Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tasmania Secures Role In Future Submarine Program

Amelia McMahon, Defence Connect
23 March 2017

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has signed a memorandum of understanding with four French defense and maritime technology institutions for work on the $50 billion DCNS project.
Although the fleet will be built in Adelaide, the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston will deliver teaching and research to the manufacturers that will build the 12 Shortfin Barracuda submarines.
UTAS deputy vice-chancellor Professor Monique Skidmore signed the MoU with the four French institutions: ENSTA ParisTech, École Centrale de Nantes, CentraleSupélec and École Polytechnique.
"This MoU will result in the university working with our French partners to deliver teaching and research which will inform the delivery of the next-generation submarine fleet for the country," Professor Skidmore said. "Universities such as the University of Tasmania, South Australian universities and the French consortia will together create the new generation of highly skilled workers required to research, design, build and maintain the next generation submarine fleet."
Professor Skidmore said the memorandum recognized the world standing of the university’s AMC in both teaching and research, and underlined the considerable promise of defense and design to northern Tasmania’s future.
"Arrangements such as this provide a platform upon which we can expand our existing strengths, along with the development of completely new economic sectors for the region and the state," said Professor Skidmore.
"This agreement has come about because of our university’s capacity for interdisciplinary research and our highly-regarded pedigree in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is why the university is pursuing a vision for a STEM Precinct in Hobart, which would considerably enhance these strengths, which could then be leveraged for the benefit of the entire state."
The institutions will all work with DCNS on the project and the programs are due to start in September next year.
The contract for the design and construction of the Future Submarines was awarded to the French government-owned DCNS in April 2016 and signed in September 2016.
The French company was selected by the Australian government for the contract over German TKMS and Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation offerings.
DCNS has stated that the Shortfin Barracuda pushes submarine stealth capabilities into a new realm, using pump-jet propulsion instead of the traditional propeller. To add to its stealth capabilities, hydroplanes on the submarine will retract to reduce drag and noise.
The fleet will replace the six Australian-built Collins Class submarines that have been in service since 1996.
Tasmanian Minister for State Growth Matthew Groom gave a statement explaining the government wanted to ensure Tasmania was not missing out on its share of defense spending.
"In order to increase our share of defense spending, we need to ensure that we have the skills and the linkages with the defense sector to contribute to significant national projects such as this," he said.
"It will put the university's [AMC] at the forefront of the teaching and research work that will inform the delivery of Australia's submarine fleet."

U.S. Navy, Congress Eye Buying Carriers in Blocks of Two, Folding in Submarine Material Purchase

Rick Burgess, Seapower Magazine
22 March 2017 

WASHINGTON — The Navy and Congress are actively looking at building aircraft carriers in sets of two to reduce acquisition costs and grow the fleet to 12 carriers, as well as considering including purchases of submarine materials with them to achieve cost reductions over three programs. 
“We’re going to try to buy carriers in blocks of two,” Vice Adm. David C. Johnson, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, said March 22 at a Defense Programs Conference sponsored by McAleese and Associates. 
In the Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment, the number of carriers needed by the Navy was set at 12, two more than the current 10, a number which that climb to 11 this year with the commissioning of Gerald R. Ford, the lead ship of a new class planned to begin sea trials this spring. 
Affording the fleet growth to 355 ships, including the carriers, is a challenge acknowledged by Congress.
“We have to get the glide path to 355 [ships] right,” Rep. Robert J. Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said at the conference. “We cannot afford anything less. If we don’t, we create additional challenges going forward.”
Wittman said the subcommittee “will come back at this to purchase two [carriers] at a time.”
Johnson also said that it would be advantageous to include in the buys the procurement of materials for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine and the Virginia-class attack submarine to achieve economies of scale over all three nuclear-powered ship programs.
The Navy has been looking at procuring the next ships of the Gerald R. Ford class in a two-stage strategy, buying two hulls in advance to save material procurement costs and then installing combat systems on the ships when the latest systems are available closer to the commissioning date. 
Wittman said Congress needs to look at “incrementally funding ships,” while acknowledging, “I know the appropriators don’t like that.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Taiwan Has to Build its Own Submarines Because Nobody Is Willing to Anger China

Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics
21 March 2017

The president of Taiwan has announced the conclusion of the nation's disappointing, decades-long search for someone—anyone—to sell the country attack submarines for its defense: Nobody will, and so the island country will build its submarines. USNI News, citing the Japanese Kyodo News Agency, reports that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced the start of the submarine program today at a Republic of China (Taiwan) Navy base.
Lying just 120 miles from mainland China, Taiwan, or the Republic of China, has been under threat of invasion since splitting from Communist China in 1949. As China's military strength has grown in recent years, the threat of invasion has increased and Taiwan has sought to build a fleet of diesel electric submarines. Submarines are an ideal weapon of defense for Taiwan, capable of sinking invasion fleets and breaking any blockade China might impose on what it considers a "breakaway province".
In theory, Taiwan's plan shouldn't be a problem. There is a vibrant non-nuclear submarine industry worldwide, with Russia, Japan, France, and Germany all leaders in diesel electric attack submarine design. Unfortunately for Taiwan, as China's economic power has increased, Beijing has used that power to discourage other countries from selling submarines to Taiwan. Today, no one will sell the country submarines for fear of retaliatory economic action by China.
What about American shipyards? Some, such as the Connecticut-based General Dynamics Electric Boat, produce only nuclear-powered submarines. That is way too much submarine for Taiwan, which doesn't need large ships with the ability to circumnavigate the globe. The long range of nuclear subs would make them offensive weapons, and Washington is committed to selling Taiwan only defensive arms.
In 2001, the Bush Administration promised to build diesel-powered submarines for Taiwan, but that never happened, for a number of reasons. The move would have deteriorated U.S.-Chinese relations. Plus, the U.S. Navy does not want domestic shipyards to produce diesel-powered subs. The Navy prefers an all-nuclear force and is afraid that if local shipyards made the less desirable (but cheaper) alternative, Congress may actually force the American Navy to buy them.
In the meantime, Taiwan's navy has just four submarines. The two newest subs Hai Lung ("Sea Dragon") and Hai Hu ("Sea Tiger") were ordered from the Netherlands in 1980 and delivered by 1988. Even older are the Hai Shih (ex-USS Cutlass) and Hai Pao (ex-USS Tusk), which were built for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The submarines were transferred to Taiwan in the early 70s with their torpedo tubes welded shut. Each is more than 70 years old, making them the oldest submarines in service anywhere. The two geriatric attack boats are too old for frontline service and are instead used to train anti-submarine warfare forces.
This new effort to make homebuilt subs will be a joint project between the CSBC shipbuilding corporation, the Taiwanese government and navy, and the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology. Taiwan reportedly wants a submarine in the 1,200 to 3,000-ton class, which is a reasonable size considering the main mission of the sub fleet is to defend a relatively small island. The only submarine the U.S. currently builds, by comparison, is the 7,800-ton nuclear powered Virginia-class attack sub.
Taiwan will probably get guided torpedoes such as the Mark 48 ADCAP anti-ship/anti-submarine torpedo, from the United States. According to USNI News, Taiwan expects the process to take ten years to mature consisting of "four years (for design), four for construction and two additional years of testing."
Taiwan will basically start from square one in designing this submarine. The country is so bereft of submarine design experience that in 2015 it was reportedly ready to tear down one of the World War II-era subs to figure out how to build modern submarines. Taiwan will lean heavily on outside help. It was reported in 2015 that "more than twenty US and European companies" have expressed interest in working with Taiwanese companies on the submarine project.
If Taiwan's effort to build submarines is successful, then Beijing's pressure to halt sales from other countries could backfire. Taiwan could build submarines with features other countries might be reluctant to sell, such as vertical launch silos for long-range missiles that could hit the mainland, giving the island country a retaliatory strike capability that Beijing would prefer Taiwan didn't have.

Heinrich, Udall Seek To Dedicate Nuclear-Powered Sub ‘USS Los Alamos’ In Honor Of LANL’s 75th Anniversary

