Sunday, November 5, 2017

Russia says its submarine fired missiles at IS base in Syria

Staff, WION
31 October 2017

Russia said Tuesday its submarine deployed in the Mediterranean fired three ballistic missiles to destroy a command post of the Islamic State group in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province.
"A missile strike with three Kalibr missiles destroyed a command post with large numbers of militants and armed vehicles and also a large weapons and ammunition depot," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook.
It said the strikes targeted the area around the town of Abu Kamal, one of the few remaining urban strongholds of IS in Syria.
The ministry added it could confirm "the destruction of all the given targets."
It posted a video on Twitter of a missile blasting out of the sea.
There have been heavy clashes between the Syrian army and the Islamic state group in the city of Deir Ezzor, capital of the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria.

Russia said Tuesday that its Veliky Novgorod submarine has carried out four cruise missile strikes on terrorist groups since it was deployed to the Mediterranean in late August.
At Russia`s Syrian naval base of Tartus in the eastern Mediterranean, Russian ships have played a prominent role backing up an aerial bombing campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The submarines are covered from Syria by Moscow`s S-300 and S-400 missiles systems and its Bastion coastal defence system.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests

North Korea Hackers May Have Stolen Submarine, Weapons Info From South Korea

Joe Difazio, International Business Times
1 November 2017

North Korean hackers broke into a South Korean defense contractor's computers and stole submarine blueprints and other classified military information, according to a South Korean lawmaker.
Kyung Dae-soo, a member of South Korea's hawkish Liberty Korea Party, revealed Tuesday that North Korea was most likely behind a hacking breach into Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. in April.
“We are almost 100 percent certain that North Korean hackers were behind the hacking and stole the company’s sensitive documents,” Kyung told Reuters.
The hackers stole 60 classified documents that included blueprints and data for submarines and different weapons systems, according to Kyung. The latest hacking revelation comes weeks after it was disclosed that a similar hack last year allowed North Korea to steal confidential U.S.-South Korean military information including a plan to take out leadership in Pyongyang in the event of a war.
Kyung said that some of the information pertained to submarine-launched missile technology. North Korea has a fleet of submarines and tested a submarine-launched nuclear-capable ballistic missile last year. Some experts believe that North Korea’s submarines aren’t particularly reliable or advanced, however.
There have been recent reports that North Korea appears to be building its biggest submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles.
Daewoo is responsible for building 17 submarines and 44 warships for South Korea, according to the Wall Street Journal Tuesday.
Hackers also stole Aegis missile defense technology information. Aegis is a missile defense system designed to take out airborne missiles. The system is also employed by the U.S. Navy.

'We're Fed Up Of Nuclear Submarines Rotting In Rosyth' Blasts Scottish MP

Staff, Dunfermline Press
30 October 2017

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman has called on the MoD to speed up a programme to dismantle seven nuclear submarines in Rosyth.
While welcoming a report from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) which showed radioactivity doses in Scotland were well within international limits, Mr Chapman said work to rid Rosyth of the vessels was “excruciatingly slow”.
“It’s encouraging that SEPA’s latest report shows radioactivity doses are well within limits,” said Mr Chapman.
“However, Rosyth should not be a sanctuary for toxic submarines and this is something I have raised in Parliament as constituents are fed-up with the subs rotting in their own back yard.
“Yes, they are to be dismantled and removed, but the timescale is excruciatingly slow.
“I’m encouraging SEPA to progress its work with the MoD to manage the area effectively and help rid Rosyth of the subs so that the space in the dockyard basin can be used for more economically-productive uses.”
A total of seven submarines are due to be dismantled at Rosyth and work began on the first, Swiftsure, in December last year.
Once this is completed, best practices developed will be used to refine the disposal process as the programme is progressed.
An MoD spokesperson said work was well under way after initial dismantling began last year as planned. He said all the decommissioned submarines were subject to regular maintenance and checks by the MoD and regulators and pose no additional risks to workers or members of the public.
“Our priority is to ensure that submarine dismantling is undertaken in a safe, secure, cost-effective and environmentally-sound manner,” added the spokesperson.
The current estimation is that one submarine is likely to be dismantled every 18 months.
Dr Paul Dale, radioactive substances unit manager at SEPA, said their report demonstrated that Scotland’s public was protected adequately against sources of radioactivity which could impact on our food and the wider natural environment.
He added: “The report represents a collaborative effort by all agencies to carry out rigorous annual monitoring, to ensure dose levels are well within international limits and the 2016 report confirms that this remains the case.”

