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Uncertainties about the future of German submarine building

Beginning in late October 2014 reports show up in the media repeatedly that talk about a possible takeover of the Naval shipbuilding branch TKMS of ThyssenKrupp by the large arms producer of Rheinmetall. Allegedly talks are having reached an advanced status, although a spokesman of ThyssenKrupp has denied that, and Rheinmetall has refused any statement about it. The rumors received some nurture at the end of November 2014 from an interviews given by the CEO of ThyssenKrupp, Heinrich Hiesinger, to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, where he stated that ThyssenKrupp would in principle be ready to sell its Naval shipbuilding branch if the price is right, as its shipyards at Hamburg and Kiel are well occupied currently and for the next years to come with Naval projects.

With that, some movement seems to prevail in this matter, actually, since ThyssenKrupp is just going through a comprehensive program of restructioring, with the company having made some profits in 2014 after several years of red figures. Selling off the profitable Naval shipbuilding branch would support this trend.

As we all know the shipyards of TKMS at Hamburg and Kiel are currently building frigates for the German Navy and for overseas customers as well as submarines for some foreign contractors after the construction of the second batch of 212A-Class submarines (U 35 and U 36) for the German Navy has been completed recently.


Odyssey of a US Navy SSGN

On 09 April 2014 the “Los Angeles”-Class SSGN of the US Navy, the USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) left its homeport Point Loma in San Diego for a scheduled 6 months deployment in the Western Pacific Ocean, to return to base on 28 October 2014. Malfunctions of the air conditioning on board and unexplainable leaks in the cooling system forced the SSGN to abandon its patrol and berth at Guam Naval Base where it docked on 21 June 2014. There, the submarine was awaiting repairs. Meanwhile repeated notifications for repairs at Pearl Harbour were given and withdrawn, as only at that base appropriate repair facilities could be provided. Hardly anything significant in terms of thorough repairs happened at Guam and the crew passed the usually rigid maximum 6 months separation period (“Optempo”).

Die USS Jefferson City (Bild: US-Navy)
USS Jefferson City (Picture: US-Navy)

Only on 09 November 2014 provisional repairs had managed to get the SSGN ready for sea trials off Guam. Following those it was decided to sail the submarine to the Naval Base at Pearl Harbour at Oahu/ Hawaii. The USS Jefferson City has arrived there on 29 November 2014.
Not only the crew had to endure more than 7 months separation from home but also had to learn on 25 November 2014 from the decision that the homebase of the USS Jefferson City had been shifted from San Diego to Hawaii with immediate effect. To make matters worse, the crew was denied the usual “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo” because of more than 7 months separation, an extra allowance of 495 USD per month.

Now, the USS Jefferson City will remain at Pearl Habour undergoing a 22-months “Engineered Overhaul/ EOH”, while the crew and their families will have to tackle the well known challenge of removal half way across the Pacific Ocean.


Confusion about the first sea based test operational evaluation launches of SLCM “Tomahawk”

Some confusion arose about the first SSN of the US Navy to have launched operationally a BGM-109 “Tomahawk” cruise missile, when SSGN USS La Jolla (SSN-701) paid her farewell visit in November 2014 to her former homebase at Point Loma at San Diego during her final voyage from the US Naval Base Pearl Harbour to Norfolk for being taken out of active service at the end of 2014. The notice to the press by the US Navy gave credit to the USS La Jolla as being the first to have launched the “Tomahawk” in 1981 from submerged position.

Then, a former Commanding Officer of a “Sturgeon”-Class SSN, the USS Guitarro (SSN.665, 1972-1992), Captain (rtd) Burton M. Scott, claimed that his submarine had carried out some 18 operational evaluation launches between 1978 and 1981. Soon, another former Commanding Officer raised his voice, when LtCdr (rtd) Robert McArthur confirmed that his SSN of the “Permit”-Class, the USS Barb (SSN-596, 1963-1989) did launch a “Tomahawk” at the USN Test Range off San Diego as early as October 1978 from submerged position. A spokesman of the Submarine Force of the US Pacific Fleet gave credit to all three claims by clarifying that each of the above mentioned submarines were the first of their class to have tested the “Tomahawk”, with the USS La Jolla being the first of the “Los Angeles”-Class SSN/ SSGN to have done so.

