Home / June

Successful rescue operation of crew member of Netherland´s Navy submarine

During the forenoon of 07 May 2014 the Dutch submarine HMNLS Bruinvis, operating some 20 km off the Isla Rügen in the Baltic Sea, suddenly did send an emergency call asking for medical support for a crew member suffering from serious sickness. The German frigate FGS Bayern received the call and closed to the submarine as it was not too far away. Eventually the Bruinvis surfaced close to the Bayern allowing the frigate to send a medical team with the ship´s surgeon via speedboat to the submarine.

After the medical team diagnosed on board the submarine that the sick sailor needed to be transported at once to a hospital ashore for further treatment it became clear that this could not be executed by ship. Quickly the Rescue Coordination Center at the German MHQ at Flensburg-Glücksburg alerted a rescue helicopter from the Danish Armed Forces as quickest solution. The helicopter then winched up the sick sailor by a special stretcher from the submarine and flew him to a hospital at Copenhague.

HMNLS Bruinvis was enroute to join NATO´s exercise “Dynamic Monarch 2014” staged every three years only. This year the Polish Navy hosted the exercise at the Naval Base of Gdynia. The objective of the exercise was to train the search and rescue of a stricken submarine and its crew caught under water by practicing handling of the “Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV)”, which is a component of the “NATO Submarine Rescue System/ NSRS”. The vehicle has a length of 8,7 meters and a displacement of 30 t, it is operated by a three man crew and functions as a special underwater rescue vehicle that can take up a total of 15 sailors of the stricken submarine in one go by clipping the vehicle right on top of one of the submarine´s exit hatches, allowing the crew to slip though the hatch from the submarine into the rescue vehicle. Rescue operations are possible to water depths down to about 600 m and even from submarines listing up to 60°. This year´s exercise from 12 to 23 May 2014 off Gdynia saw 18 NATO and non-NATO nations participating, Russia had cancelled its originally confirmed participation. Beside many surface vessels, among other the U-boat Tender Main of the German Navy, there were three submarines demonstrating stricken submarines: HMNLS Bruinvis, the Swedish submarine Halland and from Poland the submarine Sep.


First female officer trained for service on board nuclear powered submarines

We have reported in the February 2012 issue of our “Flotsam” about the decision by the British Ministry of Defence of 08 November 2011 based on an 18 months study allowing the service of female soldiers on board the nuclear powered submarines of the Royal Navy.

On 04 May 2014 the British media widely spread the news of the completion of submarine training of the first three female officers marked by the awa the “Dolphin”-clasp, the branch insignia of the submarine service in the Royal Navy. The RN Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray will be the first women on board in the 110 year history of the submarine service of the Royal Navy. They did their on-the-job-training partly during month long patrols of the British SSBN HMS Vigilant and passed the examina with “flying colors”. Lt Thackray will serve as Education Officer, Lt Stiles as Logistic Officer and Lt Olsson as Weapon Engineering Officer on board British SSBNs, so far having a crew of 165 men. The British SSBNs have two crews each, to operate the strategic submarines during their long patrol in regular succession.

In this context, the Royal Navy announced to appoint in the near future also female Ratings and Petty Officers for service on board British submarines. In 2015 training will start for women for service on board the SSBNs of the “Vanguard”-Class and in 2016 that for service on board the SSGNs of the “Astute”-Class.

In the US Navy it is meanwhile some routine to have female crewmembers on board nuclear powered submarines as of 2011, we have reported about it in our “Flotsam” issue of February 2014. The red line of women serving on board submarines has been given up in many Navies. The Royal Norwegian Navy was the first in 1985, and at the e 1995 Commander Solveig Krey was the first female Commanding Officer on board HMNoS Kobben. During its last years of operating submarines by the Royal Danish Navy (submarines given up in 2004) there were female crewmembers on board submarines since 1988. In our “Flotsam” issue of April 2014 we did report about the appointment of the first female U-boat watch officer in the German Navy, i.e. Oberleutnant zur See (= Sublieutenant) Janine Asseln, to one of the currently 7 crews for the operation of the soon 6 Type German 212A U-boats, while female non-commissioned crew-members have served on German U-boats already since 2001. With that, women may serve on submarines today in many Navies, e.g. Norway, Spain, Australia, Canada, Sweden, the US, Germany, and now even with the British Royal Navy. Latest news came from France in April 2014: In 2015 three Naval Officer Candidates will start their training to eventually serve as officer on board submarines, scheduled to join the crews of the new French SSN of the “Barracuda”-Class in 2017.


