Friday, September 30, 2005

Aussie Submarine Rescue System - Deficient

The US Navy has it's DSRV the UK Royal Navy uses the LR5 and Russian Navy has the ill fated Priz class but what does the Australian Navy use for submarine rescue?

Australian Collins Class Submarine (Source: Australian Navy)

The Australian Navy uses the Remora (Remotely Operated Rescue Vehicle) system for submarine rescue. The Remora system is a product of Ocean Works International of North Vancouver, BC Canada. The company has a good streaming video link promo of the system.

Remora Submarine Rescue System (Source: Australian Navy)

The Remora system seems a very capable submarine rescue system with the following specs:
Operational up to Sea State 4/5 transportable up to sea state 6+
Submerged depth up to 2000 ft
17 to 24 hours life support
Articulated mating skirt capable of up to 45 degrees mating lock
Transportable on C130 or larger military airlift aircraft
Can accommodate 2 crew + 16 passengers per rescue assent

The Australian Navy also has a comprehensive training program on submarine escape and rescue.

So you would conclude that the Australian Navy had a world class submarine rescue system. But seems that isn't so, the news site The Weekend Australian is reporting in an article Sub rescue unit 'a risk to lives' that there are significant problems with the AU Navy's submarine rescue program and equipment. As follows:

The navy's submarine rescue unit is in disarray, with faulty and obsolete equipment and poor training creating "intolerable" risks to sailors stranded under the ocean, according to a damning internal defence report.

A Review of Submarine Escape and Rescue Services documents a litany of frightening shortcomings that raise grave doubts about the navy's ability to rescue sailors from a stricken submarine.

The report, written in February, comes as the navy is seeking new hoses for its six Collins-class submarines to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic onboard flood that almost sank HMAS Dechaineux and its 55 crew in 2003.

The report, obtained by The Weekend Australian under Freedom of Information laws after an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, concludes that the navy's submarine rescue system suffers from "a significant number of high risks".

Other specific problems cited in the AU Navy's report were a lack of spare parts for critical rescue equipment and a significant risk to the availability of cargo aircraft for Remora systems transport. Additionally training deficiencies may be a problem that could lead to equipment damage and failure.

In my opinion The Weekend Australian article goes a little overboard when it uses quotes that could have come from any submarine sailor in the world. An example:

"We always joke that escape systems are there for politicians and girlfriends," one submariner told The Weekend Australian.

"For the most part, the waters we operate in are too deep for rescue, and if an accident were to occur you would not be recovering anyone or anything. You'll just know where we went down."

Although the above two quotes are true for all who go to sea on submarines, it also true that it gets the public's attention when it appears a government is deliberately putting their sailors at risk.

With the HMAS Dechaineux flooding investigation the Assies have identified their problems and will fix their boats and systems. Therefore, they will continue to be one of the most capable submarine forces in the world.

Update 10/1/05: If you want to read back about the HMAS Dechaineux flooding incident Bubblehead at "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" has written a number of posts search link here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Live Webcast of an Ocean Floor Exploration

The National Science Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, ResearchChannel and the University of Washington TV have teamed up in an effort to produce the first live video broadcasts from the seafloor. Weather permitting the webcast is scheduled for Sept. 28 and 29. Link to the Webcast site here including updated times, dates and additional video.

The broadcasts will be of the Juan de Fuca Ridge seafloor 200 miles off the Washington coast an area known to be one of the most geologically and biologically active sites in the global network of mid-ocean ridges.

The Ocean Floor (Source: NASA graphic)

The broadcasts are part of a five-week expedition funded in part by the National Science Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation and the University of Washington. Used in the expedition are the remotely controlled submersibles JASON II and ABE from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The expedition is referred to as VISION 05, for Visually Integrated Science for Interactive Ocean Networked Systems. It's purpose is to study of how tectonic plate interaction can support exotic and ancient microbial life forms deep within the seafloor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Architeuthis Filmed at Depth

Architeuthis or Giant Squid for centuries has been the monster of legends and a scientific mystery. None have ever been observed in the wild until recently. The New York Times is reporting that the First Giant Squid Captured in Wild (on Film, That Is) was accomplished by a Japanese research team.

The submarine Nautilus attacked by a giant squid in Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea .

Japanese scientists, Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori, report that they have made the world's first observations of a giant squid in the wild. The researchers followed sperm whales, that are known to feed on giant squid, to find a location for their attempted filming. A system of a robotic cameras tethered to buoys and baited with a bags of mashed shrimp were used.

At about 3000 feet and positioned about 1,000 feet above the seafloor lowest bait on the rig attracted a small Architeuthis measuring 26 feet in length. It is believed that the giant squid can grow as large as 60 feet.

