April 19, 2018

Naval Bases in Indo-Pacific - Vanuatu, Kanaky, Melanesian Spearhead Group

In relation to headlines last week that Vanuatu has been discussing with China the issue of building (a, or some) Chinese bases on Vanuatu. Vanuatu and China on Tuesday 17 April 2018 denied the base intention rumours. On 19 April 2018 Vanuatu's Prime Minister assured Australia's Prime Minister that there were no basing intentions. The interesting map below has been made public.

See much larger image of map here. Map courtesy Australian Department of Defence and International Maritime Bureau a specialised division of the International Chamber Of Commerce.

The above map's key, on upper right corner, indicates:
Blue dots are US overseas bases (some US facilities in Singapore). These established, very large
    bases, underline how powerful the US presence has been since the 1940s.
-  Magenta dots are Chinese bases in China
-  Purple dots are Australian bases in Australia
-  Also note Magenta Circles are Chinese influenced dual-use ports (bases to be?) in Indian Ocean
   =  Gwadar (Pakistan)
   =  Hambantota (Sri Lanka)
   =  Chittagong (Bangladesh), and
   =  Sittwe (Myanmar)
   =  No mention of Maldives.

India's main bases (on Western Naval Command, Mumbai and Eastern Naval Command,  Visakhapatnam) are not identified.


Question - Might tiny Vanuatu ($114 million Chinese loan money wharf) and (for that matter East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji) be added not as a bases, but as further Magenta Circled Chinese influenced dual-use ports in years to come?

An interesting response to such a question comes from

On April 14, 2018 an Anonymous provided some interesting insights:

[Re Pete saying] "'Such pressure may fall on East Timor'

[Anonymous says] 
No. The new Timor Sea treaty binds Dili to Australia and virtually ensures ET will become a military ally and protectorate. The concessions given would've been nonsensical otherwise.

re Vanuatu. China got a foothold in Vila by funding the Melanesian Spearhead [1]. West Papua and Kanaky [2] are aspiring nations. This gives China enormous potential leverage. An independent Kanaky or West Papua would need to repay China for support during the struggle. 

Neither Indonesia nor Australia would tolerate a Chinese base in E.Timor, nor Chinese interference in West Papua via Vanuatu. The interests of Canberra and Jakarta may be converging in a manner that may yet see Jakarta's long standing neutrality up for review. 

The trend will be strengthened if Trump indeed proves serious about a second iteration of the TPP." 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanesian_Spearhead_Group (MSG). The MSG is an intergovernmental organization composed of the four Melanesian states of FijiPapua New GuineaSolomon Islands and Vanuatu and the "Kanaky" Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia.

[2] "Kanaky" in this context means a future independent Kanak nation replacing the French territory of New CaledoniaAn independence referendum will be held in New Caledonia on
 4 November 2018 at which voters will be given the choice of remaining joined to France or becoming an independent country.

And finally Chinese aid to Pacific islands and to Timor-Leste (East Timor) above (cumulative figures 2006-2016). Australia is the largest donor to the region including Vanuatu, but China is rising as the "loaner" and donor that doesn't instruct how money should be used. (Map courtesy Lowy Institute via DEVPOLICYBLOG, April 11, 2018)

Pete Comment

There are so many issues with China's rise in the broader region that it is easy to disregard the concerns of Pacific islands. 


April 18, 2018

Comparing Kilo 877s with TKMS Type 212A submarines

Further to Submarine Matters’ interest in Russian submarines Anonymous on April 13, 2018 provided the following data which Pete has put in the Table below.

Comparison between
older model
TKMS Type 212A
also Todaro
When first launched
Sept 1980
March 2002
When last launched
Oct 1999
July 2015
(Todaro batch)
Propulsion motors
section length
4 motors = 2 main + 2 small “economical” “silent” motors, [1] 7m
1 PMSM 1.7m
Diesel engines
2, around 10m
1, around 10m
Fuel cell 2.8m
Non-propulsion hull length
submarine length

70-73.8m (see
56.0m to
57.2m (2nd batch)
(see sidebar)

[1] Length of Kilo 877’s economic-silent motor + main motor (4.4MW) is around 7m. When compared to the 212A’s PMSM (of 2MW) at 1.7m long, miniaturization and simplification of propulsion motor system is probably necessary in Russian conventional submarines. 

