Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Russia’s Military to Monitor Foreign Ships With Undersea Robots

Nikolai Litovkin, RBTH.com
5 December 2016
 
The Russian Defense Ministry has begun deploying the Harmony deepwater acoustic monitoring system, according to reports by the Izvestiya newspaper.
After fully installing the new development in 2020, the military will be able to "see" what is happening in the most remote and previously inaccessible areas of the world’s oceans, including the movements of foreign ships and submarines.
The Defense Ministry's general contractor, Spetsstroi, is constructing a new command post for managing the system on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. A special plant to produce Harmony's components will be built in the closed city of Severomorsk in the Murmansk Region (930 miles north of Moscow).
According to Izvestiya, almost seven billion rubles ($108 million) has been allotted to develop the project.
Underwater robots
The Harmony system consists of a network of robotized ocean bed stations that can work autonomously at temperatures from minus 10 to plus 45 degrees Celsius (14-113 degrees Fahrenheit). This stability is obtained with the help of special lithium polymer batteries that have an automatic energy-consumption control system.
Harmony will use sonars to conduct acoustic monitoring of the world ocean. When it detects an object, it will send a signal along a cable to a buoy floating on the surface, which in turn will send the data through a satellite to the command post.
If necessary, the station can shut down by itself and then be picked up by a nearby submarine.
Such a system will give the military almost full control of the waters at a distance of hundreds of miles.
The areas where the system will be deployed
"We are interested in areas where the U.S., the UK and France deploy their strategic submarines in the world ocean. In the Pacific, the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans," a source from Russia's defense industry told RBTH.
He stressed that Russia will be acting in accordance with the Law of the Sea Charter and will not intrude into or carry out military activity in waters belonging to other countries.
"The U.S. is deploying similar reconnaissance systems in the Norwegian and Barents Sea, as well as the Sea of Japan. They monitor our submarines attentively with the help of sea systems but also with the help of satellites," added the defense industry source.
Viktor Litovkin, a military expert for the TASS news agency, says that the deployment of the new sea monitoring system is part of increasing military competition between Russia and the U.S., which is “resulting in an arms race."
In his words, although Russia is trying not to get involved in this race and is limiting itself to what is "necessary and sufficient," the development of military affairs requires the country to spend heavily on new technologies and technical services.
Which submarines will deploy the system?
Dmitry Kornev, editor of the Militaryrussia internet project, says that Harmony's first carrier was the B-90 Sarov diesel electric submarine, which became part of the fleet in the beginning of 2008. On the following day tests were carried out on several experienced models.
However, nuclear submarines appear to be a more appropriate base for this system. The Khabarovsk and Belgorod submarines, which will become part of the Russian Navy by 2020, are more suitable for the role. They will guarantee that the system functions in the best possible way.
In particular, the Belgorod is scheduled to enter the water at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. Military historian Dmitry Boltenkov says that consequently, the Russian Navy can start using Harmony on a partial basis in the near future.

Russia Developing Robot Able to Imitate Any Submarine

Staff, TASS
6 December 2016
 
Specialists of Russia’s Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering have developed a conceptual design of a seaborne robotized system called Surrogat for holding naval exercises, the design bureau’s press office told TASS on Tuesday.
Currently negotiations are under way with the Navy on this project, the press office said.
Surrogat is equipped with a lithium-ion battery. This submarine imitator provides for up to 15-16 hours of naval exercises, reproducing an enemy submarine’s maneuvering, including at high speed, over this time.
The robot’s relatively large size (about 17 meters long) and the ability to carry towed sonar arrays for various applications will help realistically reproduce an enemy submarine’s physical fields - acoustic and electromagnetic, the Rubin design bureau said.
The imitator’s modular design allows changing its functionality: Surrogat will be able to imitate both a conventional and a nuclear-powered submarine, and also to carry out terrain mapping and reconnaissance.
"Today, combat submarines have to be involved for exercises or tests and this practice distracts them from carrying out their basic missions. The use of an unmanned imitator will help avoid this and cut the cost of drills. Besides, a submarine without a crew reduces risks while keeping simulated scenarios realistic," Rubin CEO Igor Vilnit told TASS.
"This apparatus will be distinguished by its simplicity in operation and the low cost of its maintenance and upgrade. Now we’re holding consultations with Navy representatives to make the imitator fully meet the Navy’s requirements," he said.
The Rubin design bureau also does not rule out that foreign customers may display interest in Surrogat.
The autonomous unmanned submarine Surrogat will have a displacement of about 40 tons, a cruising range of about 600 miles at a speed of 5 knots, a maximum speed of over 24 knots and the maximum immersion depth of 600 meters.

