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Alternative Submarines

Alternative Submarines

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Published by: Marcus Skookumchuck Vannini on May 04, 2010
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03/21/2015

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ALTERNATIVESUBMARINESMINITRUDERSANDGREENNUKES
bv Richard Compton-Hall
At a time when Canada s consideringhowto renew andperhapsexpand heisubmarine force it might be helpful torecallsome oddities about submarineprocurementand design.TheNeedforSubmarinesThere are morethan 1,000 ubmarinesamongst 41 navies today; andseveralmore naviesare showins underwater n-clinations.Yet emarkablyew countries,outside the maior powers, haveever stat-ed categorically why they want subma-rines inthe first place or why they haveselecteda paiticular type.Thosequestionsare,self-evidently,im-portantbut the aim is by no means alwal'sclear; and the lack of darity shouldnot bedue to seqecy alone becausea'fleetinbe-ing'(whichis whatmany submanneservicescompdse) must paradets wares.It rnightalsobe askedwhether those na-vies whichare updating thef underwaterwarfare capabilitt or aboutto make astart, really appreciatetheinescapablefacts of underwater life.Submarines are notoriously high-priced;andthehidden costs of shore-support, communications, manpower,training and salety vastly outweighthecapital cost of the submarines themselves-althoughthehugethrough-life ex-pense is not, as a rule,explained by per-suasivesalesmen. Canadat rejection of anuclearfleet, alter agooddeal of nuga-tory effort erqloring possibilitietsuggeststhat the ultimate outlay was notrecog-nised early. ndeed,for one reasonandanothel, it was probablyconcealed.Thenthere is the matter ofeffectiveness: ttakes, fromexperience, about ten ortwelv€yearsfoi a newsubmarine arm tobecomeeally efficient; and it hasoftentaken almostas long for a new weaponsystem to work properly.On the other hand,even submarines ofquestionableeffectiveness n agivensit-uationcan be a considerable uisanceoapowerfulsurface leet:thevhinderthelattelsoffensive operations and, paradox-icall,they weaken air andsurfacedefencesby the needto devote resourcestoanti-submarine warfare(ASW),Thedilficultiesconfronting the British ThskForce Commanderin the South Atlanticin 1982wereevidence of that.Moreover,he mere suspectedpresenceof submarines isa oowerful detenent.That, toq was plah-in1982when, afterthe sinking of the unJortunate cruiserGeneral Belgtanqthe Argentinian fleetdeclined to put to sea n face of the RoyalNaw's nuclear-powered attacksubma-dne;(SSNS).Deterence is a wordthathascome to be associated niquely, inmost minds, with nudear ballistic-missilemonsters(SSBNS)and the value of brdinar:y'submarines in the deterrent rcle isnot cited as itshouldbe.Noris the factthat a submarine can undertake tasks, n-cluding intelligence-gatherin& in plotect-ed areaswhere surface and air unitscan-not operate without blatant provocationin peaceor undue danger in war. And, ofcourse, asuDmannelnsucnareascanconvert from peace to war instantly if
Colmdder Richard Cohpton-H.tl, RN rst'd, ir Dtrc.toroi The Royal NavySubnaine Museun in Codord,Endand Heb theauthotof numeb$ afti.les and books
Tl-e Marha||a'3cslg'awairingflalsn 1988.
December1989Page7
 
