Archive for the ‘Sea’ Category

Royal Navy – newest sub runs aground

HMS Astute – the lead ship of the Royal Navy’s newest class of nuclear powered attack submarine (SSN), has run aground off the Scottish coast.

[to give some perspective – this would be the equivalent of the USS Virginia (the US Navy’s newest class of SSN’s) running aground right outside Norfolk, VA]

Not a good way to improve your career options in a rapidly shrinking military.


Ohio class SSGN appear around the Pacific

In a move that almost sounds like it is out of an Action Adventure thriller, the US Navy quietly deployed 3 Ohio-class SSGN’s in and around the Pacific early last week, and had the boats all surface on the same day (Monday, June 28th) – where they would be noticed;

  • U.S.S. Ohio in the Philippines’ Subic Bay
  • U.S.S. Michigan in Pusan, South Korea
  • U.S.S. Florida at Diego Garcia

Why is just 3 submarines such a big deal? Because of their payload. Each Ohio SSGN carries almost 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles, capable of hitting a target over 1,000 miles away with a conventional warhead. So over 400 missiles just showed up within range of North Korea (whining about being caught sinking a S Korean warship) and China (who was on the verge of testing their new Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile over the 4th of July weekend – 2nd article down) without any warning.

And it was done quietly. So as not to inflame the situation.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in either Beijing or Pyongyang when this was noticed.

Read the whole story at Time.


US Navy Leap Frogs – parachute demo team


Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

While the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels are two of the best known Military demonstration teams, there are others teams that travel the country and show off their skills as well.

During this past weekend – the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute demonstration team jumped into selected Major League Baseball Spring Training games in the Phoenix Metro area.

The Leap Frogs are made up of SEAL’s and other Naval Special Warfare operators, and this is just another assignment/normal tour of duty.

Click here to view selected pictures from their demonstration at the Cleveland Indians game in Goodyear, AZ.




Originally uploaded by Code20photog

I *think* I saw one of these yesterday afternoon.

I was waiting to board my return flight to Phoenix at Orlando (MCO), and I thought I saw one of these parked on the cargo ramp (the satcom hump on the top of the fuselage is the giveaway). Since boarding was about to start – and it was a full flight – I didn’t stop and get my camera out to snap even a crappy picture of it.

I actually had a window seat – so once I got seated I got my camera out and waiting for the plane to push back. Once we did – and I got a view of the cargo ramp – it was gone.

Let me explain a little about the E-6 Mercury. This is considered a strategic asset – in that it is responsible for relaying orders to the US Ballistic Missile Submarine fleet. Even though it is Boeing 707 airframe – it has a modern glass cockpit from the 737 next generation, and was only delivered to the Navy between 1989 and 1992.

There are 16 of these aircraft total – and at least one (and more likely two) are airborne at any time. So if you happen to see one of these outside of Offutt Air Force Base (in NE), stop what you are doing and take a picture of it.


NAF El Centro

Last month I was part of a photography group trip to the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. NAF El Centro is a training field – and doesn’t have any aircraft or squadron’s based at it. It provides someplace for other Navy squadron’s (or even Allied countries) to send their aircraft for training in a different environment.

We were allowed access to the LSO shack area – right on the edge of the runway (not your normal distant airport vantage point).

The slideshow link below goes to the highlights of the trip. Mainly F/A-18 Hornets (from the East and West Coast Fleet Replacement squadron’s) practicing air to ground on the ranges, but also some T-45 Goshawk’s practicing their landings.

[There were no incidents (i.e. we didn’t do anything we shouldn’t) so maybe they will let us go back again in the future]


One less SSBN cruising the high seas

During a speech the UN today – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed taking one of the four UK Trident ballistic missile nuclear submarines out of service to jump start Nuclear Non-proliferation talks.

Will this change the UK deterrent posture? Probably not. The normal cycle – is one on active patrol, one just coming back from patrol, and two in workups ready to go out on patrol. So instead of two in workups – there would be only one in workups.

It makes sense from a budgetary standpoint – one less submarine (and crew) to have to maintain (i.e. pay for). And in that the Trident’s on both sides of the Atlantic (American and British) are nearing their end of life (the first US Ohio class is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2029, and the design studies for the next generation SSBN have already begun) – reducing the requirement for the follow-on class will reduce the money required for that project.

