Monthly Archives: September 2013

UK CHESTERFIELD: Tributes paid to tragic Submariner aged 22


The heartbroken family of a young sailor who died in a motorbike smash while on leave have honoured “a wonderful young man who served his country.”

Royal Navy submariner, Christopher Payne, 22, was killed instantly in the crash on the B6179 Derby Road near Coxbench on September 5, after failing to negotiate a bend near the A38 bridge.

Christopher, a marine engineering technician, had just returned home from his post on the HMS Triumph in Plymouth that day.

Fighting back tears, his dad Dean Payne, said: “I am so proud of my son and what he achieved in life. I am proud of the job that his mother Debbie and I did in raising him to turn out to be such a wonderful young man.

“He served his country and would have gone on to serve his country many times more.”

Hundreds of mourners descended on Brimington Crematorium last Thursday to pay tributes to Christopher – known as Max to his fellow sailors – as he was honoured with a full military funeral.

Amongst them were more than 60 members of the Royal Navy who were able to attend en masse because of a fault with the submarine that delayed their launch.

His uncle, Keith Lee, said: “He was very well thought of. They are a close knit family on the HMS Triumph. They have lost one of their own just as much as us.”

He described his nephew – a lifelong Spireite – as a typical teenager with a cheeky grin, who always looked out for his younger sister, Danielle, 19.

“He was very protective of her” said Keith. “She is absolutely devastated. She has lost her right arm.”

Dean added: “From the moment she was born he looked after her and he was still looking after her until he died.”

Christopher, who was born in Spital and divided his time between Brimington and Holbrook while on leave, will be remembered by a signed Chesterfield FC shirt donated by the club, to hang in the HMS Triumph.

Chesterfield FC Community Trust director John Croot: “It was an honour to hand over a signed shirt to Christopher Payne’s colleagues from HMS Triumph. It is nice to think that the shirt, once it is framed and hung up on a wall aboard the submarine, will provide them with a permanent reminder of Christopher.”

Chris Brownley, fellow submariner, said: “A lot of the lads are finding it quite hard without him, and we are all finding it hard to concentrate.

“He always had a smile on his face, always a cheeky grin. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. He would always help out.”

Source – Derbyshire Times

Aus – Collins one of the most capable conventional submarines

THE navy has defended its troubled Collins-class submarines, saying it had to identify properly all of their faults in a report to help determine whether their service life could be extended.

Defence said the Collins remained one of the most capable conventional submarines in the world despite a report, revealed in The Australian this week, that found 68 critical faults that could force the boats into early retirement.

The report by the Defence Materiel Organisation late last year found hopes of extending the life of the six Collins submarines until the 2030s when new submarines could be built would be “unachievable” unless urgent action was taken to fix major systems faults aboard each boat.It revealed that the submarines were getting hotter, heavier and noisier each year and detailed flaws in the diesel engines, command and control systems, periscopes, sonars and other key systems and equipment.

This contrasted with the sanitised public summary of the report given by the former Labor government that focused on a single sentence in the report saying that there was “no single technical issue” which would prevent the service life of the boats being extended.The report’s findings have left the new Coalition government with difficult choices about whether to attempt to extend the life of the submarine fleet or purchase or lease smaller submarines as an interim measure to ensure Australia continues to have submarines to defend it into the early 2030s.

Defence said the submarines were subject to a rigorous safety and certification system and were operated by a dedicated and well-trained team of officers and sailors.It said The Australian’s articles were based on “an internal report prepared by the Defence Materiel Organisation which examined the feasibility of extending the life of the Collins-class submarine”.

“The purpose of the report was to identify potential issues and risks that would need to be addressed to extend the life of the class,” Defence said.”This is a common and normal process to be followed if consideration is being given to the life-extension of any system. It was always expected that the report would identify systems that would require attention should a life-extension be required.”Defence said many of these were already known and some were being addressed in planned upgrades or through continuous improvement programs.”As with any risk analysis, a risk must first be identified before it can be assessed and determined whether controls will need to be put in place to manage the risk,” it said.Defence said there had been “significant improvement” in submarine availability over the past 15 months. It said its submarines were “busy operating domestically and as far afield as conducting exercises in Japan and Hawaii”.

