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First Lady of the USA attends keel-laying ceremony for further SSGN of the “Virginia”-Class

On 02 June 2014, Michelle Obama, the wife of US President Barack Obama and First Lady of the USA, attended the keel-laying ceremony for the meanwhile 13th unit of the new series of SSGN of the “Virginia”-Class at the shipyard of General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) at Quonset Point at North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The new submarine will carry the name USS Illinois (SSN-786), where the birth place of Michelle Obama is. At the same time, Michelle Obama has adopted the life-long sponsorship for the submarine and its crews, as have done before Hilary Clinton for the USS Texas (SSN-775) as well as Laura Bush for the USS Columbia (SSN-771). In compliance with the tradition of the US Navy she engraved her initials at the metal plate that will be mounted later at the submarine´s hull. Michelle Obama also addressed the audience at the ceremony by a short speech, readable under “YouTube”. The attendance of the President´s wife at a keel-laying ceremony is rather unusual as traditionally such attendance takes place only during launch or commissioning ceremonies of new units of the US Navy.

The construction of the SSGN USS Illinois did start in 2011 and will be continued now to final assembly of the various pre-fabricated parts of the submarine, it will cost some 2.7 Bill. USD (= 2.0 Bill. Euros), and the commissioning is scheduled for August 2016. We have reported about the building program of the “Viginia”-Class SSGNs in our “Flotsam” issues of April and February 2014. In April 2014, GDEB did receive a formal building order for 10 further units of the block IV of the “Viginia”-Class costing initially 18 Bill. USD (= 13.5 Bill. Euros), with the construction of SSN-792 to have started on 01 May 2014, and the last of the series of this block to be delivered in 2023. With that, 10 SSGNs of the new class of block I and block II are commissioned already, the first unit of the 8 units strong block III will be commissioned still in 2014 (USS North Dakota/ SSN-784), and further 7 units are under construction (4) or on order (3). Another 10 units of block IV have been put on order, which makes a total of 28 units of the “Virginia”-Class so far commissioned, under construction or on order.

In this context, the US Navy announced on 30 May 2014 that it will swap two de-commissionings planned for the older SSN of the “Los Angeles”-Class. According to that, the service time of the USS Dallas (SSN-700) will now be extended from 2015 to 2017 while the USS Norfolk (SSN-714) will be retired earlier in 2015, after she enjoyed a long service life having begun on 18 July 1981. In April 2014 it also was made public that the USS Miami (SSN-775) of the “Los Angeles”-Class will now be scrapped definitely at the Pudget Sound Naval Shipyard in the Federal State of Washington costing 54 Mill. USD (= 40 Mill. Euros). We remember the news about the USS Miami (commissioned in 1990) to have suffered severe damage while undergoing her 20 months main overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Base, Maine, following a blaze set by the civilian painting and sand-blasting contract worker Casey James Fury for very personal reasons. The blaze caused damage so heavy that the costs estimated to repair soared from initially thought to be in the region of 450 Mill. USD to an amazing 700 Mill. USD. Consequently, any further plans to repair were given up, and the USS Miami was de-commissioned officially on 28 March 2014.


Wreckage of submarine in the Gulf of Finland identified as SM U 26 of the Imperial German Navy

On 02 June 2014 an association of Finnish voluntary divers calling itself “Badewanne” (= “Bathtube”, introduced by the Kriegsmarine in WW II as a casual name for the Gulf of Finland) proudly announced that the well preserved wreckage discovered by them at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland nearby the Island of Russarö south of Hanko was that of the U-boat U 26 of the Imperial German Navy.