[It is possible that this has been something that has been under consideration since earlier this year – when HMS Vanguard was involved in an ‘incident’ with a French SSBN. It is possible that the damage from that ‘incident’ along with the current economic crisis has just made the decision to reduce the force – more politically viable]

What is disconcerting about this – is that with only one boat on patrol – and one boat close to patrol – the UK deterrent force is vulnerable.

But let’s be clear. Today’s announcement really doesn’t change the vulnerability in any way. It just may be the first step in its elimination at the hands of a future government.


Once you sell a weapon – you lose control over it.

Harpoon – jet engine

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

The BBC is reporting that the US is unhappy with Pakistan’s supposed modification of the Harpoon Anti-Ship missile (that Pakistan purchased from the US back in the 1980’s).

What have they supposedly done? Converted the anti-ship missile to a land attack missile, in violation of the US Arms Control Export Act

Its ironic that the US is complaining – in that the US Navy has already successfully adapted the Harpoon for land attack – and call it the SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response).

Just like a Gun Store owner selling a handgun to someone – the minute you sell it – you lose control over how it is used (or adapted). When these missile were originally sold to Pakistan 20+ years ago – the political/military situation was dramatically different in SW Asia than it is today.


Soviet Juliett – ready to be scrapped

Sitting tied to a pier in Providence Rhode Island – is a ex-Soviet “Juliett” class cruise missile submarine – waiting to either be restored or stripped in preparation to be scrapped.

This sub has had a interesting post-Cold War history. It was originally acquired by a Finish businessman in 1993 to be used as a off-beat restaurant/bar and tourist attraction in Helsinki. This attempt did not generate the $$$ that the promoter had hoped for – so in 1998 the boat was leased to a Canadian promoter who wanted to set the boat up as a tourist attraction in Tampa Bay Florida. The intended location did not have the depth needed to moor the Juliett – so it was moved to a more remote location. Lack of business caused the Canadian promoter to declare bankruptcy and the ownership of the sub reverted to the original Finnish owner.

But he didn’t want the submarine back and tried to sell it on Ebay for $1 million dollars. No takers. The submarine ended up being chartered for use in the filming of the Harrison Ford movie “K-19: The Widowmaker” and was towed to Nova Scotia, Canada.

In 2002 – the submarine was purchased by the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation and towed from Nova Scotia to Providence Rhode Island, and was on display there from August 2002 until April 2007 when it sunk in a storm (while tied to the pier).

Read the rest of this entry »


US Navy Maritime Patrol enters the Jet Age

US Navy 167953

Originally uploaded by Drewski2112

While the British have been flying a jet powered maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in the Nimrod’s for years now – the US Navy has finally started production of their own Jet MPA in the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

Earlier this spring – the first test planes rolled out of Boeing’s Renton production facility, the same facility that the commercial/passenger carrying 737’s come out of (albeit a different building). The P-8 incorporates the body of the latest 737-800, w/ the wings from the 737-900 (the wings include ‘raked wingtips‘, instead more conventional winglets).

Once the testing of these new planes is completed – they will join an active duty squadron and the Navy’s current MPA – the Lockheed P-3 Orion – will head off to storage at the ‘Boneyard’ / Davis-Monthan AFB (outside of Tucson, AZ).

Where some Orion’s are already sealed up and waiting to be used in the future.

P-3 Orion's in Storage


What were the Chinese touchy about?

USNS Able (T-AGOS-20) on acceptance trials

USNS Able (similiar to Impeccable) on trials

Earlier this week – a story came out that several Chinese vessels had been harassing a US Naval Support ship – USNS Impeccable while it was in international waters.

Now let’s be perfectly clear – USNS Impeccable is not a replenishment ship.  It is SURTASS ship.  SURTASS ships were designed to supplement fixed SOSUS sites to provide sound surveillance of large stretches of the ocean.

Read the rest of this entry »


[UPDATED] Who hid the recipe?