“This is a testament to the hard work being conducted by all members of the submarine enterprise involved in the sustainment of the Collins-class submarine,” it said. The DMO report made it clear that any plan to extend the life of the Collins fleet would be high risk.

Source – The Australian

‘When the torpedoes hit the German U-boat it was the biggest bang I’d ever heard’

Warrenby submariner Bill Anderton recalls his wartime experiences under Arctic seas after memorial service at Scottish base

Former Royal Navy submariner Bill Anderton
Former Royal Navy submariner Bill Anderton

Listening intently, submarine sonar operator Bill Anderton knew he’d picked up an enemy vessel.

On joining the Royal Navy in 1942, the Warrenby lad was originally attracted to serving on submarines because it offered an extra three and sixpence a day.

But two years later, deep in icy waters west of the Norwegian town of Narvik, money was the last thing on the 21-year-old Teessider’s mind – he was putting his training into lethal action.

The vessel Bill detected on June 15, 1944 was German enemy submarine U-987. His intensive training back at Gosport in Hampshire meant he knew what a U-boat sounded like.

And soon after he raised the alarm, the submarine he served on, HMS Satyr, was sending torpedoes hurtling away to successfully sink their target.


Using intelligence supplied by Bletchley Park codebreakers and brave Norwegian coastwatchers, Bill and the 35-strong Satyr crew patrolled far into the Arctic Ocean to protect vital Allied supply convoys from marauding U-boats and warships. And it was during one of these highly dangerous patrols in June 1944 that Satyr intercepted the U-987.

Memories of his time on Satyr came flooding back for Bill recently when he attended a memorial service in Dundee – home of HMS Ambrose, his submarine’s home base. Each year, a service is held at the city’s memorial to honour the 296 submariners and commandos from HMS Ambrose who are “Still on Patrol” – in other words, the ones who never came back from their often perilous missions.

Bill, of The Avenue, Redcar, is the last surviving member of HMS Satyr’s wartime crew, so it was fitting that he and 89-year-old Robert Gilfillan of Erskine, Scotland – the last crew member from another Ambrose vesel, HMS Sceptre – were special guests at the annual service.

And while Satyr had other wartime skirmishes, including the sinking of Norwegian merchant ship Nordnorge and unsuccessful attempts to sink German merchant vessels in August 1944, the attack on U-987 is always the mission that comes to mind.

Bill, 90, recalled: “I would sit for four hours at a time, earphones on, listening for whatever was out there. As soon as I heard anything, I reported it to the officer on the watch and they would go to action stations. It was in the Arctic in July and in broad daylight. We did two hours diving and two hours on the surface, although we were below when we detected the submarine.

“They fired six torpedoes – two ahead, two to hit and two back in case they altered course. When they hit the U-boat, everyone gave a big cheer – it was the biggest bang I’d ever heard.

“The skipper raised the periscope and everyone had a look. When we got to it, there was just the bow and stern sticking out of the water.”

Bill carried out 10 patrols on the Satyr – two in the Bay of Biscay and the rest off the coast of Norway. He left the Navy in March 1946, returning to a job in the steelworks.

But all these years later, his annual trip to Dundee remains special to him.

He explained: “I like to pay my respects to the ones who didn’t come back.”

Source – Gazette Live

Development of China’s fourth-generation nuclear submarine completed

Hong Kong media prattle about China's fourth generation nuclear submarines: MHD propulsion Speed ​​100

Chinese navy next 096 strategic missile submarines

At the recent 2013 Four Northeastern Provinces Cooperation Leaders’ Conference held in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, Tan Zuojun, vice governor of Liaoning Province and former general manager of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, revealed that development of China’s fourth-generation nuclear submarines and other high-tech weapons and items of equipment in the Northeastern Provinces of China had been completed. The news attracted considerable attention.

The fourth generation nuclear submarine features high performance and low noise

Military expert Du Wenlong pointed out that the main characteristic of the fourth generation nuclear submarine would be its high performance. Compared with earlier submarines, modern attack submarines differ significantly in offensive power, possessing both anti-submarine capabilities and also strong potential for anti-ship action and attacks on land-based targets. He pointed out that the fourth generation nuclear submarines of the United States and Russia already have these capabilities; China’s fourth-generation nuclear submarines too will be equipped with the appropriate torpedoes, along with missiles suitable for use against other sea-going or land-based targets. In addition, the Chinese submarine will have low noise output, a key indicator for measuring a modern nuclear submarine’s underwater survival capacity, as well as its ability to remain hidden during maneuvers, or undetected while launching an attack. He pointed out that the fourth-generation nuclear submarine will possess effective noise damping features, such as a quieter nuclear power plant with less vibration, and a more advanced hull muffler system, so that it will be difficult to detect even if within range of enemy sonar.

