Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trashing The Reputation Of Aussie Collins Subs A Political Mistake

Amelia McMahon, Defence Connect
12 March 2018

As Parliament debates the pros and cons of having a bipartisans defence agreement, a South Australian Liberal senator has lamented his party's role in using the once maligned Collins Class project as a political tool.
At the first parliamentary hearing into the proposed agreement, senator David Fawcett opened up on the party's tactics to tarnish the project's reputation and that of then-opposition leader at Kim Beazley.
"I say this as a proud member of the Coalition," Senator Fawcett said at the inquiry. "The reason the Collins Class had so many issues was a lack of maintenance support, and that was partly because the Coalition saw it as a really good tool to beat Kim Beazley, as the leader of the opposition, around with.
"Lack of support led to huge cost and lost opportunity. Yes, it has recovered now, thanks to the Coles review. And we can point to either side of the political divide, but I make that point deliberately so that people don't think I'm just beating up on the opposition. There are decisions that are made for political reasons."
Senator Fawcett's admission of the politics involved in Defence comes as industry waits with baited breath for the official announcement of the LAND 400 Phase 2 winner, a project that has pitted Queensland against Victoria and led to accusations of political pork-barrelling in marginal seats.
Dr Andrew Davies, a senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the decision to use Collins for political gain is not unusual, and a move commonly used by incoming governments.
"Let me just make a pragmatic point: a change of government is a great time to put a stake through the heart of bad Defence projects because the incoming government can look at it and say, 'No, this is a dud. We'll kill it and blame it on the previous guys'," Davies told the inquiry, going on to add such a decision ultimately added reputational costs to the project.
"Our parliamentarians can always make errors. Trashing the Collins was an error. Killing the Seasprite was the right decision."
Following the commission of the submarines in the 1990s, the Australian-built submarines experienced technical problems across its combat systems, periscopes and propulsion.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne has also come to the defence of the highly criticised platform, saying its poor reputation was somewhat unfounded.
"Unfortunately, the Collins Class submarine project has suffered from reputational damage over the years," Pyne told reporters at the Pacific 2017 maritime showcase in Sydney. "I think quite a bit of that was ill-informed."
The Collins Class submarines are now in the clear, having officially come off Defence's projects of concern list in October last year.