Sub Force of Colombia Works Deep Beneath The Sea

Yolima Dussán, Dialogo Military Magazine
30 October 2017

Its work is unseen, its operations silent, its responsibility ongoing, and its results constant: this is the Submarine Force of Colombia. This unit of the Colombian Navy, which navigates in national and international waters in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, celebrated 45 years of operations on May 14th, 2017.
“The submarine fleet is among the highest representatives of our nation’s naval power,” Captain Rafael Aranguren Devia, commander of the Submarine Force of Colombia, told Diálogo. “The 45 years that we’re celebrating represent Colombia’s pledge to always have a strategic arsenal available, and a responsibility to keep it active, vigilant, and evolving, year after year.”
Also known as the Caribbean Submarine Fleet, the force includes four conventional attack submarines that share operations in the waters of both oceans, and extend their capabilities to other operations where needed. The fleet actively participated in multinational operations such as UNITAS exercises, Operation Pelican, and the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI).
Naval power projection
The submarine force has trained and exchanged doctrines with Ecuador, Germany, and Peru. “To have crew members from other navies aboard our submarines is not frequent. When it happens, it’s due to a very special operation,” Capt. Aranguren said. “We strive to maintain our strategic capacity throughout the region. To achieve that, we continually work on training our men on fleet maintenance.”
The submarine force dates back to 1972, when the Colombian Navy acquired its first two submarines. Those vessels were christened the ARC Tayrona and ARC Pijao, both names of indigenous Colombian tribes that are legendary for the strength and bravery of their men.
The submersibles have been retrofitted in the shipyard of the Science and Technology Corporation of the Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry Development in Cartagena, Colombia. They were completely taken apart, their parts repaired, obsolete parts replaced, and were upgraded with the latest sensors, sonar (radar), and control systems. Colombian professionals performed all the work.
“The lifespan of a submarine depends on faithfully following maintenance schedule,” Capt. Aranguren said. “The incorporation of new technology is ongoing to the extent that it has an impact on the doctrine. At this moment, the four submarines we have are highly operational.”
The submarines are 56 meters long, with a six-meter beam and a displacement of 1,200 tons. They can conduct any kind of naval operation with a crew of up to 36 men and eight officers, spending 15 to 45 days at depth.
Another two submarines acquired for $86 million in 2012 complete the fleet. They were operational in 2015, following a three-year process of adaptation to the warm waters of Colombia.
Christened with names that illustrate the operations they conduct—ARC Intrépido (intrepid) and ARC Indomable (untamed)—they can carry 23 people and 800 tons onboard. The submarines can stay on a mission for 15 days without needing to be resupplied. As of 2017, the ARC Intrépido, with a 500-ton displacement, has already navigated 10,000 miles.

A costly dream

In February 1975, three years after the creation of the Submarine Force of Colombia, the Submarine School was established. The center trains officers and non-commissioned officers who man the Colombian Navy’s submarine fleet.
Many men yearn to become submariners. To be a part of a strategic arsenal that heavily influences the nation’s naval and sea power is the dream of many sailors, but not all can achieve it.
“The school only admits sailors who are able to pass the [mandatory] test—a psychological examination. Candidates must meet a specific profile to be able to endure the tremendous psychological pressure experienced in a confined space,” explained Captain Luis Felipe Rojas, director of the Colombian Navy’s “CFESU César Neira Mora” Submarine School, to Diálogo. “After passing that exam, you are then faced with 30 more medical tests in which your overall health is [examined].”
Only five officers and 15 non-commissioned officers are admitted to the course—two years of training. As of today, 300 sailors have achieved the goal of becoming a part of the submarine force. “The knowledge, use, and operation of submarines is highly restricted, which is why there are no exchanges with other countries,” Capt. Rojas explained.
Submariners spend a long time in this unit, nearly 16 years of continuous work in the depths of the ocean, with very little rotation due to the highly specialized nature of the work. There, at the bottom of the sea, they follow a rigorous protocol, working two six-hour shifts with a strict duty log, a balanced dietary program, and recreation spaces—all within the framework of the learned culture that teaches crew members to look after one another, in a cohesive chain of work.

All trained equal

The submariner course has four phases. The first phase consists of physical training and submarine evacuation techniques. In this basic phase, submariners also learn the basic workings of the various onboard systems. The advanced phase involves knowledge and specific use of the equipment. Finally, in the practical phase of boarding, students apply theoretical knowledge and come into permanent contact with navigations.
“There are no specialties,” said Colombian Navy Petty Officer Third Class Robinson Montalbán, who is in the final phase of the course. “The training requires that each submariner learn how to do his colleague’s job. It’s a way of being completely integrated.”
“After 45 years of continuous operations for the [submarine] fleet, the first thing one feels is great pride—group pride, because this is a unit of the Colombian Navy with a lot of esprit de corps and a high degree of teamwork,” Capt. Rojas said. “Having to live together during long deployments closed up in a 56-meter space, where each crew member knows that the crew’s survival depends on him executing his duties, carries with it a high degree of cohesion and professionalism.”

