replace them.
Under last year's plan, the Navy would have peaked at 321 ships in fiscal 2028 and then declined to 305 ships in 2045.
The report, however, notes the Navy faces a number of challenges getting to even the reduced total, including how to pay for a new fleet of Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarines. The service's answer: more money.
The Navy "contends that the only way to effectively overcome these challenges while supporting the defense strategy is with increases in [Navy] topline funding," the report says.
Navy advocates in Congress have been pressing for a military-wide fund, separate from the Navy's normal shipbuilding account, to pay for the new ballistic-missiles submarines - a plan opposed by some senior appropriators because it would effectively force the Army and the Air Force to subsidize a shipbuilding program.
Ultimately, according to the report, the Navy will be able to carry out all its highest-priority missions even with the reduced number of ships. The Navy, the report says, "can and will achieve the requisite mix of ships providing this shipbuilding plan continues to receive stable and sufficient funding over the long haul."
A Navy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said long-term shipbuilding projections should
be taken with a grain of salt given all the things that could change between now and 2046.
"Most 30-year shipbuilding plans are not worth much beyond three to five years," the official said, explaining that the Navy was doing a new force structure assessment this year to update the previous one from 2014. And that could have a big impact on its long-term shipbuilding goals.
Also, the official noted, a new presidential administration next year could decide it wants to change the current shipbuilding trajectory.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Royal Navy fires warning shots at Spanish ship 'hassling' USS Florida nuclear submarine

Staff, RT
5 May 2016
British sailors have fired warning shots at a Spanish Guardia Civil vessel which they claim was hassling the 560-ft-long USS Florida nuclear submarine docking in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.
The incident, which occurred in April but was only reported on Thursday, saw the Royal Navy deploy an attack vessel, HMS Sabre, which then shot flares across the bow of the 20-ton Spanish vessel Rio Cedena.
One source told the Sun newspaper: “This is not only a very dangerous game for the Spanish to play but it is unbecoming of a NATO ally to treat the US Navy with such contempt.”
“The US Navy guarantees the security of the Med Sea for all of NATO and ought to be able to damn well visit any port it wants, whether it’s Gibraltar or not,” the source raged.
Though Britain considers Gibraltar an overseas territory under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, Spain has never relinquished its claim.
The Mediterranean island, known as ‘the Rock’, is heavily militarized with its own “colonial” regiment forming part of the British Army and a specialized artillery unit, as well as a strong navy presence.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman told the Daily Mail on Thursday that it did not comment on “force protection measures or submarine operations.”
In April 2015, amid fears the Scottish National Party (SNP) may force Trident nuclear weapons out of Scotland, Gibraltar was floated as a possible alternative venue.
Dr Nick Ritchie, who lectures in international security at the University of York, told the Express newspaper at the time: “If the [MoD] is exploring other options, it shows admirable planning and foresight."
“Choosing Gibraltar would avoid the nimbyism [not in my backyard] question,” he added.

Germany offers India next generation submarines

Staff, The Nation
6 May 2016
NEW DELHI – In a departure from its traditional approach to business in India Germany for the first time has offered a military deal under the government to government umbrella for its new-generation conventional submarines having exceptional underwater endurance.
While the German government had in the past stayed away from contracts being made by its arms industries in India, the HDW 214 submarines have been offered as a special case for Indian Navy's requirement of six submarines, which are to be made in India at an estimated cost of over Rs 60,000 crore.
Sources said that the formal proposal is being shared with the Ministry of Defense in which the German government will give assurances on fair price, technology transfer and quality.
Russian and French submarines manufacturers are also competing for the mega P 75I project, which is likely to see a private sector ship yard doing a major chunk of the work. India will be mandating Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) – a technology that enables the submarine to remain underwater for several days at a stretch instead of coming up to surface frequently to replenish oxygen needed to burn the fuel for the submarines.
"The offer has certain assurances that the product will meet Indian requirements," an official involved in the process said. Russia, which is developing its own AIP system, has already advised India to conclude the P 75I project under a government deal as it has too many complexities of technology transfer.
German company Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems the manufacturers of the submarine said it "is not in a position to comment on talks between the governments of the two nations", but said it was interested in offering its 214 class boats with "robust transfer of technology, training and meeting offset obligations". "We define this as a 'no-holds barred' transfer of technology in line with the Modi government's 'Made in India' push," the company spokesperson said in response to a detailed questionnaire.

