November 24, 2017

Whose Hydrophones Picked Up San Juan?

Articles, including the New York Times of 23 November 2017 point to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as doing much of the detection and analytical work pointing to an explosion or implosion of ARA San Juan on 15 November 2017.

But note that the US Navy’s own analysts came to the explosion or implosion conclusion by 21 November 2017 "Tuesday night" when the US Navy shared the conclusions with Argentina - 2 days before CTBTO shared their conclusions with Argentina, on 23 November "Thursday night".
CTBTO's hydrophones on 15 November 2017 may have detected San Juan's explosion/implosion where the blue lines cross. However these CTBTO detection points are very distant from San Juan, hence likely requiring closer US Navy hydrophones for mathematical confirmation.
It is likely the US Navy's little advertised unit had more sensitive hydrophones closer to the South American continent – that is closer to San Juan. Hydrophones of other governments (see map below) may have concurred.
An explosion capable of destroying San Juan could have been caused by a buildup of hydrogen gas generated by malfunctions in San Juan's hundreds of tons of batteries. Another explosive cause may have been ignition of torpedo fuel that can almost simultaneously “cook off” one or more of San Juan's 22 torpedo warheads. Perhaps the only "comfort" for relatives was that San Juan's end likely occurred quickly.

An explosion like sound can be an implosion of San Juan once it moves deeper than the approximately 550 metre “crush depth”. San Juan’s main sailing area may have been only 250 metres deep but some parts are 3,000 metres deep.

"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" The Navy Hymn for Submariners

Lürssen wins Australia's Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Competition

A Lurssen, Lürssen or Luerssen OPV-80 that Australia is likely to build. The "80" indicates its 80 metre length  Some are already in our region in the Royal Brunei Navy (Darussalam class). (Photo courtesy pinterest).

On November 24, 2017 Australia's (current) Prime Minister Turnbull and two headed Pyne/Payne Defence Ministry announced that Germany's Lürssen had won the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) competition. 

A RAN News Release revealed the specific Lurssen design to be built is the: 

"...PV80 variant. It will be 80 metres in length with a displacement of 1700 tonnes and a draught of 4 metres.

The vessels will be fitted with a 40mm gun for self-protection, three 8.4m sea boats, state of the art sensors as well as command and communication systems. This will allow the OPVs to operate alongside Australian Border Force vessels, other Australian Defence Force units and our regional partners.

The vessels will accommodate up to 60 personnel, including a crew of around 40 Navy personnel and have the ability to accept modular mission packs such as unmanned aerial systems."

This competition is designated SEA 1180 and concerns the building of :

-  the first 2 OPVs from late 2018 in Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia. Just 2 to encourage
   continuous building and avoid the no shipbuilding scenario called the "Valley of Death". Then

-  the remaining 10 OPVs to be built at Henderson, part of Perth, Western Australia.


At 80 metres the OPV 80 displacement averages 1,700 tonnes. A manned helicopter (or autonomous unmanned helicopter) is likely to be able to land and take-off from this OPV 80 but not be hangered/maintained on it. As well as a 40mm gun the OPV is likely to be armed with at least two 7.62mm or 0.50 calibre machine but have no missiles. 

As well as the inefficiencies of a two location build the mix of shipbuilders in the consortium may cause early problems as Lürssen is partnered with and/or reliant on three companies (!) in Australia including ASC, Civmec and Austal for the build.


November 23, 2017

US Sensors May Have Detected San Juan's Fate

The US Stars and Stripes publication, which informs the US military, has provided the most definitive statements yet on the approximate location and likely fate of ARA San Juan. On Thursday 23 November 2017 Stars and Stripes, reported:

“Ships and planes hunting for a missing Argentine submarine with 44 crew members will return to a previously search area after officials said Wednesday [22 November 2017] that a noise made a week ago in the South Atlantic could provide a clue to the vessel's location."

The Argentina navy spokesman, Capt. Enrique Balbi, said the "hydro-acoustic anomaly" was determined by the United States and specialist agencies to have been produced [on 15 November] just hours after the final contact with the ARA San Juan and could have come from the sub.

The sound originated about 30 miles north of the submarine's last registered position, he said.

"It's a noise. We don't want to speculate" about what caused it, Balbi said.