Lockheed Designing US Navy’s XL Unmanned Sub

Robert Brooks, American Machinist
30 October 2017

Lockheed Martin Corp. has a $43.2-million contract from the U.S. Navy to develop a design for the Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV, known as Orca), a long-haul, long-distance unmanned submarine capable of carrying various types of payloads, such as sensors or weapons.
Lockheed Martin workers in Palm Beach, Fla., will work on Orca, with additional support operations in Manassas, Va., and Syracuse, York, and Owego, N.Y. The timing of the design phase was not announced.
The contract covers the design phase of a two-stage development program. What follows will be a competitive, production phase for up to nine unmanned undersea vehicles.
Earlier it was reported that Boeing Co. also would be participating in the design-phase XLUUV/Orca program, though it has not confirmed its participation.
The Orca will have a reconfigurable payload bay, up to 325 cubic meters, according to some reports. As described by Lockheed, the vessels’ missions would see it transit to an area of operation, and “loiter with the ability to periodically establish communications, deploy payloads, and transit home.” Navy personnel would launch, recover, operate, and communicate with the vehicle in safety, from a home base.
“With each new undersea vehicle that Lockheed Martin designs, we bring to bear the state-of-the-art in technology, and innovative system integration of those technologies, to increase the range, reach, and effectiveness of undersea forces and their missions,” stated Frank Drennan, director, submersibles and autonomous systems, business development. “With decades of experience supporting the U.S. Navy’s mission, our engineers are approaching this design with a sense of urgency and continued agility.”

Israel Is a Military Superpower for This One Simple Reason: Nuclear-armed Subs

Kyle Mizokami, Scout
28 October 2017

Israel’s submarine corps is a tiny force with a big open secret: in all likelihood, it is armed with nuclear weapons. The five Dolphin-class submarines represent an ace in the hole for Israel, the ultimate guarantor of the country’s security, ensuring that if attacked with nukes, the tiny nation can strike back in kind.
Israel’s first nuclear weapons were completed by the early 1970s, and deployed among both free-fall aircraft bombs and Jericho ballistic missiles. The 1991 Persian Gulf War, which saw Iraqi Scuds and Al Hussein [3] ballistic missiles raining down on Israeli cities, led Tel Aviv to conclude that the country needed a true nuclear triad of air-, land- and sea-based nukes to give the country’s nuclear deterrent maximum flexibility—and survivability.
The most survivable arm of the nuclear triad is typically the sea-based one, consisting of nuclear-armed submarines. Submarines can disappear for weeks or even months, taking up a highly classified patrol route while waiting for orders to launch their missiles. This so-called “second-strike capability” is built on the principle of nuclear deterrence and ensures potential enemies will think twice before attacking, knowing Israel’s submarines will be available to carry out revenge attacks.
The first three submarines were authorized before the Gulf War, in 1988, though it is not clear they were built with nuclear weapons in mind. After years of delays construction began in Germany instead of the United States as originally planned, with German combat systems instead of American ones. Most importantly, the project went ahead with German financing; Berlin reportedly felt obliged to finance two of the submarines, and split the third as lax German nonproliferation enforcement had partly enabled Iraq’s nuclear and chemical weapons program.
The first three submarines, Dolphin, Leviathan and Tekuma, were laid down in the early 1990s, but only entered service between 1999 and 2000. The submarines are 187 feet long, displace 1,720 tons submerged and have an operating depth of 1,148 feet. Sensors include the STN Atlas Elektronik CSU-90-1 sonar suite with the DBSQS-21D active and AN 5039A1 passive sonar systems. The Dolphin class also has PRS-3-15 passive ranging sonar and FAS-3-1 passive flank arrays.
Each has ten torpedo tubes in the bow, six standard 533-millimeter standard diameter tubes and four larger 650-millimeter torpedoes. The larger torpedo tubes are more than two feet wide, and reportedly double as ingress/egress chambers for divers. Armament is a mixture of German, American and Israeli weapons, including Seahake heavyweight wire-guided torpedoes and Harpoon antiship missiles. The authoritative Combat Fleets of the World claims the Dolphin subs may have the Triton fiber-optic guided-weapon system. With a range of more than nine miles, Triton allows submarines the ability to attack helicopters, surface ships and coastal targets.
The four large torpedo tubes are the key to Israel’s sea-based deterrent, and without them it’s unlikely the country would have nukes on submarines. The large tubes are used not only for laying mines and sending and receiving divers, but also to launch nuclear cruise missiles. In 2000, the U.S. Navy observed a missile launch from off the coast of Sri Lanka that traveled an estimated 932 miles. Exactly what this missile was is a matter of speculation, but the leading candidate is some advanced form of the Popeye missile.
Popeye was originally an air-launched ground-attack missile. Developed in the late 1980s, Popeye originally used a television camera or infrared seeker to deliver a 750-pound warhead to ranges of up to forty-five miles. The United States Air Force bought 154 Popeye missiles to arm B-52 bombers for conventional attacks, renaming them the AGM-142 Raptor. Israel’s nuclear deterrent is thought to be based on cruise missile version of Popeye, Popeye Turbo, which has a turbofan engine for long.

