Monday, April 30, 2018

Russian 'Doomsday Machine' Nuke Could Wipe Out Coastal Infrastructure With 300ft Tsunamis

Sara Malm, The Daily Mail
24 April 2018

     Russia's new nuclear drone submarine could be capable of causing 300ft-high tsunamis, able to wipe out coastal cities, experts say.
    The existence of the drone, believed to be the Status-6 system - also known as 'Putin's doomsday machine' - was confirmed by the Russian President himself in his annual state-of-the-nation speech in Moscow last month.
     Experts say a 50 megaton underwater nuclear bomb would be able to create tsunami waves reaching more than 320ft - the 'Status-6' is allegedly able to carry a 100 megaton warhead.
     The Status-6 is reported to have a range of up to 6,200 miles with top speeds of 56 knots, and an ability to carry nuclear warheads within range of the US.
      In his speech on March 1, Putin said the high-speed underwater drone also has an 'intercontinental' range and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities.
     He said its operational depth and high speed would make it immune to enemy intercept, adding: 'It's just fantastic!'
     Physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher Rex Richardson told Business Insider that an underwater warhead dropped by the drone could destroy coastal cities.
      'A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 megatons to 50 megatons near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami [In Japan which killed nearly 16,000 people], and perhaps much more.
      'Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible.'
      Mr Richardson added that such an underwater nuclear bomb dropped off the coast of the United States would be able to cause catastrophic damage to cities such as Los Angeles or San Diego through radioactive fallout rains.
      The 'Status-6' was one of several new nuclear weapons which President Putin announced as having undergone tests in recent months.
     In the state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said the arsenal include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new hypersonic missile and showed video footage the launch of a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile on big screens.
     During his speech, Putin said the creation of the new weapons has made NATO's U.S.-led missile defense 'useless,' and means an effective end to what he described as Western efforts to stymie Russia's development.
     Speaking of the new arsenal, Putin said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and maneuverability allowing it to pierce any missile defense.
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Russia Creates Submarine Drone Capable of Diving at 12,000 Meters Depth

Staff, Maritime Herald
24 April 2018 
    The Russian Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) is developing a new unmanned submarine capable of submerging the deepest point of the ocean.
    “Two years from now, we will complete the construction of an underwater vehicle that can sink to a depth of 12 kilometres,” the company’s president, Aleksei Rakhmanov, told Ekho Moskvy radio.
The St. Petersburg Malakhit company, which is responsible for the development of the unmanned underwater vehicle, is carrying out the construction of another underwater drone that can reach 6,000 meters deep today, the director of OSK said.
     Earlier reports surfaced on the successful performance of the Morskaya Ten (Navy Shadow) underwater glider tests capable of advancing through submarine currents without being detected by sonars.

Drone Films VIDEO of Australian Submarine of World War I in Deep Waters

Staff, Meritime Herald
24 April 2018 
    HMAS AE1, the first submarine of the Royal Australian Navy, disappeared in September 1914, at the beginning of the First World War. Now an expedition organized by the National Navy has been able to record a video of the remains of the ship by means of a deepwater underwater drone near the coast of Papua New Guinea.
     On the morning of September 14, 1914, the ship left Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Besant. However, this was the latest news about the submarine and its 35 crew. His fate was one of the principal mysteries of Australian military history.
The disappearance of the submarine was the first loss of the country’s Navy in World War I (1914-1918).
    Carried out with the help of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who handed over his research boat Petrel, the operation used an underwater drone to film and inspect the sinking site with the help of high definition cameras, according to the news portal Australian ABC.
    The images show remains of the submarine bridge, the control room and ceramic toilets.
    The images collected may lift the mystery veil covering the shipwreck, which over the course of a century has spawned many speculations, including that of being attacked by an enemy German submarine or having been hit by some other military vessel.

