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In the interest of providing Submarine League members with information on submarine happenings outside the United States, arrangements have been made to extract appropriate news items periodically from a major international naval newspaper. It is the intent here to highlight those items of foreign submarine news which fall between hard news available in the American general and trade press, and the background pieces more usually found in these pages. Accordingly, the following is reprinted with permission from NA VINT, which is published twice monthly by Tileprint Ltd. Of 13 Crondace Road, London SW6 4BB.

From NA VINT issue 1 August2000.

New Russian Fleet Plan

The Russian Navy’s headquarters believes that 12 strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), 20 general purpose nuclear submarines (SSNs), 35 diesel electric submarines (SSKs), and around 70 surface warships would be sufficient to ensure the country’s security in the 21 n century, according to reports published by the Bellona Foundation in Norway.

According to the Bellona reports, a confidential presidential decree outlining the goals of the Russian Navy was issued on 4 March. The decree stipulates the main features of the state policy towards the Navy from now to 2010. Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, Chief of the Russian Navy General Headquarters, said that Russia should possess a powerful naval potential in the new century in order to provide defence and security. The priorities of the Navy’s development should be SSBNs and general purpose submarines as well as unified vessels.

Admiral Kravchenko emphasised that the naval budget must get 25 percent of the total defence budget in order to achieve these goals. The current naval share of the budget is around 10ยท 12 percent. The Russian Navy currently operates 26 SSBNs, 50 SSNs and SSGNs, 80 SSKs, and about 100 surface ships. No fewer than 183 nuclear powered submarines are currently being taken out of service in the Northern and Pacific fleets.

The Brazilian SSN

The Brazilian Navy is to invest R$750 million aiming to conclude development of its first nuclear attack submarine (SSN). The announcement was made by Sr Marcus Vinicius de Oliveira Santos, the Director of Central Tecnologico da Marinha. The project began in 1980, and has already cost R$1.3 billion. The SSN is to be delivered in 2010.

Canadian Upholders

Camrnel Laird of Birkenhead, UK has secured a subcontract from BAE Systems to reactivate the former Royal Navy diesel electric submarine UNSEEN, originally built at Birkenhead over a decade ago. Launched in 1989, UNSEEN has been bought by the Canadian Navy as HMCS VICTORIA. BAE Systems was awarded the contract to reactivate, refurbish. and modernise all four Upholder class for the Canadians.

India’s Kilo

India’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sushil Kumar, will visit Russia later this month for the commissioning of the Navy’s first missile equipped submarine, official sources said on 4 July. INS SINDHUSHASTRA, a Project 877 Kilo type fitted with the Klub-S missile system, will be commissioned at the Baltiisky yard in St. Petersburg on 16 July.

UK’s SSN Force Status

In an official statement on 11 July the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed that six of the Royal Navy’s 12 nuclear attack subma-rines (SSNs} are operational: SOVEREIGN, SPLENDID, SU-PERB, TRAFALGAR, TRIUMPH and TURBULENT. SCEPTRE and SPARTAN are refitting at Rosyth; TALENT, TORBAY and TRENCHANT are at Devonport; and TIRELESS is at Gibraltar. The last named is undergoing a standard repair following a leak of coolant water in her reactor compartment, and will remain there until the aurumn. SPLENDID, TRAFALGAR, and TRIUMPH are now armed with Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs).

From NAVINT issue of 1 October 2000.

British SSNs Undergo Powerplant Checks

Two UK Royal Navy nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs) based at Faslane on the Clyde were “temporarily withdrawn from operational service” earlier last month because of a flaw in the propulsion system of a sister vessel, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. The Swiftsure class submarines HMS SOVEREIGN and HMS SUPERB “are currently out of service and will return to service depending on the safety cases” made for them, an MoD spokesman said. These safety cases will be decided by the naval nuclear regulatory authorities. But these SSN’s operational status is good enough to meet their planned operational commitments in the future, the MoD claimed, describing reports of the problems as inaccurate.