Russia's Stealth Submarines Have a Problem

Sebastien Roblin, Scout Warrior
29 October 2017

Moscow failed to develop key AIP propulsion technology for its “new” diesel submarines.
Russian media has been trumpeting plans to launch two additional Lada-class diesel-electric submarines, two decades after the hull of the lead boat, the St. Petersburg, was laid down. Left delicately unstated in some of the press releases is that these new boats will lack the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems that were intended to be the class’s defining feature.
Nuclear-powered submarines can easily cost four to eight times more than traditional diesel submarines—but they come with tremendous advantages in quietness, speed and range, plus virtually unlimited underwater endurance. Not only are air-breathing diesel engines noisier, but they require a submarine to periodically surface or snorkel to regenerate the air supply—placing them at great risk of detection. Still, economic and technological considerations dictate that most countries operate mostly or exclusively diesel submarines. Besides, a diesel sub’s short range is less of a problem when employed to patrol local waters rather than cross transoceanic distances.
However, new submarines in the 1990s and 2000s introduced a variety of Air Independent Propulsion systems that allowed them to operate more quietly, and with underwater endurance measured potentially in weeks rather than days—albeit only while traveling at very slow speeds. Germany [4], France, Sweden [5], Japan and China [6] have all become major producers of AIP-powered submarines, and sold them to numerous additional countries.
It made sense, then, that Russia—which historically has operated many diesel submarines alongside its nuclear-powered submarine force—would attempt to develop its own AIP-powered submarine. In 1997, the hull of the Saint
Petersburg was laid down by the Admiralty shipyards, the first of what was to be the Project 677 Lada class. Two additional boats were laid down in 2005 and 2006, the Kronstadt and Veliye Luki (formerly named the Sevastopol).
The Lada class was meant to be a fourth-generation successor to the extremely successful Kilo-class diesel submarine [9], more than fifty of which have been built in three variants and serve in the fleets of Russia, China, Vietnam, Algeria, Poland and Iran. The Project 636 and 636.3 Improved Kilo variants are amongst the quietest diesel submarines—one report [10]claims they equal improved Los Angeles–class nuclear attack submarines in noise levels. In December 2015 the Kilo-class boat Rostov-on-Don was the first Russian submarine since World War II to fire in anger when it launched a cruise missile strike targeting Syrian rebels.
Russian engineers promised that the Lada would produce 50 percent of the noise a Kilo does. The Saint Petersburg finally launched in 2004, and remains in service today as a test bed. The sixty-seven-meter-long submarine has considerably less bulk than the Kilo, displacing only 1,765 tons, and operated by crew of just thirty-five to thirty-eight. Six 533-millimeter tubes with eighteen torpedoes or missiles constitute its armament, and unlike nearly every Russian submarine since World War II, it is of single-hulled construction. Other features included a quasi-conformal Liara bow-mounted sonar, a Letiya (“Lithium”) combat-management system, sensors for detecting electromagnetic emissions (ESM), a seven-bladed propeller with a vortex-cancelling hub, and a special antisonar coating called Molniya (“Lightning.”)
