Sunday, October 30, 2005

More Virginia Class Design and Concept Info

I can't help but add to what Bubblehead and Vigilis have posted on the USS Virginia (SSN 774) here and here .

The below photo of the Virginia during construction has three holes circled where a new fiber optic Lightweight Wide Aperture Array (LWAA) is to go.

USS Virginia (Source: US Navy - NRL)

The system is the first fiber optic surveillance grade acoustic sensor system on an operational platform. Information can be found on the system's development from 1980's to production in 2000 at the Office of Naval Research, Naval Research Laboratory Review 2004 - "Development of the Fiber Optic Wide Aperture Array: From Initial Development to Production". Six sonar arrays three per side composed of Lasers and Fiber Optics translates to high bandwidth, I would think.

For a taste of how some of the consoles may function and integrate with other systems, I found this article from Undersea Warfare Magazine Fall of 2000 on the USS Virginia's Onboard Team Trainer Master Controller (OBTT MC).

OBTT Prototype (Source: US Navy)

The onboard simulation system will be capable of supporting a whole host of contacts including up to:

• 10 Medium Frequency Active (MFA) and Passive Sonar Contacts.
• 20 High Frequency Active (HFA) Sonar Contacts.
• 20 Tactical Weapon Simulator (TWS) Contacts.
• 35 Imaging Contacts (Visual/Infrared).
• 128 ESM Contacts.
• 10 Radar Contacts, and
• 8 stored harbor models for ingress and egress training.

The system will also interface with the ships Communication suite simulating Over-the-Horizon/Global Command and Control System-Maritime (OTH/GCCS-M) communications.

The system uses of Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) components to conduct onboard and at-sea simulated engagements comparable to those of a shore-based team trainer.

Conceptual info Video Links:

I did find some cool broadband streaming video over at the Lockheed Martin video gallery covering some of the concepts incorporated or proposed for the Virginia class submarine.

The first concept is leveraging Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) components to increase adaptability and processing power. Link "Always the Leader"(5.53 MB .WMV)

Next is the idea of optimizing for a time sensitive target strike through a system called "Transformational Tactical Targeting". Key component of the concept is the GCCS-M mentioned above. Link "T3" (9.57 MB .WMV)

Finally the "Sea Talon" Submarine launched UUV for littoral areas. Link "Sea Talon" (9.19 MB .WMV)

Although none of video is of the interior of a Virginia class sub they do provide a look into some of the concepts incorporated in that class of submarine. I also have to say Lockheed Martin has a slick marketing department, lots of cool stock submarine footage and a forceful narration to put their concepts and products forward.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Post Brac Mini-Boom at PNS

Just a short note, If you followed the Brac commission base closure deliberations over summer as I did, at one point you probably thought that Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNS) was surely going to get the axe and close. Reasoning old facility, not enough overhaul work, excess capacity and so on.

Well apparently, PNS is undergoing a mini-boom in jobs, from the New Hampshire Union Leader:

Shipyard commander Capt. Jonathan Iverson said the current work force must grow by 300 people a year to be able to handle the submarine overhaul and maintenance projects that are scheduled.

“For the next four years, we’re chock-a-block full of work,” he said. “With the increased workload, we’re looking to bring more people on.”

Looks like Brac made the right decision in keeping PNS open.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

An Un-Conventionally Armed SSBN

The conventional understanding of a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) is that it's sole purpose is one of nuclear deterrence. Loaded with nuclear armed ballistic missiles the Trident SSBN hides with stealth waiting to unleash unthinkable destruction upon any enemy with the nuclear capability to strike the US.

In the October issue of Proceedings magazine author Norman Polmar writes in his article "Strategic Submarine Progress" (not currently available on-line) about some unconventional thinking relating to Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles or SLBMs.