Life aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine

Jim Sciutto, CNN
6 May 2016
Sailing on a U.S. nuclear attack submarine is a trip into a cramped, timeless, windowless undersea world. My team and I got an exclusive trip on the USS Missouri during exercises in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
The first thing we noticed is how just how precious space is on board -- and how the crews, who spend six months at sea on deployment, manage to stay out of each other's way. About a third of the 337-foot vessel is taken up by the onboard nuclear reactor and propulsion, leaving a tiny living and work space for the sailors.
The Missouri spent 163 of 181 days underwater on its last deployment.
Every last inch is conserved and made ready for multiple uses. The officers' wardroom, where senior officers dine, doubles as an operating theater in medical emergencies. The torpedo room doubles as exercise room and sometimes bunkroom. Sleeping space is in particularly short supply. In fact, Virginia-class submarines like the Missouri have fewer beds than sailors -- about 94 for the 135 crew. That requires what the crews not so affectionately call "hot-racking," where sailors share bunks and sleep in shifts.
CNN visits nuclear submarine as deep-sea tensions with Russia grow
Night and day are indistinguishable on board. It is an endless series of eight-hour shifts. To keep a sense of sanity, the mess rotates breakfast, lunch and dinner every few days so the late shift isn't stuck eating meat and potatoes for breakfast.
Personally, I was amazed at how deftly the crew manages confinement with a smile. Submariners have developed a long list of unwritten rules to help keep the peace, particularly on long stretches underwater. Crews don't talk politics on board. They don't slam doors, knowing someone is always sleeping. And they learn to bend, duck and dodge just to avoid running into each other walking back and forth through the tight hallways.
Submarines are an all-volunteer service, a fact that brings a certain amount of pride. And submariners grant it is a certain kind of person who chooses a life under the sea. That pride is the true secret to keeping the peace. They each respect the sacrifice they're all making -- a special camaraderie built on shared sacrifice.
So how do they pass the time aboard a small enclosed vessel with 130 other sailors so close together?
"Working out," one sailor aboard the Missouri told me while also adding, "I personally spend a lot of time playing cards, or just staying away from other people I don't want to be around."

Navy begins building new attack submarine
"It depends on the day," another sailor told me. "Sometimes you go find a quiet corner and read a book," or watch a movie with your buddies on the projector in the crew's mess or the cafeteria aboard the sub.
While politics is a seldom discussed topic, the sailors said the "politics" of sports, and how one's team stacks up against another, is always fair game.
What is the worst rule to break on a submarine?
"Slamming doors" and other loud noises, multiple sailors said, because sleep is at a premium in an environment of staggered shifts aboard an enterprise operating 24 hours a day.
There is also the etiquette of shower time -- three to five minutes being what these sailors constitute as being considerate of others since it is all about the "water run time" and the cycling out of dirty water for clean water these sailors must do.
Because of their extended periods beneath the surface, submariners are also allowed certain liberties that others in the Navy are not, such as growing beards to a certain length and a less regimented directive on hair length and style.
One sailor said some aboard the Missouri have taken part in a "Mighty Mo" contest -- a play on the nickname of the Missouri -- where they see who can grow the best Mohawk.
And they make a lot of sacrifices. When they're at sea, submariners have limited contact with home. Emails come and go only when the submarine surfaces, which was for fewer than 20 days during their last six-month deployment.
And even then, communication isn't guaranteed. Any time the submarine sends a signal, it identifies its position, and loses the secrecy that is at the core of the crew's mission. There is only one washer and dryer on board, so clean clothes are a luxury. But submarines are famous for their good food, always topped off with a desert or two, including ice cream. Movies and cell phone video games are another welcome break.
But the traditional pastime is decidedly old-school: cribbage. I got drafted for a few games -- and let's just say I was not up to Navy spec.
Sleeping on board was oddly comfortable for this first-timer. The bunks are tiny; stretched out, I felt like I was in an MRI machine -- or worse, dozing off in a casket. But the hum of the boat lulled me to sleep for a solid few hours undisturbed.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

