- The Washington Post of 18 July reported that a Soviet submarine of the ALF A-class had surfaced 30 miles north of Kola Bay, pouring white smoke out of its conning tower. Norwegian observers believed the sub had a fire on board. The Soviet explanation of this incident was that a “reactor’s emergency warnings were activated” causing the sub to shift to its batteries, but that a short circuit caused a further shift to the diesel engines “which caused the exhaust.” With a Soviet ship as escort “the submarine headed to home base under its own power.”
- Navy Times reports that two serious cracks in the SSN TOPEKA were found during its construction “forcing Electric Boat to replace part of the submarine’s steel hull.” The cracks on the outer hull were discovered during sand blasting operations. “Construction of the TOPEKA (SSN 754), ordered by the Navy in 1983, was begun on January 22, 1988, and she is to be commissioned September 30, 1989.”
- NAVY NEWS & Undersea Technology of 1 May reported that “during this Spring’s budget battles, the Navy offered to give up two future TRIDENT missile submarines and one SSN-21, to meet President Bush’s budget target.” But that, Defense Secretary Cheney had “rejected the submarine sacrifice and instead cut one 688.-class submarine from the procurement for the next two years.”
In an additional article, it is reported that the House Seapower Subcommittee had “questioned the need to build one TRIDENT submarine per year.” Chairman Charles Bennett said, “when we started the TRIDENT program, people talked about six ships, then 10, now it’s 18. There’s got to be a limit somewhere. This is stealing money from other things.” Yet, another member of the subcommittee in a letter to the President said, “In a post-START environment, we’ll have too many missiles on too few boats.” But Chairman Bennett said, “To produce things we don’t need and not things we do, is idiotic. The present (building) rate exceeds the numbers of TRIDENTs we need.”
- Defense News of 24 July 1989, summarized the Soviet’s trends in production of military systems in Mr. Gorbachev’s so-called “glasnost” era — relative to U.S. programs. “Soviet production of submarines decreased from ten in 1983 to nine in 1988 while the U.S. was averaging five per year over the same period. Since Gorbachev came to power the Soviets have produced 34 submarines, the U.S. 15, and the gap will almost certainly increase over the next few years.” Then, during Gorbachev’s tenure and despite Soviet emphasis on nuclear arms control, the Soviets have produced 450 ICBMs while the U.S. produced only 56. “The Soviet production of long range sea-launched cruise missiles has increased from 150 in 1983 to 300 in 1988 while production of U.S. missiles went from 40 to 280. The Soviet production of short range cruise missiles was 800 in 1988 as compared to a U.S. production of 400. Such disparities raise serious questions about the long-term impact of the resulting gap on Western security. The West needs to be far more cautious about Mr. Gorbachev and glasnost than it has been to date.”
- NAVY NEWS & Undersea Technolo&Y of 19 June reports on a study, “Submarine Warfare in the Arctic: Option or Illusion?” by Mark Sakitt of Brookhaven National Laboratory. In this study Sakitt says: “‘The Arctic naval game seems to be one in which the defenders, the Soviets, can dominate.” If U.S. SSNs try to destroy Soviet SSBNs, “the U.S. forces must remain passive in their sonar tactics since any information about their presence will lead to coordinated attacks from the numerically superior Soviet forces. The Soviets have the option of using active sonar with low-value targets supplying the signals. Given this asymmetry, noisemakers can tilt the scales in favor of the active searchers by reducing the ranges at which passive sonar can be effective for U.S. SSNs.” Sakitt also sees the Soviet mining of the northern and western approaches to the Barent Sea as giving Soviet SSBNs a distinct defense advantage.
- The Washington Post of 17 August has an article by George C. Wilson on setbacks to two major military weapons. He describes the TRIDENT ll missile tests, noting that in the first three firings at sea there had been two failures causing the operational deployment of this weapon to be delayed past the originally scheduled December 1989 date. The second failure on 15 August was believed to be due to a malfunctioning of the steering nozzle — as it had been in the first failure. In the land tests there have been 16 out of 18 successful firings. It was noted that “the House Armed Service Committee has cited the D-5 as a model development program.”
- NAVY NEWS & Undersea Technolo~ of 12 June tells of a study, “Implications of Advancing Technology for Naval Warfare in the 21st Century,” done by the Naval Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences. This “Navy 21 Study” made some interesting recommendations for submarines and their weapons; “A large number of missiles must be acquired for a full inventory in case of a ‘come as you are’ war;” “Acquisition must begin for a new class of submarine equipped with a large number of missiles;” “Rand D should be concentrated on, for example, unmanned underwater vehicles, and smart torpedoes and mines.”
The study calls for development of a new class of American submarine, a missile-carrier or SSGN. It should be armed with “several hundred long-range missiles for land attack, anti-air warfare, anti-satellite missions, anti-ship strikes, and even launch of satellites.”
Strategic submarines (SSBNs) will be increasingly important for nuclear deterrence, because land-based systems will be increasingly vulnerable. He said strategic ASW “won’t catch up enough to make SSBNs vulnerable although security around ports needs to be solved. It needs a lot of attention.”
Because satellites can monitor ship movements “in almost real time, there won’t be any non-combat zone,” especially if tactical ballistic missiles are developed.
If the Navy proceeds as the study outlines, a longer fraction of the budget should go to space systems for battle management command, control, communications and intelligence.