Meanwhile it is decided that the USS La Jolla will be taken out of active service at Norfolk but will continue to serve as training facility for new submarine crews. For that, the La Jolla will be converted throughout the next three years at Norfolk by updating the nuclear reactor and changing the entire bow section through dis-mounting the current torpedo and missile launch facilities and installing training and administrative quarters there instead. At the end of 2017 it is planned to transfer the La Jolla to Charleston, South Carolina, to join the “Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU)” replacing one the current two training submarines, the USS Daniel Webster and the USS Sam Rayburn, most likely the Daniel Webster. With that, the La Jolla will continue service having a status of “Moored Training Ship/ MTS” at Charleston for the next 20 years.



News about building programs, launchings, commissionings and de-commissions

Russian Navy

In early December news were published by the media about the building program for the “Kilo III”-Class SSK (Project 636.3) for the Russian Navy, with the program being stopped after unit No. 6. Instead, the construction of the SSKs of the “Lada”-Class (Project 677) is to be continued being the first Russian submarines with air-independent-propulsion, with four units of this class currently doing sea trials or being under construction.


  • www.marineforum.info (link obsolete) (DailyNews of 08 December 2014)

On 19 December 2014, the SSBN of the “Borej”-Class, the Vladimir Monomarkh (K-551) was commissioned officially. With that, three new SSBNs of some 8 units planned are in active service, with the Yuri Dologoruki and the Alexander Nevski being the first two units. By the end of November 2014 all new strategic submarines of the Russian Navy have passed their final evaluation test firing of their new SLBMs of the “Bulova” type.


On 26 December 2014 SSBN No. 6 of the “Borej”-Class (Project 955A) was keel-laid at the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk. The Knyaz Suvorov will be an improved version of the “Borej”-Class, with carrying up to 20 SLBMs “Bulova” as opposed to 16 ballistic missiles being carried by the first units of this class.


  • www.marineforum.info (link obsolete) (DailyNews of 08 December 2014)

Vietnamese Navy

On 05 December 2014 SSK No. 3 of 6 submarines ordered of the “Kilo II”-Class (Project 636.1) was handed over to the Vietnamese Navy at the Admiralty shipyard at St.Petersburg, and the transfer to Vietnam started on 10 Dec 2014 by a special barge. The “Hai Phong” is part of the 2 Bill. USD (= 1.5 Bill. Euros) procurement program agreed between Vietnam and Russia in 2009, which besides the construction in Russia includes the entire training of the crews in Russia and Vietnam as well as technical support plus spare part service in Vietnam. The first two units of the program (Han Noi and Ho Chi Minh City) are already commissioned in Vietnam. The fourth unit (Da Nang) is undergoing sea trials as of June 2014, whereas unit No. 5 (Khanh Hoah) is under construction and unit No. 6 (Ba Ria-Vung Tan) has been keel-laid in May 2014. Recently, we have reported about the program in our “Flotsam” issue of October 2014. The SSKs are to receive “Klub” anti-ship missiles.


US Navy

On 22 November 2014 the keel-laying ceremony of “Virginia”-Class submarine No. 14 was executed at the Newport News Shipbuilding yard in Virginia. The SSGN will carry the name of the US Federal State of Washington and will receive the hull number SSN-787.


  • www.13newsnow.com/story/news/local/mycity/newport-news/2014/11/21/keel-laying-ceremony-sat-for-sub-washington/19329225/ (link obsolete) (ABC News of 21 November 2014)

On 18 December 2014 the “Los Angeles”-Class SSGN, the USS Norfolk was de-commissioned at the US Naval Base of Norfolk, Virginia, to be scrapped starting in January 2015 at the US Naval Shipyard at nearby Portsmouth. The USS Norfolk (SSN-714) was commissioned in 1983 and has seen many deployments, mainly in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.


  • www.military.com/daily-news/2014/12/12/navy-submarine-uss-norfolk-to-be-inactivated.html (link obsolete)
  • www.marineforum.info (link obsolete) (DailyNews of 11 December 2014)

Indian Navy

On 15 December 2014 news from Indian media were spread about the definite beginning of the 18 months “Sea Acceptance Trials/ SATS” of Indian designed nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant, after delays were caused in August 2013 when the first activation of the nuclear reactor on board went critical during the then executed harbor and sea trials. The SATS will also see the first launch from submerged position of the Indian designed SLBM “K-15” that has range of up to 750 km. The Indian SSBN will carry up to 12 missiles in 4 silos. The news also confirmed the state of the current procurement program of 5 Indian SSBNs to be ordered within 7 years, according to which the second SSBN, INS Aridhaman is expected to be launched in the near future, and SSBN No. 3 being under construction. We have reported about the Indian submarine program in our “Flotsam” issues of November 2014 and August 2014.