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Brian

I often wonder why the UK went all nuclear with the sub force.I know you can’t beat a SSN for versatility but for an SSK would be no handicap for most deploments and would i’d imagine cost a lot less with cheaper running costs as well.

NavyLookout

Totally agree Brian. The RN was forced by John Major’s government to make a choice between SSNs and SSKs and understandably got rid of the Upholders. Ideally the RN would be buying around 6 of the excellent AIP SSKs maybe from Sweden or Germany but unfortunately in the current financial and political climate that is pie-in the-sky wishful thinking. SSKs are much better for shallow water operations, special forces ops and ideal to use in training – running persisher courses or ASW practice for the surface fleet. Much cheaper and simpler to operate they could really take alot of pressure of the SSNs and it is a real shame the RN was forced out of the SSK business.

Anonymous

I was on the Odin and we were fitted out to fire Tommohawks in1987, really stupid to get rid of the Deisel boats, they could go with SBS where no other nuke could go,for fear of fouling main coolant pump intakes.

Nick Palmer

Oberon class boats were amazing. As were the submariners who served on them.

Anonymous

No Diesel Boats were ever fitted out to fire Tomahawk Missiles. what a feed of shit.

Jeff Stockdale

I was thinking that

AR

i was on antrim in 1982, the argentine santa fe was luckily detected on the surface, i was to by the weapons officer ‘the diesel boats are harder to find than nukes’ especially given the kril (whale food)l in the waters everything was so gummed up it made the ship totally useless as an asw platform and entirely dependant of the helicopters dipping sonar.

Jeff Stockdale

Bullshit

AR

we have the entire swiftsue class alongside th wall in devonport and rosyth. why are we even having this debate? we’ve got the boats , but not the political will to fund and operate them

Richard

I hope to offer a view beyond arguing to arrest the tide of a shrinking navy. The government has chosen to make Defence cuts on behalf of the taxpayer. Cuts result from a review of national ambition, and a structured force to meet that (reduced) national ambition.

The shortfalls in SSN availability are widely understood in Defence and are the compound impact of:

– Shipbuilder’s delays to Asute class – predominantly resulting from industrial impact of not buidling any boats for a number of years & loss of skills.
– Defence delaying delivery drumbeat to: make savings and also to avoid the industrial impact above biting again (for Successor SSBN).
– Inability to significantly further extend in-service boats.

UKDP is for a class of 7 Astute Class SSNs, this was confirmed (for the first time) in SDSR. Current shortfalls are recognised, the impact is the long deployments highlighted in this article. However, it is not budgetarily possible to: build more SSNs (nor is there time before Successor SSBN), extend the current class further (beyond a few months here or there) or go back to an expensive mixed flotilla of SSKs & SSNs. The trouble with the submarine & nuclear programmes is that they must be fixed and steady to allow the best value for money (in a very big ticket programe anyway); change costs money (either delay, growth or shrinkage).

Helpful to highlight the plight of the programme but sadly not much to be done.

NavyLookout

Thanks for your comments Richard. I totally agree that the lack of submarines is the result of long-term problems and poor decisions by a succession of governments. It is also true that sadly there is little that could be done in the short-term, even in the unlikely event that government woke up and provided new funds. However some of these problems could be avoided in future if government committed to a regular drumbeat of orders so that industry could plan and prepare. The taxpayer would get better value for money and the RN would get the subs its so badly needs.

“Defence planning” maybe for 7 SSNs with around 4 operational – this is all that is realistically achievable under current conditions but really the RN needs 8-10 SSNs to avoid chronic over-strech and lack of reserves for unforeseen events. Personally I consider this issue of higher priority for the RN and of even greater concern then the carrier programme and Type 26s etc.

Eds

Shouldn’t the main thrust of any future naval procurement be on submarines for all the reasons in this post and the additional one: surface ship operation in littoral waters anywhere near potential enemies like Iran or China is now impossible because of masses of shore based anti ship missile of every shape and size easily concealed and dispersed in commercial containers. Or am I missing something? Submarines are also best for blocking others sea lanes and as mentioned SSKs are the best anti-sub asset along with helicopters, frigates being too damn noisy and vulnerable. What do you think?

NavyLookout

I broadly agree Eds, in major state-on-state naval war the safest place to be is on a submarine and as stated in the post they are really the most potent and important capital ships of the RN. However surface forces have not yet had their day and submarines cant do everything that the skimmers do. A balanced fleet is needed.

