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Sixth “212 A”-Class U-boat for the German Navy christened

On 15 May 2013 U-boat U 36 was christened at the TKMS/ HDW shipyard at Kiel in the presence of the Chief of the German Navy, Vice Admiral Axel Schimpf, which now is the last in the series of new AIP U-boats for the German Navy for the time being. Following comprehensive sea trials and training to gain full operational readiness the U-boat is scheduled to join the German Fleet by 2014. The first crew to work up the U-boat to full operational readiness will be crew “Golf” under Kapitänleutnant (= Lieutenant) Stephan Busch, who commands one of the 8 crews of the 1st German U-boat Flotilla not assigned to a certain U-boat, rather to man a U-boat employed in operations only, even by crew change in the theatre of operation if necessary to keep the separation from home for the Naval soldiers within determined timelimits.

Godmother of U 36 is Mrs. Silke Elsner, the companion of the Mayor of Plauen in Saxony, HE Ralf Oberdorfer, who has volunteered for a sponsorship by his town for a unit of the German Navy since 2004. Now, the town has taken over sponsorship for U-boat crew “Golf”. With that, the town´s remarkable ties to U-boat sailors is demonstrated again, as one of the most famous Commanding Officer of an U-boat in WW II stems from Plauen: Werner Hartenstein, the CO of U 156 who acted so noble in rescuing the survivors of the Laconia which he had sunk on 12 September 1942 in the South Atlantic.


Exercise Log of U 32 (Part 1)

In our “Flotsam” issue of April 2013 we reported about the first trans-Atlantic crossing and several months long deployment of the German Type 212A U-boat U 32 for training exercises with the US Navy. Since its departure the German Navy has authorized the crew of U 32 to publish on a regular basis an exercise log from its enduring training mission on its homepage under www.marine.de. It is highly recommendable to follow the log as the entries report from living and working on board a U-boat of this class in detail never read before. Below we will sum up some of the events up to mid-May 2013 as narrated in the exercise log.

U 32 left its homebase Eckernförde on 10 February 2013 and called at the Azores for an intermediate stop over between 22 and 27 February 2013, before it reached the US Navy base of Mayport in Florida on 19 March 2013. During its transit of about 4.800 nm, with 82 % under water, U 32 managed to achieve another record of continous underwater operations for conventional submarines when it proceeded submerged after leaving the Azores until the 18 April 2013 for an amazing 18 days.

Since the U-boat has arrived in the US it participates in a number of training exercises off the US East coast. At the end of March 2013 it took part in exercise IDCERTEX (Individual Destroyer Certification Exercise), an advanced work up training for USN destroyers and frigates with 3 DDGs and 2 FFGs, followed by a series of exercises as part of exercise TACDEVEX 2013. This also was an advanced work up exercise and has seen the participation of the German U-boat tender Main, a German Navy P3C “Orion”, the German military research vessel Planet, and on the US side the “Aleigh Burke”-Class DDG USS Roosevelt, a brand new P8A “Poseidon” MPA plus the SSN/ SSGNs USS Norfolk and Dallas. During this exercise U 32 also streamed its sophisticated sonar system TASS, which enables long distance and low frequency search against opposing submarines.

Following another port call at the Naval Base Mayport from 24 April to the of April 2013 for replenishment, resupply and crew-recreation U 32 (being well looked after by its host-ship, USN “Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate USS Taylor) left its base on 01 May 2013 for further exercises. This time is was to execute a series of scientific experiments and trials in underwater sound properties with the U-boat tender Main and the military research vessel Planet, which had embarked for that a number of scientists and design engineers. Also, this phase of the deployment was the final mission for crew “Delta” of the German U-boat flotilla. Unfortunately, the execution of the experiments and trials was hampered very much by unfavourable weather conditions, with waves meters high and gale force winds lasting for days bouncing the surface units extremly, while U 32 could escape to more pleasant conditions in the deep of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida.

During the next days it was time to crosspoll some of the exercise staff from the Tender Main to U 32 enabling them to experience a modern AIP U-boat in operation they had only seen from the surface so far.