China to carry out more military drills in South China Sea

Ben Blanchard, REUTERS
4 May 2016
BEIJING – China’s military will carry out more military exercises in the South China Sea this month involving advanced warships and submarines, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday, terming the drills routine.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion (£3.45 trillion) of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
Xinhua said the ships, including a new guided missile destroyed, would take part in anti-submarine, anti-missile and other exercises.
It did not say exactly where the drills would take place, but noted they were routine and had been planned for this year.
China periodically announces such exercises in the South China Sea as it tries to demonstrate it is being transparent about its military deployments.
China has been at odds with the United States of late over the strategic waterway.
Washington has criticised Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly archipelago, and has conducted sea and air patrols near them.

Gilbraltar on alert: Royla Navy "opens fire" on Spanish ship 'harassing' submarine

Rob Virtue, The Express
5 May 2016
A British Navy warship fired shots at a Spanish vessel after it harassed a nuclear submarine in a dock in Gibraltar, it has been claimed.
The Spanish Guarda Civil boat was said to have sailed across an American sub in the shocking incident.
Warning flares were reportedly fired by the British Navy boat to warn off the European vessel.
It comes as tensions heighten around the UK-controlled peninsula after a series of aggressive acts by Spain.
A source said: “This is not only a very dangerous game for the Spanish to play but it is unbecoming of a NATO ally to treat the US Navy with such contempt.
Another source said: "We are used to brinkmanship but this flies in the face of any rule book on maritime safety.
"This is a nuclear powered submarine, and trying to disrupt its path is seriously dangerous."
Another recent incident, involving Spanish aggression saw Madrid threaten to shut down Gibraltar if Britain left the European Union.
Spanish boats have also been accused of shooting at fishermen in Gibraltar waters.
Dramatic footage of the incident also caught rocks being thrown at those in the boats.

Revealed: Inside the U.S. Navy's next generation ballistic missile submarine

Kris Osborn, The National Interest
4 May 2016
The Navy has begun early construction and prototyping on a new class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines designed to help ensure global peace by deploying massive destructive power under the sea.
The Ohio Replacement Program, a so-called SSBN, is scheduled to begin construction by 2021. Requirements work, technical specifications and early prototyping have already been underway at General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, ORP will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.
“This platform is being designed for 42 years of service life. It has to survive into the 2080s and it has to provide a survivable, credible deterrent threat,” Capt. David Goggins, Ohio Replacement Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, he added.
Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s. The ship specifications have been completed and the program is preparing for a detailed design phase and initial production contract, Goggins explained.
“I have to make sure I have a detailed manufacturing plan that is executable. Now I’m working on the detailed construction plan,” Goggins said.

Strategic Nuclear Deterrence

Navy officials explain that the Ohio Replacement submarines’ mission is one of nuclear deterrence.
Detailed design for the first Ohio Replacement Program is slated for 2017. The new submarines are being engineered to quietly patrol the undersea domain and function as a crucial strategic deterrent, assuring a second strike or retaliatory nuclear capability in the event of nuclear attack.
The Navy is only building 12 Ohio Replacement submarines to replace 14 existing Ohio-class nuclear-armed boats because the new submarines are being built with an improved nuclear core reactor that will better sustain the submarines, Navy officials have said.
As a result, the Ohio Replacement submarines will be able to serve a greater number of deployments than the ships they are replacing and not need a mid-life refueling in order to complete 42 years of service.
“With the life of ship reactor core, you don’t have a mid-life refueling. This allows our 12 SSBNs to have the same at sea presence as our current 14. That alone is a 40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost because you don’t have those two additional platforms,” Goggins said.
Electric Boat and the Navy are already progressing on early prototype work connecting missile tubes to portions of the hull, officials said. Called integrated tube and hull forging, the effort is designed to weld parts of the boat together and assess the ability to manufacture key parts of the submarine before final integration.
In 2012, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a five-year research and development deal for the Ohio Replacement submarines with a value up to $1.85 billion. The contract contains specific incentives for lowering cost and increasing manufacturing efficiency, Navy and Electric Boat officials said.
The U.S. and U.K. are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort for ORP. In fact, the U.S. and U.K. are buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics’ Electric Boat. The U.S. plans to build 12 ORPs, each with 16 missile tubes, and the U.K. plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.