Staff, The Los Alamoz Monitor Online
21 March 2017

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced a resolution Tuesday urging the Secretary of the Navy to name the next nuclear-powered submarine of the U.S. Navy “USS Los Alamos” to honor and recognize Los Alamos residents contributions to the Navy.
“Los Alamos National Laboratory employs some of the best and brightest minds in the country and, for nearly 75 years, has been indispensable to our national security and global stability,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Naming the next nuclear-powered submarine USS Los Alamos will recognize and continue to forge the longstanding relationship between the Navy and the entire Los Alamos community.”
“Los Alamos and the United States Navy have maintained a strong bond since the dawn of the nuclear age. It is a bond that has strengthened our national security and helped bolster science and technology in New Mexico and around the world. A submarine named USS Los Alamos would speak to this strong history and would be a formidable force when underway,” Udall said. “Los Alamos National Lab plays an essential role in combatting existing and emerging threats to our security and in strengthening New Mexico’s economy. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, I will keep fighting for LANL to receive the support and resources it needs to fulfill its essential mission for New Mexico and the United States.”
Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Since its founding, LANL has played a critical role in national and international security, research, and science.
Los Alamos residents working on the Manhattan Project, many of whom were U.S. Navy personnel, helped bring about the end of World War II.
LANL later designed, tested, and certified much of the nation’s nuclear deterrent and continues to ensure the annual certification of the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Work in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project also provided the technical understanding in nuclear energy that led to the Naval Propulsion Program.
The community in New Mexico has strongly supported recognition of the contributions that residents of Los Alamos have made to the Navy. The USS Los Alamos Commissioning Committee has led an ongoing community effort to name a submarine the USS Los Alamos.
In December 2016, Heinrich facilitated and hosted a meeting between the USS Los Alamos Committee and Navy Leadership to advocate for a future USS Los Alamos.
"The USS Los Alamos Commissioning Committee would like to express its gratitude for the support of Senators Heinrich and Udall," said Committee Chair Jim Nesmith. "We believe this resolution will clearly demonstrate to the Secretary of the Navy that Congress understands the historical and ongoing connection between Los Alamos and the U.S. Navy, and strongly supports naming of a submarine the USS Los Alamos."
“Naming a nuclear submarine USS Los Alamos will remind the fighting crew of the world-altering history that was created in Los Alamos and of its continuing contributions that have so strengthened the United States Navy ever since,” said Tom Gutierrez, president of the New Mexico Council of the Navy League of the United States. “This resolution will make evident to the Secretary of the Navy the enthusiastic support and deep understanding of the Congress of the United States of the importance of Los Alamos in today’s world.”
Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Director, Nancy Partridge, highlighted the economic impact this would have in the community, stating, “Naming a submarine the USS Los Alamos will recognize the long history of our community’s work on behalf of the Navy, and Los Alamos tourism and commerce will benefit greatly from the opportunity to celebrate this relationship.”
Last year, the New Mexico Congressional delegation sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus supporting the citizens-based initiative requesting the designation of a future nuclear-powered submarine as the USS Los Alamos.
Here is the full text of the resolution:
Expressing the sense of Congress that the Secretary of the Navy should name the next nuclear powered submarine of the United States Navy the ''USS Los Alamos''.
Whereas the people of Los Alamos and the Navy have a 74-year relationship that continues from the Manhattan Project through the creation of a nuclear Navy and into the current ocean-borne leg of the strategic nuclear triad of the United States;
Whereas the contributions of the people of Los Alamos and surrounding communities allowed the Navy to keep its offensive edge from World War II, through the Cold War, continuing to the emerging conflicts as of the date of adoption of this resolution;
Whereas Captain “Deke” Parsons was one of the first residents of Los Alamos and, along with Laureate Ramsey, oversaw the safe delivery, assembly and loading of the nuclear bomb that led to the surrender of Japan in World War II;
Whereas the people of Los Alamos and surrounding communities played a critical role in designing the nuclear portion of the first nuclear weapon to enter the arsenal of the Navy, known as the Regulus, along with atomic depth bombs, torpedoes, rockets, and even next generation weapon systems like the B61-12 precision-guided nuclear bomb;
Whereas the people of Los Alamos designed the warheads that armed the first generation Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles of the Navy and the follow-on Trident II missile warheads used by the Navy;
Whereas the research into nuclear energy conducted by Los Alamos during World War II advanced the technical basis for the development of the nuclear propulsion systems of the Navy used aboard Los Angeles, Seawolf, Ohio, and Virginia Class submarines along with multiple naval aircraft carriers today;
Whereas the people of Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory host United States Naval Academy midshipmen every year to provide hands-on scientific and engineering experience working to solve real world challenges in national security, thereby directly contributing to the development of future Navy leadership;
Whereas the people of Los Alamos carry the solemn responsibility to assess the sea-based nuclear deterrent carried aboard Navy fleet ballistic missile submarines;
Whereas naming a submarine Los Alamos will recognize and continue to forge the longstanding relationship between the Navy and Los Alamos;
Whereas the year 2018 will mark the 75th anniversary of Los Alamos National Laboratory; and
Whereas the distinctive service and contributions from the people of Los Alamos to the Navy merits naming a vessel that embodies the heritage, service, fidelity, and achievements of the residents of Los Alamos and surrounding communities in partnership with the United States Navy;
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of the Congress that the Secretary of the Navy should name the next nuclear powered submarine of the United States Navy as the “USS Los Alamos.”

New U.S. Navy Team Promoting Unmanned Systems Integration On Submarines

Marc Selinger, Defense Daily
31  March 2017

The U.S. Navy has stood up a team within the past year to promote the integration of unmanned systems with submarines, a service official said March 21.
The team brings together various program offices to promote a common set of interfaces for deploying unmanned systems from submarines, said Michael McClatchy, director of advanced undersea integration at Naval Sea Systems Command. Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines, called for the group's formation, and the team was officially created in July.
Submarines have various ways of launching unmanned systems, including dry deck shelters, torpedo tubes and smaller delivery mechanisms, and the Navy wants to ensure industry and academia know how to build unmanned systems that are compatible with those launchers, McClatchy said at a Marine Technology Society breakfast in Arlington, Va.
"By building to those interfaces, it makes it easier for us to get" an unmanned system  into a submarine, McClatchy said.
At the same breakfast, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn revealed that Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, the Navy's oceanographer and commander of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC), plans to launch a government-industry task force to improve the nation's understanding of ocean science. Hahn and Gallaudet intend to lead a meeting later this week to further define the task force's membership, Hahn said.
"It is clear that we as a nation need to be at the forefront of [ocean science], and not just for naval applications but for lots of reasons," he said. "Generationally, we need to be interested again for the right reasons in all of the ocean."
According to NMOC's website, the command "provides environmental information to help naval and joint forces operate more safely and effectively, and make better decisions faster than the adversary."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ten years on: The terrifying explosion that killed two submariners

The tragedy occurred when the nuclear-powered HMS Tireless was under the Arctic ice cap.