Attracted by the bait the Architeuthis got caught in the bait and camera rig. The robotic camera then took pictures every 30 seconds of the giant squid for over 4 hours as it struggled to free itself.

Although Jules Verne's Captain Nemo encounter with Architeuthis was a work of fiction occasionally deep sea submersibles have run across the unexpected.

On December 20, 2001 NOAA scientists aboard the submersible Alvin encountered a 21-foot-long squid, dubbed the "Mystery Squid," while conducting an undersea project.

The Submersible Alvin (Source: NOAA)

The scientists were investigating gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of approximately 6,300 feet below the surface when a 21 foot "Mystery Squid" drifted close to the submersible. The squid was captured on video before moving away after a few minutes.

NOAA scientists in 2001 could not be certain of the identity of the squid they encountered without capturing a specimen. The Japanese scientists who filmed the Architeuthis were fortunate in that a piece of the squid's tentacles was left behind after it escaped it's 4 hour entanglement. DNA analysis of that sample and other comparisons with squid that have washed ashore confirmed that it was an Architeuthis or Giant Squid.

For more information on Architeuthis go to the links page on The Search for Giant Squid webpage from a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 1999 exhibition.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

NUWC - Submarine Engineering Support Contracts Awarded

The US Navy has recently awarded three contacts for electronic systems program engineering, life cycle and in-service support totaling approximately $112.5 million dollars. The majority of this work will be performed at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), Newport Division in Newport, RI.

Virginia Class (Source: US Navy graphic)

GRYPHON TECHNOLOGIES in Riverdale, MD won a $44.7M contract to provide Submarine Non Propulsion Electronic Systems Programs Engineering, Life-Cycle, and In-Service Support.

ENGINEERING SERVICES NETWORK, INC. in Arlington, VA received a $42 million in NUWC support contracts.

RAYTHEON CO in Marlborough, MA received a $14.5 to $25 million contract for design, development, test and production work for X-band Extremely High Frequency (EHF) submarine communications.

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center, NUWC was once called the Naval Underwater Systems Center (NUSC) and before that Naval Underwater Research and Engineering Station.

NUWC, Newport RI falls under NAVSEA command and is the Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support center for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, and offensive and defensive weapons systems associated with undersea warfare.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Raging Rita

From the Eye on the Fleet photo gallery.
GOES-12 Satellite infrared image provided by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, Calif.

GOES-12 Satellite infrared image (Source: US Navy)

Infrared image shows the population centers with a very well defined Hurricane Rita. Navy assets are being redeployed to respond to this one two punch on the gulf coast. A number of Navy ships already in the gulf coast area put to sea to avoid the storm and be in position for assistance.

These ships include:
USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7)
USS Shreveport (LPD 12)
USS Tortuga (LSD 46)
USNS Patuxent (T-AO 201)
USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

Additionally the Navy Region Northeast continues to provide assistance from Naval Submarine Base New London, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other commands for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Help all those effected by supporting the American Red Cross.

Updated 9/23/05 - 13:00 Of related local RI interest I'd like to share. This is from a email forwarded to me by a recently retired RI National Guard member.

This was written by the XO of the USS Iwo Jima just before the MPs left New Orleans.

Finally, a word about our guests onboard, the 119th Military Police Company, Rhode Island National Guard.

These folks are headed home after a very long two weeks. To their credit, they were the first to enter the Convention Center and restore order with only 140 troops, though the mission called for more than 500. They saved 15 lives and evacuated hundreds.

The Company averaged more than 20 missions per day that lasted from 0600 until well past midnight on most days. I had an opportunity to accompany them on two missions and found them to be extremely professional - since they were among the first to arrive after Katrina, they became the resident experts for mission planning and execution for many other Guard and Army units. Their company even found time to care for 4 stray canines to relieve the stress.

Footnote: most of the MP Company returned from a tour in Iraq n April. Huge Heroes from a Small State.

Burton C. Quist
Colonel, US Marine Corps

Another RI National Guard MP unit from Warwick RI was one of the first units to serve at Gitmo after the start of the GWOT.
Saddle Up! Tonight We Ride!
See You On The High Ground!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Video file footage of Russian Submarine Force

Ever want to take a sneak peek at a Russian Submarine underway?

How about the inside of an operational sub complete with Russian sailors looking like "What is he doing with a camera" look on their faces?

The Russian website has a catalogue of short (a few seconds) file clips covering the Russian Navy submarines link here. Some footage was filmed from a helicopter and others are interior views of submarine equipment. The films are from independent producers & studios. They are for sale for commercial use on the website, but I found that if you click on the image you can run a short clip with a TVDATA watermark that's not that annoying.
(Warning: links best with Broadband)

Some of my favorites - with suggested titles:

SLBM zero defects? oops back to QA. link here

On the tail of a Typhoon. link here.

