July 26, 2017

Chinese-Russian Joint Sea 2017 Naval Exercise Worries Balts

China and Russia have been cementing their unholy naval alliance with regular exercises. The live fire “Joint Sea 2017” July 22 to July 28, is the latest. It is being held far from China, in the Baltic Sea near European Russia. See good Youtube about how Baltic nations are worried.

The regular Joint Sea exercises have been held since 2012 and mark the eclipse of Russia as a top five conventional naval power but China’s rise as the number two conventional naval power (neck and neck with Japan). Russia’s possession of the second largest fleet of nuclear submarines complicates relative strength measurements a bit.

Throughout the Joint Sea Exercises Russia has only been able to deploy very small or very old vessels (of uncertain engine reliability). Large tugboats therefore feature large in Russian flotillas.

China’s Xinhuanet News Agency reports the 2017 exercise includes: “drills on a map”; live firing of “secondary cannons” (30mm on Chinese vessels); air defence;  “joint landing and inspection”; search and rescue; and underway replenishment, etc.

For 2017 the Russian Navy can only muster two corvettes (Steregushchy and the Boiky) and an essential tugboat (SB-123). Russia is providing lots of land based airpower though.

The Chinese flotilla consists of:

Type 052D destroyer Hefei 合肥 (DDG-174). It is the third 052D  built, commissioned December 2015, in China’s South Sea Fleet. Its AESA radar and 64 cell VLS may make it almost as effective as a US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Type 054A multi-role frigate Yuncheng 运城, No. 546 (sister ship above). At 4,000 tons (with a 32 cell VLS, 8 Harpoon like ASM, ASW torpedos and ASROC launchers) it is of the size and armament that the US Navy can return to - after the abortive US LCS program. 

And Type 903 replenishment ship Lomahu. 骆马湖No. 964, commissioned July 2016 based at South Sea Fleet (sister ship above). At 23,000 tons it is a useful size for a flotilla. (photo courtesy Coatepeque at Chinese Defense Blog).


-  Joint Sea 2012 was held in the Yellow Sea, April 22-27, 2012. A total of 25 warships and
   submarines, 13 warplanes, nine helicopters and two commando units participated

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/news/2014_05_26/Russian-Chinese-military-exercises-Joint-Sea-2014-end-in-China-9370/

-  Joint Sea 2013 was held in the Sea of Japan, July 5-12, 2013. 18 ships of the 2 countries took part   

-  Joint Sea 2014 was held in May 2014 in the East China Sea.

-  Joint Sea 2015, held May 2015, in the Mediterranean Sea, included two Type 054A frigates
   (Linyi and Weifang) and Type 903 replenishment ship Weishanhu subscription source, and

-  Joint Sea 2016, was held September 2016, in the South China Sea. Three Russian warships and two
   supply ships exercised with ten Chinese Navy ships (destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply
   ships and submarines) took part.

So the exercises are very regular. It is is not yet clear whether pro-Russian Trump will bother to  Tweet-Churchillian* about this symptom of Chinese-Russian naval alliance.

* Never in the course of New York history have so many plebs payed out so much to so many Trophy** trading Billionaires.

** the latest super model trade-in Trophy is crucial to America's Putin-Trump-Putin era.


July 25, 2017

Russia's Haphazard Husky Program of 3 Submarine Types

Russia's submarine programs continue to be haphazard with Husky the latest envisaged.


Dave Majumdar for National Interest has written a fine article How Russia's New Husky-Class Submarines Borrow from the U.S. Navy's Playbook


Unfortunately for Russia it did not emulate America's successful strategy of evolutionary scheduling and longer build runs. Russia seems to be maintaining its inefficient and expensive submarine building programs by publicising the 3 submarine program currently codenamed "Husky".

Russia only commissioned the lead Borey/Borei SSBN and Yasen class SSN/SSGN in 2013 - see  here and here respectively. This means the first Husky SSBN, SSN and SSGN might not be commissioned for 30 years, in 2047. Such an early announcement of the Husky concepts may owe more to the hoped for career continuity of submarines design bureaus and junior-middle ranking  designers than timely planning schedules.

Russia is also repeating its build-only-a-few-subs tradition rather than the US and Japanese longer build, gradual evolution approach. Only 8 Boreys (right sidebar) and 6 to 10 (right sidebar) Yasens will be built. Small batches loses economies of scale. 