Washington Report Floats US Nuclear Attack Subs And Warships In Perth

Cameron Stewart, The Australian,
25 April 2018 
US nuclear attack submarines and navy warships should be based in Perth in response to China’s growing power projection into the Indo-Pacific, a new US report warns.
The report says Australia and its allies must “spotlight and push back” against China’s stepped-up efforts to project power and build military infrastructure in the region. Otherwise, it warns, Beijing’s behaviour may “upturn longstanding assumptions about the Indo-Pacific region remaining free and open”.
The strongly worded report by Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies was written by Michael Green, the former director of Asian affairs at the National Security Council under George W. Bush, and by Andrew Shearer, former national security adviser to prime minister Tony Abbott.
It comes amid fears in Washington that China is taking a more assertive role in projecting military power across the Indo-Pacific region, including building new infrastructure, and is wielding its economic clout to secure favourable strategic outcomes.
The report also comes a week after it was revealed that three Australian warships were challenged by the Chinese military as they travelled through the disputed South China Sea early this month.
Tensions between Australia and China have risen sharply, with China’s ambassador to Australia warning last week that the relationship between the two countries had been marred by “systematic, irresponsible and negative remarks” about China.
Beijing has not hosted a senior Australian minister for several months and was highly critical of Malcolm Turnbull’s new security laws announced last year to protect Australia from foreign interference.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd this week further accused the current Prime Minister of undermining
Australia’s relationship with China, saying Mr Turnbull’s public remarks about our largest trading partner were tantamount to “punching the Chinese in the face”.
But the CSIS report warns that China’s behaviour in the region needs to be challenged by Australia and its allies. “China’s military penetration into the South Pacific would challenge one of the oldest and most fundamental tenets of Australian strategic doctrine, the exclusion of outside military powers from its island approaches,” the report says.
It says China is building extensive maritime infrastructure in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that supports its large merchant fleet and opens up military options that could destabilise the region.
“Much of it could be used to support increasing power projection operations in the region by the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
“The United States and its region allies and partners need to pay attention and develop a more coherent and effective response,’’ the report says.
To counter this, the CSIS calls for a range of measures, including a rotational presence of US warships at HMAS Stirling in Perth.
It also calls on the Turnbull government to “consider the possibility of investing in the nuclear support infrastructure necessary for the basing of (US) attack submarines as well”.
These military options have been considered by the Turnbull and Abbott Coalition governments and by the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments but they have never been acted upon.
But Mr Shearer said the time was now right for a bigger US military presence at HMAS Stirling.
“US military aircraft and Marine forces are already operating from facilities in Australia’s north under the US Force Posture Initiatives,” he told The Australian in Washington. “It makes sense to add a naval component, and this has been under discussion for a number of years. It is time to press forward with greater urgency
“The RAN’s Fleet Base West at HMAS Stirling, south of Perth, is ideally situated to support a rotating US naval presence. It already has some relevant infrastructure in place and there is room for expansion. It has a large offshore exercise area and offers direct bluewater access to the Indian Ocean and its critical sea lanes.
“Australian and American naval forces operating from Western Australia would be well placed to build closer co--operation with the Indian navy, to maintain a greater presence in the Indian Ocean and to monitor China’s increasing naval presence.”
The report praised the “firm stand” taken by Mr Turnbull to reports, which have since been denied by Vanuatu, that China was seeking a military base in that country. But it said the informal security dialogue between Australia, the US, Japan and India, known as the Quad, was a useful framework for pushing back on China’s efforts to exert muscle in the Indo-Pacific.
It said Quad members should do more to provide economic investment alternatives and stronger diplomatic and economic support for South Pacific states to counter efforts by China to co-opt those states, including through “debt traps”.

Threat Of Nuclear Weapons Use Growing, UN Warns

Agence France Presse, Daily Star
23 April 2018

GENEVA – A top U.N. official Monday denounced growing rhetoric claiming that nuclear arms are necessary and warned that the risk of such weapons being used was on the rise. "The threat of the use, intentional or otherwise, of nuclear weapons is growing," the U.N.'s top representative for disarmament affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, told a preliminary review meeting of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, which was introduced at the height of the Cold War a half century ago, seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles. But speaking at the opening of the Geneva meeting, Nakamitsu warned that "the world today faces similar challenges to the context that gave birth to the NPT." The preparatory committee in advance of the 2020 NPT review conference comes after North Korea, which
pulled out of the treaty 15 years ago, declared a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and said it would dismantle its nuclear test site. Nakamitsu hailed the announcement, voicing hope that the move "will contribute to building trust and to sustaining an atmosphere for sincere dialogue and negotiations." She warned however that the overall "geopolitical environment is deteriorating." "Some of the most important instruments and agreements that comprise our collective security framework are being eroded," she said. "Rhetoric about the necessity and utility of nuclear weapons is on the rise," she said, stressing that "modernization programs by nuclear-weapons states are leading to what many see as a new, qualitative arms race." Nakamitsu noted that until recently, all the major powers have been engaged in "continuous and successive negotiations on arms control and disarmament."

"Yet not only have we seen an unfortunate hiatus in these efforts, there are real concerns that unless we reverse this trend we will soon be back in a situation for the first time in which there are no verified constraints on nuclear arsenals," she said. Five of the world's nine nuclear-armed states - Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States - are parties to the NPT. But despite their commitments under the treaty, they are all engaged in modernizing their arsenals and making
nuclear weapons a more central part of their defense strategies. The administration of President Donald Trump has for instance recently decided to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal and to complement massive "strategic" bombs with smaller "tactical" weapons, in a move critics say would make them easier to use.

