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Wreckage of U 576 detected off Cape Hatteras

These days, the fate of another Kriegsmarine U-boat has been clarified definitely: On 22 October 2014 the media widely published the report of the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)” about the search, localization and identification of the wreckage of the Type VII C U-boat U 576, only about 50 km off the US East Coast close to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. According to the report, the underwater research vessel Okeanos Explorer, while examining the sea bed before the coastline off the Outer Banks of North Carolina in August 2014, detected initially the wreckage of the oiler Bluefield which was sunk on 14 July 1942 by U 576. Soon after, just about 80 m apart, the wreckage of U 576 was detected as well, water depth in the area is about 240 m. The sonar scan pictures taken from U 576 show an amazingly well deserved wreck. With that, both former enemies in war have found a common sea grave almost side by side.

Under the command of Kapitänleutnant (= Lieutenant) Hans-Dieter Heinicke U 576 (commissioned on 26 June 1941) left its base at St. Nazaire, France, on 16 June 1942 for its 5th combat patrol with mission assignment off the US East Coast. On 14 July 1942, the U-boat sighted coastal convoy KS-520 enroute from Virginia to Key, composed of 19 merchant vessels and 5 escorts. Although damaged considerably, the commanding officer decided to attack. The crew managed to sink the oiler Bluefield and to damage two more vessels. However, it was caught by two anti-submarine “Kingfisher” aircraft from nearby coastal air station Cherry Field, North Carolina, which provided air cover for the convoy. The aircraft dropped 4 depth charges while at the same time the freighter Unicoi of the convoy shelled the U-boat by its gun for self defense. U 576 was sunk soon, all 45 crew went down with the U-boat.


SLBM development in North Korea?

In early November numerous media started speculation about a possible development in North Korea of a capability to employ submarine based ballistic missiles (SLBM). According to that, a “Golf II”-Class submarine has been merely laid up rather than being scrapped after being sold following decommissioning by the Soviet Navy in 1990 to North Korea in 1993 together with further 11 ex-Soviet “Foxtrott” and “Golf” submarines. Since, rumors about a secret evaluation of the submarine for possible reactivation after modernization and commissioning in North Korea have popped up repeatedly, now another revitalization of those rumors seems to occur. If true, the reactivated “Golf II” submarine or a North Korean derivative of that would enable North Korea to field a SLBM capability for a first time.

As we all know the Soviet Union was building diesel-electric submarines of the “Golf”-Class (Project 629) as of 1957 as a further development of the “Foxtrott”-Class submarines, with some 23 units being commissioned between 1959 and 1962 eventually. At that time and exclusively until today these submarines were the only diesel-electric submarines with a capability to launch ballistic missiles. The submarines had three vertical launch systems to fire initially “R-11/ 13” missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-4), which had a range of about 250 km and the capability to carry a nuclear warhead. Between 1966 and 1972 a total of 14 submarines were upgraded to “Golf II”-Class (Project 629 B) and able to launch “R-21” missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-5 “Serb”/ “Sark”), with the latest version of it to fly up to 1,600 km. It was characteristic for these submarines to come to the surface in order to launch their ballistic missiles. All versions of the “Golf”-Class submarines were decommissioned until 1990.

Based on recent intelligence, now media report about an obvious development going on and tests pending of a North Korean SLBM, which could be a further development of the land-based “No dong” or “Rodong-1” medium range missile introduced in the early 1990ies and based on the “R-21″/ SS-N-5 missile. Test launches are expected to be executed within the next two years from a test base identified already at the military area at Sinpho at the North East Coast of North Korea, where also a submarine shipyard is located. There are some assumptions that at the same time at least one of the “Golf II” submarines merely laid up in 1993 will be reactivated or reproduced to integrate the newly developed SLBM. With that, North Korea would build up a strategic capability at sea against their neighbors not known so far.


