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Friday, February 26, 2010

British Army Officials Skeptical of Need for Nuclear Deterrent

High-level British army officials yesterday played down the importance of the United Kingdom's submarine-based nuclear arsenal, the London Guardian reported.

Many of the nation's military assets remain geared toward Cold War-era objectives, the sources said.

"How do you deter nonstate actors?" one of the officials asked, noting that current threats include extremists who could operate without government sponsorship.

The comments came as the army competes for funding with the British navy and air force, the newspaper reported. The navy fields the nation's nuclear deterrent on four submarines, but most any other weapon system is more likely to be employed in conflict, the army sources said.

Bulava test launch from Yury Dolgoruky in June

Russia’s troubled new submarine-launched ballistic missile Bulava will be test launched from the newly constructed nuclear submarine “Yury Dolgoruky” this summer, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry says.

Test launches will be conducted from two submarines – the modified Typhoon class submarine “Dmitry Donskoy”, from which all previous missile tests have been launched, and the new Borey class fourth generation strategic submarine “Yury Dolgoruky”, a high ranking source in the Defense Ministry told RIA Novosti.

Failed Bulava missile launch seen from Northern Norway, December 2009 FOTO DAGFINN RAPP

The same was earlier claimed by a source in the Russian Navy General Headquarters, as BarentsObserver reported.

This will be the first time a missile is being fired from “Yury Dolgoruky”. The submarine was being tested in Russian Arctic waters last autumn, and testing will probably continue in spring.

The test launch will be conducted this summer, most probably in June, when the White Sea is free from ice, RIA Novosti’s source said.

Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft tests battery cells for submarines

Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW), a company of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, is testing innovative lithium ion battery cells on board the solar catamaran "PlanetSolar®". The boat is financed by the German entrepreneur and solar pioneer Immo Ströher. In close cooperation with Knierim Yachtbau GmbH, the shipyard that built the catamaran and the battery manufacturer GAIA Akkumulatorenwerke GmbH HDW will now enter the final development phase for a new generation of energy storage systems that is designed for future use on non-nuclear submarines.

The Chairman of HDW's Executive Board, Mr. Walter Freitag, states: "Lithium ion technology is an enormous step forward for submarine batteries. These cells were developed by GAIA, with the support of HDW and exclusively for us. In comparison to the lead acid batteries commonly used so far on board submarines, they feature much greater capacity and a longer life expectancy. In addition, they are virtually maintenance-free. Due to the very high demands in the submarine construction sector and in order to ensure operational safety on board, HDW has developed a comprehensive safety concept for system integration. The solar catamaran is the prototype for first operation of the lithium ion technology on board a manned vessel."

Stuck On The Surface

Five months ago, Malaysia received the first (the "Tunku Abdul Rahman") of two Scorpene class subs it purchased from France. This was supposed to be followed by some more testing. The "tropical water trials" where to have been completed last month. But shortly after the Scorpene boat arrived, several defective components were discovered (in air conditioning and diving equipment). It took over three months to get that fixed, and during that time, the plumbing problems prevented the boat from submerging. The tropical water trails are to begin before the end of the month. If the trials are successful, the sub will enter active service in May. The second Malaysian Scorpene boat will undergo initial trials in France this year.

The Tunku Abdul Rahman already has plenty of experience with long voyages, just getting to Malaysia. The voyage from France was 54 days long, with several stops along the way. Not all 54 days were at sea, but 42 (32 submerged, ten on the surface) were, and that's an extraordinary long voyage (over 10,000 kilometers) for a sub of this size (under 2,000 tons). The stress of this trip apparently led to the problems discovered when the boat arrived in Malaysia.

These are basically coastal subs, built to defend local waters. In peacetime, these boats rarely stay at sea for more than a week at a time. These boats have only one toilet, and limited fresh water supplies. Thus the sailors got about one shower a week. There is also no proper kitchen, and the crew subsisted on prepared meals, that were boiled before eating (sort of super MREs). Thus, after passing through the Suez Canal, the "Tunku Abdul Rahman" stopped at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and then Djibouti. The longest stretch was from there to Cochin (Kochi) in southern India, where there was a three day layover. From there, the boat made the final leg of its voyage straight to Malaysia.