- A note in the 21 May NAVY NEWS & Undersea Technology says that twice in two years, new nuclear submarines have bad to return to port for repairs to their reduction gears. In late May the HELENA (SSN 725) was towed back to Pearl Harbor because of reduction gear failure, and in June 1987 the NEVADA (SSBN 733) had to return to port after “emergency repairs were performed at sea on its reduction gears.” The actual cause of these failures has not been pinpointed.
- Defense News of 19 June tells of a fiber-optic magnetic field sensor that could be used in sonobuoys to possibly double their detection range of submarines. It would also give sonobuoys a dual-detection capability. This magnetic anomaly detection system is a good fall-back system for use against low-level submarine sounds. The magnetic field sensor “is not without problems since temperature changes tend to create too much noise in the system.”
- PATROL of 23 June records that the USS NEWPORT News (SSN 750) on 3 June was the latest addition to the U.S. Submarine Fleet. When it was commissioned it became the 99th SSN addition to the Fleet.
- The Washington Post of 12 July, in an article by Andy Rose, tells of a tabulation of 42 collisions world-wide involving U.S. submarines, since 1983. Information obtained from the Navy in accordance with Freedom of Information Act requests, identified “five incidents involving fishing boats that were dragged or sunk;” “Submarines collided with other Navy ships at least 28 times — including five with other submarines, one with a destroyer and 15 with Navy tugboats; an additional 13 collisions involved “objects” such as mooring buoys, piers and markers. This story was developed after the SSN HOUSTON on 14 June snagged the towing cable of the tug BARCONA off Long Beach, and pulled it under.
- A book review of Sabotage at Black Tom by Robert L Benson teUs of the German submarine assists of German saboteurs in America before the entry of the U.S. into World War I. On Sunday, 30 July 1916, shortly after midnight, the saboteurs blew up the munitions depot of Black Tom Island which faced the Statue of Liberty at New York’s harbor entrance. “Thirteen huge warehouses were leveled and six piers destroyed. These assaults on neutral America (perhaps as many as 200 acts of sabotage were committed against factories, ships, bridges and canals) were combined with covert operations designed to embroil the United States with Mexico and led to the U.S. declaration of war against Germany.”
- On 16 July a fire broke out on an ALFA-class sub off Norway and a Soviet tug proceeded to tow it back to port. It was the third time in less than four months that a Soviet nuclear submarine had been involved in an incident off Norway. In April, the MIKE-class submarine had caught fire and sank in the Norwegian Sea, and on 26 June an ECH0-2 class missile sub caught on fire and leaked small amounts of radiation. However, “water tests conducted by Norway showed no significant traces of radiation.”
- NAVY TIMES of 10 July tabulates the selection opportunity of submariners and other unrestricted line officers to the rank of Commander. 81 out of the 99 LCDRs in the zone were selected for Commander for an 81% selection opportunity — which is far better than for other unrestricted line officers. The aviators had a 59.9% selection opportunity and the surface officers had a 61.9% opportunity. In addition, one submarine LCDR above the zone and 12 below the zone were selected.
- Defense News of 3 July tells of Navy research work at the Navy research center at Annapolis on a “front wheeldrive propulsion system for the next generation of submarines. The system pulls the sub through the water rather than pushing it. Captain Charles Graham, in charge of the project says: “What we want to do is put a pod up forward with a propeller facing forward so a rich hydrodynamic flow comes right into the propellers, thus reducing the cavitation. The system may be tested by the middle of the next decade, according to the researchers involved.
- NAVY NEWS & Undersea Technology of 24 April tells of Robert Moore’s testimony to the Congress on DARPA’s advanced research projects and recommendations as to how to maintain the superiority of U.S. submarines over those of the Soviets. In his 11-page statement he lists six specific ASW areas in which his agency is working to enhance American capabilities: as to passive acoustic arrays, “we think that large two dimensional arrays may buy back a portion of the performance that we stand to lose;” on active sonar, he commented, “we have developed a new theory pertaining to ocean noise for a cost effective technology for very powerful low-frequency active sources;” DARPA has “begun to test a new non-acoustic ASW system which has high potential.” Moore notes that DARPA is developing: automated acoustic detection technology which adequately processes the environmental and shipping noises; “smart” processors with neutral nets to automatically detect non traditional signals; DARPA is asking $28m to develop unmanned undersea vehicles; and a final project for automated contact prosecution which should involve aerial delivery of an ASW weapqn with autonomous re-localization of a submarine at the end of flight. An additional research project approved by DARPA for the SSN-21 was composites for the propulsor. Moore says, “‘That gives us a significant noise reduction, as well as eliminates about 30% of the mass in the aft end of the submarine.”
- At the dedication of Ramage Hall, Submarine Training Facility, Norfolk, June 2, 1989, Vice Admiral Roger F. Bacon, USN, Commander Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet, had the following remarks: What makes a submarine? “Despite a massive technological evolution, many of the fundamental principles of submarine warfare forged in the fire of combat … have clearly stood the test of time: principles like remaining undetected, shooting first, maintaining propulsion, knowing yol;lr boat, and how to fight ‘hurt’. Now, as then, we recognize that it takes men — the crew — to master those principles, to make a submarine come alive: men who possess the technical skill and courage to operate for days, weeks and months on their own; men who can confront the hazards of the deep willingly, with trust in their own skill and in the exceiJence of their people and their ship.”