Gayle Herald, Plymouth Herald
21 March 2017

PLYMOUTH, UK – March 21, 2007, will forever be etched into the memory of the crew of HMS Tireless.
The submariners battled furiously for more than 40 minutes to rescue two trapped comrades after an explosion under the Arctic ice.
Leading Operator Mechanic Paul McCann, aged 32, and Submariner Anthony Huntrod, 20, were killed in the early hours of Wednesday, March 21, 2007, following the explosion onboard the Devonport-based submarine.
The blast in a confined compartment of the nuclear-powered sub, which was submerged under the Arctic icecap during a joint British-American exercise, was caused by a damaged Self-Contained Oxygen Generator (Scog) moments after it was activated by one of the men.
It later emerged the device - used to boost oxygen levels on submarines - may have been recycled from a hazardous waste dump at Devonport and brought back into service as a cost-cutting measure.
For 44 minutes after the blast, submariners Huntrod and McCann were trapped, along with stores accountant Richard Holleworth, while comrades tried to break open hatch doors which had buckled.
By the time a crowbar was used to get access, the two men were dead, while Mr. Holleworth had collapsed.
LOM McCann could have survived if he had been reached earlier, an inquest later heard.
Mr. Holleworth was already seriously hurt when he braved blinding smoke in a bid to save his two colleagues.
The 35-year-old told the inquest into his colleagues' deaths that the thought of his unborn son saved his life.
"My head was spinning and I was beginning to accept my fate," he said.
"I don't know how long I was sat there before I came out of the daze.
"I was sat on the floor holding his hand when I suddenly thought of my fiancée who was seven or eight months pregnant back at home. It was like a sudden bolt of rage smashing through. I thought he is not going to see his Dad.
"I remember shouting at Tony 'we have got to get on EBS or we are dead'."
Guided by the light of instruments, he staggered to an oxygen relay point and pulled on a mask. "All I remember is slumping to the floor. I accept that I must have just passed out."
He was roused 40 minutes later by the ship's crew attempting to breach the escape compartment.
His two colleagues could not be saved.
LOM Paul McCann, had submitted his notice to leave the Royal Navy having become engaged to his girlfriend in Philadelphia, America, not long before the tragedy.
A keen sportsman, he had represented both his home team and the Navy at cricket and played rugby for Plymouth Command and Old Halesowians.
Operator Maintainer Anthony Huntred, from Sunderland, had only been with HMS Tireless for nine months and had served in the Royal Navy for two years.
Following his death, his family said: "He will be greatly missed by us for the rest of our lives. He was over the moon when he joined the Navy.
"He greatly loved the Navy and the job that he did."
Not long before his death, he qualified as a submariner on board HMS Tireless, gaining the coveted award of the Dolphins badge.
Paying tribute to the young sailor, Commanding Officer of HMS Tireless, Commander Iain Breckenridge, said: "I consider myself fortunate and privileged to have worked with such a committed, capable and effervescent young man and it was rare that I talked to him without both of us breaking into beaming smiles.
"Anthony stood at the cusp of a successful career. His loss has been profoundly felt by all on board but our thoughts are very much with his family and friends to whom every man on board HMS Tireless passes his deepest sympathy."
LOM McCann, from Halesowen, West Midlands, was born on Christmas Day 1974 and joined the Royal Navy in November 2001.
He joined HMS Tireless in June 2004 and deployed to the North Polar Ice Cap on March 2, 2007.
He thrived on looking after the junior members of the ship's company and would always be available for advice, the MoD said.
His shipmates said he was considered a role model by his subordinates, who greatly appreciated his selfless participation and encouragement of their training.
In a tribute to LOM McCann, Cdr Breckenridge said: "He was simply the kind of man a commanding officer could call on at any time and in any circumstances – his exuberance, good humor and huge personality are greatly missed by all of his shipmates."
He was described by his mother Pauline, father Brian and sister Sharon as "a caring and gentle man who loved his family and was a great uncle to Indea and Lotte".
The Armed Forces Minister apologized after a coroner criticized the "systemic failures" which caused the explosion.
Bob Ainsworth admitted that "avoidable failings" brought about the blast on the Devonport-based attack killer after Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter criticized the Ministry of Defense’s handling of Scogs in his narrative verdict.
Almost 1,000 of the devices were recycled from a hazardous waste dump at Devonport and brought back into service by a civil servant as a cost-cutting measure.
"His decision was inappropriate," Mr. Winter said
No consideration was made to how they had been stored and their safety during that time, said the coroner.
While it was impossible to say whether the Scog which exploded was one saved from the dump, Mr Winter said it was a "significant possibility".
Scogs were not properly inspected, left in the open air, roughly handled and badly stored on board.
"There was a culture of complacency regarding the risks posed by Scogs and a tolerance of practices likely to increase those risks," Mr. Winter said.
He also criticized the decision to reissue the Scogs from the dump: "Those systemic failures led to the contamination and damage, in turn, caused the explosion."
Following the inquest, Mr. Ainsworth replied: "I would like to unreservedly apologies to the families, as I have done previously in the House and in person, for the avoidable failings, for which this department is responsible, which brought about this tragic incident."
During the seven-week inquest, it was revealed that Scogs were no longer in use on the British submarine flotilla.
After the verdict, Mr. Huntrod's mother, Brenda Gooch, said: "Two young men died through a lack of duty to care for their safety.
"The complacency across the whole chain of acquisitions, storage and handling is unforgivable to us."
Mother Pauline McCann said: "You can look at cost-cutting on some things, but not on life-saving equipment."
Seven submariners were honored with one of the Royal Navy's highest awards for their desperate attempts to save their crew mates.
They each received the Commendation of the Commander-in- Chief Fleet for their "outstanding response" following the incident.
The Navy did not release the names or ranks of those honored.
Following the tragedy, HMS Tireless' Commander Iain Breckenridge praised his crew.
Referring to Richard Holleworth's actions, he said: "In particular I would like to mention our crew member who was injured by the initial blast and thrown to the deck.
"He recovered himself, despite his injuries, placed an emergency breathing mask on his face and in complete darkness and zero visibility, due to the smoke, extinguished the numerous small fires in the compartment and allowed access to the firefighting and medical teams."
CDR Breckenridge added: "I am hugely proud of my entire ship's company who acted in a totally professional manner throughout, dealing with the incident calmly and to the highest standards you would expect of the service.
"Due to the training received and the whole team effort, the incident was contained and HMS Tireless was able to safely return to Devonport."
A Royal Navy investigation into the tragedy highlighted a series of failings regarding the use of Scogs.
A Board of Inquiry found the devices had been left on a jetty for weeks and returned to service despite being condemned.
The Royal Navy investigation also revealed that eight other problems were reported with Scogs during the Tireless deployment; seven misfired and one caught fire, emitting four-inch flames.
Other submarines had also reported problems.
HMS Superb reported a SCOG fire in June 2006 while Devonport- based HMS Trafalgar had two similar fires in October 2004.
A series of problems were also recorded between November 2003 and June 2006 including 12 misfires aboard HMS Torbay.
The inquiry also exposed how nearly 1,000 oxygen generators that had been condemned were returned to stock at Devonport after a visual inspection.
Tests carried out by NASA concluded that the explosion onboard HMS Tireless had most likely been caused by oil contaminating the generators.
Launched in 1984, Cold War warrior HMS Tireless was the longest serving nuclear-powered sub in the Royal Navy.
Tireless played a vital role in the Cold War for the majority of her service, used for coastal surveillance and for the protection of other submarines and ships.
She then was involved in various under ice exercises, and surfaced in the North Pole three times from 1991-2007.
In 2010, Tireless completed a 10 month deployment, the longest deployment made by a UK SSN at that time.
In 2014, the submarine was deployed to help locate the black box of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
She returned to HMNB Devonport for the final time on June 1, 2014, to be dismantled at Devonport Dockyard, where, at the time, 11 other nuclear submarines were waiting to be disposed of.
Commander R. Hywel Griffiths spent three quarters of his sea going career on board HMS Tireless.
During her decommissioning ceremony at HM Naval Base Devonport, He said: "She's been our home and our fighting platform; she is part of the family.
"I feel very attached to the ship's company, and we're attached by a camaraderie that's quite hard to explain.
"The most difficult part of our job is when the program changes and we get extended as we then have to explain that to our loved ones."


Australian Navy: Torpedo Firings on the Mark

Aiswarya Lakshmi, Marine Link
21 March 2017

AUSTRALIA – The Royal Australian Navy has tested its primary anti-submarine warfare weapon during Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER off the coast of Western Australia recently.
HMAS Melbourne, with the support of Collins class submarine HMAS Dechaineux, conducted three exercise firings of its MU90 torpedo.
Staff Officer Force Anti-Submarine Warfare Lieutenant Commander Chris Straughan from the Australian Maritime Warfare Centre embarked in Melbourne for the trial.
Lieutenant Commander Straughan said the torpedo was designed to counter any type of nuclear or conventional submarine. 
“The MU90 torpedo provides the Royal Australian Navy with one of the most capable lightweight torpedoes in the world. It is designed to detect and attack deep, quiet running submarines,” he said.
“The Australian Maritime Warfare Centre conducted the trials to test the performance of the torpedo against a live submarine.
“The results will be used to formulate new tactics, techniques and procedures.
“It is part of an ongoing weapons performance program that has been developed by the center as part of the Fleet Warfighting Strategy.”
The Navy continues to develop the MU90 capability in the fleet through regular tactical development activities against live submarines and acoustic targets.
That includes the world-first firing of a live MU90 torpedo by HMAS Stuart in 2013.
During the test, Stuart launched the torpedo at a specially designed submerged static target, positioned off the New South Wales south coast.
The Australian Maritime Warfare Centre is the Royal Australian Navy’s center of excellence for maritime warfare development. The center’s role is to optimize the war fighting effectiveness of the Australian fleet.

Taiwan to build its own submarine, president vows on visit to 50-year-old vessel

J.R. Wu, Channel News Asia
21 March 2017

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan – Taiwan will build its own submarines, President Tsai Ing-wen pledged on Tuesday, as the self-ruled island looks to fresh arms sales by the United States, accompanied by key submarine technology, to counter a growing military threat from China. 
China has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province, and Taiwan's defense ministry says China has more than 1,000 missiles directed at the island. 
"Strengthening underwater combat capabilities is most needed in Taiwan's defense," Tsai said during a tour of a submarine at the southern naval port of Zuoying, about 350 kilometers (218 miles) from the capital, Taipei. 
"This is a problem everyone recognizes," she added. "We have been unable to solve this in the past. As commander of the armed forces, I am determined to solve this problem." 
But the rare appearance of two of Taiwan's four submarines at the event also spotlighted the island's slow, sometimes stalled efforts, to upgrade key defense equipment. 
The black-hulled vessel half-submerged in the water that Tsai visited has been in service for nearly half a century. 
"Making a submarine isn't the problem," said Gao Chung-hsing, vice president of the National Chung-shan Institute of Technology, a quasi-defense ministry agency responsible for military research and development. 
"It is making what kind of submarine that is the problem." 
To build an advanced submarine, for instance, Taiwan, which has never before built such a craft, will have to rely on foreign technology to resolve issues such as integrating the hardware with various electronic systems, defense experts say. 
Such foreign support is critical to Taiwan's effort, which was allocated a four-year budget of TUS$3 billion (US$99 million) for its design contract phase from 2016, Taiwan defense officials and experts say. 
Two submarines in Taiwan's fleet date from the era of World War Two, were bought from the United States, and are used mainly for training, while the other two, bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s, first saw service in the 1970s. 
Although the United States agreed to sell Taiwan eight diesel electric submarines in 2001, the purchase never went through, beset by hurdles ranging from budget issues and lack of consensus in Taiwan to changing U.S. policy priorities. 
Washington has begun considering a big, new arms package for Taiwan, a move sure to anger China. 
This week, officials in Taiwan fretted that a planned summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could sacrifice Taiwan's interests. 
Tsai, who leads the independence-leaning ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has never conceded to Beijing's view that Taiwan is a part of China, although she has soft-pedalled the issue since taking office in May last year. 
In December, Taiwan briefly celebrated a diplomatic coup when Trump, then president-elect, took a congratulatory phone call from Tsai and raised questions about whether he would stick with the four-decade-old "one China" policy. 
Trump changed tack last month, however, and agreed to honor the "one China" policy during a phone call with Xi, reviving the island's concerns about its vulnerability. 
"If there was no threat across the Taiwan Strait, then we do not have to purchase arms," Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told Taiwan's parliament on Monday.