However, the key innovation was intended to be a hydrogen-oxygen AIP which, according to Russian press, converts diesel fuel into hydrogen for power. A Russian designer argued these were preferable to Stirling and MESMA AIP generators, which have moving parts that produce some noise, and the quieter hydrogen fuel-cell technology used in German submarines, which requires the storage of dangerously flammable hydrogen cells. (This might seem an especially pressing concern given the frequency of deadly fires on Russian and Soviet submarines over the years.)
China, which operates Stirling-AIP-powered Yuan-class subs, declared it was interested in purchasing four Ladas. The Admiralty shipyard also floated the possibility of a smaller twenty-one-crew export variant, the Amur-950, which attracted interest from Morocco and was offered to India for its Project 75I program.
But the St. Petersburg never left its sea trials. A November 2011 article [11] by the Russian periodical Izvestia reported that the St. Petersburg’s smaller D49 generators, combined with 2,700-horsepower motors, could only produce half of the power required. Other key systems, including new torpedoes and sonar were reportedly still under development. Construction was abandoned even though Izvestia claimed the hulls of the other two were “almost complete.” Later, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky groused [12] that the Lada class was on the power level of a “World War II–era” submarine. “Who needs it?”
However, in 2013, Itar-Tass announced that work on the Lada class had resumed. However, actions speak louder than words. In the same time period, the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered six additional Improved Kilo Project 636.3 boats to serve in its Pacific fleet. Most experts agree that Russia simply wasn’t able to develop an effective AIP propulsion system, in part due to a pervasive lack of funding and a tendency to promise big new projects that frequently fail to materialize.
Though Russian officials have occasionally talked up the benefits of AIP-powered submarines, necessary research and development funding has been concentrated on two nuclear-powered submarine projects, the Yasen-class attack submarine and the Borei ballistic-missile submarine.
In 2014, the Russian defense ministry announced it was going to pursue a “fifth-generation” AIP-powered Kalina-class diesel submarine to succeed a “fourth generation” that hadn’t materialized. Among the few details available concerning the Kalina is that it will be able to operate underwater for twenty-five days and feature a modular propulsion unit that “can be replaced at any stage,” suggesting they may begin service with conventional engines until effective AIP can be developed. Though some reports claim new propulsion tech is already well under development, a Russian officer in naval construction stated [13] that a new AIP drive is only likely to come around in 2021–22.
Russian designers have also spoken about developing lithium-ion-battery-powered submarines as an alternate means of extending underwater endurance. However, currently only Japan[14] and South Korea [15] are at all close to implementing this technology on operational submarines.
Ultimately, construction finally did resume on the Lada-class boats, with the Kronstadt and Veliye Luki expected to launch in 2019 and 2021 [16] respectively—without AIP propulsion. After an announcement that production of the series would end after these two boats in 2016, Adm. Vladimir Korolev announced [17] in July 2017 that a fourth and fifth Lada boat would follow—possibly equipped with AIP-powered propulsion, if it were available.
The Kronstadt has already been fitted with two 1,250-kilowatt diesel generators and the same 5,500-horsepower DL42 motor as on the Kilo class. The two upcoming Lada boats will likely bring some new technologies to the table, including the Molniya antisonar coating—just not the extra-quiet AIP system intended to be their defining feature.