Poseidon – C3

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Every organization has had it happen. For whatever reason – the one person who “knows” how things works leaves the organization and there were certain things that only that person knew how to do.

That’s fine when you are dealing with a store or consulting business – but how about the assembly of a nuclear warhead?

That’s what has happened w/ the warhead for the US Trident submarine launched ballistic missile. The Sunday Herald recently reported that the UK Trident modernization plan is threatened with costly delays because no one in the US weapons plants knows how to make a hazardous material code named ‘Fogbank.’

I remember seeing articles over the last couple of years talk about how all of the bomb designers at Los Alamos were nearing retirement and there was concern over who would be left to build the bombs when they left. I guess we know the answer to that question now….

But you have to wonder – if this lack of knowledge was an unspoken reason why the previous Administration had been pushing a new warhead design (the Reliable Replacement Warhead) so strongly.

[Update, March 11] And talking about developing nuclear warheads – take a look at this ScientificAmerican article about ‘Advances in Monitoring Nuclear Weapons Testing‘ (the article’s authors claim that any test of at least 1 kt would be detectable, and in some parts of the world – even below 1 kt).


HMS Vanguard vs Le Triomphant

HMS Vanguard

Originally uploaded by forargyll

Earlier this month – and first reported this morning (since both sub’s are now back at base) – the British and French SSBN’s on deterrent patrol collided with each other.

Unlike the larger US SSBN fleet – the UK and France each have a small SSBN fleet, such that usually only ONE boat is at sea at a time.

The SSBN fleet are the only strategic nuclear force that either country still maintains. The French decommissioned their land based missiles (S-3’s) in 1996, and the British bomber force lost their nuclear role in 1970 (when the first British Polaris SSBN was commissioned).

Besides the general uproar when something happens to a nuclear asset – what else does this event tell us?

– The British and French SSBN’s have overlapping area’s of operation

Beyond that – everything else is a guess – and will probably never be known publically;

– Were both submarines trying to avoid detection by a 3rd submarine or other ship?
– Was either submarine trying to ‘hide’ behind the other?
– Was either submarine able to detect the other?
– Did they forget that they drive on different sides of the road?


Pima – Avro Shackleton AEW.Mk2 ‘Mr Henry’

Back at the edge of the restoration area – was an Avro Shackleton AEW.Mk2 named ‘Mr McHenry’ – that was donated by Air Atlantique Classic Flight.

The Shackleton was a post World War 2 design for a RAF Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This particular airframe, WL790, was converted to be a AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform.

Read the rest of this entry »


Trident – last of the UK deterrent force?


Originally uploaded by Frank Bennett.

In the next 10-15 years – the Trident D-5 SLBM deterrent force for both the US (Ohio-class) and the UK (Vanguard-class) will be approaching the end of their service lives.

In the UK, the government got approval from the House of Commons in March of 2007 to spend between 15 and 20 billion Pounds on a new class of submarines to continue to maintain a submarine launched deterrence.

Even though this program was approved, some former senior British military officers have recently come out and said the Trident replacement is ‘irrelevant’ and would prefer to see the money spent on conventional forces (which are more useful in today’s War on Terrorism).

Read the rest of this entry »


Control Alt Armagedon?


Originally uploaded by Frank Bennett.

When I saw this article – Royal Navy goes with “Windows for Subs” – I got goosebumps.

Bucking the open-source trend, the British Royal Navy has developed a modified version of Microsoft Windows XP and has begun installing it on its fleet of nuclear submarines.

According to the BAE (lead integrator) news release – the new Submarine Command System Next Generation (SMCS NG) “transfers the software applications proven on earlier variants of SMCS to a modern system architecture that uses mainstream PCs to provide the computer processing with Microsoft Windows as the software operating system.”

So at this point – all of the RN’s nuclear submarines have been upgraded with these new control stations. Including – the 4 Vanguard class SSBN’s.

Nuclear Weapons – Trident SLBM’s – controlled through Windows.

Maybe Apple should make a Mac commerical based on Windows doing this. Or else another way for Microsoft to push Vista?


Global Hawk – High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV

Earlier this summer – published a story saying the Air Force was not ready to retire the U-2 in favor of the Global Hawk.