Trump's Navy Warship Expansion Plan Faces Major Obstacles

Reuters, News Week
20 March 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants to build dozens of new warships in one of the biggest peace-time expansions of the U.S. Navy. But interviews with ship-builders, unions and a review of public and internal documents show major obstacles to that plan.
The initiative could cost nearly $700 billion in government funding, take 30 years to complete and require hiring tens of thousands of skilled shipyard workers - many of whom don't exist yet because they still need to be hired and trained, according to the interviews and the documents reviewed.
Trump has vowed a huge build-up of the U.S. military to project American power in the face of an emboldened China and Russia. That includes expanding the Navy to 350 warships from 275 today. He has provided no specifics, including how soon he wants the larger fleet. 
The Navy has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a report that explores how the country's industrial base could support higher ship production, Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of Naval Operations with oversight of the Navy’s shipbuilding outlook, told Reuters.
He declined to give further details. But those interviewed for this story say there are clearly two big issues - there are not enough skilled workers in the market, from electricians to welders, and after years of historically low production, shipyards and their suppliers, including nuclear fuel producers, will struggle to ramp up for years.
To be sure, the first, and biggest, hurdle for Trump to overcome is to persuade a cost-conscious Congress to fund the military buildup.
The White House declined to comment. A Navy spokeswoman said increases being considered beyond the current shipbuilding plan would require “sufficient time” to allow companies to ramp up capacity.
The two largest U.S. shipbuilders, General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, told Reuters they are planning to hire a total of 6,000 workers in 2017 just to meet current orders, such as the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine.
General Dynamics hopes to hire 2,000 workers at Electric Boat this year. Currently projected order levels would already require the shipyard to grow from less than
15,000 workers, to nearly 20,000 by the early 2030s, company documents reviewed by Reuters show.
Huntington Ingalls, the largest U.S. military shipbuilder, plans to hire 3,000 at its Newport News shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, and another 1,000 at the Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi this year to fulfill current orders, spokeswoman Beci Brenton said.
Companies say they are eager to work with Trump to build his bigger Navy. But expanding hiring, for now, is difficult to do until they receive new orders, officials say.
"It’s hard to look beyond" current orders, Brenton said.
Smaller shipbuilders and suppliers are also cautious.
"You can’t hire people to do nothing," said Jill Mackie, spokeswoman for Portland, Oregon-based Vigor Industrial LLC, which makes combat craft for the Navy’s Special Warfare units. "Until funding is there ... you can’t bring on more workers."
Scaling Up Workforce: 
Because companies won't hire excess workers in advance, they will have a huge challenge in expanding their workforces rapidly if a shipbuilding boom materializes, said Bryan Clark, who led strategic planning for the Navy as special assistant to the chief of Naval Operations until 2013.
Union and shipyard officials say finding skilled labor just for the work they already have is challenging. Demand for pipeline welders is so strong that some can make as much as $300,000 per year, including overtime and benefits, said Danny Hendrix, the business manager at Pipeliners Local 798, a union representing 6,500 metal workers in 42 states.
Much of the work at the submarine yards also requires a security clearance that many can’t get, said Jimmy Hart, president of the Metal Trades Department at the AFL-CIO union, which represents 100,000 boilermakers, machinists, and pipefitters, among others.
To help grow a larger labor force from the ground up, General Dynamics' Electric Boat has partnered with seven high schools and trade schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island to develop a curriculum to train a next generation of welders and engineers.
“It has historically taken five years to get someone proficient in shipbuilding," said Maura Dunn, vice president of human resources at Electric Boat.
It can take as many as seven years to train a welder skilled enough to make the most complex type of welds, radiographic structural welds needed on a nuclear-powered submarine, said Will Lennon, vice president of the shipyard's Columbia Class submarine program.
The Navy envisioned by Trump could create more than 50,000 jobs, the Shipbuilders Council of America, a trade group representing U.S. shipbuilders, repairers and suppliers, told Reuters.
The U.S. shipbuilding and repairing industry employed nearly 100,000 in 2016, Labor Department statistics show. The industry had as many as 176,000 workers at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s as the United States built up a fleet of nearly 600 warships by the end of that decade.
Submarine Crunch:
Apart from the labor shortage, there are also serious capacity and supply chain issues that would be severely strained by any plan to expand the Navy, especially its submarine fleet.
Expanding the Navy to 350 ships is not as simple as just adding 75 ships. Many ships in the current 275-vessel fleet need to be replaced, which means the Navy would have to buy 321 ships between now and 2046 to reach Trump's goal, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report in February.
The shipyards that make nuclear submarines - General Dynamics' Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, and Huntington's Newport News - produced as many as seven submarines per year between them in the early 1980s. But for more than a decade now, the yards have not built more than two per year.
The nuclear-powered Virginia class and Columbia class submarines are among the largest and most complex vessels to build. The first Columbia submarine, which is set to begin construction in 2021, will take seven years to build, and two to three additional years to test.
Retooling the long-dormant shipyard space will take several years and significant capital investments, but a bigger problem is expanding the supply chain, said Clark, the former strategist for the Navy and now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Makers of submarine components such as reactor cores, big castings, and forgers of propellers and shafts would need five years to double production, said a congressional official with knowledge of the Navy’s long-term planning.
"We have been sizing the industrial base for two submarines a year. You can’t then just throw one or two more on top of that and say, 'Oh here, dial the switch and produce four reactor cores a year instead of two.' You just can't," the official said.
In his first budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, Trump proposed boosting defense spending by $54 billion for the fiscal 2018 year – a 10 percent increase from last year. He is also seeking $30 billion for the Defense Department in a supplemental budget for fiscal 2017, of which at least $433 million is earmarked for military shipbuilding.
A 350-ship Navy would cost $690 billion over the 30-year period, or $23 billion per year - 60 percent more than the average funding the Navy has received for shipbuilding in the past three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who will have a major say in approving the defense budget, said in a statement to Reuters that he supported Trump's vision to increase the size of the Navy to deter adversaries.
"However, this is not a blank check," he said.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Russia Completes First Algerian Submarine

Staff, Monch
20 March 2017

Photographs appearing on social media this week show the first of Algeria’s two KILO-class submarines having been completed in the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg.
Algeria ordered the two Project 636 VARSHAVYANKA (KILO) boats in 2014, with delivery slated for 2018. They will join the existing fleet of four now in service: two Project 636 IMPROVED KILOs delivered in 2010 and two Project 877EKMs delivered 1987-88.
Intended primarily for anti-shipping and anti-submarine operations in relatively shallow waters, the 72.6m, 3,076t Project 636 VARSHAVYANKA (KILO) can dive to 300m, has a reported submerged speed of 25kts and carries a crew of 52, with mission endurance up to 45 days. Six 533mm torpedo tubes provide launch capabilities for up to 18 torpedoes or 24 AM-1 mines. The boats have a reported capability to fire the KALIBR cruise missile.
Algeria is expected to take delivery of two Project 20382 TIGR-class corvettes from Russian this year, an export model of the Russian Navy’s latest corvette, the Project 20380 STERGUSHCH-class, armed with SS-N-26 YAKHONT/ONYX cruise missiles. The Algerian Navy’s second and final MEKO A200N frigate is also expected to enter service shortly, after completion of sea trials currently under way. The first arrived in Algeria in April last year.

Shock resignation: Head of French Future Submarines Bid in Australia quits

Decision comes less than a year after winning $50 billion bid to build the country's new submarines.

Tory Shepherd, The Advertiser
20 March 2017

The captain of the French bid for Australia’s $50 billion Future Submarines project has quit less than a year after winning the contract. 
Adelaide-based Sean Costello resigned on Friday, a move that will likely shock the French and the Australian defense communities.
Mr. Costello was the executive general manager at ASC before he became chief of staff for then-Defense Minister David Johnston, who famously declared that the SA shipyards couldn’t be trusted to build a canoe.
Mr. Costello then took up the mantle at DCNS Australia, fighting for and ultimately winning the contract to build 12 submarines in South Australia.
While he is lauded for that win, there are also tales told in Parliament House of his temper while in Senator Johnston’s office.
He was involved in a kerfuffle after receipts for lunches involving him, Senator Johnston, and defense industry heads were leaked, and two other staffers were booted from the office.
Those leaks were interpreted as attempts to damage both Mr. Costello and Senator Johnston.
Key government adviser and former general Jim Molan reportedly quit after clashing with Mr. Costello.
While in the past people have criticized his style, on Monday people had only good wishes for Mr. Costello.
Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said he had enjoyed working with him and wished him “all the best”.
“Matters such as these have no impact on the submarine project or our arrangements with DCNS. I look forward to working with the new CEO when they are selected by DCNS,” he said.
Chief operating officer Brent Clark — who was also integral to DCNS’s win — will become the chief executive officer in the interim.
Mr. Clark has a long history of delivering programs at defense giants including BAE and Thales. He was also a submariner in the Royal Australian Navy for more than a decade.
DCNS said in a statement that there was nothing unusual in leadership changes.
“Throughout the life of a program of this magnitude, there will be multiple changes of personalities and this is a normal process for any large program,” it said.
“DCNS is supremely confident that, working with its partners the Commonwealth of Australia and Lockheed Martin, it will deliver a regionally superior submarine that realizes the government’s ambitions for a sovereign submarine capability.
“DCNS thanks the former CEO for his efforts and sends best wishes to his family and to him for whatever role he chooses to undertake next.”
There have been whispers Mr. Costello is aiming for federal politics, including speculation he could put his hand up for Mayo, which the Liberals lost to the Nick Xenophon Team; however, he has not shown any inclination to become a politician. On networking site LinkedIn he has listed himself as an “independent consultant”.

Latest Virginia-class attack sub to be delivered late to U.S. Navy

Unspecified problems after trial run are cited, the USS Washington now 7 months behind schedule.

