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Commissioning of U 35 announced for March 2015

On 17 January 2015, the German Navy officially gave notice that the commissioning of U 35 as fifth Type 212 A U-boat of the German Navy will occur in March 2015, after such intent had been declared in the past several times already.

With that, a long history of repeated delays of the introduction of a complex weapon system to the Navy has found a good end, since the construction and, above all, the sea trials of this first-of-class of the second batch of 2 units of the type 212A U-boats were accompanied by a considerable number of problems due to many improvements integrated in comparison with the preceeding four units of the first batch of these U-boat for the German Navy with air-independent-propulsion. Lately, we have reported about U 35 in our Floatsam issue of July 2014.

In the context of the notification of commissioning of U 35 the German Navy informed about the major reasons for the repeated delays. Above all, there were unacceptable deficiencies in construction by some subcontractors in manifaction, e.g. the reliability of the power batteries, the radar, the navigational support system of GPS, the drive shaft and the newly developed communication bouy “Callisto”. In addition to that, on 30 July 2013 a severe accident happened during the sea trials off the Norwegian coast when in the port of Kristiansand a mobile crane on the pier turned over and caused significant damage to the conning tower of U 35 berthed alongside.

Also, the notice to the press indicates that the U-boatflottilla of the German Navy will be able to field three combat ready U-boats and three combat crews at all times once U 35 is commissioned.


Search for the Polish WW II submarine Orzel to be continued

On 02 January 2015 news came from Polish media that the search for the Polish submarine ORP Orzel will be resumed after several similar operations in the past since 2008. The search will be conducted by two teams from the Polish Ministry of Culture and the Naval Museum of Gdansk. With that, a underwater exploration operation is to be continued which has been started in June 2013 in a designated sea area off the Scottish eastern coast by the Polish Underwater Research Vessel Lech from Gdynia, after the Royal Navy on 31 May 2013 announced the detection of a wreck in British waters some 70 meters deep, which could be that of the Orzel.

Together with its sister ship Sep the submarine Orzel (84 m x 6,7 m, displacement 1,473 t submerged, 1 x 10,5 cm artillery plus 4 bow and 4 stern torpedo tubes for up to 20 torpedoes, crew of 60 men) was built in the Netherlands for the Polish Navy as of 1936, to then being commissioned on 02 February 1939, arriving at its homebase Gdynia on 10 February 1939. When WW II started on 01 September 1939 the submarine initially executed operations in the eastern Baltic Sea. In view of the developing situation in the ongoing war the Polish Naval leadership ordered on 11 September 1939 its units to seek either the escape to Britain or internment in neutral Sweden. A number of Naval vessels actually managed to escape despite opposing measures by the Kriegsmarine to prevent Polish Naval units from escaping, among others all 5 Polish submarines. The Sep (16 September), the Rys (17 September) and the Zbik made it to Sweden, whereas the Wilk even managed to break out from the Baltic Sea to arrive in Britain on 27 September 1939. On 14 September 1939, the Orzel initially called at Tallin in Estonia to disembark the allegedly sick Commanding Officer (Hendryk Kloczkowski) and another sick member of the crew. On 18 September 1939 the Orzel under the command of the former First Watch Officer January Grudzinksi then sneeked out Tallin secretly with 61 men on board, to pass the Danish straits (Oeresund) between Sweden and Denmark on 08 October 1939 under venturesome circumstances and the northern tip of the Danish Pensinsula of Jutland at Skagen on 11 October 1939, to then meet the British destroyer HMS Valorous at sea off Scotland on 14 October 1939, to be escorted to Rosyth in Scotland. The Orzel was integrated in the 2nd Submarine Flotilla of the Royal Navy at Rosyth. It was engaged in the operations of the Royal Navy against German Naval Forces supporting Operation “Weserübung” (the German military occupation of Denmark and Norway) when it succeeded to stop and sink the German troop carrying vessel Rio de Janeiro on 08 April 1940. On 23 May 1940 the Orzel left Rosyth for another mission off Norway. Due to circumstances unknown until today the submarine went missing soon and most certainly sank in the Northsea at a position which now might be confirmed eventually.


Submarines for the Navy of the Philippines?

