Monthly Archives: June 2014

Scottish independence: Where might Trident go?

Map of where Trident could end up

Scottish ministers say the UK’s nuclear deterrent – the submarine-based Trident – will be banished from Scotland if it becomes independent. The UK government says there are no plans to move it. But where could it relocate to if it had to?

The UK’s nuclear weapons system – currently made up of four Vanguard-class submarines which carry Trident strategic missiles – has been based at HM Naval Base Clyde on Scotland’s west coast since the 1960s.

The site is made up of two main parts – Faslane on the Gareloch, where the submarines are based, and Coulport on Loch Long, eight miles away, where the warheads are stored. The sites are kept separate for safety reasons.

The UK has had at least one submarine on patrol at any given time for more than 40 years and has used the Trident system since the 1990s.

Both Conservative and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines, saying the existing system was designed for the Cold War era.

The UK government says all Royal Navy submarines will be based at Faslane by 2017 – supporting 8,000 jobs – and there are are no plans to move the nuclear deterrent. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said any alternative solution would come at huge cost and take decades.

In 2012, an inquiry into independence by a cross-party group of MPs concluded that identifying and recreating a suitable base to replace Faslane and Coulport would be “highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties”.

However, the Scottish government says if Scotland votes “Yes” in the independence referendum on 18 September, Trident will be removed – with the weapons’ withdrawal by 2020 – and a written constitution would ban nuclear weapons from being based in Scotland.

It also says Faslane has a “strong future” as a conventional naval base and the joint HQ for defence forces of an independent Scotland, and military personnel employed there would match current numbers.

So if the UK had to relocate Trident, where might it go?

1. Milford Haven

Tanker in Milford Haven dock Milford Haven is home to two liquefied natural gas facilities

In 2012 Wales’s Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said the UK’s nuclear-armed submarines and jobs associated with it would be “more than welcome” in Wales if they left Scotland. The remark that was met with an angry response from Plaid Cymru politicians and activists who cited safety risks.

When the original shortlist was drawn up for basing Trident’s predecessor Polaris in the 1960s, Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire was one of the candidates.

The Welsh site is an attractive option because it is a natural deep-water port. But In the 1960s Esso had just established an oil refinery in the town and the MoD decided the two were incompatible on safety grounds, according to William Walker, one of the authors of Uncharted Waters: The UK Nuclear Weapons and the Scottish Question.

“The dangers of handling and storing high explosives near major oil facilities ruled it out. Imagine a big submarine colliding with a tanker. It’s common sense – even if there is a low probability, the consequences could be horrific,” he says.

Nowadays the town’s economic and industrial output makes that line of thinking even more tricky. The haven is home to two liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and handles 30% of the UK’s gas supply. It also hosts two oil refineries and will soon have a new power station.

Dr Nick Ritchie, a lecturer in international security at the University of York, says it’s inconceivable that the MoD would allow LNG plants and oil refineries to stay open if Trident was relocated to Milford Haven.

And he says closing the refineries and petrochemical plants would have “a pretty significant economic impact”.

Walker thinks there would also be a question over whether the port could take the submarine traffic. There is also the possibility Wales might follow in Scotland’s footsteps and call for further devolution or independence. If it voted for that, and took the same stance as Scotland, the MoD would be back to square one.

2. Plymouth

HMS Turbulent at Devonport Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Turbulent at Devonport

Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth – the biggest private-sector employer in Devon and Cornwall – is the main nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy.

It is also home to the Trafalgar-class submarines, which will be moved to Faslane by 2017.

The port’s size – the largest naval base in Western Europe covers more than 650 acres and has 15 dry docks, 25 tidal berths and five basins – and familiarity with submarines has led some to believe Devonport might be the best option for an alternative location for Trident.

However, the Royal United Services Institute’s Malcolm Chalmers says even though – time and expense allowing – Devonport might work as an alternative to Faslane, it couldn’t recreate Coulport.

