Monday, October 16, 2017

The Risks of Pakistan's Sea-Based Nuclear Weapons

Ankit Panda, The Diplomat
13 October 2017

Nine days into 2017, Pakistan carried out the first-ever flight test of the Babur-3, it's new nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). A variant of the Babur-3 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), this SLCM will see Pakistan's nuclear deterrent head to sea-probably initially aboard its Agosta 90B and Agosta 70 submarines, but eventually, perhaps even on board new Type 041 Yuan-class submarines Pakistan is expected to procure from China.
In a new article in the Fall 2017 issue of the Washington Quarterly, Christopher Clary and I examine some of the novel security challenges Pakistan may experience with its sea-based deterrent. It is already well known that Pakistan has outpaced it's primary rival, India, in terms of its nuclear stockpile growth.
On land, low-yield systems, like the Nasr, have also raised concerns of a lower nuclear-use threshold in South Asia. The move to sea can have some positive effects on overall strategic stability; indeed, the perceived survivability of a sea-based deterrent can abate so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" pressures for Pakistan's land-based forces. But the story doesn't stop there.
Sea-based weapons can aggravate crisis stability concerns in the India-Pakistan dyad and present unique command-and-control challenges for Pakistan, which may be required to place these weapons at a higher level of readiness during peacetime. Finally, Pakistan's internal security environment will remain a concern with a submarine-based deterrent. The threat of theft and sabotage may be greater in the case of Pakistan's sea-based weapons than it is for its land-based forces. In aggregate, we argue that the sea-based deterrent may, on balance, prove detrimental to Pakistan's security.
Pakistan, like other nuclear states, employs a range of physical and procedural safeguards to ensure that its nuclear weapons are only used in a crisis and a with a valid
order from the country's National Command Authority (NCA). The introduction of a nuclear-capable SLCM aboard its Agosta submarines would necessitate the erosion of some of these safeguards.
For instance, some physical safeguards that Pakistan is known to use for its land-based weapons - including partially dissembled storage, separation of triggers and pits, and de-mated storage - would be impractical at sea. Meanwhile, the experience of other nuclear states, like the United Kingdom, with sea-based deterrents suggests that sea-based nuclear weapons generally see fewer use impediments. Pakistan has long asserted that its nuclear command-and-control is highly centralized, but it remains doubtful that this would remain true for its small nuclear-capable submarine force in wartime or a crisis. The temptation to pre-delegate use authorization may be too great.
Leaving aside the command-and-control and safeguard concerns, sea-based weapons may seriously aggravate crisis stability, in other words, the temptation for India to attack first as a crisis begins. The theory behind a survivable sea-based second-strike capability is more compelling assuming a large submarine force capable of maintaining a continuous at-sea deterrent presence. Pakistan's submarine force, by contrast, would likely employ a bastion model - meaning that their peacetime locations would be known and hence the submarines would be vulnerable to Indian conventional attack.
Similarly, Indian forces, unable to discriminate whether a detected Pakistani submarine in a crisis was fielding nuclear or conventional capabilities, would have to presume nuclear capability should the Babur-3 see deployment. All of this in turn not only would make Pakistan's submarine force a prime early-crisis target for Indian forces, but also aggravate use-or-lose pressures for land-based forces.
Ultimately, even if India resisted attacking Pakistani submarines to avoid unintended escalatory pressures, it would at least see value in targeting the Very Low Frequency (VLF) radar facility established at Karachi in November 2016 that would allow Pakistan's NCA to communicate with its at-sea deterrent in a crisis. This would require some confidence in New Delhi that Pakistan had not pre-delegated use authorization and that Islamabad's sea-based weapons would still require the transmission of a use-authorization code from the NCA.
Finally, a major cause for concern with Pakistan's move to the sea with its nuclear forces comes from its ongoing struggle with various radical Islamic militant groups. Here, Pakistan is somewhat unique among nuclear possessor states. While militants have mostly targeted soft targets in urban centers, the Pakistani military has endured major attacks as well. In particular, Pakistan has endured attacks and infiltration attempts at sensitive military and naval sites, some associated with its nuclear program. Then-Defense Minister Khawaja Asif acknowledged that Pakistan Navy insiders even abetted Al Qaeda attackers in the 2014 PNS Zulfiquar attack. (Similar reports surfaced around the time of the 2011 PNS Mehran attacks, too.)
Militants with an eye on Pakistan's nuclear weapons may find no better targets than sea-based systems with fewer physical safeguards. Moreover, the locations of these weapons would be well-known in peacetime, unlike Pakistan's land-based weapons. The Pakistan Naval Dockyard in Karachi or the Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara - the two known sites capable of hosting Pakistani submarines - are thus prime for attack, infiltration, and even insider risks. While many of the above risks raised by the Babur-3 are far from unique to Pakistan, no other nuclear state faces a similar level of internal militancy.
The Babur-3's introduction presents a classic at-sea deterrent dilemma for Pakistan. It can choose to have its presumed second-strike capability either totally secure or readily usable in wartime. For a range of reasons, Pakistan can be expected to opt for the latter option. This will require real compromises on nuclear weapons security that expose Pakistan's sea-based deterrent to theft and unauthorized use. Combined with the crisis stability implications and the more mundane concerns rising from costs, a sea-based leg to Pakistan's nuclear forces appears to be, on balance, a net negative for its overall security.

A Bigger Nuclear Submarine Is Coming for India in Drive for Ballistic Missile Subs

Dinakar Peri, The Hindu
15 October 2017

India’s second strategic nuclear submarine Aridhaman is just a few weeks from sea launch. But raising ambitions for the Navy’s capability, there are plans to build a bigger and more potent version of the indigenous nuclear submarine in the immediate future, say sources.
That leap for India’s ballistic nuclear submarine capabilities would come with the fourth submarine planned in the same class, named S4-Star. It would have a stronger weapons configuration integrated into an extra compartment that would be added to Arihant’s original design.
On the Aridhaman, sources said the “final checks are under way. All the three modules have been integrated. It is likely to be launched in late November,” an official source told The Hindu. Another source said a November launch may be difficult, but “in December, it will definitely be in the sea.”
Fuel loading in the nuclear reactor for Aridhaman was completed in January, but it would go critical only much later after initial sea trials. Once launched, the submarine will be put to extensive harbour and sea trials, before being formally commissioned in the next couple of years.
The indigenously built second nuclear submarine will add to India’s growing nuclear capabilities, in the face of the new strategic realities of the region, including the assertive Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Last October, India commissioned its first Ballistic Nuclear Submarine, INS Arihant. The vessel, weighing 6,000 tonnes, is powered by an 83 MW pressurised light water nuclear reactor.
Aridhaman, of the Arihant class, will carry several new pieces of equipment including new-generation sensors and periscope, compared to the first ship.
Construction of the third submarine of the same class is under way in four different parts, and could be completed approximately in a year. This would also be of the same size as Arihant and Aridhaman, but possess more advanced weapons and sensors. The third submarine is planned for launch in late 2018.
As soon as Aridhaman is launched, the final integration of the third submarine will begin in Visakhapatnam, it is learnt.
Indigenous capability
The project to build a strategic nuclear submarine to carry nuclear missiles began as the Advanced Technology Vessel project in the 1980s, and the vessel project was launched in 2009 by Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Arihant, which can carry nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, is of the ship submersible ballistic nuclear class