Always refer to the chart before wandering around the boat. link here

Rig for visitors, or Someone left the security covers off. link here

I think I see a periscope astern better clear baffles to make sure. link here

I'm thinking the guys at Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) about 20 years ago would have loved to have seen this stuff. Back then, they were commissioning paintings like the one below of Soviet Typhoons.

TYPHOON Replenishing in the Arctic by Edward L. Cooper, 1986
(Source: DIA Military Art Collection The Threat in the 1980's)

One last one: Midrats taste like chicken....meow. link here

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trident I (C4) Missile System Retired

With little to no fan fair the Trident I (C4) missile system has been essentially retired from service.

A ceremony held on Sept. 7, 2005 marked the Change of Command for the USS Alabama SSBN 731, combining of crews and the retirement of the Blue Crew CO Cmdr. Kevin A. Fontes. It also marked the last Trident submarine scheduled for shipyard conversion to the Trident II (D5) missile system.

The USS Alabama Gold Crew was also awarded the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Afloat Safety Award on Sept. 2 after the completion of the Sub's historic 67th deterrent patrol and the last operational deployment of the Trident I (C4) missile system.

First Test Launch of Trident I (C4) Missile Jan. 18, 1977
(Source: DOD File Photo)

The C4 missile system, at 26 years, was the longest deployed US SLBM entering service in 1979 and being retired this year. The Missile was first back fitted to 12 Poseidon submarines and later the first 8 Tridents. The USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) was the first submarine to successfully launch a C4 missile in July 1979. In October that year, SSBN-657 became the first submarine to go on patrol with the Trident I C-4.

The Trident I C4 missile was developed primarily a weapon of deterrence, adhering to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's Mutual Assured Destruction or MAD doctrine. The missile had an estimated range of 4000 nm nearly double it's predecessor but lacked the ability to effectively target hardened enemy ICBM missile silos.

The current Trident II (D5) missile is the culmination of Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger's concept of counterforce as deterrence. Entering service in 1990 the D5 missile could be considered a first strike weapon when measured against the improvement in accuracy and range over it's predecessor the C4. However, under the counterforce as deterrent doctrine the targeting of enemy's strategic weapons systems would only be used an immediate retaliatory response and for a first strike.

It seemed only fitting to post the news on this planned obsolescence of the C4 weapons system. I served on one of the first subs USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN 641) and the very last USS Alabama (SSBN 731) the last to carry that system to sea.

Update: 9/21/05 - 13:00 From a reader of TheSubReport "The conversion of the Alabama to D5 Backfit also marks the end of the SINS based navigation system. This system has been supporting the Strategic Weapons System since the Polaris days, almost 50 years."

Almost 50 years longevity is a remarkable achievement for a system as complex as the SINS -Ships Inertial Navigation System. SINS was created out of the joint Army/Navy JUPITER program then further developed to support the POLARIS program. Although a Regulus guided missile submarine, the USS Halibut (SSGN 587) was the first submarine to carry the Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS) back in 1960.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cocaine Submarine Force Reduction

The Columbian cocaine Navy is at it again, this time with a drug cargo UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle). AP World News is reporting "Coast Guard Seizes Cocaine in Pacific" (Hat tip: excerpt:

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The U.S. Coast Guard, acting on Colombian intelligence, intercepted a ship towing an unmanned submarine-like vessel that held more than 2 tons of cocaine, Colombia's anti-narcotics police chief said Thursday.

The boat was raided Wednesday off the coast of the Ecuadorean-owned Galapagos Islands, Gen. Alberto Gomez told reporters. The underwater capsule, which was attached by a metal cable, was designed so smugglers could tow it below their boat and escape detection if drug agents searched the ship.

Of course this isn't the first attempt to construct and use a submarine type vessel to smuggle drugs. Just last March Colombia's secret police discovered a nearly complete fiberglass submarine (CBS news) designed to carry cocaine to speed boats offshore.

Then there was the September 2000 discovery of a half-built submarine in a warehouse in Bogota, Remember that one?

Cocaine Submarine Under Construction Sept 2000.

The BBC reported the submarine under construction back in 2000 as being sophisticated and based on a Russian design. It was speculated that the Russian mafia or Russian technicians were involved in its construction.

So here's the tally:
1) The Russian designed large Sub was found in 2000 half way through construction.
2) The fiberglass Sub found in March of this year was nearly complete.
3) And now the drug smugglers have had a nearly successful sea trail of a towed UUV variant.

What's next?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Feel The Need, The Need for Speed!

