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Russia sure does have the gear that could ruin our week! I wonder if we have any spy ships that we don’t know about. And we should definitely build half a dozen Non nuclear submarines for around our shallow waters and protecting subsea hardware. A submarine maybe 3 to 4 thousand tonnes would be ideal wouldn’t it, German or Swedish? Or develop our own again maybe from the New barrow design Facility and start exporting?. Also 7 nuclear submarines isn’t enough to do half the jobs the UK need them to do! 12 is about enough the RN needs in reality. But I’m surprised We actually got boat 7!.

on another note I was arguing with someone the other day, he seems to think our Astute class carry nuclear weapons!! Cruise missiles bought from USA, and just like tomahawk launch I suppose, he was adamant a RN admiral let slip we do carry some in the Astutes but obviously I disagreed…. but is this true guys?

Last edited 3 years ago by Cam

No. Our SSN’s don’t carry TLAM-N. For a variety of reasons.

All I will say is that it was a shame that Astute wasn’t designed with VPL’s. And yes we need 12.

Supportive Bloke

TLAM-N was withdrawn even from US inventory.

It is just possible that we have nuclear depth charges or torpedoes still: but not cruise. I doubt we have nuclear depth charges but we could easily make them as we have a massive national stockpile of plutonium.

There certainly used to be small nuclear depth charges as it is well known they were transferred to the carriers’ magazines in ‘82 for better safety.

Last edited 3 years ago by Supportive Bloke

We have no nuclear naval ordnance now. Not even sneaky-beaky………

You should reply to Cam not me.


Was this the 1994 Defence Review that started the withdrawal of UK tactical nuclear weapons ?


About 1998 yes.


No buckets of sunshine in the fleet. They are long gone. Even the legacy handling and stowage fittings and fixtures have been removed from legacy magazines.
Good riddance …it was a pain in the arse to look after!


There are no 3000-4000 tonnes submarines in the Swedish or German navy inventory. In Europe only the Dutch have 3000 tonnes Walrus-class subs.


That’s true. But TKMS has a Type 216 submarine design with around 4000 t. They tried so sell it to Australia as the future Attack-class.


As for SSK’s there are a number of options.

The Type 216 from Germany which was a design put forward for the RAN’s Collins replacement.

The A26 from SAAB which comes in three sizes, um, lengths. We could have the smallest for training and eight for real work. After trouble with the Collins class the RAN didn’t speak with the Swedes.

And the JMSDF Soryu class which was also offered to the RAN.

It would be nice to build these at home but I don’t think there is the capacity. The Australians saw their new SSK project as a national investment in education and infrastructure. But that has cost them a lot, lot more than intended. The Germans could have built them boats in Germany for a fraction of the cost. The French Short Fin was a poor choice too. The RAN were over ambitious in the specs.


As always you are right.


Bless. I like to be approximately right in a fuzzy sort of way.

Fuel cells and AIP’s aren’t a panacea. They offer other problems but the benefits do outweigh them.

We used to send O-boats oop north to hang about to listen for Soviet submarines coming our way. And modern SSK’s are several classes beyond them.

I do like the look of the A26’s. I wonder if the extended range Oceanic models could have its range extended in lieu of say missiles or SF fit out so it could submerge just outside Faslane and not pop up again until it returned?

All three of them are great designs. I think the RAN made a poor choice. Saying that the SSN Barracuda would have been a better choice than either our A-boats or the USN’s current designs for the RAN.


I think the Japanese offered the Australians a late version Soryu class which did away with AIP, replacing it with a larger Lithium ion battery outfit, as in fitted to their last 2 Soryus and it’s replacement. I think they believe Lithium ion battery technology is the way ahead for various reasons.

James Harrington

Readers are probably aware of the concerns of the Irish government last year when Russian operatives were caught conducting surveillance on cable ingress and egress locations on the western coast of Ireland.