Kockums receives overall design order for next-generation submarine

Art impression next-generation submarine

Kockums AB, part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, has signed a contract with FMV (the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration), concerning overall of the design phase of the next-generation submarine.

This confirms the intention to develop Sweden’s submarine capability. Kockums is prime contractor for the order.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First nuke-sub undergoes trial

India’s first nuclear submarine, ‘INS Arihant’, has gone to the high-seas for an extended trial, indicating that the boomer is on course to be inducted by the Navy by 2011.

One of India’s top secret defence projects for over three decades, ‘INS Arihant’ with a 80 Mwe nuclear reactor at its core, was launched in the water in last July. The sea trial, which began a few months ago, will be carried out for more than a year in different conditions to test the endurance and performance of the nuclear submarine, which is capable of staying under water for months, sources told Deccan Herald.

Once inducted, ‘INS Arihant’ will be the third leg of the nuclear triad enabling India to have retaliatory second strike capability from the sea. At the defence research and development organisation’s annual awards function attended by Defence Minister A K Antony, DRDO chief V K Saraswat mentioned ‘INS Arihant’ as a significant technology achievement.
For obvious reasons Saraswat did not mention anything about the two other nuclear submarines, which DRDO is constructing at the moment.
The hull of the second boomer is under construction at an L&T facility in Gujarat. The Visakhapatnam shipyard was recently brought under the defence ministry to secretly carry out the construction activities.

Trident might not be needed in five years

The UK may not need an independent nuclear deterrent in five years' time, former head of the army General Sir Richard Dannatt has said.

Existing Trident submarines will end their working lives in the 2020s.

Sir Richard, who advises the Tories on defence, said the government's decision to renew Trident was right but only "on a very narrow points decision".

Changes in global conditions could render it unnecessary, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pentagon to Allow Women on Subs

The Pentagon has decided it will lift its ban on women serving on U.S. Navy submarines, a long-standing rule.

Submarines are the only craft in the Navy on which women are restricted from serving, due to close quarters, which could make coed service difficult to manage, according to the Associated Press. The change comes during the ongoing challenge to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Defense secretary Robert Gates notified Congress of the proposed change in a letter. Congress members have 30 days to respond.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, both support lifting the ban on women serving on subs, according to ABC News.

The Navy would begin by phasing in officers aboard the larger ships, which are easier to retrofit for coed quarters. Females would also not be allowed to serve alone; at least two women would be required to be on board. It would take about a year before the first women would board a sub, due to the amount of training need. ABC News says that the Navy hopes that 12-18 ROTC or Naval Academy graduates will enter submarine training.

U.S. Department of Defense Announces Latest Contract Awards

McKesson Corp., San Francisco, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $977,318,000 firm-fixed-price, prime vendor contract for replenishment pharmaceuticals and other authorized supplies. Other location of performance is Arizona. Using service is Department of Defense.  The original proposal was solicited on the Federal Business Opportunities wb site with two responses.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The date of performance completion is Feb. 28, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM200-03-D-1666).

                UNICOR, Washington, D.C., is being awarded a maximum $23,991,000 firm-fixed-price, sole-source, total set-aside, indefinite-quantity/indefinite-delivery contract for cold weather trousers. Other locations of performance are South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida. Using service is Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is March 31, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM1C1-10-D-F012).


                Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., Newport News, Va., is being awarded a $19,400,942 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-2100) for planned and growth supplemental work for the accomplishment of the fiscal year 2008 extended drydocking selected restricted availability (EDSRA) of USS Enterprise (CVN 65). EDSRAs are similar to overhauls in that they restore the ship, including all subsystems that affect combat capability and safety, to established performance standards. Additionally, an EDSRA provides an opportunity to perform hull inspections, recoating and other maintenance related evolutions below the waterline that cannot be accomplished while the ship is waterborne. The EDSRA provides sufficient time to perform more extensive repairs and testing than are possible during an extended selected restricted availability. Work will be performed in Newport News, Va., and is expected to be completed by March 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $19,400,942 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Navy dock in danger of becoming a 'nuclear dumping ground'

Military chiefs are running out of space to store the UK's growing number of obsolete nuclear submarines, prompting fears that one of the country's busiest naval ports is set to be turned into a nuclear scrapyard.

