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U 33 returned from 8-months-deployment

On 01 June 2015 the Type 212A submarine U 33 of the German Navy arrived back at its homebase Eckernförde in conclusion of an 8-months-deployment, where it departed on 27 September 2014 for training and exercising with other Navies and within NATO in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In compliance with the multiple crew concept for German submarines crew “ALPHA” operated the submarine throughout the first months, until crew “DELTA” took over in January 2015 at Limassol, Cyprus, to eventually sail back the submarine to its homeport.

Operated by its two crews U 33 has passed a comprehensive schedule of tests, individual and formation training as well as exercises und missions in NATO and in bi-lateral format. Such, it joined NATO´s Standing Naval Force SNMG2 in November 2014 to be part of NATO´s anti-terror ops “Active Endeavour” in the Mediterranean Sea already for a second time after 2007. It also participated in NATO´s exercises “Noble Mariner 2014 in October 2014 off the Spanish Mediterranean coast as well as exercise “Dynamic Mongoose 2015” in early May 2015 off the Norwegian coast. On a bilateral basis U 33 took part in exercises “Smart Hunt” in March 2015 and “Blue Seahake” in April 2015 with the Italian Navy as well as “Atlantic Coach 2015” in April 2015 with the Portuguese Navy. In addition, it supported the German Armed Forces research vessel Planet in February 2015 for the national underwater research project “Ionic Research” in the Ionian Sea of the Mediterranean. Also, individual on-the-job-training was carried out for U-boat watch officers under training, at one time even on an exchange basis with an Portuguese submarine.

Having passed all these tasks U 33 has demonstrated another time the capability of German Type 212A U-boats for long-term deployments with crew change in the theatre of operations well beyond home waters, as it has been shown before by other units such as U 34 some 7 months in 2011 to a large extent in the Mediterranean Sea or U 32 some 6 months in 2013 with extended operations off the US East coast.


High costs for the Royal Navy to maintaining de-commissioned nuclear submarines

In early June 2015 Britain´s national broadcast station BBC caused some headlines when it cited an official statement by the MoD UK in response to a request for information under der Freedom of Information Act asking about the costs for maintaining the laid-up nuclear submarines of the Royal Navy. According to that the 7 submarines laid-up at Rosyth near Edinburgh since 1980 and the 12 submarines laid-up since 1994 at Devonport near Plymouth have led to some 16 Mill. GBP (= 21 Mill. Euros) costs during the last five years.

Meanwhile, the 7 submarines at Rosyth (Years of decommissioning: HMS Dreadnought/ 1980, HMS Churchill/ 1991, HMS Swiftsure/ 1991, HMS Revenge/ 1992, HMS Resolution/ 1994, HMS Repulse/ 1996 und HMS Renown/ 1996) have been freed of the highly radioactive nuclear fluids in the primary circulation in the reactor core chamber, called “nuclear defueling”, with HMS Dreadnought being the oldest of the 19 nuclear submarines laid-up. At Devonport only 4 submarines have been nuclear defueled yet (Years of decommissioning: HMS Conqueror/ 1990, HMS Warspite/ 1991, HMS Couragoeus/ 1992, HMS Valiant/ 1994), while 8 further submarines (Years of decommissioning: HMS Splendid/ 2003, HMS Sovereign/ 2006, HMS Spartan/ 2006, HMS Superb/ 2008, HMS Trafalgar/ 2009, HMS Sceptre/ 2010, HMS Turbulent/ 2012 und HMS Tireless/ 2014) are still awaiting that procedure, with HMS Tireless being the youngest of the fleet of 19 laid-up nuclear submarines. Current retirement schedules forsees 8 more nuclear submarines to be laid-up until 2030.

Nuclear defueling had to be stopped in 2002 when the existing facilities for that did not meet the high standards of nuclear safety any longer, and no consent has been reached yet where to put the nuclear reactor casings in whatever conditions on a provisional basis, let alone finding a final location for storing the nuclear waste. The problem of decommissioned nuclear submarines in two bases of the Royal Navy still having highly radioactive structural and operational components on board is increasingly debated in public with a need for a solution growing.


New Attraction for US Submarine Museum

On 22 June 2015 the local TV Station WTNH “News 8” at New Haven in Connecticut, USA reported about the official transfer of the laid-up special submarine of the US Navy, the NR-1, to the US submarine museum at the Thames River near Groton, which is a US Naval Base and the location of the General Electric submarine shipyard. With that, an announcement of the US Navy of November 2013 becomes true according to that this submarine of many secrets was to be transferred to the museum in due course.

The nuclear powered NR-1 was built at Groton from June 1967 onwards and commissioned on 27 October 1969. The 400 t submarine with a length of 45 m and a beam of 3 m plus significant deep diving capabilities has carried out many special underwater operations since with her 13 men crew, officially sea bed research operations, however, with most kept absolutely secret. Some missions became public, such as search operations for aircraft wreckages at sea, widely known the search for debris of the US space shuttle Challenger exploded after launch in 1986. Also, the well known underwater explorer Dr. Robert Ballard used the submarine in 1995 in the Mediterranean off Greece to dive for the wreckage of HMCS Britannia, the sister ship of the famous Titanic. The NR-1 war de-commissioned officially on 21 November 2008 and has found now a new place at the US submarine museum.