Taiwan constantly reminds the world that ocean going Chinese dredgers are always positioned off its coasts, outside territorial waters, but over locations were international cable are laid.


They really are sand dredgers and they are intruding on Taiwans islands close to the mainland
The sand-dredging is one weapon China is using against Taiwan in a campaign of so-called gray-zone warfare, which entails using irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat. Since June last year, Chinese dredgers have been swarming around the Matsu Islands, dropping anchor and scooping up vast amounts of sand from the ocean bed for construction projects in China.”


There is worldwide shortage of sand apparently. As odd as it may sound.


we do have plenty of sand but not every sand is the right kind for building


Yes. And from the sea means its often cleaner and lower transport costs via sea or rivers for a heavy free flowing material


What would be the actions if we had a sub catch another in the act of cutting or tampering with a cable?


In theory a cable disturbance can be detected from the landing stations before it’s even cut. Undersea fibre optic cables are monitored for performance 24/7 and most routes have sensitive OTDR equipment installed to instantly detect bends or cuts down to a fairly close location. So deliberately cutting or even just tampering with these cables carries a very high risk of getting caught in the act. If multiple cables were cut in different places, getting caught somewhere along the line would be almost a certainty. I’m sure the likes of Russia and China know this and would not be so stupid. A more likely scenario would be a smaller rogue state or terrorist group, but then these are unlikely to have sufficient technical resources i.e. submarines. So while the threat is real and very serious perhaps the actual risk of it happening can be somewhat overstated. IMO the bigger issue, as stated in the article, is the globalised, commercialy managed, operation of the infrastructure. Having worked in the industry I’m aware of a number ways this could introduce additional vulnerabilities but obviously that’s not the kind of thing to put on a public internet forum!

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins

The Russians have been at the very least ‘monitoring’ Western undersea Comms cables for decades. Unfortunately we don’t really know what they were doing on the seabed, as our SMs can’t go to the same depths as the Paltus or Losharik. Have they cut cables/interfered with them, no idea, but, they weren’t collecting sand samples I would imagine.
DaveyB, I don’t think there is a lot we could do if we know they cut a cable, other then replace it. It’s a They know we know sort of thing, much the same if the reverse were true.


They can survey the routes but the information on cable locations is in the public domain anyway so it doesn’t really gain them much. I don’t believe they can interfere much less tap these cables without at least being detected – and I used to design these things for a living.

Undersea systems are long and very very expensive, hence they are pushing the limits of what’s possible/economic. Consequently they are baselined and very closely monitored, with actual people and software watching 24/7. These systems are very sensitive and continuously automatically logged with trend analysis etc. so any disturbances will most definitely be noticed.

So I would put the Russian activity in the same category as buzzing the edges of our airspace with bombers. It’s annoying, it needs a response and there is always a risk of some small escalation or accident. But outside of WW3 the likelihood of actual attack is practically non existent.

IMO what would be very useful and quite easy/cheap/quick to implement would be increased cooperation and direct lines of communication between telecoms industry, RN and USN.

e.g. if a Telco sees a suspicious event(s) on a cable they have a way to report the location to the Navy straight away so they can be on the lookout. Likewise the Navy call the Telco if they see a vessel acting suspiciously near a known cable route. Just like civil ATC works with RAF/QRA. For all I know such system may already exist. Also there are plenty ex RN in the Telco world – I have worked with a few – so they should be able to work together just fine.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins

I would imagine the Navy (thus Telco) knows well in advance if something like the Paltus is enroute to the Comms cables. While SSBNs and SSNs are inherently quiet, the mother ship with attached vessel are not. It wouldn’t take much to discover their presence/location if they were at sea.
As I’ve said, they have been deploying for years, if the location of said cables are in the public domain, then they probably aren’t conducting route surveys! Just a different perspective.


Yes I’m sure the various NATO navies will keep a very close eye on these activities!