Particularly in the narrows and rocky holes of the Baltic Sea, where the Kilo 877 encounters the 212A, the 212A having a much shorter length overall and having an X-plane tail may tend to make it more manoeuvrable hence able to hide in smaller holes than the Kilo 877. Although the effectiveness of the Kilo's internal thrusters/impeller tunnels may give Kilos some advantages (unassessible at this open source level). 

Diagram of Type 212A that highlights location and rough size of propulsion elements (Diagram courtesy Naval Technology).

If 212A’s silent running Fuel Cell, (see above) at 2.8m long, is added into the comparison then the Kilo has less of an overly long propulsion problem.
Kilo Project 877 interior diagram above. (See much larger more readable diagram at source https://www.soumarsov.eu/Sous-marins/Post45/877/877_schemdet_agrandi.htm )

On the larger diagram the following parts can be identified:
1. Sonar base MGK-400 RUBIKON 
2. 533mm torpedo launch tubes 
3. First section (Front / torpedoes) 
4. Anchor windlass 
5. Front hatch  
6. Reserve torpedo with fast reloading device 
7. Front dive bars 
8. Crew quarters
9. Front battery 
10. MG-53 AVTOGRAF sonar interceptor
11. Place where officers/crew on watch stand in the fin/sail
12. Attack periscope PK-8.5 
13. Periscope PZNG-8M 
14. Schnorchel mast 
15. Diver's hatch
16. Radar mast MRK-50 KASKAD
17. ZAVESA direction finder mast 
18. MRP-25 radar interceptor mast 
19. STRELA-3 surface-to-air missile lookout container 
20. Second section
21. Command Post to Control Navigation Operations (PCNO) 
22. Third section (living area) 
23. Rear battery 
24. Fourth section (diesel generators) 
25. Diesel generator 
26. HP air cylinders 
27. Fifth installment (electric motors)
28. Main Electric Motor
29. Emergency signalling buoy 
30. Sixth Trim (Rear) 
31. Rear Panel 
32. Silent Electric Motor
33. Rear dive bar and rudder press 
34. Rudder support

This Youtube below (presented by Gisoo Misha Ahmady in traditional dress) is inside one of Iran's three largest submarines of the Russian (Saint Petersburg) built Iranian TAREG variant (Kilo class Project 877s). We can understand the difficulty of maintaining and monitoring the 877's Lead-acid batteries (LABs). In the loss of Argentine submarine ARA San Juan one of the LAB section was flooded with seawater resulting hydrogen gas leakage, on ignition fire, then catastrophic explosion. 

On the mainly English language Youtube above see: 

2 minute 31 seconds in to 2mins 48 secs : A crewman, in hot, humid, conditions manually measures
     the specific density of sulfuric acid in LABs. This density reduces with potentially dangerous 
     hydrogen discharge?

More specifically at:

  2:31 the crewman is checking LABs on the keel, because heights of right and left hand sides of
        LABs are the same.
  2:40 : Other LABs are on left hand side. They are also checked. 
Female announcer says there are 
         "roughly 80 members of the crew!" Is it the same crew size in Indian Kilos?

Anonymous and Pete

April 17, 2018

Attacks on Syria Provided Unsurpassed Missile Testing Opportunities

Rarely do air and sea forces get the opportunity to test multi-million dollar missile systems in actual "fire in anger" conditions. US, UK and French missile strikes on Syrian targets on April 14, 2018 intentionally deployed the widest range (5 or 6 types) of missiles possible from as many air and sea platforms possible. Only in real war conditions can a missile's efficiency, reliability and accuracy be fully tested. 

The US/UK Tomahawk missile has been thoroughly tested in battle by submarine and surface ship launch, but the attack on Syria probably provided the first real war opportunity to fire JASSM-ERStorm Shadow, French version SCALP and MdCN version missiles.    