The SM was keel-laid at the Germania shipyard at Kiel on 31 May 1912 and was commissioned on 20 May 1914. The U-boat that had a displacement of 864 to submerged was a first generation diesel engine driven boat of the Imperial German Navy, it had two bow and two rear torpedo tubes. It became famous as it sank the Russian cruiser Pallada on 11 Oct 1914 as well as the large Russian minelayer Jennisei on 04 June 1915, plus three merchant vessels in 1915 while patrolling the Eastern Baltic Sea. It left its base at Libau at the Baltic Sea on 11 August 1915 for another combat patrol to then vanish for reasons unknown so far in the sea area off the Gulf of Finland, it was spotted last time on 30 August 1915 by the British submarine E-9. Hence, the U-boat with its 30 men strong crew under Kapitänleutnant (= Lieutenant) Egewolf Freiherr von Berckheim was declared missing in action with effect of the end of August/ beginning of September 1915. The Finnish divers have now verified the location and the cause of the loss in the Gulf of Finland: The U-boat had struck a Russian mine, not far away from the location of the sunken Russian cruiser Pallada.


Fifth U-boat of the 212 A-Class delivered to the German Navy

Following several delays the 18 June 2014 has been stated officially as final delivery date for the handover of U 35 as the fifth U-boat of the 212 A-Class with air independent propulsion to the German Navy at Eckernförde, the official commissioning is said to occur before the Autumn of 2014. The keel-laying of U 35 at TKMS/ HDW at Kiel occurred on 21 August 2007 and the launching was on 15 November 2011. Since, the U-boat has gone through extensive sea and weapon trials, as the U-boats U 35 and U 36 of the second batch of 212 A – Class U-boats have seen a number of changes in design and weapon system as well as in their command and control technology. The U-boats of the second batch are about 1.20 m longer than the four U-boats of batch one, they have received a 4-men capsule in the conning tower for covert commando operations, improved communication facilities such as the INDRA Satcom antenna for Link 11/16 data traffic plus the floating “Callisto” communication towing buoy, a new Krupp-Atlas command and control system ISUS 90, an improved Sonar system, a new Optronik periscope OMS 100, air conditioning for tropic temperatures, the new TAU 2000 bold deception system, and a new IDAS missile to be launched from torpedo tubes defending against ASW aircraft.

As yet, no firm date has been announced for the commissioning of the sixth and last of the 6 U-boats of the 212 A-Class for the German Navy planned. U 36 was launched on 06 February 2013 and its official christening was carried out on 15 May 2013 at HDW at Kiel.

On 18 Jan 2014, the faction of the Left Party in the German Parliament forwarded a minor interpellation to the government under No. 18/336 inquiring about the development of costs for major armament projects of the Federal German Forces. On 24 February 2014, the government responded under No. 18/650 revealing among other system costs also those for the project of the 212 A-Class U-boats: According to that costs of a U-boat of the first batch are stated to have been 363.5 Mill. Euros (price standard as of 12/1995), and costs of a U-boat of batch two are stated to be 445.5 Mill. Euros (price standars as of 12/ 2005).


News about building programs, launchings and commissionings in other navies

US Navy

When the 11th SSGN of the “Virginia Class” was given the name of USS North Dakota in November 2103 the commissioning was announced to be scheduled for the 31 May 2014. On 18 Apr 2014 the US Navy confirmed that the commissioning has be postponed until further notice, with most sources talking of the end of August 2014 as new date. Reasons for the delay are unacceptable faults in the construction of the submarine´s redesigned bow and material issues with vendor assembled and delivered components. According to media reports this may have been caused by the redesign to meet the requirements set by the order to reduce costs by 20 %.


  • www.navytimes.com/article/20140416/NEWS04/304160072/Commissioning-delayed-submarine-North-Dakota (link obsolete)

Russian Navy

On 26 Jun 2014 the second SSK of the new conventional “Kilo III”-Class submarines (Project 636.6) for the Russian Navy, the Rostov-na-Donu, was launched at the Admiralty shipyard at St. Petersburg, after it was keel-laid in November 2011. The First of Class of the diesel-electric units, however, not equipped with independent propulsion system, the Novorossiysk (was keel-laid in August 2010), will complete its sea and weapon trials during these months, to be assigned to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Some 6 units of the new “Kilo III”-Class (Russian designation = “Varshavyanka”-Class) will form the new Russian submarine flotilla of the Black Sea Fleet to be employed in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The third units of the new class, the Stary Oskol was keel-laid in August 2012 and the fourth unit, the Krasnodar, in February 2014.