French submarine designers from DCNS present a new super AIP submarine

Two years after the German TKMS/ HDW submarine designers presented their study of a 4,000 to AIP submarine under the designation of “216”-Class at the EURONAVAL Naval Fair at Paris in October 2012 (we reported about it in our “Flotsam” issue of January 2014 and June 2013) the state owned French submarine designers of DCNS went public with a similar concept study. According to that it will be a diesel-electric plus AIP submarine called initially “SSX Ocean”. The length is said to be about 100 m and the beam 8.8 m, the displacement shall be 4.750 t at the surface and more than 5,000 t submerged. The maximum diving depth is stated to be about 350 m and the range shall be an amazing 18,000 nmi. The maximum speed submerged shall be up to 20 kn.

The AIP-System is to facilitate submerged operation up to three weeks and up to 6 crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, replenishment will be required after 21 days of operation only. Some 34 units of various weapon systems are to be taken on board, ranging from torpedoes, to mines alternatively, anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, as well as cruise missiles, with the missiles to be fired from vertical launchers. Not seen so far the “SSX Ocean” will have the capability to operate underwater as well as airborne unmanned vehicles. Given the experience with the operation of AIP submarines so far those type of submarine will be more and more a considerable alternative to nuclear powered submarines: They are much more silent (The nuclear reactor needs a cooling system that causes constant noise) since the AIP-System is simply a chemical reaction, and the total cost for a AIP submarine is less than half of that for a nuclear powered submarine.



First thoughts by the US Navy for a follow-on type of submarine type of the “Virginia”-Class SSGN

The procurement program of SSGNs of the “Virginia”-Class is in full swing, with the USS North Dakota (SSN-784) just being commissioned (we have reported about the “Virginia”-Class recently in our “Flotsam” issue of November 2014) as unit No. 11 in the series. Notwithstanding, first thoughts in the US Navy became public in late October 2014 about a follow-on type of the “Virginia”-Class SSGNs. According to that a working group will be formed soon under the initial title of “SSN (X)” to develop conceptual ideas about the requirements to be met by a future SSGN. A concept for a new SSGN is to be drafted within the next 9 years in close cooperation with research and industry, allowing this type of submarine to be put on order in 2034 or so instead of Block VIII still planned for the current procurement program of the “Virginia”-Class subs, to then commission the first unit of those in 2044. First ideas concentrate, above all, on the employment of long range weapon systems, which will be guided to targets by other platforms than the launching submarine facilitated by Network Enabled Operations. Already, a new kind of torpedo with a revolutionary propulsion system has been mentioned in this context running up to 200 nmi, whose final guidance after launch is to be executed by other platforms, such as unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles or MPAs.


Impressive private jet-type submarine presented

In early November, the Californian company “Deep Flight” presented a product to the public whose development started in 2008. This company, having decades of experience in building small but powerful mini-submarines for private or underwater research purposes, including designing a special underwater vehicle for the James Bond movie “For your eyes only” (1981, Roger Moore being James Bond), is marketing now a ready developed product “Super Falcon II”. It looks like an underwater jet aircraft, its length is 5.9 m and the width 4.7 m hydrofoil-wings included, and the displacement is about 1.8 t.


It can go down to 120 m and its battery allows operations up to 24 hours, maximum speed is said to be 6 kn. Not unexpectedly, this mini-submarine is affordable to wealthy people only: The asking price is about 1.7 Mill. USD (= 1.4 Mill. Euros), a day´s rent would be some 10,000 USD. In 2013 in became public that the Austrian “Red Bull” boss, Dietrich Mateschitz, offers underwater pleasure rides using this submarine to guest of his privately owned island of Laucala in the Fidji archipelago.


News about building programs, launchings, commissionings and de-commissionings in other Navies

US Navy

On 25 October 2014 a ceremonial commissioning before a crowd of 2,500 people at the General Dynamic Electric Boat shipyard at Groton, Connecticut was executed for the USS North Dakota (SSN-784), being the first of 8 units planned for Block III of the series of “Virginia”-Class SSGNs. Originally the commissioning was scheduled for May 2014. However, some modifications to the hull and to the detection and weapon systems led to a delay of several months. With that, USS North Dakota has now a new sonar system and two multifunctional large torpedo tubes. The latter facilitates the employment, including launch, of 6 UGM 109 “Tomahawk” cruise missiles each, thereby replacing the vertical launch systems fitted into the earlier versions of SSGNs. The North Dakota was keel-laid just on 11 May 2012, with construction executed within a mere two and half years. System costs are said to be 2.6 Bill. USD (= 2 Bill Euros).