The “Submarine Forcess Library and Museum” was established in early stages in 1955, but has seen since an enormous growth of exhibits and display facilities, very much supported officially by the US Navy. Most famous the display of the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear powered submarine of the US Navy. The 30,000 or so exponats of today have been visited last year by 150,000 men, women and children.

Interestingly enough, the current CNO (= Chief of Naval Operations) of the US Navy, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, attended the hand-over ceremony for the NR-1 at the museum as he served on the submarine himself in the early years of his career.



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

Navy of Pakistan

On 08 June 2015 another time news were published reporting about a procurement project of Pakistan of 6 submarines of the Type “S-20” (export version of the Chinese Type 039A “Yuan”. These diesel-electric submarines are to be equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP). The submarines are to be built at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works in Pakistan under license from China, preparations for the construction have started already. According to the lastest news the modalities for the payment are still not agreed upon so far. Also, Pakistan wants to integrate own weapon and fire control developments in the construction.

Reports about a procurement program intended by Pakistan of 6 – 8 submarines from China can be traced back in the media until 2011. It appears that the high costs for the procurement estimated to be between 8 to 10 Bill. USD (= 7.4 to 9.3 Bill. Euros) are still a major obstacle for any agreement. Therefore, any piece of news about it needs to be treated with some caution.
Since 2004 repeatedly reports were published about a Pakistani intent to buy 3 AIP submarines of the German export Type 214 in Germany, with negotiations already going on. However, during the last years some silence about that can be observed, obviously due to political concerns.

Currently, the Navy of Pakistan operates 5 diesel-electric submarines, all of the French Type “Agosta”. Two of those are Type “Agosta 70” (Hashmat and Humat, both built in France originally for South Africa, due to the arms embargo against the country at that time sold to Pakistan and being commissioned there in 1979 and 1980) and 3 of the Typ “Agosta 90B” (Commissionings: Khalid in 1999, Saad in 2002 and Hamza in 2006), with Hamza being built in Pakistan.

All 5 submarines are equipped with torpedoes and “Excocet” SSM. The 3 Type “Agosta 90B” have been re-equipped meanwhile with the French MESMA AIP-system, which makes them the first submarines in the states facing the Indian Ocean to operate AIP submarines.


US Navy

The 12th unit in the current series of SSGNs of the “Virginia”-Class submarines under procurement, the USS John Warner, completed her sea trials on 12th of June 2015 und will be formally commissioned on 01 August 2015 at the US Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia. Patron saint John Warner will attend the ceremony. The USS John Warner (SSN-785) was keel-laid at Newport News Shipbuilding on 16 March 2013 and christined during her launch on 10 September 2014.

The USS John Warner is the first of the “Virginia”-Class SSGNs that is not carrying the name of a US Federal State, rather the name of a celebrity that even is still alive. By naming the submarine after John Warner a personality is honoured that not only was a long term serving (1978-2009) US Senator for the US State of Virginia (5 times re-elected) but also appointed to US Naval Secretary in the Pentagonin in 1970 for some years. During all these years he has achieved some merit with regard to the design and maintenance of the submarine fleet of the US Navy. The current and very successful procurement program of 30 plus SSGNs of the “Virginia”-Class facilitated in close cooperation between just two shipyards of the country (Newport News and Groton) had been an idea of John Warner pushed forward in the late 1990ies.


Russian Navy

In mid-June 2015 the CEO of the Russian submarine design company “Malakhit Marine Engineering Design Bureau”, Vladimir Dorofeyev, stated that the current building program of “Yasen”-Class SSGNs will be continued until 2013 with a total of then 7 units built. With that he corrected earlier assumptions of up to 8 units of this class to be constructed, while confirming the recent statement by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, about construction of these type of submarines to be continued beyond 2020.

The first unit of this class (Project 885, renamed project 885M beginning with unit no. 2, NATO designation also “Graney”-Class) was keel-laid as early as 1993 at the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk, Sibiria, to be commissioned eventually on 17 June 2014 following several interruptions in construction. During her sea trials in 2012 the Severodvinsk/ K-560 carried out 5 successful launches of her cruise missiles taken along. These submarines, thought to be a Russian answer to the “Virginia”-Class of the US Navy, will be able to carry an arsenal of various types of cruise missiles to be fired from the subs´ Vertical Launch System (VLS), as well as anti-ship-missiles and two types of torpedoes. It will be difficult to detect them, and in contrast to 134 strong crew of the “Virginia”-Class SSGNs of the US Navy they will be operated by a crew of just 90 sailors despite their size and displacement (120 m x 15 m, submerged up to 13,000 t).

On 19 March 2015 already unit no. 6 of the series was keel-laid, the Archangelsk. Lately, we have reported about the progress in the procurement program of the SSGNs of the “Yasen”-Class in our “Flotsam” issues of April 2015, October and August 2014.