He said Argentine navy ships as well as a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft and a Brazilian air force plane would return to the area to check out the clue, even though the area already was searched.

In San Diego, U.S. Navy Lt. Lily Hinz later said the unusual sound detected underwater could not be attributed to marine life or naturally occurring noise in the ocean. She declined to speculate whether it might have been an explosion, saying experts did not know what it was.

"It was not a whale, and it is not a regularly occurring sound," Hinz said.


The sensors that picked up a man-made/equipment sound on Wednesday 15 November 2017 (the day San Juan disappeared) may have been hundreds of kilometres away from San Juan. The US would likely be reluctant to specify further about its sensors. Use of sensors often involves a process of retrospectively playing back old recorded sounds/signals or "triangulating" or "cleaning up"  signals picked up by several separate sensors.

Possibly what happened is:

-  after San Juan reported its “electrical/battery malfunction” to base San Juan took the standard
   action of reaching snorkeling depth or fully surfacing due high storm waves interrupting snorkeling

-  once San Juan surfaced, its crew performed the usual practice of opening the hatches to open air, 
   so as to stand on the "conning tower"/fin/”sail” for lookout/navigation purposes and perhaps to help
   expel battery gas.

-  if there was already stormy conditions, operating on the surface can be dangerous

-  waves can crash over the fin/sail and water can pour through open hatches

-  Seawater can unbalance a submarine. If water gets into contact with a submarine's mass of
   electrical equipment/batteries this can cause short circuits.

-  A chain of many hazards can then result, including catastrophic fire, explosions, and release of
   poisonous chlorine, carbon monoxide and poisonous/explosive hydrogen gases.

-  Secondary explosions can be caused by oxygen cylinders/generators, burning batteries, torpedo fuel
   and warheads “cooking off

Explosions can sometimes be heard by sensors hundreds of kilometres away.


In 2004 the Canadian Victoria class diesel-electric submarine Chicoutimi experienced a sequence of events that may have occurred in ARA San Juan.

On 4 October 2004 Chicoutimi was travelling from UK to Canada. Chicoutimi was forced to travel on the surface for the first stage of the passage. On 5 October Chicoutimi was passing through a storm with 6 metre seas. Water entered the conning tower/fin/sail. 

Mistakes in opening all the "conning tower" hatches allowed about 2,000 litres of sea water into Chicoutimi. Water contacting electrical equipment led to electrical explosions and fire erupting.  In order to fight the fire, all systems aboard Chicoutimi were shut down, leaving Chicoutimi dead in the water. If the fire had burnt batteries, oxygen cylinders, torpedo fuel or warheads Chicoutimi would have been destroyed. But Chicoutimi was lucky.

As Submarine Matters indicated on November 18, 2017 San Juan was likely unlucky.

The lower red dot in the shaded "Search Area" marks where “Ships and planes hunting for a missing Argentine submarine with 44 crew members will return" based on US information (Map courtesy UK Sun newspaper).

November 22, 2017

Hopefully French Submarine Will Perform Better Than Its Tiger Helicopters


Sam Bateman (below), recognises that the pump jet remains a major reason for Australia choosing the French Future Submarine Shortfin over the Japanese and German responses to Australia's 2015-16 "SEA 1000" submarine competition. This is despite Naval Group (was DCNS) seemingly backpedaling on the pump jet promise.

Likely contributing to the choice is that the prospect of 100s/1,000s of Australian Navy, Defence and company personnel living/liaising in France during the Shortfin Program was preferable to living for 2-3 years in Japan or Germany. J'aime Paris!  :)

After all – why was the mainly French built, but defective, Eurocopter/Airbus Tiger helicopter chosen by Australia over the far superior tried and tested SuperCobra or the Boeing Apache? The Tiger has failed in Australian service even though the Australian Army is delaying the conclusion that more than $1.5 Billion has been wasted.  

DEFENCE CONNECT wrote in May 2017 “The [Tiger helicopter] has been under fire since last year, when an Australian National Audit Office report revealed the Tigers are not available in sufficient numbers to give pilots the mandated minimum 150 flight hours a year.
Entry to service was scheduled for 2009 but was delayed by seven years, and replacements of the [Tigers] are already set to begin in the mid 2020s, but Defence maintains there will be no capability void.
...The acquisition of 22 of the Tiger helicopters cost $1.1 billion (2001 price), with an additional cost of $397 million (2001 price) for a through-life support contract.”
So the now replaced DMO searching for problematic, hence bureaucratically labour intensive, weapon systems was not the only reason.

