Home / March

Founder of the German U-boat Museum and Archive died

On 22 February 2015, the meanwhile 90 years old founder and still managing director of the German U-boat Museum, Horst Bredow, passed away peacefully at his home at the residence of the museum and archive at Cuxhaven-Altenbruch.

Der Stifter und Gründer

Born 1924 in Berlin Horst Bredow joined the Kriegsmarine as Officer Candidate in 1942, to go into U-boat watch officer training in 1943 after having passed the Naval officer basic training. He was given an internship on board U-boat U 288 as Officer Candidate, to then rejoin the U 288 for the on-the-job-training as watch officer in February 1944. During the first combat patrol of the U 288 Horst Bredow was wounded following an air attack on the boat in the Norwegian Sea in March 1944. While he was treated in hospital in Norway U 288 departed for its second combat patrol, where it was sunk sadly. Having been restored to health Horst Bredow spent the last months of the war at sea 1939-1945 commanding a minesweeper for escorting duties in the Mediterranean.

In early 1946 he returned from PoW time to his hometown of Berlin, where he was trained as teacher, to then work as teacher until his retirement in 1983.

Soon, the sad fate of his boat U 288 made him feel obliged to research the short history of this U-boat and to take care of the next-of-kin of the the fallen crew mates. Deriving from that quickly a strong motivation came in to exist to collect everything about the U-boats of the Kriegsmarine, which went far beyond the story of merely U 288. With that, the establishing of a museum-like collection of pictures, paintings, uniforms and equipment of U-boats was commenced quickly, in particular creating a systematic archive of documents of U-boats and their crews. This process was enlarged slowly by integrating also the U-boats of the Imperial German Navy and the Federal German Navy, which is called “German Navy” after 1990.

Such, numerous contacts with institutes and U-boat historians from home and overseas developed, which often resulted in the exchange of documents. Apart from that, Horst Bredow took care very much of former U-boat sailors and also former opponents in war. Consequently, he organized many reunions and gatherings that resulted regularly in heartly friendships. Recognizing this work, Horst Bredow was awarded the Federal German Order of Merit in 1987.

Following an intermediate domicile at the Island of Sylt between 1983 and 1988 where Horst Bredow had selected his place of retirement, his collection eventually moved to Altenbruch as of 1989, where the city of Cuxhaven had invited him to seek a permant home. Since, his so far private archive and his museum meanwhile fill 4 houses, in 1986 re-organized as public foundation. Since 1992, the work of “Foundation German U-boat Museum” is being supported by the “Association of Friends of the Tradition Archive of U-boats”, that currently has more than 600 domestic and foreign members.

Horst Bredow leaves a lift-time achievement of collections of the history of underwater seafaring unrivalled worldwide and having earned a solid recognition as main source for research of U-boat history in the wars at sea 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. Meanwhile, some 10 years of digitalization of the holdings of the archive and saving them to data banks have passed already, allowing quick research in the archive and also via email, and giving the U-boat Archive at Altenbruch a considerable advantage over most similar establishments worldwide.

His work will continue and Horst Bredow has left a well-kept ground of historic research. Given this spirit, the museum and archive will continue to be ready and available to any visitor and interested historians.

Details of female service on board US Navy submarine annouced

On 21 January 2015 the CNO (= Chief of Naval Operations) oft he US Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenet, transmitted a message to all subordinated units giving notice of his directive how to implement the general admission of also female Petty Officer and Ratings to service on board the nuclear powered submarines of the US Navy. After first female officers were integrated in the double crews of some SSBNs (USS Maine and USS Lousiana) and SSGNs (USS Ohio and USS Michigan of the converted “Ohio”-Class as well as USS Virginia and USS Minnesota of the “Virginia”-Class) at the end of 2011, the process is now being extended to include female enlisted personnel. We have reported about the process in our “Flotsam”-Issue of September 2014 lately.

At the end of 2014 there were some 60 ready trained female officers already available for service in the double crews of earmarked SSBNs and SSGNs of the US Navy after having completed their 18-months-submarine training. In 2016, also female Petty Officers (US rank designation E7/ E 8) will join two of these crews, to be followed by 2-4 of the double crews per year until 2021. Beginning in 2020 the new SSGNs of the “Virginia”-Class will integrate enlisted female crew members of all grades (US rank designation E 1 to E 8). Initially, just female Petty Officers will be trained and appointed to serve on submarines.