In the first case of problems hitting these SSNs, the defect in HMS SCEPTRE’s powerplant was discovered in 1998 at the beginning of a two and a half year refit. HMS SCEPTRE is still in refit, as is HMS SPARTAN, while HMS SPLENDID has been declared safe to operate until next February, when her future is to be reviewed. The way individual reactor plants are built has a bearing on acceptable safety margins, the MoD admits. An acceptable safety margin for one submarine may not necessarily apply to others of the same class.

The latest SSN problems have added to recent difficulties with some newer Trafalgar class submarines which have meant that only four of the Navy’s 12 SSNs were thought to be immediately available earlier last month. Of the Trafalgar class SSNs out of service, HMS TIRELESS is in dock at Gibraltar with a cooling system problem.

From NAVINT issue of 15 October 2000.

Two More Australian Submarines Upgraded

The Australian Minister for Defence, John Moore, and the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, announced on 14 September the decision to modify two more Collins class submarines and to approve other submarine related work, at a total cost of A$72 million. Two submarines, HMAS FARNCOMB, and the yet-to-be launched sixth submarine, RANKIN, will be upgraded with the same modifications that were approved for HMRS DECHAINEUX and HMS SHEEAN in December last year. Changes co the submarines include modified propellers, modified casing sections, improved hydraulic system components, and improvements to diesel engine reliability. “HMAS FARNCOMB will enter refit later this year, and the sixth submarine, RANKIN, is due to be completed next year,” Moore said. “As these proven modifications can only be incorporated during build or during scheduled refits, the government has approved their incorporation now in FARNCOMB and RANKIN to resolve known deficiencies and reliability shortcomings,” said Moore. He said the decision to proceed with the upgrade of an additional two submarines reiterated the government’s commitment to the Collins class, in advance of broader issues which will be canvassed in the upcoming Defence White Paper.

“The government is committed to bringing all six Collins submarines to full operational capability. A final decision on recommended options to achieve this capability will be considered in the context of the strategic outcomes of the White Paper,” Moore said.

Iran Inaugurates Submarine Ammunition Line

Iran has inaugurated a plant in Tehran for the production of what a local television report described as submarine ammunition. The Project 877 submarines operated by the Navy are armed with short range missiles in the fin as a defence against helicopters, which may be the ammunition referred to, but it might conceivably apply to torpedoes or tube launched mines, although Iran’s defence industry is more likely to be involved at a support level.

A separate plant was commissioned for the production of electro-optical tracking equipment. The report quoted Defence Ministry Vice Admiral Shamkhani as saying that this will “remove one of the main weaknesses in anti-radar warfare in the country’s air defence system”. This presumably reference to defeating the U.S. forces’ ability to jam fire control radars, a major factor in the destruction of Iraq’s air defence system during the War in 1991.

The two plants were amongst eight military factories inaugurated to mark Government Week. Shamkhani said, “Unfortunately we live in a region which has become, against its will, heavily anned and there is no option but to strengthen our military capabilities”.

From NAVINT issue of 1 November 2000.

Egypt Chooses Dutch SSK Design

The Egyptian Navy is to buy two Moray 1400 type diesel electric submarines (SSKs) from Rouerdamse Droogdok Maats-chappij (RDM), following a long campaign by various European builders to supply replacements for ageing Project 033 Chinese-built Romeo type SSKs.

The sale is to be funded by Foreign Military Sales (PMS), with hulls constructed by Litton’s Ingalls Shipbuilding yard at Pascagou-la, Mississippi, according to the official announcement made three weeks ago (the deal was actually approved on 15 September). Sceptics think that we may see a re-run of the farce over the construction of three Dolphin class SSKs under FMS funding. For a long time the fiction of building the three boats at Pascagoula was maintained, but finally construction took place at Kiel by Howaldts-werke Deutsch Werft (HOW) to avoid a very steep learning curve.

