Skip to comments.Tomorrow’s Stealthy Subs Could Sink America’s Navy
Posted on 05/12/2014 8:51:01 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
PH1 (AW/NAC) Michael Moriatis/Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. military is relying on sub-hunting tech thats decades old. Meanwhile, the targets theyre trying to find are getting quieter and more invisible by the day.
Submarines are getting quieter, stealthier, and better armed. And that could mean major trouble for the U.S. Navy and its aging fleet of sub-hunters. The tactical balance between the surface warship and the submarine has strategic impact. The submarine is not made for a show of force. Its principal weapon is designed not to damage a ship, but to sink itrapidly and probably with much loss of life. Its a sure way to shift the trajectory of any conflict in a more violent direction.
The best deterrent against submarine attack is robust defensebut as little as surface sailors like to discuss it, that defense has seldom been less assured.
Modern diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) are very hard to detect. Its not that SSKs with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems are much quieter, but they mitigate the SSKs drawback: lack of speed and endurance on quiet electric power. When the Swedish AIP boat Gotland operated with the U.S. Navy out of San Diego in 2005-07, the Navys surface ships turned up all too often in a photo album acquired by the submarines mast. The sub was so quiet, that it consistently managed to get within easy torpedo range.
AIP submarines are a high priority in the budgets of nations such as Singapore, Korea and Japan. Russia has struggled with its Lada-class boats, but persisted, and is selling them to China. Sweden, whose Kockums yard developed the AIP technology for Japans big 4,100-ton Soryu-class subs, had trouble getting its A26 replacement submarine program started. In an indication of its importance, Saab will buy the Kockums yard back for Sweden from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.
AIPwhich uses stored liquid oxygen and fuel to generate power underwaterseems to be here to stay, whether it uses the Swedish-developed Stirling-cycle engine (a 19th-century curiosity, but very efficient) or fuel cells, favored by ThyssenKrupps German yards and Russia. Lithium-ion batteries will further increase underwater performance. Kockums advertises another step in invisibility called Ghost (genuine holistic stealth) which, like stealth technology on an airplane, involves the careful blending of hull shapes and rubber-like coatings to make the submarine into a weak sonar target.
Other improvements are making the submarine more elusive and lethal. Masts with high-definition cameras are as clear as direct-vision opticsso the mast needs only to break the surface and make a single sweep to provide a full horizon view. Finmeccanicas WASS division and Atlas Electronik offer modern all-electric torpedoes with multiple guidance modes, from fiber-optic to wake-homing, and back-breaking influence fuzes that work too often for comfort.
Antisubmarine warfare (ASW) has not stagnated, but it shows signs of disarray. After the end of the Cold War stopped the Soviet Unions push for quieter submarines, the U.S. scrapped improvements to the P-3 sub-hunting plane and the P-3s replacement. The carrier-based S-3 Viking went the same way, and the U.K., more recently, retired the Nimrod and canceled its deeply flawed MRA4 replacement sub-hunters. ASW assets and crews have been diverted to reconnaissance missions in overland and littoral wars. The Navys strategy for the new Boeing P-8A Poseidon is to get the airframes first, because P-3s are wearing out.
Thats pretty much it for Russias Golden Age. After the 18th century, Russia devoted itself mostly to being big fat loserland. The U.S. Navys ASW future hinges on two new technologies: multistatic, active, coherent (MAC) acoustic systems, or sonar, and automated radar detection of periscopes. Today, airplanes mainly hunt submarines by para-dropping a pattern of sonobuoys, most of which are passive listening devices. Active search nodes depend on noise sources that can be as simple as an explosive squib. Planned for later P-8A models, MAC uses buoys that can transmit tones and sophisticated waveforms that, when they bounce off the sub and are picked up by the other buoys in the network, can accurately pin down its position. MAC is likely to be quite costly to operatethe P-8A carries many more buoys than a P-3, and the buoys are more complex. Testing so far has not been a disaster, but it has been limited. One series of tests last year was truncated so that the test aircraft and crew could go and chase drug-runners. Picking real targets from false targets and clutter is still down to operators.
Better ways to detect periscopeswith the radar cross-section of a floating Coke canhave been under study since the early 1990s, but the Navy has vacillated on deployment plans. The new Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD) technologywhich uses very fast scanning and a lot of signal processing to tell a slow-moving scope from drifting debriswas to be used on upgraded P-3 radars. But in 2005after the Gotland tests started, which may not have been a coincidencethe plans changed to stress close-in defense of the aircraft carrier, with ARPDD used first on MH-60R helicopters and on a radar mounted on the carrier itself. ARPDD disappeared from the P-8 radar requirement, then returned. More recently, the carrier-mounted radar has been discontinued and surface combatants will have ARPDD.
But the key to telling the periscope and the Coke can apart is that one of them is moving purposefully, and an electronic mast that surfaces intermittently makes an even less obvious track than a direct-view periscope that has to stay up to function. That change was not in sight when ARPDD was conceived.