Navy $5 Billion Deal Builds New Nuclear-Armed Columbia-Class Sub

Kris Osborn , Scout Warrior
11 October 2017

The Navy has awarded a $5.1 billion contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat for Integrated Product and Process Development of the COLUMBIA Class submarine, a next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines designed to ensure a second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.
The contract award is for the design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts for the COLUMBIA Class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), a Navy statement said. This work will also include United Kingdom unique efforts related to the Common Missile Compartment.
The $5 billion contract award comes amid concurrent Navy efforts to accelerate design support, development and construction the new class of submarines-- to ensure rapid progress toward the goal of engineering the most lethal, high-tech and advanced ballistic missile submarines the world has ever seen.
"The COLUMBIA class submarine is the most important acquisition program the Navy has today," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. "This contract represents a significant investment in maintaining our strategic deterrent into the future, as well as our ongoing partnership with the United Kingdom."
Designed to serve well into the 2080s and beyond, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers are hoping to leverage years of science and technology development to best position the new submarine to enter service by 2031.
"Awarding this contract is an important step in ensuring an on-time construction start in FY 2021," Rear Admiral David Goggins, COLUMBIA Class Program Manager, said in a service statement.
The large, multi-billion dollar deal follows a DoD $203 million modification to an existing deal between the Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat earlier this year - to begin manufacture of 17 new tactical missile tubes able to fire nuclear-armed Trident II D5 missiles.
The current effort has been preceded by "tube and hull" forging work underway for several years, is part of a collaborative US-UK Common Missile Compartment program.
The US and UK are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort. In fact, the US and UK have been buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics' Electric Boat.
The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-Class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.
The Navy and Electric Boat previously completed specifications for the new Columbia-Class submarines, and the program has been progressing through a detailed design phase and initial production contract, service officials said.
In January of this year, development of the new submarines have passed what's termed "Milestone B," clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production. Production decisions are known as "Milestone C."
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.
Columbia-Class submarines are 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, Columbia-Class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.
The new submarines are being designed for 42 years of service life.
Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials said.

Strategic Nuclear Deterrence

The Navy is only building 12 Columbia-Class 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 Columbia-Class 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, there is not a need for mid-life refueling, Navy developers explained.
By engineering a "life-of-ship" reactor core, the service is able to build 12 SSBNs able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program 40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers 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.

Next-Generation Technology

Columbia-Class submarines are 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 Columbia-Class program to integrate the most current technologies and systems while, at the same time, saving the developmental costs of beginning a new effort, officials said.
The Columbia-Class will utilize Virginia-class's fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-Class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship's control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern.
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.
Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.
The submarines combat systems from Virginia-class attack submarines, consisting of electronic surveillance measures, periscopes, radios and computer systems, are also being integrated into the new submarines.
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, developers said.
The Columbia-Class 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 Columbia-Class submarine are 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.
In total, the Navy hopes to buy 12 of the new submarines to serve into 2085 and beyond.

Navy Stands Up First Underwater Drone Squadron

Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times
11 October 2017

The Navy has in recent years expanded its use of unmanned, underwater vehicles, colloquially known as drones.
And now, the sea service has taken its next step in embracing the rapidly growing technology with the standing up of its first underwater drone squadron.
Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1, or UUVRON 1, was formally established Sept. 26 during a ceremony at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Washington state.
“Standing up UUVRON 1 shows our Navy’s commitment to the future of unmanned systems and undersea combat,” Capt. Robert Gaucher, recently departed head of Submarine Development Squadron 5, said in a statement.
The squadron’s mission will be to sustain undersea advantages and extend the reach of the military.
When launched from surface ships or submarines, the vehicles can perform mine clearance, ocean floor mapping or reconnaissance, among other missions.
“In addition to providing a rapid, potentially lower cost solution to a variety of mission sets, UUVs can mitigate operations that pose increased risk to manned platforms,” Submarine Force Pacific spokesman Cmdr. Corey Barker said in an email.
Things are still in the early stages, but the new squadron will eventually operate and maintain all classes of fleet underwater drones, from micro to extra-large vehicles, squadron executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Steve Boatwright said in a statement.
In addition to overseeing currently existing underwater drones, the squadron will test future vehicles.

