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4 février 2015 3 04 /02 /février /2015 08:40
Russia Faces A Fleetless Future


February 3, 2015:  Strategy Page


The Russian Navy is disappearing and press releases and promises are not changing that. For example in 2012 Russia announced that its SSBNs (nuclear powered ballistic missile boats) would resume long range "combat patrols" that year. That didn’t happen. Before 2012 there had been only about ten such patrols a year, each lasting three months or less. Most did not go far from Russian coastal waters and some were not even made by SSBNs.


The problem here is that the Russian Navy has not only shrunk since the end of the Cold War in 1991 but it has also become much less active. Since the 1990s fewer and fewer of their nuclear subs went to sea on combat patrols. Most of the boats going to sea were SSNs (attack subs), not SSBNs. Most of these trips were short range training missions, which often lasted a few days, or just a few hours. But the true measure of a fleet is the "combat patrol" or "deployment." In the U.S. Navy most of these last from 2-6 months. In the last decade U.S. nuclear subs have carried out ten times as many patrols as their Russian counterparts.


Despite lots of effort (fiscal and otherwise) the Russian Navy is not being rebuilt and that means it is fading away. No amount of media razzle dazzle will replace the actual presence of your warships in distant waters. In the last few years the only such appearances have been mainly for show and the few that occurred were heavily covered by the Russian media.


On paper the Russian Navy currently has 270 combat ships (including amphibious and combat support vessels). But only about half of these are in any shape to go to sea. The rest are too old, and usually too poorly maintained for too many years, to leave port. Russian shipyards are terrible at building or repairing ships and efforts to remedy this have so far failed. Thus only about 15 percent of Russian naval vessels are major surface warships or submarines. In comparison the U.S. Navy has 290 warships and about 85 percent can go to sea (the others are being upgraded or repaired.)


In the last decade most of the Russian investment in ships has gone to maintaining submarines or building a few new ones.  Currently, Russia only has 14 SSBN (nuclear ballistic missile sub) boats in service and not all of them have a full load of missiles. Some lack full crews or have key systems in need of repair. Twelve of the SSBNs are Delta IVs, which are overdue for retirement and rarely got to sea. Russia has only 15 modern, 7,000 ton, Akula SSNs (nuclear attack subs) in service. Actually only nine are in service plus another that has been leased to India. The rest are in “reserve” for lack of money and crews. The Akulas began building in the late 1980s and are roughly comparable to the American Los Angeles class. All of the earlier Russian SSNs are trash (by current standards) and most have been decommissioned. The Chinese still have a few SSNs similar to these older Russian designs and when encountered it is surprising to young sailors manning the sonar how loud and easy to find they are.


Currently, the U.S. has 11 of the new, 7,700 ton, Virginia class SSNs in service, two getting ready to enter service and 17 more planned. The mainstay of the American submarine force is still the 6,100 ton Los Angeles-class SSN. Sixty-two of these submarines were built, 40 of which remain in front-line service, making it probably the largest class of nuclear submarines that will ever be built. The Seawolf-class of nuclear attack submarines stopped at three from a planned class of twenty-nine. The 8,600 ton Seawolf was designed as a super-submarine, designed to fight the Soviet Navy at its height. Reportedly, it is quieter going 40 kilometers an hour than the Los Angeles-class submarines are at pier side.


The Cold War spurred an arms race between the Russian and American navies. Thus the peak year for Russian nuclear sub patrols was 1984, when there were 230. That number rapidly declined until, in 2002, there were none. Since the late 1990s, the Russian navy has been hustling to try and reverse this decline. But the navy budget, despite recent increases, is not large enough to build new ships to replace the current Cold War era fleet that is falling apart. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, most of the ship building money has gone into new nuclear subs. Six Akulas have been completed in that time. Two of a new generation of SSBNs, the Borei class were completed but prevented from entering service by continued technical problems with a new ballistic missile and lack of money. The first two Borei class boats ended up costing over two billion dollars each. The ballistic missile for the Borei was just approved in 2014 there won't be enough of them to fill all the Borei silos until 2015 or 2106 (or later).


The Russian admirals made their big mistake in the early 1990s when the dismantling of the Soviet Union left the second largest fleet in the world with only a fraction of its Cold War budget. Rather than immediately retire ninety percent of those ships, Russia tried to keep many of them operational. This consumed most of the navy budget and didn't work. There were too many ships, not enough sailors and not enough money for maintenance or training at sea. By the late 1990s the mighty Soviet fleet was mostly scrap or rusting hulks tied up at crumbling out-of-the way naval bases.