On 11 May 2013 several days of intense training followed for the crews of up to 4 ASW Helicopters at the same time in the theatre of operation, to gain some experience in the search and pursue of a conventional AIP submarine they did not had any opportunity to execute before, with U 32 acting as target demonstrator and displaying some evasive maneuvers against harassing ASW forces. The exercising with helicopters, at times supported by an additional US Navy MPA and serials often more than 12 hours long, determined the routine on board the U-boat until its next return to base at Mayport over the long weekend of Whitsuntide. Crew “Delta” of the 1. German U-boat Flotilla having manned U 32 had clocked after its departure from Eckernförde about 97 days of absence from homeport, with 80 days at sea and having sailed a total of 9,652 nmi, of which 7,203 nmi were patrolled under water, i.e. a proud 74.2 %.

At Mayport it will be time to hand over U 32 to relieving crew “Bravo” of the 1st U-boat Flotilla, which then will continue exercising with the US Navy, to eventually sail home the U-boat to Eckernförde.



Second Russian “Borej”-Class SSBN to be commissioned in 2013

In our “Flotsam” issue of March 2013 we reported about the current situation with regard to the new strategic submarine of the “Borej”-Clas for the Russian Navy, which has seen the commissioning of the First of Class SSBN, the Yuri Dolgeruki (K-535) on 10 Januar 2013. Since the end of March 2013 Russian and other media unanimously report the intent to also commission the second SSBN of this class in 2013, the Alexander Newski (K-550), while quoting the Director General of the “Central Bureau of Construction of Maritime Technique”, Igor Wilnit. The commissioning will be subject to the successful completion of a test firing of the main armament of the SSBN, new SLBM “Bulova” (preliminary NATO Designation: SS-NX-30), in the Summer of this year.


Fifth “Dolphin”-Class submarine for Israel christened

We reported in April 2013 about the launch of the fifth submarine of the “Dolphin”-Class for the Navy of Israel at the shipyard of TKMS/ HDW at Kiel, Germany. Now, the official ceremonial christening for the boat was executed at the shipyard on 29 April 2013, with the submarine carrying the name of Rahev. Netx steps are the seatrials and the workup for the combat readiness at Kiel and elsewhere, before the submarine will transit to Israel. On 14 May media reported from the start of the seatrials of the fourth “Dolphin”-Class submarine, at the same time also the first AIP submarine for the Navy of Israel, in the Baltic Sea. The “Tanin” was handed over to Israel at Kiel on 03 May 2013 and is scheduled to eventually sail for Israel in 2013 after it has completed its construction works and seatrials.


Dark clouds over the British submarine based nuclear deterrence

For a long time there were hardly any news about the current operation and the replacement program for the 4 SSBNs of the Royal Navy´s “Vanguard”-Class as the carrier of Britain´s capability of nuclear deterrence by means of the “Trident” SLBM. Now, headlines have emerged again around these submarines.

Currently British nuclear deterrence is facilitated by 4 submarines of the “Vanguard”-Class which can take on board up to 16 “Trident II D 5” SLBMs, carrying up to a total of 48 nuclear warheads. The United Kingdom states to have a total of 160 nuclear warheads in service for its nuclear deterrence.

The 4 “Vanguard”-Class submarines (Vanguard/ S-28, Victorious/ S-29, Vigilant/ S-30 and Vengeance/ S-31) were commissioned in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 2001, their service life was tentatively said to be some 25 years. Through service life extension and modernization measures during the 28-32 months long “Long Overhaul Refit Period” (Vanguard Feb 2002 – Jun 2005, Victorious Jun 2005 – Nov 2006; Vigilant May 2009 – Jun 2012 and Vengeance since May 2012) as well as reduced times of operations the submarines service life could be stretched, with definite de-commissioning of the first submarine not to occur before 2024. At this time, the first of class of new SSBNs should be ready for commissioning.

The “Trident II D 5” SLBMs for the British SSBNs have experienced service life extentions as well, allowing to keep them for another 30 years.