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press
17 March 2017

Since 2008, the Virginia-class submarine program has been on a good run, with shipbuilders delivering the high-demand boats to the Navy months ahead of schedule.
That streak will be broken with submarine Washington, which will be delivered late from Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding. Like other Virginia-class subs, Newport News built the submarine in partnership with the prime contractor, General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.
The submarine went on initial sea trials earlier this month when it "encountered a material issue" that required a return to port, according to Capt. Thurraya Kent, a Navy spokeswoman.
The boat already had missed a September 2016 delivery date and was scheduled to be commissioned March 25. That timetable is now under review, Kent said.
The Navy declined to specify the problem with Washington, which was first reported by Defense News. Kent said the issue is not related to the submarine's integrity or its nuclear propulsion plant.
The late delivery "is not indicative of a systemic problem" with the submarine, she said.
Once the sub is commissioned and completes any post-shakedown fixes, it should be turned over to the Navy at or near the original date, she said.
News is also better on the budget front: it should be completed at or under the Navy's target cost.
More demands on shipyards
In 2011, the Navy authorized stepped-up production of Virginia-class subs, going from one to two per year, ordering the Washington and the USS Illinois.
That move now is coming to fruition. The USS Illinois has been delivered from Electric Boat, and it was ahead of schedule. The Washington is now on deck. (Each shipyard builds components of the submarines, then take turns in final assembly and delivery.)
Besides going to two per year, the Navy also has demanded shorter construction schedules. Shipbuilders have met that challenge in recent years. When the program began, a submarine took 84 months to build. It's now down to 66 months and shipyards eventually will be held to a 60-month schedule.
The subs are popular with Navy commanders, who have told Congress that more are needed. Costs and schedules have come down partly due to the Navy's practice of buying the subs in "blocks," essentially bulk buys that allow the shipyards to plan ahead.
But both shipyards face near-future challenges. In 2021, the Navy plans to start production on a new fleet of Columbia-class submarines while still building the Virginia-class boats. The Columbia subs are much larger and will have the ability to launch ballistic nuclear missiles.
Newport News and Electric Boat currently have a 50-50 workload split on the Virginia class. Electric Boat will do about 80 percent of the work on Columbia class. As a result, Newport News will pick up more Virginia class work.
Those two yards are the exclusive builders of nuclear-powered submarines for the U.S. Navy.
Shipyard capacity
Is the Washington delay a sign that stepped-up production and shorter schedules are straining the shipyards?
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, pointed out that this delay is the exception, not the rule. But he also said
Congress must be mindful of how it can help shipyards and the supplier base.
"In this situation, I think it is a one-time occurrence," he said. "It does require all of us, the Navy and both of the yards, to look very carefully at what they're doing."
Westmoreland chairs the Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, and will be heavily involved in the Trump administration's plan to expand the Navy fleet.
Wittman mentioned the experience factor. Electric Boat in particular has ramped up hiring. The Hartford Courant reported last year that the company had hired 4,000 workers since 2012 and planned to add as many as 850 in 2016.
That has helped expand capacity, but it takes time for new workers to become proficient, Wittman said. The supplier base also must expand to keep pace.
"I think the things we see are clearly identifiable and clearly manageable," Wittman said.
Newport News referred comment on the Washington to Electric Boat. A statement emailed to the Daily Press on behalf of EB President Jeff Geiger said, in part:
"When technical issues are encountered during the construction process, the shipbuilders take this very seriously. We aggressively work to correct issues and put processes in place to prevent recurrence. Ongoing process improvements are key to continuing to reduce construction span times and

L-3 to provide electro-optical submarine sensor for U.S. Navy

John Keller, Military Aerospace
20 March 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Navy undersea warfare experts are ordering additional non-penetrating electro-optical sensor submarine masts from L-3 KEO in Northampton, Mass., for Virginia-class fast-attack submarines, and for other kinds of modern submarines without traditional periscope wells.
Officials of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington last week announced a $14.5 million order to L-3 KEO (formerly Kollmorgen) to provide an undisclosed number of Universal Modular Mast (UMM) systems for Navy submarines. L-3 acquired Kollmorgen in 2012.
The Virginia-class is one of the first submarines without a traditional optical periscope that penetrates the vessel's pressure hull and extends upward to enable commanders of submerged submarines to view the scene on the surface.
The UMM serves as a lifting mechanism for five different sensors including the photonics mast program, high-data-rate mast, multi-functional mast, multi-functional modular mast, and integrated electronics support measures mast.
Related: Navy orders additional submarine electro-optical imaging sensors from Lockheed Martin
Rather than raising a large periscope from a well inside the submarine's pressure hull, the UMM uses fiber optic connections between sensors and the submarine. Users control the UMM with a computer game-like joystick and channel its imagery to digital displays to the submarine's control room as well as to other displays distributed throughout the vessel.
This order is an option to a $40.3 million Navy contract to L-3 KEO awarded last June for 16 Universal Modular Masts, as well as 140,000 hours of engineering services and engineering services support. This contract has additional options that could bring its cumulative value to $108.4 million, Navy officials say.
The UMM is built by L-3 KEO and the company's Italian subsidiary Calzoni SrL in Bologna, Italy. On the contract announced Friday, L-3 KEO and L-3 Calzoni will do the work in Bologna, Italy, and Northampton, Mass., and should be finished by August 2019.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Missing From Trump's Grand Navy Plan: Skilled Workers To Build The Fleet

 Mike Stone, KFGO
17 March 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants to build dozens of new warships in one of the biggest peace-time expansions of the U.S. Navy. But interviews with ship-builders, unions and a review of public and internal documents show major obstacles to that plan.
The initiative could cost nearly $700 billion in government funding, take 30 years to complete and require hiring tens of thousands of skilled shipyard workers - many of whom don't exist yet because they still need to be hired and trained, according to the interviews and the documents reviewed.
Trump has vowed a huge build-up of the U.S. military to project American power in the face of an emboldened China and Russia. That includes expanding the Navy to 350 warships from 275 today. He has provided no specifics, including how soon he wants the larger fleet.
The Navy has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a report that explores how the country's industrial base could support higher ship production, Admiral Bill Moran, the vice chief of Naval Operations with oversight of the Navy’s shipbuilding outlook, told Reuters.
He declined to give further details. But those interviewed for this story say there are clearly two big issues - there are not enough skilled workers in the market, from electricians to welders, and after years of historically low production, shipyards and their suppliers, including nuclear fuel producers, will struggle to ramp up for years.
To be sure, the first, and biggest, hurdle for Trump to overcome is to persuade a cost-conscious Congress to fund the military buildup.
The White House declined to comment. A Navy spokeswoman said increases being considered beyond the current shipbuilding plan would require “sufficient time” to allow companies to ramp up capacity.
The two largest U.S. shipbuilders, General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc , told Reuters they are planning to hire a total of 6,000 workers in 2017 just to meet current orders, such as the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine.
General Dynamics hopes to hire 2,000 workers at Electric Boat this year. Currently projected order levels would already require the shipyard to grow from less than 15,000 workers, to nearly 20,000 by the early 2030s, company documents reviewed by Reuters show.
Huntington Ingalls, the largest U.S. military shipbuilder, plans to hire 3,000 at its Newport News shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, and another 1,000 at the Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi this year to fulfill current orders, spokeswoman Beci Brenton said.
Companies say they are eager to work with Trump to build his bigger Navy. But expanding hiring, for now, is difficult to do until they receive new orders, officials say.
"It’s hard to look beyond" current orders, Brenton said.
Smaller shipbuilders and suppliers are also cautious.
"You can’t hire people to do nothing," said Jill Mackie, spokeswoman for Portland, Oregon-based Vigor Industrial LLC, which makes combat craft for the Navy’s Special Warfare units. "Until funding is there ... you can’t bring on more workers."

Scaling Up Workforce

Because companies won't hire excess workers in advance, they will have a huge challenge in expanding their workforces rapidly if a shipbuilding boom materializes, said Bryan Clark, who led strategic planning for the Navy as special assistant to the chief of Naval Operations until 2013.
Union and shipyard officials say finding skilled labor just for the work they already have is challenging. Demand for pipeline welders is so strong that some can make as much as $300,000 per year, including overtime and benefits, said Danny Hendrix, the business manager at Pipeliners Local 798, a union representing 6,500 metal workers in 42 states.
Much of the work at the submarine yards also requires a security clearance that many can’t get, said Jimmy Hart, president of the Metal Trades Department at the AFL-CIO union, which represents 100,000 boilermakers, machinists, and pipefitters, among others.
To help grow a larger labor force from the ground up, General Dynamics' Electric Boat has partnered with seven high schools and trade schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island to develop a curriculum to train a next generation of welders and engineers.
“It has historically taken five years to get someone proficient in shipbuilding," said Maura Dunn, vice president of human resources at Electric Boat.
It can take as many as seven years to train a welder skilled enough to make the most complex type of welds, radiographic structural welds needed on a nuclear-powered submarine, said Will Lennon, vice president of the shipyard's Columbia Class submarine program.
The Navy envisioned by Trump could create more than 50,000 jobs, the Shipbuilders Council of America, a trade group representing U.S. shipbuilders, repairers and suppliers, told Reuters.
The U.S. shipbuilding and repairing industry employed nearly 100,000 in 2016, Labor Department statistics show. The industry had as many as 176,000 workers at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s as the United
States built up a fleet of nearly 600 warships by the end of that decade.