Next-Generation Technology

The ORP is being designed with a series of next-generation technologies, many of them from the Virginia-Class attack submarine. Leveraging existing systems from current attack submarines allows the ORP program to integrate the most current technologies and systems while, at the same time, saving the developmental costs of beginning a new effort, Goggins explained.
In particular, the ORP will utilize Virginia-class’s fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar.
Sonar technology work by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.
“The large aperture bow array is water backed. There is no dome and it has very small hydrophones. It is a better performing array, but more importantly it is not air backed. When you have an air-backed array, you have transducers that need to be replaced every 10 years,” Goggins explained.
Previous sonar technologies present higher maintenance costs, whereas large aperture bow arrays can bring both higher performance as well as lower life-cycle costs, he added.
“This enables lower operations and sustainment costs because these transducers and hydrophones last for the life of the ship,” Goggins explained.
The submarines combat systems from Virginia-class attack submarines are also being integrated into the new Ohio Replacement Program submarines. The subs combat systems consist of “electronic surveillance measures,” the periscope, radios and computer systems, Goggins explained.
The new ORP subs will also utilize an automated control fly-by-wire navigation system, a technology that is also on the Virginia-Class attack submarines.
“The ship’s control system allows the operator to put information into a computer about the course and depth for the submarine. A computer algorithm maintains that course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern,” Goggins said.
Goggins also explained that the shafts of the new submarines are being built to last up to 10 or 12 years in order to synchronize with the ships maintenance schedule. Existing shafts only last six to eight years, he explained.
The ORP will also use Virginia-class’s next-generation communications system, antennas and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.
The Ohio Replacement Program is also engineering a new electric motor for the submarine which will turn the shaft and the rotor for the propulsion system. The new motor will make propulsion more efficient and potentially bring tactical advantages as well, Goggins explained.
Lawmakers are working on a special fund created to pay for the Navy's expensive next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.
Members of Congress have recently discussed the details of the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, a special effort established in 2015, at a recent hearing on the
topic. The fund was established as a way to allocate specific acquisition dollars to pay for the new submarines. In total, the Navy hopes to buy 12 of the new submarines to serve into 2085 and beyond.
Production for the lead ship in a planned fleet of 12 Ohio Replacement submarines is expected to cost $12.4 billion — $4.8 billion in non-recurring engineering or development costs and $7.6 billion in ship construction, Navy officials have said.
The Navy hopes to build Ohio Replacement submarine numbers two through 12 for $4.9 billion each in 2010 dollars.

Connecticut celebrates a century of submarine history

Korky Vann, Hartford Courant'
4 May 2016
Crossing the Thames River on I-95, you can't miss a submarine-shaped billboard proclaiming Groton the "Submarine Capital of the World."
That's no hyperbole. Groton is home to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London, the Naval Submarine School, the Submarine Force Library and Museum; the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine, the historic USS Nautilus; and the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard.
The state has so much sub history that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy designated October 2015 through October 2016 a yearlong observance of "Connecticut's Submarine Century," celebrating 100 years of submarine activity in Connecticut.
"Connecticut was the perfect location for our nation's first submarine base in 1916, and since that time our state has become the professional birthplace of every officer and crew members in the Navy's undersea profession," Malloy said in a press release. "The storied history of the Navy's submarine force is directly connected to the State of Connecticut, and we are proud of the critical asset this state has been able to provide for our nation over the last century."
Exploring that storied history makes for perfect family staycations. Groton and New London have planned a summer filled with submarine-related activities and surrounding shoreline areas feature museums, historic forts, parks and beaches, restaurants and ice cream shops to round out day trips.
Groton Mayor Marian Galbraith says the Submarine Century calendar includes lectures, films, concerts, community festivals, a submarine art trail and more.
Even better – most of the events are free.
A special feature of the Submarine Century celebration is the CT Sub Trail – a public art project showcasing a fleet of 20 fiberglass submarine sculptures painted by regional artists.
"The mini subs will be showcased in Groton's 4th of July parade, then delivered to outdoor locations along the trail," says Galbraith.
If you're planning a "Dive, Dive, Dive!" outing, you'll want to start at the United States Navy Submarine Force Museum, located on the Thames River, (pronounced THAYmes, not TEMes), in Groton. It's the only submarine museum managed exclusively by the Naval History & Heritage Command division of the U.S. Navy. The place is filled with interactive exhibits, periscopes, submarines and diving bells, including a replica of "The Turtle," one of the first combat submarines, built in 1775 by Old Saybrook resident David Bushnell.
Outside, at the museum's dock is the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, which is open for tours. (If you're claustrophobic, you might want to skip the 45-minute tour through the boat's very close quarters.)
Norwich resident Gen Schies, who recently visited the museum for the first time with her 11-year-old twins Aubrey and Ben, and 9-year-old daughter Samantha, was surprised at how much it offered to do and see.
"This place is definitely a winner," says Schies. "The kids and I were fascinated with it all and the fact that it's free is amazing."
Eury Cantillo, the museum's director of education, says submarine-related events will include a new exhibit of submarine art, science activities for children, (including live broadcast feeds from explorer Bob Ballard's remote robot submarines), and a centennial celebration on June 23. All activities, admission and parking are free.
"We'll have a presentation of the history of the submarine base and special activities for submarine lovers of all ages," says Cantillo.