Trident II D5 Missile (Source: US Navy)

The unconventional thinking is put forth by the Defense Science Board and it is to arm some SLBMs with conventional (non-nuclear) warheads. The proposal pertains to the converted Trident SSGNs and recommends retaining some SLBM capacity. Rear Admiral Charles B. Young, Director of Strategic Systems Programs was quoted in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, 17 June 2005 as saying a SLBM could deliver 1,250 pounds of conventional explosive to a range of 1,500 nautical miles, adding "Time of flight would be about 14 to 15 minutes... So if you have a time-critical target, that is a great capability".

The idea is that a conventional warhead's accuracy could also be enhanced to less than 30 feet with the addition of a global positioning system GPS guidance package. There is also some speculation in Polmar's Proceeding article that if the Navy were to pursue a conventional-warhead Trident missile they may consider arming Trident SSBNs in addition to or instead of SSGNs.

Although I don't think such a proposal would be very cost effective, placing a 1000 lb bomb on a extremely expensive weapons system, it does have its merits. (Addition reading on merits at the Baker Institute in pdf)

First being the ability to place a conventional weapon on a time-critical target from an extreme range. This would give the defense department a quick reaction option to an unanticipated region or situation where other assets could be hours if not days away. The caveat here being that if the target is unanticipated how do you quickly and accurately communicate the targeting information to the submarine submerged and maybe 1500 nautical miles away.

A second benefit could be the shock and awe factor. A dictator or terrorist may feel the remoteness of his location or no clear nearby US military presents as a form of safety until his chemical weapons pilot-plant is destroyed by a warhead falling at something close to Mach in double digits. The kinetic energy release alone could scare the hell out someone standing within visual range. Additionally placing the idea in the head of a dictator that the next warhead could be in the kiloton range may be enough to instill a little behavior modification to the positive.

Third, the capability to deliver a conventional weapon from a great distance with extreme accuracy and within minutes could force hostile nations to either harden or decentralize their high value military assets. The tactic of hardening, hiding or building decentralized redundancy would be costly to a potential enemy and may result in reduced command and control of those assets. The only other option for them would be to build or buy an Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) system. This could also draw funds and skilled personnel away from the offensive weapons systems that we are more concerned about.

Lastly, the conventional SLBM warhead could be a way of prototyping and testing technology and designs to be later adapted for nuclear warheads. Such technologies could include the aforementioned improved accuracy with GPS as well as bunker busting earth penetrating munitions.

Apart from the cost, numbers of conventionally armed SLBMs would be limited because it would compete with the traditional SSBN role. A SLBM with a conventional warhead would also not be an option where an adversary is a known nuclear power with ICBM and or SLBM capability. A conventional strike could be mistaken for a nuclear one and invoke a nuclear response. Additionally such a weapon would complicate any future arms limitation talks with said powers.

The Navy has rejected this idea in the past but with the advent of the Trident conversions to SSGNs the concept may be given another look.

Video link for Missile one away, Missile two away (mpg 4.1mg).....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Toshiba and Russian Espionage – Again

In 1987, the Toshiba Corporation of Japan was accused of illegally selling sophisticated propeller milling machinery to the Soviets through the Norwegian Kongsberg firm. The incident resulted in the arrest and prosecution of two senior executives, as well as the imposition of sanctions on the company by the US and Japan. It also resulted in quieter Soviet submarines principally the Akula Class.

It is also alleged that the
Project 671RTMK Victor III subs incorporated a fully integrated submarine combat direction and fire control command system that ran on computers obtained from the Toshiba Corporation of Japan. This fire control system is said to be based on one developed for the Norwegian Ula class submarines.

So in recent news
here and here, a Japanese employee of Toshiba Corporation has been caught selling confidential data to a Russian official. The leaked data referred to semiconductor technologies that could be used for jet fighter radar, missile guidance systems and submarine periscopes.

Industrial espionage is as much a national security risk as the
Walker spy ring or those identified in the Cox Report.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Where Were You? Remembering Beirut 10/23/1983

The Event
On October 23, 1983 in Beirut Lebanon a truck laden with the equivalent of 12,000 pounds of TNT crashed through a gate and into the lobby of the Marine headquarters building. The suicide bomber then detonated his explosives killing 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and 3 Army soldiers.