Former Submariners View ROV Dive on WWII Navy Submarine

Staff, Currents Magazine, Winter 2018 Issue

The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington hosted former submariners and the public to watch a livestreaming of a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) explore the wreckage of a World War II (WWII) diesel submarine USS Bugara (SS 331).  Nearly 100 people gathered in the museum’s theater to watch the ROV exploration. The deep-sea exploration is a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Dr. Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust. 
Dr. Ballard is a deep-sea explorer best known for his historic discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the sunken R.M.S. Titanic, the German battleship Bismarck and other shipwrecks around the world.  “We are proud to host former Bugara submariners at the live viewing in our theater,” said Mary Ryan, U.S. Naval Undersea Museum Curator, during the viewing party. “They told us what it was like to live and work aboard Bugara.”

Former Bugara crewmembers attending the event included Hal Garland, Tomey Greer, Pete Smith and Dick Holcombe. It seemed like a high school class reunion as the former crewmembers, smiled, hugged and shook hands.  While the live viewing was shown on the theater’s screen, the Bugara crewmembers gestured and took pictures of the video and of each other. As live coverage of the dive began, the pilots of the ROV gave play-by-play commentary of what the people in the theater were seeing while the feed was livestreamed around the globe.  The ROV approached the ship through the deep green water and the bow came into sharp focus along with the broken cable from the Bugara’s tow vehicle.  The video from nearly 800 feet under water was incredibly clear and showed details of the boat like the forward and aft hatch, as well as its torpedo tubes.  The 16-foot-long propeller could also be seen— covered in marine growth. During the 46 years since the Bugara plunged into the cold Pacific, just off the Washington state coastline, time, corrosion, sea water and marine organisms have eaten away her skin exposing electrical wiring and metal supports which look like the ribs of the boat. The Bugara is now covered in sea life including many large fish and anemones.  The submarine sits upright and intact, with just a slight list to starboard.  “I’m glad the old girl sank, before she was blown up,” said Garland, 83, who served on the Bugara from 1967 to 1970, and retired as a Master Chief Torpedoeman’s Mate.  “It would break my heart to see her blown to pieces. She went down on her own terms. I like that.” Pete Smith of Bainbridge Island attended with his wife, Betsy.  Smith served on the Bugara from 1969 to 1970, when the boat was retired from active service. Life aboard the Bugara gave Smith his first Western Pacific tour. Smith said perhaps the most memorable part of service on the Bugara was the friends he made and kept throughout his life—like his fellow crewmembers who attended the event.  Smith visited the museum with his granddaughters this summer.  He also enjoys attending submarine reunions. Smith said the saddest day of his Navy life came when he and others were tasked with calling the next of kin of the USS Scorpion (SSN 589).  Scorpion was lost with all hands on May 22, 1968.  “I was given a script and a list of names and phone numbers and orders to call the next of kin,” Smith remembers.  “We called moms, dads and wives. We tried to assuage people’s fears, but it was impossible.” At first the calls were to say that the boat hadn’t shown up as scheduled, but as the days went by the script was reworded to say the crew wasn’t coming home. 
“We each took a list and started dialing,” Smith said. “I can remember it as if it were yesterday.”  Tom Greer, 71, served on Bugara from 1966 to 1970.  “I was a torpedoeman,” he said proudly. “My Navy days prepared me for my life outside the Navy.” Greer worked for Reynolds Aluminum in Rainer, Oregon for 30 years from 1970 to 2000 as a journeyman millwright.  “On the submarine, we had to qualify on all the other systems aboard,” he explained. “It’s quite demanding. You had to be signed off on two different systems every week. If not, it’s adios to you.” “Being on a submarine is like being part of a tight-knit family,” Greer stressed. “We had to rely on one another. There is no room for mistakes onboard a ship.” Greer was 19 years old when he went aboard “The Bug”—the nickname the submariners had for Bugara.  “My Division Chief Hal Garland was my guide from my first day onboard to my last,” Greer explained. “Hal and I are still good friends.” In fact, Greer stopped by and picked up Garland in Olympia on the way to see the ROV livestream at the museum.  “We’ve been friends for 51 years now,” Greer said. “We were in Vietnam together as part of the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club.”  Greer said his Navy days were the best days of his life.  “It’s sad to see her on the bottom of the ocean,” he said shaking his head. “In 1969, we fired on an old destroyer and saw her broken in half from our torpedoes. Now, I know how that feels. It’s a little like going to an old friend’s funeral.” Harvey Shaw, 75, served on Bugara from 1962 to 1964 and again from 1969 to 1971.  Shaw servedon active duty from 1959 to 1987, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer 4. His first ship was USS Coral Sea (CV 43). He remembers getting Betsy and Pete Smith together.  “We were having a cookout on the beach in La Jolla, California,” Shaw remembers. “I saw Betsy strolling down the beach and I called her over. She came over and I introduced them. Today, they have beautiful grandchildren.” “Harvey introduced me to my wife,” Smith explained. “Betsy and I are still happily married all these many years later. I guess I owe him for that.” Shaw even played matchmaker with Betsy’s roommate and Pete’s roommate, who are also still together today.  “I was cupid for all of them,” he said laughing. “Aboard the ‘Bug’ we all worked and played together.” Former Bugara Commanding Officer Eddie Ettner called in to the live viewing from Virginia. Ettner served as the boat’s captain from 1957 to 1958. “This isn’t just some relic sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean,” Ettner explained. “It’s part of our history. It symbolizes the people who love their country and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. We all have plenty of good memories on that beautiful boat.”