The statement of the Defense White Paper of 04 Dec 2006 remains unchanged with regard to the maintenance of a submarine based nuclear deterrence beyond 2020, which consequently would lead to the introduction of a development and construction program for a “Future Submarine (FSM)” with 3-4 new SSBNs, costs estimated to be in the region of 15 to 20 Bill. Brit. Pounds (= 19 – 26 Bill Euros). The Conservative Government elected in 2010 confirmed that intent in its own Defense White Paper of October 2010. However, the enormous costs connected to the development and construction of the new SSBNs do not match the current and future defense budget of the country at all. Any implementation would totally imbalance the remaining operations and arms investments program of the other services of the British Armed Forces, in particular as the Royal Navy currently pursues another ambitious arms program costing billions, which is the project of two new large aircraft carriers equipped with the new Lockheed JSF 35 “Joint Strike Fighter”. British Finance Minister Osborne did comment the SSBN project already as “not to be financiable”.

Therefore, a number of options are under development to reduce costs, ranging from the design of a a multi-purpose SSN/ SSBN of a new “Dual Capabable Submarine Force” with only 4 launching tubes for SLBMs in board, to a mere procurement solution for submarines out of the US-American follow-on program for the currently 18 “Ohio”-Class SSBNs, to an eventual total refrain, if ever nuclear deterrence is to be kept up, from submarine nuclear deterrence and transfer to land or air-based deterrence.

The British SSBNs made headlines now and then. In July 2001 HMS Victorious collided with an US Coast Guard vessel. In 2002 opponents of British nuclear forces, the group of “Trident Ploughshares”, managed to sneak into the heavily guarded SSBN base in Scottish Faslane to spray HMS Vigilant and paint some large letters on its hull. Also HMS Vanguard caused unpleasant headlines when it became known that during the night 03/04 February 2009 it collided in mid Atlantic with the French SSBN Le Triomphant, clearly visibile when it entered its homeport Faslane. On 30 March 2011 it surfaced that HMS Vengeance had to abandon its routine patrol and return to base due to technical problems for a short unscheduled maintenance period. And in January 2013 HMS Vanguard made headlines again, when news were leaked that it had suffered a severe rudder failure after it just had fired a test-Trident as part of her operational work up training off the coast of Florida, forcing it to limp into the US Naval Base at Kings Bay at Georgia.

This is not the end of problems: In Scotland there is increasing opposition against the exclusive stationing of the British nuclear deterrence at and around Faslane (north of Glasgow), which may endanger the further existence of this Royal Navy facility, once the referendum about Scottish independence scheduled for 2014 has laid ground for a new political situation. And, on 16 May 2013 news came out that the “Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator/ DNSR”, an agency of the “Defence Safety and Environment Authority/ DSEA”) of the British Ministry of Defence, has banned British nuclear submarines from two test and training areas in Scottish waters (The Noise Testing Range at Loch Gail and another test range at Loch Ewe) until two safety exercises (response to simulated submarine accidents) failed in March and April 2013 are rerun successfully.


No German Export Submarines for Australia

On 06 May 2013 the German news agency dpa reported from the end for the time being to an export of large German AIP submarines from TKMS/HDW for the Navy of Australia, to replace the 6 “Collins”-Class submarine of the country after 2026, with an requirement to start an procurement process for up to 12 new AIP submarines in 2014/1015. In our “Flotsam” issues of November 2011 and September 2012 we have reported already about the deliberations in Australia for its future invitations to offer. According to Australia´s Defense Minister Stephen Smith, a mere off-the-shelf procurement solution has been given up, and the country is aiming for an own development.

By that he has merely confirmed what the latest Defense White Paper of the Labor-Government of 02 May 2013 had stated: Australia will further pursue plans for 12 new submarines to replace the 6 “Collins”-Class submarines, but it will not go for a simple solution of procuring submarine developments of other countries. Rather, it will pursue two options: Either a new Australian design on the basis of the “Collins”-Class submarines or a completely new design in Australia. Also, the White Paper has definitely excluded any plans for nuclear propelled submarines.

We all remember when the German submarine shipyard of TKMS/ HDW presented on 22 October 2012 at EURONAVAL in Paris a project study of a large submarine up to 4,000 t displacement under the name “Type 216”. It would have an AIP system and it could take along and deliver a 21 men strong commando team. This type would have met the requirements of Australia to a large degree.