“Kreidesee”-Submersible dives off Heligoland
We have reported in our “Flotsam” of March 2012 about the small research and underwater expedition U-boat “Eurosub”, which not only offers special underwater explorations in depths down to 250 m but also touristic diving experiences in the 60 m deep “Kreidesee” ( a flooded former exploitation site for chalk deposits), halfway between the cities of Stade and Cuxhaven.
The December 2013 issue of the local island magazine “Der Helgoländer” reports about some underwater research dives in 2013 off the island of remote island of Heligoland in the German Bight. In Operation “Big Fish” the U-boat supported a team of divers, which wanted to identify an unknown wreckage, along with an examination of the condition of the wreckage of SM UC 71 of the Imperial German Navy. The diving team headed by Andreas Peters has published an interesting report about both dives to UC 71 on 16 August 2013 (see below link).
UC 71 was built in 1916 by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg and has been commissioned on 28 Nov 1916. Until the end of WW I it executed some 19 combat patrols, becoming one of the most successful U-boat of the Imperial Navy through sinking 63 vessels and damaging another 18. It sank on 20 Feb 1919 just a mile of the Heligoland´s southern harbour while departing for the handover process to the British in compliance with the truce agreement of 11 Nov 1918. Since, the wreckage has become a favorite object for diving experiences. The wreck rises almost vertical upwards from the seabed, but it seems being close to collapsing.
Confirmed additions to the Russian submarine fleet
We have reported repeatedly about the irritating news from Russian and other media about the building program and the scheduled commissioning of submarines for the Russian Navy. Now, during the last days of 2013 news came out supported by pictures from one commissioning and another one from a formal delivery.
On 23rd of December 2013 the commissioning of the second SSBN of the “Borej”-Class, the Alexander Nevsky (K-550), was definitely confirmed through lengthy reports and pics of the cesremony at Severodvinsk, showing the Russian Defence Minister Sergeiy Shoihu in attendance. Also, there was a video conference at the ceremony presenting Russian president Vladimir Putin, who among other statements said that the SSBNs Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomarkh are to be assigned to Russia´s Pacific Fleet.
However, nothing was said in the news about the ceremony whether the Alexander Nevsky had already taken on board its SLBM armament of “Bulova” ballistic missiles, as the last test launch of this missile from the SSBN proving its serviceability in September 2013 failed. The additional test launches of the “Bulova” ordered after the September failure are not expected before the Summer of 2014. On the other hand, it was confirmed that SSBN No. 3, the Vladimir Monomarkh (K-551) will be commissioned in 2014, as well as the construction of SSB No. 4 of a total of 8 units to come at Sevmash shipyard is well underway. During the meet-the-press at the ceremony the Commanding Officer of the 107 men strong crew, Captain First Grade Vasily Tankvoid, gave some information about the Alexander Nevsky´s sea trials, during which she had executed a total of 13 voyages of sea trials, functional tests and acceptance maneuvers between October 2010 and September 2013, including the failed acceptance test launch of a SLBM “Bulova” on 06 September 2013. The Alexander Nevsky has a special deep sea rescue vehicle on board allowing the emergency escape of the entire crew in case of underwater emergencies. Also, it was revealed that SSBN No. 4, the Knyaz Vladimir will be the first of the modified “Borej”-Class submarines to carry 20 SLBM as opposed to the weapon load of 16 SLBM carried by the first three SSBNs of this class.
Also, on 30 December 2013 the formal handover of the First-of-Class SSGN of the “Yasen”-Class (Project 885M, NATO Designation: “Graney”-Class), the Severodvinsk (K-329), from the constructors to the Russian Navy has occurred at Sevmash. With that, a long story of many interruptions and problems during the planning and building phase is coming to an end, as this SSGN of a new class was started as early as 1993. The acceptance of the SSGN by the Russian Navy did not happen before another four comprehensive functional tests were executed by the constructor since October 2013, because new technical problems showed up in the Summer of 2013 during the acceptance trials at sea. Not unexpectedly, the official commissioning announced to occur in January 2014 has been delayed to initially May 2014, since about 200 existing faults still have to be taken care of, with the crew to be deeply disappointed by the operational status of the SSGN. Therefore, the handover at the end of December 2013 was in fact nothing else than an acceptance for further trials. However, the news about the Severodvinsk confirmed another time the on-going construction of SSGN No. 2 (Kazan) and No. 3 (Novosibirsk) of this class.
In our “Flotsam” issue of January 2014 we reported about the status of the building program of the diesel-electric SSK of the “Kilo III”-Class (Project 636.3). Now, names have been announced for further SSKs of this class after names for the First-of-Class, the Novorossijsk (B-261), SSK No.2, the Rostov-na-Donu (B-237), and SSK No. 3, the Starij Oskol (B-262) have been given. According to that, SSK No. 4 will have the name Veliky Novgorod, No. 5 Krasnodar and No 6 Kolpino.
Sources for “Borej”-Class:
Sources for “Yasen”-Class:
- Marineforum/ DailyNews of 30 December 2013
Source for “Kilo III”-Class:
- Marineforum/ DailyNews of 17 December 2013
Further plans for Polish submarines
The last time we have reported about the Polish submarine fleet was in out “Flotsam” of June 2012. Now, the armaments and procurement department of the Polish Ministry of Defence has invited internationally to a “Technical Dialogue” about the procurement of three new submarines. Interested submarine construction consortiums were asked to forward their ideas and initial offers until 17 January 2014. This was the last stage before a formal invitation for offers is scheduled to be published by mid- 2014.