Submarine Crunch

Apart from the labor shortage, there are also serious capacity and supply chain issues that would be severely strained by any plan to expand the Navy, especially its submarine fleet.
Expanding the Navy to 350 ships is not as simple as just adding 75 ships. Many ships in the current 275-vessel fleet need to be replaced, which means the Navy would have to buy 321 ships between now and 2046 to reach Trump's goal, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report in February.
The shipyards that make nuclear submarines - General Dynamics' Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, and Huntington's Newport News - produced as many as seven submarines per year between them in the early 1980s. But for more than a decade now, the yards have not built more than two per year.
The nuclear-powered Virginia class and Columbia class submarines are among the largest and most complex vessels to build. The first Columbia submarine, which is set to begin construction in 2021, will take seven years to build, and two to three additional years to test.
Retooling the long-dormant shipyard space will take several years and significant capital investments, but a bigger problem is expanding the supply chain, said Clark, the former strategist for the Navy and now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Makers of submarine components such as reactor cores, big castings, and forgers of propellers and shafts would need five years to double production, said a congressional official with knowledge of the Navy’s long-term planning.
"We have been sizing the industrial base for two submarines a year. You can’t then just throw one or two more on top of that and say, 'Oh here, dial the switch and produce four reactor cores a year instead of two.' You just can't," the official said.
In his first budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, Trump proposed boosting defense spending by $54 billion for the fiscal 2018 year – a 10 percent increase from last year. He is also seeking $30 billion for the Defense Department in a supplemental budget for fiscal 2017, of which at least $433 million is earmarked for military shipbuilding.
A 350-ship Navy would cost $690 billion over the 30-year period, or $23 billion per year - 60 percent more than the average funding the Navy has received for shipbuilding in the past three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said.
Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who will have a major say in approving the defense budget, said in a statement to Reuters that he supported Trump's vision to increase the size of the Navy to deter adversaries.
"However, this is not a blank check," he said.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Royal Navy Submariners Attend Commemoration Of HMS E49 Sinking 100 Years Ago

Staff, The Press and Journal
15 March 2017

And this week, Royal Navy submariners from HM Naval Base Clyde travelled to the islands to attend an event commemorating the centenary of the sinking.
Six submariners based at the Home of the UK Submarine Service at Faslane joined Shetlanders and descendants of those who died on board E49 at the unveiling of a new memorial overlooking Balta Sound.
E49 was lost on March 12, 1917, when she struck a German mine between Balta Isle and Huney. The Royal Navy E-class submarine sank with the loss of all 31 crew on board and the wreck now lies in 29 metres of water.
Lieutenant Robert Orr, who led the Royal Navy contingent at the unveiling, said: “It was an incredibly moving occasion and one which the submariners from HM Naval Base Clyde were very proud to attend.
“Serving on submarines forges a close bond, not only with your fellow crew members, but also among the entire submariner community past and present. The men of E49 were incredibly brave individuals and they should never be forgotten. This memorial will serve as a permanent reminder of their sacrifice.”
The memorial plinth overlooks the area where German submarine UC76 laid her mines on March 10, 1917. Just two days later, HMS E49 was leaving Balta Sound on Unst after repairs when she struck one of the German mines and was lost with all hands.
Instrumental in the creation of the memorial was Unst resident Harry Edwards, who has extensively researched the submarine and crew.
The former Shetland policeman’s interest was sparked in 1990 when he arrested three divers for removing equipment from the wreck of E49 which is a registered war grave.
“During the investigation I contacted the Royal Navy Submarine Museum for information and began to get interested in E49,” said Harry. “Later I began to research the vessel through history websites and even contacted Swan Hunter who built the submarine.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

U.S. Navy Successfully Loads Two Trident II D5LE Missiles

The program extends the life of the missiles from 25 years to 50 years.

Lee Hudson, Inside Defense
13 March 2017 

The Navy revealed today that last month the service successfully loaded two life-extended Trident D5 missiles into a ballistic missile submarine.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran noted March 8 in his written testimony submitted to the House Armed Services Committee that this was the first time the service loaded the life-extended missiles on the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. This is a "significant milestone in this life-extension program," he wrote.
"We are modernizing and extending the life of the D5 missile from 25 years to 50 years through sound engineering analysis and investment, and also modernizing the strategic weapon system that will be carried on the next generation SSBN, the COLUMBIA class," according to Moran.
Inside the Navy reported in February the Navy is beginning to assess what would replace the Trident II D5 fleet ballistic missile because the Columbia class will outlast the munition.
Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, strategic systems program director, told ITN Feb. 15 after his presentation at an industry conference in Arlington, VA, that Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley green-lighted Benedict's office to begin an early conceptual phase of a fleet ballistic missile replacement. Stackley is currently serving as acting Navy secretary.
"It's something that we have to face at some point in the future," Benedict said. "There's still a large time band on when that might be. It's appropriate to start thinking about that now, start asking ourselves questions, start looking at the early upfront onsets as well as threats and any additional requirements."


Russian Nuclear Submarine Crews To Get Improved Escape Gear

Staff, Defense World
14 March 2017 

Russian Navy crews of the nuclear-powered submarines that are under construction will get improved escape gear.
"The crews of nuclear-powered and diesel-electric submarines will be supplied with the submariner’s improved escape gear designated for the personnel’s individual escape from a stricken submarine from depths of up to 220 meters," Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo was quoted as saying by Tass Monday.
"The submariner’s improved escape gear is planned to be supplied to the crews of nuclear-powered strategic and multipurpose submarines that are under construction for the Russian Navy, as well as to the crews of Project 636.3 diesel-electric submarines, a series of which comprising six underwater cruisers will be built for the Pacific Fleet," the Navy’s spokesman said.
The submariner’s escape gear has undergone operational evaluation at the Research Institute of Rescue Works and Underwater Technologies of the Navy’s Military Training and Research Center, the spokesman said.
Simultaneously, there are plans to supply the improved escape gear to the crews of submarines already operational with the Russian submarine force.
The submariner’s escape gear comprises an insulating respiratory system and an escape and immersion suit. It can also be supplied with the PP-2 parachute system to brake the submariner’s surfacing and prevent Caisson’s disease (the decompression sickness).
According to the Navy’s spokesman, the escape equipment will allow working outside a submarine at depths of up to 20 meters.


Kawasaki Delivers Japan's Eighth Souryu-Class Submarine

Ridzwan Rahmat, IHS Jane’s 360
14 March 2017 

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) has taken delivery of its eighth Souryu-class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) from Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).
The 4,100 tonne (when submerged) vessel, which has been named Sekiryu with pennant number 508, was handed over on 13 March in a ceremony held at KHI's facilities in Kobe.
The SSK is the fourth Souryu-class boat to be built by KHI, and was first laid down in March 2013. The boat was subsequently launched by the shipbuilder in November 2015.
According to Jane's Fighting Ships, the Souryu class features a length of 84 m, a beam of 9.1 m, and a hull draught of 8.5 m. The platform, which is powered by two Kawasaki 12V 25/25 diesel engines, and four Kawasaki Kockums V4-275R Stirling air-independent propulsion (AIP) engines, has a top speed of 20 kt when submerged, and 12 kt when surfaced.
The Souryu class is equipped with six 533 m bow tubes that can fire the Japanese-developed Type 89 heavyweight torpedo. The boats are also capable of deploying the UGM-84C Harpoon medium-range anti-ship missile against surface targets. Each vessel has also been equipped with underwater countermeasure launchers.
The JMSDF currently operates a fleet of seven other Souryu-class SSKs, four of which were built by another Japanese shipbuilder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). Funding for a 12th boat was approved under Japan's fiscal year 2016 budget, and the country is expected to operate a fleet of 12 Souryu-class submarines by 2021.

Australia’s Future Submarine: Big Boats Versus A Big Fleet

Hugh White, The Strategist
14 March 2017 

Everyone agrees that we should, whenever possible, buy military equipment based closely on existing designs rather than new ones. Doing so results in lower costs, lower risks and quicker delivery. So why aren’t we going for a boat closer to an existing design for the Future Submarine? The key answer is the size of the boat we’re after; no one has an ‘off the shelf’ design for a conventional boat the size we want.
But why do we want such a big boat? There are many views on this. I’ve previously suggested that the key drivers are roles and range: we want our subs to carry a lot of different systems to perform many different roles, and to operate a long way from base.
Some other factors may have come into play as well. The decision early in the process to mandate the U.S. AS/BYG-1 combat management system might well have committed us to a big boat because that system reportedly needs more space and power than existing conventional designs could provide, except for the Collins. And there remains a suggestion that some decision-makers have been influenced by the desire to create a path to a nuclear-powered submarine in the not-too-distant future, which would certainly help explain a preference for a bigger boat.
That all shows that the real reasons the Government has chosen to buy such a big boat remain a mystery, like so much else about the project – the status of AIP, the apparent decision against Li-ion batteries, the choice of pump jet propulsion, the alleged acoustic failings of the German contender and the total absence of any competitive discipline in the process from now on.
If the choice has been driven by the combat system or the dream of a nuclear future, then it’s plainly a huge mistake. Neither of those offers sufficient reason to accept the costs, risks and delays inherent in the current plan. Nor, as I have argued, does the desire for a submarine optimised for operations beyond the core role of anti-ship warfare.
The only good reason to go for a big boat is mission range and endurance. That really is important. Submarines – especially conventionally-powered ones – are most effective when they operate closest to the home ports of a potential adversary or in key chokepoints. For Australian subs operating from HMAS Stirling those are a long way away. (Exactly which ports and chokepoints we’re talking about is a big question, but for another time.)
For a diesel-electric submarine, mission range and endurance depends above all on fuel load. The ratio of fuel carried to fuel consumed improves as a boat gets bigger, so bigger boats have longer range and endurance. So it seems obvious that we can’t buy a boat off the shelf, because no MOTS boat is big enough to offer the range and endurance that our unique circumstances require.
But is that really true? That might depend on whether we’re looking at the capability of each boat, or the capability of the fleet as a whole. Discussions about range and endurance invariably focus on the capabilities of each boat. That’s an understandable preoccupation for those who actually drive them, but it’s not what really matters for the rest of us.
What matters to Australia is the capability of the fleet. As far as range and endurance are concerned, we should be aiming for the fleet of submarines that offers the largest number of days on station in key operational areas per dollar spent. And that depends not just on how long each boat can stay at sea, but on how much it costs.
We can illustrate this general point with a hypothetical example. Boat A is 4,000 tonnes, costs $4 billion and, after allowing for transit to and from, can spend 30 days on station. Boat B, displacing 3,000 tonnes, costs $2 billion, and can spend 20 days on station. In this example, Boat B offers 50% more days on station for each dollar.
Of course we’d need more boats to achieve the same number of days on station, so operational costs would be higher, as would demands for crews. And moving boats in and out of the operational area more often would impose some tactical costs as crews have to familiarise themselves with the specific environment. But a big cost advantage could still lie with a bigger fleet of smaller boats – and it would be a more robust capability in the face of operational losses.
So how closely do the real numbers reflect the hypothetical ones in my example? I don’t know. The sums are more complex than my example suggests, because of possible differences in transit speed, for example. And credible information on the range and endurance of submarines is hard to come by, as is reliable information on costs.
But it’s quite possible that spending $50 billion on a bigger fleet of smaller, cheaper boats would give us more submarines on station, more reliably, and with far lower project and schedule risk than the smaller fleet of more costly and risky big boats that we’re aiming for now.
If advocates of big boats think that isn’t the case, it would be useful to see the numbers on which their conclusions rest. And this question can’t simply be dismissed, as some try to do, by saying that smaller boats simply can’t operate at all at such ranges. The 3,400 ton Collins class boats operate quite successfully a long way from home.
In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more one wonders whether an evolved Collins design would not in fact have been the best option. And the more one wonders whether it isn’t too late to revisit that option...

