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“Fleet Day” of the Navy of the People´s Republic of China

On 27 October 2013 the Chinese (PLA) Navy staged a sort of “Fleet Day” or “Open House”, as we know it from many other Navies. At its Naval Base at Qingdao (the location of the Olympic Sailing Competition in 2008 and the former German “Protected Area” of Kiautschou/ Tsingtau) as well in the adjacent sea areas the Navy presented many units, among others for the first time in 40 years nuclear powered submarines with several safety exercises. The crews demonstrated their skills in managing incidents with the nuclear propulsion system of their submarines. The exercises were presented on Chinese TV and also on the English speaking service of the Chinese News Channel CCTV, including interviews with foreign Military Attachés accredited at Beijing that were special guests at the life presentation by Naval Forces at sea.

Certainly, this by and large more ceremonial “Fleet Day” was designed to underline the grown military capabilities of the country, which has to be seen in light of China´s many endeavors to be not only a regional power in Asia but also a major player in the world.

Not unexpectedly, on 04 November 2013 media reported about China´s public statement that the country would be able to reach targets in the US by their nuclear armed “JL-2” SLBM, carried by the SSBNs of the “Xia”-Class (Type 092) and “Jin”-Class (Type 094), which in turn caused alarming articles by the US media. The SLBM “JL-2” (NATO Designation: CSS-N-4) has been launched first time in 2001, and on 21 August 2012 a successful launch from a Type 094 SSBN was carried out. Meanwhile, there are certain variants of this two-stage SLBM in exist, with some being able to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads of 250 KT each over a distance of up to 14,000 km. The SLBM “JL-2” is said to be the standard armament of the 4-5 Type 092 und 094 SSBNs.

We have reported about China´s submarine force (see “Flotsam” of September 2013, December 2012 and October 2012) earlier. Currently the fleet of nuclear powered submarines comprises some 10-12 units, with 6-7 SSNs and 4-5 SSBNs. In early October 2013 is was reported that the first SSN of the “Han”-Class (Type 091) has been finally taken out of the inventory after 40 years of service, with being completely demilitarized and all parts of the nuclear power system being dismantled. With that, 3 of the former 5 older SSNs of the “Han”-Class might be still in service, although there are no confirmed reports about the combat readiness of these submarines. Their replacement, i.e. 6-8 SSNs planned of the “Shang”-Class (Type 093), is currently under well underway. A first unit is said to have been launched already in 2002 and 3 more are to be under construction since, most of them doing sea trials meanwhile. Therefore, it is assumed that a minimum of 2 of these new SSNs have reached their combat readiness status.


North Korean submarine sunk

On 04 November 2013 the international media reported about a sinking of a North Korean submarine, citing the North Korean state run news agency KNCA, which gave notice from the loss of ASW Submarine No. 233 during an exercise in mid-October 2013, showing a picture of the official mourning ceremony for 19 killed sailors, attended by North Korea´s Head of State Kim Jong Un.

Most probably, the accident occurred on 13th of October 2013, because it could be seen on the pictures of the mourning ceremony showing memorial stones for the sailors. The submarine sunk was most likely one of the 22 “Romeo”-Class submarines officially still being in service.

The 46,000 strong North Korean Navy operates an amazing great number of submarines, which underlines the enormous militarization of the country that has mere 24 million inhabitants but Armed Forces of 1,3 mill. active personnel plus about 4 mill. reserves. Part of that is the creation and maintenance of a significant submarine force. In the 1960ies 4 diesel-electric submarines of the “Whiskey”-Class were received from the USSR and China, which were replaced in 1974 by 4 other “Whiskeys”. According to official statements these 4 “Whiskey”-Class submarines were taken out of active service in 2011, bound to be scrapped.

In 1973 a procurement program started for eventually 22 diesel-electric submarines of the “Romeo”-Class. These submarines have a length of 77 m and a beam of 7.3 m, their displacement is about 1,800 t submerged. Their underwater speed is said to reach 18 kn. The main armament is torpedoes to be launched from 8 torpedo tubes. The standard crew comprises 54 sailors. The “Romeos” were built in China and some of them also in North Korea.

Having gained the capability to build submarines North Korea started in the early 1990ies to construct a remarkable series of midget submarines, which were optimized for commando type operations. Meanwhile, some 40 midget submarines of the “Song-O”-Class have been built. This class has two versions, one with 34, the other one 39 m long, the displacement ranging from about 300 t 350 t. The underwater speed is said to be a mere 8 kn. These submarines have two torpedo tubes and the crew comprises up to 14 men. The growing number of “Song-O”-Class submarines will gradually replace the older “Romeo”-Class submarines.

Also, since the mid 1990ies another type of midget submarines is added to the North Korean submarine fleet. Some 10 units of the rather small “Yono”-Class have been introduced to the fleet, just 130 t of displacement, but 2 torpedo tubes.

The submarines are stationed in two Naval Bases at the Eastern coast of North Korea, i.e. at Mayang-do, where also the main building and repair facilities are concentrated, and at Chakonodongjagu.


