September 14, 2017

Australia (with US cooperation) Active in LIBs Research for Submarines

Thermal runaway in Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) in submarines 
 has been a serious problem as US testing in November 2008 (see below) revealed. The above artwork concerns destructive phases through heat buildup in LIBs in hearing aids. (Courtesy Hearing Health & Technology Matters)

Many countries (from Europe to Northeast Asia and the US) are carrying out Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) research for submarines.

Australia is also active in research on LIBs for submarines. Australia’s Department of Defence’s multi-faceted research organisation, the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group is active in LIB safety research. 

In one of the activities DST's Defence researcher, Kane Ivory, is establishing DST’s LIB Safety Research Facility - on DST's website see an article Powering the Future of Submarine Fleets of 

The US Navy and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had bad experiences with LIBs way back in November 2008 under the now cancelled Advanced SEAL Delivery Vehicle (ASDS) program. The prototype (ASDS-1) "was having its lithium-ion batteries charged Nov. 9 when an explosion started a battery fire that burned for about six hours. No one was aboard the 60-ton craft, which was on shore at its base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii...The incident came at a key time for the [ASDS] mini-sub program. The ASDS was to have deployed in November [on top of] the guided-missile submarine [USS Michigan (SSGN-727)] — the first SSGN deployment for the [ASDS mini-sub]." 

As well as LIBs for mini-subs and UUVs the US Navy may want to eventually use LIBs as backup batteries in nuclear submarines. 

US-Australian cooperation in defence research is revealed by a US Navy document regarding Ken Ivory’s secondment, in 2016 to the US, under the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP). The US document indicates:

"Kane is here working with us on understanding how that safety program works and the types of tests and approaches to testing we have to see what is applicable to Australia," Fuentevilla said. "One common area of interest for Australia and the United States is early fault detection for lithium battery failures. Normal battery management systems will detect a fault or failure as it's happening, but not necessarily with sufficient time to prevent system-level hazards. We're looking at technologies that would provide additional early warning so that you can effectively implement hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a small problem from becoming a bigger problem."


September 13, 2017

September 2017 Report to Donors - Disruptions to Australian Shipbuilding Plans

Hi Donors

I've just emailed out Submarine Matters September 2017 Donor Report: 

Titled - Disruptions to Australian Shipbuilding Plans

Please check your spam bin if you don't see it in your IN box.

Leadin to report:

Timeline illustrates the Coalition Government’s best laid plans of an unprecedented peacetime boost to naval shipbuilding. The strategy is clearly Osborne, Adelaide, South Australia centric. See short Factsheet. But like all things political it is subject to change. (Timeline artwork courtesy Australian Government's Naval Shipbuilding Plan May 2017, page 15) 


Submarine Matters International

September 6, 2017

Updated Table of Japan's Soryu & Oyashio Submarine Program: Admiral Kobayashi

On September 4, 2017 Anonymous provided new information here and here updating Submarine Matter's Amended Improvements & Higher Costs of Soryu Mark IIs Over Mark Is of August 21, 2017

 TABLE - SORYU & Oyashio Program as at September 6, 2017 

Build No
MoF approved amount ¥
Billions FY
Laid Down
5SS Oyashio
8105 Oyashio
SS-590/ TS3608
¥52.2B FY1993
LABs only
 Jan 1994
Oct 1996
Mar 1998
10 subs
¥52.2B per sub
LABs only
 15SS Feb
Mar 2008
Soryu Mk 1
¥60B FY2004
Mar 2005
Dec 2007
¥58.7B FY2005
Mar 2006
Oct 2008
¥56.2 FY2006
Feb 2007
Oct 2009
¥53B FY2007
Mar 2008
Nov 2010
¥51B FY2008
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
No 21SS built
¥52.8B FY2010
Jan 2011
Oct 2013
¥54.6B FY2011
Feb 2012
Oct 2014
7 Mar 2016
¥54.7B FY2012
¥53.1B FY2013
22 Oct 2013
12 Oct   2016
Mar? 2018
Mar 2019?
27SS First
Soryu Mk 2
LIBs only
28SS  Second
Soryu Mark 2
¥63.6B FY2016
LIBs only
Mar 2021?
29SS First Soryu Mk 3
(1) (3)
¥76B FY2017
LIBs only
30SS Second Soryu Mk 3 (2)
¥71.5B FY2018
LIBs only
Table from information exclusively provided to Submarine MattersLABs = lead-acid batteries, AIP = air independent propulsion, LIBs = lithium-ion batteries. ¥***B = Billion Yen. MHI = Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, KHI Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation of Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) announced the Financial Year FY 2018 budget on August 31, 2017. Based on the FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets, the SORYU & Oyashio Program Table (above) can be revised (in red) as follows.

