October 12, 2017

Australian Navy Growing in Size & Missiom

Australia's brief was relatively easy when Australia was the US's "deputy sheriff" covering the "Arc of Instability" (mainly islands from East Timor through PNG, Solomons to Fiji) up until about 2008. But now Australia's "Worry Creep" is even more complex with broader problems, including North Korea terrorising northeast Asia and China coveting (at least economically) the entire
 Indo-Pacific Region.


In August 2017 Australian personnel took part in joint US-Korean military exercises

Exercise Haedoli Wallaby

In solidarity with South Korea (considering the North Korean threat) Australian frigates HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Parramatta will be making port visits to South Korea and conducting "Haedoli Wallaby" exercises with the South Korean Navy in late October 2017. "Haedoli" means "dolphin" in Korean.

Exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2017

China would be aware that Australia is in touch with other countries in the region. During September to November 2017 HMAS Melbourne and Parramatta are also participating in a more widespread Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2017. Australian participants also include the newly commissioned landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (photo below) - also the frigates HMAS Darwin, HMAS Toowoomba and replenishment ship HMAS Sirius. This is the largest Australian naval exercise in 40 years and involves visits to and/or interaction with naval forces from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Micronesian Islands, India, again South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and East Timor. More at The Diplomat (paysite).

The Australian vessels are also exercising with those US destroyers that are still undamaged in the region.

Growing in size and becoming more active. Landing Helicopter Dock ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide as well as smaller Royal Australia Navy vessels at Fleet Base East (Sydney). (Photo courtesy Australia in the Great War)


In the face of the North Korean threat Australia is taking other measures in solidarity with South Korea.

The third ROK-Australian 2 + 2 meeting in Seoul was held on October 12 and 13, 2017. This is between Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne with their South Korean counterparts. Here is the Australian Ministers’ Joint Media Release.

It is highly likely that if North Korea attacked US forces in South Korea, in Japan/Okinawa or US forces at sea this would invoke the ANZUS Treaty. US and probably Australian forces would then be fighting against North Korea. See more at the (Australian) ABC News article by Andrew Greene.


October 11, 2017

October 2017 Donor Report: South Korea’s Next Submarine Class Dilemma

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October 10, 2017

Some (likely) Naval Group Approaches to Australia's Future Submarine

After much discussion on Submarine Matters (here and here) and elsewhere on the direction Naval Group is going with Australia's Future Submarine...

Some observations are:

Descriptions of a huge 50 year to design, build and upgrade submarine program are made by different people, at different times, for different purposes, targeting different audiences.

Disruptions to the future submarine selection process made it difficult for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and contestants to nail down final submarine requirements and designs. Up to February 2015 then Prime Minister Abbott unilaterally chose Japan. From February 2015 a selection process hid the reality that Japan was quietly still the winner. Japan was ahead until Abbott was removed from the Prime Ministership in September 2015. Once Prime Minister Turnbull was appointed the field was opened up to the 3 contestants (Germany, France and Japan) with a normally 3 year submarine selection period being compressed into 7 months (September 2015 to April 2016).

Turnbull chose to rapidly publicise the Future Submarine winner on April 26, 2016 in order to win South Australian votes in the early July 2, 2016 National Election. With the pork barrel of a $50 Billion project mainly at Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia Turnbull’s submarine-to-win-the-election-strategy succeeded in getting his government over the line by one crucial electorate/district/seat/vote.

Naval Group (then DCNS) had to publicly react quickly to Turnbull’s premature (April 26, 2016) announcement with as positive and concrete a submarine package as possible. For example Naval Group’s concept submarine was termed the “Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A” to indicate to the public that it was a solid building block in a highly developed submarine program. Shortfin was also presented as a conventional outgrowth of an already highly developed Barracuda nuclear submarine program.

Final Issues To Be Decided In Years To Come

In fact in a huge submarine program specific submarine characteristics can only be assessed and finalised once a finalised scale model can be hydro-dynamically tested or even after the full-sized first of class begins trials in the open sea (noise? cavitation?) in about 2031. Issues include:

-  length will fluctuate depending on many variables including the size of the bow sonar (Lockheed
   Martin (LM) input as one small part of its combat system) and whether a pump jet is added or
-  diameter could fluctuate (how many decks, bunk sizes and numbers, arrangement of how many
   torpedo tubes (LM), VLS? how many and size of diesels, batteries, fuel tanks, water ballast?
-  fuel cell AIP? inefficient to carry the LOX over Australia’s long transit distances, lack of
   observable French progress with Fuel Cell and lack of observable RAN interest
-  the first pump jet as standard on a SSK class. This would be a radical solution for the
   technologically conservative RAN 
-  RAN conservatism would also likely reject Australia becoming the second LIBs user after Japan.