That was and remains the largest single day death toll of US Marines since WWII. The public response by the Reagan Administration was that it pledged to maintain a military peacekeeping force in Lebanon. A plan was drawn up to attack a barracks in Lebanon that housed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards believed to have been training Hezbollah fighters responsible for the attack. The Battleship New Jersey was moved off the coast of Lebanon and even shelled some suspected terrorist camps.

Worries about reactions from "friendly" Arab nations prevented the Reagan administration from taking any overly aggressive action, therefore canceling the planned targeting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards barracks. The International Peacekeeping force was eventually withdrawn and Lebanon descended further into civil war and chaos. Probably the Reagan Administration's biggest mistake and a victory for the purveyors of terrorism in the Middle East.

Where was I
I heard the news of the Marine barracks bombing while on patrol on the USS Simon Bolivar SSBN 641 Gold.

USS Simon Bolivar SSBN 641 (Source: US Navy)

A couple weeks later the Bolivar was nearing the end of it's 70 day patrol and was given new orders, "Liberty Call", but where?

The USS Simon Bolivar in 1983 was one of the few C4 Trident Missile Backfit boats and being a boomer, liberty port calls during a strategic deterrent patrol were very rare. Additionally most port calls for boomers were limited to relatively friendly places, Port Canaveral FL, Halifax Nova Scotia, places like that. With few exceptions, countries didn't like Nuclear Powered Submarines with Nuclear Weapons capability sitting in one of their ports. But we were on the other side of the Atlantic from any of those "regular" liberty ports so where were we going especally with the 1980's anti-US and Reagan climit in Europe and ongoing terrorism.

Our port visit was, Agadir Morocco, in North Africa. According to the CIA factbook Morocco is 98% Sunni Muslim, maybe not the place to send a Ballistic Missile Submarine after a terrorist attack, especially in light of recent history.

Twenty two years later I may be reading more into the coincidence of a my rare SSBN North African port visit and the Beirut bombing. I had great respect for Ronald Reagan and would like to think that someone in his Administration wanted to send a message to any possible State sponsor of terrorism that the US had other options within the range on an SLBM for a trouble making Middle Eastern nation. Of course today there are still those who can't leave Lebanon to the Lebanese people.

More information about the Beirut Marine barracks bombing can be found at the Memorial site or Alington Cemetery site.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Submarines of Rhode Island

I have nothing to write in the blog at the moment so I'm going the easy route --- visuals...

Here's a few photos of submarines with some association to my home state, Rhode Island.

USS Rhode Island SSBN 740 (Source: US Navy)

If you've ever been to my home state you'll recognize the bridge behind the sub as the Newport Bridge. The USS Rhode Island, accompanied by the Sloop Providence, is exiting Narragansett Bay and would have passed by the Naval War College before going under the bridge. Photo was probably taken shortly after commissioning in 1994.
Update 10/22/05: Ooops, a second look at the photo above and I realize I got it backwards, they're going up the bay not leaving.

USS Providence SSN 719 (Source: US Navy)

Photo is of the USS Providence SSN 719 named for the capital city of Rhode Island, is the fifth warship in Naval History to bear the name. The Providence is a Flight III boat, the first of the 688's with the Vertical Launch System (VLS) installed. Photo was taken during sea trials somewhere off the Southern New England coast.

Juliett 484 K-77 (Source: Saratoga Museum Foundation)

The Juliett 484 is a 300-foot long, diesel-powered Cold War veteran, moored at Collier Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island. The sub is the centerpiece of The Russian Submarine museum run by the Saratoga Museum Foundation and is open to the public.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

UK Could Extend Vanguard SSBN Lifespan.

The US has already planed to extend the Ohio Class Trident SSBN lifespan from 30 to 42 years. The UK could be taking the US lead and may extend it's Vanguard Class Trident SSBN to a similar length.

