Super-fast sub “Golden Fish” lives on in North Russian Navy town


It was one of the most innovative projects of the Soviet Navy. The K-222, also known as the Golden Fish, was capable of sailing as quick 44,7 knots (82.8 km/h) in submerged position

It was a unique effort by Russian engineers and vessel designers, who had been commissioned to develop a brand new kind of submarine radically different from all former projects. The result was Project 661, an extremely fast attack submarine built with a titanium hull.

The vessel was laid down in late 1963 and commissioned six years later.

In December 1970 it set its official world speed record. An attempt to push for even higher speed was made in 1971. The new record was originally to be announced at the start of the 24th Soviet Party Congress, but that time schedule failed because of bad weather in the Barents Sea. Still, later that same day, the ship captain set out to the Motovsky Bay north of the Kola Peninsula and pushed the vessel’s two reactors to the utmost. Three stretches were planned, but only two executed, reportedly because the turbines were about to get out of control. The speed during the tests reached 44,85 knots (83,06 km/h), but it is still the result from 1970 that has remained the official record, notes at Wikipedia read.

The world had never seen a vessel like the K-222.

But it came with a hefty price. The submarine is believed to have costed up to two billion rubles, or approximately 1 percent of the Soviet Union’s 1968 GDP. It became the only vessel built of the project. In addition to its high cost, the K-222 created too much noice and had several more downsides.

The Golden Fish served in the Northern Fleet from 1970 to 1984. It had its home base in Zapadnaya Litsa and later Ura-Guba on the Kola Peninsula.

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It was officially taken out of service in 1989 and decommissioning started in 2008. In 2015, the spent nuclear fuel was remove and the reactor compartment is to be brought to the storage site in Saida Bay near Murmansk.

But the life of the historical submarine did not completely come to an end. The conning tower of the vessel is now being rebuilt to become a memorial in the city of Severodvinsk, the site of its original construction.

In early July, the tower was brought from the submarine repair yard of Zvezdochka to the nearby yard of Sevmash.

 

The tower of the K-222 is up for a facelift. Photo: Sevmash

 

According to Sevmash, the reconstruction will start as soon as an agreement is concluded with the city of Severodvinsk. When completed, the K-222 memorial will be placed in the local Primorsky Park.

The memorial is dedicated to builders of the sub, as well as its designers and experts that undertook repair works and upheld its battle preparedness, Sevmash reports.

 

 



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German submarines are giving Turkey an edge over Greece


ON THE SOUTHERN shore of the Gulf of Izmit, at the Golcuk shipyard, Turkey’s naval future is slowly taking shape. The first of six German-designed submarines lies in the water, after being floated out from its dock in March. The Piri Reis will join the fleet next year; five other Reis-class subs will follow in successive years. It is a triumph for Turkey’s navy—and a headache for Greece.

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Over the past year Turkey and Greece, despite both being members of NATO, have sparred in the Mediterranean. Their warships collided last summer after Turkey sent a survey vessel into disputed waters. Greece responded by rallying allies in Europe and the Middle East, bought a slew of French warplanes and, in December, announced a doubling of defence spending to €5.5bn ($6.6bn). That, though, is still less than half the Turkish level. Turkey’s navy is bigger and newer. And the Anadolu, a Spanish-designed light aircraft-carrier, is in the final stages of construction.

The new submarines would compound the problem. The Reis-class is a version of Germany’s Type 214, which is operated by the navies of Portugal, South Korea and Greece itself. An important feature is air-independent propulsion (AIP), which allows subs to go without the air supply that a diesel engine would usually require. A traditional diesel-electric sub can stay under water for two or three days. Those with AIP can do so for three weeks, says Johannes Peters of the Institute for Security Policy Kiel, and with “almost zero noise emissions” compared with noisier nuclear-powered subs, whose reactors cannot be turned off. That is perfect for the shallow waters around Greco-Turkish flashpoints.