On the question when the fourth-generation nuclear submarine will enter service, Du Wenlong said that completion of development and completion of construction are two different phases – the cycle from completion of development to manufacturing, and then to fitting out and launch, can be very long, perhaps several years. Progress is determined by two factors: one is technical indicators, and the other is strategic need.

A significant enhancement of nuclear counterattack capability

Analysts believe that continual development of attack submarines and strategic nuclear submarines at times of peace, adding better performance and greater combat ability, can enhance strategic deterrence capability. China’s strategic nuclear forces are weapons to deter third parties from becoming involved in local conflicts. China firmly adheres to the principle of non-first use of nuclear weapons, but the existence of strategic nuclear submarines will give China a stronger voice and more room for maneuver in the case of any crisis. In addition, Song Xiaojun points out that the United States, Russia, Britain and France all possess modern strategic nuclear submarines as a symbol of their status as ‘Great Powers’; it is natural that China should be unwilling to lag behind.
Source – English People Daily


UK – Celebration for BAE Systems Barrow submarine’s christening

THE latest super sub to be built in Barrow has been christened during a dramatic naming ceremony.

Artful, the third Astute-class submarine, is set to take its first dip into the water at the beginning of next year, and yesterday, Royal Navy bosses, local dignitaries and cadets poured inside the Devonshire Dock Hall to witness the boat’s naming ceremony.

A small section of the hall was cordoned off with black and white voile curtains, with glimpses of the submarine visible from behind. As the ceremony began, the curtains fell one by one, to reveal the 7,400-tonne boat.

The naming was carried out by Amanda Lady Zambellas, wife of the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas.

The symbolic smashing of a bottle of beer against the boat’s bow drew some gasps from the crowds as it failed to smash on the first attempt.

According to naval folklore, if the bottle fails to smash, the ship will be destined for an unlucky life at sea.

However, John Hudson, managing director of BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines in Barrow, was not concerned.

“I’m not at all superstitious,” he said smiling.

The 97-metre long submarine will be followed by a further four boats and preparation is continuing for the Royal Navy’s next fleet of submarines – a replacement for the Vanguard boats.

A final decision – known as “Main Gate” – is due to be made after the next general election, and both Mr Hudson and Rear Admiral Simon Lister are confident about the Successor programme.

Rear Admiral Lister, who visits the shipyard three times a month to monitor progress of the Astute programme, told the Evening Mail: “I am confident we will make a good proposal for Successor.

“We look forward to going to Main Gate and the final decision.”

Those who attended the ceremony, including many of the shipyard’s 5,000 workers, were treated to a performance by Ulverston Victoria High School’s Big Band.

Laughs were drawn from the crowd during a comical and staged discussion between two of the band’s singers, when one said to the other: “So I won’t tell anyone you’re a Russian spy!”

Many of the engineers, welders and technicians who have been involved in Artful’s build were able to watch the ceremony.

The creature on the boat’s crest, chosen in 1945 by the Admiralty’s advisor on heraldry for the first Artful, is  an unspecified species of primate.

Artful crew member Lieutenant  Aaron Williams, 24, from Bradford, explained: “When I did a little research into the crest, I found out that it was chosen to represent the quality of artfulness, monkeys having the reputation of being clever and resourceful creatures.”

Source – North West Evening Mail

Ohio-Class Ballistic Submarine Remains Priority for US Navy

The Navy views the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine as its top priority, indicating it would be prepared to slash other ship programs to build the 12 submarines it needs.

Senior congressional aides noted that the Navy would consider reducing its 11-aircraft carrier fleet before it would scale back its plans to replace the Ohio-class ballistic submarine.

The reasons, according to the Navy, include the central role the ballistic missile submarines play as the most survivable part of nuclear deterrent force, the aging of the existing ballistic submarine fleet, and a need to keep a healthy industrial base.