Time To Fast-Forward The Future Submarine of Australia

The Interpreter
31 October 2017

Australia’s future submarine program has attracted fewer headlines since the Government decided on the French Shortfin Barracuda design last year. But it was heavily criticised in a recent Insight Economics report, and on the receiving end of some speculative depth charges in a strange, testy exchange between One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and Rear Admiral Greg Sammut during Senate estimates last week.
Australia’s submarine industry is no stranger to poor publicity, attracting sustained and justified criticism throughout the painful ups and downs of the Collins class development. Submarine success stories, like the fixes to Collins’ teething problems, are harder to identify, largely because the submarine arm is publicity averse, given its stealthy line of its work. Yet the Future Submarine Program is now strategically and politically so important it has no prospect of receding into the depths of defence capability. It is simply too big to fail, both in dollar and deterrence terms. The case for a $50 billion submarine program must therefore be made, and continually scrutinised.
Last week's Australian Naval Institute Goldrick Seminar, named in honour of Lowy Nonresident Fellow, Rear Admiral James Goldrick, was an opportunity for just such scrutiny.
Admiral Sammut, who heads the Future Submarine Program, was unsurprisingly at pains to assure his audience that everything is proceeding to schedule since a treaty-level framework agreement was signed in May. A sizeable Australian cohort is already in Cherbourg, France, to participate in the preliminary design work. Sammut confirmed that the 12 new Shortfin Barracuda submarines on order from Naval Group (a specially created offshoot from France’s DCNS) will employ pump-jet propulsion, which he said is equally suited to conventionally powered submarines as it is to nuclear-powered boats.
Sammut reiterated that there are no plans to convert to nuclear power during the lifetime of the submarine program. This has been a lingering suspicion about the decision to go with a DCNS design, since France was the only one of three competitors to manufacture nuclear-powered submarines. Interestingly, Sammut added that no decision has been made on future submarine basing, holding out the possibility that some could be located on the east coast.
Much of the public controversy around the submarine program stems from its astronomical, if largely notional, $50 billion price tag. According to Sammut, this represents a ballpark estimate that extends beyond the construction phase, presumably including through-life costs, though he attached a careful caveat that 'firm cost estimates at this stage of the design process are not credible'.
I asked Sammut if the Commonwealth has flexibility to accelerate submarine delivery, including shifting a portion of the production to France, should there be a deterioration in Australia’s strategic environment. Sammut essentially gave a two-part answer: first, there are no contingency plans to advance the delivery schedule under the existing arrangements or to move it offshore; second, the service-life extension of Australia’s six Collins submarines will continue to provide an effective capability until the new boats start to arrive.
Irrespective of improvements to the Collins’ operational life span, I’m not convinced Australia can afford to wait until 2032 for the first of its 'regionally superior' submarines to enter the water. That’s 15 years from now if the planned schedule is maintained. By then, the youngest Collins hull will be almost 30 years old. Assuming retiring Collins submarines are replaced one-for-one, Australia will remain a six-submarine force for most of the 2030s.
With about half of the world’s submarines set to be concentrated within Australia’s potential area of operations by 2030, that isn’t likely to be enough. Australia’s strategic circumstances have already deteriorated since the 2016 Defence White Paper and the trend is unlikely to improve. Serious thought therefore needs to be given to accelerating the future submarine program, and towards boosting the numbers of submarines beyond the dozen currently envisaged.
According to Naval Group’s CEO, Brent Clark, it is possible to shave six months off the production schedule, from 24 months to 18 per hull, and to initiate production in parallel. Theoretically, that could bring forward the timeframe for delivering the future submarines by several years if the Government is willing to commit extra resources.
Are there other ways to increase the numbers? In September, Former Australian Public Service chief Michael Keating and Professor Hugh White argued that Australia should buy six submarines off-the-shelf to boost capability before the Collins replacement arrives in numbers. They said this would be cheaper than extending Collins into the 2030s. At the Goldrick Seminar, Sammut rejected this option on the grounds that no existing design meets Australia’s strategic requirement for a 'regionally superior' design.
Another possibility would be to supplement the Collins service-life extension by re-opening production of the Collins-class in Australia, with the goal of building up to three new boats before production of the Shortfin Barracuda ramps up. The attraction of this option, beyond delivering a capacity boost from a proven and familiar design, is the potential for flow-on benefits, since a skilled workforce could be concentrated at an earlier stage, then transition on to constructing the Future Submarine.
ASPI’s Andrew Davies also spoke, giving his assessment on the submarine’s future as a war-fighting platform. While Davies is generally sceptical about the long-term future of crewed platforms, in his view submarines remain the most survivable high-end naval platform at Australia’s disposal. In fact, as anti-access and denial technologies mature and become more prevalent across Australia’s region, submarines may become more important in the medium term and 'will have greater longevity than almost any other military platform' including the yet-to-be built future frigates. The oceans are not about to become transparent 'suddenly, or even soon'.
According to Davies, the nature of submarine operations is likely to change radically. Thus the last of Australia’s Future Submarines may be substantially different in capability and function from the first boat delivered. Large submarines will remain necessary for the type of long-distance operations Australia’s force will need to perform. But in future they will be likely to function as standoff platforms for launching underwater drones, which 'will be the platform of choice for operations in areas of significant risk, such as in littoral waters or choke points, where the adversary can focus its resources.'
James Goldrick argued against presenting submarines as a stand-alone capability solution to Australia’s strategic problems. Submarines have a high, if not unique, degree of autonomy, which gives them a 'strategic' quality in conventional deterrence terms. But they still function within a combined-arms and networked command and control environment. Submarines should not be seen as an alternative to surface ships, which are likely to have an enduring role despite their greater vulnerability to missile attack in particular.

Is It Time for the U.S. Navy to Start Building Non-Nuclear Stealth Submarines?

