Tag Archives: Submarines

US Navy reduction in San Juan recovery reminder of submarine rescue challenges

The news in late December that the US Navy will begin to draw down its operations to assist in the search for the ARA San Juan serves as a salutary reminder that simply having a capability does not equate to a guarantee of success.

At the height of its support in search for the stricken Argentinian submarine, the US Navy stated that its contributions included three specialised aircraft, over 200 SAR personnel, four submersibles, one underwater rescue unit, one surface vessel and the deployment of more than 400 sonobuoys.

International support was also provided from a range of sources, including the UK’s ice patrol vessel, HMS Protector. Still, despite the vast range of scanning, support and rescue assets available, there has been (at the time of writing) little indication that the search will result in success.

The dangers of submarine operations have been chronicled by services and historians for as long as such platforms have been used, and despite the best effort to ensure the safety of crew, when things go wrong under the ocean waves the results are often terrible.

The sheer difficulty in simply operating at often significant depths in such an environment brings a unique set of challenges that would not exist on where there is breathable air. One could say that it is incumbent on services to have some sort of rescue capability, with many navies looking to add this to their repertoires.

In example, the Swedish Navy considers it an obligation to operate a submarine rescue vessel and recently concluded an extensive upgrade of its capability. However, with the service mainly operating in the littorals, it recognises the limitations that any rescue capability has when the depths run into the hundreds of metres.

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Which brings us back to the start of this missive and the loss of the San Juan and crew. Mounting a recovery effort in deeper oceans has to be tempered with the knowledge that it is one matter to find the submarine and another equally difficult to enable a rescue if and when it is found.

The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.

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Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.

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Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.

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In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 43

Pick of the week

While all eyes have been fixed upon North Korea, Uldduz Larki looks into NATO’s decision to host its most recent ballistic missile defence exercise in the Atlantic theatre, a sign that Russian deterrence remains a strategic priority. Read more of Uldduz’s report on the alliance’s inaugural Formidable Shield exercise here.

The bumpy road to agreement

After a series of lengthy pauses in the development of Germany and Israel’s submarine programme, the two nations moved a step closer to agreeing the purchase of three new submarines.

The vessels, which will be supplied by TKMS will replace Israel’s three Dolphin-class diesel electric submarines. Germany’s TKMS is also hopeful of future sales within Europe as the country has agreed to partner with Norway and has received similar interest from Italy.

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Meanwhile details are emerging about the Franco-British collaboration on a Future Combat Air System as the programme readies for the transition from planning to development.

Alongside work on the Anglo-French unmanned combat demonstrator is an investigation of open-system mission architecture. The latest announcement means that high-level concepts are now in the process of being turned into detailed requirement sets.

Elsewhere, Scott Gourley and Richard Thomas were at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vagas this week. Find all of the latest news from the show floor online

Finally, Boeing has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK despite souring relations with the government following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier. In a conversation with Shephard a Boeing spokesperson was keen to downplay any tension between the two parties following a number of attacks on the company from UK politicians.

Maritime insecurity

The future of the UK’s amphibious capabilities looks increasingly uncertain as the defence minister suggested it may no longer be a strategic priority.

Speaking at a meeting of the UK’s defence committee, Michael Fallon denied that the MoD had entered into conversations with Brazil and Chile over a potential sale of the HMS Albion and Bulwark which would put UK amphibious capabilities in jeopardy. MPs voiced their concerns that the MoD’s budget cuts are placing the UK’s security at risk.

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Saab’s Q3 results indicate the Swedish company expects to gain from increasing submarine activity in Europe and Asia. Reporting a 10% growth in sales over the first six months of 2017, the company is reaping the rewards of rising European and international defence spending.

Russia continues to bolster its muscle on the sea’s surface, ordering four Project 21980 Granchanok patrol boats. The main use of the boats will be to provide security to the Kerch Strait Bridge, currently under construction, which will eventually connect Crimea with mainland Russia.

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New-generation land warfare has arrived

Russia’s military investment are not just ocean bound as it appears Russian Land Forces units will be trialling the new-generation assault rifles of Kalashnikov dubbed AK-12 and AK-15. The new assault rifles have undergone testing within the frame of the Ratnik future soldier programme which will deliver new-generation high performance personal equipment to a range of Russian forces.

Following a significant boost to its defence budget, Romania continues to invest in modernising its land forces and has signed a MoI for the licenced manufacture of the Piranha IFV, a de facto act of selection of the new-generation wheeled IFV. Talks will take place on the firm delivery contract for an order of 227 Piranha Vs with an 8×8 wheel drive formula.