Charles

I’m not a naval professional, nor a UK national, but I too am interested in seeing a strong RN submarine service. That said, I’m not convinced that bemoaning the lack of SSKs is worth the time. If the SSK is any good at all, the sensor and weapons fit would have to be just as good as an SSN’s–and cost as much. The only cost savings comes from not having the nuclear plant. But having a diesel plant means that the SSK is forced for life into being only a training submarine, or staying mostly close to home, or deploying very slowly. From an engineering perspective, putting all that top-flight kit–sonars, Tomahawks, etc.–into a diesel submarine is a bit like fitting modern air-to-air missiles to a piston-engined aircraft rather than a Typhoon or a Gripen. Sure a Spitfire with Sidewinders would have its uses–and be far cheaper–but would it really be a sound long-term defence investment? Other navies buy SSKs not because they really want them, but because they can’t possibly get SSNs.

NavyLookout

Charles. I fully agree the nuclear submarine is superior in most ways and I dont think anyone is advocating replacing SSNs with SSKs. In an ideal world The RN would have SSKs in addition to its nuclear fleet. The SSK is actually better for shallow water operations, being smaller and quieter. They are considerably cheaper to operate and would make sense for training roles, special forces operations and protecting the SSBNs, thus freeing up the SSNs for their main roles. Of course in the current climate obtaining SSKs are unrealistic as the RN has other ore pressing things to spend its shrinking budget on.

Anonymous

Hms Odin ,Oberon class SSK, fitted for and tested Tommohawks 1987. Was not expensive

Anonymous

TLAM on a redundant diesel boat, are you sure?

I thought the first boat was HMS Splendid?

Jiesheng

Ideally, one of the Vanguard boats should be converted into an SSGN like the Americans did with their Ohio class submarines

AR

the entire swiftsure fleet, alongside in devonport and rosyth should have fitted out for tlam and kept in service, likewise tralgar boats

4th watch

Am I correct the problem is part political, part financial and part construction or resource.
Difficult to deal with the first but the finance part could surely assisted and dealt with if we exported some to very friendly nations?
It seems inevitable this would mean a bottleneck with construction. Could it not be assisted by using the same techniques we have seen used for the aircraft carriers ie dispersing the making of the parts and assembling them in one place?

ian potter

The total decimation of our navy over the years is absolutey ridiculous and a very grave danger to our nations freedom,to our trade and to our existence .
We NEED more submarines ,we NEED more destroyers ,we NEED more fighters on these carriers,but we are also in need of frigates and corvettes so bring the build of the type 26 forward a couple of years !! like now !!.
All our governments in recent past have demoralized our military be it army,airforce ,navy..
But our leaders are quick to commit them into conflict with little pause for thought or respect ..
WE NEED TO UP OUR DEFENCE BUDGET NOW !!!

Ex-Submariner

It is pointless buying more Submarines if we can’t crew them. Men are leaving the Submarine Service in droves. Since the SSDR conditions have gotten worse, cuts within manpower, conditions of service and compulsory changes to pensions all make the ‘Job’ less appealing. Submariners are realising that there is plenty of work ‘outside’and civilian companies are very keen to employ them..

anonymous

Ex-Submariner

Indeed, the loss of men and women to civilian companies or even foreign navies is a huge issue. Unfortunately we are in a “circle of doom” if you will. This is that as we have less men and women we are unable to man as many platforms. As we have less platforms we have longer deployments. As we have longer deployments we have less men and women….. ah.

There are many ways out of this but ultimately Submariners will put up with a lot and the biggest issue you hear the boys and girls complaining about is crash draughts, gapping and quality of life at home (sharing cabins ashore just beggars belief IMHO).

I’m not sure the way out is to pay our people more, give more pensions and promise other “benefits”. I think a lot would appreciate if that money went on recruiting and if the government simply matched foreign policy demands to our military forces.

Long story short. You want current commitments. You need a navy with 20 “warfighting” FF/DD, 15-20 Corvettes, Amphibious group, Carrier group, MPA group, 11 SSNs, 4 SSBNs, Logistics, More logistics, Working logistics, more working logistics and a raft of small patrol craft, helicopters and MCMV/HM vessels.

Can’t afford that. Cut the foreign policy. Otherwise you’ll have a fleet of ships with no one on them.