New development in the follow-on program for Australia´s submarine fleet

In our “Flotsam” issues of November 2011, September 2012 and June 2013 we did report about the state of plans for the future submarine force of the Royal Australian Navy.

We remember the publication of the government´s White Paper “Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030” on 02 May 2009, where, among other plans, the procurement of 12 submarines (“Future Submarine”) was substantiated conceptually to replace as of 2026 the 6 diesel-electric “Collins”-Class submarines currently operated by the Australian Navy, total costs at least 30 Bill. Australian Dollars (= about 20 Bill. Euros). On 02 May 2013 the then Labor Government confirmed the intention in another White Paper.

On 07 September 2013 there were new nationwide Parliamentary elections, leading to a new coalition government under Prime Minister Tony Abbot replacing the incumbent Labor government, inauguration took place on 18 September 2014.

Since, the discussion about Australia´s future submarine force has seen new life. Interesting developments seem to come up: In light of the costs of the submarine replacement meanwhile to have risen to well above 36 Bill. Austr. Dollars (= 25 Bill. Euros) the new government with David Johnston as Minister of Defence indicates to reconsider the number of submarines planned as well as the launching of the building order. According to that, one speaks openly to reduce the number of submarines to 6, with an option for 3 units more. Also, an off-the-shelf solution is not excluded any longer for a conventional type of submarine with air independent propulsion procured from an overseas bidder instead of placing the order with the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) at Adelaide as an entirely Australian option.

In this context, Prime Minister Tony Abbot seems to extend the spirit of the Japanese-Australian agreement for military cooperation of 07 April 2014 also to the project of procurement of submarines.

Surprisingly, a new bidder has shown up recently for the replacement of the “Collins”-Class submarines: It is SAAB from Sweden which currently creates own capabilities for submarine construction (see our “Flotsam” issue of May 2014) through luring away submarine construction specialists from the Swedish shipyard Kockums that is owned by TKMS from Germany (allegedly some 100 specialists from Kockums have changed employer already). In March 2014 a delegation from SAAB has travelled to Australia offering close cooperation with the ASC including building the submarines in Australia. SAAB seems to build on the Swedish-Australian cooperation during the construction of the “Collins”-Class submarines mid to e the 1990ies, although the operation and maintenance of these submarines is accompanied by many problems and a throughout unsatisfactory operational readiness since.

Defence Minister Johnston has announced to publish a new White Paper for the Security and Defence of Australia in early 2015, where new conceptual intents of the government will be outlined, including those about the future submarine force of Australia.


The “Quantum Compass” – a new navigation system for submarines

In mid-May 2014 the British periodical “The New Scientist” published an article about the research of the “Defence Science and Technology Laboratory” of MoD UK on a new system for navigation by submarines. Submarines will able to determine their position under water better as they will be equipped with a “Quantum Accelerometer” that measures the movements of the submarine under water 1000 times more precise that the current systems. Today´s devices to measure movements in order to determine the position of a submarine under water unable to rely on GPS can only provide position data with an error of 1 km, the new system guarantees errors of just a meter. As we all know short wave GPS signals cannot be received at operational depths of modern submarine submerged.

The principle of “Quantum Navigation” is based on an effect that was discovered by the scientist Steven Chum Calude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Danile Phillips who were awards the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. According to that Rubidium Atoms are trapped by lasers in a vacuum chamber. After that the atoms will be cooled down to the absolute zero degrees point. The atoms cooled down convert into quantum status that easily can be interfered with by forces from outside. A second laser monitors the cloud of atoms and measures any interference, such as own movements by a submarine. Resulting from that it is possible to calculate the size of forces that had an effect on the submarine, which in turn then can be converted into determining a geographical position.

Current systems of automatic devices to measure movements of a submarines determining relatively precise the position of the submarine under water show the great skill of navigation on boa submarines in earlier times, such as the famous “Obersteuermänner” (= Chief Navigators) on board the U-boats of the Kriegsmarine. These men achieved to provide position data with some precision even when it was impossible to establish navigational fixes not only when sun and stars were not available for days due to bad weather but also while operating submerged beyond 24 hrs. This was done simply by using a “make-shift” combination (dead reckoning navigation) of course and speed of the U-boat with the general weather data, the exact time of the day plus the tables of usual currents of the respective sea areas.

A prototype of the “Quantum Compass” is to be launched in 2015 for first trials ashore. However, the size of the compass case is still several square meters. Following that the systems will be miniaturized allowing to be installed on board submarines with major problems. It is believed that further applications will be possible, e.g. military products such as combat aircraft and missiles, but also for civilian use such as in the car industry. Relevant research is going on currently not only in the UK but also in Australia, China and the US.