CNN visits nuke sub as deep-sea tensions with Russia grow

Jim Sciutto, Jamie Crawford and Ryan Browne; Video by Jeremy Moorhead
5 May 2016
WASHINGTON  — The United States once saw the depths of the surrounding oceans as a place of uncontested American dominance. No longer.
Russian submarines have become increasing assertive in the Atlantic, and the Pentagon finds itself upping its game to try to maintain its supremacy.
"We were operating in places where we didn't have to rely on an adversary being there to challenge us. That's changing," U.S. Navy Commodore Ollie Lewis told CNN as part of an exclusive visit to the USS Missouri nuclear submarine, part of a squadron of 10 Atlantic-based submarines that Lewis commands.
"So we're back to the point now where we have to consider there is an adversary ready to challenge us in the undersea domain and that undersea superiority is not guaranteed," Lewis said.
The $2 billion Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine -- which is 377 feet long, weighs 7,800 tons and can travel over 25 knots -- is considered the most advanced submarine in the world.
CNN joined the crew for exercises this week near the Florida coast. But it has often found itself at the front lines of what many are billing as a new Cold War. When Russia annexed Crimea and launched military action in Syria, the Missouri was deployed nearby. Similarly, when a Russian sub turned up off the coast of Florida in 2012, the Missouri was called into action to track it.
The submarine can launch torpedoes at other submarines and at ships. It can also launch missiles at ground targets. It gathers intelligence. It could also deploy Navy SEAL units for special operations.
The Virginia class is "the Swiss Army knife of submarines," according to Andrew Hunter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Unlike other submarines, such as ballistic missile subs, which are geared towards one specific mission, Hunter said submarines such as the Missouri are capable of carrying out a wide range of missions, including intelligence and sea control.
But it will soon be challenged by a new series of Russian submarines, the Yasen class, the first of which is undergoing weapons trials.
Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military and fellow at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, told CNN that the Yasen class was "the quietest submarine operated by an opponent," thereby making it difficult to keep tabs on.
"The Navy is not really sure it can track it," he said.
As Magnus Nordenman, a Russian military expert at the Atlantic Council put it, "For Russia the submarine is the crown jewel of their fleet, much in the way the aircraft carrier is the crown jewel of the U.S. Navy."
Even before the new vessel is christened, the Cold War power is stepping up its underwater activities.
The U.S. Navy told CNN in April that Russian submarine activity was reaching levels unseen for decades.
The USS Missouri's commander, Fraser Hudson, assessed that the renewed Russian activity is not just "a political statement."
He told CNN Tuesday that he thinks the Russians are seeking to gain experience in case hostilities were ever to break out between it and the United States.
"Honestly, I think it's operational experience. You maintain the experience in those (areas of responsibility) so that if anything were ever to happen, they have experience," he said.
After pausing submarine activity in the wake of the 2000 Kursk disaster that resulted in the deaths of 118 Russian sailors, Moscow has increased patrols of the Atlantic, particularly in the critical Greenland-Iceland-UK triangle, which would become a vital sea lane were the U.S. ever required to reinforce troops in Europe.
Hudson told CNN that "there has been an increase in the last 10 years" of Russian subs operating near U.S. waters.
Experts, while noting that the Russian submarine fleet is much smaller that the Soviet Union's was during the 1980s, have said that the U.S. Navy was particularly concerned about the renewed Russian actions due to the fact that the U.S. and allied anti-submarine warfare capabilities have atrophied since the end of the Cold War.
"The U.S. has sort of been neglecting its Anti-Submarine Warfare operations because there really hasn't been a need for it," Dimitry Gorenburg, a research scientist with the Center for Naval Analyses, told CNN.
In the face of this remerging threat, CNN observed the Missouri's 135-member crew repeatedly train for anti-submarine warfare.
"Submarines are a dangerous business. There is always tension wherever you go because we operate in a challenging environment," Hudson said.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Australia's submarine decision: Concerns down under, celebrations in Paris