U.S. Navy to Send More Unmanned Systems to Sea

Jon Harper, National Defense Magazine
5 March 2018

The Navy is moving ahead with unmanned surface and undersea vehicle development, and pursuing enabling technologies that will make the platforms operationally effective.
A wide range of USVs and UUVs are in the works, littoral combat ship program executive officer Rear Adm. John Neagley said during a presentation at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
“Those capabilities will be delivered over the next couple years and start to get into our procurements in ‘18 and ‘19 and really start hitting the fleet,” he said.
Neagley’s portfolio includes the unmanned maritime systems program office, PMS 406.
“LCS was built from the ground up to really leverage and take advantage of unmanned systems,” he said. “It’s a modular ship … [with] a lot of reconfigurable space.” It has a built-in capability for launching and recovering UUVs and USVs, he noted.
Unmanned vessels can range in size from small man-portable devices to extra-large platforms that are more than 50 meters in length. They allow the U.S. military to take warfighters out of harm’s way and perform certain missions more effectively and efficiently, he said.
Surface vehicles that are in the works include the unmanned influence sweep system minesweeper (UISS); the mine countermeasures USV (MCM USV); and the Sea Hunter medium displacement UUV, an anti-submarine warfare continuous train unmanned vessel.
Operational evaluation of the UISS is slated for spring 2018, and Milestone C is expected in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year, according to Neagley.
Construction and payload integration for the MCM USV is underway with initial operator testing in fiscal year 2019.
The Sea Hunter recently transitioned from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to the Office of Naval Research, where development and testing will continue.
The system could potentially transition to Navy operations this year, according to DARPA.
Undersea vehicles that are moving through the development pipeline include: the Knifefish for hunting bottom and buried mines; the Snakehead large displacement UUV for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and the Orca extra-large UUV for mine warfare.
The Knifefish has undergone sea acceptance trials, and Milestone C is slated for the third quarter of this fiscal year, according to Neagley.
Detailed design work on the Snakehead is in progress, and initial hull long-lead raw material is on order.
Design contracts for the Orca have been awarded, and follow-production is scheduled for fiscal year 2019.
Capt. Jon Rucker, Navy program manager for unmanned maritime systems, said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has inquired about the possibility of accelerating the acquisition of “the entire family” of UUVs.
However, the service isn’t just looking for new unmanned platforms. They have limited value if they aren’t equipped with support systems, such as energy sources, autonomy and precision navigation, command, control and communications, payloads and sensors, and platform integration, officials noted.
“You have to consider all those key enablers to really kind of get the most out of that technology,” Neagley said.
Energy is critical for endurance, Rucker noted during a media briefing at the Surface Navy Association symposium in Arlington, Virginia.
In the near term, Rucker hopes to have lithium-ion batteries certified for platform integration. Officials are also in talks with the auto industry about fuel cells, he noted.
There are “more energy-dense technologies that aren’t ready today but we’re looking down the road so all the vehicles we design … you can take out the energy section and put in the new energy technology when it’s ready,” he said.
Autonomy and precision navigation technology are also essential.
UUVs are expected to deploy for an extended period of time in conditions where command, control and communications are more difficult than they are for surface vessels, said Lee Mastroianni, special projects officer at the Office of Naval Research.
They need to have environmental sensing capabilities and be able to adapt accordingly, he said.
“Whether it be in the Arctic or very shallow water or everything in between, we need to improve that autonomy so we have systems that can think, understand and adapt more to achieve their missions, recognizing that there’s a whole subset of sensors and payloads and stuff that feed into making those decisions,” he said.
USVs also have some unique challenges. There are complex rules when it comes to navigation, and the platforms must be able to operate in crowded waterways without human intervention. Combat situations would only add to the complexity of operations, he noted.
“That gets into the ability to understand a dynamic situation … and trying not to run into the other boats,” he said. “The algorithm aspect — that’s kind of what we’re really going after.”
Today, most autonomous systems operate on a rules-based or deterministic paradigm where machines are programmed to take certain actions in specific situations, Rucker explained.
By leveraging advances in artificial intelligence, the Navy hopes to reach the point where autonomous devices can shift to more open knowledge-based and probabilistic decision-making, and perform their own reasoning, he said.
At the end of the day, unmanned platforms are simply hosts for other capabilities, officials emphasized. Mastroianni said he views them as trucks that haul gear around.
“A UUV [by itself] does nothing for me,” he said. “It needs to have a mission, which means it needs to have some sort of payload, some sort of capability. It could be as simple as a camera [or] it could be some massively expensive, super-secret payload that solves world hunger.”
He continued: “It’s what goes inside of them that really makes the difference on whether it can support our needs or not. What kind of processing, what kind of sensors does it have on it? Are they lightweight enough in order to work in the environment that we need? And can I afford it?”
To prevent schedule delays and encourage technological maturity, the service is pursuing an incremental approach to capability development rather than try to “deliver a Cadillac right off the bat,” Rucker said.
Modularity is required to make that a viable strategy, he noted.
“Whether it’s an unmanned surface vessel or unmanned undersea vessel, we are ensuring that we develop that modularity and have the interfaces, so as [enabling] technology is ready we can insert it into the production line — not break the production line — and ensure we stay on track to deliver that capability,” he said.
Modularity will also allow the Navy to make unmanned platforms multi-mission capable by adding or swapping in new payloads. That is especially true for larger vessels, which have greater size, weight and power parameters than smaller ones, and are therefore able to carry more devices. For example, the Orca XLUUV will initially be a single-mission platform but it is expected to take on additional missions going forward, Rucker explained.
The service is looking to give industry opportunities to showcase their technologies. ONR has developed multiple “innovative Naval prototype” UUVs that recently transitioned to Rucker’s office. They have been delivered to unmanned undersea vehicle squadron 1 in Keyport, Washington, to give warfighters more experience operating large UUVs and elicit their feedback.
“We will then in ’19 open it up to industry if they want to come out and bring their sensors or payloads … so we
can then now test sensors and payloads on a vehicle that the fleet operates,” Rucker said.
Those efforts would inform programs of record. Later on, the technologies could be inserted into other vessels when they are proven and ready, he added.
However, acquisition officials won’t be lining up to buy new equipment if it isn’t cost effective, noted Frank Kelley, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for unmanned systems.
The aim is to “drive affordability into everything we do,” he said.
The service wants to buy large numbers of platforms and enabling technologies to conduct dangerous missions and swarming operations, he said.
“What we could do is have devices that do one or two or even three things really well … and then deploy that not in the hundreds but in the thousands,” he said.
With that in mind, high-priced equipment might be cost prohibitive in some cases, Mastroianni said.
“For a one-way mission [with a] high probability of loss, that isn’t a cost-benefit analysis that works too well in our favor,” he said.
As it pursues UUVs, USVs and enabling technologies, the Navy is working with a wide variety of industry partners including small businesses, startups and the commercial sector, Neagley noted.
Officials in the unmanned systems world are gung-ho about the arrival of James “Hondo” Geurts as the new assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. Geurts previously served as the acquisition chief at Special Operations Command, where he gained a reputation for rapidly procuring new technology.
He is bringing the same mindset to his new role, Rucker said. “One of the things he really challenged us on is … how do we go faster.”
Neagley said his office has special acquisition authorities that provide speed and flexibility in contracting and allow the Navy to reach a broad supplier base.
“We recognize that a lot of the innovation … exists in small businesses,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a way to reach into those small businesses to bring that technology into our systems.”
Officials expect unmanned maritime systems to conduct a wide range of missions in the future, including mine warfare, ISR, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, armed escort and communications relay.
“UUVs, USVs for us is a growth industry [with a] tremendous amount of potential,” Neagley said.
They could transform the U.S. military’s minewarfare inventory, he noted. “As we transition our legacy mine fleet, that transition is largely a transition to unmanned systems.”
In the next five years, the Navy plans to issue conceptual design and detailed design and construction contracts for a new FFG(X) multi-mission frigate. Neagley expects it to have enough size, weight, power and modularity to support the deployment of unmanned vessels.
Looking further down the road, the Navy intends to acquire a future surface combatant USV, which could include a family of systems. Lessons learned from ongoing science and technology efforts will inform that project, Neagley said.
“As we finish up the analytical underpinning for that, we’re trying to make sure that … we look at what capability gaps the UUVs and the USVs can kind of go fill,” Neagley said. “Then we can … rapidly acquire those systems really to complement the larger fleet architecture.