The Basics About Bugara According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, USS Bugara was a Balao-class submarine commissioned on November 15, 1944.  Measuring over 311 feet long and more than 27 feet across her beam, Bugara conducted three war patrols before the end of WWII, including an eventful final patrol where her crew sank 57 small ships in the Gulf of Siam.  This final patrol was highlighted by a series of gun attacks totaling 5,284 tons sunk.  Bugara earned three battle stars for her WWII service. After WWII, Bugara conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises and supported operations during the Korean War.  Bugara then operated along the Pacific coast participating in training and fleet exercises until decommissioned and was struck from the Naval Register on October 1, 1970. Bugara was authorized for disposal as a target for livewarhead evaluations of the Mark 48 torpedo in March 1971.  After removal of potentially hazardous materials, Bugara was being towed by the USS Cree (AT/ATF 84), a Cherokee-class fleet tug, to the disposal area roughly 100 miles off Cape Flattery, Washington, when she took on water and sank in the early morning hours of June 1, 1971. Near the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Bugara began to take on water in the stern and settle into the Pacific Ocean.  At the risk of being pulled under by the sheer weight of Bugara, the crew of the Cree was forced to release the steel hawser cable. Bugara then foundered.
Bugara’s wreckage is located at a depth of nearly 800 feet in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington State. USS Bugara Statistics Nationality . . . . . . . . . . . . American Class. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Balao diesel-electric submarine Owner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . U.S. Navy Hull Material . . . . . . . . . . Steel Propulsion . . . . . . . . . . . . Four each General Motors Model 16-278A, V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators Displacement Tons . . . . . 1,526 surface Displacement Tons . . . . . 2,424 submerged Length . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311 feet, 9 inches Beam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 feet, 3 inches Draft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 feet, 10 inches Speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Knots—20.25 surface, 8.75                                                                                                                                                                                         submerged Cruising Range. . . . . . . . . 11,000 miles Armament . . . . . . . . . . . . Ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft, One 5-inch 25 caliber gun, with a second gun installed on after deck in 1945 Bofors 40mm and Oerlikon 20mm cannons Complement . . . . . . . . . . Approximately 10 officers and 71 enlisted personnel

The US Navy Wants Undersea Gas Stations for Underwater Drones

 David Axe, Motherboard
23 April 2018

Access to undersea gas stations could allow Gavias and other underwater drones to spend more time scanning the seabed, searching for crash survivors or locating enemy mines. A California company is working on an underwater refueling station that can top off the fuel cells of undersea surveillance drones, allowing the vehicles to venture farther and work longer. Needless to say, the US Navy is interested in that kind of technology. The sailing branch is even exploring ways to tap sea-bottom thermal vents in order to keep power flowing to underwater gas stations.
Teledyne, based in Thousand Oaks, California, showed off its undersea power station alongside Gavia, the company's popular underwater surveillance drone, at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Maryland in April. The underwater fuel-cell station stores 200 kilowatts of power and works down to a depth of nearly two miles, according to Defense News. An undersea drone could hook up to the station and charge its own fuel cells. A Gavia can operate for up to five hours on one 1.2-kilowatt charge. Teledyne is a world leader in undersea electrical equipment that's popular with the oil industry, including water- and pressure-resistant power plugs. The company also builds a wide range of torpedo-like submersible drones that are compatible with different sensors, including sonars and laser scanners.
Teledyne is proposing the seven-inch-diameter Gavia for the Navy's oceanographic fleet, which maps the sea floor. But the drone, which travels at speeds up to four miles per hour down to a maximum depth of around 10,000 feet, can also help with search-and-rescue and minehunting
missions, the company points out in its marketing materials. "The Gavia AUV can carry a variety of sensors that are especially well-suited for military and security applications," Teledyne states, using the acronym for "autonomous underwater vehicle."
The Navy bought at least one Gavia for testing in 2003. Back then a Gavia cost around $150,000. Access to undersea gas stations could allow Gavias and other underwater drones to spend more time scanning the seabed, searching for crash survivors or locating enemy mines. Teledyne told Defense News that the refueling stations could be deployed by ship or helicopter. The Navy announced more than a decade ago that it would need to be able to refuel its growing fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs.
"Advanced energy and propulsion, in combination with other UUV technologies, will enable the use of smaller vehicles (reducing cost) in the long term, and will provide greater performance," the Navy stated in its Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Master Plan from 2004. In 2016, the Office of Naval Research launched the Persistent Renewable Energy for Undersea Systems program, aiming to develop systems that can "effectively recharge undersea surveillance sensor nodes and UUVs by energy harvesting from hydrothermal vents on the ocean bottom."
The same year, the Navy told Congress that it anticipated be able to install underwater power stations by 2025. At that time, undersea drones "will operate where manned submarines and ships can't or shouldn't."