Surface warfare may be heading for a strategic dilemma. The surface combatant is vital for many missionsbut its utility could be drastically limited if a submarine threat imposes a no-go area. And as more new AIP subs enter service, denying the problem is less and less of an option.
This column also appears in the May 12 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. For more of Sweetmans columns, see:
There, I have my own headline and it is just as valid as the articles title. Maybe's and could be's and crystal ball gazing, for every turn of technology there is a flip side.
Sure, if Obama would stop the cuts.
Maybe. But I have a feeling after watching the F35 debacle, that the American MIC seems to be getting lazy, fattening up on big over-wrought and over-paid government defense contracts for what basically amounts to has-been junk.
Our military industrial complex has a superiority complex, and just like with the Germans in WWII, it’s going to take a painful reminder to get the MIC back on task.
Meanwhile everyone else sees our systems as the target to exceed. Computing power has gotten to the point, along with consumer level software, that the big advances we used our huge edge in computing power to achieve, is now accessible by our allies and enemies.
Funny thing is, the solution is not more money, it’s actually less. This market needs to get much more competitive.
Congress holds the purse strings.
Right. They’re only letting Obama “borrow” them for now.
This, the threat from the modern diesels, is an extremely serious problem. But our problem is more institutional and political than it is technological.
In the cold war, this would have been a problem that was worked on and solved.
Now it is a tech backwater project. And the Navy is focused on advancing homosexuality, man weddings at the Naval Academy, improving the moonpig F-35, buying littoral combat ships that are a step backwards, etc.
And ASW has been gutted, the P-8 is great for program officers, but it is as big a loser as the F-35.
Its a fact that our ASW capability is far less than it was in 1991. And the threat is more dangerous.
But our problem is philosophical, not technological.
The P-8A also has no MAD system.
Yeah you hit the nail in the head with that, but F-35 is not moonpig because even Israeli air force ordered so many it.
and then their’s this “An Iranian stealth submarine sinks before targeting a mock US carrier in an a naval exercise”
That’s what they get for opening the window.
No matter what the technology is, nation needs to be lucky (ala favored by God). I remember reading about Midway when the Japanese sent all their search planes out after shooting down the first attacking American planes. All of them except one reported no US fleet, but the one that did no report in had had a broken radio and spotted the US carriers. The lack of report of US carriers nearby and the need to continue to bomb Midway Island caused the Japanese carrier commander to order the Japanese planes on the carrier deck to change from anti ship ordnance to HE ordnance used to bomb bunkers and facilities. In the middle of changing ordnance the next massive wave of American planes launched from the American carriers arrived and caught most of the Japanese planes on deck in the middle of rearming. All is needed to destroy or badly damage a Japanese carrier was one hit on all the planes on deck igniting a chain reaction. The rest is history. Luck or IMHO God hand played a role.
Today with the US living a licentious lifestyle and celebrating sodomy, thus mocking God, God does not take it well. The US alreay got nailed on 9/11 and seven years later suffered a financial meltdown. Have we repented as a nation. No. Well all that military technological superiority means nothing if every operation at the critical moment goes wrong and luck rests with the enemy. IAW if God turns against you, no matter what you use or do, you are FUBARed.
Like the “Salesman of the Century”
Guy is pushing a ‘stealth’ tank and going around giving speeches, getting people ready for the event, finally goes to the Pentagon, gets all the brass out on the North Parking lot to unveil his ‘new tank’.
Everyone gathers round, he says bring it on....there is silence and then a slight clunk, more silence and you can hear brakes release.
How is that? He said.
WOW said the Generals, I can’t see anything.
That is right Gentleman, can’t see anything. How many should I sign you up for.
YOU know that is a true story because that is how they foisted health care and Global whatever they are calling it these days on us.
The title is incorrect.
“Tomorrows Stealthy Subs Could Sink Americas Navy”
It must read:
“Yesterdays Subs Could Sink Americas Navy”
During war games Type 206/209 submarines killed many times US carriers and destroyers.
E.g. search for RIMPAC and “Chang Bogo” or U24 and Enterprise.
“The P-8A also has no MAD system.”
That makes sense because the P-8/B737 is flying much to high (30,000 ft) for proper use of MAD sensor.
Btw, Indian P-8s are equipped with MAD. Maybe Indian P-8 will fly lower at 5,000 ft but then a turboprop engine would be the better choice...
The P-8 is faster than the P-3 but what about time on station? At 1,200 nm both aircraft have about the same loiter time (check out official B737 documentation for business jets with additional tanks). Additionally a P-3 could shut down the two outboard engines to save fuel.
But the real question is, What are our Armed Forces doing to promote social justice, reproductive rights, and the LBGT community? LOL This is a very fascinating article. Thank you! I have been carefully watching, with some pleasure the diesel electric resurgence.
I fully agree with your post.
I will never forget the war games where the Chinese diesel sub popped up inside the outer protection ring. One carrier could have gone down before we could have responded in the faintest way.