India's Navy Researches Ways To Build Stealth Submarines

Staff, The Times of India
6 March 2018

PUNE - A group of 30 officers from Indian Navy will engage in an elaborate research at the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) here with a view to reduce vulnerability of military submarines and ships to detection by the enemy from noise and vibrations generated by propulsions that run them.
Commodore A K Sinha (retd), DIAT registrar, who also specialises in submarines, told TOI on Tuesday, “The naval headquarters recently communicated to us the need for a collaborative research project on this aspect. As of now, 30 naval officers are pursuing advanced postgraduate studies at DIAT and these officers, along with the institute’s professors, will work on the project.”
Sinha said, “The project, to be directly monitored by naval headquarters, is at a primary stage and we are working on various aspects related to it. Our laboratories will play a key role as they have modern equipment essential for carrying out such research. The practical aspect of the project will be carried out by the navy on its ships and submarines.”
Element of stealth is critical to military submarines which are designed to move around undetected under the sea and surface only in situations where they need to establish radio contact or perform data communication with their respective headquarters.
A senior navy officer, who did not wish to be named, told TOI over phone, “Every ship and submarine is equipped with different types of propulsion system and each of these systems generate a particular type of noise or vibration underwater. Using sound navigation and ranging, better known as sonars, the enemy can identify the type of ship or submarine, distance and its speed. Reducing or tweaking propulsion sound of ship and submarine will give a big operational advantage.”
He said, “Modern generation stealth submarines are difficult to track. The submarines of Class A212 of German Federal Navy or Saab A26 of Swedish Navy have been designed in such a way that they hardly make any noise, emit almost no heat and minutely reflect radar or sonar signals. To develop such systems, researchers need to carry out studies so that we can develop such systems indigenously.”
Another senior navy officer said, “Propulsions generate maximum noise and vibrations under water. If you equip ship or submarine with silent propulsion, you will have to compromise on speed and longevity of the vehicle. Therefore, having a new propulsion system which will generate less noise and vibration and at the same time have no effect on other functioning of ships and submarines is critical.”