The addition of six cutting-edge boats is a plus for NATO. The alliance’s southern flank is heating up: on June 23rd Russian ships fired shots towards a British destroyer in Crimean waters. Two days later Russia began air and sea exercises in the Mediterranean, sparring with a British aircraft-carrier strike group in the region. Then an American nuclear-armed submarine showed up in Gibraltar. At the same time, the subs “will reshape the naval balance between Greece and Turkey”, says Emmanuel Karagiannis of King’s College London.

A two-edged sword

The subs could be used for intelligence-gathering in disputed waters, including snooping around undersea cables that Greece plans to build to reach Cyprus, Egypt and Israel. The subs may be armed with medium-range anti-ship missiles which could “largely neutralise Greek anti-submarine warfare capabilities”, adds Mr Karagiannis, although much depends on how well Turkey can integrate its indigenous weapons into the German design.

Although Greece did not oppose the sub deal when it was agreed in 2009, last year’s jousting changed things. “We’re not saying, ‘You shouldn’t sell them to Turkey,’” says a Greek official. “What we are saying now is, ‘You should not sell them to this Turkey.’” Greece wants Germany to halt the sale and says that the subs could be sold to another country. It points to the example of America, which barred Turkey from buying F-35 jets two years ago after it bought a Russian air-defence system. Yet these pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Several EU countries limited arms exports to Turkey in 2019, following its offensive in Syria. But after last year’s kerfuffle in the Mediterranean, Germany, Italy, Spain and others blocked a Greek push for a full arms embargo. Then on June 13th Germany’s ruling parties rejected a motion backed by socialist and Green parties to stop weapons sales to Turkey.

Germany’s resistance to scuttling the submarine deal is unsurprising. It is thought to be worth $3.5bn, a hefty sum compared with total German arms exports of $14bn over the past decade. The country commands the world market for submarines, in particular, having sold more than 120 of them to 17 navies since the 1960s. The latest potential customer is Australia, which is toying with the idea of buying German Type 214s to fill the gap until newer French subs arrive in the 2030s.

Yet pecuniary motives are not the whole story. Turkey’s relationship with the EU and its place in NATO have become deeply divisive issues within both institutions. France, Greece and Cyprus are eager to push back at what they see as Turkey’s aggressive and expansionist behaviour. By contrast, Germany—like Italy, Poland and Spain—wants to prevent the relationship from collapsing in acrimony.

In part, that is to keep migration in check. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, is “obsessed” with the issue, complains the Greek official. “She’s allowing Turkey to blackmail Europe,” he adds. After an EU summit on June 24th, Mrs Merkel said that the bloc had agreed to provide €3bn for migrants in Turkey to follow on from a €6bn package approved in 2016. Although the number of illegal crossings from the eastern Mediterranean is down by half compared to last year, there remain over 3m refugees in Turkey.

Wider considerations are at play. Some are strategic. Germany sees Turkey as a bulwark on NATO’s southern flank, where Russia is reasserting itself. Others are domestic. Germany has the largest Turkish diaspora anywhere in the world, with around 3m people of Turkish origin. “Germany’s relationship with Turkey is not only a matter of foreign policy, but also a domestic issue,” says Sinem Adar of the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies in Berlin.

It helps Germany’s case that the Mediterranean is calm for now. So far this year NATO has convened six rounds of talks between the Greek and Turkish armed forces, leading to the creation of a military hotline for use in crises. Negotiations between the two countries over drilling rights and related issues resumed earlier this year, though progress is slow. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, met Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, on the sidelines of a NATO summit on June 14th.

Even so, just over a week later Turkey announced military exercises in the Aegean after accusing Greece of breaking an old understanding to avoid such exercises in the summer months. Next year the drills may involve the Piri Reis, watching silently from the deep.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Shifting the balance”



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Pentagon Reissues FY 22 Shipbuilding Totals to Congress In Lieu of 30-Year Plan   


USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) at Bath Iron Works

The Pentagon submitted an abbreviated long-range shipbuilding report to Congress that does not show construction past the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request, according to the document reviewed by USNI News on Thursday.