U.S. Navy "Columbia-Class" Nuclear Armed Ballistic Missile Submarines Enter New Phase 

Kris Osborn, Scout Warrior
13 March 2017 

The Navy has recently advanced development of a new class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to be used as undersea strategic deterrents --  to ensure a second-strike nuclear ability from beneath the ocean around the world in the event of a catastrophic first-strike on the continental US. 
Ship specifications for the new Columbia-Class submarines have been completed and the program is now entering detailed design phase and initial production contract, service officials said.
In acquisition terms, 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."
"The program was approved to proceed to Milestone B Jan. 4, authorizing it to enter into the engineering and manufacturing development phase and permitting the transition from preliminary design to detail design,"  William Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior. 
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. 
The Navy has begun early construction and prototyping on a new class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines designed to help ensure global peace by deploying massive destructive power under the sea.
The Ohio Replacement Program, a so-called SSBN, is 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, ORP will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain. 
The new submarines, called "Columbia-Class" 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
Detailed design for the first Columbia-Class submarine is happening now, slated for 2017. The new submarines are being engineered to quietly patrol the undersea domain and function as a crucial strategic deterrent, assuring a second strike or retaliatory nuclear capability in the event of nuclear attack.
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.
 In 2012, General Dynamics Electric Boat was awarded a five-year research and development deal for the Ohio Replacement submarines with a value up to $1.85 billion.  The contract contains specific incentives for lowering cost and increasing manufacturing efficiency, Navy and Electric Boat officials said. 
The U.S. and U.K. are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort for ORP.  In fact, the U.S. and U.K. are buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics’ Electric Boat.  The U.S. plans to build 12 ORPs, each with 16 missile tubes, and the U.K. plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.
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.
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 new Columbia-class subs will also utilize an automated control fly-by-wire navigation system, a technology that is also 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. 
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.
Lawmakers are working on a special fund created to pay for the Navy's expensive next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.
Members of Congress have recently discussed the details of the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, a special effort established in 2015, at a recent hearing on the topic. The fund was established as a way to allocate specific acquisition dollars to pay for the new submarines. In total, the Navy hopes to buy 12 of the new submarines to serve into 2085 and beyond. 
Production for the lead ship in a planned fleet of 12 Ohio Replacement submarines is expected to cost $12.4 billion — $4.8 billion in non-recurring engineering or development costs and $7.6 billion in ship construction, Navy officials have said. 
The Navy hopes to build Ohio Replacement submarine numbers two through 12 for $4.9 billion each in 2010 dollars.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Norwegian, German Companies Team For Submarine Systems

Richard Tomkins, UPI
9 March 2017

Kongsberg, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Atlas Elektronik have teamed to supply combat systems for Thyssenkrupp submarines.
A Norway-based joint venture company being formed follows a Norwegian government announcement last month that it had chosen Germany as strategic partner for new submarines, the companies announced at a press conference.
Kongsberg said the joint venture will be part-owned by both the Norwegian and German partners, and the new company will be responsible for the development, production and maintenance of combat systems.
"This is a historic milestone for our defense business and a great recognition of our expertise in naval systems," Kongsberg President and Chief Executive Officer Geir Haøy said at the teaming agreement ceremony. "The agreement has a potential of more than NOK 15 billion [nearly $1.8 billion] for Kongsberg in the next decades, and lays the foundation for significant activity and job creation for the Norwegian industry."
Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems is a leading manufacturer of conventional submarines, Kongsberg has significant experience delivering combat systems and Atlas Elektronik is a leading supplier of sonar systems, weapon control and other key components in submarine combat systems.

Sweden Dives Deep in Hunt for Submarine Buyers

Hanna Hoikkala and Niklas Magnusson, Bloomberg
10 March 2017 

Gripen warplane manufacturer Saab AB is targeting a quarter of the 40 to 50 submarine sales for which it sees demand from accessible markets in coming years following a foray into naval vessels.
“We can perhaps win contracts from three to four countries, or some 12 submarines, over 10 or 15 years,” Chief Executive Officer Hakan Buskhe said in an interview, highlighting pending fleet renewals in Poland and the Netherlands.
Founded as a planemaker in 1937, Stockholm-based Saab added submarines and corvettes to its product portfolio with the 340 million-krona ($38 million) purchase of ThyssenKrupp AG’s Swedish marine unit Kockums 2 1/2 years ago. The deal was spurred by Sweden’s desire to enhance its military capabilities amid rising geopolitical tensions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Saab began construction of the A26 submarine, a Kockums design that had been put on hold under the ownership of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp, in 2015, and has so far won orders for two vessels from the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration valued at 7.6 billion kronor.
Poland plans to buy three submarines as early as the end of this year, while the Netherlands may replenish its fleet sometime in the next few years. Saab teamed up with Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group in 2015 to pursue a potential replacement for four Walrus-class submarines.
“There’s renewed interest in submarine and anti-submarine warfare capability in and around Europe as the maritime domain becomes a more contested environment again,” said Nick Childs, senior fellow for naval forces and maritime security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Asia-Pacific demand is growing even faster as China emerges as a maritime power.
Saab suffered a setback last year when Norway shortlisted ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and DCNS SA of France as preferred bidders for a potential submarine purchase, in preference to an all-Scandinavian deal. It later said it would proceed with the German manufacturer. That came after Saab also failed to make the shortlist for a A$50 billion ($39 billion) Australian contest which was eventually won by DCNS.
Poland has signed naval cooperation agreements with Saab, DCNS and ThyssenKrupp as it mulls its requirement. Saab has said that the A26 design is “extremely stealthy and very difficult to detect,” making it well-suited to Polish operations in the Baltic Sea.
While Saab’s group-wide order book shrank from 2006 to 2012, spending on research and marketing has revived sales, according to Buskhe, with the backlog standing at 107.6 billion kronor last year. That’s down slightly on 2015 but far higher than the 60 billion-krona figure in 2014 and 2013.
Saab has also been focused on costs and efficiency as it seeks to achieve a 10 percent operating margin.
The company has said this year’s figure should improve on 2016’s 6.3 percent, and Buskhe said in the interview Wednesday that he expects “a substantial improvement in profitability” this year. He added that he’ll be “very disappointed” if the margin doesn’t reach the target in the next few years.
Saab rose as much as 1.5 percent in Stockholm trading, the steepest intraday advance since Feb. 20, and traded 1 percent higher at 10:46 a.m. local time.
Organic revenue growth should also exceed a long-term 5 percent target rate in 2017, Saab said Feb. 13, when it reported that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization fell 4 percent last year. Buskhe said Wednesday that the company has “had quite an OK start to the year,” so that there’s no change in its guidance.
“We’ve sorted out our order backlog and have a fantastic product portfolio,” the CEO said. “We’ve also demonstrated that we can convert the order backlog into sales, and now we’ll show that we can strengthen our profitability.”