At the end of last year reports were published by some media about the possible procurement of up to three submarines for the Navy oft he Philippines a part of the updated version of the “Armed Forces of Philippines Modernization Act (AFP)” (introduced on 23 February 1995, last amendment on 11 December 2012). The AFP was the basis of the 2010 “Philippine Navy Strategic Sail Plan 2020” and the 15-year-plan “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix” that defined budget requirements of 11.1 Bill. USD. The “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix” argued among other requirements for the procurement of 6 AAW frigates, 12 ASW corvettes, 18 patroller , 3 MCM vessels as well as 8 MPA and 18 Naval helicopters. Currently, the Navy oft he Philippines has some 100 combat and auxiliary units and 24,000 soldiers.

On 17 December 2014 the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Philippine Navy, Rear Admiral Ceasar Taccad, confirmed again before the press the procurement of up to three submarines, an intent that has been repeatedly stated officially by the Philippine military. Now, discussion and speculation has started about the possible nature of such procurement, ranging from the purchase of used submarines from other Navies up to building orders to foreign submarine designers for a new type of a diesel-electric submarine of about 1,200 t displacement. No timelines have been mentioned yet for the possible addition of submarines to the Philippine Navy since the priority at the moment is on the procurement of frigates, corvettes and helicopters. Moreover, some doubts seem appropriate about the implementation of the ambitious “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix” in view of the country´s chronic tight budget for military procurement, with the introduction of a costly own operational submarine capability on top.



Own submarine development in Taiwan?

At the end of 2014 a dicussion has seen some revitalization about the procurement of new submarines for the Navy of Taiwan replacing the two WW II submarines of the “Hai-Shih”-Class and the somewhat more modern two submarines of the “Hai-Lung”-Class, It is widely known that any arms procurement by Taiwan has to be seen before the background of the tense relations between the small island republic and the large People´s Republic of China. Any procurement placed at foreign contractors is met by the fierce opposition of the big mainland China, deals in the past has regularly caused severe diplomatic problems. We remember the problems the Netherlands faced when in the 1980ies the country could complete a building order for 2 submarines under extreme diplomatic pressure by China only and the follow-on order for 2 more submarines had to be given up. In 2004, even the US had to eventually abandon the intent of 2001 to facilitate up to 8 SSK to Taiwan.

Since 2009 plans under the project name”Kwang Hua 8″ are in exist to procure new submarines for the Navy of Taiwan replacing the aging submarines in the inventory. When in September 2014 a new 20-year-progam for the modernization of the country´s fleet was published it became clear definitely that Taiwan is seeking own development and construction of submarines home, using, however, foreign design. On 30 December 2014 Taiwan´s Minister of Defence, Chiu Kuo-cheng, declared before parliament the official launch of such development. With a budget of initially 315,560 USD a concept study will be ordered that is to be the basis of first design works in 2016. Current ideas talk of conventional submarines ranging from 1,200 t to 3,000 t to replace the 4 submarines in service now. This allows to conclude that the number of new submarines intended will be 4. Construction could be carried out at the CSBC shipyard in Taiwan as of 2020, allegedly first technicians and engineers have started training for that already.

The 45,000 strong Navy of the Republic of China, commonly known as “Taiwan”, has a remarkable number of combattans, such as 22 destroyers , 20 larger patrollers, 16 MCM-vessels, as well as 86 fast patrol boats, 16 amphibious vessels and Naval Aviation with some 55 aircraft, and also 4 submarines. The submarine flotilla is composed of 2 vintage boats of the US “Guppy”-Class, built at the end of WW II in the US and transferred to Taiwan after their decommissioning in 1973. Since, Taiwan operates these submarines as “Hai Shih”-Class, with the ex USS Cutlass/ SS-748 now carrying the name ROCS Hai Shih/ SS-791 and the ex USS Tusk/ SS-426 carrying the name ROCS Hai Bao/ SS-792. Officially, these units are still part of the active order of battle of the Taiwanese Navy, their operational readiness is somewhat doubtful, however. In 1981 Taiwan placed a building order of two more submarines in the Netherlands shipyard at Rotterdam, with these submarines on the basis of the Dutch “Zwaardvis” design then built until 1986 under considerable political pressure by the People Republic of China, to be eventually commissioned in Taiwan in 1987 and 1988. They are operated by Taiwan since under the designation of “Hai Lung”-Class and carrying the names of ROCS Hai-Lung (SS-793) and ROCS Hai Hu (SS-794).