What Is ‘Acoustic Cloaking’ And How Does It Work?

 Todd Bates, Futurity
23 April 2018

A model for directing sound waves to go around, instead of colliding with, an object—effectively cloaking it from detection—could have a wide range of applications from military to medical. Andrew Norris, a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and pioneer in the field of cloaking, which can help make underwater objects appear invisible, created the model. Here, Norris discusses his research, which could lead to improved acoustic technology, including better imaging underwater, and biomedical applications, such as enhanced imaging of tissue.

What is cloaking?
Cloaking is sort of synonymous with invisibility, like when Harry Potter wears an invisibility cloak. He puts it on and disappears. There are lots of sci-fi references to invisibility—the (comic book characters) Invisible Woman and the Invisible Man. They have cloaking devices in Star Trek. So, it’s always been of interest in literature, in society, and in science. During the last 20 years or so, people have realized it’s possible to achieve one kind of cloaking—the basic idea is to control sound waves in ways you couldn’t before.

What do you study?
We study acoustics—sound that can be in the air, fluids, and solids. Generally, we use mathematical models to explore possibilities for different kinds of devices and see how we might control sound. We often find things that we didn’t expect. We can make effects that might appear impossible, but everything is based on the laws of physics. Much of our work involves designing and testing innovative materials and structures to control how sound waves move.

What have been your major findings?
Our findings are in the field of cloaking. A cloak bends the light around an object so it is invisible. The same concepts apply to other kinds of waves, including sound. To make a cloak for sound or light, you must be able to make new forms of material that can bend the waves around the object inside the cloak. We are focusing on developing a new material design using metallic lattices. Our lattice consists of relatively thin metal pieces arranged in a honeycomb pattern if the structure is two-dimensional, and like a diamond structure in 3D. Metal on semiconductors may lead to invisibility cloaks While these structures cannot yet make cloaking devices, we found they can be used in other unexpected applications, such as making underwater acoustic lenses. We designed a lens that focuses and amplifies sound. The lens is novel because no power is necessary and it can focus acoustic energy in a small region, magnifying the signal from a distant sound source. We also designed an underwater device that can redirect acoustic energy from a hydrophone. A hydrophone produces sound underwater, but the sound energy is directed almost equally in all directions.

Why are your findings important and what are the practical implications?
Acoustics is central in communications, whether the sound provides useful information or annoying noise. Our research has developed theoretical and practical methods to better understand how to control sound. Our focus is on applications for underwater sound, such as sonar sound waves used in communicating and locating things. The Navy has expressed interest. Everyone asks whether a cloak could make a submarine invisible, but that is quite unrealistic. The size of any effective cloak would dwarf the sub. We also could see applications in commercial devices. Examples would be improved acoustic imaging underwater for finding fish or imaging the ocean bottom. Biomedical applications could include better imaging of tissue, which is very much like water when it comes to acoustics.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