From The Herald in the UK "Trident fleet faces stretched lifespan to help curb defence costs"
(Hat tip: NOSI - Naval Open Source Intelligence)

BRITAIN is to try to stretch the operational lifespan of its four Trident missile submarines until at least 2035 to maintain its nuclear deterrent at minimal cost and risk, according to naval sources.

Tony Blair and John Reid, defence secretary, have both insisted recently that no decisions have been taken, but sources say they have already scrapped alternative plans for aircraft or submarine-launched cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.

They have also rejected building a new generation of submarines despite the fact that replacing ageing intercontinental missiles, installing new reactor cores, and redesigning the existing British warheads could cost more than the original £12.2bn paid for the Trident system in the 1990s.

Royal Navy Vanguard SSBN

The lead UK boat is the HMS Vanguard commissioned in 1993. If the lifespan of this class is extended to 2035 this would put it in the same timeframe for replacement as the US Tridents. The last US Trident commissioned was the USS Louisiana SSBN 743 on 9/06/1997.

As of this date, there is no large-scale design or production program in place by either country to replace thier Trident Submarines. The development of a SSBN-X Follow-on to the Trident should start in the next 10 years. This is in order to replace the first of the Tridents to be decommissioned in approximately 2029.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Beer and Submarines - odd google finds

Just for the fun of it, I googled Beer and Submarines and came up some choice links below.

Dutch beer commercial for a Walrus -- Video link -- drink up.

Brit sub layout with Food/Beer storage area.

Beer recovered from the S/S Nicomedia a victim of the The Submarine Massacre of 1915 was reproduced in 2000 and sold as "Wreck Beer" by a Swedish brewery.

A beer and a shot is known as "depth charge" at the following watering holes.

The Submarine Cocktail from Mexico.

Cold beer and Nazi subs in Chicago?

Four from the USS Dace (SSN-604) go through 62 gallons of beer, you'll find at the end of a rather long photo description.

Submarine and Luau Combination with open bar!

AND to sober everyone up read the story of Chris Beer age 18 who wanted to be a RAN submariner. Makes you want to think before you drink.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Alvin (DSV-2) to Start Last Refit

The Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) Alvin is scheduled to start a 6 month refit at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in mid October. This 40 year old sub may be undergoing it's last refit with the new deeper diving $21.6 million Alvin II scheduled to be built and delivered by 2008.

Alvin routinely undergoes a refit about every 3 years where it is completely disassembled down to the (1.9 in.) thick titanium personnel sphere. The DSV recently returned on 10/13 to Woods Hole, MA aboard it's support vessel R/V Atlantis from the Pacific.

Alvin Submerged (Source: NOAA)

The submersible Alvin is owned by the US Navy and operated by WHOI as a national oceanographic facility. The DSV typically makes eight-hour dives transporting two scientists and a pilot as deep as 4,500 meters or 14,764 feet. Specifications on the DSV can be found here.

Alvin has made more than 4,100 dives worldwide in it's forty year history. Of those dives the majority have been for Biology, Geology and Geophysics research. A NOAA streaming video of Alvin being launched from the support ship R/V Atlantis can be found here.

Alvin Drawing (Source: NOAA) Click on graphic for larger view.

Alvin is famous as the Geophysics research vehicle that in 1977 discovered the first hydrothermal vents off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. That discovery lead researchers to about 300 new species of animals, including bacteria, foot-long clams and mussels, tiny shrimp, arthropods, and red-tipped tube worms that can grow up to 10 ft long in some vents. The biological significance being that these creatures were the first discovered to exist totally independent of sunlight for energy and therefore an ecosystem dependent upon the these deep sea hydrothermal vents.

Other significant discoveries, accomplishments and mishaps in Alvin's 40 year history include:

1966 - Alvin assisting in the recovery of a hydrogen bomb lost when the B-52 crashed in the Mediterranean off Palomares, Spain after colliding with a refueling tanker.

1967 - Alvin was attacked by a swordfish on the bottom at about 2,000 feet. The fish became trapped in Alvin’s skin and was brought back to the surface (and cooked for dinner).