Salim Kahraman for Turkey's Ahval News has provided excellent graphics and reporting on the April 14, 2018 US, UK and French missile strikes on Syrian targets

"World powers show off advanced weaponry in Syrian war"  Apr 17 2018, "...The United States, France and Britain last week launched 105 missiles on three on Syrian chemical weapons facilities without any aircraft entering Syrian air space or coming within range of its anti-air systems...The latest coalition strikes directly targeted Syrian government chemical weapon sites - a scientific research centre in the capital Damascus, a chemical weapons facility west of the city of Homs and a chemical weapons bunker near the same western city. Nine buildings were destroyed .

Barzah research centre was targeted by only U.S. forces with 57 Tomahawk missiles and 19 JASSM-ER missiles launched from a pair of Qatar-based B-1 bombers.
Graphics courtesy MBDA, MOD via Agency France Press (AFP).
The Him Shinshar chemical weapons facility was hit by nine U.S. Tomahawks missiles, eight British Storm Shadow missiles, three MdCN missiles launched from French frigate Languedoc and two French SCALP missiles.
...The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker was struck by only French forces, with seven SCALP missiles.  
The strikes displayed U.S. naval superiority with Tomahawk missiles fired from the destroyers USS Monterey and the USS Laboon in the Red Sea, USS Higgins in the Gulf and submarine USS John Warner [see USNI article below] in the eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Mediterranean surprisingly did not fire any missiles.
UK, French and US air and sea missile firing platforms. Click here for much larger map. 
U.S. officials said no missiles were intercepted.
...France participated in the strikes with five warships and at least 13 aircraft flying from air bases around France. Britain’s forces consisted of four aircraft flying from Cyprus. British submarines could not reach the area in time for the attacks.
The use of so many missiles to destroy just nine buildings was possibly more a show of strength than a necessary use of force.
The French strikes conducted were carried out with indigenous weaponry, aircraft and warships. It was the inaugural combat use of the McDN land attack missile, which is the naval variant of the air-launched SCALP land-attack cruise missile] and demonstrates that France has a deep strike capability alongside the United States, Russia and Britain." See the WHOLE AHVAL NEWS ARTICLE

On USS John Warner Virginia class (SSN-785)  for USNI reportsApril 16, 2018:

"THE PENTAGON — Saturday’s pre-dawn joint air strike against three Syrian chemical weapons facilities was notable not just for its success, but for also being the first time a Virginia-class submarine fired missiles in combat and the first time Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) were used tactically, USNI News has learned.

USS John Warner provides (1 or 2?) photonic masts' eye view of the launch of one of its Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria.

When attack boat USS John Warner (SSN-785) launched six Tomahawk land-attack missiles from the Eastern Mediterranean, it was the first time a Virginia-class submarine fired shots “in anger,” or at an enemy target rather than for testing or training purposes, according to a Navy spokesperson.

John Warner not only hit its assigned target but did so during its first deployment and while successfully evading a Russian sub-hunter, which was reportedly tracking a British Astute-class submarine also operating in the region, according to Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments." [see more reporting - scrolling a third way down - on other missiles fired].


April 13, 2018

How Could Taiwan Build A Submarine? Teardrop Solution.

After years of diplomatic inactivity the US has decided to license to Taiwan several major aspects of  conventional (diesel-electric) submarine. The very low amount (maybe only around US$100 million) Taiwan has budgeted to design its future submarines is just one indicator that Taiwan is not aiming to build a major new design. Taiwan's determination to build an existing teardrop design is highlighted in the display of Taiwan's teardrop model (see photo below) very similar to Taiwan's existing Hai Lung class submarines.

To minimize existing Chinese pressure against Taiwan designing and building submarines (considered by China potent strategic weapons) Taiwan may build an existing teardrop design. Designs for which Taiwan, the US, Japan and the Netherlands already have plans. Taiwan already has two teardrop design Dutch built Hai Lung class submarines commissioned in 1987-88. The Hai Lungs are based on the Dutch Zwaardvis class which in turn are based on the US Barbel class.