Coulport possesses a huge floating dock where warheads are placed inside the missiles, 3km from the small village of Garelochhead on one side and the small village of Ardentinny on the other, Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee heard in 2012. Any new warhead storage facility would need similar distances from population centres for loading and offloading warheads from missiles.

Devonport naval base, Plymouth

The dockyard is also in a densely populated area, which poses a safety risk. There are about 166,000 people living within 5km of the Devonport base, compared with about 5,200 within that distance of Faslane and fewer close to Coulport. The city of Plymouth has about 250,000 residents and is within 3.5km of the dockyard. Glasgow has a population of about 600,000, but it is 25km away from Faslane.

Walker says loading warheads into the missiles on Trident is “very delicate and complicated” and a process that shouldn’t be done in or near built-up areas.

“You can’t have Trident missile bodies laden with rocket fuel and nuclear warheads near a city of quarter a million people – the UK regulatory authorities would be very uncomfortable with that,” says Ritchie.

Lifting missiles is also a safety risk. “There needs to be an explosive handling jetty that is designed for the worst case scenario – if a missile is dropped or there is an earthquake, even if this might only happen once in several thousand years, and high explosives are scattered,” says Chalmers.

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Trident facts and figures

HMS Victorious
  • UK has four Vanguard Class submarines: HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant, and HMS Vengeance
  • They were launched between 1992 and 1998
  • Vanguard-class vessels are 150m (492ft) long
  • Ministry of Defence estimates cost of replacing all four submarines at £20bn
  • Submarines are based at Faslane on Gareloch
  • Missiles are kept at Coulport on Loch Long
  • UK has access to 70 Trident missiles held in communal pool at strategic weapons facility in Georgia, USA
  • Trident missile system replaced the Polaris system
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In 1963, Falmouth was suggested as a warhead depot option – like Coulport – in combination with Devonport. However the MoD dismissed the idea because it wanted the ammunitions depot to be within one hour’s sailing of the submarine base. Falmouth is 70km west of Devonport. However Chalmers thinks this combination could be a runner. “But it would require substantial political will,” he says.

Falmouth was also seriously considered in its own right in the 1963 shortlist. However, the area has a strong tourist economy and the proposed site would have required National Trust land acquisition which would be very difficult, if not impossible.

Olympic games 2012 Weymouth hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics

Portland, Weymouth, was the third English port to make the shortlist. It was ruled out because it didn’t have a close enough site for the warheads depot. Chalmers says it was the issue of warhead loading being kept far enough away from people and sites of economic value that meant Scottish locations made six of the 10 shortlisted 1960s options.

Portland’s naval base and the neighbouring Naval Air Station have now been closed down and replaced by a residential and commercial marina which hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics.

3. Barrow-in-Furness

The BAE Systems construction hall dominates the skyline above the town of Barrow-in-Furness, The Vanguard submarines were built in Barrow-in-Furness

An existing nuclear site that could be considered is Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, where BAE are currently building the nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines.

However, the base didn’t make it on to the 1963 shortlist because Walney Channel is thought to be too shallow for nuclear submarines.

Part of the problem is tidal. There are only a certain number of hours in each month when the tide is high enough for nuclear submarines to transit into the open sea, a 2005 investigation by research group RAND found.

Even at these restricted times the vessel has to travel fast to complete the journey.

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Trident II D5 missiles

  • Length: 44ft (13m)
  • Weight: 130,000lb (58,500kg)
  • Diameter: 6ft 11in (2.11m)
  • Range: 7,500 miles (12,000km)
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The problem isn’t just theoretical. The second Polaris submarine to be built at Barrow, HMS Repulse, ran aground when it was launched in November 1967.

However, Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, told the 2012 inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs that Barrow’s advantage was that it already had support facilities, including a ship-lift, similar to Faslane.

Substantial dredging would also make the site more accessible.

There are other problems though. The size of the current dock means it would not have room for more than two Vanguard-class submarines and the town – which has a population of about 69,000 – is close by. There is also the issue of where the warhead depot would be.