Instead, the Navy issued a summary of the eight-ship FY 2022 shipbuilding request, with a promise for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the service to further refine the needs of the Navy for a complete outlook as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget submission.

“The Navy, working closely with the OSD Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), continues to develop comparative assessments of naval force structure options consistent with Interim National Security Strategic Guidance and designed to maximize the maritime contribution to the joint force,” reads the report that was released on Thursday evening.
“The results of these efforts and ongoing experimentation and prototyping will be reflected in the FY2023 shipbuilding plan.”

In lieu of the traditional tables that would have outlined the Navy’s projected buys through 2052, the Thursday plan published a chart that, “depicts ranges for critical naval platforms that, taken together with broader Naval and Joint Force capabilities, incorporate combat effectiveness, production feasibility, and likely fiscal limits. Investment priorities include ensuring sufficient capacity in our survivable and lethal submarine force, maintaining the Joint Force’s most survivable and adaptable aviation base in the aircraft carrier, and increasing the small surface combatant force to better support distributed maritime operations.”

The range shows a fleet size from 321 to 372 manned ships, along with a range of 77 to 140 unmanned vessels with no timeline for completion of the work.

The Navy’s previous goal had been 355 hulls laid out by the service’s 2016 force structure assessment. The Trump administration issued a December shipbuilding plan that would have pushed the shipbuilding budget to $34 billion a year by FY 2025.

“355 is a good goal to shoot for,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked about the shipbuilding budget on Thursday.

Range of ships proposed by new FY ’22 shipbuilding plan

“You have my commitment that I will continue to work with the committee to do everything I can to resource our Navy. We have the dominant naval force on the face of the planet. It has been so in the past. It is so now. It will remain so going forward. I absolutely agree that 355 ships is a good goal to shoot for,” he said. “I want to make sure that we have the right mix of capabilities – size matters – but capabilities also matter. We’re going to continue to work with the Navy and with this committee to make sure the right capabilities are in place.”

The scant report reflects the limited long-range budget information that was included as part of the overall FY ‘22 submission. The Pentagon did not include a summary of the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) that presents a five-year spending outlook for the Defense Department and the individual services.

It’s not uncommon for a new administration to not file a 30-year plan with its first budget, “on the grounds that they were spending that year reviewing and revising the previous administration’s defense strategy, plans, and programs, so as to create a basis for subsequently devising a 30-year shipbuilding plan,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

The placeholder report issued at the direction of OSD is a departure from not issuing a report at all and instead a preview of the report that will be issued the next year.

“Ongoing analysis and experimentation will define required combat effectiveness and emphasize the focus on warfighting capability and readiness. This analysis and experimentation will be informed by operationally relevant metrics including, but not limited to, lethality, survivability, operational reach, vertical launch system cells, torpedo tubes, sortie generation rates, lift capacity, affordability, and industrial base viability and capacity,” reads the plan.



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Skipper Schlitt and the only submarine ever sunk by its toilet


When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Even when you’re 200 feet underwater. 

But 76 years ago, answering nature’s call actually sent a submarine to the bottom of the ocean. 

Submersibles have been destroyed a host of ways over the years. Depth charges, naval and aerial bombings, collisions, even mechanical troubles have all dispatched them to Davy Jones’ Locker. 

But only one holds the, err, distinction of being done in by its own potty. 

U-1206 was the pride of Nazi Germany’s navy when she went into service in March 1944. Some 50 officers and men were assigned to her as she set out to attack Allied shipping. 

Holy Cow! History is written by novelist, former television journalist and diehard history buff J. Mark Powell. Have a historic mystery that needs solving? A forgotten moment worth remembering? Send it to HolyCow@insidesources.com. 


Daily life aboard a U-boat was rough. They were built for combat performance, not comfort. Crewmen made their way around machinery and weaponry as best they could for months at a time. The food was bad, the air was stale and smelled of diesel exhaust fumes, and guys who had gone too long without showering. 

