USS Connecticut: How did a $3 billion US Navy submarine hit an undersea mountain?


The Connecticut is now pierside at a US Navy base on the Pacific island of Guam. The Navy says it got there — more than 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) east of the South China Sea — under its own power and its nuclear reactor was not harmed, although 11 of its crew of suffered minor injuries in the collision.

The Pentagon has not released details of the damage the vessel incurred nor how long it might be out of action in a region which, with the rise of the Chinese navy, is seeing growing demands on the US fleet.

Which leaves US military planners with some big questions to answer in the coming weeks and months.

Not the least of which is, how did this happen?

Driving a submarine

The Navy on Thursday gave a hint of what might have led to the accident when it relieved the Connecticut’s leadership of their command due to loss of confidence.

The commanding officer, Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, was relieved of duty, as were the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin, and the chief of the boat, Master Chief Sonar Technician Cory Rodgers.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of US 7th Fleet, determined that “sound judgment, prudent decision-making and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident,” according to a statement about the decision.

The undersea environment is unforgiving and even small mistakes can have huge consequences.

“Submarining is hard, it’s really hard. Not everything goes right all the time,” said Thomas Shugart, who spent more than 11 years on US submarines, including commanding an attack sub.

Members of the crew sit at the controls aboard the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter in 2005.

Surface ships or a sub operating at periscope depth can relay on global positioning satellites to give sailors a very accurate location, said Shugart, now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

But at depth, the GPS systems are not available. Submariners use their compasses and charts.

Accurate charts (with a resolution of 328 feet or 100 meters) of the sea bottom are compiled by sending surface ships over an area and bathing the bottom in sound waves — a method called multi-beam sonar.

But the process is expensive and time consuming, leaving as much as 80% of Earth’s seafloor unmapped.

In the busy South China Sea, through which a third of the world’s maritime trade passes and where China has been building and militarily fortifying man-made islands, less than 50% of the sea bottom has been mapped, David Sandwell, a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, told CNN.

“It’s not surprising that you could run into something,” he said.

The US Navy has not said exactly where the Connecticut hit the seamount.

Officially, the service says it was in Indo-Pacific waters, but US defense officials had previously told CNN it occurred in the South China Sea.

Sandwell tried to narrow down the area.

Using a method called vertical gravity grading — taking satellite altimetry measurements of the Earth’s gravitational field — and overlaying those results with mapping of the bottom of the South China Sea, he was able to identify 27 places where the Connecticut could have hit a seamount that was not on US Navy charts.

“These are places where the gravity predicts there is something shallower than 400 meters (1,312 feet), around the depth where a submarine might run into it,” he said.

Officially, the Navy says Seawolf-class subs have a maximum depth of more than 243 meters (800 feet), although some experts put their maximum depth around double that.

Submarines do have their own sonar, but using it comes at a price — loss of stealthiness.

Those sonar pings — so ubiquitous in submarine movies — also give away the sub’s position to opposing forces.

“Sonar is your only way to look at the bottom, but you don’t want to put out more sound than you have to,” Shugart said.

“You’d have to do that about every 20 seconds or so,” to get an accurate picture, Sandwell said. “It makes a lot of noise.”

When it comes to knowing the terrain beneath them, even astronauts might have it easier than submariners, according to Shugart.

“Basically, the surface of the moon is better charted than the bottom of the ocean is,” he said.

A history of submarine groundings

The USS Connecticut isn’t the first US Navy sub to be involved in an underwater collision.
The attack submarine USS San Francisco sits in dry dock, on January 27, 2005, in Apra Harbor, Guam to assess damage sustained after running aground approximately 350 miles south of Guam on January 8, 2005.

On January 8, 2005, the USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, struck a seamount about 350 miles (563 kilometers) south of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

The incident killed one sailor and injured 97 others among the crew of 137.

A Navy investigation concluded the San Francisco was traveling at maximum speed at a depth of 525 feet (160 meters) when it hit the seamount, which was not on the chart the sub’s commanders were using at the time.

But the probe found the commanders should have known the undersea mountain was there based on other charts in their possession, which indicated a navigational hazard in the area.

“If San Francisco’s leaders and watchteams had complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices, the grounding would most likely have been avoided,” the Navy report said. “Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may be been prevented.”

Other incidents have been less serious but illustrate the difficulties of maneuvering subs even in familiar waters.

For instance, in November 2015, the USS Georgia, an Ohio-class guided missile submarine, struck a channel buoy and grounded as it was returning to port in Kings Bay, Georgia.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia departs Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in 2015.