North Korea Renews Guam Threat Ahead of Joint Naval Exercise

Choe Sang-Hun, NY Times
13 October 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — As the United States and South Korea prepared for next week’s joint naval exercise, North Korean officials on Friday renewed their threat to launch ballistic missiles near Guam, an American territory in the western Pacific.
The drill, which involves the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, is scheduled to begin on Monday in waters east and west of South Korea. The 10-day exercise will check the allies’ “communications, interoperability and partnership,” the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The nuclear-powered submarine Michigan arrived at the South Korean port of Busan on Friday. American and South Korean warplanes will also join the exercise, which takes place amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s advancing nuclear missile program.
In recent months, President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, have amplified their countries’ military standoff by exchanging bellicose statements and personal insults.
Although both South Korea and the United States insist next week’s drill is defensive in nature, North Korea considers such war games rehearsals for invasion.
Continue reading the main story
Kim’s Rejoinder to Trump’s Rocket Man: ‘Mentally Deranged U.S. Dotard’ SEPT. 21, 2017
North Korea’s Potential Targets: Guam, South Korea and Japan AUG. 9, 2017
With Combative Style and Epithets, Trump Takes America First to the U.N. SEPT. 19, 2017
It remains unclear whether North Korea will lash out with a weapons test during the exercise, as it often has in the past.
On Friday, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies at the North Korean Foreign Ministry warned that the joint exercise, as well as a flight by two American B-1B bombers over South Korea on Tuesday, compelled the North to “take military counteraction.”
The researcher, Kim Kwang-hak, did not elaborate but recalled North Korea’s August warning that it could launch missiles near Guam, home to the United States air base from which the B-1B long-range bombers took off on Tuesday. Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has said he would watch the Americans before deciding when to launch an “enveloping fire” around Guam.
“We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense, including a salvo of missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam,” Mr. Kim, the North Korean researcher, told the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday. “The U.S. military action hardens our determination that the U.S. should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the ‘trigger’ for taking the toughest countermeasure.”
North Korea has made similar threats against the United States for decades. But Mr. Trump has added to tensions in recent weeks by employing similarly tough talk, threatening to “totally destroy” or rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea. He has said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea.
Despite Mr. Trump’s tough talk, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said on Thursday that North Korea’s nuclear threat was “manageable” for now.
Mr. Kelly added that Americans should be concerned that the North is getting closer to achieving the ability to hit the mainland United States with its missiles. He said there was already “great concern” about Americans living in Guam.
“Right now we think the threat is manageable,” Mr. Kelly told reporters at the White House. “Let’s hope that diplomacy works.”
Also on Friday, South Korea’s meteorological authorities said that they detected a small quake near the North’s underground nuclear test site, but that it was not caused by a man-made explosion. They have detected three similar tremors from near the test site since the North’s
nuclear test on Sept. 3, in which North Korea said it detonated a hydrogen bomb.
Some earthquake experts have attributed the recent tremors to underground cave-ins caused by that powerful test. Commercial satellite images have also found evidence of landslides near the North Korean site, raising fears of radioactive fallout if the North conducts another nuclear test there.
The previous test compelled Washington to accelerate its global campaign to exert sanctions and pressure on North Korea.
On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates said it would stop issuing new visas to North Korean workers. Kuwait and Qatar have taken similar steps in recent weeks. Several thousand North Korean workers have been working in Middle East construction sites, earning badly needed cash for their government.

Guam-based guided-missile submarine makes port call to South Korea

Kim Gamel, Stars and Stripes
13 October 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — The USS Michigan arrived in the southern port city of Busan on Friday, the second U.S. submarine in as many weeks to arrive on the divided peninsula.
The Navy said the Ohio-Class guided-missile submarine was making a routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment to the region.
But the port call comes at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, which has stepped up the pace of its nuclear weapons program.
President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” the North if forced to defend the U.S. or its allies.
Washington has agreed to deploy so-called strategic assets in and around South Korea on a more regular basis to provide better deterrence against the North.
South Korea sees that as an important measure of the U.S. commitment to the longstanding alliance between the two allies who fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The 560-foot-long USS Michigan, which weighs more than 18,000 tons when submerged, is armed with tactical missiles and capable of launching strikes and supporting missions by special operation forces, a statement said.
Its homeport is Bremerton, Wash., but the submarine is based in the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.
The smaller USS Tucson, which is capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, made a port call last Saturday at the U.S. base in Chinhae.
The U.S. also has sent Guam-based B-1B bombers over the peninsula twice in recent weeks in a show of force amid speculation the North is preparing to conduct another ballistic-missile test.
The communist state has test-fired dozens of missiles over the past year and a half, most recently on Sept. 15 when it sent a missile over Japan.
It also has conducted six underground nuclear tests since 2006, including its most recent and powerful on Sept. 3.
“The U.S. and [South Korean] navies have always enjoyed a strong relationship,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Korea.
“Today, our relationship is stronger than it has ever been and our ironclad partnership is further reinforced by this visit from Michigan.”
The deployment of U.S. bombers, submarines and aircraft carriers to the peninsula always infuriates the North, which considers it a sign of aggression and signal of preparations for an invasion.
Experts have warned the uptick in belligerent rhetoric from Trump and posturing by the military could lead to a miscalculation and possibly an open conflict.
About 28,500 U.S. service members are based in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the three-year war ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Navy Accelerates Orca Undersea Drone Program

Through Orca, the Navy is seeking a reconfigurable underwater drone with a modular and open architecture that can travel to a location, loiter and periodically establish communications. The vehicle should also be able to deploy payloads and subsequently return to its host, according to a solicitation for Orca in March.

Ross Wilker, Defense Systems
3 October 2017

The Navy has narrowed the field of competitors for one of its unmanned underwater drone programs to a Boeing-Huntington Ingalls team and Lockheed Martin team amid expectations of increased spending in that area.
Both parties received contracts to embark on design efforts for phase one of the “Orca” Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program, the Defense Department said in its Thursday contracts digest. The Navy received three bids and awardees will also work to deliver a technical data package with their vehicles.
Boeing is the prime contractor in its partnership with military shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls and received a $42.2 million phase one award, while Lockheed was awarded $43.1 million. The Navy is obligating $16.5 million in initial funds to both parties at the time of award and expects all contract work to complete by December 2018.
The Navy intends to downselect to a final winner for Orca by the end of calendar year 2018, or the first quarter of the government's 2019 fiscal year, a Navy spokesperson told Washington Technology. The winning company will build up to five vehicles under the downselect contract, the spokesperson said.
The Boeing-HII team is offering the former’s 55-foot-long Echo Voyager vehicle in pursuit of the Orca program, Boeing’s autonomous systems unit leader Chris Raymond told Washington Technology in August. Boeing has made the unmanned undersea domain a growth priority through its acquisition of California-based drone maker Liquid Robotics in December 2016 and the partnership with HII announced in June.
Lockheed has also made forays into unmanned undersea technologies as the defense contractor’s venture capital arm disclosed earlier this month an investment in San Diego-based Ocean Aero, another maker of underwater drones. Ocean Aero’s Submaran S10 model is about 13 feet long and 8 feet high at a weight of 280 pounds.
Boeing and Lockheed are not the only large defense primes to identify unmanned underwater platforms as an avenue for growth. General Dynamics and L3 Technologies also have acquired undersea drone makers over the past year-and-a-half. The U.S. military has plans to invest as much as $3 billion into undersea systems over the coming years, the Washington Post reported last year.
Through Orca, the Navy is seeking a reconfigurable underwater drone with a modular and open architecture that can travel to a location, loiter and periodically establish communications. The vehicle should also be able to deploy payloads and subsequently return to its host, according to a solicitation for Orca in March.
Orca’s dimension requirements have the modular payload bay or bays of at least 60 inches in height, 125 inches in length and total volume of 325 feet.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Modernization Continues; Lockheed Martin To Build Submarine Ballistic Missiles