British Submarines Move Into Missile Range Of Syria

Christopher Hope And Gordon Rayner, The Sydney Morning Herald
12 April 2018

LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered British submarines in the Mediterranean to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Assad regime by the end of this week.
Whitehall sources said Britain was "doing everything necessary" to be able to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from nuclear-powered submarines against military targets in Syria.
One source said that "if any action is going to happen, it is going to happen before Monday".
As of Wednesday night, May had not come to a final decision on whether Britain would join the US and France in any air strikes, but the Prime Minister wants to be able to act swiftly if and when she decides to join any offensive.
The Royal Navy has three Astute-class submarines that could be heading towards Syria - HMS Ambush, HMS Artful and HMS Astute. Their Tomahawk IVs have a range
of 1600 km, meaning the subs would need to lie off the coast of Syria, Lebanon or Israel while awaiting the order to strike. Each submarine can carry 38 missiles.
The alternative would be to send one of three Trafalgar class attack submarines that have been in service since the Cold War, which can carry up to 30 missiles.
"We are moving subs in, we are doing everything necessary operationally to do that. If any action is going to happen it is going to happen before Monday because once you start having a debate about it, it will be very difficult for No 10 to do anything," a Whitehall source said.
May is understood to have resolved that any decision to join allied air strikes would have to be taken by the Cabinet rather than by Parliament, as delaying action will give Syria the chance to move its military assets near to Russian hardware, making it harder for the US or UK to get a clean strike.
There was already evidence on Wednesday of Syria trying to move its aircraft out of range. Opposition groups said the Syrian regime was shifting military vehicles away from its airbase in Hama, a potential target for American cruise missiles.
Activists also said Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group supporting the Assad regime, was clearing its own positions near the T4 airbase in central Syria. Israeli jets reportedly struck the T4 base on Sunday night, killing 14 people, including seven Iranians in an attack first reported by Syrian state media as having been carried out by the US.
This image released early on Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma.
Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy, said that the regime would probably move its most sensitive equipment close to Russian forces, in the hope that the US would be less likely to risk accidentally striking Russian troops.
European air traffic controllers on Wednesday issued a "rapid alert" for airlines in the eastern Mediterranean over the possibility of air strikes into Syria within the next 72 hours.
The European Aviation Security Agency, which receives intelligence reports from classified sources, warned of possible launches of air-to-ground strikes or cruise missiles in the area.
The US does not have an aircraft carrier in the area yet, meaning strikes would have to be launched from the USS Donald Cook or the USS Porter, two US Navy destroyers already in the Mediterranean. The Donald Cook departed Larnaca, Cyprus, on Monday after completing a scheduled port visit.
The Donald Cook is one of four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers that generally serve Europe and are part of a Nato rotation.
Either ship could be used to launch multiple cruise missiles at sites in Syria.
The US Central Command has been updating lists of possible military and government targets in Syria, including aircraft hangars, ammunition depots and command headquarters. Defence officials said one possibility was to render Syrian airfields incapable of being used to launch future chemical attacks.
In the coming days, the USS Harry S Truman, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, is scheduled to head to the region with a complement of strike and reconnaissance aircraft on board and surface warships sailing alongside.
Satellite photos of the Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria showed all 11 Russian battleships have left Syria.
Open-source flight tracking information revealed that a US Navy P-8A Poseidon was in the air south of Cyprus, near the Syrian coast, yesterday.
Interfax news agency reported a Nato surveillance plane was circling the northern border of Syria in Turkish airspace.

PEO Interview: The Navy’s Top Submarine Builder Talks Virginia-Class Challenges, Successes