The 18,000-ton, 560-foot-long (170 meters) sub sustained more than $1 million in damage and its captain was relieved of command.

And in 2003, the USS Hartford ran aground while entering a NATO base in Spain, resulting in a $9 million repair bill and its commander being relieved of duty.

Despite those incidents, Shugart, the former US Navy sub commander, defends the US Navy’s record under the sea.

“We have more submarines, they spend more time at sea, they go a lot farther away from home and they operate at higher speeds than probably anybody else’s,” he said.

“We do the most challenging submarine missions that anybody does and the farthest away from home,” he said, adding: “even the pros have bad days.”

What makes the USS Connecticut so special?

The Connecticut is one of three Seawolf-class submarines in the US Navy fleet, each costing about $3 billion to build. The 9,300-ton, 353-foot sub, commissioned in 1998 and is crewed by 140 sailors.

What are nuclear-powered submarines and how do they work?

Like all modern US Navy attack submarines, the Connecticut is powered by a nuclear reactor, which enables it to be fast but quiet, with none of the noise produced by a combustion engine. Nuclear power enables such subs to stay at sea and underwater as long as provisions for the crew hold out.

The Navy doesn’t give exact figures in publicizing the abilities of its submarine, but experts say the Seawolf-class is exceptional.

“These subs have some of the most advanced — in fact the most advanced — underwater capabilities in the business,” said Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London.

The Navy says it is “exceptionally quiet, fast, well-armed, and equipped with advanced sensors.”

A Navy fact sheet says the Connecticut is capable of going faster than 28 mph (46.3 kph) under water. That’s faster than the average container or cargo ship on the surface of the sea and almost as fast as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

As it is larger than even the newest Virginia-class attack subs, the Connecticut can carry more weaponry than other US attack submarines — including up to 50 torpedoes as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a US Navy fact sheet.

The USS Connecticut was commissioned in Groton, Connecticut on December 11, 1998.

And despite being more than 20 years old, it’s also technologically advanced with updates to its systems performed during its service life.

Though the Navy doesn’t give details on the missions its submarines undertake, the three Seawolf-class subs are thought to be important intelligence-gathering assets, especially in shallower environments.

“The robust design of the Seawolf class enables these submarines to perform a wide spectrum of crucial military assignments — from underneath the Arctic icepack to littoral regions anywhere in the world,” the manufacturer, General Dynamics Electric Boat, says on its website.

“Their missions include surveillance, intelligence collection, special warfare, cruise missile strike, mine warfare, and anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare,” Electric Boat says.

With no combat taking place in the South China Sea, the focus of the sub in the current environment is likely to be in intelligence gathering.

And that’s why China is paying close attention.

The  guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, rear, and the Royal Australian Navy  frigate HMAS Ballarat sail together during integrated operations in the South China Sea in October 2020.

Questions from Beijing

Following the collision, Beijing has accused Washington of not being forthcoming about what happened and how it could affect countries around the South China Sea.

“We have repeatedly expressed our grave concern over the incident and asked the US side to take a responsible attitude and provide a detailed clarification so as to give a satisfactory account to the international community and countries in the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said this week.

The subject of nuclear-powered submarines has been prominent in Chinese state media over the past few months in the wake of Australia’s decision to acquire such vessels from the United States and the United Kingdom under a deal known as AUKUS.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in September the AUKUS deal “seriously damages regional peace and stability.”

The Connecticut incident just added fuel to Beijing’s propaganda push.

Washington issued its first public statement on the collision five days after it occurred. It did not disclose the fact that the Connecticut hit a seamount until earlier this week, nearly a month after the incident.

US Navy officials told CNN on Wednesday the delays stemmed from concerns including keeping the damaged sub safe and ensuring a thorough investigation of the incident, as is standard.

“Due to operations security, we could not disclose the location of the submarine or the incident to the public at an earlier date,” Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a public affairs officer for the US 7th Fleet, said in an email.

Sims said two internal investigations were launched, one on the command of the sub and a second on safety procedures.

Analysis: Why Russian and Chinese warships teaming up to circle Japan is a big deal

The first, she said, “determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region” and has been submitted to 7th Fleet commanders for review.

The second probe, being conducted by Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, is ongoing.

A spokesperson for the sub force, Cmdr. Cindy Fields, told CNN this week the submarine is in “a safe and stable condition” at the port in Guam.

“USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” she said.

The Navy said Thursday the Connecticut would be moved to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

According to a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang called on Washington to clarify “the intended navigation of the nuclear submarine, whether the specific location of the incident was in an exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of any other country, or whether the incident has caused nuclear leakage or damaged the marine environment.”