1968 - Alvin’s cradle support cables failed and Alvin slid into the water and sank to the bottom in 5,000 feet of water. The pilot sustained minor injuries and escaped while the sub was on the surface. Alvin was recovered a few months later with the assistance of the DSV Aluminaut .

1977 - Alvin discovered the first hydrothermal vents off the coast of the Galapagos Islands.

1980 - Alvin completed its 1,000th dive at the Galapagos Rift

1986 - Alvin made 12 dives to the RMS Titanic to test a prototype robotic vehicle called Jason Jr. and to photographically document the wreck.

A full chronology of Alvin's history can be found here.

Photo of 1974 refit of Alvin where a (1.9 in.) thick titanium pressure sphere replaced the HY-100 steel one, increasing it's certified dive depth (Source: NOAA)

Alvin's pilots typically have engineering degrees. Pilot certification is in some ways like earning your Submarine Dolphins, the U.S. Navy requires pilots to draw—from memory—dozens of the sub’s intricate hydraulic, ballast, electrical, and mechanical components and systems. Alvin's pilots are skilled swimmers assisting in every launch and recovery of the DSV. Additionally they are all mechanics as well as pilots; being required to make shipboard repairs during an expedition.

The sub's name Alvin is in honor of the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. A 2004 NPR audio interview is linked here with Barrie Walden, manager, National Deep Submergence facility at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Alvin' s projected retirement.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Who was Josef Papp?

Josef Papp was a Hungarian-Canadian engineer who in 1966 claimed to have built the worlds fastest submarine with a speed of over 300 MPH.

Papp claimed to have built a unique jet propulsion and engine system that drove his home built submarine at such a high speed that it was enveloped in a bubble of air or supercavitation. He even wrote a book about the submarine's design, construction and sea trial titled "The Fastest Submarine".

The Fastest Submarine?

Papp's story is so fantastic that has been placed in the realm of hoaxes and frauds.

On August 11, 1966, after being missing for a few days from his home in Canada, Joseph Papp was picked up from a life raft by a fishing boat off Brest, France. Bruised, bloodied and dressed in a flight helmet and goggles Papp claims to have just bailed out of his high-speed experimental submarine. When questioned further Papp explains that he had traveled in his sub across the Atlantic solo and in just 13 hours. According to Papp, the submarine had become unstable during the voyage and after he bailed out it sank never to be found.

With no real evidence of his fantastic feat and two round trip plane tickets to France found in his pocket, Papp was quickly dismissed as a prankster.

Josef Papp who died in 1989, was described as an extremely paranoid, very unstable, selfish, and unpredictable man. But this odd man's life has other interesting controversies besides his submarine adventure. Papp was an inventor holding three US patents: "Method and Means for Generating Explosive Forces", "Method and Means of Converting Atomic Energy into Utilizable Kinetic Energy" and "Inert Gas Fuel, Fuel Preparation Apparatus and System for Extracting Useful Work from the Fuel". Joseph Papp's Noble Gas Engine is another fraud that may or may not be a fraud.

Just goes to show you, anyone interested in submarines and atomic energy may not have both oars in the water, but then again they may. Yet another unsolvable controversy ;-)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Russian Submarine Launched Spacecraft - failures

After three previous Submarine launches of spacecraft have failed the Russians were able to have a successful launch yesterday 10/7. But this success after one day was short lived, the headline today "Experimental Russian Spacecraft Missing". Excerpt:

Moscow, Russia (AHN) – Russian authorities are searching for an experimental mini-spacecraft today, just one day after the prototype was test launched from a nuclear submarine. A Russian news agency reports that engineers have had no contact with the Demonstrator spacecraft since its launch on Friday. No signals are being received from the craft. Workers have called off their search for the night and planned to resume at daybreak.

Previous submarine launch failures included a joint Russian-U.S project attempt at deploying the first controlled flight of a solar sail.

Today news includes another Russian failure of a converted land based ICBM launch with a European Space Agency's (ESA) Cryosat satellite aboard.