David Larter, Defense News
11 April 2018

Whether it’s 355 ships or 342, the Navy is getting bigger. And as it looks to expand its fleet, the service is looking to its Virginia-class program as a model for success.
The program has driven down costs and construction times for years while expanding its production, but now it faces a mountain of challenges as the Navy gets ready to build the follow-on ballistic missile submarine force, the Columbia-class.
The program has seen some recent set-backs as it forges ahead, with supplier issues causing delays in production. Now, as the Navy debates what the future of its submarine force will be in a larger Navy, the program is eyeing the possibility of expanding again to three Virginia-class submarines per year on years that Navy doesn’t buy Columbia-class subs.
Defense News got a chance to sit down with the man at the head of all those efforts, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines, to talk successes, challenges and what’s ahead.
Thanks for sitting down with us for an update on the Virginia class. First off, tell us a bit about your program and how it’s performing?
First of all, the most important thing is that we have 15 Virginia-class submarines commissioned in the fleet and they’re out there performing exceptionally well. We get continuous feedback from both the type commanders, Commander Submarine Force Atlantic and Commander Submarine Force Pacific, who are responsible for training and providing ready forces to the combatant commanders for deployment. So, they’re the ones that work most closely with the boats during the non-deployment time and the workup time and then they go off and deploy and work for European Command or Pacific Command. Adm. Harry Harris in PACOM says he needs more submarines. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in EUCOM saying he needs more submarines. I on occasion am lucky enough to see some of the mission debriefs from the boats coming back from deployment and the things they’re doing her eye-watering.
So, we need these submarines. It’s our job to make sure that we are delivering quality submarines to the fleet in as efficient and timely a manner as we can.
The Navy holds this up as its example program of things that are going well. There have been some hiccups lately. Overall, how are you doing getting boats out on time?
We, the program office, own the ship and its schedule because there is testing postdelivery that has to be done before the ship can be certified as a war fighting element. That’s things like acoustic trials, weapon systems, accuracy tests. Things that are Navy testing and not shipbuilder testing. So that all happens and then the ship goes back into the post-shakedown availability. So the testing is the shakedown part and then you go into the post-shakedown availability. Then at the end of PSA, it gets turned over to the type commander and they workup the crew and certify it for deployment.
So, one of our goals has been to shorten not only the delivery portion — the five to six years where we are now — but also the shakedown portion and the PSA. We’ve been very successful in both of those.
We have a chart that shows from USS Virginia 774 all the way to USS Colorado 788 what that trend has been, and we’ve achieved significant reductions in all three of those areas. The construction, the shakedown and the PSA and some of the details.
What we have done is the initial contract span for the first ships was 84 months and we have successively reduced that in a significant amount down ... the block three submarines are all 66 months. Then when you add on the other parts, the shakedown and the PSA, there’s been additional reduction. Not only are we going from 84 [months] down to 66 in contracted spans, but at the same time, we had about 20 to 25 percent design change in the platform and we went from one submarine a year to two submarines per year.
A design change, a doubling of the production rate and reduction of almost a year in the amount of time you give yourself to build a ship. I will tell you that the entire team has done a phenomenal job in pulling this off.
A few of the boats have run behind at least your intended schedule, including the most recent one, Colorado. What has been driving that?
We are delivering block three submarines plus-or-minus five percent of the contracted span. Five percent to 66 months is a little bit over three months.
Each of the block three submarines to date has been within that band. SSN 784 (North Dakota) was just weeks early. SSN 785 (John Warner) was almost 3 months early. That was a ship where everything went very well. SSN 786 (Illinois) was just a little bit early. SSN 787 (Washington) was the first one where we missed the delivery date and we missed that by about three months, about 5 percent.
Got close to back on track with Colorado. That was three weeks late, which is … well, three weeks is three weeks. Then SSN 789 (Indiana) is our current boat right now, and she’s going to deliver about three months late.
Would we want all of our boats to deliver within the contracted delivery span? Of course we would. But you have to realize that as you take more and more time out of the time allotted to build the subs, you have less time to recover from the inevitable things that don’t work right the first time. Our job is to continue working with the shipbuilders to understand why things don’t work right the first time and drive that out of the process. But the reality is, with the millions and millions of parts that go into the ship and the millions and millions of actions required to fabricate, assemble and test all those parts, there are going to be things that don’t work right the first time.
We’ve been very successful at continuing to drive down the impact of that and as we now are in a 66-month span. I term it a success.
Will you be back on track after Indiana?
[For] SSN 790 (South Dakota), we’re working very hard to make sure that she delivers on time. Right now, she is scheduled to deliver a little bit early to contract delivery date, which will be in August of this year. Then 791 is the last boat of Block III. She’s scheduled to deliver next February and we’re working very closely with the shipbuilders to ensure that we get her out on time as well.
As I said…we have a fairly good track record of these boats plus-or-minus five percent. Some have been early.
What’s the big push for Block IV?
Taking another four months off the schedule for the first three boats and then the remaining seven are at 60 months. So, you’re taking almost 10 percent out of the delivery span from 66 down to 60 months. That’s a challenge.
The task to the shipbuilders is to find structural things to change to allow a more efficient assembly and completion of the ship. You can’t just work harder. You can’t just throw more people at the problem. You have to make either design changes or process and installation changes with the shipbuilders to allow that kind of improvement.
One of the examples that Newport News has really been championing is the integrated digital shipbuilding. That is a significant effort to again, move away from the paper drawings that you used to see the machinists carrying down to the jobsite, whether it’s in the shop or in the assembly hall or the boat floating pier-side, and moving from that to a Toughbook or a notepad where it’s all contained there. You don’t have to flip through reams of pages. You don’t have to read the revisions and make sure they’re properly applied, because it’s all there in the product model itself.
Is there a concern for cyber security?
Absolutely. That’s a big part of the system. What is the connectivity? How does it get loaded onto the laptop? What’s the condition while you’re walking around in the yard? That is absolutely a part of it. But the benefits that this promises are significant and you can do things like augmented reality.
They’re already doing this, so as opposed to reading dimensions off of a drawing and then measuring them out and saying, “Okay, this hanger attachment point has to go right here,” you can take that notepad or Toughbook and hold it up and it’s got target points that align what the camera is seeing to the installation site and it’ll show you exactly where that hangar is supposed to go.
So that’s kind of an example of a structural change that allows you to take man-hours out of the design, planning and execution process.
One of the questions, one of the anxieties, I hear from the shipyard guys is worker churn. The idea is that perhaps Millenials aren’t staying as long at one job anymore and they are losing a big investment in training. How are you working through that?
I try not to use stereotypes as much as I can. In my experience, I think that a company that respects its employers and provides them the training necessary to do their job and provides a good workforce will retain enough of their employees to be successful.
I don’t think we’re looking at a sea change in workforce habits in terms of hopping job to job. There’s certainly some of that without a doubt. But we’re looking at a huge ramp-up in employment at our principal shipbuilders, Electric Boat and Newport News. Because now we’re at continuous two per year Virginia construction and we’re adding the Columbia ballistic missile submarine, which each submarine is about two and a half times the effort required for building of Virginia.
There are ongoing discussions about adding a third Virginia in the years where we’re not building a Columbia. So, we we’ve gone from nothing basically in the late 1990s to one per year Virginia in the early 2000s, to two per year in 2011. Now you’re either going to go to three or four and a half per year.
So we’re talking thousands and thousands of additional workers. Electric Boat has been very proactive in working with the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island and using several community colleges as training starting points. They’ve set up a training program such that the students coming out community college are eligible for hiring at Electric Boat. Day one on the job, they are significantly more ready and productive than a standard guy walking in off the street and applying. That’s been hugely successful. So, am I concerned that everyone they’re hiring will get bored in three or four years and go do something else? No.
Some of them you will, but I think the numbers will be small enough within the normal attrition patterns. Because these are good jobs. They’re good-paying jobs and you only have to look at the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan and the statements by all of leadership to understand that these jobs are not going away anytime soon. So the future I think is good for the person who’s interested in starting a career at one of our shipbuilders.
Can I get a quick status update on where you are with the Virginia Payload Module for Block V?
Virginia payload module is going well. The design progress is on track to have a high level of completion at construction start. We’ve defined for Columbia ... 83 percent at contraction start is what we want.
Virginia originally was 42 percent when we started construction. So we’re well beyond anything that we’ve ever accomplished before in terms of design completed construction start.
For the Virginia payload module, we’re tracking to about 75 to 80 percent completed construction start, which is good. The prototyping of the first four payload tubes is in progress. So, as you know, the Virginia payload module is an insert which will go in at construction that adds four 87-inch tubes to allow additional strike capacity from the Virginia. It takes Virginia from 12 Tomahawks to 40 Tomahawks by those additional four tubes. So those four tubes are already under construction at the vendors and will be ready for assembly into the first Virginia payload module ship. So, we’re on track.
Thank you for taking the time out, Admiral.