As with most of the options, Barrow could work but it would be costly and require extensive changes. “The bottom line with all these potential sites is we are talking about huge infrastructure projects like high-speed rail or Heathrow. It’s only when the detail is looked at that it becomes clear how complicated it is, and nobody has done the very detailed feasibility [studies] that would be needed,” says Chalmers.

4. Ile Longue, Brittany, France

Submarine at Ile Longue Ile Longue base, north-west France

The idea of the UK’s nuclear deterrent being based abroad would horrify some in the British military and raise big questions about its independence.

No country has ever kept their deterrent force in its entirety in a foreign country, based on the principle that a country’s last resort has to be somewhere where it has total control of it.

However, the UK and France have recently signed up to two new defence agreements.

One of these is for a joint nuclear weapon’s research establishment – where the two countries will share the hydrodynamic test facilities but keep the data from their experiments separate – at Epure.

And there have been calls for the UK to consider patrols with France, following the collision between Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard in February 2009.

Trident graphic

It might be possible to expand Anglo-French nuclear cooperation by asking France to host the British nuclear fleet. “I would say that’s the best option from economic and ease point of view,” says Dr Michael John Williams, a reader in international relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Tusa told the Scottish Affairs Committee there was also a precedence for storing warheads abroad.

“We shared American storage facilities for nuclear warheads at Iserlohn for 40 years and no-one seemed to care. There were American, German and British guards. The UK had British bunkers on German soil, but it was a US sovereign base. I did not notice anyone caring one way or the other,” he said.

However, Ritchie says a separate nuclear submarine base and nuclear armaments depot would have to be built in France because of commitments to the UK’s nuclear safety regulatory authorities and Nato.

That would be a problem at Ile Longue – where France’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines are based – because it doesn’t have space, according to John Ainslie, co-ordinator at the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which wants to get rid of Trident altogether.

It also shouldn’t be assumed that the French would be prepared to have a sovereign foreign nuclear weapons base on their territory, says Ron Smith, professor of Applied Economics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

5. King’s Bay, Georgia, US

Kings Bay, Georgia

The equally radical idea of re-siting to the US raises similar questions over independence as France.

However, Trident is a joint venture between the UK and the US. Trident II D5 missiles are leased from the US in King’s Bay, Georgia.

British submarines return to Georgia for their maintenance on a regular basis and the UK contributes £12m a year to the US as part of the running costs of the base. Non-nuclear warhead components are also made in the US.

Past UK prime ministers have always stressed Trident’s independence, saying its firing does not require the permission, the satellites or the codes of the US.

But Ritchie says there has always been a degree of controversy over the “incredibly high level of US support that allows the UK to remain a nuclear weapons base”.

Despite the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, as with the France option, there would be massive political obstacles to be overcome.

Essentially it comes back to independence. “Even when countries get on well, they can disagree. For the UK to have its ultimate security guaranteed, it would want to be fully independent,” says Williams.

6. It could stay put

David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013 David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013

The Scottish government says it is committed to removing Trident if it becomes independent and maintains it would not negotiate with the UK in exchange for concessions on other issues such as national debt and currency union (the UK government has ruled out the latter anyway).

But Ron Smith says there would be considerable pressure within an independent Scotland to do a deal and create a type of Sevastopol military enclave as Ukraine did, before Russia took over the Crimea.

The UK would be under pressure to do a deal too because even if it was feasible to replace the Clyde naval bases – “and it’s not clear that it is” – it would be incredibly expensive and time consuming, he says.

But Ritchie thinks the scenario is unlikely. “The SNP has staked its political credibility on getting rid of Trident – it’s unlikely to concede. The MoD would also find it very uncomfortable to have the UK’s nuclear deterrent in another country, even if it was a sovereign UK territory,” he says.

Earlier this year, First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, ruled out the prospect of a “Cyprus-style” leaseback scheme. Chalmers says this is a distraction. “A sovereign base area would be UK territory, but a foreign base is different. The SNP has already conceded four years of basing to 2020, so there is no point of principle in extending this for some more years,” he says.