However, Russia does seem to be following the sound US strategy of placing vertical missile launch plugs onto a SSN concept, in order to create the SSGN concept. The SSBN will involve more extensive changes with a long plug and bigger draught missile compartment hump. This will be needes to accommodate the SSBN's longer (or is that taller) compartment of at least 12.1m for Bulava missiles .

With a 3 type semi-common submarine program might Russia fall into some of the structural and weight problems of the 3 type F-35 program? The F-35s have long lost their cost cutting  commonality "dividends". The F-35s have steadily become dissimilar due to different structure and load requirements (optimistically planned in 3 F-35 variants that would share 80% of their parts. However, by April 2017 the variants were sharing at most 20% common design). May much larger Husky SSBNs have far different stealth characteristics (eg. larger pressure hull dimensions and water flow (hydrodynamic noise) characterisks than the smaller SSNs? 

In the 1980s upscaling a smaller Swedish submarine design for the Collins' design caused marked hydrodynamic noise problems.  

This likely drop in common design percentage may also impact US plans that assume Columbia-class SSBNs can adopt many parts and solutions of the Virginia-class.

Russia could claim it has much shorter production runs than the US because Russia's defence budget is now just about one-ninth that of the US. But one could question the lack of an evolutionary continuous build.

Oh well, what's bad for Russia is probably good for Western democracies (though the Trump clan would disagree).

The commonality cost/efficiency "dividend" of the 3 Huskies is even more ambitious than the 2 class Virginia-Columbia dividend.  The Columbia-class (aka Ohio replacement) SSBN is to carry many of the external and internal characteristics of the Virginia. But the Virginia structure laid down in 1999 may be very different from than engineering solutions desired in 2021, when the first Columbia is due to be laid down.


July 21, 2017

India's Closeness to Russia May Handicap Submarine Project P-75(I)

In the last 24 hours India's Deccan Herald and other quality Indian news outlets have carried an important Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announcement. My comments are in [...] brackets.

India's MoD has issued the long anticipated request for information (RFI) to 6 submarine suppliers to participate in the construction of 6 advanced conventional diesel-electric submarines under the Project-75I (I for India). This will be a $9.5 Billion (so far) project

Companies invited, via the RFI, to provide information are:

-  France's Naval Group (formerly DCNS)
-  Russia's Rosoboronexport
-  Spain's Navantia
-  Sweden's Saab
-  Germany's TKMS, and
-  Japan's MHI (which would include KHI).

The RFI is just the beginning of a lengthy selection process [1] that may take 5 years till a winner is chosen, then another 5 years to commission the first sub. The winner will need to:

-  partner with an Indian company, and
-  build the submarines in India [Australia has similar rules] 
-  [The winner will need to facilitate provision of air independent propulsion (AIP). Long discussed is
   the winner being prepared to share the AIP technology with India's Defence Research and
   Development Organisation (DRDO)]
-  [also long discussed as a requirement is the fitting of a vertical launch systems (VLS) or at least the
   ability to torpedo tube launch long range, land attack, cruise missiles]

For more information see the WHOLE DECCAN HERALD article.


India has for over a decade been conscious that its strategic competitors have been exceeding India's very slow submarine production (and purchasing) rate.

China has produced dozens of submarines in the last two decades with increasing numbers featuring the advantage of AIP. India has no AIP conventional submarines and India's submarines are mostly of less stealthy, old, designs.

Pakistan already has 3 AIP submarines and has ordered 8 submarines designed by China. These 8 will likely have AIP fitted or retrofitted.

It is not yet clear whether India wants average sized submarines (about 1,900 tonnes submerged) or is thinking of a larger, more capable, design.

Risk P-75I Technology May Flow to Russia

Some RFI invitees may be worried about India's close high tech & sensitive submarine relationship with Russia. Meaning there is a perceived risk that India may transfer some P-75I tech to Russia (eg. AIP & pressure hull formulas?). RFI invitees may therefore limit the submarine technology they build into their submarine proposals to India.

Then Russia may on-transfer tech secrets to China. This is noting Russia likely transferred nuclear sub technology and certainly Kilos to China in the past. China increasingly has the kind of money to attract "Russian" high defence tech.