Then there was the matter of the “head,” naval slang for the bathroom. U-boats had only two – and one was often used to store extra food for the long undersea voyages. That’s right, all 50 men had to share one – and only one – restroom. 

But U-1206 boasted a creature comfort most other submarines didn’t have: A state-of-the-art high-pressure toilet that could be flushed while submerged at great depths. That was important because when 50 guys are using the same facility, you want all the flushing you can get. 

Without going into technobabble, the pressure system was extremely complex. Leave it to the Germans to devise a flushing mechanism that was so complicated that an engineer “specialist” had to be present every time it was used. 

And it worked well … until Saturday, April 14, 1945. 

U-1206 had left occupied Norway eight days earlier and was cruising off the Scottish coast when something happened. Kapitänleutnant Karl Adolf Schlitt (you have to be careful pronouncing that name when you tell this story) was commanding a U-boat for the very first time. Naturally, that would drive up a man’s sense of self-importance. 

But it’s possible Schlitt may have carried cockiness a bit too far because there are different versions of what happened next. 

The skipper’s official report says the intricate water pressure system sprang a leak. It leaked all right. But the crew told a completely different story. 

They said Captain Schlitt had an inflated view of his mechanical competence. He didn’t need any “specialist” to tell him how to work the new-fangled system. He could read the manual and make it flush all by himself. 

Except, he couldn’t. 

When he pulled the chain, the sub began filling with water from the ocean combined with raw sewage from its storage compartment. Talk about a mess. Schlitt cried for help. But nobody could figure out how how to stop the rapidly spreading slop. 

It eventually reached the U-boat’s batteries. Saltwater and battery acid combined to create dangerous chlorine gas (one of several gases that had been used in World War I’s deadly trench attacks). 

With toxic fumes quickly filling the boat, Schlitt had no choice but to order U-1206 to surface and open the hatch — the most dangerous thing a submarine can do in wartime. 

It didn’t take the Brits long to spot the sub and attack it from the air. One crew member was killed, and U-1206 was so badly damaged it couldn’t dive. So Schlitt had it scuttled and then gave the order to abandon ship. 

Three men drowned during the evacuation. Nearby British ships picked up 36 others. The remaining 10 made it to shore in a lifeboat and were quickly captured. 

In a way, U-1206’s demise was a fitting metaphor for its homeland’s sinking condition, because Nazi Germany was also going down the drain at the time. Within a fortnight, Adolf Hitler fired a bullet into his brain; the Third Reich went out of business a week later. 

Nobody knows what happened to the skipper after the war. Schlitt slunk home in shame and disappeared from history. 

Divers working on a pipeline stumbled upon the U-boat’s remains in the 1970s. It sits silently rusting on the bottom of the sea today, the only submarine ever sunk because someone had to use the facilities. 



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DoD Needs to Invest More in Innovation — Security Today


DoD Needs to Invest More in Innovation

An old Navy way of saying something is a dumb idea is to say, “that makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.” While the Navy is smart enough not to use them on submarines, the way that DoD runs its acquisitions makes about as much sense as putting a screen door on a submarine. And, it’s costing us in the taxpayer’s wallet and the country in national security. We prepare for the last war while our adversaries plan for the next conflict.

Numerous commissions, studies and papers continue to point to the stifling effects of the DoD procurement system on production, efficiency, and innovation as well as lead to bloated price tags like the F-35. The cost of one F-35 is now “only” $78 million, the next five years of development will be billion, and the lifetime cost of the program is $1.73 trillion. That is just one (albeit expensive) weapon system. That is a lot of money for a system that has not been actively in regular national security headlines or conversation (except to debate its controversial efficacy). With drones, autonomous weapons, artificial intelligence and other innovations on the battlefield, what will be its comparative value in the next conflict? 

Our adversaries have three advantages over us: 

  1. They’ve already stolen what works. The most effective way to do research is to not have to do it at all and go straight to an advanced final product. China ensures that it keeps up with the United States in the technological race, and saves billions of dollars, by stealing the results of our expensive R&D efforts.