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Helicopters bought and sold

Remaining in Eastern Europe, the Czech Air Force is expected to receive 12 Bell Helicopter UH-1Y Venoms from the US DoD as part of a $575 million FMS deal. The aircraft are to be reserved for domestic service missions. The announcement suggests the current stock of Mi-8/17s and Mi-24/35s will most likely be retired.

This week Gordon Arthur reported that US Army Apaches stationed in South Korea will hook up with the General Atomics Grey Eagle MALE UAVs over the coming years, as well as boost their cooperation with the new Apaches of the Republic of Korea Army. Read more about Gordon’s visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek here.

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While attention turns to Future Vertical Lift as the US Army’s next-generation of aircraft, the AH-64 Apache remains a key platform to the service’s fleet and remains integral to Boeing’s future international sales. With a prospective sale of six Apaches to the Indian Army in the works, the AH-64E is projected to remain in service until at least 2016.

 

 

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 39

Firepower of all shapes and sizes

As tensions continue to run high on the Korean peninsula, Japan has begun to rethink its ballistic missile defence (BMD) approach as it now eyes Aegis Ashore. Read more here about the challenges facing Japan as it seeks to defend itself against escalating regional tensions.

Recent images have revealed that the Czech Republic is a major supplier of heavy weapons to Azerbaijan. Images released by the Azerbaijan MoD show the Czech-made Dana-M1CZ 152mm SPH and RM-70 Vampir 122mm MLRS during large-scale exercises held by the Azerbaijani military in late September.

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines has issued a contract to Glock Asia Pacific to supply it with 74,861 Glock 7 Gen4 9mm pistols and an identical number of holsters. The contract, valued at $24.3 million, will see the first batch of 35,000 weapons delivered with 180 days with the second batch delivered within a further 90 days.

UAV popularity persists

Staying in the Philippines, the army has requested several tiers of new UAVs to boost its ISR capabilities, while the US has contracted a further batch of six ScanEagle tactical UAV systems for Manila. The Philippines armed forces are also acquiring trailer-mounted pneumatic launchers and SkyHook recovery devices.

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Meanwhile the German Army’s Special Forces Command is also expanding its ISR assets following the procurement of nano UAS personal reconnaissance systems. The Calw-based command will receive up to a dozen PD-100 Black Hornet nano UAS and will fulfil an operational requirement for an organic ‘over-the-hill’ ISR-gathering micro UAS capability.

However, demand for UAVs is not driven only by defence acquisitions as Beth Maundrill discusses in her blog on the strength of the commercial unmanned market. She reports that defence companies are expected to make a bigger splash in the civil market. Read more here.

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Better late than never

The Indian Navy has finally received its first Scorpene, five years behind schedule. The first of six Scorpene diesel-electric submarines being licence-built for the Indian Navy has been delivered. The Project 75 programme to build six Scorpene submarines has been fraught with difficulties and delays, Gordon Arthur reports.

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The future of warfare

In Afghanistan the future of warfare may be increasingly dominated by private military corporations, as one controversial proposal for the next phase of the American-led war would see 5,500 private contractors put in charge of advising the Afghan military.

The idea is the brainchild of former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who claims his proposal would save both American troops’ lives and the government $30 billion dollars a year.

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One trend in the future nature of warfare is clear – marines are increasingly deploying in small groups in remote and primitive areas, complicating operational logistics.

As a result the Expeditionary Energy Office is currently searching for a solution to the problem by reducing fuel and water demands through the use of hybrid power solutions and improved distribution.

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Finally, the warfighters will increasingly utilise technology developed in the commercial sector. One such example is Gotenna, who is releasing a military variant of its mesh networking tactical radio.

The Gotenna family of products integrate with smart phones to allow direct communication and have already been used by organisations including US Army Special Forces Groups.

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Following a great week at DSEI, which saw thousands of exhibitors come together across two enormous exhibition halls, Grant Turnbull gives his verdict on ‘the movers and shakers’ of the show.

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Diving deep into submarine tech

In the latest issue of International Maritime and Port Security magazine I had the pleasure of cover the thriving diesel-electric (SSK) submarine industry.

Editor, Richard Thomas, investigated this sector previously in the subsea warfare market report and found a sector experiencing a relative boom time, even in regions (such as Europe) that are experiencing a general contraction in naval significance and industrial output.