“We are committed to sustaining a two-ocean national strategic deterrent that protects our homeland from nuclear attack, from other major war aggression and also access and extended deterrent for our allies,” said Rear Adm. Richard P. Breckenridge, director of the Navy’s Undersea Warfare Division.

To provide a viable deterrent of 10 forward-deployed submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific, the Navy requires at least 12 submarines at any given time.

“If we don’t build these 12 [ballistic missile submarines] on this timeline … that’s just [an] astronomical challenge for us to be able to maintain our vibrant and credible two-ocean deterrent — to deter bad behavior from powerful adversaries,” he told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces last week.

As a result of budget challenges last year, the Ohio-class replacement program was delayed two years.

“It, to me, is mind-staggering how much risk as a nation that we’ve taken with regard to this recapitalization timing decision,” Breckenridge said. “There is no allowance for any further delay.”

The Navy once had 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. At Congress’ direction, four of those submarines were converted to cruise-missile-carrying submarines, leaving 14 ballistic missile subs.

Since then, the Navy decided on a plan to replace those 14 submarines with 12 of the new ballistic missile submarines. The last time Congress started to buy a ballistic missile submarine, President Richard Nixon was in office. Procurement of the new submarines won’t begin until 2021.

“Our ballistic missile submarines are the bedrock underlying our national nuclear deterrent,” Breckenridge said. “Americans are asked to invest in replacing this force only once every other generation. … Recapitalizing this force is a solemn duty we have to the nuclear security of future Americans as well as allies.”

Source – Roll Call

15 hospitalized after fire on Russian nuclear submarine


MOSCOW, Russia – Russian investigators on Tuesday, September 17 said 15 servicemen had been hospitalized after a fire during repairs on a nuclear-powered submarine in the Far East, with the vessel sustaining significant damage.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, said it had opened a criminal probe into suspected abuse of authority over the fire on the Tomsk submarine in the Bolshoi Kamen shipyard in the Russian Far East.

“The Tomsk partly lost some of its functional characteristics” as a result of the fire, the investigators said, without giving further details on the nature of the damage.

“The health of 15 servicemen was harmed and they are now receiving treatment in a military hospital,” the statement said. It did not give further details on the nature of the injuries.

Initial reports about the fire on Monday morning on the Tomsk made no mention of the injuries or the damage to the vessel.

Reports on Monday said that the staff were evacuated after the fire, which took place during welding operations. The fire was said to have produced smoke rather than an open blaze.

Officials emphasized that the submarine’s reactor had long been shut off and posed no danger of radiation leaks. All its weapons had been removed before the repair work was undertaken.

However a source familiar with the situation told the Interfax news agency in MoscowTuesday of the near-farcical circumstances as workers on the scene unsuccessfully tried to put out the fire.

“There was a fire-extinguisher but it was empty. They called the fire brigade and tried to put it out themselves but nothing came out,” said the source.

The first fire engine only arrived on the scene some 20 minutes after the fire broke out, the source said.

“The repair workers are specialists of the highest class. But it seems that on this occasion they lost their alertness. The chain of errors was long and everyone is going to make the corresponding conclusions,” the source added.

Russia’s aging fleet of nuclear-powered submarines has long been the subject of safety concerns. The rubberized coating on the Delta IV class submarine Yekaterinburg caught fire in a major blaze in December 2011, injuring nine people.

Reports later said that the vessel was armed with long-range missiles.

Source – Rappler

Declining Power – USN Submarine Force

Admiral: U.S. submarine forces decline as forces of China, Russia, Iran advance undersea warfare capabilities

Russian sailors participating in joint Naval exercises with China / AP

Russian sailors participating in joint Naval exercises with China / AP

China, Russia, and Iran pose regional and strategic submarine threats and are building up undersea warfare capabilities as the Navy is cutting its submarine force by 30 percent, the admiral in charge of Pentagon submarine programs told Congress on Thursday.

Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, director of Navy undersea warfare programs, said the decline of U.S. submarines is placing a key U.S. military advantage at risk.

“Our adversaries are not standing still, and so even though we have an advantage and we have a lead, we can’t sit on our lead,” Breckenridge told a hearing of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee.

“We have to continue to move or we do have the potential within 20 years of losing this crown jewel, this advantage that we have in the undersea domain,” he said.