S. Korea, US Seek Ways To Counter N. Korea's SLBM Threat

Staff, The Korea Herald
4 December 2016
 
South Korea and US forces are stepping up efforts to better counter the growing threat from North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) that can disrupt the balance of power in Northeast Asia, the Navy said Sunday.
The Navy said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Navy Region Korea, held talks with his counterparts from the South Korean Navy Fleet Command in Busan late last week to discuss Pyongyang's submarine threat and joint efforts to counter such developments.
"At the South Korea-US submarine warfare working group talks, officials from the two countries exchanged views on all aspects of North Korea's submarine capabilities and how best to respond to them in the most effective manner," the Navy said.
In addition, the allies agreed that the North's SLBMs posed immediate challenges to their national security and called for redoubled efforts to strengthen anti-submarine and anti-ballistic missile training.
SLBMs are a particular challenge because they are very hard to detect before they are launched from a submarine, making it that much more difficult knock them out of the sky before they hit their targets.
Pyongyang launched three SLBMs this year, most recently on Aug.
24, when the missile flew some 500km and hit a part of the East Sea within Japan's Air Defense Identification Zone.
The latest talks come on the heels of the bilateral Security Consultative Meeting held in Washington in October during which time the two sides concurred on the need to expand cooperation between the two navies.
Cooper said at the meeting that successful implementation of anti-submarine warfare requires the utmost concentration and dedication. Rear Admiral Kim Jong-il, deputy chief of fleet command, and other South Korean officers emphasized that in order to deal with submerged threats, South Korea and the United States need to work together more closely.
Related to the need for further cooperation between the navies, an annual anti-submarine warfare cooperation committee has been held every year since 2015, chaired by the heads of South Korea's Fleet Command and the US 7th Fleet. The committee is tasked with coming up with effective ways to cope with North Korea's submarine potential.

The Chinese Acoustics Research That Might Help Shield Submarines From Sonar

Staff, South China Morning Post
5 December 2016
 
Chinese scientists are developing a technique they hope will be able to make submarines invisible to sonar detection under the sea.
If successful, it would ultimately involve covering subs with special rings made of aluminum alloys.
The researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan in Hubei province experimented with rings about 14 cm across and with periodically etched grooves.
They found that sound waves were guided around the rings rather than bouncing back, which would allow them to be traced by sonar detectors.
The grooves were able to steer the sound waves in a set direction like cars travelling on an expressway.
The researchers published details of their work earlier this month in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
The scientists were originally using the technology - called a topological insulator - to control the movement of electrons to reduce heating in computer chips, but they later realised it also had applications for sound waves.
Several rings could work together to direct sound waves in almost any direction, potentially hiding a submarine from sonar in the future.
Other researchers have been working on the technology, but the Beijing and Huazhong researchers said their system was the simplest.
A research team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore constructed an array of cylinders creating similar effects last years, but they had to spin at high speed, about 400 revolutions per second, to keep the sound on a strict course.
The Singaporean team also claimed their technology could help submarines evade sonar detection, but planting a large number of spinning cylinders over the hull of the craft could prove an engineering nightmare.
“Our method is simpler. It does not require moving parts,” said one author of the Chinese paper, who asked not to be named.
However, he added that many problems remained to be solved before the technology can be used outside the laboratory on submarines or to reduce noise on aircraft.
Submarines now use used a rubber or plastic coating to absorb sound waves produced by sonar.
The anechoic tiles also reduce noises produced from inside the sub, but the technology is old, first used by the Germany navy in U-boats during the Second World War.
New materials have been developed over the decades to increase the absorption rate, but a powerful and sensitive sonar system can still pick up traces of vessels.
Yang Jing, associate professor of acoustics at Nanjing University, said the topological insulator could trigger a revolution in acoustic studies.
“It has borrowed many ideas from quantum physics, which shed new light on sound problems,” she said.
But the technology was still in its infancy with major problems remaining, said Yang, who was not involved in the rings research.
For instance, a submarine has to remain invisible from sonar beamed from different directions and at different frequencies.
The rings, however, are now only able to deflect sound waves coming from certain angles and within certain frequencies.