    According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. companies have suffered “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” China’s economic power strategy also includes the Belt and Road initiative – where they invest in infrastructure in developing countries. But they are doing the same thing here, as well, as China directs equity investment in cutting-edge U.S. technology start-ups.

  2. With U.S. power as the relative benchmark, Russia and China are choosing how to contest us. “[W]e should expect China and Russia to come after us with irregular-war strategies….”

    This means breadth and innovation are key for our defenses since what has worked for us before is exactly what they are going to avoid.

  3. They do not have to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulation or deal with a dizzying array of rules, regulations, policies and statutes that stifle innovation. As Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services recently stated, “in my view, where we need to make the Pentagon more effective: […] our acquisition and procurement process over the last 20 years can only be described as a complete disaster.”



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DOD and DOE Face Challenges Mitigating Risks to U.S. Deterrence Efforts


What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) plans to replace or modernize existing triad platforms including submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and bomber aircraft, as well as many of the nuclear command, control, and communication systems that facilitate control of them (see below). The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to modernize its nuclear infrastructure to life extend and produce warheads and bombs. DOD will be challenged to meet some U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) operational needs with existing triad systems, shown below, through the end of their service lives. DOD must manage shortfalls in quantities of systems that it can field and capability limitations that reduce effectiveness of these systems. For example, the Navy will have to carefully manage resources to meet USSTRATCOM’s operational requirements for the Ohio class submarine. Further, DOE faces a long-term sustainment challenge with one of its bombs, the B83-1.

Existing Nuclear Triad Platforms

Existing Nuclear Triad Platforms

DOD and DOE are working to replace triad systems nearing retirement, but these replacement programs face schedule risks that could exacerbate challenges with existing triad systems. Replacement programs have risk factors that include concurrency between phases of acquisition programs from development through production, immature technologies, and limited schedule margin. For example,

  • The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program includes limited schedule margin for testing, and if it fails a major test event it would likely delay initial fielding.
  • The schedules for DOE’s life extension programs are highly dependent on the availability of suitable facilities to manufacture, assemble, and assess bomb and warhead components. However, many DOE facilities needed for these efforts are outdated or obsolete, as more than half of DOE’s facilities are over 40 years old.

DOD and DOE have limited ability to mitigate risks to the efficacy of the nuclear deterrent with their current strategy, and are beginning to consider alternatives.

Why GAO Did This Study

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review indicates that DOD’s highest priority is the nuclear deterrent, made up of sea, land, and air legs—referred to as the nuclear triad. DOD has reported that due to prior delays and challenges with aging nuclear triad systems, there is little to no margin for delaying replacement systems without incurring risk to the nuclear deterrent. Similarly, DOE faces a demanding schedule for infrastructure projects and programs for the life extension and production of warheads and bombs.

In this report, GAO examines (1) the challenges DOD and DOE face in meeting operational needs with existing triad systems; (2) the extent to which DOD and DOE triad acquisition programs face schedule risks, and the implications of delays; and (3) whether DOD and DOE have strategies to mitigate risks to the nuclear deterrent, including acquisition delays. To do this work, GAO analyzed DOD and DOE documentation, interviewed officials, and leveraged GAO work on acquisition best practices, triad systems, and the nuclear enterprise.

This is an unclassified version of a classified report we issued in June 2020, and specific classified information has been removed.





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Indonesian Navy Submarine Still Missing; Officials Say Time Is Running Out : NPR


An Indonesian navy ship searches for the submarine KRI Nanggala 402 that went missing this week in the waters off Bali.

Eric Ireng/AP


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Eric Ireng/AP


An Indonesian navy ship searches for the submarine KRI Nanggala 402 that went missing this week in the waters off Bali.

Eric Ireng/AP

Rescuers scouring the Bali Sea for a stricken Indonesian submarine with 53 sailors aboard are hoping the crew could still be alive, but as the hours since the vessel’s disappearance tick by, the chances of survival grow increasingly slim.