JMHO

AR

reduce the overseas charity funds and keep what we have at sea 6 swiftsures, ocean, argus (as hospital ship,illustrious ship bin the f35b buy back the 72 harriers that went for 182 mill and get the boats back to sea

Ben

An interesting article. The number one issue here is not the government, but the naval hierarchy and the ultimate decision makers. Submariners are treated like utter rubbish, command have somewhere between little and no regard for them and their families. The navy employs archaic methods in outdated conditions. It’s instruments of war may be moving forward with the times, but it’s personnel management and structure are embarrassingly old fashioned and have no place in modern society. Until those in charge recognise and remedy this situation they don’t deserve the manpower to crew the boats. Society respects these men and will employ them in far better conditions. So I say leave, leave the service and put your talents to use I with an employer who will value your contribution, because you are worth more!

n/a

As Ex-Submariner mentions above the main threat facing the submarine service is a complete lack of manpower. At present there are not enough submariners in the Royal Navy to crew the fourth Astute class Audacious. Lack of manpower in across all specialisations – Warfare, WE, ME and supply has resulted in a perilous situation. The second sea lords promises of an increase in submarine pay to aid retention have fallen flat, a stores system so useless nothing is available in any base just frustrates people. The lure of the civilian sector is strong, especially within the oil and gas industry who seem to match if not better wages and provide a working patterns such as 3 weeks on 3 weeks off. FRIs have failed to retain people going ‘outside’ and the Submarine sustainable manpower team are clueless as to what is needed in order to solve this crisis. The submarine service has already begun a slow and painful death. With a future 7 Astute crews which need the same manpower as previous classes despite the apparent ‘automation’ of systems and four vanguard hulls to crew (6 crews) that equates to approx 2145 sea-going submariners – impossible. On top of this all submarines will be Faslane based – the accommodation does not exist or any future plan support these numbers (I’m aware not all people will live on the base) but in addition add shore based jobs and the Royal Marines and suddenly you have an accommodation crisis also. The Single accommodation living project has already failed with junior rates sharing two to a cabin and there’s still not enough. Successive governments have destroyed the submarine service and it’s only going to get worse, the issue I see is that before where people would knuckle down ride out the storm and just get on with it will not happen for the reasons stated above – people will vote with their feet and move into other industries.

Anonymous

I am absolutely passionate about submarines and would love to get back involved especially Diesel electric. But Iam 54 have I ben written off because of my age?

Anonymous

Things are getting much worse the deployment of Astute over the last month has been a joke, it was in and out more often than a prostitutes client, with all the attendant stress for families at this time of year. Families lost out on a Christmas Lunch disappointing dozens of kids, because some bright spark thought OK to cancel it because the men would finally be home.

The next couple of years will likely see a far worse man power situation, hence delaying the move of the T boats. Their long serving crews stated they would simply leave.

Heaven help the future.

Will the 2015 SDR contain recommendations for cancellation of- or decisions to cancel- the Vanguard Successor (replacement) SSBN project, with the UK instead purchasing Virginia Block V SSBNs from the US, or alternatively the UK purchasing rights to build/assemble Virginia Block V’s in the UK??

Why is this a possibility??

Starting in 2019, new-build Virginia Block V’s are to be fitted with the currently-undergoing-development “Virginia Payload Module” (VPM).

Each VPM is closely modeled on the also currently-undergoing-development UK/USA “Common Missile Compartment” (CMC) and its 4 very large payload tubes- each intended to armed with 1 Trident II D5 SLBM…

CMCs are intended to be fitted to the US’s and UK’s planned SSBN replacement subs.

The Virginia Payload Module adds a section of hull to earlier-design Virginia SSNs, with four large (7-ft diameter) payload tubes.

http://www.gdeb.com/news/advertising/images/VPM_ad/VPM.pdf

Each tube has the dimensions to accomodate a ballistic missile somewhere along the lines of an old 73 inch diameter Trident I (C4) SLBM… or a reduced-length 83 inch diameter Trident II (D5) SLBM.

With relatively minor design modifications, each VPM tube could be lengthened to potentially be armed with a non reduced-length Trident II D5 SLBM…

“(US)Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress”, March 26, 2015:
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL32418.pdf – pages 10 and 28 in Acrobat Reader

http://news.usni.org/2015/02/25/navy-looking-at-accelerating-vpm-design-to-allow-earlier-production
http://news.usni.org/2013/11/04/navy-selects-virginia-payload-module-design-concept

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/cmc-contract-to-define-future-ssbn-launchers-for-uk-usa-05221/

CMCs are designed to have 4 Trident D5 launch tubes each, and are planned to be fitted to both the RNs and USN’s SSBN successor subs (Vanguard class and Ohio class replacement SSBNs).