John Keller, Military and Aerospace
2 October 2017

U.S. military leaders are moving forward toward their goal of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal with a nearly half-billion-dollar deal to Lockheed Martin Corp. on Friday to build new submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Officials of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) office in Washington awarded a $418.7 million order the Lockheed Martin Space Systems segment in Sunnyvale, Calif., to provide new procurement of Trident II (D5) missile production and D5 deployed systems support.
The UGM-133A Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles support the U.S. sea-based atomic missile infrastructure. President Donald Trump has said one of his highest military priorities is to revitalize the nation's nuclear forces.
Friday's contract modification consists of new Trident II D5 procurement, D5 life extension production, and D5 deployed systems support.
The Trident II D5 is one of the most advanced long-range submarine-launched nuclear missiles in the world. It is the primary U.S. sea-based nuclear ballistic missile, and is deployed aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.
The U.S. Navy operates 14 of these ballistic missile submarines, each of which can carry as many as 24 Trident II missiles. Although the Trident II is designed to carry as many as 12 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads, current treaties reduce this number to four or five.
Each Trident II missile has a range of 4,000 to 7,000 miles. The Trident II D5 was first deployed in 1990 and is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2027.

The Navy started the D5 Life Extension Program in 2002 to replace obsolete components using as many commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts as possible to keep costs down and to enhance the missile's capability. Draper Lab is in charge of upgrading the Trident II's guidance system, and has been working on this project since 2005.
In practice, the Trident II missile's inertial measurement system receives targeting data from computers aboard the submarine. The inertial measurement unit then transmits signals to the D5 flight-control computer and converts them into steering commands to keep the ballistic missile on target.
The missile's post-boost control system maneuvers the missile in flight to observe stars for the missile's celestial navigation subsystem, which updates the inertial system in flight.
Lockheed Martin also is integrating the Trident II onto the next-generation ballistic submarine designs of the U.S. and United Kingdom by adapting the Trident II missile and reentry subsystems into the common missile compartment for the future U.S. Columbia-class Ohio replacement submarine and United Kingdom Dreadnought-class Vanguard successor submarine.
The future U.S. Columbia-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, being designed to replace the Navy's fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, should enter service in 2031. The United Kingdom Dreadnought submarine, to replace the Royal Navy's Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines, should enter service in 2028.
The U.S. Navy today operates 18 Ohio-class submarines -- 14 of which carry the Trident nuclear missile, and four of which have been modified to carry conventionally armed long-range cruise missiles.
The Ohio-class submarines have been in commission since 1981, and are scheduled to be decommissioned and replaced starting in 2029. The United Kingdom Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine has been at sea since 1993. The Royal Navy operates four Vanguard-class subs.
On this contract modification Lockheed Martin will do the work in Sunnyvale, Calif.; Cape Canaveral and Orlando, Fla.; Kings Bay, Ga.; Bangor, Wash.; and Magna, Utah, and should be finished by September 2022

The Most Powerful Nuclear Attack Submarine Ever Is Now In The U.S. Navy’s Hands

Dave Majumdar, The National Interest
2 October 2017

On Sept. 26, the U.S. Navy took delivery of its newest Virginia-class attack submarine—the future USS Colorado (SSN-788).
The new nuclear-powered submarine is the fifteenth Virginia–class vessel to be completed. Unlike many other defense programs, the vessel was completed on time and on budget. Colorado will be formally commissioned into service early next year in the spring.
“Colorado’s delivery brings another Block III Virginia-class submarine to the fleet within budget. The submarine’s outstanding quality continues the program’s tradition of delivering combat-ready submarines to the fleet,” Capt. Mike Stevens, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Virginia-class submarine program manager said.
“The Colorado is the most capable Virginia-class submarine bringing advanced capabilities and technology to the Navy fleet.”
According to NAVSEA, Colorado is the fifth of eight planned Virginia-class Block III submarines, which feature a redesigned bow where 12 individual vertical launch tubes which are replaced with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes. Each payload tube is capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles—or they could be used to house other payloads in the future. The Block III vessels also replace the traditional air-backed sonar dome with a new horseshoe-shaped water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array, which not only more capable but also more reliable.
The Navy and the submarine industrial base have worked hard to reduce the cost of buying and maintaining the Virginia-class submarines as they try to ramp up the production of attack boats to meet an SSN shortfall. General Dynamics Electric Boat is understandably proud of their work on Colorado.

“This delivery demonstrates the skill and commitment of everyone involved in the Virginia-class submarine program,” Electric Boat president Jeffrey S. Geiger said in a statement.
“Delivering Colorado is a significant achievement that helps the Navy meet its shipbuilding goals and ensures our continuing success as a business.”
Once the Navy, Electric Boat and the Huntington Ingalls Newport News finish with the Block III submarines, the sea service will move on to building the more reliable Block IV Virginias. However, in the future, the Navy will eventually start building the much more capable Block V Virginia-class submarines, which will feature four additional launch tubes in a new hull segment called Virginia Payload Module.
The first Block V will start construction in 2019 as the second submarine (SSN-803) built that year. The Block V submarines will add a Virginia Payload Module (VPM) that will add four additional payload tubes amidships, each of which can accommodate seven Tomahawk cruise missiles for a total of 28 weapons. Overall, the Block V Virginia-class will be capable of launching 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles from its payload tubes.
All subsequent Virginia-class submarines are expected to feature the VPM. The Navy is urgently trying to build more submarines as it scrambled to try to meet its stated requirement to for 66 SSNs. However, the Navy’s fleet will dip to only 41 SSNs by 2029, unless the service takes immediate action.