(1) Correction of 29SS; i) “Build No” is 8128; “[the Japanese Ministry of Finance (MoF)] approved amount Yen Billions & FY” is JPY 76 (7.6*)B FY2017.

(2) Addition of 30SS; i) “Build No” is 8029?; MoF approved amount Yen Billions & FY” is JPY 71.5 (2.3*)B FY2018 (submitted).

* Figure in bracket is the first year cost, such as new equipment, and is excluded from the FY budget number. In other words, the real budgets for 29SS and 30SS are 83.6 (=76 + 7.6) and 73.8 (=71.5 + 2.3) JPY B (Billion Japanese Yen), respectively. The first year cost for both 29SS and 30SS recognises that the builders of the two submarines are different.

According to the MOD, first year costs include i) design, ii) test, iii) technical collaboration, and iv) acquisition costs. These costs exclude jigs/tools, machines and equipment. These costs are related to the first year procurement and are specially required for production. 

The first year cost of 29SS (ie. 7.6 B JPY) is much higher than 30SS (2.3 B JPY). One major cost component may be design. The design cost of 29SS is obviously higher than 30SS.

(3) For application in future 29SS-type submarine, a budget for the study of a new silent driving system has been submitted.

Research on the quiet propulsion (or silent driving?) system and hull shape are considered budgeting. The results of previous research will be applied to 29SS-type submarine. An issue remains whether 29SS type submarines can be called Soryu Mark 3 or Soryu Mark 4. A submarine class that follows the Soryus will likely be based on additional research.

Reported in the Japanese language publication SHIPS OF THE WORLD, October 2017 - the ex-commander of the submarine fleet Admiral (retired) Masao Kobayashi (photo and bio details below from Submarine Matters' records) has revealed that 29SS is an upgraded version of the Soryu, with improved LIBs, improved sonars and other performance improvements. So 29SS and 30SS can be considered Soryu Mark 3s.

 Vice Admiral Masao KOBAYASHI, JMSDF (Retired)  

Masao KOBAYASHI has performed as an adviser to Japan's National Security Council. He graduated from the Japanese Defense Academy in 1973 and commenced a career in the JMSDF submarine service. He held many posts in the submarine force.

Shore billets included Submarine Branch Head in the Ship Systems Section in the Maritime Staff Office and Operations Officer in the Fleet Submarine Force.

He has commanded TAKASHIO SS-571 (Uzushio class submarine), and was Commander of Submarine Division Two. In 2001/2 he was the Commander of Submarine Flotilla One, and was Coordinator of Exercise at sea for Pacific Reach 2002.

Masao’s last post was as Commander of the Fleet Submarine Force (2007 - 2009). He retired from the JMSDF in 2009. Vice Admiral KOBAYASHI served with distinction in the JMSDF and is well regarded as an authority in the international submariner community. 

Anonymous and Pete

September 5, 2017

Saab Kockums Concept Proposal of Three A26 SSK Variants

Kockums, since it returned to Swedish ownership (bought by Saab) in July 2014, has been trying to find foreign buyers for the A26 and variants. In 2014 a variant concept was the 4,000 ton Type 612, which Kockums attempted to market to Australia in the future submarine (SEA 1000) competition. France's DCNS (now Naval Group) won the Australian competition. 

So Saab Kockums is still searching for foreign customers, but, the market has many competing submarine suppliers. Kockum's is now attempting to sell the A26 in three sizes.

Navyrecognition provided details on August 31, 2017 concerning Saab Kockums concept proposal of three A26 SSK variants (illustrated at Artwork A. below).

Artwork A. Saab Kockums August 31, 2017 concept proposal of three A26 SSK variants.  Artwork courtesy Saab Kockums via navyrecognition

Pete Comment/Background

Using the Saab via navyrecognition details the three A26 variants in Artwork A consist of:

The "Pelagic" (Open Sea) variant can perhaps relate to Baltic, Mediterranean, Arabian and Caribbian Sea use. This variant is small – 50m long, about 1,000 tons (surfaced), 4,000nm range at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 20 days assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 17 to 25. Saab Kockums may have the best chance of selling these small submarines to smaller navy customers including those who use subs for non-state threats, eg. Canada and Latin American countries in alliance with the US countering drug smuggling.

The Oceanic variant is the "baseline" A26 with two being built for the Swedish Navy. A26 Oceanic is 65m long, around 1,900 tons to 2,000 tons (surfaced), range over 6,500nm at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 30 day assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 17 to 35. [Presumably around 10 Special Forces can be accomodated?]. I assume four A26 Oceanic variants of approximately 2,300 tons (surfaced) are being offered to the Dutch Navy as Walrus replacements.

The Oceanic (Extended Range) variant is a stretched version A26. It is longer than 80m, over 3,000 tons (surfaced). Range is over 10,000nm at 10 knots. Endurance at patrol speed is over 50 days assisted by the AIP module. Standard complement is 20 to 50. [Presumably around 10 Special Forces can be accomodated?]. 