Iron Coffin: Inside North Korea's Infiltration Submarine

Andrew Salmon, Asia Times
4 March 2018

It is an incongruous sight. Balanced on a stand on the rocky shoreline of northeastern South Korea perches a small submarine, just 100 meters from one of the many, many concrete bunkers that stand sentry over this strategic stretch of surf-smashed coast.
The bunkers and tangles of razor wire are South Korean. The vessel is not: She is a North Korean infiltration boat which ran aground here in 1996.
Despite her toy-like exterior - small in size, painted in green and red, she resembles a child's drawing of a submarine - what happened to her crew is one of the grimmest tales in the annals of modern warfare.
On the night of September 17, 1996, a taxi driver motoring along the coastal road just outside the city of Gangneung spotted something odd in the dark water. Curious, he stopped his car and looked closer. What he was
looking at was a North Korean Sango ("Shark") class infiltration submarine.
He contacted police. At dawn, South Korean naval commandos gingerly boarded the boat and breached her hull. She was empty. Inside, a fire had been lit in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy onboard equipment, but her crew - and the commando unit they had been conveying - had disappeared.

Massacre and manhunt

A security alert was issued at 05:00 on the morning of the 18th for the whole of Gangwon Province, the area where the Winter Olympics and Paralympics are currently underway. According to a detailed report on the operation published by specialist website NK News, over 40,000 South Korean troops deployed into the rugged hills and mountains to track down the infiltrators. Among the hunters were two full brigades of South Korea's own killer elite: "black berets," or airborne special forces.
One of their first finds on a hillside was a row of 11 dead men. All had been shot in the head. There was no sign of a struggle. They are believed to have lacked physical fitness, so been executed - apparently without resisting - by their comrades. The remaining sailors - some of whom had special forces training - and a three-man commando team split up and headed north. Their plan was to exfiltrate through 150 km of South Korean territory, then cross the DMZ into friendly territory.
Some of the escapees were dressed in dark-colored civilian clothes and tennis shoes; others were in South Korean uniforms and carried South Korean weapons. These men were elite troops of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, or RGB: North Korea's 200,000-strong directorate for espionage, special operations and, more recently, cyber warfare.
Over the next days and weeks, scattered firefights would take place across Gangwon's autumnal forested terrain as groups of infiltrators were discovered and engaged. When it was over, 13 had been killed in gunfights. One surrendered to local police. (He was debriefed, turned, and now works as a special advisor to the South Korean Navy.) One was never found. He is presumed to have escaped back to North Korea - a masterly feat of tactical field craft.
In the 49-day search operation, 12 South Korean troops and four South Korean civilians were killed.
It was later discovered that the commandos, using scuba gear, had carried out a successful reconnaissance of South Korean military installations ashore before their vessel ran aground as it came inshore to pick them up.
It would not be the last such operation.
In 1998, a Yono ("Salmon") class mini-submarine was trapped in the nets of a South Korean fishing boat outside the nearby port of Sokcho - like Gangeung, on the Sea of Japan, or what Koreans all the East Sea. The vessel sunk as it was being towed into shore; by accident, or as a result of scuttling by the crew is unclear.
This time, the crew did not escape. Inside, was a gruesome scene. When the boat's hatches were forced open, it was discovered that the nine men aboard, crew and commandos, had shot each other and themselves rather than face capture.
An RGB-controlled midget submarine is widely believed to have launched the deadliest attack on South Korea in recent years - albeit on the other side of the peninsula, in the Yellow Sea. The submarine was blamed for the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in 2010, for the loss of 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denies that attack.