South Korea About to Make a $7 Billion Nuclear Submarine Blunder

Staff, Scout Warrior
1 October 2017
One of the toughest challenges for military allies to sort out is a sensible division of labor when it comes to expensive high-tech weaponry. A case in point is South Korea’s interest in developing extremely expensive nuclear submarines, which also raise nuclear proliferation concerns.
Although South Korea has invested heavily in conventional subs, operating eighteen of the vessels with more on the way, Yonhap News Agency recently reported, “The Moon administration is considering the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines to counter the North's fleet of around 70 military subs, some armed with ballistic missiles.” The same article noted that Seoul would require that at least one of these submarines would be operating at all times. The main rationale for acquiring nuclear subs (SSNs) is that unlike conventional submarines, which must surface every few days or weeks for air, the nuclear reactors allow SSNs to stay submerged indefinitely. This will allow them to track North Korea’s emerging submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
This capability does not come cheaply. One way South Korea could acquire nuclear submarines is by buying or leasing American-built SSNs. It’s unclear if this option is feasible since the United States has never sold nuclear-powered submarines to another country. Still, assuming that it is, the question becomes how much would this cost South Korea?
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute examined this question in a 2012 report by Andrew Davies. It explored how much it would cost Australia to purchase Virginia-class SSNs from the United States.
According to Davies:
[The U.S. Navy’s] goal is to reduce costs to $2.24 billion per vessel and the time required to build each ship to about 60 months. Under the US Foreign Military Sales regulations, any submarine purchased by Australia would cost a little more than the cost of production for the USN. A working figure might be US$2.5 billion, with a lead time of at least five years, although that figure does not include the support systems, infrastructure investment and other costs that would also be incurred.
If this figure is correct, it would cost South Korea around $7.5 billion to purchase three SSNs before accounting for the substantial operating costs, personnel training and infrastructure investments.
A more realistic option is for South Korea to build its own SSNs. South Korea already has extensive experience in building its own conventionally-powered submarines, as well as nuclear reactors. In the early 2000s, South Korea was also caught conducting research into miniaturized nuclear reactors that can fit on submarines. In fact, one atomic energy official who worked on that clandestine effort recently bragged: “South Korea’s atomic energy
agency finished its basic design for a nuclear reactor that can be used for a nuclear-powered submarine in 2004.”
To gauge the cost of an indigenous effort, it would again be helpful to look at other countries’ experiences. One potentially helpful comparison is Britain’s program to build seven Astute-class SSNs. This is obviously an imperfect comparison since Britain has prior experience with SSNs and is using reactors from its older ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) for the Astute-class subs. Nonetheless, it’s a useful starting place.
The Astute-class submarines have been beset by repeated problems since the program began, including myriad operational challenges and massive cost overruns. The current cost estimate is that the seven submarines will cost $13.3 billion, or nearly $2 billion per ship. Even this is misleading because the unit cost is driven down by how many vessels Britain is procuring. The lead ship of the class was $2.6 billion overbudget. Thus, an extremely optimistic estimate is that the first three ships would cost $7 billion.
Another useful example is Brazil’s efforts to acquire a nuclear attack submarine. Brazil is teaming with the French firm, DCNS, to build the SSN. According to the contract, DCNS will provide “design assistance and production of the non-nuclear part of the first Brazilian nuclear powered submarine, including support for construction of a naval base and a naval construction site.” Brazil itself will provide the nuclear reactor that will power the submarine. Altogether, the SSN will cost $2.4 billion, with about $1.5 billion of that going to the nuclear reactor. Once again, this suggests a cost of at least $7 billion for three South Korean SSNs.
The Brazil case is informative in another way: Brazil is also constructing a submarine pen to house and protect the nuclear-powered submarine. This is something South Korea might also need if it builds SSNs. Although Seoul recently built a new naval base in Jeju-do in part to house its conventionally-powered submarines, a hardened submarine pen to protect the SSNs would likely be necessary in light of their enormous expense and North Korea’s increasingly accurate MARV (maneuverable reentry vehicle) missiles. Brazil estimates its new base will cost around $2.1 billion.
In light of this, it is worth asking whether it would be wise for South Korea to invest $7–9 billion in SSNs when other capabilities exist to deal with the threat of North Korea’s nascent submarine-launched ballistic missiles. A number of other possibilities could be explored. For instance, South Korea could buy at least seven times as many conventional submarines as SSNs. While these individually aren’t as capable as nuclear-powered submarines, quantity has a quality all its own, especially given that Seoul is facing a North Korean force of nearly eighty subs. In addition, as the National Interest has repeatedly covered over the years, there are a bunch of emerging technologies that make detecting and tracking submarines far easier than ever before. South Korea could also put more money into other anti-submarine capabilities such as the P-8A Poseidon Maritime Surveillance Aircraft. Improving missile defense is another option that should be considered.
Another advantage of these options is that they don’t pose nuclear weapons proliferation concerns like the SSNs do. The nuclear reactors on these submarines would require enriched uranium. If South Korea was to buy this fuel from the United States—or Washington was to allow South Korea to enrich U.S. uranium on its territory—this would violate U.S. non-proliferation restrictions, forcing Congress and the White House to wrangle over how to rearrange the rules and for Washington to renegotiate a new nuclear cooperative agreement with Seoul. This would take time and risk encouraging other nuclear submarine aspirants, including Iran, to build their own SSNs. None of this would help strengthen U.S.-South Korean security relations at a time when that is desperately needed to confront the North Korean threat.