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/ssbn-x-subs-america-going-nuclear-to-end-graying-boomers-024836/

Each Virginia Block V SSN’s VPM’s 4 large payload tubes are intended to be armed with 7 Tomahawk land attack or LRASM anti-ship cruise missiles (meaning each VPM can be armed with 28 cruise missiles in total).

http://www.lockheedmartin.ca/us/products/LRASM.html
http://news.usni.org/2015/02/09/video-tomahawk-strike-missile-punches-hole-moving-maritime-target
http://news.usni.org/2014/03/13/navy-hold-contest-new-anti-surface-missile

However, with minor alterations, a VPM’s 4 large launch tubes could be easily and cheaply converted to being armed with 1 Trident II D5 each…

Each of the US’s Ohio class SSBN replacement subs (SSBN-Xs) is planned to be fitted with 4 CMCs (16 Trident D5 launch tubes in total). Current Ohios have 24 Trident D5 launch tubes, but do not utilize CMCs.

The UK’s current Vanguard SSBNs have 16 Trident II D5 launch tubes each, and similar to Ohio SSBNs, also do not utilize CMCs…

Designs for the UK’s planned Vanguard class SSBN replacements have never been stable, shrinking from the initially planned-for 16 Trident D5 launch tubes per sub in the early 2000s to the late 2000’s plans for 12 tubes per sub (3 CMCs) and now today’s ‘plans’ for each new sub to be fitted with no more than 2 CMCs (8 Trident D5 launch tubes)…
===============

MoD planners, and treasury officials, are sure to question why go to the exspence of designing and building 4 Vanguard class SSBNs, with a total armament of of 32 Trident D5s (4 x 8 SLBMs), and with each sub restricted to performing only 1 duty: nuclear deterence… when if the UK was to instead purchase or build under license 8 Virgina Block Vs, with each Virgina sub capable of being armed with 4 Trident II D5s- this would provide the UK with the identical number of Trident D5 launchers (32) as 4 Vanguard class replacement subs… for much less cost…

…. And, as a bonus, at any given time, some of the UK’s Virginia Block V class subs could have their Virginia Payload Modules converted into cruise missile launchers, and instead of operating as SSBNs could carry out roles as SSNs and SSGNs….

…. perhaps with 4 UK Virginia Block V class subs operating as SSBNs (16 Trident D5 launch tubes in total), with the other 4 UK Virginias operating as SSNs/SSGNs with a total armament of 112 Tomahawk and LRASM missiles in total…

… thereby addressing concerns caused by the RN’s severely shrunken SSN fleet…

Roderick V. Louis
————————————

http://nextnavy.com/kill-ssbnx-and-give-the-virginia-class-subs-slbm-capability/

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/show-daily/sea-air-space/2015/04/12/submarine-virginia-class-ohio-class-replacement/25537589/

http://news.usni.org/2015/04/21/global-guided-missile-expansion-forcing-u-s-navy-to-rethink-surface-fleet-size

UK’s Vanguard Successor SSBN project replaced by built-under-license Virginia Block V SSBNs, SSGNs, SSNs??

Will the 2015 SDR contain recommendations for cancellation of- or decisions to cancel- the Vanguard Successor (replacement) SSBN project, with the UK instead purchasing Virginia Block V SSBNs from the US, or alternatively the UK purchasing rights to build/assemble Virginia Block V’s in the UK??

Why is this a possibility??

Starting in 2019, new-build Virginia Block V’s are to be fitted with the currently-undergoing-development “Virginia Payload Module” (VPM).

Each VPM is closely modeled on the also currently-undergoing-development UK/USA “Common Missile Compartment” (CMC) and its 4 very large payload tubes- each intended to armed with 1 Trident II D5 SLBM…

CMCs are intended to be fitted to the US’s and UK’s planned SSBN replacement subs.

The Virginia Payload Module adds a section of hull to earlier-design Virginia SSNs, with four large (7-ft diameter) payload tubes.

http://www.gdeb.com/news/advertising/images/VPM_ad/VPM.pdf

Each tube has the dimensions to accommodate a ballistic missile somewhere along the lines of an old 73 inch diameter Trident I (C4) SLBM… or a reduced-length 83 inch diameter Trident II (D5) SLBM.