  • www.en.itar-tass.com/russia/734064 (link obsolete)

British Royal Navy

On 17 May 2914 the third SSGN of 7 units planned so far of the “Astute”-Class of the Royal Navy, the HMS Artful, was lowered to water at the shipyard of BAE System at Barrow-on-Furness at Cumbria. With that, the sea and weapon trials of the new submarine may be started now. Currently, the first two SSGNs of the new class are commissioned, i.e. HMS Astute (27 August 2010) and HMS Ambush (01 March 2013), and four more are under construction (HMS Artful/ HMS Audacious/ HMS Anson and HMS Agamemnon). HMS Artful, costing some 1 Bill. British Pounds (= 1.26 Bill. Euros), was keel-laid on 11 March 2005, and its commissioning is scheduled for 2015.


Indian Navy

10 months after the Indian submarine of the “Kilo I”-Class, the INS Sindhurakshak, sank in the Indian Naval Base of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) on 14 August 2013 following a battery blaze and causing the death of 18 sailors (see our “Flotsam” issues of September 2013, October 2013 and April 2014) the US salvage company “Resolve Marine” finally managed to lift the 3,000 t submarine from the ground and place it on a special barge for further transfer to a shipyard. According to latest news the submarine will be thoroughly examined whether repair make sense and can be afforded.

Following the series of incidents and accidents in the Indian Navy Admiral Robin K. Dhowen was appointed the new Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy. On 12 Jun 2014 he announced that the first unit of the 6 planned “Scorpene”-Class conventional submarine will be delivered as early as September 2016, other than scheduled so far for November 2016. The procurement program for 6 “Scorpene”-Class submarine to be built in India was contracted with DCNS in France in 2005.


Some movement in the saga about the Greek submarine procurement program

In “Flotsam” of July 2011 we reported first time about the status of procurement of submarines of the German export type 214 with air independent propulsion for the Navy of Greece. A contract of 15 February 2000 did agree on the procurement of initially 3 submarines of this type, an additional contract in 2002 added a 4th unit to that, and there were even talks about a total fleet of 6 submarines. The First of Class were to be built at HDW at Kiel, the further three at the “Hellenic Shipyard” (HSY) at Skaramagdos near Athens, which was owned by TKMS, the mother company of HDW.

In fact, the Papanikolos (S-120) was completed at Kiel. Following her launch on 22 April 2004 and the delivery in 2006 a major dispute came up about the required readiness of the submarine, with the Greek Navy claiming the submarine not meeting many specifications set by the building contract followed by year-long discussions about money. Eventually, the submarine was accepted by the Greek Navy on 10 November 2010.

The situation concerning the three submarines under construction at HSY developed even more difficult. On the one hand, there was the long lasting dispute about whether to accept the First of Class, on the other hand, in 2010 TKMS sold its majority share holding at HSY to the Arabian investment group of Abu Dhabi Mar, same as several shipbuilding facilities in Germany were sold by TKMS to Abu Dhabi Mar. Also, the financial trouble Greece is passing through since 2008 was of significant influence. In addition, a major bribary scandal was revealed in the context of the procurement contract, with the former Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos being sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Athens court on 07 Oct 2013 after having found guilty to have accepted 55 Mill. Euros for himself, his family and his former personal staff. The three submarines under construction at HSY have not been completed yet, although all three have been keel-laid (Pipinos/ S-121 in 2003, Matrozos/ S-122 in 2004 and Katzonis/ S-123 in 2007) and were launched all in 2006/2007.

The Greek Navy still has well-justified requirements for the new submarines, in particular since a replacement of the current fleet of submarines becomes more urgent. In June 2014 it became known that Greece will launch a start-up financing of 75 Mill Euros to complete the construction of the three submarines soon, with the 80 % ready built Pipinos to be available already at the end of 2014, the remaining two by 2016. At the same time, the Greek government has initiated a 7 Bill. Euros claim suit against TKMS and Abu Dhabi Mar before the International Court of Arbitration/ ICC at Paris, arguing the slipping deal has caused “damage to the international position o Greece and undermined its position in NATO”.