RAN Receives Latest Submarine Rescue Equipment

Amelia McMahon, Defence Connect
11 April 2018

Submarine rescue company JFD has delivered new submarine rescue equipment, worth $19.7 million, to the Royal Australian Navy.
The new kit – a hyperbaric equipment suite and a transfer under pressure chamber – was launched at a ceremony at JFD Australia’s advanced manufacturing headquarters at Bibra Lake, in the southern suburbs of Perth.
The new hyperbaric equipment suite helps submariners rescued from a disabled submarine to overcome the life-threatening effects of being rescued in pressurised waters.
JFD Australia general manager Toff Idrus, a former submariner, said the new equipment means the entire crew of a RAN submarine can be treated simultaneously.
"The innovative and world-class equipment which JFD has delivered means up to 86 people can receive life-saving medical treatment in the hyperbaric equipment suite and pressurised transfer chamber at any one time," Idrus said.
"Given a Collins Class submarine usually has a crew of 48, the increase in capability represents a significant evolution of submarine rescue services in Australia, to the point where the new system is the safest ever seen in Australia."
The hyperbaric equipment is the final step during a submarine rescue, which begins with rescuing the crew from the disabled submarine into a JFD free-swimming rescue vehicle, carrying them to the surface and safely onto the deck of a rescue ship. From here, the submariners are moved through the transfer under pressure chamber, with doctors on hand to monitor their wellbeing as they move into the hyperbaric equipment suite for further recovery.
"In the event of an underwater emergency, the ability to bring people potentially under pressure at depth to the safety of the surface with minimal risk of decompression sickness or exposure is critical for Australia’s defence capability and national security," Idrus explained.
"We know that lives depend on our expertise and that’s why JFD is constantly evolving our submarine escape and rescue service to help ensure the men and women of the Australian Defence Force are kept as safe as possible, even in worst-case scenarios."
The new equipment took two years to build using a highly skilled workforce of some 100 engineers and tradespeople within JFD.
JFD Australia’s team – together with local supply-chain companies – are now conducting systems integration for the new equipment.
"JFD Australia has developed world-leading local knowledge and skills in submarine rescue which are so important when you are dealing with a challenging ocean environment, confirming our reputation as a provider of proven, safe and reliable submarine rescue service to the Australian government," said Idrus.