Zachary Keck, National Interest
29 October 2017

If Congress and the Trump administration read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Russia’s diesel-electric submarines, they might be thinking America needs to seriously consider acquiring its own conventional submarines.
The blockbuster article by Julian E. Barnes documents a three-month cat-and-mouse game between a Russian diesel-electric submarine and the NATO countries trying to track it. As Barnes writes, “The Krasnodar, a Russian attack submarine, left the coast of Libya in late May, headed east across the Mediterranean, then slipped undersea, quiet as a mouse. Then, it fired a volley of cruise missiles into Syria.”
Barnes shows how the NATO alliance went to great lengths to track the vessel throughout its entire journey. This began with the Dutch following it while it was in the North Sea, before a British ship took over when it approached the English Channel. Once the submarine reached Gibraltar, an American cruiser assisted by P-8 Poseidon aircraft followed the vessel into the Mediterranean.
Moscow had said the submarine was headed to Libya to conduct drills. Before it got there, however, the vessel submerged into water and began firing cruise missiles into Syria in late May. Complicating matters, a U.S. carrier strike group was headed into the same area in early June to participate in anti-ISIS operations in Syria. This made tracking the Russian submarine all the more important because, as one U.S. official explained, “One small submarine has the ability to threaten a large capital asset like an aircraft carrier.”
Barnes goes on to detail some of the various ways the United States and its allies attempt to track submarines like the Krasnodar, as well as some of the evasion tactics the sub used to thwart them. It’s unclear from the article exactly how well the Western naval forces fared in keeping tabs on the Russian sub. A U.S. naval officer does claim that the submarine’s second missile salvo into Syria was monitored by a French frigate and U.S. Navy aerial surveillance. But, if NATO struggled to track the Russian sub, it’s almost certain countries like China or Russia wouldn’t be able to track a similar U.S. submarine.
What is clear from the article is that the United States and its allies devoted extensive resources trying to track the Krasnodar. If they were able to do so, it was only with great difficult. This is important because the United States boasts the best antisubmarine-warfare capabilities in the world, and it has numerous allies and forward bases that were integral in tracking the Krasnodar. Thus, even if America and NATO were able to track the submarine fairly well, countries like China and Russia still might not be able to track a similar Western submarine.
It’s worth noting that the Krasnodar isn’t an especially advanced diesel-electric submarine. As I noted when the submarine was first launched back in 2015, the Krasnodar is a Project 636.3 Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine. Although Russia claims these are the quietest submarines in the world, the Project 636.3 boats are really just upgraded versions of the Kilo-class submarines. They are also fairly cheap. In 2009, Russia signed a deal to provide Vietnam with six Project 636.3 submarines for only $2 billion (and that price included the training of Vietnamese crews and supplying spare parts). By contrast, America pays some $2.7 billion for a single nuclear-attack submarine. Even the largest and arguably most capable conventional submarine, Japan’s Soryu, only costs a little over half a million dollars a piece. Thus, America could procure anywhere from five to seven diesel-electric submarines for the cost of a single nuclear-powered attack submarine.
All this suggests that, especially as America tries to build up a 355-ship navy, it needs to consider acquiring conventionally powered attack submarines to complement its nuclear-powered ones. This would be no small change. The U.S. Navy commissioned its last diesel-electric submarine in the 1950s, and it hasn’t operated one since 1990. Still, the idea of building diesel-electric submarines has gained some steam in recent years. Earlier this year, in a congressionally mandated report on how the Navy should look in 2030, the MITRE Corporation called for fielding conventional subs.
Naturally, U.S. Navy officials pushed back against this proposal, claiming that conventional submarines had serious geographical, logistical and capability shortcomings. But, as the man formerly known as the Naval Diplomat persuasively argued, none of these challenges are prohibitive. First, James Holmes noted that geography was only an issue if the submarines were stationed in the United States. If, instead, America forward deployed them in a place like Japan, they were actually quite advantageous relative to U.S.-based nuclear subs. Similarly, Holmes pointed out that any logistical problems
with conventionally powered submarines could be overcome through some innovations involving Japanese islands. This would not only benefit the diesel-electric subs, but also better empower other naval ships.
With regard to capability, the more advanced diesel-electric subs are not excessively vulnerable. As Holmes pointed out, Japan’s Soryus only have to surface every two weeks. And, while they wouldn’t have the same endurance of nuclear-powered subs, the fact is America could buy at least five Soryus for each Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. Even if each conventional sub isn’t as capable as its nuclear counterpart, there is strength in numbers, especially when the numbers are overwhelmingly lopsided.
To be sure, there are certain missions on the high seas where nuclear submarines’ greater endurance and deep-dive capabilities are indispensable. On the other hand, in shallow waters and closed sea areas like the Persian Gulf or the South China Sea, air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines might be preferable. This again suggests that Congress and the Trump administration should at least seriously consider busting the nuclear-submarine monopoly

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Risks of Pakistan's Sea-Based Nuclear Weapons