The US has not revealed any of those details, but when it comes to the South China Sea, Washington’s policy is consistent.

After a US destroyer performed a freedom of navigation operation in the waterway in September, a US 7th Fleet statement responded definitively to Chinese objections: “The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” the statement said. “Nothing (China) says otherwise will deter us.”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.



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S. Korea signs deal with Daewoo Shipbuilding to build new submarine


SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) — The arms procurement agency said Friday it has signed a 985.7 billion won (US$853 million) deal with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. to build a new 3,600-ton-class submarine with improved defense capabilities.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration signed the contract Thursday for the second unit of three Changbogo-III Batch-II class submarines that South Korea plans to build by 2029. Construction of the first unit began just last month.

Carrying 50 crewmembers aboard, the 89-meter-long and 9.6-meter-wide submarine will be equipped with improved combat capabilities to better detect and target enemies and partially powered by a lithium battery, the agency said.

It will be designed with nearly 80 percent of its component parts made locally.

The deal comes a month after the Navy received the country’s first 3,000-ton-class indigenous submarine, Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, capable of firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, also constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding, was the first of three 3,000-ton-class submarines South Korea plans to build by 2023.

“With world-class capabilities, the new submarine will play a key role as a strategic asset of our country to counter security threats from all directions,” R. Adm. Jeon Yong-kyu heading the submarine project at the agency said.



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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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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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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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“Siri, Find Me A Russian Submarine,” U.S. Navy Asks


Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s
AMZN
Alexa have become popular technological helpers. Ask a virtual assistant to find a restaurant or tell you today’s weather, a soothing AI voice obligingly responds.

So why not a virtual assistant to help the U.S. Navy find Russian and Chinese submarines?

The Navy wants a virtual assistant — like the ones found on consumer smartphones — to help overloaded sonar operators manage multiple anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems. In particular, active sonar on Navy cruisers and destroyers come with a variety of settings. “This includes employment decisions such as changing the operational mode between pulsed active sonar (PAS) and continuous active sonar (CAS) as well as changing waveform and various other system settings,” according to the Navy research solicitation. “Operators must conduct sonar analysis of resulting sonar returns and interpret them based on the sonar settings and the environment.”

This is where a Siri-like assistant would come in handy. The AI would use sensor data and monitoring of environmental conditions to recommend optimum sonar employment, and to assess potential moves of the enemy sub. The system would provide sonar operators with “situational awareness regarding key parameters such as primary propagation path(s), bearing-dependent complications (such as sea mounts that might obscure threats), significant topology features into which a threat might retreat to minimize detection, best tactical waveforms, and situational best practices to enable operators to maximize the potential of the tactical sonar suite for the specific conditions present at that time and location.”

The Navy is hoping to see at least a 25 percent gain in active sonar efficiency by employing a virtual assistant.

Phase I of the project calls for developing an AI architecture and algorithms. Phase II calls for testing the virtual assistant on the hull-mounted sonar fitted to Navy cruisers and destroyers, as well as the Variable Depth Sonar on Littoral Combat Ships.

Submarines have been long been the nemesis of the U.S. Navy, whose carrier battlegroups can dominate the surface – but are vulnerable to subs armed with sophisticated missiles and torpedoes. In addition to Russian and Chinese nuclear-powered attack submarines, even smaller powers like Iran and North Korea may eventually field a new generation of ultra-quiet diesel-powered attack subs. This will place an even greater strain on the ASW capabilities of a U.S. Navy surface fleet already undermanned and overworked.

The deeper question is whether military technology is becoming so complex that a virtual assistant has become a necessity. Pentagon research agency DARPA, for example, is working on AI battle command assistants to help human commanders.

As always, the benefits of advanced technology must be weighed against the challenges that humans face in mastering it. A Siri-like AI assistant can help.

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The U.S. Navy Wants Two Large Drone Submarine Prototypes


The U.S. Navy is moving quickly to build two new undersea large drone prototypes to launch from a submarine, surveil the undersea, locate enemy mines, subs, and surface ships, and coordinate targeting for torpedo attacks. 

Naval Sea Systems Command just released a request to industry to submit proposals to build two prototype Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (LDUUV) to begin construction next year. The LDUUV program is intended to complement a sweeping broader scale Navy unmanned system effort intended to deliver as many as twenty-one new large drone boats within just the next five years. The LDUUVs could be launched from submarine missile tubes to engage in long-dwell undersea reconnaissance missions and use various kinds of data gathering and transmission technologies to inform submarine commanders of relevant combat information. 