Die USS North Dakota (Bild: US-Navy)
USS North Dakota (Picture: US-Navy)


Russian Navy

On 05 November 2014 the “Delta IV”-Class SSBN Tula (K-114) executed a successful test launch of its “Sinerva” SLBM (NATO designation: SS-N-23 “Skiff”) from the Barents Sea to the test range at Kura at the Kamschatka Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. The SLBM “Sinerva” has a range of up to 12,000 km and was introduced in 2007.

On 12 November 2014 another SSBN of the “Delta IV”-Class, the Yekatarinenburg (K-84) has started its sea trials following major repairs after the severe fire experienced on 29 December 2011 during the main overhaul period in the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk, Sibiria.

Also in the Barents Sea on 29 October 2014, the “Borej”-Class SSBN Yuri Dolgoruki launched a newly developed “Bulova” SLBM successfully. With that, the crisis around the serviceability of the “Bulova” of 2013 has been overcome since this launch is already the second successful one after all “Bulovas” produced so far have been thoroughly scrutinized. In September 2014 it was the Wladimir Monomarkh being the first to fire a re-inspected “Bulova”. And, in November 2014 the third “Borej”-Class SSBN commissioned, the Alexander Nevski, was successful in launching a “Bulova” as well.


Australian Navy

In early November 2014 another competitor showed up for the 20 to 30 Bill. Australian Dollars (= 13 to 20 Bill. Euros) tender to design and build up to 12 submarines replacing the 6 “Collins”-Class SSKs of the Australian Navy. There were already some rumors about that in the media in the preceding months. Now, only shortly after it was established the new Swedish submarine consortium of SAAB and Kockums has made an official bid responding to the Australian tender, which is said to be well below the cost-price of other offers. Moreover, SAAB is already partner of the Japanese submarine builders the media unanimously given the best chances currently to win the contract in the end. SAAB has indicated to transfer technology and offer compensational deals to Australian industry if winning the order. Also, it should be reminded that it was Kockums which cooperated with Australian industry when the “Collins”-Class submarines in Australia between 1996 and 2001.


Turkish Navy

Media started spreading news in early November 2014 about possible delays and disputes between the Government of Turkey and the German submarine designers of TKMS/ HDW with regard to the current building program for Turkish “214”-Class submarines. As we know, on 02 July 2009 Turkey placed a 3.5 Bill. USD (= 2.8 Bill. Euros) building order with TKMS/ HDW for 6 submarines of the German export type “214”. Construction was to be carried out at the Naval shipyard of Gölcük at the eastern most end of the Marmara Sea southeast of Istanbul, however, material packages to come from Kiel.

The alleged dispute might be motivated politically as well as financially, as we have seen similarly until recently in context of the “214” submarines for Greece. Therefore, news about the Turkish deal needs to be received with some caution. According to those, the delivery of the First-of-Class in 2015 is in doubt, whose construction had started in 2011. The alleged reasons of the dispute range from statements about hard re-negotiations going on about costs to further integration of Turkish defense industry in the running program, to a settlement to be aimed for through waging the continuation of the program versus Germany to clear all allegations about the German Secret Service having monitored communication traffic between Turkish officials since 2009.

Turkish Naval shipbuilding has gained much experience in submarine construction, lately through building a total of 11 submarines of the German export type “209” under license between 1976 and 2007, with the first 3 submarines of the procurement program of a total of 14 submarines being built by HDW at Kiel between 1972 and 1978.

On 14 November 2014 media reported about the de-commissioning planned by the Turkish Navy of the 209/1200-Class submarine Saldiray after more than 40 years of service. The TCG Saldiray (S-348) was the second submarine of the export class 209/1200 for Turkey that was still built at HDW btw 1973 and 1975 and commissioned on 21 October 1975.


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  • (link obsolete) (DailyNews of 14 November 2014)