I don’t know so much about cooperation with the Telcos, whatever system exists I’m sure its something that could usefully be expanded because in my eyes it’s an easy low cost win to improve security. For example there have even been cases on terrestrial (land) cables where close coordination between Telco monitoring and Police has been able to catch cable theives in the act, and those guys do not hang about! Even a submarine should be easy to catch if you already know roughly where to look, especially with P8, sonorbouys etc.

However it may be difficult for Navy to coordinate with submarine cable Telcos because the industry is very complex in its ownership. Due to eye watering costs most trans-oceanic cables are built in partnership between several companies and countries, individual fibres/pairs will then be sub-leased to various others still, and the assets themselves often change hands due to mergers and acquisitions. So you can easily have 20+ commercial entities with an interest in a single cable!

What I do know for sure, is that the undersea cables are very closely monitored. In simple terms, due to the very high build costs they are generally designed to a minimum spec to only ‘just’ work, with very tight operating margins. There is also a certain amount of ‘drift’ due to changes in temperature, cables shifting on the seabed due to currents etc. So the operators have to keep a very close eye on things to make sure the cable keeps working reliability.

Another factor is that the fibre cores in submarine cables are normally surrounded by a 15Kv DC conductor to power amplifiers along the route, which makes it nigh impossible, and extremely dangerous, to access the actual fibres underwater, at least not without tripping the power which would alert the operator to the disturbance

I guess it may be the case that the Russians are building intelligence picture by testing the limits of what they can get away with before they are noticed/challenged, while retaining some level of plausible deniability e.g. by simply moving a cable a bit on the seabed, which they can claim was unintentional e.g. due to getting snagged. But if you can catch them in the act a few times it gets more difficult to maintain deniability.


I wouldn’t question ur knowledge of said systems and the way companies monitor them for any potential abnomilies in their operation. It is very easy to associate a stationary ship in the vacinity of any cables if disruptions occur at the same time, however, the same cannot be said of submarines conducting the same sort of work-what the eye doesn’t see=deniability.
All of the Russian specialist submarines are based in the Northern fleet, two types require mother ships to transport them, both are deep diving and are seabed operations vessels……


Good points and it certainly helps detection that the Russian deep diving systems require mother ships.

Deniability is by definition a nebulous concept, but IMO repetition over time can still make it problematic to sustain, even when the actual act itself is unseen. I guess that falls into the ‘we know, they know’ category like you said!

I think the main point that I was trying to make, with my somewhat long winded explanation, is that a ‘submarine cable QRA’ could offer some additional deterrent effect. Such system has certainly reduced cable theft on land, but obviously policing vast oceans is much more challenging.

I guess it all helps one way or another.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins

I think the security of said systems across the globe is becoming more important, as you say, much vital information is sent along these cables, with any disruption able to cause untold economic damage. How it can be policed is another question entirely, but, I suspect that a countries military probably needs to step in and help.
Cheers for it comments, I have learnt much on this subject.


That should be ‘your’ comments.


You’re welcome – I too have learned a great deal from the comments from others on numerous STRN articles so it’s nice to have a subject that I know a bit about and can make a contribution! Cheers.


Going back to your original question:

“What would be the actions if we had a sub catch another in the act of cutting or tampering with a cable?”

(which I failed to answer with my ramblings below lol)

Since the likely antagonist would be Russia or China, I doubt that a direct military response would be sensible.

A better approach IMO would be to collect as much evidence as possible to support a protest via diplomatic channels, no doubt to be followed by vociferous denials and a major international diplomatic incident.

It would be interesting to know if RN has examined this scenario and have a protocol in place, perhaps something to consider if not?

As I said previously, I suspect the Russians at least are well aware of the technological characteristics of submarine cables that present a high risk of them getting caught, as well as the potential fall out.