Aluminum Batteries Could Let Submarine Drones Range Farther

Staff, The Economist
9 March 2017 

Much is made of the potential of flying drones. But drones are useful at sea, too. Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), as they are known technically, are employed for things ranging from prospecting for oil and gas to naval warfare. Like their aerial cousins, though, ocean-going drones have limited ranges—limits that are often imposed by their batteries.
At the moment those batteries are usually either alkaline or lead-acid. Lithium-ion batteries, fashionable elsewhere, have not conquered the UUV world. Their tendency to catch fire counts against them. And they are sensitive to pressure, which is undesirable in devices that operate underwater. But a firm in Massachusetts, called Open Water Power (OWP), is offering an alternative: batteries based on aluminum. With these, its engineers hope to extend the ranges of underwater drones tenfold.
Each of OWP’s battery cells has a block of aluminum as its anode. The cell’s cathode is made of nickel. In a working battery, these anodes and cathodes alternate, and are bathed in an electrolyte made of seawater with some potassium hydroxide dissolved in it. This chemical keeps the battery free from marine organisms that might otherwise grow within it. It also plays two other roles. These are in the battery’s chemical operation.
One of these roles lies in the reaction that drives the battery, between the aluminum of the anode and the hydroxide ions in the electrolyte. A hydroxide ion is a negatively charged combination of a single hydrogen atom and a single oxygen atom (OH- in chemical shorthand). Unadulterated water contains some hydroxide ions (its molecules, H2O, sometimes disintegrate spontaneously into OH- and positively charged hydrogen ions, H+) but adding potassium hydroxide boosts their number.
The result of the reaction is aluminum hydroxide, which is electrically neutral, and electrons, which carry away the hydroxide ion’s negative charge. These electrons then travel towards the cathode via a circuit that can, for example, power a motor. To complete the circuit, electrons at the cathode combine with hydrogen ions from the electrolyte’s water to produce hydrogen gas, which is vented from the battery, leaving those ions’ hydroxide partners behind to replenish the store of OH-.
Previous attempts to make a commercial aluminum battery have failed because their anodes have got clogged up with aluminum hydroxide, which is insoluble in water. This is where the added potassium hydroxide does its third job, for an aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide will dissolve aluminum hydroxide in a way that pure water cannot.
A pump circulates the potassium-hydroxide-bearing electrolyte through the battery, where it picks up aluminum hydroxide from the anodes. The resulting solution then passes through a chamber filled with a plug made of foam rubber. This is a material that packs an enormous amount of surface area into a tiny volume and whose chemistry encourages the aluminum hydroxide to precipitate on that surface. A small piece of foam rubber can thus hold a lot of aluminum hydroxide. When a plug is saturated with the stuff the battery ejects it and replaces it with a fresh one that has been kept, compressed, in an adjacent plug store. Each battery carries enough plugs to keep it going until its supply of aluminum has run out.
One test of OWP’s technology will come this summer, when the firm will fit its batteries into UUVs built by Riptide Autonomous Solutions, which is also in Massachusetts. Riptide’s products are used by oil and gas companies to undertake underwater surveys. At the moment, they have a range of about 100 nautical miles (185km). Riptide reckons that OWP’s batteries could increase that to 1,000 nautical miles.
The armed forces are interested, too. Though OWP is coy about the details, records in the public domain show that OWP is working with America’s navy and also with the country’s Special Operations Command, which carries out clandestine missions. The navy contract asks for something to replace the existing batteries on its Shallow Water Surveillance System, a series of acoustic sensors designed to detect enemy submarines. The Special Operations contract is light on detail, but is for “man-portable UUVs”.
One other use for aluminum batteries might be to power crewed deep-diving submersibles such as Alvin, which found fame in 1986 when it was used to explore the wreck of Titanic, a British liner sunk by an iceberg in 1912. At the moment Alvin still relies on lead-acid batteries. This limits its dives to eight hours and means it cannot go as far down into the ocean as its titanium shell would otherwise permit. Aluminum batteries would let it and its kind dive longer and deeper, letting researchers visit the abyss more easily in person.
Correction: This article has been corrected. A previous version misnamed Riptide Autonomous Solutions, and gave the wrong actual and hoped-for ranges for its UUVs.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why A $1 Trillion Endeavor To Modernize The US Nuclear Arsenal Could Get More Bipartisan Support

Jeff Daniels, CNBC
7 March 2017

President Donald Trump has made modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal a top priority. Now, after years of being put on the sidelines, threats from abroad and congressional hearings scheduled for Wednesday could further highlight the need to update the country's weapons technology.
"Essentially, after the Cold War we took a vacation from modernizing the nuclear deterrent," said Michaela Dodge, a policy analyst specializing in nuclear weapons policy at Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense.
A week after taking office, Trump instructed Secretary of Defense James Mattis to initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review, focusing on current and future needs and whether it is "appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies." The last such review was issued in 2010 and concluded "Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries" and also discussed "the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran."
Experts say the threat from North Korea has increased dramatically since 2010 with the rogue nation testing ballistic missile technology capable of carrying nuclear warheads. On Monday, North Korea fired several missiles, each believed to be capable of reaching U.S. military bases in Japan.
The U.S. military started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (or THAAD) system this week in South Korea in response to missile threats from North Korea. THAAD, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is designed to intercept ballistic missiles and previously was deployed at U.S. bases in Guam and Hawaii, among others.
China has warned of "consequences" of THAAD deployment, which the U.S. military insists is for defensive purposes only.
"North Korea's accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security, and are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions," the U.S. Pacific Command said in a release announcing the THAAD deployment.
On Wednesday, the full House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a panel, "Military Assessment of Nuclear Deterrence Requirements" with key military leaders scheduled to testify. The state of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, as well as nuclear threats from abroad, are expected to be major areas of discussion. A Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces also is set to meet in the afternoon Wednesday to discuss the "Global Nuclear Weapons Environment."
"Nuclear is sort of something that people brush over because it is scary and generally they are considered weapons that will only be used in the worst-case scenario," said Lydia Dennett, a nuclear policy specialist with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan independent watchdog. "But if the U.S. is planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years, those plans should be looked at very carefully."
The $1 trillion estimate to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal includes warheads themselves and the delivery systems, Dennett said. But an Air Force spokesman, Capt. Mark Graff, told CNBC a more precise figure the government is using for the nuclear recapitalization (or modernization) is about $270 billion over more than 20 years.
Prior to becoming Defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. Mattis expressed concern about the Air Force's ground-based Minuteman III, one leg of the nation's nuclear triad (strategic bombers, submarine-launched missiles, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs.)
There's already funding for development of a new stealth bomber manufactured by Northrop Grumman that modernizes the current B-1, B-2 and B-52 force. The government is also funding development of the Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine, which replaces the Trident missile-armed Ohio-class submarine program.
But one major nuclear program that has yet to be decided is the so-called Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, which would replace the aging Minuteman III weapon built by Boeing with a next-generation, land-based missile technology. The Air Force released its requests for proposal last summer and participants include several of the major defense prime contractors. The first contract award could be announced as early as the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017, according to an Air Force spokesman.
Mattis now is tasked with helping to modernize the U.S. armed forces and initiate the Nuclear Posture Review, which could be issued later this year. Trump's presidential memorandum also calls on the Defense secretary to "identify ways of strengthening missile-defense capabilities, rebalancing homeland and theater defense priorities, and highlighting priority funding areas."
Missile defense and modernization of the nuclear triad are areas that could get bipartisan support in the Congress, particularly given the geopolitical tensions.
"You're going to see bipartisan support for defense in general," said Richard Safran, a defense analyst at Buckingham Research in New York. The industry analyst also sees more demand internationally for missile defense technology, including THAAD, as well as Raytheon's Patriot system.
"We have a lot of equipment that's out of date. I think you're going to see increased funding for that," he said.
The U.S. military is still using dated technology such as 8-inch floppy disks at some of its nuclear launch control areas, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.
"The nuclear threat environment is dynamic and proliferating, with old and new actors developing advanced capabilities while the U.S. enterprise is relatively static, potentially leaving the United States at a technological disadvantage," according to the 2016 "Index of U.S. Military Strength" report issued by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank.
The report noted that the U.S. nuclear triad uses aging technology that is dated, including Minuteman III missiles that are about 40 years old, Trident II missiles that are around 20 years old, as well as a fleet of B-52H bombers that are nearly 50 years old.
Indeed, components of some of the nuclear weapons are in some cases "timing out," according to Dodge, the Heritage analyst. "So what we do is try to remanufacture the components and of course the issue with that is that we are no longer testing or conducting field producing experiments."
Dodge said sometimes "very small differences" can impact the reliability of nuclear warheads so ultimately "our kind of margin of uncertainty increases. That might be problematic."
Heritage also found there's been a brain drain of sorts within the ranks of the U.S. military's nuclear weapon expertise. Experienced nuclear scientists and engineers are retiring from government laboratories and leaving behind knowledge of some of the older nuclear technology that serves as legs of the nuclear triad.
"It's probably true that the labs do have challenges in keeping the best people," said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. "But I don't think that's exclusively a U.S. problem. Neither do I think it's an insurmountable problem either."
Despite the age of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Acton said evidence suggests it's still more accurate than the Russian arsenal. Moreover, he contends that more of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would survive than the Russian arsenal if the U.S. attacked the Russians first.
However, the Carnegie nuclear policy expert said with all the proposed spending on large-scale modernization across the nuclear triad there's still need to "prioritize" spending.
In particular, he said more focus should be placed on command and control systems, including satellite and other communication systems with nuclear forces as well as how the military gets early warnings of an incoming strike.
Acton estimates approximately $100 billion in savings alone could be achieved from the nuclear weapons modernization program. He calls the Minuteman ICBMs, or the land-based missiles in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, probably the "least useful leg of the triad."
"I wouldn't rip those weapons out of the ground tomorrow. But I would suggest taking a new look at whether the life of those systems could be extended," he said.
Additionally, the Carnegie analyst said the U.S. military should decide between updating the nuclear gravity bomb or a new nuclear-armed cruise missile. "I believe it's unnecessary to do both of those," he said.
Both the updated B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb and new cruise missile are designed to be dropped from airplanes. Northrop Grumman's B-2 bomber and General Dynamics' F-16 fighter jet are expected to be outfitted with the gravity bombs, and eventually, the newer B-21 stealth bomber being developed by Northrop.
The B61-12 — part of the military's so-called warhead life extension program — is a guided weapon expected to cost upwards of $12 billion and include a tail kit made by Boeing that will make it more accurate and able to guide toward targets more effectively.