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Opportunity for a “Driving Licence” for submarines

Since decades, smaller submarines are operated worldwide for touristic underwater explorations, same as submarines for employment by the offshore industry or for geological or biological research, let alone submarines for often spectacular wreckage examinations. Those, who want to learn more about the private submarine designers in Europe, should visit the homepage, where some very capable submarines are presented. Not far from the location of the German U-Boat Museum, halfway between Cuxhaven and Stade, a company called “Sailing Island” from Mönchengladbach advertises for some time diving excursions, using such special submarines and going down to some 60 m at the chalk lake of the former cement production facility at Hemmoor.

Besides those 30 minutes diving excursions for guests costing 60 Euros, the company even offers an acquisition of an “U-Boat Driving Licence” for a mere 755 Euros, to gain enough skills to operate such mini U-Boats. The subma-rine in question is a type “Eurosub”, designed in 2009 in the Netherlands by C. Standfuss and E. van Essen for the specialist diving company “AiResearch”. This submarine of just 2,5 t weight and easy to disassemble can be transported by road, has a length of 4 m, a width of 1,80 m and two 900 Watts electric engines. It is made of steel, but the observer´s canopy is made of acrylic resin.

The submarine is operated since 2009 and has executed underwater missions at the Hemmoor lake, in the Adriatic Sea (In 2009 down to 140 m), in Norwegian waters (In 2010 down to 70 m) and in the Baltic Sea (In 2011 exploration of the wreckage of the Kriegsmarine aircraft carrier “Graf Zeppelin”). In June 2011, the submarine has been modernized, allowing now underwater operations down to 250 m. The submarine has a pressure hull, with the pilot being able to embark an additional 2 passengers. The diving maneuvers are facilitated by a 600 liters ballast tank and a 60 liters trim tank. A diving operation can last up to 18 hours, in emergency cases the crew can survive under water up to 36 hours.


Indian Navy takes over Russian nuclear submarine under a leasing agreement

In a concluding ceremony on 30 December 2011 at the Russian Naval Base Bolshoi Kamen nearby Vladivostok and attended by the Indian Ambassador at Moscow the Indian Navy took over a Russian, nuclear powered submarine of the “Akula”-Class, in compliance with a 10-year lease agreement. Following final familiarization training, the Indian crew has left Russia on 23rd of January 2012 with its submarine, now given the Indian name Chakra. The official commissioning is scheduled for March 2012 at the Indian Naval Base Vishakapatnam at the East coast of the Indian sub-continent.

The construction of the submarine, which later was given the name Nerpa, started in September 1993 at the Russian Naval dockyard at Khabarovsk Krai at the river Amur (approximately 300 km off the Pacific Ocean) and was initially commissioned by the Russian Navy on 28 December 2009. Long delays due to financial constraints hampered the construction considerably. In 2004 agreement was reached between Russian and India to lease the Nerpa under construction (was completed up to 86,5 % at this time) for a 10-year-period beginning in 2007, leasing costs were said to be some 650 Mio. USD, completion of the construction included, of course. This intended date experienced continuous delays initially to 2009 due to disagreements about additional costs and financial difficulties. A severe accident on 08 November 2008 during sea trials in the Sea of Japan, causing the death of 20 sailors and technicians, led to repair costs of about 60 Mio. USD and meant further delays beyond 2009. Three more periods of sea trials were then executed between July and September 2009. More financial differences pushed finalization of the project to even 2011. The last sea trials occurred between 15 November and 28 December 2011, with the Indian crew receiving their initial on board familiarization.

The crew was put together from about 300 Indian Naval personal, which had been sent to various training courses devoted to nuclear submarines at facilities at St. Petersburg and elsewhere in Russia. Meanwhile, the leasing cost had soared to some 900 Mio. USD as a result of the many delays. The Indian Navy had gained already some experiences in leasing Russian nuclear powered submarines (1988-1992 one SSN of the “Charlie I” Class), and, by leasing now the Nerpa it will be the 6th Navy worldwide operating nuclear submarines after the US, RUS, UK, FRA and CHI.

The ex-Soviet “Akula”-Class is a series of SSN with very high underwater speed (well beyond 30 kn) and extremely great diving depths (more than 500 m), the last submarines in the series are said to be some of the most silent nuclear powered submarines of all Navies. Construction of the SSN Akula (K-284), being the First of Class of the Project 971 (“Shchuka”), began at the Amur shipyard in 1983, it was commissioned on 30 December 1984. The following submarines of a total of 7 vessels of the “Akula I” series were built not only at the Amur shipyard but also at the Sevmash shipyard at Severodvinsk at the White Sea, all were commissioned between 1987 and 1990 (Delfin/K-263, Kashalot/ K-322, Ak Bars/ K-480, Bratsk/ K-391, Pantera/ K-317 and Narval, later Magadan/ K-331). 5 of these are either taken out of active service, or de-commissioned, or partially even scrapped.

Only the Pantera (Northern Fleet) and the Magadan (Pacific Fleet) are considered still to be serviceable. In November 1987 construction of an improved version of the “Akula I”-Class started at Sevmash and the Amur shipyard, with 5 units (Volk/ K-461, Leopard/ K-328, Kuzbass/ K-419, Tigr/ K-154 und Samara/ K-295) being commissioned between 1991 and 1995, all of them still in active service as “Akula I mod”. Being keel laid in 1993 and put on idle for about 10 years, but launched eventually on 04 July 2006 following the lease agreement with India, the Nerpa (K-152) was initially being regarded as an “Akula I”-Class submarine. However, the integration of many improvements (about 3 meters longer, improved echo signatures, improved Sonar) of the new “Akula”-Class submarines being built during the time of the slowed down construction of the Nerpa, she is being classified now as “Akula II” submarine as well. Only 2 submarines of the “Akula II”-Class were built at Sevmash shipyard in 1990 and 1991 and commissioned in 1995 (Vepr/ K-157), respectively 2001 (Gepard/ K-335), both are assigned to the Northern Fleet. The construction of further three units planned as “Akula II” submarines was abandoned. Their hulls, however, were used to produce the first submarines of the new “Project 955”, the “Borei”-Class, of which the first has been commissioned already (Yuri Dolgorukiy/ K-535), with two more commissioning (the Alexander Nevsky, and the Vladimir Monomakh) to follow in 2012 (see “Flotsam” 08-2011).