While Western nuclear subs can last for about thirty years Russian models rarely get past twenty. That means two new SSN or SSGN have to be put into service each year to maintain a force of forty Russian boats. Unless the sub construction budget get billions more dollars a year, that is not going to happen. Right now, the priority is on producing a new class of SSBNs (6 more Boreis are planned or under construction). These Boreis are essential because they carry SLBMs that provide a critical (they are much harder to destroy in a first strike than land based missiles) portion of the nuclear deterrent. The rest of the Russian armed forces, like most of the navy, are in sad shape and unable to resist a major invasion. Only the ICBMs and SLBMs guarantee the safety of the state. So the way things are going now, in a decade or two, Russia will end up with a force consisting of a dozen SSNs and a dozen SSBNs.


The current Russian fleet of nuclear subs is tiny and the Russians would rather keep them tied up at dock most of the time. The crews can do a lot of training at dockside, and only go to sea a few times a year to check on their state of training. Given the number of accidents their subs have had in the past decade, the training the crews are getting now is not sufficient. Russia is still building new subs, but very slowly and in spite of incompetence and poor workmanship in the shipyards. The only new surface ships in the last decade have been small (under 2,000 tons) corvette types, good mainly for coastal patrol. Even smaller missile boats are also being built, in small numbers and again only really useful in coastal waters.


The current economic sanctions on Russia (over the attacks on neighbors like Ukraine) and plunging oil prices prevent any progress on halting the further decline of the navy.

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21 décembre 2014 7 21 /12 /décembre /2014 20:35
INS Arihant leaving Visakhapatnam harbour (dec 2014) - source Livefist

INS Arihant leaving Visakhapatnam harbour (dec 2014) - source Livefist

18.12.2014 Livefist

I've been watching this video on loop for an hour. Don't really care that the actual clip is only a few seconds long. This is awesome because it's the first public video of India's Arihant nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, scooped by local journalists for India's Zee News network. Here she is escorted out of the Vizag naval harbour area on Monday. (And yes, that's clearly a P17 class stealth frigate in the foreground).

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16 décembre 2014 2 16 /12 /décembre /2014 18:35
The indigenously built nuclear-powered ballistic submarine INS Arihant seen off Visakhapatnam on Monday. Photo: K.R. Deepak

The indigenously built nuclear-powered ballistic submarine INS Arihant seen off Visakhapatnam on Monday. Photo: K.R. Deepak

15.12.2014 by Livefiist

Staff photographer with The Hindu newspaper scoops this great shot of Arihant, India's indigenously developed nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine as it pushes out to sea today for long-awaited sea trials in the Bay of Bengal. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was in Visakhapatnam for the cast-off ceremony. Love the fuzzy picture, the first photograph of the Arihant's entire surfaced silhouette!

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26 mars 2014 3 26 /03 /mars /2014 08:35
Type 094 Jin class SSBN

Type 094 Jin class SSBN


25 mars 2014 lapresse.ca


La Chine devrait disposer pour la première fois d'une force de sous-marins nucléaires lanceurs d'engins «crédible» avant la fin de l'année, a mis en garde mardi le commandant des forces américaines en Asie-Pacifique, l'amiral Samuel Locklear.

«Les progrès de la Chine en matière de capacités sous-marines sont significatifs. Ils possèdent une force importante et de plus en plus capable», a déclaré l'amiral devant la commission des Forces armées du Sénat.

Évoquant le déploiement opérationnel attendu cette année des sous-marins nucléaires lanceurs d'engins (SNLE) de classe Jin, Pékin dispose d'un «nouveau missile (nucléaire) dont la portée est de plus de 7500 km», selon lui.

«Cela donnera à la Chine pour la première fois une capacité de dissuasion en mer crédible, probablement avant la fin de 2014», a-t-il confié.

Fin octobre, les médias chinois avaient dévoilé des images de sa très secrète flotte de sous-marins nucléaires, traduisant le besoin pour la puissance chinoise de posséder «un arsenal nucléaire de deuxième frappe crédible», selon le Global Times.

Pékin ne pouvait compter jusque-là que sur ses missiles balistiques intercontinentaux basés à terre et donc susceptibles d'être détruits avant d'être utilisés.

