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Exercise log of U 32 (Part 3)

In our June 2013 issue of “Flotsam” we have started to sum extracts from exercise log of U-boat U 32 of the German Navy as published regularly under, telling us from the several months long training and exercise mission of the U-boat with its air independent propulsion.

In this connection we have mentioned already the film by the Federal German Armed Forces TV (BwTV) under about a short voyage by crew “Delta” on board U 34, which now has taken over the mission of U 32 and whose impressions we can follow by the crew´s exercise log. Following a first film about a transit by U 34 from Eckernförde to Kiel BwTV is presenting now another film from U 34 showing what the work of a Sonar Operator on board a U-boat is all about.

We remember that U 32 left its homebase Eckernförde on 10 February 2013, to cross the Atlantic Ocean for the US East coast, being accompanied by its Tender Main. On 19 March 2013 both units arrived at the US Naval Base of Mayport , Florida. Since, not only on the job training for apprentice U-boat watch officers were carried out but also a series of challenging training exercises with German and US Naval units, ranging from surface combatants, to submarines as well as helicopters and MPAs.

The weekend of Whitsuntide 2013 saw the change of the active sailing crew of U 32, with handover from crew “Bravo” to crew “Delta” of the 1st German U-boat Flotilla. The new crew continued the comprehensive and diversified training and exercise program, during the last period executing escort and covert surveillance duties for a US Navy Carrier Battle Group sailing from Norfolk south to the Atlantic sea areas off Florida and for the Caribbean. In the third week in June 2013 U 32 called again at Mayport for a short maintenance and recreation period, to then sail again for the ongoing training of apprentice U-boat watch officers as well as individual crew drill, while the formation of U 32 and Tender Main was proceeding northbound to the sea areas off Virginia.

About two weeks after leaving Mayport both units called again but for a last time at the largest Naval Base of the US Navy at Norfolk, Virginia. There, U 32 received further maintenance, but foremost the resupply of the reaction gases O2 and H2 for the U-Boat´s air independent propulsion system, plus provisions and other supply goods, since it was time for the return from Norfolk back home to Eckernförde. On 17 July 2013 the German crews invited for a “Beercall” at Norfolk, to bid farewell to their hosts from the US Navy, with another time many high ranking guests from the US Navy appearing.

On 20 July 2013 U 32 reported a last time from the western side of the Atlantic Ocean. The U-boat is now underway at its long voyage together with Tender Main across the Atlantic Ocean back to Germany. In our next issue of “Flotsam” we will report about the arrival in August 2013 at Eckernförde.


Embarrassing blunder in the design of the new submarines under construction for the Spanish Navy

We have reported about the construction program for new submarines of the Spanish Navy in our “Flotsam” issue of May 2012. In 2004 an order was placed for 4 submarines of the “S-80”-Class (Isaac Peral/ S-81, Narciso Monturiol/ S-82, Cosme Garcia/ S-83 and Mateo Garcia de los Reyes/ S-84) with air independent propulsion to be built at the Navantia shipyard at Cartagena, Spain (dimensions: Length=71 m, wbeam=7.3 meters, displacement submerged=2,400 t, armament composed of torpedoes and anti-ship as well as cruise missiles to be launched from 6 bow torpedo tubes, crew=32). The Isaac Peral was to be the First of Class to be delivered this year, however, postponement to March 2015 was already announced, with the three other submarines to follow in 9-12 months spacing. Construction was continued even facing the severe budget and economical crisis in Spain since 2008. Total costs for the program are currently said to be in the region of 2.2 Billion Euros.

Shortly prior the launch of the Isaac Peral in early May 2013 it became public that apparently a severe design fault had occurred which led to a difference of 68 to 100 tons too much of displacement. This meant the subma-rine to be unfit for safe diving maneuvers as the controlled balancing of the submarine at ordered diving depth would be impossible due to the incorrect calculation of the submarine´s overall stability, causing basically the submarine to be permanently in a sinking process. Now, comprehensive examinations of the causes of this blunder have been introduced, above all to seek a solution of the problem fast to get the submarine safe und unrestricted for sailing and operation. The designer explain the mistakes by pointing at the many additional requirements for integration of new gears and equipment that had to be incorporated in the running construction phase, with the concerns of the designers being overruled in the end by the ordering military and political leadership. It has to be mentioned that Navantia sees some danger to its reputation as shipbuilder because this shipyard is very much engaged in the export business, with some hope to place the “S-80” as competitor in the emerging market of air independent submarines construction.

A number of solutions of the problem are discussed ranging from “slimming down” the submarine through dismounting certain components to addition of an entire new hull section (extending the submarine from 71 to 80 m) in order to compensate the problems of stability. This will cost and sums of a minimum of 7.5 million Euros per submarine are already circling. Also, the commissioning of the submarines scheduled to start in the Spring of 2015 will slip for at least another 2 years.