India to lease a second nuclear powered submarine from Russia

In mid-December 2014, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced the decision of the Indian government to seek another lease agreement with Russia for a second SSGN of the “Akula”-Class after a first of such 10-year and 970 Mill. USD lease agreement was signed in 2011. It is said that the interest of India concentrates on the hull of the Russian “Akula” submarine Iribis whose construction in Russia is on idle since many years. The first Indian SSGN, the INS Chakra operates as of early 2012 in India after its construction began as early as 1993 at the Amur shipyard (at Komsomolsk at River Amur, some 300 km apart from the open Pacific Ocean), to be interrupted repeatedly, and to be commissioned in Russia in 2009 eventually, before being given to India. Now, construction of the “Amur II”-SSGN “Ibiris”, keel-laid in 1994 and completed up to 60%, is to be resumed for full completion until 2016, to then being commissioned by the Indian Navy in 2017.

Meanwhile, the first nuclear powered submarine of Indian production, the INS Arihant has started its sea trials. Notwithstanding, the Indian program of introducing nuclear powered submarines to the fleet has faced years of delay. Given that and experiencing many incidents with submarines in service as well as suffering from procurement programs with permant delays there are concerns growing as to the operational readiness of the Indian submarine force in total. That forces of currently 13 conventional and 1 nuclear powered submarines has seen never more than just 50 % of operational readiness.

We have reported in the past repeately about the situation of the Indian submarine force, lately in our “Flotsam” issues of January 2015, November 2014, August 2014, July 2014, April 2014 and March 2014.



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

US Navy

On 09 January 2015 the US Navy announced that after the USS Jack Warner (SSN-785) another SSGN in the current procurement programm of “Virginia”-Class submarines will not receive a name of a US Federal State: The 21st unit of the running series, SSN-795, is to carry the name of the “father” of US nuclear powered submarine, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.

Currently, there are in service the four SSGN of batch one (SSN-774 to SSN-777), plus the six SSGN of batch two (SSN-778 to SSN-783), plus the USS “North Dakota” (SSN-784) as first unit of seven planned for batch three (SSN-774 to SSN-791), at the same time unit No. 11 of the “Virginia”-Class commissioned. The USS Jack Warner (SSN-785) will be commissioned in August of this year as the 12th unit of “Virginia”-Class SSGNs, followed by the USS Illinois (SSN-786) in August 2016. The 14th unit of “Virginia”-Class SSGNs, the USS “Washington”, has been keel-laid in November 2014. There are also some names known yet to be given to the units of batch four (9 to 10 units planned, SSN-792 to SSN-801): SSGN No. 18 to be named USS Vermont (SSN-792), SSGN No. 19 USS Oregon (SSN-793) and now for SSGN No. 21 USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795), to be built at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. SSGN No. 20 still has to be named.


Russian Navy

On 26 December 2014 the keel-laying ceremony for the 6th SSBN of the “Borej”-Class was carried out at the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk, Sibiria, with the submarine receiving the name of Generalissimus Suvorov. The ceremony was staged to celebrate the 75th birthday of the shipyard and was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Rogozin.

The Sevmash shipyard is the main dockyard for the construction and overhaul of all of Russia´s nuclear powered submarines. It is part of Russia´s USC group of shipyards (“USC” = United Shipbuilding Corporation), formed in 2007. The USC combines some 70% of Russian shipbuilding and maintains three regional shipbuilding centers as well as 9 engineering bureaus and 39 dry docks. The large building facilities are the JSC Yantar Shipyard and the submarine dockyard JSC Admiralty Shipyard at St. Petersburg, the JSC PA Sevmash at Severodvinsk and the JSC DVZ Zvesda at Russia´s Pacific coast. The JSC Zvesda has formed a joint venture with the Korean state-owned shipyard of DAEWOO. Although the USC Group mainly builds for the Russian Navy it currently works on military and civil shipbuilding orders for customers from 20 countries.


Navy of Algeria

On 30 Dec2014 news were published about the start of construction at the Admiralty shipyard at St. Petersburg of the 2 “Kilo II”-Class submarines (Project 636M) ordered by Algeria. Construction will commence in 2015 and delivery of the submarines is scheduled for 2018. The procurement is said to have a budget of 1.2 Bill. USD. We have reported about the project in our “Flotsam”-issue of August 2014.

Currently, the Navy of Algeria operates 4 submarines. In 1987 (Submarine No. 012 Rais Hadj Mubarek) and in 1988 (Submarine No. 013 El Hadj Slimane) the two “Kilo”-Class submarines built in the then Leningrad (Project 877 EKM) were commissioned in Algeria. In 2010, two more submarines followed, i.e. submarine No. 021 Meassli el Hadj and submarine No. 022 Akram Pacha, which were built at the Admiralty shipyard between 2006 and 2010 as export version oft he “Kilo II”-Class (Project 636M).