A December 2020 Congressional Research Service report, called “Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles,” cites the LDUUV program as one of a number of high-profile undersea vehicle prototype programs likely to transform the undersea domain.

“UVs are one of several new capabilities—along with directed-energy weapons, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and cyber capabilities—that the Navy says it is pursuing to meet emerging military challenges, particularly from China. 2 UVs can be equipped with sensors, weapons, or other payloads, and can be operated remotely, semi-autonomously, or (with technological advancements) autonomously,” the report states. 

As computer algorithms continue to become more advanced, undersea platforms such as the LDUUV can increase levels of autonomy, thereby expanding mission scope and adding new abilities to respond to emerging circumstances and make adjustments while performing operations. 

For example, AI-enabled algorithms could help an undersea drone identify specific classes of mines, enemy ships or submarines by bouncing new incoming sensor images off of a vast database to perform analyses, make discernments and offer optimal courses of action for submarine commanders to consider. Payloads can be sonar detection systems or other kinds of undersea reconnaissance and weapons applications. 

“The LDUUV will achieve full integration with Modernized Dry Deck Shelter and Payload Handling System-equipped submarines. Initial vehicles will be designed to support Intelligence Preparation of the Operating Environment missions,” a NAVSEA report states. 

The Navy is acquiring the new drone, called Snakehead, on an expedited, massively fast-tracked basis to meet pressing, even urgent, needs for long-dwell undersea surveillance. A Snakehead could, for instance, conduct much longer reconnaissance missions in high-threat areas near enemy coastline without needing to return a manned crew. 

“Snakehead is a long-endurance, multi-mission UUV, deployed from submarine large open interfaces, with the capability to deploy reconfigurable payloads. It is the largest UUV intended for hosting and deployment from submarines, and has been designated a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition,” the NAVSEA report states. 

The NAVSEA solicitation reports the service intends to award a deal to a single contractor to build two LDUUV prototypes next year. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.



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Ballistic missile submarine Arighat in final stages of trials, to be commissioned early 2021


Representational image | India’s kilo class submarine INS Sindhuraj during the Malabar 2020 exercise in the Bay of Bengal | Photo by special arrangement
Representational image | India’s kilo class submarine INS Sindhuraj during the Malabar 2020 exercise in the Bay of Bengal | Photo by special arrangement


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New Delhi: Arighat, the second of the indigenous Arihant class nuclear-powered ballistic missile carrying submarine (SSBN), is in the final stages of sea trials and will be commissioned early next year, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said the submarine has performed well during the sea trials so far, and added that the commissioning of the vessel was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It should be done (commissioned) early next year,” a source said.

The Arighat was quietly launched in November 2017 by the then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

With Arighat in, India will be operating two SSBNs that are equipped with the 750 KM range K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile, meant for punitive retaliatory strikes in case of a nuclear attack.

Both INS Arihant, which is on operational deployment, and the Arighat have the capacity to carry four missiles each.


Also read: India test fires K-4, a 3,500 km nuclear-capable missile meant for Arihant submarine


India’s submarine plan

While the original plan was to have four Arihant class submarines, it was changed by the UPA government, sources in the know said.

Now, the two Arihant class submarines will have a displacement of 6,000 tonnes while two other SSBNs will be of a larger size (7,000 tonnes displacement).

A key differentiating factor will be that the two larger vessels under construction — S4 and S4* at the Ship Building Centre in Visakhapatnam — will have eight missile tubes instead of four.

India currently also operates a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) INS Chakra II, which is under lease from Russia.

It was in March last year that India and Russia signed a US$3 billion deal for the lease of a third SSN — Chakra III — that is likely to be in Indian waters by 2025 at the earliest.

Russian submarines are being leased to train crews for India’s own fleet of SSBNs.

In 2015, the Narendra Modi government gave the green light to build six indigenous SSNs. About two years later, in 2017, then Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had confirmed that work on the SSNs had started.


Also read: PM Modi has spoken. With INS Arihant, India is no longer a reluctant nuclear power


India’s nuclear triad 

It was in November 2018 that India completed its nuclear triad when PM Modi announced to the world the completion of the first deterrence patrol by Arihant.

With that, India joined an elite group of countries that have the capability to launch a nuclear weapon from land, air and underwater. The only other countries capable of this are the US, Russia, China and France.

INS Arihant was commissioned in 2016 by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, but a formal announcement came only two years later.


Also read: What is the nuclear triad that INS Arihant has helped India complete?


 

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