Having grown up as a Navy brat I was usually near a military installation that started with NAS. My father was a career Navy Seabee and I lived in places like Yokosuka Japan, Port Hueneme CA, Keflavik Iceland, Quonset Point RI, all before I was a twelve. Watching the jets was a fascination for me and always exciting. If there was an air show near by I would be there, as close to the flight line as possible, eyes glued skyward.

It must have been this fascination with complex machines that do extraordinary things that brought me to submarines and if my life choices had been a little different I may have earned Wings instead of Dolphins.

That being said I felt the need to share some aviation eye candy.
Scroll down and fulfill your "Need for Speed" complete with trans-sonic vapor clouds.

F/A-18 Hornet going Supersonic Location Taehan-min'guk – Republic of Korea, July 7, 1999
(Source: US Navy -Ensign John Gay)

F/A-18F Super Hornet July 27, 2005 USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Philippine Sea
(Source: US Navy - Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler)

F/A 18 going Supersonic (Source: US Navy)

F-14B Tomcat USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Mediterranean Sea Mar. 30, 2005
(Source: US Navy -Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Justin S. Osborne )

F14-B Tomcat going Supersonic Mediterranean Sea, April 22, 2003
(Source: US Navy - Justin S. Osborne)

B-1B subsonic but super low (Source: USAF)

STS-106 Space Shuttle Atlantis, September 8, 2000 going Trans-sonic
(Source: NASA)

OK, if the photos weren't enough to satisfy, then you may want to try this (I did) or this or maybe even this.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Alligator Hunting

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA and the Office of Naval Research ONR have teamed up to search for the civil war submarine USS Alligator. This is the second year for this NOAA-ONR collaborative effort schedule to resume Sept. 9-12 off Cape Hatteras, N.C.
The has a short article on this current effort.

The USS Alligator (Source: NOAA - Painting by Jim Christley)

The Alligator was so named because of it's low profile and distinctive green color. The 47 foot long sub was lost in April of 1863 while being towed by the USS Sumpter. The Sumpter was to tow the Alligator from Virginia to Charleston S.C. to participate in Union attacks on that Confederate port. The sub sank in a fierce storm somewhere south of Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, N.C. in an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. In a heavy gale and no crew aboard the USS Alligator the captain of the USS Sumpter unable to make headway cut the tow line.

Hunting the Alligator (Source: NOAA)

An initial side-scan sonar search by the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in the spring of 2005 identified several new targets. Additional investigation of these targets will be conducted using marine magnetometer and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Operating out of Ocracoke, N.C., a team of marine archaeologists and researchers will work aboard ONR’s 108-ft. “Afloat Lab” (YP-679), deploying a number of these undersea search and survey tools.

The USS Alligator has a distinctive place in history which few are aware. It was the US Navy’s first submarine.

There is some confusion around the first US Navy submarine claim. David Bushnell’s The Turtle used in the revolutionary war in September 1775 was piloted by an Army Sergeant and volunteer and not commissioned by the Continental Navy/Marines. John Holland's Holland VI is many times incorrectly cited as the US Navy's first Submarine even though it came some 26 years after the USS Alligator.

The USS Alligator was an innovation in naval design at the time and included many features and firsts for a submarine:

First submarine ordered and built for the U.S. Navy
First submarine to have a diver’s lockout chamber.
Was deployed to a combat zone.
First submarine to have onboard air compressors for air renewal/diver support.
First submarine commanded by a U.S. Naval officer (who would later achieve Flag rank).
First submarine designed with an air purifying system.
Had an underway test witnessed by a U.S. president (Abraham Lincoln).
First submarine to have electrically-detonated limpet mines.
Underwent an overhaul in a U.S. naval shipyard.

If you're interested in the project to find the USS Alligator and the sub's history, more information can be found at the NOAA website (Link here) specifically devoted to this project.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Original Silent Ships

One hundred and fifty four years ago on August 31, 1851 the Yankee clipper ship The Flying Cloud arrived in San Francisco from New York after a record run of only 89 days, 21 hours . That record of 89 days was only shared by one other ship of that era the Andrew Jackson . No other sailing ship beat the 89 day mark for nearly 130 years when in 1989 the OSTAR single-handed racing yacht Thursday's Child bested the record by 9 days. The Flying Cloud is considered to have been the fastest clipper ship ever launched. The ships navigator was Ellen Creesy, the wife of the captain Josiah P. Cressy.

The Flying Cloud (Source: National Archives)
The Silent Ship by Colin West

I sailed a ship as white as snow,
As soft as clouds on high,
Tall was the mast, broad was the beam,
And safe and warm was I.

I stood astern my stately ship
And felt so grand and high,
To see the lesser ships give way
As I went gliding by.

That was the Golden Age of Clipper Ships romanticized in books and movies.

In another one hundred and fifty years will these be the new silent ships of legends?

(The Urban Legends link above is for my friends back in maneuvering ;-)