Another option would be to change the UK’s nuclear deterrent to an airborne or land-based system, according to Williams. However, they have been dismissed as too vulnerable and highly problematic the past.

But Chalmers believes it probably would be possible to find an alternative home for Trident – “given time and political will”. But it would not be easy, he says.

Source – BBC News

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ThyssenKrupp agrees sale of Swedish submarine shipyard to Saab

Toy ducks are placed on a sign of Germany's top steelmaker ThyssenKrupp during a protest at their headquarters in Essen February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Germany’s ThyssenKrupp said late on Sunday it had agreed to sell its submarine shipyard in the south of Sweden to Swedish defence firm Saab for 340 million Swedish crowns (29.63 million pounds).

Saab had confirmed on Thursday it was nearing an agreement after business daily Dagens Industri reported that it might soon announce such a deal, with a price tag well below 1 billion Swedish crowns.

Saab and ThyssenKrupp announced in April they were in talks on the sale of the unit after the German group failed to reach a deal with Sweden for a new generation of submarines.

“The acquisition is in line with Saab’s ambitions to increase its capacity within the marine area and strengthen the company’s position as a full supplier of military systems,” Saab said in a statement.

The transaction is not expected to have a significant impact on 2014 results, the Swedish company added, noting that ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems will be integrated within Saab’s Security and Defense Solutions division.

Sweden had been seeking ways to share development costs with other potential buyers of its A-26 submarine but failed to agree on commercial terms with ThyssenKrupp, which also builds submarines in a separate business in Germany.

Sweden’s government asked Saab earlier this year to come up with a strategy to support Swedish submarine naval forces.

Defence analysts saw the move as opening the door for the Swedish company to build submarines instead.

ThyssenKrupp Marine employs around 1,000 staff in Sweden, mainly in the southern Swedish cities of Malmo and Karlskrona. The Marine Systems unit, which also makes naval ships, posted sales of 1.33 billion euros last year.

Source – Yahoo News

Whatever floats your boat: Kim Jong-un poses aboard rusty submarine

PICTURES of Kim Jong-un standing on a submarine have been released by North Korea.


 Kim Jong-un posed on board the rusty submarine [REUTERS]


Unfortunately for the dictator, the vessel appears to have seen better days.

Large patches of rust can be seen on the sides and top of the submarine, which is thought to be a 1,800-ton Soviet built submersible from the 1950s.

North Korean expert Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Leeds University, expressed surprise at the release of the picture, saying: “Normally they tart stuff up”.

The photo opportunity comes after Kim Jong-un was pictured smiling and joking on a construction site – just days after the collapse of a Pyongyang apartment building killed hundreds of people.

 South Korea responded by saying their submarines are “far superior” [REUTERS]

North Korea’s state media quoted Jong-un as saying: “The Party Central Committee is attaching great importance to the combined units of submarines.

“The commanding officers and seamen should clearly see through the motives of the hateful enemies watching for a chance to invade our land and put spurs to combat preparations, thinking about battles only.”

However, South Korea appeared undaunted by the release of the pictures.

Defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said: “It appears that Pyongyang aims to show off its submarine might, but the submarines that our Navy holds are far superior, as ours do not make much noise and it can stay underwater far longer.”

Source – Express

Video – HMS Opossum – Cobwebs 1989

HMS/M Opossum Cobwebs Day 1989.
Featuring Lt Cdr Tom Herman and OERA Nobby Clarke

Click on the picture of follow the link beneath

 

Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLLrgch4OMI

Argentine Submarine runs aground

Argentine Navy submarine accident

According to Argentine media reports, local time on June 15 afternoon, the Argentine Navy Santa Cruz Road (S-41 ARA Santa Cruz) submarine ran aground accident occurred in Buenos Aires Outer South Pier

Source – Defence News Asia

 

 

 

‘People were going to die’: submarine crew trapped in searing heat after catastrophic systems failure

Dozens of crew members were trapped on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine in 60C heat after the air conditioning system failed, forcing HMS Turbulent to dive to 200m to cool down

HMS Turbulent

Temperatures on HMS Turbulent soared to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity Photo: SWNS

Dozens of sailors were overcome by heat exhaustion when temperatures soared on board a British nuclear submarine after a “catastrophic” air-conditioning failure, it has been disclosed.