The Indonesian navy chief of staff, Adm. Yudo Margono, told reporters Thursday that a search of the vicinity where the diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 is believed to have gone down, about 60 miles north of the resort island of Bali, had located an object with “high magnetic force” floating at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (about 165 to 330 feet). “We hope it is the KRI Nanggala,” he said.

But the navy had said previously that it believes the submarine may have sunk in a particularly deep spot in the otherwise relatively shallow sea — about 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet) down — much deeper than the boat’s maximum operating depth and likely below its crush depth.

Even in a best case scenario, the navy chief of staff emphasized that with oxygen expected to run out early Saturday a quick rescue would be critical. “Hopefully we can rescue them before the oxygen has run out,” he said.

The KRI Nanggala was conducting a weapons training exercise early Wednesday when the navy said the sub was given permission to dive and then never made radio contact again.

Earlier, rescuers reported finding an oil slick on the surface and the smell of diesel fuel, but there was no way of knowing whether it came from the sub. While an oil slick might be a sign that the vessel was destroyed, the navy said it could simply mean that the submarine’s fuel tank had been damaged. It could even be a deliberate signal from the crew.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday that he had ordered an “optimal” search for the submarine and that the rescue of its crew was the “main priority.” He expressed sympathy with family members over their ordeal.

The German-built submarine has been in service since the early 1980s. Despite its age, a refit of the vessel by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering was completed in 2012. A Daewoo official told The Associated Press that the company had upgraded the boat’s internal structures and systems.

Speaking to reporters, the navy chief of staff said the submarine had “received a letter of feasibility from the navy” and that “it was ready for battle.”

Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told Indonesia’s KompasTV earlier that the boat could sustain a depth of 250-500 meters (about 820-1,640 feet). “Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous,” he said.

A Daewoo Shipbuilding official, Ahn Guk-hyeon, told the AP that the submarine would collapse if it goes deeper than about 200 meters (about 655 feet).

If the vessel is intact, it could be too deep for a rescue, said Frank Owen, secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia.

“Most rescue systems are really only rated to about 600 meters (1,969 feet),” he told the AP. “They can go deeper than that because they will have a safety margin built into the design, but the pumps and other systems that are associated with that may not have the capacity to operate. So they can survive at that depth, but not necessarily operate.”

He said the Indonesian sub was not fitted with a special hatch seal that would allow the crew to escape into a different vessel during an underwater rescue.

“So the only system they have is to get to the surface and abandon the submarine on the surface; or if they’re in water that is less than 180 metres [590 feet] in depth they could put a special suit on so they can breathe and not burst their lungs and they can get to the surface,” Owen told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s still risky but it’s doable,” Owen said.

The Indonesian military said Thursday that at least 20 navy ships, two submarines and five aircraft have been searching the area and that a hydro-oceanographic survey ship equipped with underwater detection equipment was also on its way to the area of the oil slick.

Australia, South Korea, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India and Turkey have all offered to assist in the search for the submarine and a possible rescue, the Indonesian navy said.

Vessels from Singapore and Malaysia are also reportedly joining in the search but won’t be able to reach the area until the weekend.



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Putin’s stealth subs could cripple Britain by cutting undersea internet cables as Russia launches new Arctic front


VLADIMIR Putin’s shadowy fleet of submarines dedicated to tampering with vital undersea internet cables could cripple Britain and plunge the country into chaos.

The vessels are operated by a shadowy branch of the Russian military that answers directly to Putin – with a mission to deliver a catastrophic blow to the West.

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The subs are carried underneath beneath an enormous “mothership” undersea vessel and are built to lurk at the bottom of the ocean – entering the Atlantic by sailing down from the Arctic.

They then use robotic arms to tamper with or even cut key cables that help keep the world’s economy moving with potentially devastating consequences.

It comes as Putin has opened up a new front in the North Pole as he builds new military bases in the frozen wastes – giving him control of polar waters across 11 of the world’s time zones.

