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Collision between US SSGN and US Air Defence Cruiser

In mid-August 2012 a collision between two US Navy units at sea made headlines not only in the US media but also in the international press, when a nuclear powered submarine was hit by a cruiser. According to the reports the Fast Attack Submarine of the “Los Angeles”-Class, the USS Montpellier (SSN-765), was at periscope depth during an exercise of the Northeastern coast of Florida when the “Aegis” Air Defence Cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) hit the submarine, although the Navy says that the cruiser did try to avoid the collision by an engine “Full Astern” maneuver. Due to reasons unknown so far, the incident occurred during formation training exercises on Saturday, 13 October 2012 at about 15.30 hrs, when the “San Jacinto” suddenly spotted the periscope of the Montpellier some 200 yards ahead – and even a “Full Astern”-command could not prevent the collision. There were no injuries.

The formation exercise was part of the work-up training for the Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) Carrier Strike Group currently being assembled. According to the US Navy both units, stationed normally at Norfolk, Virgina, were able to reach Naval Bases next day, the USS Montpellier the Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia, and the USS San Jacinto the Naval Base at Mayport, Florida. Pictures spread by the media show the Montpellier to have lost one of her upper vertical rudder. The San Jacinto is said to have damaged her Sonar dome accommodated in the bulbous bow.

The “Ticonderoaga”-Class “Aegis” Air Defence Cruiser USS San Jacinto was commissioned on 23rd of January 1988. The 173 m long ship has a displacement of about 9,400 t, and its armament is composed of a 127 mm gun, air defence missiles SM-2, anti-ship missiles “Harpoon” and BGM-109 “Tomahawk” cruise missiles. The crew is some 387 soldiers. During the Gulf War I in 1991 the San Jacinto was the first Naval unit to fire “Tomahawk” against targets ashore in Iraque. The vessel participated in exercise BALTOPS 1991 in the Baltic Sea and visited the Kiel Week that year.

Die Montpelier 2005 in der Naval Station Norfolk
The Montpellier 2005 at Naval Station Norfolk

The Fast Attack Submarine of the “Los Angeles”-Class USS Montpellier was commissioned on 13 March 1993 and has seen some modernization since, the last in 2010. The 110 m long submarine has a displacement of 7,100 t submerged and a crew of 127 sailors. Its armament is torpedoes, sub-“Harpoon” ASM and “Tomahawk” cruise missiles. During Gulf War II in 2003 the Montpellier fired her “Tomahawks” against target ashore in Iraque.


Not unexpectedly: The slow end of a story of a Kriegsmarine U-boat in a Labrador river

In our September 2012 issue we reported about the media hype about an alleged wreckage of a Kriegsmarine U-boat in the bed of the River Churchill in the Canadian island of Labrador, and we assessed the story as utter non-sense, however, cleverly placed as good PR by a Canadian diving company.

Reading such reports one is well advised to simply follow the further life of the story, to eventually see a complete silence develop around that claim, satisfaction about it is welcome, naturally. And, so it happened: Already in early August 2012 the news of 25 July 2012 was played down somewhat subdued. On the one side the still existing possibility of a German U-boat sunk there was kept alive gallantly, on the other side it was admitted that after two years of extensive search the only proof being found so far by means of sonar scanning was a metal object of about 1 meter length and some mud clusters and stones. Underwater exploration started in 2010, when at Muskrat Falls at the River Churchill, about 25 km west of the town of Goose Bay (this town is known for its huge airbase, where even jet aircraft of the German Air Force deployed to for decades to practice low flying training) search for three missing persons was carried out using Sonar equipment, and a rather strange formation of about 30 meters length at the bed of river was detected, which was estimated to be some sort of hull bearing a remote resemblance to the body of a submarine.

Since, the story is dead in the water, but 50 years old Canadian diver Brian Corvin, who runs a company “Labrador Diving Services”, perseveringly keeps up bold contentions about a historic discovery of a German U-boat far inshore in Canada (the location of the finding is about 100 km away from the open Atlantic Ocean), surely seeking further support of his activities. In fact, he even managed to use a remote underwater vehicle with side scanning sonar from the Stephen Hopkins Memorial Foundation, which normally is being used only for the search and recovery of victims drowned after accidents at sea, lakes or rivers. Despite, all further explorations did not bring any new findings that might support the thesis of a discovery of a German U-boat.