Breckenridge then outlined advances in the submarine warfare programs of China, Russia, and Iran.

China’s submarine warfare power is advancing in both numbers of submarines and growing sophistication and missile capability.

Beijing’s submarines currently are “predominantly a maritime, regional undersea force,” he said.

“They predominantly use their undersea forces to threaten the presence of our surface ships, to be able to shoulder off the positive, stabilizing influence of our naval forces in an anti-surface warfare dimension,” Breckenridge said.

However, he warned that China’s submarine programs are “growing towards more of a global strategic undersea force.”

China’s new Jin-class missile submarines are equipped with JL-2 missiles that “will put them into the stage of using the undersea for more than just maritime regional control,” he said.

China’s navy is also building conventionally armed, guided-missile submarines, he said.

“I think that the capability, the quality of their submarines will improve as we march forward a couple of decades,” Breckenridge said. “But right now, there is a capacity challenge that’s unique to what the Chinese navy has.”

Defense officials revealed to the Free Beacon in July that the first sea patrols of China’s new strategic missile submarines will begin next year, the first time Beijing will send strategic missile submarines far from its shores.

Currently, China has three Jin-class submarines each equipped with 12 JL-2 missiles. China calls the Jin-class the Type-094.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center reported in July that the JL-2 will give China for the first time the capability to target portions of the United States from locations near China’s coasts.

After deploying at least five Jin-class subs, China currently is working on a more modern version missile submarine called the Type-096.

The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress said China has placed a high priority on building up its submarine force and currently has more than 55 submarines, including two new Shang-class attack submarines and four improved variants of that sub. It is building a new Type-095 guided missile attack submarine in the next decade, the report said.

The Chinese also have 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, some armed with SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missiles, 13 Song-class and eight Yuan-class attack submarines. Up to 20 Yuan-class subs will be deployed in the future.

Breckenridge said Russia is building two new classes of advanced submarines called the Borei-class nuclear missile submarine and a conventional, guided-missile class called Severodvinsk. He said the Russian submarine program is at the “global strategic level of power.”

“It is more than just a region,” he said. “It is the ability to control the seas, it is the ability to do land attack from covert positions. It has a much larger utility than just a maritime sea-control, sea-denial perspective alone, and the Russians have always maintained a very capable submarine force.”

While the U.S. Navy currently has the advantage over Russia in submarine warfare capabilities, “they are a close second with regard to their capability and with regard to their shipbuilding industry and the capabilities they’re putting into their new classes of submarines,” he said.

Three Borei-class submarines are now deployed and at least five more could be built, he said.

“There’s been talk of a higher number of SSBNs [strategic missile submarines] within their force,” Breckenridge added. “But that machine is running. Those very good quality ballistic missile submarines are being produced in Russia.”

The Severodvinsk class of guided missile submarines will have an “eight-pack” of missile tubes, twice the number on U.S. Virginia-class attack submarines.

“So they see the importance of the concealment of the undersea to bring potency with that, that can be threatening at a strategic level,” Breckenridge said. “And again, we are mindful of that and we are prepared to be able to counter that.”

Tehran’s submarine force of three Russian Kilo-class submarines, one indigenous Nahang-class submarine and an estimated 12 Ghadir-class midget submarines, poses a regional threat.

“If you look at Iran, they, like many other countries, use the undersea domain from a purely maritime, sea-denial local region type of influence, much like we did in World War II in the Pacific,” Breckenridge said, “to hold at risk predominantly surface warships.”

“It is a disruptive force, a challenging force and one that we deal with regard to our ability to project stabilizing influence around the globe,” the admiral said.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the “capacity” challenge mentioned by Breckenridge is real.

“The Chinese Navy may have up to 53 somewhat older to quite modern non-nuclear propelled attack submarines plus five more nuclear powered attack submarines for a total of 58,” Fisher said, adding that the force could be much larger.

“A possible force of 92 Chinese submarines means that U.S. Navy today is facing a very formidable challenge that requires that U.S. submarine levels remain well above 50 ships in order to prevent rapid combat attrition,” he said.

Breckenridge said the submarine programs of the three potential adversaries are advancing and “we have to be mindful of to make sure that we as a nation preserve this unique advantage that we have in the undersea domain.”

By contrast, the U.S. submarine force will decline by 25 percent over the next 15  years as a result of a “gradual consequence of a long list of choices made over many years,” he said.