The depth of Indo-Russian submarine relations can be seen in Russia taking the unusual path of:

-  allowing India to finance the final completion of INS Chakra "II" 

-  Russia leasing Chakra II to India for 10 years (in practice forever?). Russia obviously provided
   some Russian crew and maintainers, particularly working with Chakra's reactor, and

-  Russia's extensive help with the Indian submarine reactor program. This was acknowledged by
   former Prime Minister Singh who presided over INS Arihant's "launch" in 2009. An
   acknowledgement voiced by no-one else I'm aware of. 

As a sweetener for Naval Group to be announced P-75I winner, India may quietly ask for some French nuclear propulsion/propulsor/hull technology.

[1] In terms of the glacial age of Project P-75I see the Submarine Matters' article of 2012.

Chart above reflects why India needs to buy (from overseas) or locally build P-75I submarines quickly - not the usual spread-the-commissions-till-all-happy-time of 10 to 15 years. The chart is still fairly accurate - numbers of conventional subs (SSKs) are 13 Indian vs 61 Chinese. Adding China's ally Pakistan's 5 makes India's shortfall even more serious.


July 20, 2017

Trump is Putin's Best Agent of Disruption

As Russia's democratically re-elected Leader for Life, Putin, can take the long view, developing long term projects. 

Putin’s triumphant project is Trump. Putin is at heart a jokester, really.

Trump is Putin's great Agent of Disruption. Even better than an Agent of Influence.

Russia did its utmost to boost Trump's electoral prospects. Russia is still nurturing Trump's disruptive tendencies.

Trump is continually disrupting the US government, the nation and international reputation. 

At the G20 Trump was again played by Putin “It’s very clear that Trump’s best single relationship...is with Putin. US allies were surprised, flummoxed, disheartened.

China doesn't mind Trump bringing interesting times to America, either.

Best buddies - Montage courtesy Slate


July 19, 2017

Walrus Replacement Submarine Program Delayed But Desperate

This article follow comments by special Netherlands' correspondent Kevin on July 17, 2017, below Submarine Matters article Dutch Submarine Talks With TKMS & Kockums, not with DCNS of March 2, 2017.

The Netherlands' process to decide on a Walrus replacement submarine has been slowed down by the Dutch general election of March 15, 2017. The election result has been a hung parliament of parties unable to form a stable decision making coalition.

This means delays in parliament approving a large expensive (estimated at 2.5 Billion euros initial costs) new submarine program.

A June 2016 briefing by Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis envisages a submarine class:
-  that is stealthy and long range
-  with powerful weapons
-  that is capable of ISR
-  perhaps completely submerge for weeks, and
-  can carry and deploy special forces.

All of these functions cannot be performed by unmanned platforms – very obviously not carriage and deployment of special forces.

With the first of the Walruses due to be retired in 2025 there is increasing pressure to research, decide on and order a new submarine class. Consultation with Australia, Germany, Norway and Sweden is important, but difficult.

Information following the March 2017 election is that some new parliamentarians (in the parliamentary committee hearings at Troelstra Hall) are less familiar with submarine issues. Also some are less than enthusiastic about ordering new submarines. This is slowing down decision making. 

Much more discussion about submarines and agreement is needed. Salima Belhaj (scroll a third down) of the Democrats 66 sees a need for submarines but they should definitely not be nuclear armed. [As in Australia most Dutch parliamentarians would oppose nuclear weapons in their submarines].

Other issues deemed important by some parliamentarians are:
-  recognition that no off-the-shelf submarine design meets the Netherlands' needs [this strongly
   implies a larger than usual European submarine design (ie. more than 2,000 tons surfaced – perhaps
   Walrus sized) will be chosen]
-  giving Dutch companies the right to bid in any submarine competitive selection process
-  building the [probably 4] new submarines in the Netherlands [by Damen at the old RDM 
    shipyard?] and
-  the Netherlands holding the submarines intellectual property rights.

With a deliver first submarine intention in the mid 2020s the Netherlands has even more issues to decide than Australia (deliver submarines by the early 2030s). The Netherlands decision makers have not even reached consensus on a submarine size or chosen a submarine designer or builder. All this suggests that the Netherlands may take several more years than currently expected to start building submarines.

Three out of four of the Netherlands' Walrus submarines undergoing maintenance on ship stands. The photo may indicate how limited and congested shipbuilding space is in the Netherlands. Also the situation of only one Walrus being available may become standard as the Walrus' reach their use by date. (Photo courtesy Willem Severins)

Kevin and Pete