Above all, the Kiel based media reported on 11 Jan 2014 that the order resulting from the tender for offers would be concentrated on two submarine shipyards only, i.e. DCNS from France and TKMS/ HDW at Kiel. According to the news the Polish Office of Defence Procurement will have met with both shipyards for initial talks in the third week of January 2014. The total volume of the building order will be in the region of 2 Bill Euros. TKMS/HDW believes to be in a good bargaining position, in particular since a “Declaration of Intent” for “Enhanced Maritime Cooperation” has been signed by the then Ministers of Defence, Thomas de Maiziere and Thomasz Siemoniak, on 27 May 2013 at the Naval Base at Rostock-Warnemünde, which includes among other things armament and procurement. Also, the Head of the German Navy had offered the Polish Navy in 2012 to lease an AIP submarine of the German 212A-Class, with the Polish Navy, however, not being in position to accept in the end.
It should be reminded that on 14 November 2013 the Polish Ministry of Defence did announce the end of the further evaluation of a procurement of AIP submarines of the German Type 212A, as these would not meet the requirements of the Polish Navy. It was said that the tender for offers would be modified accordingly. It was confirmed by news in the media at that time that the number of submarines to be procured would be three, with two units being received by 2022 and the third unit until 2030, all as a straight purchase solution from a foreign submarine builder.
Status of the SSGN procurement program for the US Navy and Royal Navy
On 07 September 2013 the SSGN USS Minnesota (SSN 783) was already submarine No. 10 of the “Fast Attack Submarines” of the “Virginia”-Class being commissioned by the US Navy (USN). In October 2013, the budget for 2014 revealed that the USN apparently intends to extend the “30-Unit-Plan” for the SSGN of this class through adding further constructions until 2033, bringing the total number of units of this class to then some 51. The “Virginia”-Class submarines – being the replacement for the older SSGNs of the “Los Angeles”-Class and also the follow-on program of SSGNs after the buildup of the “Seawolf”-Class SSGNs was given up after 3 units – were built since 1999, and they cost about 30 % less than the “Seawolf”-Class subs. USS “Virginia” was the First-of-Class being commissioned in January 2004. Currently, the SSGNs No. 11 to No. 18 are under construction at the two shipyards of General Dynamic Electric Boat Co at Groton and Newport News Shipbuilding, i.e. the USS North Dakota/ SSN 784, USS John Warner/ SSN 785, USS Illinois/ SSN 786, USS Washington/ SSN 787, USS Colorado/ SSN 788, USS Indiana/ SSN 789, USS South Dakota/ SSN 790, as well as SSGN No. 18 (SSN 791), that has not been given a name after a US Federal State. It is scheduled to deliver 2 units per year, the total budget for this class is already beyond 80 Bill. USD.
At the moment the USN operates some 56 “Fast Attack Submarines” (28 in Atlantic Ocean, 27 in the Pacific Ocean), represented by 43 SSN/ SSGN of the “Los Angeles”-Class, 3 SSGN of the “Seawolf”-Class and meanwhile 10 units of the growing fleet of “Virginia”-Class SSGNs.
Also, it became public on 15 October 2013 that the USS Virginia (SSN 774) and the USS Minnesota (SSN 783) will be the first two of the new class of SSGNs to integrate up to 6 female officers each in the crew. It is well know that the USN has decided some years ago to allow service by female personnel on board its SSBNs and SSGNs. There are female crew members serving on board the SSBNs USS Wyoming (SSBN 742), USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) and USS Maine (SSBN 741), as well on board the ex-SSBNs USS Florida (SSGN 728), USS Georgia (SSGN 729) and USS Ohio (SSGN 726) converted to SSGNs between 2002 and 2008 in compliance with the START II-Agreement.
On 20 September 2013 the British Royal Navy has christened HMS Artful (S-121) at the BAE shipyard at Barrow-on-Furness, being the third SSGN of the “Astute”-Class. This submarine is scheduled for commissioning in 2015. With that, two SSGNs of the new class of British SSGNs are commissioned, i.e. the First-of-Class HMS Astute (S-119) on 27 Aug 2010 and the HMS Ambush (S-120) on 01 March 2013. Apart from HMS Artful being launched, further 3 units are under construction, i.e. HMS Audacious (S-122) as of 24 Mar 2009, HMS Anson (S-123) as of 13 Oct 2011, and SSGN No. 6, HMS Agamemnon (S-124) as of 18 Jul 2013. Building order for SSGN No. 7 (HMS Ajax/ S-125) has not been given yet. All 7 SSGNs of the “Astute”-Class are scheduled to be commissioned by 2024.
Sources for USN:
- Marineforum Daily News of 16 October 2013
- www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/future/virginia.html (link obsolete)
Sources for RN:
Further film report about U 31 of the Federal German Navy
Since 14 January 2014 the German Navy has published a video report of the German Armed Forces film studio about the several week long deployment in November 2013 of the Type 212A U-boat U 31 of the Federal German Navy to the British Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) to support the training of surface forces in the sea areas off the training center at the Royal Navy´s Base Devonport nearby Plymouth.
Already, there has been a first TV report screened showing U 31 operated by crew “Delta” of the 1st German U-Flotilla under Commander Lars Gössing when it passed the English Channel battling a hurricane after it had left its homebase Eckernförde for Devonport at the end of October 2013. We have mentioned the report shown on 02 December 2013 on North German TV from Kiel in our “Flotsam” of January 2014.
The latest some 10minutes long report shows the typical routine during a training phase at FOST when a U-boat has to simulate an underwater enemy for surface forces during their Anti Submarine Warfare combat training. The several days long training phase has seen among others the Dutch frigate HMNLS De Zeven Provincien (F-802) and a Royal Navy ASW helicopter EH-101 tracking and chasing U 31. The most recommendable report presents in great detail life and work on board a modern U-boat during a period of intense training.