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Brasil to start construction of first nuclear powered submarine

We have reported in our “Flotsam” issue of Sep 2011 for the first time about Brasil´s plans to introduce nuclear powered submarine to its Navy. According to that the “Strategic Military Partnership” agreed between France and Brasil in 2008 will see initially the construction of four conventional submarines with air independent propulsion systems on the basis of the Franco-Spanish export Type “Scorpéne”, to be commissioned between 2017 and 2021. The agreement does also comprise the development and construction of nuclear powered submarines, starting with submarine No. 5. Experts expect theses subs to be built on the basis of the French “Rubis” Class SSN, with the reactor coming from Brasilian production, and the subs to be constructed in cooperation with the French state owned shipyard DCNS at the Constructiones Navais shipyard at Itagui near Rio de Janeiro. Current planning of Brasil for its future submarine force foresee up to 20 conventional and 6 more nuclear powered submarines.

Apparently, construction of these submarines has started, including the first nuclear submarine. In early March of this year reports made headlines in the media, after Brasil´s female President, Dilma Rousseff, opened a “Metallic Structures Construction Unit” on 01 March at Itagui close to Rio, that is to produce the metal parts for the hull of the new submarines to be built at the nearby Naval dockyard.

The delivery of the first nuclear submarine, also called Project “ProSub”, is expected for 2023. It is said budget provisions have been made in the order of some 7,8 Bill. Real (= 3,1 Bill. Euros) for this ambitious project to generate a fleet of nuclear powered submarines, which would put Brasil to be the 7th Navy in the world operating nuclear submarines – and the first in Latin America.


News from Russia´s submarines

Two new pieces of news about Russia´s submarine fleet came out in mid-March 2013. Firstly, the keel laying of unit No. 5 and No. 6 of the new strategic submarine of the “Borej”-Class (Project 955) was officially confirmed, with the construction of submarine No. 5, the SSBN Alexander Suvorov, to be started in July 2013, and submarine No. 6, the SSBN Mikhail Kutuzov the be started in November 2013. Repeatedly, we have reported about the development and construction of this new SSBN for Russia´s Navy, see our “Flotsam” issues of August 2011, May 2012 and March 2013.

Secondly, is has been officially decided to modernize all remaining SSN of the “Akula”-Class (Project 971) within the next two years, with focusing on the protection against passive detection by improving the outer hull surface and the on board electronic systems. We have reported about the “Akulas” in our “Flotsam” issues of March 2012 and October 2012. The ongoing maintenance period for an “Akula” SSN being carried out currently at the repair dockyard of Zvesdochka at Severodvinsk is said to be used to integrate the modernization program for the first of the “Akulas”. It appears to be the SSN Leopard (K-328, commissioned in December 1989) which currently receives its extended maintenance and is scheduled to return to the fleet in 2014.

According to Russian media the second in line “Akula”-Class submarine to be modernized is said to be the SSN “Wolf” (K-461, commissioned in November 1992).


Indian Navy successfully tests underwater based version of the “BrahMos” SSM

On 20 March 2013 the media in India widely reported about the successful launch and flight of 290 km of a “BrahmMos” missile from an underwater test platform in the Bengali Gulf. This missile is to become the main armament of the Indian submarines under development “Project 75 I”, which, however, has not left its initial planning status since the “Requests for Proposal /RFP” necessary for the required international cooperation with experienced submarine constructors has not even been sent out. Therefore, the delivery of the First of Class “Project 75 I” submarine is not expected to occur before 2023. We have reported about this in our “Flotsam” issue of March 2013. The submarine based version of the “BrahMos”, fired from “Vertical Launch Systems/ VLS”, will not been installed at the conventional Indian submarines currently in service, neither the 10 “Kilo”-Class subs from Russia nor the 4 German export subs of the “209”-Class. Also, the 6 submarines of the Franco-Spanish “Scorpéne”-Class currently under construction and to be delivered between 2015 and 2020, will not receive the “BrahMos” missiles. Once these missiles have been introduced also to submarines the Indian Navy will receive a capability in fighting against ships not reached so far worldwide, as the “BrahMos” is a supersonic “Seaskimmer, other than the well-known “Tomahawk” is.