The US Navy Has Created Its First Ever Underwater Drone Squadron

Joseph Trevithick, The Drive
28 September 2017

The U.S. Navy has created its first ever dedicated underwater drone unit, Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron One, or UUVRON 1, splitting it off from a secretive submarine unit in the process. The decision highlights the steadily growing importance of unmanned craft within the service, which hopes to have dedicated operational unmanned undersea elements by the end of the decade, and across the U.S. military in general.
The Navy formally activated UUVRON 1 at a ceremony at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in
Keyport, Washington. At the same time, the new organization replaced a smaller detachment that had been part of Submarine Development Squadron Five (DEVRON 5). This unit still contains a variety of unique elements, including the USS Jimmy Carter spy sub, which recently returned from a shadowy, but apparently successful mission, as well as the Detachment Undersea Research and Development, which has been associated with those covert activities in the past.
“Today we are transitioning our UUV detachment into the first UUV squadron,” U.S. Navy Captain Robert Gaucher, the outgoing head of DEVRON 5 said during the event. “Why is this historical? It's because in standing up UUVRON 1, it shows our Navy's commitment to the future of unmanned systems and undersea combat.”
The previous Detachment Unmanned Undersea Vehicles was already a relatively young unit. It only received its first underwater drone, a torpedo shaped vehicle known as a Large Training Vehicle 38, in August 2014.
“This is certainly a key milestone,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brian Nuss, then the officer in charge of the detachment, said at the time. “The future large-diameter vehicles will come in 2020 and in order for the detachment to fully prepare for the delivery of those vehicles we have to start with the tactics, training and procedures now to make it a successful program in the future.”
The implication here would be that, at least for a period, the Navy planned for UUVRON 1 to reach its full operational capability at some point in 2020. It is possible that the service may be able to get the squadron fully up and running sooner, depending on how the state of the training pipeline to staff the necessary slots and what additional equipment it needs to acquire.
Another possibility is that UUVRON 1 will continue to focus on research and development and test evaluation, while the Navy works to establish operational unmanned undersea units. It could be those organizations that the service expects to be ready to go by 2020.
Whatever the case, the capability is important and it’s a long time coming. By 2020, the Navy will have spent two decades working on achieving the broad goals outlined in its unmanned undersea vehicle master plans.
The service published the first of these white papers in 2000 and issued a new version in 2004. Seven years later, Seapower Magazine reported there was another updated document, but that it was classified.
“We actually have action plans on all the missions we are trying to achieve,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, then the director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities within the Navy’s Information Dominance unit, told Seapower about the new plan. It “covers every spectrum,” from a military missions, such as mine hunting and surveillance, to humanitarian assistance and research roles.
It’s very likely that some of all of the missions in the 2011 roadmap were the same or similar to the nearly a dozen roles outlined in the 2004 document, which is publicly available. Some of these were intelligence gathering, time critical strike, anti-mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, communication relaying, and force protection against enemy special operations forces and combat divers and terrorists. In addition, the Navy said it could be possible that a final unmanned undersea vehicle design could be modular, able to carry a number of payloads, including expendable weapons or remote sensors, depending on the needs of the mission.
In a speech on Feb. 3, 2016, and in line with the so-called “Third Offset” strategy to stay technologically ahead of potential enemies, then Secretary of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. military as a whole would be investing $600 million in a variety of unmanned undersea systems. It’s “a new capability you’ll be seeing a lot more of” and would be part of larger plans for “making our ships and aircraft work together in ways that they haven’t before but technology makes possible,” he told sailors during the event in San Diego, California.
This suggested a significant increase over the Navy’s budgeting at the time. In the fiscal year 2016 budget proposal, the service asked for just shy of $5 million for various undersea drone projects, less than five percent of the annual expenditure Carter was suggesting.
At present, the majority of the Navy’s existing underwater drones fall into one of two categories, either being focused on mine hunting or employed in oceanographic mapping and research roles. In a bizarre episode in December 2016, members of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) snatched one of the latter vehicles, commonly known as gliders, out of the water in the South China Sea, before unceremoniously returning it days later.
The benefits in both of these cases are relatively clear cut. Gliders can help gather information about the ocean and sea floor faster and cheaper than sailing a large research vessel along the same routes. It is possible that they may be able to get into areas that would be too shallow or narrow for a larger ship, as well. They are far more persistent than a manned vessel as well, allowing for collection of data over a far larger timeframe.
When it comes to mines, on land or at sea, using a remote sensor of some kind to identify an object help keeps personnel away from danger. A drone can move in very close to an object to examine it with relatively little risk and possibly disarm it without having to send out a specialized team. All of this helps commanders maneuver safely through potentially contested and congested waterways. Naval mines, including improvised ones that non-state actors are crafting, are a serious threat to both commercial shipping and naval vessels.
At the same time, the Navy is working on a so-called Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV), as part of a program known as Snakehead. Detachment Unmanned Undersea Vehicles’s Large Training Vehicle 38 had been a surrogate for this vehicle, the first prototypes of which are expected to be in the water by 2019, according to USNI News.
Not surprisingly, UUVRON 1 is slated to receive the first experimental LDUUV. There are also future plans for extra large systems that could operate as either a remote controlled or autonomous mini-submarine or even have the ability to be optionally manned if need be. In 2015, a team of Huntington Ingalls Underwater Solutions Group, Bluefin Robotics, and Battelle demonstrated on such vehicle Proteus. The next year, Boeing showed off the huge Echo Voyager, claiming it could operation underwater for up to six months.
There's no real definitive idea of what these vehicles might look like in the end, those most of the notional concepts are shaped like little subs. In 2014, though, the U.S. Navy showed off a underwater drone that looked and moved like a shark.
As of earlier in 2017, the Office of Naval Research was working on an unmanned flying craft that could hit the water and then turn into a subsurface vehicle, though purely as a proof of concept. A number of private companies are also working on similar convertible water craft that are both manned and unmanned.
Whatever it looks like, the Navy’s initial goal for the final Snakehead is a design that can conduct a variety of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions. This could include gathering intelligence on enemy ships or facilities ashore, patrolling waterways for items of interest, or gathering information about a body of water, beach, or other landing side ahead of an attack naval or amphibious operation.
Again, the benefit of a using a drone for these functions it that it offers a lower cost and reduced risk option, especially when attempting to gather information about heavily defended or otherwise restricted areas. With regards to unmanned undersea vehicles, it also reduces the burden on larger submarines, allowing them to focus on higher priority missions that requirement their more expansive intelligence gathering and weapon systems.
The option to use a unmanned vehicle for these jobs will likely only become more important in the coming years, as well. Though we at The War Zone more often talk about concepts such as “anti-access and area denial” in terms of integrated air defense networks, many of the U.S. military’s potential opponents are exploring similar arrangements at sea.
In May 2017, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) said it was beginning construction of an expansive sensor net in the South China Sea for “environmental” purposes. Of course, these nodes could just as easily end up configured to keep watch for submarines and in a conflict, it would be especially useful to be able to find the exact locations of the nodes and attempt to size up their capabilities without risking detection in a manned boat in the process.
Further versions of Snakehead could carry actual weapons or electronic warfare payloads, to disable underwater sensors and mines or attack other undersea vessels, surface ships, or targets on land, depending on the final configuration. Though not mentioned specifically, it is possible that multiple LDUUVs could operate as a single swarm to confuse, distract, or overwhelm enemy defenses, or operate in combination with small underwater drones for that purpose. Networked together and connected to manned submarines, surface ships, or even aircraft, one or more of these unmanned underwater craft could just extend the situational awareness for the whole group along a broad front.
“I can think of so many missions that unmanned systems can help out,” U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Girrier, then Director of Unmanned Warfare Systems within the Navy’s top Unmanned Systems Office, said during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February 2016. Citing a desire for unmanned systems to be more of an integral part of operations in general, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mike Manazir, then Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, shut down the office, also known as N99, in January 2017.
Exactly what sort of systems and tactics will work or not is likely to be UUVRON 1’s primary concern regardless of whether it is considered an operational or trials unit. If the Navy sticks to its existing plans, we should start seeing some clues about what conclusions they’ve arrived at in the next few years.