Tensions continue to simmer between the West and Russia who have both beefed up their presence in the polar region, which is believed to hold significant natural resources.

And cutting the undersea cables could be a key element in any conflict between the two sides.

Undersea cables crisscrossing the seafloor carry 97 per cent of internet traffic with $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions dependent on them.

Cutting enough of the network in the Atlantic could cause chaos for Britain, with Air Marshall Sir Stuart Peach previously warning such a breach could be “catastrophic”.

It could shut down the internet, cut Britain off from the rest of the world, paralyse financial transactions, and damage communications with the military overseas.

And the US is also under threat, with a report Director of National Intelligence urging Washington to push for stronger protections for the undersea cables.

The US Government is reliant on the cables to transfer information with their NATO allies – and as well as cutting them, its also feared Russia or other state actors could tap into the cables to steal information.

Defence expert Rob Clark from the Henry Jackson Society told The Sun Online “the threat is very real” from the secretive Russian subs.

“Their aim is to retain the credible capability either to disrupt or destroy the cables that the UK’s economy and its entire communications rely on,” he warned.

“Even slightly damaged that can cause untold chaos and disruption to the UK.”

And the cables are not hard to find, with their locations being open to the public as global shipping networks have to be aware of their locations.

The dire warning comes as it emerged the threat is being taken so seriously that the Royal Navy has recently ordered a special surveillance ship to protect cables from the Russians.

And one US submariner even described to The Sun Online how he witnessed the Russians practicing lifting the cables in a dress rehearsal for cutting them during any showdown with the West.

A rare picture of what is believed to a Losharik submarine, launched from the Belgorod

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A rare picture of what is believed to a Losharik submarine, launched from the Belgorod
The giant Belgorod 'mothership' submarine

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The giant Belgorod ‘mothership’ submarineCredit: Getty – Contributor

The concentration of cables in chokepoints means any disruption is likely to hit hard, as an earthquake under the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines showed in 2006.

The quake severed six out of the seven cables used to distribute internet and phone services from North America to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

That led a 100 per cent internet outage to Hong Kong and South East Asia, cutting off millions of citizens and businesses from internet and mobile phones.

It has been estimated that cutting three cables could lead to some countries losing 70 per cent of their data traffic.

‘CRIPPLING BLOW’

The impact of any outage on that scale would severely damage the world financial system.

Globally, it has been estimated an average of 15 million transactions a day are wholly reliant on undersea cables alone.

Now Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP penned a paper on the threat in 2017 in which he warned of “full-scale outages” caused by the cable cutting and coordinated sabotage is a “major threat to the UK”.

“A successful attack would deal a crippling blow to Britain’s security and prosperity,” he wrote.

Putin’s mysterious cable cutting submarines

RUSSIA is believed to have six submarines dedicated to the cable cutting mission – with the Losharik the most modern and capable.

Only a handful of grainy photographs exist of the vessel and everything known about it comes from educated guesswork.

A fire on board Losharik in 2019 resulted in the deaths of 14 submariners, reportedly including some of the most experienced decorated in the Russian navy.

The Kremlin has never explained what the submarine was doing just 60 miles off the coast of Norway in the first place.

According to submarine expert H.I Sutton, who writes the Covert Shores blog, the submarine is constructed from seven spherical titanium hulls strung together which gives it extraordinary strength.

The vessel is named after a Russian cartoon horse, which is made up of lots of many spheres joined together.

It can operate at up to depths of 3300ft, far greater than conventional submarines and have special attachments allowing them to rest at the bottom of the sea.

The submarines are deployed from the giant Belgorod, itself designed for special operations, and currently the longest submarine currently serving in the world’s navies.

Mr Clark said disrupting the undersea cables rather than completely destroying them would fit into Vladimir Putin’s goal of goading the West.

“A more likely scenario would be to disrupt the cables rather than destroy them,” he said.

“What should be the response to this? Should we torpedo the submarine or launch a cyber-attack on the Moscow stock exchange?

“Because of that Russia will try to exploit it because they know it’s a weakness.