Therefore, one can conclude: Only headlines bring in money. So, we may expect further sensational news about a German U-boat in Canada´s wilderness of Labrador far inshore, and only the upcoming winter will grant some peace.



Again: Russian submarine patrolling off the US East Coast

Recently, in our October 2012 issue, we reported about media news from an alleged patrol by a Russian Navy “Akula”-Class SSGN in the Gulf of Mexico in the Spring of 2012. Also, we referred to earlier similar reconnaissance missions by the Soviet/ Russian Navy before the coast of the US and the UK, as well as into the Mediterranean.

Now, media report about another of such mission, with the US Navy having detected and tracked a patrol by a Russian SSGN of the “Sierra II” Class between the end of October 2012 and early November 2012 closing as near as 275 nm to the US East Coast. In this context it was underlined that the sea areas off Virginia, North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia and Florida accommodate the traditional training areas for the work up of Carrier Strike Groups of the US Navy. Each closer encounter for covert reconnaissance by foreign submarines against these training activities is considered to be very sensitive. On the other hand, the Russian submarine is said to have stayed in international waters throughout and did not execute any dangerous approach at the US Naval formations.

The nuclear powered submarines of the “Sierra”-Class were built in the Soviet Union between 1983 and 1993 with initially two units (Kostrona/ B-239 and Tula/ B27) of the Project 945 (“Barakuda”, NATO designation “Sierra”), with the last unit being commissioned in 1987. In 1989 construction of a modified and slightly bigger version started, to accommodate cruise missiles. However, this version, Project 945 B “Kondor” (NATO designation “Sierra II”), has seen also two units being built only. B-543, since 1993 named after the city of Nischnij Nowgorod, was commissioned on 26 December 1990, and B-336, since 1993 named after the city of Pskow, was commissioned on 21st of January 1993. Construction of further units was planned but given up in the mid 1990ies. The submarines have a length of about 111 m and a beam of 14.2 m, their displacement is 7,800 t at surface and up to 8,200 t submerged. The speed at the surface is said to be 10 kn, submerged up to 32 kn. The crew is stated to be a mere 61 men, other sources put this figure into the region of 110, as similar SSGN of western Navies would have. The armament is composed of torpedoes, ASM of the SA-N-5 “Grail” and/ or SA-N-8 “Gremlin” type, plus SS-N-16 “Stallion” SSM and SS-N-21 “Sampson” cruise missiles. The torpedoes and the SS-N-Missiles are to be launched from the 533 cm and 65 cm torpedo tubes. The Russian SSGN of the “Sierra II”-Class are comparable to the “Los Angeles”-Class SSGN of the US Navy.


US Report expects China to reach seabased nuclear capabilities within next 2 years

On 08 November 2012 international media prematurely paid high attention to conclusions of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission which were published official on 14 November 2012 as findings of a report to the US Congress. Headlines were generated as the assessment by the 12 member strong, non partisan commission, established in 2000, stated that China will gain capabilities to deploy submarine based ballistic missiles within the next two years. With that, China will join the club of states maintaining a nuclear triade of land-, air-, and seabased ballistic missiles. Though the People´s Republic operates already some strategic submarines (see our “Flotsam” of October 2012) and has demonstrated it capability to launch ballistic missiles from submarines (recent test in August 2012), it now seems that this capability is about to reach the status of combat readiness. Therefore, the commission´s report has not produced any sensational news, as it simply projects what the results will be in view of the advanced building program of the “Jin”-Class SSBN (2 commissioned, a 3rd under construction, a total of 5 planned), each with 12 ballistic missiles on board, and the development of the “JL-2” missile, with a range of up to 10,000 km and up to 10 nuclear warheads.

China is a signatory of many international agreements with regard to nuclear weapons, including the Non-Proli-feration Treaty. However, the country has not followed yet the important arms control treaties such as INF (1987) or START (2000). It is estimated that China has already up to 240 nuclear warheads, although no nuclear power officially provides detailed figures of its deployable nuclear warheads (for comparison purposes the estimated number of ready-to-deploy strategic nuclear warheads: US = 1.950, Russia = 1.800, France = 290, United Kingdom = 160, the vast majority of those submarine based). China´s upcoming capability to deploy submarine based strategic nuclear weapons will change the military strategic situation in the Pacific region significantly, and, therefore, is meeting the concerns of the US and its neighbor Japan, of course.