Trident II D-5 Missile System Life-Extension Efforts 'On Track'

Staff, Seapower Magazine
28 September 2017

WASHINGTON — The Navy’s Strategic Systems Program office has been focusing on a multifaceted life-extension effort for the Trident II D-5 missile system, which will keep those missiles ready and reliable through the service life of the Ohio-class strategic ballistic-missile submarines and provide the initial weapons load on the Columbia-class replacement boats, the program director said Sept. 28.
That effort is upgrading the missiles, their nuclear warheads and the shipboard systems essential to launch the Tridents, all of which will facilitate development of the Columbia, said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict.
“That’s going very well and we’re actually ahead of schedule,” Benedict told a conference on the nuclear deterrent Triad.
Other speakers at the conference emphasized the renewed threat the nation is facing due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and Russia’s belligerence.
“Nuclear attack is still the most consequential threat this nation may face,” Vice Adm. Charles Richards, the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said. “We need to modernize the Triad,” and the nuclear command and control system, he said.
Benedict said keeping his programs on schedule is essential because “there is no float, no slack,” in the projected time line for putting the first Columbia into service.
Benedict, who is in the last year of his eight-year tenure at Strategic Systems, noted that USS Kentucky conducted four test launches of D-5s last year, which were “the last tests of the latest D-5 system. From now on, every missile that we fly will be a D-5 life-extended missile with a new guidance subsystem and a new set of missile electronics.”
Although when most people think of the Trident life extension, they think of the missile, much of the work his office has been doing is on the shipboard systems, “which, I think, is much more complicated,” he said.
That work is upgrading fire control, communications and navigation systems and the launch tubes, he said.
Doing the onboard work is challenging because it has to be done during the 35 days the boats are in port between their 77-day patrols. And “every time I replace a piece, I’m not allowed to affect the reliability and accuracy of the system when the sub goes out to sea for 77 days,” Benedict said. Strategic Systems did that more than 30 times last year and will do it more than 20 times this year.
The office does that “because the system will get to a stable point in the early ’20s. And that is the system that I will baseline and will install on Columbia and Dreadnaught,” which is the British Navy’s replacement for its Vanguard ballistic-missile subs. “So, what we’re doing is using Ohio and Vanguard to make all the changes and that we will baseline and that will be the initial system on the replacement boats.”
That will reduce the risk in developing the new subs and “we’ll have the greatest confidence that when Columbia and Dreadnaught enter the fleet that those systems will work the first time they go to sea,” Benedict said.
The admiral added that his office, “in cooperation with” the Energy Department, is working on life extension of the Tridents’ nuclear warheads, which also will arm the replacement submarines. And he is supervising tests of future missile launch tubes at ground test facilities at China Lake, Calif., and Cape Canaveral, Fla., that will enable production of the launch tubes in Columbia and Dreadnaught.
“That design is correct and that design is ready to execute,” he said.
Wrapping up, Benedict said, “we’re programmatically on track. … We will sustain the life extension of Ohio and Vanguard through early ’40s. And, most importantly, as we execute life-extension programs when we deliver Columbia and Dreadnaught we will have absolute confidence that those two new platforms will enter operational service with no reliability or system performance problems because they been demonstrated on Ohio and Vanguard.”

Iran Is Building Nuclear Submarines and a New Destroyer Despite Donald Trump’s Warnings

Callum Paton, Newsweek
27 September 2017

Iran says it is developing nuclear-powered submarines and building a new advanced destroyer for its navy, even as tensions rise with the United States over the Islamic Republic's military expansion.
The commander of the Iranian navy told the country’s semiofficial news agency, Fars, Tuesday that Iran’s nuclear agency was under orders to start producing nuclear reactors for fueling and propulsion systems that could be used on ships and submarines.
Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the new destroyer would be more advanced than its two predecessors, Jamaran and Damavand. "I think that we will manage to accomplish this task in the current year," he added.
The announcement of the plans for Iran’s navy came at a time of ratcheting tensions with the United States over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. In 2015, Tehran signed an agreement with the U.S. and other world powers, giving up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against the deal, brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama, and used his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly to call the agreement an “embarrassment.”
On Saturday, the Iranian government aired footage of a ballistic missile test it said it had carried out following a military parade in Tehran. Trump slammed the launch, which later turned out to be a hoax, on Twitter. “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have,” he wrote late Saturday.
The video, released by the Iranian government, was more than seven months old. U.S. intelligence said there were no indications Iran had tested a missile, Fox News reported, revealing the fake video. Two unnamed American officials told the news channel the footage dated back to a failed launch in late January, during which the missile exploded shortly after takeoff.
The U.S. has said that Iranian actions such as the testing of ballistic missiles violate the nuclear agreement in
spirit, though not technically breaking the deal. Reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have shown Iran continues to comply with the terms of the 2015 agreement.
Iran, while condemning Trump over his bellicose rhetoric, has vowed not to break the nuclear accord. The Islamic Republic is allowed to maintain nuclear capabilities for energy but is banned from using it to create nuclear weapons. Sayyari said the nuclear submarines would be built within the framework of the deal. "We will certainly carry the job within the framework of the nuclear deal and the safeguard agreements and will not do anything beyond that," he said.
Tehran will also consult with the director general of the IAEA as it builds the nuclear engines, Sayyari added.

JFD demonstrates NATO Submarine Rescue System capabilities

Staff, Your Industry News
28 September 2017

JFD, the world-leading submarine rescue and diving equipment company and part of James Fisher and Sons plc, has recently taken part in a major international submarine rescue exercise, Dynamic Monarch ‘17, which required it to demonstrate the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) capability, as well as provide training on various elements of the system.
JFD is responsible for maintaining NSRS in a permanent state of rescue readiness for the NATO partner nations of France, Norway and the UK, to go anywhere in the world at any time. JFD has been an integral part of the UK’s submarine rescue provision since 1985, and has been at the heart of NSRS since it came into service in 2008.
The system is fully air transportable using a variety of suitable aircraft and is capable of launch and recovery in a significant wave height of up to 5m (sea state 6). NSRS is designed to reach a distressed submarine in 72 hours from the point of alert.
Dynamic Monarch is one of the largest submarine rescue exercises internationally, occurring every three years and is designed to test international forces’ interoperability and ability to respond to submarines that have become disabled, anywhere in the world. The exercise offers the chance to demonstrate multi-national submarine rescue co-operation and provides a platform for sharing knowledge amongst participating nations.
The exercise required JFD to fully mobilise the rescue system to Turkey. The mother ship (MOSHIP) embarkation and mobilisation took place at King George V Dock in Glasgow, with the system sailing to the exercise point in Turkey. The main exercise phase commenced on 8 September and was executed over a two week period, in which various submarines took part in the simulated rescue operations.
The objectives of the exercise covered Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) operations and a series of demonstrations of submarine rescue vehicle (SRV) ‘mating’ with a variety of submarines. A total of nine mates took place during the exercise. There was also the provision of training opportunities to JFD operational personnel on each element of the system, as well as to NSRS Partner Nation personnel in areas such as rescue chamber operations and medical support functions, throughout the exercise process.
Upon completion of the exercise, the MOSHIP transited back to the disembarkation point at King George V Dock, where the equipment was removed from the vessel and returned to HMNB Clyde for restoration works to maintain ‘Rescue Readiness’ status.
Rob Pickering, JFD NSRS Project Manager said “Dynamic Monarch ’17 gives JFD the opportunity to demonstrate the world class capability that is provided by NSRS. The highly trained operational team delivered further confidence to the participant nations that in the event of a real emergency, the NSRS Rescue System can mobilise and participate in a successful rescue.”
JFD has undertaken several successful NSRS rescue exercises over the previous two years of service, including Northern Sun ’15, Golden Arrow ’16 and Northern Sun ’17, which shows the continued commitment to the NATO Submarine Rescue System as well as the recognition of responsibility to assuring the operations team is fully trained in all aspects of a safe rescue.