‘Destroying them would be such a provocation from Russia the likes of which we’ve never seen since the Cold War, even compared to the Salisbury attack.

“So disrupting them is a much more likely scenario. So for example if there was an escalation of UK commitment to the Ukraine, where the British army and Royal Navy are training, then that would a response from Russia.”

The subs are directly controlled by Vladimir Putin

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The subs are directly controlled by Vladimir PutinCredit: AFP

The Russian’s tactics were first deployed during the Cold War and they have been refining them ever since.

Former US submariner Aarron Amick. witnessed the cable cutting subs in action firsthand while working as a sonar operator off the coast of Norway.

“We were monitoring a unit around the coast of Norway when they sent out a mothership, which was a specially modified ballistic missile submarine that had the missiles removed,” he told The Sun Online.

“The area where the missiles were was basically a hanger for a second mini-sub, which they would dock in the belly and they would go down the coast of Norway, which very convenient as it was the closest country with cables.

“They would undock the sub and it would dive very deep, practically to the bottom to locate where these cables where so they could go right to them.

“They would also practice picking them up, not necessarily damage them because it was peacetime, but give them experience in doing everything except that.”

Undersea cables carry 97 per cent of the world's internet traffic

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Undersea cables carry 97 per cent of the world’s internet trafficCredit: Alamy

Vulnerable undersea cables – the width of a garden hosepipe

THE FIRST cable was laid across the Atlantic 1858 and have been at the heart of global communication ever since.

They are mostly operated by private companies with Google recently announcing plans to install a cable linking the US, UK and Spain that would come ashore in Cornwall.

Most cables are around 3cm in diameter, roughly the size of a hosepipe and are cased in galvanised steel armour with a plastic coating.

Data is transmitted down the optical fibres as wavelengths of light travelling at about 180,000 miles per second.

Each fibre has the capacity to transmit as much as 400GB of data per second – about enough for 375 million phone calls.

A single undersea cable can contain anywhere between four and 200 of these fibres.

With so much of the world now dependent on the internet, they have also seen as an Achilles heel.

The idea of tampering cables as a weapon of war was developed by the British in World War One, when German communications were intercepted and its cables cut.

But the Russians have in recent years been seen as a looming menace, building on methods from the Cold War.

When he was an MP, the current Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned about the threat in hard hitting report.

“A successful attack on the UK’s undersea cable infrastructure would be an existential threat to our security,” he said.

He said the US Navy crew observed the operation over a three months and said he was “impressed” by the Russian’s capability.

 “I was doing my job and being professional but in the back of my mind was impressed. At the time the American navy had none of this capability.

“It’s fantastic that this thing goes and this activity continues today.”

Navy warfare expert Sidharth Kaushal from defence think-tank RUSI said the submarines are operated by the GUGI or Directorate for Deep Sea Research, which answers to Putin.

“They’ve been developing a variety of special purpose submarines which are deep diving and have the capacity to withstand very deep pressures,” said Dr Kaushal.

“They could be used for a wide range of activities from tapping into the cables to gather intelligence to severing them to cause economic disruption in an extreme scenario.”

He said cutting cables “fits well” into a Putin’s strategy for fighting the West.

“He knows his conventional forces are inferior to Nato so the emphasis is to impose as much disruption to Western society to convince them the game isn’t worth the candle,” he said.





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HII Awarded $194M Navy Submarine Overhaul Support Extension


March 25, 2021
Contract Awards, News

HII Awarded $194M Navy Submarine Overhaul Support Extension

USS Columbus submarine

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE: HII) will continue engineered overhaul work on USS Columbus, a nuclear powered fast attack submarine in the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles class. under the potential $194.5 million contract modification.

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division in Virginia will receive nearly $191 million at the time of award for continued efforts toward completing the fiscal 2018 project for SSN 762, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

The company initially secured a $288.6 million in August 2015 to help the branch plan modernization of the undersea vessel and received a $136 million modification in November 2019 for repair, upgrade and maintenance services.

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