Japanese contractors might also assist Taiwan. This is noting Japan (inspired by the US Barbel class) developed and used the Uzushio class teardrop style submarines. See photo below of an Uzushio class on the surface.

The US's licensing decision (including new weapons, computers and sensors) can make an existing teardrop design a more formidable "modern" submarine.  Apparently "the [US] approvals cover a marketing license for a submarine combat management system, or CMS, along with a separate technical assistance agreement." 

A CMS typically covers the many hardware and software aspects of the submarine's weapons systems, sonar systems and photonics masts. It also covers the computerised command coordination between these systems to direct the weapons onto targets. The US has already licensed modern and potent submarine launched Harpoon missiles and Mark 48 torpedos to Taiwan. Anechoich tiles could also be applied to a teardrop hull.

The US could assist with its corporate records, including designs which went in building the Barbel class. Records would exist at the Pentagon, the US Navy run Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Kittery, Maine and at what was Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi (now Huntington Ingalls Industries).

Contractors, once in the Netherland's RH Marine, might also assist. As in 2017 they were involved in overhauling Taiwan's Hai Lung class submarine electronics and integration of the submarine  platform and electromechanical systems. 

Taiwan's CSBC model of a teardrop hull style future submarine (above) displayed at the September 2016, Kaohsiung International Maritime and Defence Exhibition, arms exhibition, Taiwan. Notice this model's striking similarity with Taiwan's current teardrop hull style Hai Lung class, submarines (below).

Note how similar the photo of the model is to this cut away of  Taiwan's Hai Lung class submarines, commissioned in 1987-88 (Diagram courtesy Dutch Submarines . com)


Even as fare back as 2016 Taiwan had advanced plans to develop its eight future submarines. Taiwan appears to be avoiding designing a totally new submarine on cost and Chinese pressure grounds. Instead Taiwan wants to utilize as many of the designs and components of its two existing Dutch built Hai Lung class submarines as possible.

From 15 to 18 September 2016, at Taiwan’s Kaohsiung International Maritime and Defence Exhibition, Taiwan was indicating it is getting more realistic about building 4 to 8 teardrop style submarines. Taiwan's Indigenous Defence Submarine Project is known as the "Qianlong Project".

Based on the Exhibition Media Release via MarketWired Taiwan’s China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSBC) created the Submarine Development [Design] Center of CSBC (SDCC)) in August 2016. The design contract, which is understood to be worth around US$95 million, is expected to be issued by the Taiwanese government before the end of 2016 and may run until 2019. 

Taiwan’s Ming Rong Yuan Business Co., LTD. ("one of the world's largest manufacturers of pressure vessels") has joined forces with various domestic research institutes to develop submarine pressure hulls. Ming Rong Yuan Business Co., LTD, at the Kaohsiung arms exhibition, exhibited a miniature model made of high strength low alloy (HSLA) pressure hull steel. HSLA-80 alloy steel has properties making it "easy to handle". HSLA-80 is actually produced by Taiwan's China Steel Corporation.

Japan's no longer used teardrop style Uzushio class submarine. While Uzushios no longer exist the original builders (Japan's MHI, KHI and Ministry of Defense) still have the design plans and could assist Taiwan to design and even construct a future teardrop submarine. (Photo courtesy seaforces(dot)org).


April 12, 2018

Dangerous Times 1. Mediterranean - US/UK-Russia - Probing Short of Confrontation

Business Insider Australia, April 12, 2018 reports regarding US preparations to fire Tomahawk missiles at Syria and Russia's show of force:

“...Russia’s navy appears to have responded to President Donald Trump’s warning that US missiles are headed to Syria, as well as the US Navy’s deployment of an aircraft carrier to the region.

The Russian military has said it is tracking the movements of the US Navy. In the past, the US has used Navy ships to attack Syria.

Eleven Russian navy ships were seen leaving [Tartus] a port in Syria, but an expert said it could be a bluff...”

Russia's Sputnik News adds April 11, 2018:

"...According to the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, British submarines have been ordered to move within [Tomahawk] missile range of Syria, as strikes against the Assad regime are expected as early as Thursday night..."