USS San Francisco's nose job recalls tragic crash into undersea mountain

Ed Friedrich the Kitsap Sun
3 December 2016
 
BREMERTON - The USS San Francisco, given a nose job and longer life by workers at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, is retiring.
On Jan. 8, 2005, the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, at nearly full speed, struck an underwater mountain.  One sailor died from head injuries. Ninety-seven of 137 crew members were injured after slamming into bulkheads and equipment. The sub's bow was crushed, its forward ballast tanks and sonar dome severely damaged.
The San Francisco surfaced and traveled 350 miles north to Guam. Temporary repairs were made, enabling it to continue to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for extensive work. It arrived on Sept. 9, 2005.
The challenging, one-of-a-kind project was completed on Oct. 20, 2008. It involved cutting more than 1 million pounds of forward ballast tanks and sonar sphere off of the USS Honolulu and attaching them to the San Francisco. The restoration took 285,000 man days and left the 6,000-ton submarine meeting all of its original design specifications.
The feat is among the highlights of many shipyard careers, including those of Duane Haydock and Jackie Kirsch. The team succeeded because of skill and determination, said Haydock, lead production zone manager on the job.
"It was a very big deal to me and right near the top for highlights in my career that has spanned 34 years," Haydock said. "There was never any doubt in the core team players' minds that it could be done, and we wanted to prove it, but it was a battle. If it was easy, it would not stand out as remarkable."
"This availability will be the one that I will remember and brag about in retirement," said Kirsch, product engineering and planning manager for the repairs. "The continuous engineering support it took to move a million-pound section from the ex-SSN 718 (Honolulu) and ensure alignment was a significant accomplishment to be proud of."
Though the bow replacement was huge and unprecedented, "in reality it was just a complicated sequence of small tasks that were well within our capability," Haydock said. "That's why we knew we could do it."
The work attracted many high-level observers. Haydock was in the dock when the new bow was connected. He looked up and, "the end of the dock was completely lined with people several layers back," he said. "It was like being in a stadium."
Kirsch performed her normal duties of managing engineering and planning support, but this project was different because of its high visibility, uniqueness and intensity.
"When bringing everything to a close and certifying for unrestricted operations without a hitch, it was very satisfying," she said.
Team members broke new ground, but Haydock wouldn't necessarily call them trailblazers.
"We're only going down this trail one time," he said. "Nobody will be following. It was a one-of-a-kind."
Before the collision, the San Francisco had its nuclear fuel replaced and was expected to remain in service until 2017. The Honolulu was four years newer and had yet to reach its mid-life refueling.
The Navy determined that instead of refueling the Honolulu for an estimated $170 million, it would replace the San Francisco's bow with that of the Honolulu at a projected cost of $79 million. It wound up costing $134 million.
The bow replacement gave the San Francisco another seven years, including four more deployments.
The sea mountain didn't appear on the chart that was being used before the crash, but other available charts indicated there was probably one there, according to the Navy. That information should have been transferred to the charts in use, a breach of procedures. Cmdr. Kevin Mooney was relieved of his command and received a letter of reprimand.
Later this month, the 35-year-old San Francisco will move to Norfolk, where it will be converted into a moored training ship. It will be moved to the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, South Carolina, where future submariners will learn to operate nuclear reactors and engineering systems.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Rare Look at the Chinese Navy's Submarines

Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics
29 November 2016
A news report on Chinese state television provided a rare look inside one of the submarines of the Chinese Navy. The Kilo-class submarine was purchased from Russia during the 1990s and is the tip of Beijing's spear in its disputes with neighbors.
The People's Republic of China bought twelve 636-class submarines in the 1990s and early 2000s. The submarines, known as the "Kilo" class to NATO, were originally designed by the Soviet Union to operate in Cold War European coastal waters. After the fall of the USSR and the end of the Warsaw Pact, the 636 class became a useful means for Russia to earn hard currency, and the submarines were exported to China, Algeria, India, Iran, and Vietnam.
The 636 class is fairly small by modern standards, just 238 feet long by 32 feet wide. They displace 3,076 tons submerged, less than half that of an American nuclear attack submarine. The subs are powered by diesel engines that allow them to move at speeds of up to 10 knots on the surface and 17 knots underwater. They have a maximum operating depth of 984 feet, but normally dive to a maximum of 787 feet.
The 636 class excels in two areas: silence and shallow water operations. Nicknamed "Black Holes" by the U.S. Navy, their teardrop hulls reduce water resistance and offer a huge leap over China's older Ming class diesel electric subs. The 636's propulsion plant is isolated on a rubber base to prevent vibrations from being picked up by enemy submarine hunters. Each ship is covered from bow to stern with rows of rubber tiles that deaden sound. A pair of ducted props powered by low-speed motoring motors allow it to operate closer to the sea floor, a useful feature when operating in shallow water.
The "Kilo" subs are armed with six 533-millimeter standard diameter torpedo tubes that can fire homing torpedoes, SS-N-15A Starfish anti-submarine rockets, and Klub anti-ship missiles. In the video, the Chinese submarine is shown firing a torpedo underwater. It's also shown launching what appears to be a missile straight up, as though from an underwater silo. That's particularly weird because the Kilo doesn't have silos, so it is probably footage from another submarine inserted for dramatic effect.
China has based its 636 boats in the East and South China Seas, opposite Taiwan and the new "islands" in the South China Sea. They are the ideal submarines for the task. Close to China, the average depth of the Taiwan Strait is only sixty meters. The South China Sea, while on average quite deep, has several connecting channels that are also shallow. If tensions between China, its neighbors in the South China Sea, and Taiwan come to a boil, you can be pretty sure a 636 class submarine isn't far away.

Stackley: Would Increase SSN, DDG, Amphib Production Rate To Reach 350-Ship Navy

Megan Eckstein, USNI News
1 December 2016
 
The Navy would prioritize increasing the production rate of existing ship classes and inserting new capabilities into mature hull designs as a way to get to a 350-ship Navy, if the incoming Trump administration follows through on its promise to grow the Navy, the service’s acquisition chief said today.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked what challenges the Navy would face in reaching President-Elect Donald Trump’s stated 350-ship goal.
Sean Stackley, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said the biggest challenge would be keeping the Ohio Replacement Program, also called the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, on schedule and reducing cost as much as possible – which is already a challenge for the service.
Specific to increasing the fleet from today’s 308-ship trajectory to something even higher, Stackley said they key would be to leverage existing designs rather than try to design new ship classes to field.
“What we don’t want to do is bring a whole bunch of new designs to the table, add the technical risk that that brings, add the start-up cost that that adds, add the uncertainty that that introduces and add the amount of time that that would take to get through the design and production schedule,” he said.
“So let’s leverage the existing production lines that we have and introduce capability to those platforms as best as possible, looking at that future threat. And that’s the path that we’re on.”
The Navy has already tried to follow that concept, with basing its LX(R) dock landing ship replacement design on the existing San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock design.
The next step in building a bigger fleet is increasing the rate of production of ship classes currently being built – specifically, Virginia-class attack submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and amphibious ships.
“I would tell you, the first priority is going to be our attack submarines. When you look at our force structure, going forward we have a very serious shortfall in attack submarines in the late 2020s. We have got to stem that as best as possible. So that would be the first place that we go in terms of increasing our production rate,” Stackley said.
“Surface combatants – right now we’re building surface combatants at a rate that, in the long term, results in dropping off in terms of total number of large surface combatants because we built at such a high rate during the Reagan buildup years; if we stay at two per year, we’re going to start settling down to a 60 to 70 number of large surface combatants, which won’t meet our operational requirements
“And then amphibs: today we are below what the [chief of naval operations] and the commandant have agreed to in 2009 in terms of the amphib force structure,” Stackley continued.
“We have to get up to that number (38) and we’re on that path. But the reality is that these are high-utility platforms, they are high demand, high utility and very flexible. Wherever we have operations going, amphibs find a way to support that operation,” he said, suggesting that the number of amphibs could increase beyond the current plan.
Independent of the incoming Trump administration, the Navy has been working on a new force structure assessment, as real world conditions have changed dramatically since the 2014 FSA. Chief of Naval Operations
Adm. John Richardson and other top Navy officials have made clear that the current 308-ship requirement is likely to go up.
Stackley told Cruz at the hearing that the Navy is still “identifying what number and mix of ships we need for the future, the mid-2020s and beyond.” He added that smaller ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, which the SASC hearing focused on, would be important in that final mix as a way to keep operational pressure off more expensive ships like destroyers. If not for LCSs and the eventual follow-on frigates, building to achieve the requirements under the new FSA would be an even bigger budget challenge.