Nigel Pittaway, Pierre Tran and Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News
2 May 2016
Australia’s choice of French shipbuilding giant DCNS to lead the country’s ambitious 12-ship submarine construction program caught most observers by surprise. The quasi-government-owned DCNS – which often competes in international naval programs but rarely scores a major win – had been seen as an also-ran in competition with Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) and the Japanese government for the lucrative, Australian $50 billion (U.S. $38 billion, €33.2 billion) Future Submarine contract.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s April 26 announcement that the decision was “unequivocally” in favor of the French design set champagne corks popping in Paris even as Australian politicians and commentators debated the choice.
“This was the absolutely unambiguous recommendation from the Department of Defence that came through the competitive evaluation process,” Turnbull said, adding that all three bids were of a “very high quality.”
The decision came as a disappointment to the Japanese, who had personally been invited to compete by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in what Australian media referred to as a “Captain’s pick.” Some political analysts now predict a temporary cooling of relations between the two countries.
Turnbull, asked by reporters April 26 about the impact on Australian-Japanese relations, said his government remained committed to the regional alliance with Japan and the U.S.
“Both [Japanese] Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and I – and our respective governments and, I believe, our respective nations – are thoroughly committed to the special strategic partnership between Australia and Japan which gets stronger all the time,” Turnbull said. “It gets stronger day by day and we're committed to that. And we are committed to our strong trilateral strategic engagement between Australia, Japan and the United States.”
Andrew Davies, a senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, noted that while “our prime minister has said that he has been on the telephone to Prime Minister Abe ... I expect this will cause a bit of a cooling in the Australia-Japan relationship for a while.”
All three contenders, Davies said, offered a good product.
“I don’t think there was a bad decision on the table,” he said. “I think that whatever we did, we would have ended up with a capable submarine. We were actually in a pretty happy circumstance, with three experienced submarine designers and builders competing.”