Two more “Akula II” submarines, whose construction had started in 1990 and 1991 at the Amur shipyard have been sold for scrap in the meantime. With that, the Russian Navy currently still operates two “Akula I” SSN, the status of two more out of active service is uncertain. In addition, there are five more “Akula I mod” and two “Akula II” submarines in active service. In total, 9 SSN of “Akula” submarines are still in the Russian Navy´s OOB (6 with the Northern Fleet and 3 with the Pacific Fleet).

The Nerpa/Chakra has a length of about 110 m, a beam of 13.5 m, and a displacement of about 9,500 t. The crew is said to be around 73 men. The main armament of the Russian “Akulas” is delivered through 4 torpedo tubes of 53.3 cm and 4 more tube of 65 cm, from which torpedoes can be launched as well as missiles fired, such as the SS-N-15 (NATO de-signation: “Starfish”) with a range of 20 nmi, the SS-N-16 (NATO designation: “Stallion”) with a range of 50 nm, and the “Land Attack Cruise Missile” SS-N-21 (NATO designation:“ Sampson”) with a range of 1,100 nmi. All types of torpedoes and missiles are said to be able to carry nuclear warhead if selected to do so. On the other hand, the Indian Chakra are equipped with the Anti-Ship-Missile 3M-54E “Klub” (NATO designation: SS-N-27 “Sizzler”) with a range of 160 nm only, since international arms control agreements prevent the export of missiles with ranges beyond 300 km (= 162 nm). The “Klub”-missile will be launched from the 53.3 cm torpedo tubes, its length is 8,22 meters and its weight is 1,7 to, It flies with a speed of 0.8 Mach at low altitudes between 5 and 20 m. This missile has been introduced already at the Indian submarines of the “Sindhughosh”-Class.

During the last 10 years, the 53,000 strong Indian Navy has developed into a significant regional maritime power in the Indian Ocean, which operates the whole range of Naval assets, such as an aircraft carrier, a dock landing ship, guided missiles destroyers and frigates, as well as submarines and many more smaller vessels. Currently, the Indian submarine fleet comprises some 14 units, 4 of those are of the German export type “T-1500” and the remaining 10 are of the Russian “Kilo”-Class SSKs. On 26 July 2009, the first Indian domestically constructed and nuclear powered submarine has been launched at Vishakapatnam. This submarine, quite significantly based on Russian design, carries the name Arihant. It has a length of some 112 meters and a displacement of about 6,000 t. Its speed at the ocean´s surface is said to be 15 kn and 24 kn submerged. Allegedly, it shall receive 12 missiles of the Indian developed type “K-15 Sagarika”, which has a range of 750 km, being carried in four shafts á 3 launching tubes each. Therefore, this submarine will be designated most probably as SSBN. Remarkably, these missiles can be equipped with nuclear warheads. Arihant is scheduled for commissioning in 2012. Understandably, speculations have been nourished now about the new military capabilities of the nuclear power India.


New developments in the Pacific region with regard to German export submarines

Recently, two developments have put new light on submarine technology, as well as the Pacific region and German designs for U-Boat export. Firstly, on 20 December 2011, a 1 Bill. USD contract was signed between South Korea and Indonesia, which agrees on the acquisition of 3 submarines by the Navy of Indonesia, of which 2 will be built at Daewoo in South Korea and 1 in Indonesia, all on the basis of the German export type “209”. The first of these U-Boats for the Navy of Indonesia, being designated at type “1400”, is intended to be delivered by 2015, the second one to follow in 2018. With that, for the first time a country, that had acquired some 9 type “209” submarines between 1993 and 2000, with only the First of Class being built at HDW, but the remaining all at Daewoo in South Korea, will use their experiences gained during the construction of these submarine for own ex-port purposes. In this context, it should be mentioned, that in 2000 South Korea has placed another order for ini-tially 3 submarines of the HDW export type “214” with its revolutionary air independent propulsion system.

Subsequently, sets of submarine construction material were shipped in 2002 from HDW to the South Korean shipyard Hyundai for further assembly. Meanwhile, all three South Korean “214” submarines have been commissioned (Son Won Il/ SS-072, Jung Ji/ SS-073, An Jung-geun/ SS-075). In addition, 6 more submarines of this type are put on order, 3 of those are already under construction in South Korea since 2009.

Secondly, the current considerations in Australia (see “Flotsam” 11-2011) with regard to the acquisition of a replacement for its 6 “Collins”-Class submarines, with building order expected to be given in 2014/ 2015, are seeing a new contribution by a concept study of HDW for a new German export submarine designated as Type “216”. These new “super” submarines are to have a displacement of about 4,000 t and a length of 89 meters, which makes them double the size of the export type “214”. It will have air independent propulsion enabling continuous underwater operations for at least 2 weeks, their range is up to about 10,000 nmi, they have significant deep water operational capabilities, and they can launch torpedoes and missiles, plus detach covertly Special Forces through means of an integrated “Swimmer Delivery Vehicle”. Australia has invited several submarine designers to forward construction and delivery concepts, not only Spain with its type “S-80” and France´s DCNS with its type “Scorpene”, but also HDW, which may be able to present a concept through its type “216” worthwhile to consider.