3 Questions: America’s Next Nuclear-Missile Submarine

Ben Watson, Defense One
27 September 2017

Built to deter America's enemies for the next 60 years, the Navy's new missile sub is slated to be the U.S. military’s third most-expensive program — ever.
The United States military has four kinds of submarines. Only one is nuclear-armed.
The ballistic missile submarines currently slipping about under the ocean have about 10 years of life left. One by one, each will need to be replaced. But with what, and at what cost? That’s what we’re going to find out.
Q1. Why is it time for a new submarine?
The Trident submarine fleet — named for the nuclear missiles they carry — is what the Pentagon calls “the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.”
The Trident subs — formally, the Ohio class of fleet ballistic missile submarines — are enormous: at 560 feet, each one is nearly two football fields long. Some 155 sailors and other personnel call them home for months at a time. On any given day, several of these 14 “boomers” are at sea. The idea: keep a portion of the nuclear arsenal safe, ready to strike back if the U.S. comes under nuclear attack. Each missile can deliver its multiple warheads more than
4,000 nautical miles. Each boomer carries the equivalent of roughly 600 Hiroshimas.
But the fleet is getting along in years. The oldest — USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) — was launched in 1983, the same year ABC aired its made-for-TV nuclear armageddon film, “The Day After.”
Thirteen other Ohio subs have entered service since then, with the last arriving in 1997. Built to serve for 30 years, the Ohios have since received upgrades that will allow them to serve a half century. But even that deadline is nearing. The Jackson is due to retire in about a decade, with the rest following, one by one, until 2040.
So the U.S. Navy is developing a replacement. Even if it comes in on time and on budget, it will be the country’s third most-expensive weapon system ever.
Q2. What is this new sub?
It’s known as the Columbia-class submarine, the fifth type of U.S. ballistic missile submarine since the Navy started building them in 1959. Its designs were finished just three years ago; so far, it still only exists on paper.
It is named for the District of Columbia, that capital city who license plates read “Taxation Without Representation.” It’s a joint program with the Brits, who call theirs the “Dreadnought class.”
Officials promise that it will be stealthy, the least detectable sub ever. It will ply the underwater seas with a magnet-motor electric drive designed to be quieter than a mechanical drive system.
The Columbias will be as long as the Ohio class, and one foot wider. They will displace almost 21,000 tons, not just almost-19,000 displaced by the Ohios.
Like the Navy’s fast attack subs of the Virginia class, the new Trident subs will feature jet propulsion and use a joystick control system — along with new sonar systems, and an innovative twist on the periscope: mast-mounted cameras, eliminating the need for long tubes that descend through a break in the hull.
Columbia’s missile tubes are each 44 feet long, about a meter deeper than the Ohio-class, with a diameter that exceeds seven feet, all to accommodate the larger ICBMs of the future. Each sub will carry 16 of them. Contrast that with the Ohios, a Cold War product designed to carry 24 nuclear missiles.
Russia is keeping a close eye on the evolution of U.S. subs. Recall that in May, a Russian navy spy ship traveled within 30 miles of the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut, before cruising around the east coast to around 20 miles of Kings Bay, Georgia, another of America’s submarine bases.
Who else is out there under the ocean? More than three dozen navies have submarines — but only six nations arm them with ballistic missiles: the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and India.
Production for America (and Britain’s) new Trident will be handled by General Dynamics and subcontractor Huntington Ingalls Industries. Production will be spread across dozens of states, as well as Britain.
Contracts are beginning to go out — about a dozen have been signed since February.
Which raises the question…
Q3. What will it cost?
In all, $122.3 billion. Production costs alone will run about $8.2 billion for the first sub, slated to arrive in 2028, and about $6.5 billion for the remaining 11.
The Navy says it needs the first of these on patrol by 2031. So if you’re counting, that’s about four years of one less Trident out on patrol. The Navy says: Fine, as long as the program stays on schedule and the service can maintain at least 10 operational SSBNs.
One big hiccup: building the Columbia-class “would consume about half of the shipbuilding funding available in a given year,” the U.S. Navy said in 2016. That could be a problem. The Navy, with President Trump’s blessing, has set its sights on boosting its fleet to 355 ships and subs, up from the current 274 total.
On top of all this, the Navy has a habit of underestimating the cost of first-of-a-kind ships by 27 percent, the Congressional Budget Office found in 2015. The Ohio class, for example, came in at 50 percent over budget and two and a half years behind.
The only programs more expensive:
- The F-35 at $379 billion;
- And America’s ballistic missile-defense network at $143 billion.
Which leads critics to ask: Could the money be better spent elsewhere — like shifting the ballistic missiles to the Virginia-class subs? Others argue this is where you spend the money first — then branch out from nuclear deterrence to more conventional naval deterrence like attack subs and aircraft carriers.
But another question that’s getting more attention: Who should really be paying for these expensive things — the Navy or the wider Defense Department, since Strategic Command is actually in charge of the ballistic missile submarine force?
As long as other countries — North Korea, in particular, nowadays — possess nuclear weapons, you can expect the U.S. Navy will want its Trident submarine fleet up-to-date.
Already this year, development for the Columbia-class program has been delayed a few months — $843 million for “advanced procurement” beginning October 1 — thanks to the standard budgetary tug of war between Congress and the White House. So whether or not the program looks exactly the same six months or six years from now is still up in the air.
But down beneath the surface, for the Navy boomer fleet anyway, the clock is ticking.