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The following is reprinted with permission from NAVINT, which is published twice monthly by Tileprint Ltd. Of 13 Crondace Road, London, SW6 4BB.

From NAVINT issue 15 September 2001.

Six Nuclear Submarines on Seabed

On 9 August Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak, in charge of the operations to raise the wreck of KURSK, said that six nuclear submarines are at the bottom of the sea, two American and four Soviet.

According to Motsak, the KURSK tragedy is probably the first event in the history of the [Soviet/Russian] Navy which was made public on the day of the disaster. “Nothing of the kind was possible earlier as nuclear submarine disasters were not made known to the general public”, he said. He recalled that details of the accident with S-80 diesel-electric missile-armed submarine (Project 644 or Whiskey Twin Cylinder), the first sunken Soviet submarine to be raised, became known “only many years after it sank … Some details of the tragedy with the S-80 submarine are painfully reminiscent of the KURSK tragedy,” said Motsak.

The accident occurred on 27 January 1961, when S-80 was on a combat training mission in the same area of the Barents Sea where KURSK sank many years later. The entire crew of 68 men died in the disaster. Only seven years later, on 23 June 1968, the rescue ship ALT Al found S-80 lying on the rocky seabed at a depth of 196m. As a result of Operation Glubina (Depth), S-80 was raised on 24 July 1969.

According to Vice Admiral Motsak, the S-80 disaster made it possible for the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy “to secure the allocation of money for the development of … naval rescue resources.” The money went to finance the construction of the KARP ATY salvage ship, capable of lifting sunken submarines.

Solution to Russian Navy’s Submarine Reactor Problems Gets Closer

A U.S. delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar visited the Zvezdochka shipyard and the Severnoye Machine-Building Enterprise in Russia’s White Sea Severodvinsk on 26 August to discuss joint programmes for scrapping the Russian Navy’s decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines. A Svezdochka spokesman, Alexander Bobretsov, told Itar-Tass that the programmes would be discussed after the U.S. budget for the new fiscal year has been passed.

American delegations have visited Severodvinsk regularly since 1992, when the U.S. and Russia adopted an inter-governmental programme of mutual threat-reduction, part of which includes the scrapping of decommissioned submarines. The U.S. Government has provided Russia with free industrial equipment and with funding for the programmes. An enterprise for recycling liquid radioactive waste from submarines has been set up at Zvezdochka with American assistance, and a base for storing spent nuclear fuel is being built.

Several nuclear powered submarines, formerly serving with the Northern Fleet are being cut up in Severodvinsk at the moment, but there are another 100 awaiting disposal.

News in Brief

Ten children of the Russian submariners who died in the KURSK tragedy have been given a ten day holiday in Scotland by the efforts of the Royal Navy submariners’ wives. This is separate from the US $10,000 raised by the British submarine community and presented to the Submarine Association. That donation, matched by $100,000 raised in Russia, was used to provide better accommodation for the dependents.

From NAVINT issue 15 October 2001 .

Denmark’s New SSK Commissioned

On 17 August the Royal Danish Navy (RON) held a ceremony to celebrate the renaming of the former Royal Swedish Navy submarine NswMS NACKEN HOMS KRONBORG at Aalborg. The renaming was conducted by the Commander-in-Chief of the Danish Armed Forces, Air Force Gen. Christian Hvidt. After the ceremony the submarine was formally handed over to the RDN.

The Commander-in-Chief said, “KRONBORG is Denmark’s most modem submarine. She will help sustain the high level of technical competence for which the Danish Submarine Service is well known, until the pan-Nordic Viking project is released,” . Gen. Hvidt further emphasised the uniqueness of the Danish Submarine Service, which has been an important part of Denmark’s armed forces for more than 90 years. “The last time the Danes bought submarines, it was Norway that provided the technical support and know-how,” noted RAdm P. B. Sorensen, from the Danish Defence Materiel Administration. “Today, it is Sweden. Without the support of Swedish politicians, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), the Swedish Navy and Kockurns, this upgrade of Danish naval capability would not have been possible. The signing of the contract on 13 February this year was the signal to start a hectic refit and upgrade programmer, conducted by Kockums in Karlskrona, as well as a full crew-training programmer. We wish to express our thanks for all the effort and commitment, which has made the project such a success”.