Only as follow on step female recruits for service as Ratings (US rank designation E 1 to E 6) will be eligible for service on board submarines on condition that enough female Petty Officers are available as instructors at shore training facilities, such as the “Nuclear Power Training Unit”/ NPTU at Kingsbay, Georgia.

It is the overall goal by 2020 to have 20 % of all billets for enlisted personnel on board the SSBNs/ SSGNs of the “Ohio”-Class occupied by female crew members, with similar arrangements for the SSGN of the “Virginia”-Class.


Wreckage of CSS Hunley explored to 70%

Follwing 6 months of extensive restauration with freeing of rust and 150 years of overgrowth to the end of January 2015 the wreckage of the CSS Hunley, the oldest ever built operational submarine, has been explored up to 70 %, allowing to determine the circumstances of its end and the details of its construction better than ever before.

As any submarine enthusiast knows the submarine was developed by the engineer Horace Lawson Hunley built at Mobile, Alabama and launched in July 1863, having a displacement of about 6.8 t with a length of 12 m and a width of 1.17 m. The submarine was a mere diving vessel for short periods of underwater operations only as there was no special oxygen supply on board. Also, its propulsion was a hand-driven propeller only providing for a maximum speed of just 4 knots. After several earlier designs the armament eventually was a bow-mounted spar explosive device connected to the submarine by a line. The explosive device would be rammed into the hull of an enemy ship, to then being ignited through pulling the line that had been spooling-off when the submarine was reversing from the target. The sea trials of the submarine off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, where the submarine had been redeployed, were marked by severe accidents. On 29 August 1863 it sank during test dives, with 5 men of the 9-men-crew being killed. The confederate Southern States raised the submarine and repaired it, as they wanted to engage the submersible against the Navy of the Northern States to break the sea embargo off Charleston these states were maintaining against the south. Unfortunately, the submarine sank for a second time during tests on 15 October 1863, killing the entire crews of 8, including its designer Horace Hunley. Again, the submarine was raised and repaired.

Eventually, the submarine departed Charleston with a new crew on 17 February 1864, this time to engage. And, it successfully attacked from submerged position a warship from the Northern States, the 1,200 t screw sloop-of-war USS Housatonic. During its return leg back to base the “Hunley” did not surface again under circumstances unknown until today. Only in 1995 the wreckage was detected near Sullivan´s Island, the recovery was executed in 2000, with the following restauration expected to last between 7 and 10 more years. The ceremonial burial of the 8 dead crewmembers found took place on 17 April 2004. So far, initial findings after the examination of the dead revealed that apparently their death was caused by a lack of oxygen, since the crew of the submarine lying submerged at the flat sea bottom did not manage to get out when it was waiting to continue its return leg to base during sufficient tidal high water.

The mission of the Hunley proved for the first time that an attack on an enemy ship is possible from submerged position using a specially designed vessel. The ongoing restauration is aiming further to unravel many of the details of construction of the submarine unknown so far.


Further delays for the procurement program of new submarines for Australia

In the past we have reported repeatedly about the various moves in the procurement program announced for new submarines for the Australian Navy to replace the advacing in years 6 “Collins”-Class submarines, see our “Flotsam” Issues of December 2014, October 2014 and September 2014. According to that, intent was to have a general decision by the end of 2014 which foreign bidder shall be selected for cooperation in building new conventional submarines for Australia.

As experienced in many similar cases there are delays coming up, in particular given the enormous size of the project for up to 12 conventional submarines with air-independent-propulsion costing estimated between 13 to 20 Bill. Euros. Reasons for this are multifold, ranging from the still missing clear concept defining the desired operational requirements of the new submarine, to the current political crisis around Australia´s Prime Minister Tony Abbot and his government, up to an increasingly fierce debate between the various supporters of the possible approach to the programm, i.e. either construction in Australia under license, or bying off-the-shelves from Japan, or seeking cooperative solutions with submarine designers in France, Germany, Sweden, or even South Korea.
Position papers, other forms of contributions by Australian institutions as well as articles by recognized journalist or self-appointed “experts” are popping up in the media almost weekly feeding the debate. Statements by politicians add to that, having created meanwhile a rather confusing picture of the Australian submarine project. Three camps of supporters seem to have emerged meanwhile: The biggest lobby group favours bying off-the-shelves from Japan, much supported by large parts of the Australian government, including the Prime Minister.