All aboard a claustrophobe's nightmare

However, North Korea did, belatedly, admit to the 1996 incident: It called it a training operation that went wrong. As a result of Pyongyang's admission, the cremated remains of the infiltrators were returned to North Korea. The submarine, however, was not.
The boat is now accessible by the public in what is an open-air, waterfront museum just outside Gangeung. The damage to her stern and screws from her grounding is plain to see. A ladder takes you up and into her interior, through either bow or stern hatches.
German U-boat men of World War I dubbed their craft "iron coffins," but the North Korea boat, at just 35 meters long and less than four meters wide, is smaller than their wartime vessels. Her interior is cramped to the extreme. The three compartments are lined with a tangle of tubing, valves and communications equipment; fire damage can be seen in the conning tower. The only sanitation facility aboard is a single sink.
To picture 26 men, complete with scuba gear and weapons, compressing themselves into this tiny underwater space is a claustrophobe's nightmare.
Back in the sunshine, the museum's exhibits also include a small wooden vessel. A North Korean semi-submersible infiltration boat, piloted by naval commandos, she is one of several that have been found off the South Korean coast.
Far more impressive is a World War II-era US destroyer, the USS Everet Frederick Larwon that was donated to the South Korean Navy in 1972. Renamed Jeonbuk, she remained in service until 1999, after which she became part of the museum exhibit. Bristling with gun turrets, anti-aircraft weapons and anti-submarine mortars, she towers over the puny North Korean naval assets in her shadow.
A potent threat; viable potential
Yet, while much evidence suggests that the regular North Korean People's Army is poorly equipped and poorly fed with minimal medical backup - a defector last year was infested with intestinal worms contracted through eating contaminated food - there is no question that North Korea's special forces represent a potent threat.
In repeated operations - in 1968, 1969, and the two submarine incursions - these troops have fought to the death, killed each other or killed themselves to avoid capture. And each time, they have taken a heavy toll on their South Korean opponents.
While their equipment may be primitive, their training and motivation are clearly top-tier. A US special force veteran evinces a grudging respect for their spirit.
"Morale probably is high when they are willing to carry out such operations - to send a special forces soldier on an unsupervised, cross-border, probably kamikaze mission, requires very high morale," said Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who covered the Afghan and Iraq conflicts as a blogger and independent journalist. "They realize that if caught, chances of torture are high, and all odds are stacked up against them. They must be self-reliant - they cannot call for reinforcements or extraction."
With US war planners reportedly mulling limited strikes against North Korea's nuclear and missile programs after the Paralympics end on March 18, the RGB is a viable asset that Pyongyang could activate in response.
Korea-based US troops, speaking off the record, say that they do not expect North Korea to react to a US attack with conventional weapons, such as artillery: to do so could lead to North Korea losing any possible control as the conflict escalated. The result could mean all-out war, and the likely downfall of the Kim regime.
Hence, a "deniable" response - such as terrorist attacks carried out by deep cover, plain-clothes RGB personnel against US military, political or commercial assets in South Korea, or further afield, such as in Japan or Okinawa - is a plausible retaliation scenario.
Assets may already be in place, Yon speculated. "For those who have not been there and may infiltrate during the time of war, they likely have memorized in detail the maps and terrain around their targets," he said. "There is a high chance weapons and other war materiel are cached in the South."
The fact that they sound and look local would make them very, very hard to detect, Yon continued.
"North Korean special forces already speak the language and look the part: A change into civilian clothes backed by counterfeit documents is enough to blend in and supply themselves," he said. "There is a good chance that some of the officers are living there right now - one wonders how many defectors are operatives, including females."
Even so, special forces alone are not war winners - and the 28,500 GIs in Korea can draw on much recent experience fighting terrorists, including suicide bombers.
"[North Korean special forces] put more allied troops at risks, we would have to take more casualties because of their unwillingness to surrender," said Dan Pinkston, a strategy expert who teaches at Troy University. "Our infantry and special forces would have to think about this, they would have to have special tactics - but they have experiences of fighting this kind of threat in the Middle East."