RADM Bertil Bjokman, of FMV recalled that NACKEN had always been a “happy ship”, and wished her continued success. Kronberg is a famous castle once inhabited by Shakespear’s Hamlet.

US Edgine Towards SSKs for Taiwan

The Bush Administration may be moving closer to its goal of providing eight diesel-electric hunter-killer submarines (SSKs) to the Republic of China Navy (RoCN) in Taiwan. According to
Military Procurement International, citing a report in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the US Navy is putting pressure on General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division to buy a 40 percent stake in the Australian Government-owned Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC).

ASC built the six advanced 3000t Collins class SSKs at its yard in Adelaide, South Australia, whereas no US yard has built an SSK for many years. Senior Royal Australian Navy (RAN) officers are quoted as saying that Electric Boat could extract enough knowledge from the Collins design to enable the Groton, CT yard to develop a hybrid design.

The subject of building SSKs for Taiwan has hitherto been taboo in Australian Government circles, on account of Australia’s large Chinese market for mainly agricultural produce. In the aftermath of the New York and Washington bombings, the US Government may call on its loyal Australian ally to concede the point, even at the cost of some face-saving subterfuge such as a pretence that Taiwan would be buying an all-American design.

Thailand Looks Again at Submarines

After more than half a century without submarines, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) is bidding to acquire some urgently. Second-hand they might be, but Thailand must have them, said Navy chief Admiral Prasert Boonsong this week. The RTN originally wanted to lease three new German submarines, but given the current weak economy it has decided to settle for two second-hand ones. Thailand has looked at second-hand submarines from Italy, the Netherlands and Germany and would expect to pay a few billion baht for a leasing arrangement, according to the South China Morning Post last month.

In the event the RTN announced that it plans to acquire at least two second-hand Gal class IKL Types 540 diesel-electric submarines from Israel, whose navy was considering scuttling the three 25 year old boats or selling them for scrap, as it was having a hard time finding a buyer for them. Israel retired the last of the Gal class last summer after the third German-built and -financed Dolphin class submarine arrived. The Navy has neither the budget, nor the manpower or the support infrastructure to operate both types of submarines, according to the Jerusalem Post on 6 September.

Politics rather than finance has bedevilled the RTN’s previous plans to acquire submarines on several occasions. In part this is caused by an RTN tradition of allowing relatively junior officers to put forward major projects. These proposals then reach the media, resulting in worldwide speculation and a queue of hopeful naval salesmen; then the officer promoting the project is overruled, and the salesmen fly back to their parent companies to report that the RTN never intended to buy anything.

News in Brief

  • The Canadian Department of National Defence (ONO) is to issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) during the next six months for a naval combat system operator trainer and a submarine command team trainer, both to support the New Victoria class submarines.
  • The Italian Ministry of Defence intends to buy a number of lead-acetate accumulator batteries for the modernisation of the four Nazario Sauro class submarines, almost certainly Type PY900 from Compagnia General Accumulatori (CGA). The order is likely to be signed in September next year.

From NA VINT issue 1 November 2001.

News in Brief

  • The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) diesel-electric submarine RANKIN will be launched at the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) shipyard in Adelaide, SA on 10 November. She is the last of six Collins class to be built for the RAN by ASC. She will probably be handed over in the middle of next year.
  • Following to the failure of the former Soviet Government to anticipate the changes that would be brought about by the end of the Cold War, over 100 nuclear powered submarines, all destined for ultimate scrapping, have piled-up at the Northern Fleet base.