The total number of submarines will drop from 75 to 52, a 30 percent decline, he said.

The missile-firing strike payload volume from submarines will decline by over 60 percent as the result of retiring guided-missile and attack submarines, he said.

The forward-deployed submarines around the world will decline by over 40 percent, despite building two Virginia-class attack submarines per year, he said.

To address the growing need for submarine power with the declining force, Breckenridge said the Navy has four priorities for its submarine strategy.

They include sustaining the sea-based nuclear deterrent with a new missile submarine to replace Ohio-class submarines. The follow-on has been delayed for 20 years and “it is now time to make the necessary investments to support procurement of the first Ohio replacement in 2021,” Breckenridge said. “There is no allowance for any further delay.”

To prevent the worsening decline in attack submarines, the Navy must continue the two-per-year pace of Virginia-class submarines, add a new more efficient missile launch payload module to Virginia submarine, and restart production of torpedoes.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) said during the hearing that defense spending cuts are harming the Navy.

“It’s apparent to me that the largest threat to the United States Navy is of our own making,” Forbes said of the defense spending crisis.

“I continue to believe that the undersea warfare capabilities provided by our United States Navy provide a preeminent role in the control of the global commons,” Forbes said. “These capabilities provide the United States with the key asymmetric advantage over any potential aggressor. Even in a time of declining resources, it’s crucial that our nation continue to retain our strategic advantage in undersea warfare.”

Source- The Washington Free Beacon

Royal Navy – Northrop delivers program management system gear

NEW MALDEN, England, Sept. 10 – A final  batch of platform management system (PMS) hardware has been delivered to BAE  Systems by Northrop Grumman for installation on a Royal Navy submarine.

“Northrop Grumman has a well-established relationship with the Royal Navy,  supplying and supporting systems for surface ships and submarines,” said Andrew  Tyler, Northrop Grumman’s chief executive, U.K. and Europe. “The continued  success of our involvement in the Astute program is a reflection of the skill of  our teams and the close partnership that we have with BAE Systems and the  Ministry of Defense.”

The platform management systems controls and monitors a submarine’s platform  machinery and onboard systems. Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine business unit  supplied the PMS to BAE Systems Maritime–Submarines under a performance  partnership arrangement. The PMS delivered will be installed on Astute Boat 5,  the Anson.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to supply PMS  hardware and software for two additional Astute-class, nuclear-powered  submarines.

“Our extensive track record of delivering reliable, high-performance  navigation and ship control solutions has helped to establish us as a preferred  supplier for Royal Navy platforms,” said Alan Dix, managing director of Northrop  Grumman Sperry Marine. “We are particularly pleased that we have achieved 100  percent on-time delivery status during the two-year process for Astute Boat  5.”

Source –


Save HMS Onyx!

HMS Onyx returns from the Falklands with special ops daggers on Jolly Roger

Save HMS Onyx – a guest post by John Tait on the diesel sub used by the SBS during the Falklands war

Nothing quite prepares you for entering a submarine down the main access hatch.  The common visitor catchcry is ‘You would never have got me in one of those things!’ or ‘I couldn’t believe there was so little room.’

Such statements sum up the general reaction of ordinary visitors as they clamber with difficulty through a succession of bulkhead openings and stare at the narrow bunks and peer into the cramped messes and wardroom, the tiny galley from which the cook fed upwards of sixty men, and the miniscule cabin that passed for the skipper’s quarters.   They pull faces at the cramped toilet facilities, look bewildered at the innumerable pipes, hand wheels, levers and gauges in the Control Room, and file past the huge diesels, now mercifully cold and silent – all wondering how any crew could have coped with 6 to 8 weeks at sea in a steel coffin like this.

The visitors have never been privileged to see the boat ready to sail either, with every space crammed full of food, torpedoes and other stores, nor hear the order from the Coxswain for ‘Diving Stations!’ that precedes the shutting of the Conning Tower hatch to seal the crew in their narrow cylinder as the submarine submerged with the familiar smell of sweat, sewage, diesel, damp clothes and cabbage.

The submarine community is a great club, into which no one can buy his way.  Membership can only be earned, and once a submariner you are always a submariner and they see themselves as a breed apart, an elite.  Its characters, stories and personalities are legend.  Winston Churchill described operational submarine life as the most dangerous of all occupations: “Of all the branches of men in the armed forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than submariners.”