Devonport is already home to eight ageing nuclear submarines – 27 more are due to be sent there. Photograph: Jim Wileman

Eight ageing nuclear-powered vessels are currently kept afloat at the Devonport dockyard in the middle of Plymouth, and 27 more are due to be sent there as they reach the end of their service life in the next few years.

The Ministry of Defence admits it will run out of storage space for the redundant nuclear subs by 2020 and has put forward plans to begin dismantling the radioactive hulks at the city centre site.

Campaigners say the work will be dangerous and turn the dockyard – and the city – into a "nuclear dumping ground" if the plans go ahead.

Building a Special Ops Minisub, on a Budget

The Navy’s elite SEALs are good at a lot of things: infiltrating enemy ports, boarding hostile vessels, hostage rescue. Managing a complex acquisition program, not so much.

Such was the case with the Advanced Seal Delivery System (ASDS), an effort by the Navy and Special Operations Command to build a fleet of mini-subs that could piggyback on a larger submarine, and stealthily deliver SEAL teams to their objective, dry, rested and ready to fight.

After years of development, the program yielded only one prototype mini-sub, at the whopping cost of $885 million. Last year, the submersible caught fire while recharging its lithium-ion batteries at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; faced with a massive repair bill, Special Operations Command decided not to repair the mini-sub.

Now the Navy is taking a look at another mini-sub, developed by a private firm, Submergence Group LLC. William Cole of the Honolulu Advertiser has the story of the company, which developed a new prototype, the S301, on its own dime. Development of the vessel took two years, and $10 million; after a successful demonstration, the Navy recently announced its intent to lease the S301 for another year.

Submarine completes dive successfully

Malaysia’s first submarine, the Scorpene-class KD Tunku Abdul Rahman, successfully underwent underwater trials in the South China Sea yesterday.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a technical team was aboard during the submarine’s dive to monitor its progress under water.

“The dive was successfully completed by 4pm. Everything was pronounced to be okay,” Dr Ahmad Zahid said in an SMS.

The trials were carried out at the Royal Malaysian Navy base in Teluk Sepanggar, Sabah.

It was earlier reported that the KD Tunku Abdul Rahman was unable to dive after a mechanical defect was discovered by engineers.

The problem forced the delay of its test in tropical waters, which was supposed to be completed at the end of last month.

Last week, Zahid said the technical defect, which affected the submarine’s high-pressure air valve system, had been rectified by the manufacturer and contractor under a warranty agreement.

The submarine arrived in Malaysia in September last year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shades of Cold War as Russian submarines spotted off US east coast

The shadow of the Cold War has returned to the US coastline with the first detection in 15 years of Russian nuclear-powered submarines operating offshore.

With the irregular appearance of Bear strategic bombers in international airspace close to America and Britain, the emergence of two Akula Class submarines off the East Coast of the US — described by a Russian general as “a normal patrol” — has reawakened concerns about Moscow’s military aims.

The Royal Navy declined to say whether it had any evidence of Akula submarines returning to their Cold War haunts in the Iceland Gap, north of Scotland. “We don’t want to let them know that we know where they are operating,” a defence official said.

The Akula is capable of carrying torpedoes for attacking other submarines and surface vessels, as well as cruise missiles. It is also fitted with equipment to avoid detection. The American equivalent is the Los Angeles Class nuclear-powered submarine.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, a former submarine commander and editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships, said: “The arrival of Akula Class submarines off the US eastern seaboard is as much a political move by the Russian Navy as a military one, although these deployments would always have to be approved from high-up. It’s unquestionably the Russian Navy trying to raise its profile.”