By the way Defence needs to delete its DMO still lives website.


 Pierre Tran for DefenseNews writes:

"How a French firm beat out Japanese companies in Australia’s submarine tender

PARIS ― A lack of Australian confidence in Japan’s defense industry sank an offer from Tokyo in the AUD$50 billion (U.S. $38 billion) tender for attack submarines, while greater stealth [held as a German deficiency] and advanced propulsion technology buoyed a rival French bid, said Sam Bateman, a research fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.

Australia’s selection was based on a “commercial and strategic decision,” Bateman told the annual seminar of the Observatory for Southeast Asia on Nov. 17.

The seminar, held at the French War College, was organized by Asia Centre, a think tank of Inalco, a French foreign language institute, and was backed by the Institute for Strategic Research and General Directorate for International Relations and Strategy. The latter two are part of the French Armed Forces Ministry.

Japan enjoyed a strategic advantage, as there was “some U.S. pressure” on Australia to pick a Japanese submarine, Bateman said. But after an exhaustive study, there was “some uncertainty about Japanese ability to deliver,” he added. The lack of confidence stemmed from Japan’s little experience in defense sales in the wake of Australia’s multibillion dollar program.

“France is greatly involved in military sales,” Bateman said, adding that there was an offer for a better submarine in terms of stealth and a forced jet propulsion rather than a conventional propeller...”



November 21, 2017

Major Search & Rescue Discipline Necessary To Find San Juan


It is important that prematurely announced rumours (of messages, sounds, etc) allegedly coming from ARA San Juan do not give relatives, or others, false hope. The roller-coaster of pessimism and optimism can only cause more worry. Out of false hope or military/government agendas comes conspiracy theories. 

A recent precedent was the loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) - a large jet that in March 2014 (very likely) crashed into the Indian Ocean. Despite rumour spreading and political posturing by the Malaysian military and government (and prematurely announced judgements from Australia's Prime Minister in 2014) MH370 has never been found. Although small bits of MH370 washed up on beaches, more than a year later and thousands of miles away from the expected crash point. 

The search for San Juan may occur more like that of Air France Flight 447 (AF447) a flight from Rio, Brazil to Paris. AF477, an Airbus A330, crashed into the Atlantic, on 1 June 2009. The French Rubis class nuclear submarine L'Émeraude took part in the early phase of the search. After immense effort from many small, specialised search probes AF477 was finally located in April 2011.

After informing the Argentine Government it is possible the US may have deployed one of its own Los Angeles or Virginia class nuclear submarines to help seach for San Juan. However, the best US submarine for the job would be Seawolf class submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) with her specially fitted 2,500-ton mid-section that provides an ocean interface for divers, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), special mission equipment and storage.


 The Guardian, November 21, 2017, reported, in part:

"Argentina's navy says fresh noises are not [NOT] from missing submarine"

    "...Argentina’s navy has said sounds detected from the bottom of the ocean are not from the
    submarine which has been missing in rough seas for five days with 44 crew on board.
Spokesman Enrique Balbi said “a biological source” [eg. a whale] was behind the noises which were picked up by two Argentinian navy ships searching for ARA San Juan and by sonar buoys dropped by a US P8 surveillance plane.
The navy has also revealed the submarine’s last communication, on Wednesday, was to report a mechanical breakdown related to its batteries. Captain Gabriel Galeazzi, who runs the naval base in Mar del Plata, which was the submarine’s destination, said mechanical problems were not uncommon and rarely posed a risk.
The announcement regarding the noises dashed hopes raised by a CNN report on Monday that stated the sounds could be crew members banging tools against the hull. “The sounds are not from the submarine and do not correspond to a pattern that could be interpreted as Morse code,” Balbi said..."


Submarine ARA San Juan was travelling north from Ushuaia to the main submarine base at Mar Del Plata when it vanished - within what is now a very wide and deep three-dimensional search area (Map courtesy the Daily Mail (Australia Edition).
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" The Navy Hymn for Submariners