HMS Onyx an Oberon Class submarine, was built in 1966 at Cammell-Laird in Birkenhead and was considered a leap forward from the previous Porpoise Class who were the first post-World War 2 submarine design.  Noted for their clean welded hulls, and for the first time in a Royal Navy submarine, plastic and glass fibre was incorporated on part of the bridge superstructure and casing.  She was fitted with improved detection equipment and the ability to fire homing torpedoes.  This class of boat was known for their reliability and quietness and many Oberons were sold to overseas buyers including Australia, Chile and Canada.

Onyx was decommissioned and listed for disposal in 1992 after some 26 years service.  She was purchased by the Warship Preservation Trust in Birkenhead and was on public display and ran at a profit. Then she was subsequently sold to a Barrow in Furness businessman Joe Mullens in 2006 as the basis for a Submarine Heritage Centre.  This venture failed to get off the ground because of grant funding reasons and Onyx was then sold to a Mr Peter Davis and the boat has sat in Barrow awaiting towing to the scrapyard.  However Maritime Coastguard authorities have not been happy with her sailing condition under tow, and she has therefore remained alongside in Barrow for the foreseeable future.  Lying forlornly at Buccleuch Dock she looks externally a bit shabby and rusty, but internally it is good condition.  With some tender, loving care it could be the centrepiece of a maritime museum.

Onyx saw active service when she was the only diesel submarine sent to the Falklands in 1982.  The 116 day war patrol began with the 8,000 nautical mile trip from Portsmouth to the Falkland Islands.  This was a feat in itself including what was probably the first submarine refuelling at sea from a tanker in forty years.  A complete ‘false deck’ of canned food and stores throughout the submarine reduced the headroom from six to four feet in some places.  Even the showers were full of stores.  A 16-man team of Royal Marine Special Boat Service (SBS) plus a mountain of their equipment were also stored onboard.  Onyx was deployed to undertake covert insertion and extraction of Special Forces plus intelligence gathering reconnaissance and SIGINT operations.

Because of their stealth, Oberon’s like the Onyx were regularly used for “sneakies” or “mystery trips” as they were colloquially known.  This was the trailing of Russian submarines leaving their bases in the Barents Sea and transiting the Iceland-Faroe Gap to their assigned patrol areas in the Atlantic.  “Under-hulling” of new Soviet warships was also a strategic objective.  Similarly, trailing Soviet AGI spy trawlers who were always a ubiquitous presence in NATO exercises and who loitered near operational ports was carried out.  Cameras were fitted to the submarine periscopes to record close encounters with the enemy and communications monitoring equipment fitted to record radio traffic. Submarines were also deployed to follow the arms trail from Libyan sources to the IRA.

Boats like the Onyx would take over from patrolling RAF Nimrod aircraft in the SW Approaches and follow the gun-runner to its drop-off point off the coast of Ireland whilst reporting position and situation reports back to UK authorities.  The most famous of these was the ‘Claudia’ incident in 1973 and the ‘Casmara’ and ‘Villa’ incidents’ in mid 1980’s.  Covert and clandestine submarine surveillance was an ideal operational implementation in tracking the arms smugglers.

This is the secret work of Britain’s submarine Fleet.  HMS Onyx is one of the boats that undertook such deployments.

As she now languishes in Barrow with her future uncertain, a considerable number of former crew members have begun to lobby for her preservation.  It is understood Onyx may be up for sale for $100K.  From social media sources, it would appear that many former submariners are individually willing to contribute a considerable amount of money towards the purchase and ensure the preservation of this unique warhorse.  It was considered by former crew members that she was always a “happy boat”.

There are also rumours of a Naval Heritage Centre to be built on the Clyde in two years time commemorating submarine history in the UK under the stewardship of Inver Clyde Council. HMS Onyx would provide an appropriate centerpiece as she has operated from the Clyde Submarine Base in Faslane.  It is essential that the profile of HMS Onyx be raised by the UK media.  Preservation of this submarine offers a marketing opportunity to an enterprising organization that would be willing to protect a unique piece of British History.  HMS Onyx needs to be rescued now and not turned into razor blades.

Source – The Telegraph