The key argument – was that the U-2 could collect more info during a single flight – due to a larger payload and more electrical power (more sensors) – than the Global Hawk.

The Pentagon has said it will not retire the U-2 at least until the Global Hawk Block 30, which will carry the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload, is flying.

According to a Northrup-Grumman press release back in January 2008 – the first Block 40 fuselage was supposed to come off the assembly line back in September.

The fact that the Air Force transferred two early model Global Hawk’s to NASA earlier this year – seems to indicate that that some serious fuselage changes are needed for the later modifications (and that these changes cannot be retrofitted to the earlier models).

Additionally – the on again off again potential sale of the Global Hawk to Korea – maybe back on again. I bet it will only be a Block 20…..


Boeing EA-18G Growler

The EA-18G Growler is being developed as the replacement for the EA-6B Prowler. The three Electronic Warfare Officers (EWO) on the EA-6 are being replaced by a single EWO (and lots of electronics) on the EA-18.

The only clue that this isn’t a normal Super Hornet – is the fact that the wingtips don’t have the normal Sidewinder load. Instead this is where the EW pods/antennas are mounted.


Submarines are dangerous places

The deaths aboard the Russian Akula II submarine last week – need to serve as a reminder that submarines are a dangerous place.  And simple mistakes cause people to be killed.

The US has had its share – but nothing as deadly as either the Akula or the Kursk – in the last 40 years.

+ USS Greeneville (this one appears to be cursed – and should be decom’d);
– Feb 2001 – Surfaces under Japanese Fishing boat – kills fishing boat crew
– Aug 2001 – Runs aground entering Saipan harbor
– Jan 2002 – collides w/ USS Ogden during personnel transfer at sea

+ USS Hartford – Oct 2003 – runs aground leaving Sardinia harbor

+ USS Newport News – Jan 2007 – collides w/ Japanese tanker in Arabian Sea

+ USS San Francisco – Jan 2005 – collides w/ an uncharted sea mount at flank speed. One killed. Reports say that boat was almost lost (due to loss of buoyancy from the forward ballast tanks). Repairs completed at Puget Sound Shipyard in Oct 2008 (yes – last month) by using the forward hull from the USS Honolulu (which had been decommissioned).

+ USS Minneapolis-St.Paul – Dec 2006 – loses 4 crew overboard during rough seas departing Plymouth (England) Harbor. 2 men recovered. 2 men pronounced dead at local hospital.

As for the Canadians – they don’t have a current sub in service. They have the old UK Upholder diesel electrics – and while they got them for a bargain price – they learned why the price was a bargain. The boats had been laid up for a couple of years before the Brits sold them to the Canadians, and it took a bit of repair work to get them ready for transfer. Wiki link has a lot of detail that I won’t bore you with here.

HMCS Chicoutimi –  Oct 2004 – crippled by on-board fire after water came in a hatch during rough weather in the North Atlantic. One killed.


Piracy off of Africa

Two things to mention;

1) Why doesn’t someone just slip a platoon of Marines on a random ship entering the hazard area – and if the pirates bite it will be a short little firefight.  And the world will be short one pirate gang.  There is a reason that the phrase ‘the Shores of Tripoli‘ is in the Marine Hymn.  Maybe it is time to remind some of that fact.

2) Why hasn’t any mainstream media picked up on this mystery Iranian ship that was seized by the pirates – that has caused the pirates that searched the ship to fall ill and die.   Because everyone realizes that the US is in no position to take on any one right now.  A detailed investigation of this ship is a long shot – and in all likelyhood – a Pandora’s box that no one wants to open.  Instead everyone is focusing on a ship full of T-72’s (that the pirates admit – they don’t want).


Blackjack’s in Venezuela

Blackjack w. Flanker

Originally uploaded by yuriybrisk

After reports yesterday that Russian ships (based around the nuclear powered battle cruiser “Peter the Great”) would be sailing to Venezuela to conduct joint exercises – comes late word today that two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers (one is pictured w/ a Su-27 Flanker for a size comparison) have already been sent.

They landed earlier after a 13 hr flight (probably from the Kola Penisula).

Congress – can we please order more F-22’s now?