The second group, with big support from Southern Australia, where the Australian shipbuilding industry is concentrated at and around Adelaide, want to build the submarines in Australia under license from a foreign designer. The third group, mainly the true experts, are advocating bying submarines operationally best suited for the Australinan requirements from one of the main submarine designers in Europe, leaving it open whether to construct the submarines at shipyards in Europe or by joint ventures in Australia.

Meanwhile, the cost argument seems to become more and more predominant, as the budget will continue to be restricted and any cost comparison between the various offers puts the highest possible number of units to be built at the top of any deliberation, ideally all 12 units required conceptually to be budgeted within the resources defined. Before this background, the potential European offerers (Thales/ DCNS offering an enlarged Type “Baracuda”, SAAB/ Kockums offering an enlarged Type “A-26” and TKMS/ HDW offering an enlarged Type “214” also known as Type “216”) will have a significant edge on the Japanese offer of “Soryu”-Class submarines, with the latter costing an estimated 25 Bill. Austr. Dollar (= 17 Bill. Euros) compared to the European offer of 20 Bill. Austr. Dollar (= 13.6 Bill. Euros) for all 12 submarines.


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

Navy of Vietnam

On 04 February 2015 media reported about the arrival in Vietnam of the third of a total of six submarines of the “Kilo II”-Class (Project 636) being built in Russia for Vietnam. The Haiphong (HQ-184) was transported by the Dutch special heavy weight cargo ship Rolldock Star from St. Petersburg to the Vietnamese Naval Base at Cam Ranh Bay, where it arrived on 19 January 2015 as shown on pics by the Vietnamese media.

The first two submarines (The Hanoi/ HQ-182 and the Ho Chi Minh City/ HQ-183)of the 2 Bill. USD procurement agreed in 2009 for 6 submarines are commissioned already in Vietnam. The fifth submarine of the building order is scheduled to commence its sea trails in May 2015. All 6 submarines are said to be delivered by Russia by 2016. We have reported about the program in our “Flotsam” issue of October 2014 already.


US Navy

The USS Illinois will be launched on 27 June 2015 at its construction site at Groton and christened by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, to carry the name of the US Federal State. The commissioning of the SSGN of the “Virginia”-Class is scheduled for 20 December 2015.


Indian Navy

Often we have reported in the past about the developments in the Indian submarine fleet, see our “Flotsam”-Issues of January 2015, November 2014, August 2014, July 2014 and April 2014.

On 18 February 2015 the Indian media reported that the Indian Cabinet committee on security (CCS) had approved the construction of 7 stealth-frigates (Project 17 A) and 6 SSN at Indian shipyards budgeted for about 14 Bill. Euros. Costing about 7 Bill Euros, the 6,000 t SSN are to be built at the Indian HSL (Hindustan Shipbuilding Ltd) shipyard at Vizag (short for the city of Visakhapatnam in the Indian Federal State of Andhra Pradesh at the Eastern coast). With that, the 30-years-procurement program published in 1999 has been modified, because now some 6 SSN and 18 diesel-electric submarines are to be procured in the next 10 to 20 years in addition to the 3 SSBN currently under construction.

The recent decision by the Cabinet has to be seen before the background of the increasingly critical operational readiness of the Indian submarine fleet comprising 13 older diesel-electric submarines and 1 SSGN on lease from Russia for 10 years. Also, the ongoing procurement programs experience repeated delays, with just 1 of the 3 SSBN scheduled to complete its sea trials by the end of 2015, the first unit of the 6 “Scorpene”-Class SSK built under license (Project 75) from France not being delivered before 2016 due to almost 4 years of delay, and the building order for 6 more submarines with air-independent propulsion (Project 75 I) still being in the loop despite several annoucements to decide soon on tenders offered to foreign submarine designers, which will not see any of these units join the Indian submarine fleet before 2025.
In mid-January 2015 news came from South Korea that there has been agreement reached between the South Korean shipyard of Hyndai Heavy Industries (HHI) and the Indian HSL according to that HHI will provide technical support to HSL in case the latter will win the bidding for the Indian Government tender to build 6 SSK (Project 75 I) to be constructed in India.