Saab Kockums will have a battle selling the Oceanic and Oceanic (Extended Range) variants given TKMS is already established selling larger than the usual (1,800 ton submarines) to Israel, Singapore and designs to South Korea. India may be the best remaining slightly large  submarine customer under Project 75I.

Artwork B. Saab Kockums concept proposal of the Vertical Launch System (VLS) or Vertical Multi-Purpose Lock (VMPL) module(s) option that can be fitted to A26 SSK variants. Artwork courtesy Saab Kockums via navyrecognition.


September 4, 2017

Sniffer Aircraft May Have Pointed to North Korea Nuclear Device Being Thermonuclear

Intelligence agencies are using not yet public sniffer test results to conclude the September 3, 2017 North Korean nuclear test was thermonuclear. Further confirmation is based arount the power of the 6.3 magnitude nuclear earthquake leading to a thermonuclear range estimated yield of 100 kilotons or higher (various estimates).

Three or more Japanese Air Force T-4 intermediate jet trainers have already been used as “sniffer” aircraft to collect radioactive dust (eg. tritiumdeuterium and lithium-6 deuteride) and noble gases. The T-4s probably use external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper. This is an advance over using a much larger, labor intensive, US Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft.

Some authorities limit the definition of thermonuclear weapon to a two stage weapon where the detonation of a primary fission stage sets off a secondary nuclear fusion stage. But a broader definition also encompasses a boosted fission weapon - typically a bomb using a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the explosive rate, and thus yield, of a fission reaction.

Photo of North Korean leader inspecting a device which looks like a thermonuclear weapon The photo was released a few hours before the test. See very useful BBC commentatry on physical aspects of the Kim-Bomb photo.


September 1, 2017

India's New SSBN, INS Aridhaman, and its Nuclear Missiles

INS Arihant (4 vertical missile tubes) is acting as a missile testbed for some missiles that INS Aridhaman (8 tubes) will eventually deploy (Graphic courtesy DRDO, H I Sutton and The Diplomat via several publications, eg. the Dhaka Tribune).

Following INS Aridhaman's (probably) Symbolic Launch late 2017 Ghalib Kabir has provided additional comments . When added to Pete's research based mainly on footnote [1] this yields:


The imminent (symbolic "soft"[2]) launch of INS Aridhaman has been a strong rumor since April 2017 at least (not surprising considering the construction work since 2011). Ghalib would wager that the 'proper' ["hard"] launch is likely in early 2018, then sea trials by early 2020, with commissioning by late 2021. 

Nuclear Tipped Missiles

Ghalib hopes India retains the 8 vertical launch tube format for the 3,500 km range, 17t, 12m long K-4 SLBM layout. [Pete estimates the K-15 "Sagarika" may be used on Aridhaman for several years (to 2025?) before the K-4 is a mature missile system.] But the K-15 has many deficiencies including a short 800km range useless [against the city of Islamabad and China] with a light (up to 800kg) warhead. [Pete - Even India's Nirbhay cruise missile has a longer range of 1,500km.] Ghalib hears that the current concept of the K-5 SLBM might have 3 MIRVs per missile [3]. [Pete - However some doubt India is trying to develop MIRVs at thiis stage] [4] Initially the K-4 missiles might carry a single warhead only (like a Pu boosted fission device) [Pete - or 2 stage mainly fusion?].

Submarine Reactor Development

Russia's VM-5 [5] reactor (used on Russia's one and only Project 661 class test SSN (K-222) formed the on land (at Kalpakkam near Chennai) testbed for Ariahant's 83 MWt reactor. Russian assistance allegedly stopped in 2015-16. The VM-5 design probably formed the basis for some Indian submarine reactor improvements resulting in Aridhaman's reactor being uprated to 100 MWt.

Ghalib comments - according to Indian scientists more than 'Know-how' it was Russian 'Show-how' [of a submarine reactor and other nuclear submarine technology] that was more useful. I think thats the key here. To be 'shown how' makes for the actual breakthrough. See Page 135 of this book talks of Russia and Arihant's 83 MWt reactor:

Further reading on the special Russian-Indian nuclear submarine relationship is at [6] and [7] below.


[1]  Information on Indian SSBNs and SLBMs are on pages 130 to 138 of Peter Lobner’s “60 Years of Marine Nuclear Power: 1955-2015 – Part 4 – Other Nuclear Marine Nations”, dated August 2015, large PDF (around 20MB)

[2]  "soft launch" is when a submarine under construction stays on dry land after the "launch" ceremony or is launched into the water but is then returned to dry land for further construction. 
A well documented example of a soft launch was when  HMAS Collins was launched into the water on August 28, 1993 to meet a political schedule. When launched Collins was incomplete with the design not even finalised. At “launch” on August 28, 1993 important internal pipes and fittings were not installed, the components of the combat system had yet to be delivered, and some hull sections were actually sheets of timber painted black so the submarine would appear complete in photographs of the launching ceremony.  Within weeks of the “launch”, Collins was removed from the water, and it was not until June 1994 that the submarine was completed then really “hard” launched.]