The Moray 1400 is the smallest of a family of designs prepared over ten years ago by RDM. The Egyptian boats will have an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, but no details have been released. It seems unlikely that the French MESMA system will be chosen as it has not yet gone to sea, nor is a fuel cell installation likely (HOW fought very hard to win the Egyptian contract, and might be unwilling to release the technology to a competitor). The Swedish Stirling plant is well proven, but there is an outside runner in the race. RDM cooperated with Thyssen Nordseewerke and Cosworth to fund the closed-cycle diesel (CCD) known to RDM as SPECTRE. The system was installed in U .1 following her sea trials with the prototype fuel-cell installation for the Type 212 submarines.

Weapons and Electronics are also unannounced, but Kollmorgen periscopes can be taken as read, and ArgoSystems AR-700 electronic support measures (ESM), to maintain a reasonable level of U.S. industry participation. For similar reasons A Boeing combat system is likely to be selected, but it seems unlikely that the U.S. Navy will release Mk 48 ADCAP, and Seahunter is a possible alternative. Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles may be made available.

Contracts for two more boats can be expected in the future, to replace the second pair of Romeos. We can look forward to some very lively knocking of the Moray design from one or two disappointed suitors.

From NAVINT of 15 November 2000.

Five RN Nuclear Submarines Clear of Defects

Geoff Hoon, UK Secretary of State of Defence, told the House of Commons on 1 November that the initial phase of the inspection programme of UK Royal Navy (RN) attack submarines (SSNs) showed that five boats had no defects. All 12 SSNs were under investigation because of the flaw in one submarine’s primary cooling circuit, the Trafalger class attack submarine HMS TIRE-LESS discovered last May.

However, seven boats, including TIRELESS, were not clear of the problem, Hoon said, proof of the difficulty which had obliged the Navy to recall or investigate all 12 Swiftsure and Trafalgar class SSNs. This prompted many doomladen headlines in the British media and some extraordinarily ignorant comments by those who should know better, suggesting that the whole RN submarine force was either doomed or useless. The presence of a Germany Navy submarine at Plymouth for a Flag Office Sea Training (FOST) workup led to banner headlines proclaiming that a “U-boat had been borrowed to defend UK coastal waters”.

What Hoon said was, “The inspections have shown that there is no evidence of this problem in five submarines. Although four of these were already alongside undergoing repair, maintenance or refit, this means that HMS TRIUMPH, which has the capability to launch Tomahawk missiles, will return to operational duties shortly. Analysis of more detailed inspections will allow a recovery programme to be set in place for those submarines which are affected. We aim to have this established by the end of November. In the short term, HMS TRIUMPH’s availability means that we are much better placed to conduct operations, including those in support of the deterrent.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) continned the current status of the SSN fleet as follows:

HMS SOVEREIGN Faslane for maintenance -clear of flaw
HMS SCEPTRE Refit in Rosyth -clear of flaw
HMS SPARTAN Refit in Rosyth -clear of flaw
HMS TRENCHANT Refit in Devonport -clear of flaw
HMS TRIUMPH Devenport-clear of flaw
HMS SUPERB Faslane for maintenance -signs of flaw
HMS SPLENDID Faslane -signs of flaw
HMS TRAFALGAR Devonport -signs of flaw
HMS TURBULENT Devenport -signs of flaw
HMS TORBAY Refit in Devonport -signs of flaw
HMS TALENT Devonport for maintenance -signs of flaw
HMS TIRELESS Gibralter -original defect under repair

The MoD would not indicate what had caused the problems in the cooling circuit of the PWR-1 reactors of the two classes, but went out of its way to emphasise that the problem does not affect the PWR-2 reactors of the four Vanguard class ballistic missiles submarines (SSBNs). It was observed that the flaw could relate to a metallurgical or other weakness, but this was before Hoon had made his statement.

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