Pour l'amiral Locklear, la puissance sous-marine chinoise en cours de modernisation est «incroyable». «Ils auront au cours de la prochaine décennie une force assez bien modernisée de 60 à 70 sous-marins, ce qui est beaucoup pour une puissance régionale», selon lui.

À l'heure actuelle, Pékin peut compter sur cinq sous-marins nucléaires d'attaque, quatre sous-marins nucléaires lanceurs d'engins et 53 sous-marins diesel, selon Jesse Karotkin, spécialiste de la Chine au Bureau du renseignement naval (ONI).

Entre 1995 et 2012, Pékin a mis en service une moyenne de 2,9 sous-marins par an, selon le Service de recherche du Congrès.

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16 novembre 2012 5 16 /11 /novembre /2012 12:30

Defense.gov News Adm. Mullen departs the PLA Navy submarine


November 14, 2012 China Military News


2012-11-13 ( from popularmechanics.com and by Joe Pappalardo)  — The U.S. government is reporting that China, after decades of trying, is on the verge of fielding a true underwater leg of its nuclear deterrent, with new long-range missiles tipped with nuclear weapons on board its fleet of new long-range submarines. And that could transform the Pacific into a tense militarized zone reminiscent of the Atlantic during the Cold War.


On November 14 the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will release its annual report to Congress, and that report will contain some sobering language about new Julang-2 missiles China plans to field in two years. (Drafts of the report, created by a Congressional mandate, have already been leaked.)


According to the report, JIN-class submarines, two of which have already been put to sea, would carry nuclear tipped missiles. Naval intelligence documents estimate five such submarines will be ready for service. The submarines and the JL-2 missile combination will give Chinese forces “a near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent,” according to the report, and Beijing is “on the cusp of attaining a credible nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear bombs.”


The Pentagon has watched warily as China has ramped up its submarine fleet, which helps the nation secure its economically vital sea lanes and protect its coastlines from incursion. China has quiet, diesel–electric submarines to lay mines and shoot missiles during combat close to their shores. But the larger, nuclear-powered subs are a newer acquisition, and arming them with nukes poses a different kind of threat to the United States and global powers such as Russia and India.


Sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are hard to spot until they shoot, making them the ideal second-strike weapon in a nuclear exchange. The Pentagon knows where all of China’s ICBM silos are and could wipe them out in a preemptive nuke strike if the nations came to blows. But subs need to be identified, tracked, and sunk. So, having submarines with nukes in their firing tubes makes China a more credible nuclear threat. That threat backs up every diplomatic, geopolitical, and military action of the government—a government whose goals are often at odds with those of the U.S. government.


What will the U.S. do about this new threat?


There will be some underwater cat-and-mouse games played in the Pacific. U.S. submarines will likely be waiting when American satellites spot a Chinese sub leaving the port. (Those subs will be visible in the shallows between Yulin Naval Base and deep water.) “Some U.S. attack submarines probably will follow the Chinese submarines if and when they deploy,” says Hans Kristensen, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. “Part of those operations will be to learn more about noise level and operational patterns.”


The range of the JL-2 is about 4500 miles. That means the sub’s missiles can’t target the continental United States from the Chinese coast. They could hit Los Angeles from a position 1000 miles west of Hawaii, while Washington, D.C., would be in range only if the submarine could sneak its way to a position about 1500 miles from the West Coast.


That’s the trick for these subs: surviving outside Chinese waters. Japan and America have assets in the Pacific that could detect submarines; a Chinese skipper would have to hide from them to get close enough to take a shot at the continental United States. And Christensen cites Office of Naval Intelligence reports that say the JIN submarines are less stealthy than Russian submarines built two decades ago. “They are too noisy to slip through U.S. antisubmarine networks,” he says. “The U.S. submarine community trained for more than 60 years to track nuclear-powered ballistic submarines . . . Given that record, I’d be surprise if China’s would live for long in a war. To me, they would be sitting ducks.”


However, American antisubmarine capabilities have waned since the Cold War. The United States will be decreasing its number of attack submarines, but those that remain will be operating in the Pacific—the Pentagon has already deployed more attack subs to Guam and Hawaii. The Littoral Combat Ship, a troubled Navy program, is expected to have antisubmarine capabilities, but those ships (as the name implies) are made to dominate shallow water.