Scottish Submarine Captain Who Had Finger On Nuclear Button Reveals Chilling Cold War Secrets

Stephen Stewart, Daily Record
5 March 2018

He had his finger on the nuclear button, ready to unleash World War III.
Now, former Faslane Commodore Eric Thompson – who commanded five nuclear submarines during his career – has lifted the lid on the chilling secrets of the Cold War.
Eric revealed that the frontline subs were issued with a secret letter from the prime minister to be opened in the event of nuclear armageddon.
The note – which was kept in a safe on board – would tell the crew to either retaliate by launching a cataclysmic nuclear strike or stand down. Thankfully, Eric never had to open his letter.
Eric, who was born in Coatbridge, won a scholarship to Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth at 16. He served as an engineer officer before going on to submarines.
Nearly 40 years later, he retired as Commodore of Faslane, Britain’s principal nuclear submarine base.
Among the dangers of the Cold War, Eric also shares some funnier times
He said: “Britain’s nuclear deterrent Polaris submarines were continuously at 15 minutes’ notice to launch a nuclear counter-strike on Russia in response to any Soviet nuclear strike against the UK.
“As I served in Polaris submarines during this period, I can testify to our readiness being a grim but effective reality. On taking office, every prime minister selects three nuclear deputies from his or her ministers.
“They are appointed to take over the firing decision should the prime minister be killed.
“If London had been reduced to rubble, there was a risk the prime minister’s firing order could not be sent.
"To deal with this possibility, every new prime minister writes a personal sealed letter addressed to the Polaris submarine commanding officers and it is carried on board the submarines on patrol.
“In these letters, the prime minister gives instructions to the commanding officers on what to do if all normal communications are lost – ‘lost’ being taken as four hours with nothing heard.
“This is called the letter of last resort and, sometimes, the letter from the grave. It is kept in a safe within a safe in the submarine control room. One such letter was held in my submarine, HMS Revenge.
“As far as I know, no prime minister’s letter has ever been opened, nor have the contents of any ever been disclosed but the possible options are obvious – retaliate, do not retaliate, seek refuge in a friendly country, or ‘you decide’.
"These letters are destroyed without being opened every time the prime minister changes.”
Eric served in five submarines, two squadrons, the staff of Submarine HQ and the Ministry of Defence. His MBE was awarded for leadership during a submarine emergency on patrol.
He would often have to go on a 10-week nuclear deterrence patrol on a sub with no contact from the outside world. In his new book, he argues that nuclear weapons were directly responsible for the avoidance of World War III.
He said: “Perhaps we should indeed thank God for the 73 years we have enjoyed without a Third World War.
“Kim Jong-un could fill the streets of Pyongyang with nuclear weapons but all he would achieve is the economic ruin of his country. We’ve been here before – that’s what finally cracked the Soviet regime. If Jong-un was to use his nuclear weapons, his regime would be wiped out. He knows that.”
Eric stokes controversy in his book by claiming Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could leave Britain’s defences vulnerable.
He wrote: “In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong nuclear activist and one-time vice chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, became leader of the Labour Party.
"Were he to be elected as prime minister, he could, hypothetically, select the ‘do not retaliate’ option. If a potential aggressor were to be aware of this, our independent nuclear deterrent would have lost all credibility.
“From a national security point of view, the content of the letter of last resort must never be revealed. Potential enemies must always believe that intolerable nuclear retaliation will be the inevitable consequence of their own first strike.”
Eric, who was widowed in 2005, has two adult sons and lives near Helensburgh. He said one of the greatest vices of his career was practical joking.
He said: “I had brought some exploding cigar tips for insertion in the wardroom panatelas that were passed round after mess dinners.
"One night, I snuck the wardroom cigar box into my cabin, removed two panatelas from their tubes, unwrapped their cellophane, inserted the explosive tips and returned the box to its cupboard.
“The trick worked to perfection. At the Trafalgar Night dinner, there was a small explosion as the end of the executive officer’s cigar blew off in mid-puff, leaving him sucking on a tattered stump.
“The other spiked cigar was either not smoked or failed to explode. I had not considered that at the end of our patrol, we would be handing the boat over to the other crew, including the cigar box.
“A tradition of the deterrent programme is that a VIP meets every returning nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in the Clyde estuary and rides it back to Faslane.
“VIPs range from the prime minister down to senior admirals. Another tradition is that after lunch, the VIP is invited into the captain’s tiny cabin for coffee and a cigar.
“Four months later, the captain of the other crew was entertaining his VIP guest, the commander-in-chief, in the privacy of his cabin when the end of the great man’s cigar exploded.
“Until writing this book, the perpetrator of that joke has never been identified. In military speak, it’s called, ‘Third party targeting’.”