requhed.In short, submarines are valuable assetsfor most navies, ut thequestionemainswhether all nayiesundirstand and ex-ploit the valuefully or acquire the t,?e ortvpes best suited to their individualneeds. It is trorses for cowses in thesub-'seaworld: whatsuits onenaly maywellnot suit or be affordable bv another,andit is demonstrablyexpensive to keep upwith theJones'sorthe sake ofprestigealone. Wecould wonder, for example,howBrazil can be contemplating SSNS nthepresentstate of her economy. By con-trast, doubb mightequaly be voicedabout Australia'sforthcoming improved,but stillsomewhatpedestrian,dieselboats55Ks) whichcan hardly be€).pect-ed todeployrapidly enough to meet animminent threatover such a vast exDanseof ocean. Australia could easilyjustifySSNs, but politics forbid at present.Supposing thatsubmarines are dulyconshaints n the weaponrywhich is, af-ter all, the pu{pose in war of a subma-dne's existence. t would have made bet-tersense o decide at the outsetwhatthetasks andtargetswerelikely to be at somequite distant futue time; what weaponsystemswere best to deal with them; andonly then determine the most suitableplatformto carry the systems. This iswherea break ftom tradition would beadvantageous. Of course, from a subma-dne protagonist's pointofviewthe snagin that lineofthinkineis that the bestDlatformmav not bea;ubmarine at all.but whensomuch money s at stake t iswell to be non-partisan.aim-maybe withother taskson the side-becauseotherwise not somuchem-phasiswould be laid on the Arctic whereonlv submarines can operate. It followsthaiCanadaneeds an-effectiveunder-water suweillance systemin peace,andan ASWattack caDabilituin war.m tnat u8nt, notrng nat suDmannes lrepotentiallygood anti-submarine njts(al-beit without meaningful wartime ex-Derience of hunter and hunted both sub-herged);observingthatsubmarinesareuniquely capable ofmanoeuwing freelybeneaththeice-bound Arctic(giventhatthey are air-independent)i and seeingthatCanadahasto euardtwo other
TypcalL4aritaliamini-SSKesign
selectedwithlogic and by objective plan-ning,there is still apitfallthat could beavoided bv a navv which is nottied inex-tricablv to tradition in theDrocurementprocess.t has been a strarigebut con-mon practice in the pasttogive prece-dence to vehicles over aimament.Near-ly always(withthe exception ofstrategics].stems ike Polaris) the ffust considera-tionhasbeen speed linked with endur-ance, and propulsion has been devisedfor that.N€rd, the hull has been designedto accommodatemachineryand fuel in ashape more or lesssuitedto thespeedand diving depth,with space for thecrew.Andfinally, almost as an aJter-thoughtsometimes,weapons havebeencho-senofitthe farf accompfi at the sharpenq.Naval architects andplanningstaffswould probablysay that the customaryapproach hasbeen unavoidable. But,nevertheless, the back-to-frontphilosophy has imposedswerephysicalPage 8 Canadian elence uarterlyCanadds Submarine RequirementsIt is not for anoutsidet albeit a staunchsupporter and admireroftheCanadianArmedForces, to enquire why Canadawantsto uDdate her submarine service.It isenough to know that it needs updat-ing to continue inbusinest and it mustbe assumedthatitsobjective is crystaldear althoughthat is not immediately ap-Darentfroma distance. The wordsovereigntycrops up time and again n ar-ticles and speeches by distinguishedpatriottbut strategyseldomfeatures inpublic protestations.However, it looks as though Canada'stwo basicconcerns are accepted.Theywerequotedbv Rear-Mmiral Drvis in hiscompiehensive article"LeMieux estl'Enaemi du Bien" iniheAutum 1988 s-sue ofCanadian DefenceQuarterly..plotectionof Canada'ssovereigntyandseculity, currently with aspecial empha-sis on the Arctic: and,.contributing(ofnecessity) to thedefenceof our North Americanneighbours.It appears,therefore, that ASW is theoceans where submarines should beequally effective,a pretty good case canbe made for modernisation andexPemsron.Suweillancerrightberelated notonlyto Dotential enemv submarines but tofrieirdly SSNs as w6U, partly to rcmark onany infiirgement of national waters andpartly to persuade a powerful neighbourtoshareintheintelligence hopefullygairedduring under-iceoperations,It mavbe cheaper to morutor a seaareacontinuously with static devices-someform of SOSUS-than it is with subma-rines: that isanoption which deserves obe looked at very carefully, not least be-causeit is dilficult forsubmarines on
Starting o assemble toroidalhull.
 