Furthermore, last week news leaked that the Navy plans to cut nearly one-quarter of its highly specialized multi-intelligence aircraft in the next few years, including the P3C Orion sub-hunting airplane. It does have sub-tracking replacements coming online, such as the P-8A Poseidon, a converted 747 that can drop sonobuoys to detect subs, and torpedoes to sink them. But coverage may be thin. The Navy will have only about 50 P-8As to do the job formerly done by 200 P-3Cs.


During the Cold War, the Navy tracked Soviet subs using a network of underwater microphones called the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). This is still functioning, albeit with fewer sensors, in the Pacific. The Pentagon is working on next-generation tracking technology that could help mitigate the China sub threat. The Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting program, run by DARPA, is creating a maritime version of a satellite. These robotic listening posts could operate in shallow or deep water, and possibly follow enemy subs once they’d been detected.


The last-ditch defense against these missile threats are ground-based interceptors in Alaska, built to thwart an ICBM launch from North Korea. They could target the warheads fired from a submarine, Kristensen says, if the warheads were launched from far enough away.

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30 septembre 2011 5 30 /09 /septembre /2011 06:55



September 29, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE


The Russian nuclear submarine fleet will be reduced to about 30 boats in a few years. Russian rulers, and any citizens who care to dig around the Internet, have been aware of this trend for over a decade. The admirals have had a hard time getting anyone excited about this, even when it was pointed out that, twenty years ago, Russia (then the Soviet Union) had a nuclear sub fleet larger (at 180 boats) than that of the United States (150 subs). Since 1991, the U.S. sub force has also shrunk, but only by about half.  The U.S. sub fleet is now nearly twice as large, and the Americans are building more each year than Russia, although not enough to prevent the American fleet from gradually shrinking. The Russians are currently mostly concerned with replacing SSBNs (ballistic missile carrying nuclear subs) and boats that carry anti-ship missiles (for handling aircraft carriers.) The admirals admit, at least among themselves, that this is all they are likely to get.


In the last few years, the Russian public has becoming aware of the fact that they won't have much of a navy in 5-10 years. There has been no public outcry over this. Russia has never been a great naval power, and whenever it tried to be, the effort was expensive and ultimately disastrous. Most Russians have more pressing concerns than the size of the fleet.


The basic problem is that, in the last two decades, very few ships were built, and most of the Cold War era warships that now comprise the fleet, will have to be retired. These ships are falling apart, as there was not any money, since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, for repairs and upgrades. Some Russian politicians are calling for more money, to build enough surface ships to maintain a respectable fleet. That is proving difficult, particularly because of the lack of popular support for such an effort. Then there's the problem that most of Russians warship building capability has disappeared since 1991.


For the last two decades, most of the Russian naval construction effort went into finishing a few subs, and building some surface ships for export. In the last decade, some effort was put into building new surface ships. Thus there is a new class of 4,500 ton frigates (the Gorshkov class), but only a few are being built or planned. The Gorshkov's have a 130mm gun, plus anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The navy wants at least a dozen of these 4,500 ton ships, but the money has not been provided yet.


There are two Stereguschyy class corvettes in service, with five more building. These are small ships (2,100 tons displacement), costing about $125 million each. These "Project 20380" ships have impressive armament (two 30mm anti-missile cannon, one 100mm cannon, eight anti-ship missiles, six anti-submarine missiles, two eight cell anti-missile missile launchers). There is a helicopter platform, but the ship is not designed to carry one regularly. Crew size, of one hundred officers and sailors, is achieved by a large degree of automation. The ship also carries air search and navigation radars. It can cruise 6,500 kilometers on one load of fuel. Normally, the ship would stay out 7-10 days at a time, unless it received replenishment at sea. Like the American LCS, the Russian ship is meant for coastal operations. The navy wants at least fifty of them (but there is only money for 30). There is also an amphibious ship under construction, and lots of talk about aircraft carriers. But until money is allocated, and construction starts, it's all just talk.


Russia has proposed putting some retired (because they were too expensive to operate) ships back into service. This includes two Typhoon class SSBNs (the largest subs, at 24,000 tons, ever built) and three Kirov class battle cruisers. These 28,000 ton ships carry over 400 missiles each (for anti-ship and anti-aircraft use). But this is a partial, expensive and one time solution to the problem that the Russian fleet is fading away, because of too little concern, and too little cash.

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