A series of SSK programmes in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Norway is keeping that region active for both operator and industry alike. In Asia requirements for India and Pakistan attract significant interest and industrial cooperation inside those countries, while Asia-Pacific rivals also seek to expand their subsurface fleets in a continual game of defence one-upmanship.

A Swedish Gotland Class submarine currently going through mid-life upgrades with Saab.

China is emerging as a defence influencer in the region having agreed a series of submarine procurement programmes with neighbours, while Japan and South Korea try to challenge this with their own domestic and international efforts.

We introduce submarines then into this magazine in recognition of the role that smaller SSKs play in maintaining security in the EEZs and littorals, conducting special operations against target coastlines or surveillance missions to gather valuable intelligence.

The industry supporting the demand is global, with boat builders from West to East all pursuing rich contracts and new markets. Indeed, SSKs are perhaps one of the most adaptable and effective platforms that a navy can operate, particularly because most of the time potential rivals don’t know they are being surveilled in the first place.

The U-32 is the second Type 212A submarine used by the German Navy.

Technology in propulsion and battery technology is pushing back against one of the limiting factors that SSKs have to contend with – the need to surface and run its diesels to recharge capacitors. The boats fitted with such capabilities can now stay underwater for significantly greater periods of time and maximising their use to the fleet.

Dynamic Mongoose: The state of NATO’s ASW

This summer saw NATO embark on its second anti-submarine warfare (ASW) event named Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Dynamic Mongoose? Nope, me neither. After reading the Wikipedia page on the mongoose (mongeese?) I’m not sure how it relates to ASW. If you have any ideas, comment below.

Anyway, NATO recently released this video in which the participants can be seen showcasing their capabilities off the coast of Iceland.

Naval forces from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States participated.

The use of submarines by NATO’s adversaries has been hitting the headlines and many nations looking at enhancing, adding to or upgrading their ASW capabilities. Really the exercise as much as pracitising interoperability between nations as a show of force.

Earlier this year I went to the Underwater Defence Technology event held in Bremen, Germany, where ASW was mentioned as a key focus for allied nations going forward.

The capability has been somewhat on the back-burner following ‘negligence after the cost-cutting post-cold war’, according to one German Navy commander.

Outdated MPAs, submarines and helicopter equipment are all in the firing line for replacement or significant upgrade.

Obviously a prime example of the neglect ASW capabilities has seen comes in the UK where the nation is still without a sovereign MPA asset until the P-8 Poseidon enters service.

The US equipment used during Dynamic Mongoose included a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, a P-8A Poseidon and two P-3C Orions.

In total five submarines, 11 surface ships and eight MPAs participated in the exercises including Norwegian submarine HNoMS UTSIRA (S301), Spanish frigate ESPS Mendez Nunez and German frigate FGS Schleswig Holstein (F216).

Overall the exercise is set to increase NATO’s readiness and effectiveness but individual nations must continue to update their individual ASW capabilities in order to be an effective partner in an increasingly hostile environment.

IMDEX Asia: Singaporean Navy dominates the headlines

Shephard Media is currently busy reporting at the 11th edition of IMDEX Asia 2017 at the Changi Exhibition centre in Singapore.

What is already evident from this year’s show is that maritime security remains a growing sector for the Asia-Pacific region and this is being demonstrated by the wide range of exhibitors.

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The Republic of Singapore Navy is currently dominating the news stories on their home patch as they scout for a joint multimission ship to replace some of its older Endurance-class LSTs.

The service is celebrating its 50 year anniversary and has a warship display at the show demonstrative of its naval might.

On 15 May, Changi Naval Base had its name formally changed to RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base. The Ministry of Defence said the name change, echoing the RSN’s first headquarters name, ‘will serve as a reminder to RSN personnel of the RSN’s heritage and vital role in defending Singapore’.

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This naval facility, located along a strategically important sea lane connecting the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, hosts more than 100 foreign warships each year.

Furthermore, another big headline at IMDEX Asia this week was the announcement that the navy will acquire an additional two Type 218SG diesel-electric submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

This takes the total Type 218SG boats on order to four. The TKMS design was originally selected in November 2013, with an order for two and options for two more. The first pair of boats is already under construction at the company’s shipyard in Kiel, Germany, and will be delivered in 2020-21.

For more news from the show please see https://www.shephardmedia.com/show-news/imdex-asia-2017-show-news/

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