With relatively minor design modifications, each VPM tube could be lengthened to potentially be armed with a non reduced-length Trident II D5 SLBM…

“(US)Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress”, March 26, 2015:
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL32418.pdf – pages 10 and 28 in Acrobat Reader

http://news.usni.org/2015/02/25/navy-looking-at-accelerating-vpm-design-to-allow-earlier-production
http://news.usni.org/2013/11/04/navy-selects-virginia-payload-module-design-concept

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/cmc-contract-to-define-future-ssbn-launchers-for-uk-usa-05221/

CMCs are designed to have 4 Trident D5 launch tubes each, and are planned to be fitted to both the RNs and USN’s SSBN successor subs (Vanguard class and Ohio class replacement SSBNs).

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/ssbn-x-subs-america-going-nuclear-to-end-graying-boomers-024836/

Each Virginia Block V SSN’s VPM’s 4 large payload tubes are intended to be armed with 7 Tomahawk land attack or LRASM anti-ship cruise missiles (meaning each VPM can be armed with 28 cruise missiles in total).

http://www.lockheedmartin.ca/us/products/LRASM.html
http://news.usni.org/2015/02/09/video-tomahawk-strike-missile-punches-hole-moving-maritime-target
http://news.usni.org/2014/03/13/navy-hold-contest-new-anti-surface-missile

However, with minor alterations, a VPM’s 4 large launch tubes could be easily and cheaply converted to being armed with 1 Trident II D5 each…

Each of the US’s Ohio class SSBN replacement subs (SSBN-Xs) is planned to be fitted with 4 CMCs (16 Trident D5 launch tubes in total). Current Ohios have 24 Trident D5 launch tubes, but do not utilize CMCs.

The UK’s current Vanguard SSBNs have 16 Trident II D5 launch tubes each, and similar to Ohio SSBNs, also do not utilize CMCs…

Designs for the UK’s planned Vanguard class SSBN replacements have never been stable, shrinking from the initially planned-for 16 Trident D5 launch tubes per sub in the early 2000s to the late 2000’s plans for 12 tubes per sub (3 CMCs) and now today’s ‘plans’ for each new sub to be fitted with no more than 2 CMCs (8 Trident D5 launch tubes)…
===============

MoD planners, and treasury officials, are sure to question why go to the expense of designing and building 4 Vanguard class SSBNs, with a total armament of of 32 Trident D5s (4 x 8 SLBMs), and with each sub restricted to performing only 1 duty: nuclear deterrence… when if the UK was to instead purchase or build under license 8 Virginia Block Vs, with each Virginia sub capable of being armed with 4 Trident II D5s- this would provide the UK with the identical number of Trident D5 launchers (32) as 4 Vanguard class replacement subs… for much less cost…

…. And, as a bonus, at any given time, some of the UK’s Virginia Block V class subs could have their Virginia Payload Modules converted into cruise missile launchers, and instead of operating as SSBNs could carry out roles as SSNs and SSGNs….

…. perhaps with 4 UK Virginia Block V class subs operating as SSBNs (16 Trident D5 launch tubes in total), with the other 4 UK Virginias operating as SSNs/SSGNs with a total armament of 112 Tomahawk and LRASM missiles in total…

… thereby addressing concerns caused by the RN’s severely shrunken SSN fleet…

Roderick V. Louis
————————————

“(US) Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress”, March 24, 2015: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R41129.pdf

http://nextnavy.com/kill-ssbnx-and-give-the-virginia-class-subs-slbm-capability/

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/show-daily/sea-air-space/2015/04/12/submarine-virginia-class-ohio-class-replacement/25537589/

http://news.usni.org/2015/04/21/global-guided-missile-expansion-forcing-u-s-navy-to-rethink-surface-fleet-size

Anonymous

1998- Splendid, you are correct.

Leo

I Can’t wait for all the Astute class submarines to enter service. Now that they’ve gotten over the initial teething problems it will be the best SSN in the world.

AR

why , when the whole swiftsure class is ‘mothballed’ in rosyth and devonport is this an issue? we have the assets but not the political will to fund and crew them again, most are still fuelled and almost operational, its YET ANOTHER example of the ammaturish thinking at the MOD. these clowns are not fit for purpose, we can belly ache till the cows come home about the size of the the surface fleet, but not to use ships we already have is nothing short of criminal.

AR

argus is fitted with 100 beds, a big flight deck, the ship is painted grey so does not conform to the needs of the geneva convention, why spend millions replacing what we already have? its retirement date of 2020 needs adressing

AR

now have19yes 19 submarines ‘laid up’ at rosyth and devonport

AR

why with all this talk do we have 19 ye,s 19 nuclear subs ‘laid up’ in rosyth and devonport including the entire swiftsure class decommissioned trafalgars conqueror, churchill etc.