French Cheer “Historic” Win

In Paris on April 26, President François Hollande headed for the offices of the naval shipbuilder, where he gave a speech in the DCNS lobby as champagne was served. Walking around to shake hands, he took an unplanned stroll behind a roped off area to wave to junior staff gathered on the floor above. The staff waved back.
“This is an historic program, the largest weapons export program our country has ever undertaken,” the Elysée president’s office said in a statement. The selection was possible, the statement said, due to a government-to-government agreement at a "strategic level" of over 50 years.
France’s share of the prospective deal is €17 billion (U.S. $19.5 billion), according to sources close to defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, weekly Le Point reported, while Reuters reported some €8 billion (U.S. $9.2 billion) for DCNS. DCNS chairman Hervé Guillou welcomed the support from the Direction Générale de l'Armement procurement office, Navy chief of staff Adm. Bernard Rogel, Thales, Sagem, and Schneider Electric, a French energy company with a significant business presence in Australia.
The deal is also a win for Thales, holder of 35 percent of DCNS, with the French government holding the remainder. Thales' share of the Australian program is expected to be some €1 billion (U.S. $1.2 billion), with €100 million ($115 million) per sub based on the sale of sonar systems, electronic warfare and periscopes, a Thales executive said.
With the selection of the French proposal, negotiations will begin for a three-year submarine design contract, said Marie-Pierre de Bailliencourt, DCNS executive vice president for development. A contract agreement is expected later this year or early in 2017, she added.
More choices remain for the submarine program, which is specified to have a U.S. combat systems integrator and employ U.S. weapons. Australia reportedly is considering bids from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin – each already working on the Royal Australian Navy’s Air Warfare Defense destroyer, fitted with Lockheed’s Aegis radar with integration from Raytheon.
Installing a U.S. combat system is one of the reasons for building the subs in Australia rather than France, as there is sensitive technology involved, said Robbin Laird of consultancy ICSA, based in Washington and Paris. “It will be interesting for Thales” in Australia he said, as the Australian subsidiary of the French electronics company will work closely with DCNS and the U.S. combat systems integrator.
One of the issues to be worked through is guarding U.S. technological secrets. DCNS has never worked with a U.S. company on this scale.
“I can’t help but think that the U.S. Navy has considered the full intellectual impact on any of the platforms that might be selected,” observed Guy Stitt of AMI International. “I think the Australians will have a process that assures that U.S. intellectual property will be protected.”

The Build Strategy

The Australian government confirmed that all 12 submarines will be built at the ASC facility at Adelaide in South Australia – a choice that drew domestic criticism from other states. Critics pointed out that South Australia is garnering the overwhelming majority of government shipbuilding programs. Along with the submarines, Adelaide will build nine future frigates beginning in 2020 and the first batch of twelve offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) starting in 2018, before fabrication is moved to Western Australia to make way for work on the frigates.
Construction on the submarines, said a spokesman for Defence Minister Marise Payne, is due to begin in 2022 or 2023 following a four-year design phase – a schedule
seen by some as difficult to achieve. Too much of a delay could lead to more work necessary to extend the existing Collins-class submarines the new subs are to replace.
“2022 is probably ambitious,” Davies said, “given that they also want to start cutting steel on OPVs in 2018 and on the future frigate in 2020. There’s an awful lot of production, engineering and facilities work that has to be done in the next few years.”
Construction is not likely to proceed quickly, especially with the first submarines.
“The first boat will be delivered for sea trials around 2028 and probably commissioned into service two years after that, in 2030,” Davies said. “There’s probably four years from cutting steel to delivering a boat for sea trials, so that would be a 2024 start. My feeling is that’s a more comfortable margin than trying to start in 2022.”
Turnbull, in his statement, noted the submarine program “will directly sustain around 1,100 Australian jobs and a further 1,700 Australian jobs through the supply chain.”
“The Future Submarine project,” he added, “is the largest and most complex defense acquisition Australia has ever undertaken.
The impact could be even greater in France. A DCNS spokesperson said the contract would support some 4,000 jobs for DCNS and its subcontractors.

The Future

DCNS and ThyssenKrupp are still in competition for Norway’s six-ship submarine replacement program, a Navy where the companies have a long track record of supplying ships or systems.
For the Japanese, the submarine effort is seen by many as a valuable learning experience. While the French and Germans have extensive expertise in marketing their wares on the worldwide defense market, such a foray was a first for Japan, which by law has been prohibited from selling weapons. Japan has a number of excellent systems, some observers noted, but a certain arrogance was also at times apparent.
“This was the first time they’ve ever done a commercial offering, and there will be a lot of lessons learned off this,” Stitt said.
The Japan-Australia connection was unique, he observed, noting that Abe’s government made a singular exception for the submarine effort.
“This is a strategic ally in the Asia-Pacific region. I don’t know that they’ll be out shopping this around the world,” Stitt said. “I think the Japanese will likely decide to take things on more bite-sized chunks before they offer a complete submarine deal again.”
Nevertheless, Japan seems to be set on a course to enter the worldwide defense market.
“Mitsubishi’s 2015 annual report,” Stitt noted, “reported expected growth in international defense sales.”
Nigel Pittaway reported from Melbourne, Pierre Tran from Paris, and Christopher P. Cavas from Washington.