  • The Indian Navy’s plans to build six Project 75 Scorpene type diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) at Mazagon Dock Ltd., (MDL) in Mumbai may run into trouble. MDL is reported to be in no condition to undertake construction of complex modern SSKs. The yard has been idle for nine years, and would need an investment of at least $50 million to bring it back into operation. This is a conundrum for prime contractor Thales and principal sub-contractor Connoisseurs of Indian submarine programmes will recall a serious disagreement over MDL’s contract to build IKL Type 1500 SSKs at MDL in the 1980s, resulting in termination of the order at four units instead of six.
  • On Tuesday 18 September a Russian nuclear powered strategic submarines (SSBN) successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from under water, off Russia’s Pacific Coast, according to an official Navy announcement. The missile was launched by the SSBN PODOLSK of the Pacific Fleet from the Sea of Okhotsk, and hit the designated target at the Navy’s Chizha range on the Barents Sea coast of northern Russia. Navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said in a statement that the successful launch confirmed the “efficiency of the combat control system and reliability of the Navy’s strategic nuclear forces.,.

It is not known to which class PODOLSK belongs, but a reasonable guess if the Project 667 series (Delta group), a previously numbered Project 667B Murena (Delta I), Project 667BDR Kalmar (Delta III), or Project 667BDRM Delfin (Delta IV) SSBN.

From NA VINT issue 1 December 2001.

Sweden’s New S-SRV Submarine Rescue System

The Royal Swedish Navy (RSwN) is one of the few navies possessing a submarine rescue system, based on the URF vehicle. This system is, however, nearing obsolescence and the URF’s effective life will end around 2007-2008.

Earlier this year Kockums presented a new concept for a submarine rescue vehicle, the S-SRV. It has two pressure tight compartments: the Rescue Compartment and the Pilots and Machinery Compartment. The rescue compartment can be pressurized to permit a hyperbaric transfer of the submarine’s crew. The three-man crew includes two pilots and a rescue attendant.

The RswN requirement calls for a rescue vehicle capable of rescuing the entirer crew of one of its submarines, so the S-SRV has a capacity for 35 rescuees. Injured crew members may require up to five rescues, and stretchers are provided.

The manoeuvring system, combined with the rotating mating skirt, enables the S-SRV to mate with the submarine at angles up to 60 degrees. After a submarine accident it is very likely that the crew will be exposed to rising pressure inside the hull. Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) capability is therefore important. Today’s technology is more advanced than anything available 30 years ago. The use of a software database has changed the design process radically. Information on all components, dimensions, volumes, weights and centre of gravity is fed into the database continuously. Increased diving depth dictates better materials and precise calculations. To limit the weight of the S-SRV the arrangement of the pressure hull has been made less complex than in the URF. High tensile steel, combined with advanced methods of calculation and testing, made it possible to fine tune the design.

The S-SRV’s navigation aids include advanced sonars and underwater cameras. Highly accurate compact optical gyrocompasses with low power consumption are also available. Navigation data from the cameras is presented to the pilots on compact displays. In addition to standard underwater telephones and transponders, the use of an acoustic data link is under consideration, to improve communication with the mother ship.

The aim of the design and its logistic support is to be air-portable, by large aircraft, such as the C-17 Globemaster, the A-400M, the C-5 Galaxy, and An-124 Antonov Condor transports. Improvements to the handling system should include better recover, i.e., a safer way of connecting the tow-and lifting-cables in the open sea.

Rolls-Royce Wins Nuclear Support Contract

Rolls-Royce has been awarded a £100 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defence to support the Royal Navy’s (RN) force of nuclear attack and strategic submarines (SSNs and SSBNs). The company will provide a total power plant support package for the next three years, and future programmers for the period 2004·201 l are potentially worth another £300m.

The contract covers design improvements, inspection, refurbislunent, condition-monitoring, and a continuous safety review for the ppressurizedwater reactor powerplant. Rolls. Royce will also continue to conduct research into the development of future powerplant options for the Future Attack Submarine (FASM). The company designs, supplies and supports all the reactor systems and equipment for the RN’s SWIFI’SURE, TRAFALGAR, VAN-GUARD and the new Astute class submarines-a total of 19 boats.


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