So IMO they would be unlikely to actually do something so risky, but you never know.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins

Isnt the depth of the oceans such that the vast majority of the undersea cables are way out of the reach of all submarines with the Russians having the specialist deep diver Losharik ( with a series of circular titanium eggs) able to to go a bit deeper than the rest.
If it was up to me I would have a sort of SOSUS network in the vulnerable shallower seas to detect any ‘loitering’ sub


An image from Forbes on this issuecomment image


Depth of oceans varies obviously.

With respect to interfering with submarine cables I don’t think Russia’s deep diving capabilities are much of an advantage TBH.

Any underwater activity gets exponentially more challenging the deeper you go, and tampering with submarine cables underwater without being noticed is difficult enough already for the various reasons I described above.

So I guess you are right, in terms of protecting cables it’s really the shallow areas we probably need to focus on most. Being CASD countries I would imagine UK & France already have some sort of coastal SOSAS, conveniently these are also the two countries where most all of the transatlantic cables land into Europe.

Also the resolution of OTDR equipment is directly proportional to distance, so on the cable itself it’s much easier to get a more accurate ‘fix’ on any disturbance in the shallow areas close to the landing stations.


As usual, interesting top stuff from Navylookout, but a bit naugthy too?
“The internet was originally conceived by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the 1960s as a military communications network that could survive nuclear strikes”.

I know some will say Tim Berners-Lee, but that was the WWW. Was not packet switching created by Davies which led to the ARPANET? Both the UK and US were working on systems in the 1950s and I think both Davies along with Baran are both credited (in US) at being at the start of what became the internet. Our opposition in the UK came from the Post Office and opposition to new tech has since the war held the UK back when it should be leading in many innovations. Fibre Optics, Broadband, the UK was the base for the start of all of this.


What is ‘the Internet’? As you alude it’s debatable. To me as an engineer it is the network within the public IP address space as defined by ICANN, of which the WWW is just one part. But when most laypeople people talk about ‘the Internet’ they are referring to the WWW.

Also if we are being pedantic, the vast majority of network traffic actually runs outside ‘the Internet’. Besides the numerous international private networks owned by Telcos, Banks and other large companies, even the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. run very substantial content distribution outside the public IP address space, and therefore technically not really ‘the lnternet’ as such.

Regarding the development of broadband, Charles Kao, regarded as the father of fibre optics, was born in China and grew up in Hong Kong, albeit he did do most of his pioneering development work in the UK. He was working at STC, a UK company which ultimately fell into Nortel, a Canadian company which itself went bankrupt later.

I don’t disagree about the Post Office strangling developments. The UK has long had a strange relationship with new tech. We seem to produce and nurture many of the most brilliant innovations, then completely fail to capitalise on them. Deregulation has helped a little, but has also often resulted in our best companies and technology becoming owned offshore.

So IMO plenty nit-pics can be leveled at the article, but the gist is correct in layman’s terms. Since the basis of the article is around security of connectivity and economic impacts, I don’t suppose those technical specifics matter so much anyway.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins

Funny this came. A couple days ago i was reading about the new big “most advanced” cable layer ship being build.


Undersea cable security is something I have been concerned about for ages but the issue isn’t restricted to telecoms. Offshore wind, wave etc farms each have, I gather, a single very expensive interconnector which is not small and is, to be fair, buried quite deeply. As we (rightly) move to fossil fuel free energy, defence of the interconnectors needs to be addressed. They are not a few kilometers of 2.5mm cable strung out but substantial pieces of engineering that are difficult to install and repair. The best wind, wave etc sources are many kilometers out to sea and the UK is particularly rich in this resource but the interconnectors are vulnerable not only to geological events but also to those promoted by a hostile actors. The sudden loss of many GW of energy is a substantial threat to civil society. In my view it would be better to generate hydrogen onsite, yielding not only H2 but O2 and the many other components of sea water, tankering the H2/O2 to where it is needed, even by remotely controlled tankers but in the mean time, it should be a job that the RN is considering. I think we need a bigger navy!