At 8/10/17 5:13 PM someone with access to Naval Group thinking commented, in part:

“I think you will find that the [Australian Government] govt was well aware that both the DCNS & TKMS designs were just concepts (basic design only). Both required complete detailed design from scratch. Both would have used existing designs for reference (you don't reinvent the wheel unless you have to)...It will definitely be more like a conventional powered Barracuda than a stretched Scorpene (for a start you would have to stretch a Scorpene in all directions, not just make it longer)...”

A submarine builder’s technical design knowledge base, influencing future submarine designs, often goes back a century. The designs of the Scorpenes and Barracudas are only the latest. See the Table below.

Naval Group Submarine Development TABLE (by Pete)

(how many built?)
First Sub Laid Down
Last Sub Commissioned
Some still building?
Classes pre Agosta
26 Daphne
1863 the Plongeur 
1957 France only
many classes pre 1957
1975 France & Export
No. eg. WWI era. Interwar and WWII 
Redoutable SSBNs
6 built France only
1964 (1st commissioned 1971
Agosta SSKs
13 built
Early 1970s French, Spanish & Pak Navy
2006, 3 Spanish, 5 Pakistani remain
Rubis SSNs
6 built 2,500 tonnes
Re-commissioned as AMETHYSTEs
Rebuilds of the 6 existing Rubis SSNs
Triomphant SSBNs
4 built
Scorpene SSKs (14 total)
2 built---------------------
2 built---------------------
1 built so far

1999 O’Higgins Chile
2009 INS Kalvari India
2010 SBR-1-4 Brazil

2009 Malaysia
2016 (1st planned)
2020 (1st SBR-1)

5 x Kalvaris 1 per year
4 x SBRs (1 per year)
SN-BR SSN just 1 DCNS designing non-nuclear portion. 4 to 5,000 tonnes.
2024 (maybe) after the
Brazil building reactor.
2034 (or later) likely. Also depends on Brazilian economy.
1 in medium-long term
French only SSNs
6 planned
2029 for the last of the six
2052? Assuming all are SSKs? 1 built/2 years?
France’s Next Generation SSBN (SSBN NG)
4 likely
Armed with 10? to 16? M51.3 SLBMs

2050? Assuming one sub built every two years


October 9, 2017

Mutiny? on HMS Vigilant nuclear missile submarine.

HMS Vigilant, with crew, in happier times (Photo courtesy Royal Navy, 2012)

What do you call it when:

1.  the Captain of nuclear missile submarine HMS Vigilant (SSBN) is removed for an inappropriate
     relationship with a female crew member,

2.  then his second in command (Executive Officer) is also removed – same reason – different female
     crew member, and

3.  then it is revealed these shenaniganssparked anger among crew members, with five [officers]
     threatening to resign?

This is very serious on account of HMS Vigilant constituting Britain’s whole active nuclear deterrent during the three to six months it is on patrol. During that period the other three Vanguards would be inactive while training or being overhauled. 

This Lockheed Martin document [PDF 10MB] also raises a third activity on page 6 - that is the Vanguards also regularly have their rented Trident missiles [right click mouse to translate] restocked at the US-UK Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT) at the US SSBN Base at King's Bay, Georgia. 

Kings Bay Base is large, at 16,000 acres and employing 9,000 people. A likely photo of US-UK Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic's giant SSBN sheds is below - courtesy French Wikipedia

See inside one shed [on page 1. same PDF 10MB]

A.  In view of the Vigilant Scandal the issue of having female crew on UK and US SSBNs is likely to
      be reviewed.

B.  The five officer threat to resign from what is a front line vessel might approach mutiny by some
      definitions. The most famous Mutiny on the Bounty was much more insignificant in comparison.
      HMS Bounty was an ex-collier only mounting 4 to 14 small guns. Vigilant is more a like a whole
      fleet in one vessel – mounting up to 16 city smashing “guns”.


October 6, 2017

Mainstream Media Misses Naval Group's Misspeak *

In response to KQN's comment of 6/10/17 6:30 AM,:

Yes the Naval Group's Executive Director, Australian Submarine Program, Mr Billig, saying we are designing the Shortfin "from scratch" doesn't seem to have been picked up by the journos of the Mainstream Media.

Mr Billig's misspeak directly contradicts Naval Group's 2016 reference to Shortfin using the Barracuda AND Scorpene as design references. This 2016 reference was in Sean Costello's (then CEO Naval Group/DCNS Australia) who stated in ASPI's The Strategist, April 8, 2016.

"The main area where Barracuda design references were not used [for Australia's future Shortfin submarine] was in the area of the electrical system (batteries and voltage), power generation (induction and diesel generators) and propulsion (main electric motor)."

"In these systems the design reference comes from the Scorpene class of diesel electric submarines, or from an existing submarine technology within DCNS. Existing technologies are re-used in all systems in the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A. System by system, the whole ship performance is validated and the design loop closed."

Comment - Maybe there's a French to English translation glitch?