Ankit Panda, The Diplomat
13 October 2017

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

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

Dinakar Peri, The Hindu
15 October 2017

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

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

Kris Osborn , Scout Warrior
11 October 2017

The Navy has awarded a $5.1 billion contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat for Integrated Product and Process Development of the COLUMBIA Class submarine, a next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines designed to ensure a second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.
The contract award is for the design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts for the COLUMBIA Class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), a Navy statement said. This work will also include United Kingdom unique efforts related to the Common Missile Compartment.
The $5 billion contract award comes amid concurrent Navy efforts to accelerate design support, development and construction the new class of submarines-- to ensure rapid progress toward the goal of engineering the most lethal, high-tech and advanced ballistic missile submarines the world has ever seen.
"The COLUMBIA class submarine is the most important acquisition program the Navy has today," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. "This contract represents a significant investment in maintaining our strategic deterrent into the future, as well as our ongoing partnership with the United Kingdom."
Designed to serve well into the 2080s and beyond, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers are hoping to leverage years of science and technology development to best position the new submarine to enter service by 2031.
"Awarding this contract is an important step in ensuring an on-time construction start in FY 2021," Rear Admiral David Goggins, COLUMBIA Class Program Manager, said in a service statement.
The large, multi-billion dollar deal follows a DoD $203 million modification to an existing deal between the Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat earlier this year - to begin manufacture of 17 new tactical missile tubes able to fire nuclear-armed Trident II D5 missiles.
The current effort has been preceded by "tube and hull" forging work underway for several years, is part of a collaborative US-UK Common Missile Compartment program.
The US and UK are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort. In fact, the US and UK have been buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics' Electric Boat.
The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-Class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.
The Navy and Electric Boat previously completed specifications for the new Columbia-Class submarines, and the program has been progressing through a detailed design phase and initial production contract, service officials said.
In January of this year, development of the new submarines have passed what's termed "Milestone B," clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production. Production decisions are known as "Milestone C."
Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.
Columbia-Class submarines are scheduled to begin construction by 2021. Requirements work, technical specifications and early prototyping have already been underway at General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Designed to be 560-feet- long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.
The new submarines are being designed for 42 years of service life.
Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials said.

Strategic Nuclear Deterrence

The Navy is only building 12 Columbia-Class submarines to replace 14 existing Ohio-class nuclear-armed boats because the new submarines are being built with an improved nuclear core reactor that will better sustain the submarines, Navy officials have said.
As a result, the Columbia-Class submarines will be able to serve a greater number of deployments than the ships they are replacing and not need a mid-life refueling in order to complete 42 years of service.
With the life of ship reactor core, there is not a need for mid-life refueling, Navy developers explained.
By engineering a "life-of-ship" reactor core, the service is able to build 12 SSBNs able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program 40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers said.
Electric Boat and the Navy are already progressing on early prototype work connecting missile tubes to portions of the hull, officials said. Called integrated tube and hull forging, the effort is designed to weld parts of the boat together and assess the ability to manufacture key parts of the submarine before final integration.

Next-Generation Technology

Columbia-Class submarines are being designed with a series of next-generation technologies, many of them from the Virginia-Class attack submarine. Leveraging existing systems from current attack submarines allows the Columbia-Class program to integrate the most current technologies and systems while, at the same time, saving the developmental costs of beginning a new effort, officials said.
The Columbia-Class will utilize Virginia-class's fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-Class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship's control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern.
Sonar technology work by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.
Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.
The submarines combat systems from Virginia-class attack submarines, consisting of electronic surveillance measures, periscopes, radios and computer systems, are also being integrated into the new submarines.
The shafts of the new submarines are being built to last up to 10 or 12 years in order to synchronize with the ships maintenance schedule. Existing shafts only last six to eight years, developers said.
The Columbia-Class will also use Virginia-class's next-generation communications system, antennas and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.
The Columbia-Class submarine are also engineering a new electric motor for the submarine which will turn the shaft and the rotor for the propulsion system. The new motor will make propulsion more efficient and potentially bring tactical advantages as well.
In total, the Navy hopes to buy 12 of the new submarines to serve into 2085 and beyond.

Navy Stands Up First Underwater Drone Squadron

Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times
11 October 2017

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

North Korea Renews Guam Threat Ahead of Joint Naval Exercise

Choe Sang-Hun, NY Times
13 October 2017

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

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

Kim Gamel, Stars and Stripes
13 October 2017

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Navy Accelerates Orca Undersea Drone Program

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

Ross Wilker, Defense Systems
3 October 2017

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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

John Keller, Military and Aerospace
2 October 2017

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

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

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

Dave Majumdar, The National Interest
2 October 2017

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

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

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

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

The US Navy Has Created Its First Ever Underwater Drone Squadron

Joseph Trevithick, The Drive
28 September 2017

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

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

Staff, Seapower Magazine
28 September 2017

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

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

Callum Paton, Newsweek
27 September 2017

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