paholunder the ice to communicatequicklywith a shore headquait€rs. For-tunately, hough, messagesan be sentfromshore toasubmergedsubmarine,whetherunder the ice or not, with a highenough probability ofspeedyreceptionnowadays:so submarines can be, to someextent, vectored ftomshore on the basrsof SOSUS-twe information.Like as noi, acombination offixedandmobile(i.e.submarine) surveillarce-cum-guardposts will be most appropriatetothe requirements.Submarine Weapon RequirementsNow to attack. It is uneconomicaltocarry a mix of weapons, and missilescannot be firedthrough ice. So, for Canada,it wouldseem that smartdual-purposetorDedoes, which can be firedat subma-rin6s or against surface a€ets in the openocean, are preferable to partial-flightweapons like theUS Navy's Sea lance.Given that tomedoes cou.ldbe marked-lymore effective and explode with a big-gerbang iI their size and shape were notinhibitedby tladitional vehicle-designand launching tubes, it is notstretchingthe imagination too far to suggest that asinglekindofnewandwhollyunder-water weapon could deal withallproba-ble, if not all possible, futuretargets.?Howmanv such torpedoesshould becarried in inyone iubmarine? Two,perhapsfour, might well be enough.Sur-face tartets will notbe numerous(andthere are, anyway, other non-submanneways of attacking them), whilesubmarine-versussubmarine engage-ments willpredictablvbe rare: it is hardenough to-bringabout interactions rnpeacetimeexercises where,admittedly,relatively few playersare involved-butthe numbers gamewil be discussed ater.Good classificationequipment shouldhelpto obviate the possibilityoffiringweaponsat false'non-suUtargets; andbeneath the ice a solid contactcanbenothingbut a submarine anyway.Arguably, then,Canada's futurehunter-killersubmarines need not belarge forthe sake of weaponry alone.A Flock of LiftleSubmarines?Puttingall this together, it appears hatCanada might consider a single under-water weaDonsvstemwhichis not con-strainedby torpedo-tube imitations(i.e.hull design), a generous numbero1ar-independentsmall submarines for sur-veillance and attack n three oceans,alongwith a static surveillancesystemnselect-eq ,ueas.If these assumptionsandconclusionsare not agreed they may at least leadtodebate;and some vigorous debatingnever does any harm.There is a respec-table school of thought, initiatedby Ben-jaminFranklin two centuries agq whichbelieveshat argument and disagreementis a gooddeal moreproductivethango-ing along with a dutifulline for the sakeofpeaceand quiet.But wehave o start somewhere:so etus say-for the sake of argument-thatthese proposals are noturreasonable forCanada's ubmergeddefences.Thereis, in fact, much to be said formaking submadnes smaller and havingplentvofth€m. Withsubmarinesbecom-ingv6ryquieton all sides,passivesonar-low-frequency listening equipment-can no longer expect to enioy the longranges ormerlygainedon older andnois-ierenemy boats.The implicationsare sig-nificant. Activesonarwill increasinglybenecessitated forsearchand location, atwhich point theenemywill probablyrespondin kind. Therebynotonly willstealth-which submadners have beenat much pains to acquire-be sacrificed,but big will no longer be beautiful(ifiteverwas)becausedetectabilitv is relatedtosize.Nevertheless, as a rule, active de-tection and counter-detection ranges willbecomparativelyshort; and, therefore,whether activeorpassivesonarisem-ployed, more hunter-killers will be re-ouired to cover the area of concern.Until recently a submarine has had tobe big in order to go fast and far But iI theprincipleof substituting aflockof littlesubmarines or a few large ones s accept-ed, together with a reduction of individu-al weapon oads, he picturechantesinlight of new technology.AdmiralDavis, with the disDassionatelogic which might beexpectedfrom aformer Commandantofthe NationalDefence College, spelled out the alterna-tives to nudearpowerwithparticularem-phasisonair-independent propulsion(AIP).He listed(forAIP)fuel ce[s,the9thlintengine and the very interestingAutono-mous Marine Power Source(AMPS)in-volving a small safe reactor in a systemdesignedby theECSCroupinOttawa.Are-rcadof his article wil remindreadersof these hree concepts,all of which im-ply hybrid propulsion depending uponimprored but probably conventional elec-tricbatteries or burst tacticalsDeedHistorystrongly su8geststhit,unlessone system has very marked advantagesover another, t is wise to put the simplestat the toD of the list.Onbalance, t wouldappeaithatAMPS,with its low-temperature, ow-pressureand inherendysafe nuclear reactor, has been so simpli-fiedthatitcould legitimatelyqua.lify-forpriorityconsiderationamongst he AIPs),'stemsso far mentioned. AMPS is,ofcourse,a Canadianproiectand thatisonegoodreason for Canada pursuing whatthe ECS Group call anSSn.Andthe con-ceptis apphcableto both military andcommercialwork-although environ-mentalists may notbe toohappyaboutthe nudear corurotation despitethe small'n'.AMPS can be plugged in to anexist-inebut extendeddiesel-electricsubma-rine(9SK),and can provide powerup to
ockpitof'3GST9'just beforecompletiont he kansparentnosecone is not yetfifted.
December1989age 9

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