Latest news from Russia´s submarine fleet

Frequent technical and financial problems as well as delays of several years can be observed almost regularly at Russia´s projects building and modernizing the submarine fleet of its Navy, which in turn requires to permanently correcting the delivery schedules published, most confusing usually the official statements about submarine construction, maintenance and upgrade programs. We have reported about Russia´s submarines recently in “Flotsam” issues of Sep and Aug 2013.

The saga about the new SSGN of the “Yasen”-Class (Project 885) seems to finally find some conclusion as the First of Class, the Severodvinsk (K-329), whose construction started in 1993, is scheduled to be delivered to the fleet officially on 25 December 2013 after completion of her last sea and weapon trials. SSGN No. 2, the Kazan was laid on keel on 24 July 2009 and has been launched already in 2012, doing sea trials since. And, SSGN No. 3 of this class, the Novosibirsk was laid on keel on 26 July 2013. So far it has been announced to build some 8 units of this class, thought to be the replacement of the “Akula”-Class SSGN.

Also, the fleet of “Oscar II”-SSGNs will see some progress of their maintenance and modernization program (e.g. the replacement of the older SS-N-19 by the new SS-N-26 “Strobile” anti-ship-missile), with the Smolensk (K-410) completing her long overhaul period and two more “Oscar II”-SSGNs finishing their more than three year maintenance, i.e. the Tomsk (K-150) and the Kuzbass (K-419).

In this context, the Russian Navy officially stated to currently have some 20 submarines in maintenance and upgrading from the fleet of allegedly 48 nuclear powered submarines in service.

The building program for new conventional submarines of the Russian Navy has been updated in October 2013 as well. The St. Petersburg (B-585), being the First of Class of the new “Lada”-Class SSK (Project 677) and being officially commissioned in 2010 for the Baltic Fleet, has now redeployed to the Northern Fleet for extensive sea and weapon trials. The construction of this class of submarines has experienced repeatedly technical problems, which meant for these submarines not having met the required performance parameters yet. The latest series of sea and weapon trials set for the St. Petersburg shows still significant needs of improvement during the system tests of the submarine, which leads to further delays in reaching full serviceability and unrestricted combat readiness, although the submarine has been commissioned officially already three years ago. Also, the construc-tion of more and up to 40 units of this class, intended to replace the “Kilo”-Class SSK eventually, sees interrup-tions over and over again. Currently, the Kronstadt (B-586) has recommenced its construction in Summer 2013 following several stops of the building project that has started in July 2005. Similar, the construc-tion of SSK No. 3, the Sevastopol (B-587), started in November 2006, and SSK No. 4, the Petrozavodsk, also started in 2006, is currently on idle for both.


Diffcult situation for South Africa´s submarine fleet

On 07 July 2000, a building contract for three submarines was agreed between South Africa and the German Submarine Consortium, valued about 660 Mill. Euros. Between 2004 and 2007 the construction was executed in segments at HDW at Kiel, TSNW at Emden and at Kockums in Sweden, with the final assembly of the submarines at Kiel and Emden. The First of Class of the German export type 209/ 1400 mod SA, the SAS Manthatisr (S-101) was commissioned at HDW at Kiel on 03 November 2005, submarine No. 2, the SAS Charlotte Maxeke (S-102) on 14 March 2007 at TSNW at Emden, and submarine No. 3, the SAS Queen Modjadji I (S103) on 22 May 2008 also at TSNW at Emden. All submarines were transferred to South Africa since and are stationed at the Naval Base of Simon´s Town east of Capetown. The three submarines replaced the three “Daphne”-Class submarines procured from France in the early 1970ies.

The new diesel-electric (they have no air independent propulsion) submarines have a length of 62 m and a beam of 6.2 m, their underwater displacement is about 1,600 t. The speed at surface is 10 kn and submerged about 21 kn. The range is said to be 8,000 nmi at 8 kn, and submerged 240 nmi at 8 kn. Main armament is up to 14 torpedoes, to be launched from 8 bow torpedo tubes. The crew is 30 men.

It has to be mentioned that the circumstances of the contract´s generation are subject to legal proceedings until today since unclear payments were made, which media simply call “bribery money”. Whereas in 2008 the Chief Prosecutor at Düsseldorf Court has ceased to investigate against the industrial service ad project development company Ferrostaal in South Africa a new committee of inquiry has been established in August 2013 to examine the involvement of South African officials in the submarine deal.

News about the three submarine´s operations so far do vary. On the one hand, good performances by the crews were reported after the participation in multinational exercises, such as with NATO´s SNMG 1 in 2007 or with the German Task Force that sails every other year to South Africa for combined exercises (in 2012, already Exercise “Good Hope V” was executed). On the other hand, apparently significant problems in manning the submarines (the South African Navy hardly can field one fully trained crew) as well as maintenance difficulties have led to a situation that only one out of three submarines has a limited operational readiness at best.

On 14 Aug 2012 South African media reported from a severe grounding by the Queen Modjadji I while transiting from Port Elisabeth to Durban, having put this submarine out of serviceability since. Also, the Manthatisi, which was so successful during the exercises with NATO´s SNMG 1 in 2007, experienced repeatedly problems with its battery caused mainly by improper servicing and maintenance, and also received considerable damage to it diving rudder after severe swell in Naval Base Simon´s Town. Only following extraordinary maintenance efforts it seems to get this submarine back into service by next year.