The Spanish Navy faces a big dilemma how to maintain a minimum operational capability through submarines since its current submarine force is composed of mere 4 rather old submarines of the S-70 “Galerna”-Class. The service lifetime of these diesel-electric submarines commissioned between 1983 and 1985 would have to be extended for about 35 million Euros if the “S-80″s are slipping behind in commissioning, to keep at least 2 of the older submarines in a reasonable operational readiness until the new submarines will join the fleet. The Sirooco (S-72) has been decommissioned already, the Galerna (S-71) will be next to follow, only the Mistral (S-73 currently in the final stages of its scheduled maintenance period) and the Tramontana (S-74) having started its overhaul in June of this year would be the ones to extent their service lifetime.


Further news about Russian submarines

Many news were published during the recent months which indicated considerable adjustment and acceleration of arms projects by the Russian submarine force running for a long time already. We reported about it frequently, recently about the conventional SSK of the “Lada” and “Kilo”-Clas, as well about the nuclear powered “Typhoon”-, “Akula”-, “Sierra”- and “Victor”-Class (see our “Flotsam” of July 2013), but also about the “Borej”-Class (see our “Flotsam” of June 2013, May 2013 and March 2013).

Further news about the Russian submarine plans deserves our attention, by all means. However, it seems prudent to keep some healthy reservations about the official announcements of such plans, since one can observe almost for sure significant differences between announcement and realization caused by ever delays for a number of reasons. Therefore, we often find ourselves in need to correct reports just published based on the official notifi-cations, statements and announcements.

Now, what are the latest pieces of news?

The newly constructed and in sea trials SSBN of the “Borej”-Class, Alexander Newski and Wladimir Monomarkh are scheduled officially to execute test launches of the SLBM “Bulova” still this year, with one submarine launching a single missile whereas the other one is to fire a salvo. It is known that the First of Class SSBN of the “Borej”-Class, the Yuri Dolgeruki (commissioned on 10 January 2013), has executed 4 successful test launches of the “Bulova” in 2011. With that, 4 “Borej”-Class SSBN will be either in service (1), doing sea trials (2) or are under construction (1). Still in 2013, SSBN No. 5 (the Alexander Suvorov) and No. 6 (the Mikhail Kutuzov) will be laid on keel. The Alexander Newski will be commissioned at the end of this year, and the Wladimir Monomarkh is to follow in 2014. As a reminder: The SSBN of the “Borej”-Class will be the future carrier of the Russian sea-based nuclear deterrence, replacing with their 8-10 units the long time serving “Delta III”-, “Delta IV”-, and “Typhoon”-Class submarines.

New news also about the SSGN of the “Yasen”-Class (Project 885, NATO Designation: “Graney”-Class). We reported about these submarines the last time in our “Flotsam” issue of June 2011. They are planned to replace the SSN/ SSGNs of the “Alpha”- and “Akula”-Class, and we reported in June 2011 about the commissioning intended for the end of 2011 of the “Severodvinsk” (K-329) as the First of Class – but we were badly advised to do that, see our remark above, since the commissioning has been postponed for a long time. Also, the completion of the construction of the second SSGN of this class, the Kazan (keel-laid in July 2009), is rather unclear. However, there is confirmation of the start of construction of SSGN No. 3 (the Novosibirsk) in July 2013. Moreover, the name for SSGN No. 4 has been announced: It will be “Ufa”. Now, the commissioning of the Severodvinsk has been announced to occur still in 2013. With that, a ten years long saga of this SSGN will find an end since its keel-laying in 1993, caused by many interruptions and stops in construction due to technical but foremost financial problems. The commissioning planned in 2011 had to be postponed due to unsatisfactory sea-trials. Experts see a building program of 6-8 units of this class. Their main armament will be composed of “Kalibr” – Cruise Missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-27) and “Onix” Anti-Ship Missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-26). Still in November 2011 reports were published about an building order for initially 4 “Yasen”-Class SSGNs, to be delivered until 2016.


Wreckage of U-580 discovered

On 01st of July 2013 members of a diving club from Kaunas in Lithuania discovered the wreck of the believed to be Kriegsmarine U-boat U 580 off the coast of Lithuania. That U-boat was commissioned on 24 June 1941 at the Blohm & Viss shipyard at Hamburg under its Commanding Officer, Oberleutnant zur See (= Lieutenant) Hans-Günther Kuhlmann. During its basic and combat training in the Baltic Sea it collided on 11 November 1941 about 8 nm off the port of Memel (today: Klaipeda) with the target demonstrating vessel “Angelburg”. 12 men from the 44 men strong crew did not survive the accident. Although the news about the “discovery” made some headlines, the exact location of a wreck at this position was known since the sinking of U 580. There were a number of reasons in the past why that wreckage in just 37 meters water depth was not salvaged. With that, it remained a war grave for more than 70 years and will continue to be, hopefully spared from more or less meaningful activities by divers.

The basic and combat training by the various training establishments of the Kriegsmarine in the Baltic Sea (see the link to the Württembergische Landesbibliothek/ wlb and its overview) was extremely demanding and has led to quite a number of incidents and even accidents. Most tragic was the collision of U 583 with U 153 on 15 November 1941 (i.e. four days after the loss of U 580) in the Danzig Bight with the total loss of U 583 and its entire crew of 45 men, as well as the collision of U 612 with U 444 on 06 August 1942 in the Danzig Bight, with the total loss of U 612, luckily 43 men of the 45 men strong crew could be rescued.