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Russian Admission Ignites Fresh Speculation And New Denials on Nuke Sub Fire

Charles Digges, Bellona.org
27 February 2018 
A Russian official has admitted there were missiles aboard the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine when it was ravaged by fire during repair work at a shipyard near Murmansk in late 2011, reviving a six year old mystery about what specific dangers faced the Russian public when the accident occurred.
And while many Russian media rushed to report the official’s remarks as conclusive proof that the submarine was armed with nuclear missiles when it was swept by the blaze, it remains unclear whether they, in fact, had been topped with their warheads at the time the fire swept through the sub, injuring 19.
If they weren’t, then numerous government denials about the submarine fire posing any radiation dangers would hold up. If they were, then the official’s admission constitutes a major revelation that shatters an official policy of lying, and exposes major violations in the navy’s own handling of nuclear weapons during repair work on submarines.
So which is it? We still don’t know.
The comments came from Dmitry Rogozin, Vladimir Putin’s deputy prime minister in charge of military affairs, who Monday gave a wide-ranging interview to the business daily Kommersant. In discussing formative moments in his career, he described the fire aboard the Yekaterinburg as his “baptism.”
This drama, he said, was occasioned by how urgently he had to mobilize his ministry’s machinery to avert disaster, as repair workers had failed to remove “ballistic missiles” from the Yekaterinburg before the fire broke out.
The remarks seemed to come off the cuff. If Rogozin was toppling a wall of secrecy built by his ministry and the Russian Navy, he didn’t seem to be aware of it. But he also didn’t specify if those ballistic missiles had been armed with nuclear warheads at the time in question. Many news outlets in Russia seized on Rogozin’s comments to Kommersant as proof that they were, and headlines of shock and surprise spread nationwide.
The Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, of which the Yekaterinburg is a part, jumped into the fray on Tuesday to insist that the sub’s ballistic missiles weren’t armed with nuclear warheads at the time of the blaze.
But the Navy’s new denials only fuel the problem. At the time of the accident in 2011 it issued so many of them that it became unclear what precisely it was denying – the presence of missiles on the sub, or the presence of nuclear armed missiles on the sub – and, in the case of Rogozin’s defense ministry, whether there had been a fire at all.
The fire aboard the Yekaterinburg submarine came in the early morning hours of December 29, 2011. A spark from a welding torch the Roslyakovo repair yard is said to have ignited flammable oils surrounding the vessel’s navigational equipment, which set off a smolder beneath the rubber coating of the hull.
This eventually erupted into a conflagration of such intensity that the submarine was submerged repeatedly by emergency officials before the fire was extinguished two days later. Local residents reported the blaze was visible from several kilometers away.
In the aftermath fears surrounding the condition of the Yekaterinburg’s nuclear weaponry were compounded by official denials alternating with official silence, leaving a frightened public to seize on worst case scenarios. Initially, the Defense Ministry wouldn’t even confirm that 19 were injured during efforts to extinguish the fire.
In February of 2012, Alexander Vitko, the then deputy commander of Russia’s Northern Naval fleet, told the Russian news site Lifenews that he was “sure that the Yekaterinburg’s weapons had been on board,” but failed to say whether they were armed with warheads.
That was followed by a statement from Rogozin himself in which he too admitted to the “armaments” and went on to vent his outrage that they had been on board when the the Yekaterinburg put in for repairs. Still, he stopped short of clarifying whether the armaments included nuclear warheads.
In fact, it may be that the only direct denial from the Navy or the Defense Ministry about the warheads came today – six years and two months later – when Bellona called the Northern Fleet for clarification of Rogozin’s remarks on Tuesday morning.
Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin, himself a former submarine captain, said Monday he tends to think that the missiles weren’t armed. He said submarines are only armed with warheads during times of war, or when they are on patrol far from port – which at the time of its repair yard blaze the Yekaterinburg wasn’t. Likewise, he said that for a sub to put in for repair with warheads is a major violation of Russian Naval policies.
But is he sure? He says he’s not. Perhaps in another six years and two months we will be.