The Russians did have a successful launch today of a submarine missile with a different purpose in mind.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Auto Airbag Torpedo Launcher

The technology employed in auto airbags is stable, reliable and cost effective so why not use it to launch a torpedo.

Sea Corp. a local company here in Rhode Island has developed and tested such a system in the past year. In the spring of 2004 the company tested such a system aboard the Martha’s Vineyard High Speed Ferry. During the five day test 31 launches were made of torpedo and countermeasure shapes at speeds up to 35 knots. Here’s a link to their R&D page describing their Advanced Surface Launcher (ASL) system’s development. Also on the page there is a streaming video of one of their test launches (Link here – warning loads slow about a minute with broadband).

When I watched the streaming video a few thoughts came to mind.

One was obviously that the system may be employed on the Navy’s new LCS (Fast Ferry ;-) class of ships under development. A second would be a possible method for celebrities to take out those annoying Paparazzi on their way to "The Vineyard". Lastly, the locals may need to take down a number of environmentally unfriendly structures proposed for Nantucket Sound that they seem to have a problem with.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bioluminescent Organisms "Milk Sea"

The chemical-based light given off by some sea creatures is known as bioluminescence. Disturbing a concentration of bioluminescent organisms will produce a trail of light for anything from a dolphin to a submarine periscope passing through it. Therefore, bioluminescence can gave away the position of a submarine operating on or near the surface by leaving a tell tail glow in the ship's wake.

Depending on the concentration of these glowing organisms, a ship's wake may be visible for up to 6 nautical miles. In 1918, it was bioluminescence that gave away the position of the last German U-boat sunk during World War I.

The Navy is therefore interested in studying bioluminescence and it's Naval Research Laboratory scientists recently confirmed the existence of a phenomenon known as a "Milk Sea".

There have been 235 documented sightings of milky seas since 1915 but up until now there has been no real photograpic evidence of bioluminescence on such a large scale. However, The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program has captured an image of a "milk sea" the size of Connecticut in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia.

Milky Sea (Source: Naval Research Laboratory - Dr. Steven Miller)

A report in Live Science "Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos" states the following:

Scientists suspect bioluminescent bacteria are behind the phenomenon. Such creatures produce a continuous glow, in contrast to the brief, bright flashes of light produced by "dinoflagellate" bioluminescent organims that are seen more commonly lighting up ship wakes and breaking waves.

"The problem with the bacteria hypothesis is that an extremely high concentration of bacteria must exist before they begin to produce light," Miller told LiveScience. "But what could possibly support the occurrence of such a large population?"

One idea, put forward by the lone research vessel to ever encounter a milky sea, is that the bacteria are not free-living, but instead are living off some local supporting "substrate."

"This previous excursion reported the presence of bioluminescent bacteria, which were found to be living in association with an algal bloom," Miller explained.

So it appears that a "Milk Sea" could be caused by high concentrations of bioluminescent bacteria independent of a disturbance, but what can be witnessed in a ship's wake are tiny bioluminescent organisms like jellyfish.

Bioluminescent Jellyfish (Source: NOAA)

The "Milk Sea" phenomenon is found primarily in the Indian Ocean, where as, bioluminescence can be found in all oceans throughout the world. Research into understanding bioluminescence and possibly forecasting it's occurrence could help US Submarines operating in littoral waters avoid detection as well as improve anti-submarine warfare against our adversaries.

Monday, October 03, 2005

When a political blog does ocean science – you get?

I don't do the political blog thing and try to keep it to submarine topics, science and technology. But what would you get if you did mostly the political thing and then posted an off beat ocean science piece?

Well, read through this The Huffington Post post's comments about Fabien Cousteau's new method to study Great White Sharks. Lesbianism, bible humping, Dick Cheney, President Bush and terrorists all rolled into one.
Some days even googling a science topic gets you foul mouthed political noise. Smells like rotting fish, time to Move On. (Pun intended)

FYI, here is a link to a news piece on Fabien Cousteau's new submersible.