[3] If the K-5 is closely based on the Agni V then the K-5 may eventually have 3 to 10 MIRVs per missile. Also the follow-on K-6 may have 10 MIRVs (See Agni VI wiki and right sidebar).

[4] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris “Indian nuclear forces” in Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 2017 Vol. 73, No. 4 page 5 (208) argue that India has to prioritise given the limited payloads/range of Agno V and VI missiles. India may prefer to at least be capable of hitting distant targets (read targets in northeast China eg. Beijing) with a single warhead per missile rather than having MIRVs which would prevent Agni V/VI's hitting Beijing. 

[5] Pete is puzzled the right sidebar for K-222's VM-5m records:
"2 × VM-5m type pressurised water reactors, 177.4 MW (237,897 hp)
2 × steam turbines, 2 shafts
80,000 shp (60 MW)"
How can that data be converted to one reactor of 100 MWt?

[6] Verghese Koithara, Managing India's Nuclear Forces, link.

[7]  Rakesh Krishnan Simha in “Arihant: How Russia helped deliver India’s baby boomer” Russia & India Report, 26 October 2015 “As India’s first nuclear powered submarine prepares for its maiden missile launch, a look at the extent of Russian assistance in the Arihant project.”

Ghalib Kabir, Pete and the Authors cited

August 31, 2017

INS Aridhaman's (probably) Symbolic Launch late 2017

Artist's rendering of the future INS AridhamanDiagram courtesy Indian Defence Research Wing (IDRW)

The following is partly based on Ghalib Kabir's comments of 28 to 29 August 2017 mixed with Pete’s research.

India's future SSBN INS Aridhaman has been under construction at the Ship Building Centre in Visakhapatnam since 2011.  Aridhaman might be symbolically launched in late 2017. Actual  launch (into the water for fitting out) may be in 2018. Then would follow harbor trials and sea trials for 2 years with commissioning expected sometime in 2020 or 2021.

Aridhaman is the second in the Arihant class and is larger than INS Arihant. While Arihant only has 4 large launch tubes Aridhaman has 8 making Aridhaman more useful as an SSBN. Each launch tube will be able to  carry 3 K-15 Sagarika missiles (total of 24) with a range of 750 km or a total of 8 future K-4 missiles (with a range of 3,500 km)
Aridhaman length and displacement will increase due to the 4 extra launch tubes, a longer more powerful reactor, extra crew, more powerful sonars and other mission critical equipment. Aridhaman  may be 125m long and 7,000 tonnes (surfaced) larger than INS Arihant’s 111m and 6,000 tonnes (surfaced). Aridhaman's dimention would be very similar to the no longer operating US Ethan Allan class (at 125m long/7,000 tonnes). 
Aridhaman will have one seven-blade propeller powered by a PWR reactor. INS Arihant has a 83 MWt (12 MWe, 16,000 shp) reactor while Aridhaman may have a 100 MWt reactor (approx 16 MWe or 20,000+ shp)

The increase in power of Aridhaman's 100 MWt reactor may be achieved by many means including:
-  larger size 
-  higher HEU than the usual 40% for Indian nuclear subs (see page 67 of this pdf) and
-  higher steam pressure

If the reactor heavily relies on Russian design assistance then Russia’s VM-4 reactor (70-90 MWt) may be an influence. Alternatively India's advanced nuclear complexes (especially that at Kalpakkam) might have allowed India to develop the 100 MWt reactor without Russian help. 

Another INS Aridhaman image (courtesy Defense News).

Ghalib Kabir and Pete

August 29, 2017

North Korean Missile Test Over Japan (the 3rd in 20 years)


MAP B - Path of missile over Japan. The missile was perhaps a Hwasong-12 (aka KN-17) IRBM according to some analysts (Map courtesy Agency France Press (AFP) via UK Telegraph)

North Korea's test of a missile over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido (maps above) in the last 24 hours is not the first North Korean missile test over Japanese territory. The main difference is that  North Korea is now suspected (over the last few months) of being capable of building miniaturised nuclear warheads that would fit onto missiles.

Previous missile tests over Japanese territory, include:

-  In December 2012 North Korea fired a missile over the Japanese territory of Okinawa.

-  In August 1998: North Korea fired a suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. 
   North Korea called the payload a satellite.

Are there other proven or suspected tests over Japan?

It is not known if North Korea gave Japanese authorities prior warning of this latest (August 2017) test?