The “BrahMos” missile is a Russian-Indian co-development and co-production based on the Russian anti-ship-missile P-700 “Granit” (NATO designation: SS-N-19 Shipwreck), which has been introduced to the Soviet Fleet as of 1983 and still is the main armament of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kusnezow and the two cruisers of the former “Kirov”-Class, but also the SSGN of the “Oscar”-Class. The name “BrahMos” is the merger of the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva, demonstrating the co-operation between both states. The missile has a length of 8.4 m, a diameter of 0.6 m, a total weight of 3 t, including a conventional warhead of 350 kg, and is able to proceed at speeds between Mach 2.8 and 3.0 at distances around 300 km. With that, is surpasses the capabilities of all known anti-ship-missiles, such as the US BGM 109 “Tomahawk”, the French MM 38 “Exocet” or the Swedish RBS 15. The development of the “BrahMos” comprises a land-based, air-based and sea-based version. The recent successful test launch from an underwater platform would add to that a fourth version, i.e. a submarine based one.

The first “BrahMos” was successfully launched in 2001 and has been introduced to the Indian Army as of 2006. In 2008 a first sea-based launch was executed against a target at shore from the Indian destroyer INS Ravir. The anti-ship-capability (SSM) was demonstrated first time in 2010, and in 2012 the Indian frigate Teg fired an anti-ship “BrahMos” successfully over a distance of more than 300 km. Meanwhile some 4 destroyers and 5 frigates of the Indian Navy are equipped with the SSM version of the “BrahMos” missile. The first launch of an air-based version of the “BrahMos” is expected still this year, which would mean all three services of the Indian Armed Forces to have “BrahMos” missiles in their inventory.


Salvage of U 864 to start

On 13 March 2013 the Norwegian Fishery Union (Fiskarlaget) gave notice on its homepage that about 150 tons of diesel fuel are be pumped out that still is estimated to remaining in the wreckage of the Kriegsmarie U-boat U 864. The U-boat wreck lies at a depth of about 150 meters off the Island of Fedje north of Bergen and was discovered in March 2003. This seems to be the start of the lengthy debated and eventually decided salvage of the U-boat. We have reported about U 864 and the “Operation Caesar” at our homepage under “Series” and “Special U-boats”, where the German U-boat was sunk by the British submarine HMS Venturer on 09 February 1945 and is causing since considerable harm to the environment.

It appears that now both methods developed for the disposal of the substances harming the environment will be pursued, above all the estimated cargo of U 864 of up to 65 t of mercury. First method would be the raising of the two parts the U-boat wreck has broken into. Second method would be applied if a safe lifting is not possible and it would mean to cover the wreckage of the U-boat by a massive sarcophargus. Both methods will cost (estimates go up to 45 Mill. Euros, recents reports talk of 12 Mill. Euros only), but the Norwegian Government has decided in principle in 2009 for the salvage operation since the mercury leaking from their possibly rusting steel flasks is too much a danger for the local and regional fishery.

Not unexpectedly, Germany´s most circulated newspaper BILD has taken on this news and spread the notice of the Norwegian Fishery Union unter catchy headlines (Toxic U-boat from Bremen threatens Norway – Hitler sent U 864 to a secret mission with 53 t of mercury), telling, however, confusing details about the U-boat and its mission. Just a few annotations to that. U 864 has never been “stationed” at the U-boat bunker “Valentin” at Bremen-Farge. The U-boat was commissioned on 09 December 1943 at the shipyard of Deschimag AG Weser at Bremen, to then undergo its basic and combat readiness training in the Baltic Sea for several months, before ot left Kiel on 05 December 1944 for Norway, where it eventually left on 07 February 1945 for its transport journey to Japan. The exact cargo list has not been found yet of what actually has been loaded on board U 864. Therefore, statements such as “a helicopter and a dismanteled jet aircraft” having been on board a mere speculation, same as to figure the correct amount of mercury taken on board on steel flasks.

The respectable history literature mentions a mercury load of up to 65 t. Indeed, mercury leaking out into the sea would cause great dangers to the environment, incidents caused by mercury in the past (in the mid-1950ies about 27 t of mercury were led into the open sea at the Japanes city of Minamata, having caused more than 2,000 deaths and about 17,000 severely toxicated people that have eaten fish contamined by the mercury) clearly call for action. Measurements in the surrounding of the wreckage have already shown increased levels of mercury in the water, and fishing has been prohibited in the sea area around the wreckage.