Eight submariners were left in a “life-threatening condition” as temperatures on HMS Turbulent rose to more than 140F (60C) with 100 per cent humidity, while engineers battled to fix the fault.

The previously undisclosed incident in the Indian Ocean has come to light three years later, after the commanding officer at the time gave a dramatic account of the crisis and revealed the situation was so critical he thought crew members were going to die.


Commander Ryan Ramsey (SWNS)

Cdr Ryan Ramsey, the submarine’s commanding officer, said: “I genuinely thought there was going to be a loss of life on board.

The 44-year-old, who recently retired from the Royal Navy, said the extreme temperatures left crew “just collapsing everywhere, many at their work stations”.

The hunter killer submarine was only three hours from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on May 26, 2011, when the incident took place.

The boat had surfaced and Cdr Ramsey was on the bridge when engineers told him the air conditioning plants had “catastrophically” failed.

As he went below he was met by an “incredible blast of heat,” and the first casualties soon began to be taken ill.

Within hours many areas of the 275ft submarine had become makeshift sick bays, as 26 of the crew were taken casualty, he said.

“We had casualties in the control room, the engine room, the bridge, the wardroom, cabins, and the toilets and showers. It was absolutely terrifying, and I’m not afraid to say I was scared.

“Walking around the boat I saw true fear in my crew’s eyes.

“I saw genuine concern because we simply did not know how we were going to get through it.

“I felt like the world was against us.

“I was looking up and asking ‘when are you going to give me a break to gain the upper hand here?’

“People were crying, and it was all about survival.”

Cdr Ramsey said it was the first time such a malfunction had been reported on a vessel of this type – and the crew didn’t understand the exact cause of the problem. The heat meant the crew couldn’t reach the problem areas because the equipment was too hot to touch.

A decision was made that it was impossible to return to Fujairah with a “broken” nuclear submarine because of the political fallout. The crew opened two of the submarines hatches to release some of the heat and put some of the casualties outside, but with temperatures on the surface reaching 108F (42C) there was little respite.

The air conditioning system was used to cool sensitive equipment on board, which began to shut down.

A decision was made to dive to cooler water to reduce the heat.

“It was touch and go before we dived as to what might happen to us and the submarine,” he said.

“We couldn’t do anything. I could have radioed for help but it would have taken hours for anyone to reach us. In that time people would have died.

“We were alone in our steel tube. There really was no-one to call.”

Diving to a depth of more than 200 metres, the temperatures finally began to drop and within 24 hours systems had returned to normal and the crew were recovering. HMS Turbulent, based in Devonport, resumed her deployment.

Cdr Ramsey told the Plymouth Herald: “There’s not a day that goes by that I do not think about what happened. The pain of seeing my crew like that.

“But when I think back to that time I quickly remember how fantastic they all were in dealing with the situation.

“We recovered from it. They did exactly what they had to do, and looked after the team.”

Cdr Ramsey left the Royal Navy in March after 25 years’ service and said he had chosen to reveal the incident to highlight how “incredible” the secretive submarine service is.

He said: “The medical team was made up of one Petty Officer medic, another medic, and six or seven first-aiders and they did an unbelievable job under intense pressure.”

“That particular experience brought out some amazing actions from people who are rarely recognised, if ever, for what they do.”

HMS Turbulent, a Trafalgar Class submarine, was decommissioned in July 2012 at the end of a career of nearly 30 years.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the submarine’s nuclear reactor had never been at risk.

He said: “In 2011, a technical issue in HMS Turbulent resulted in a temporary rise in temperature on board the submarine.

“The problem, which caused no damage to the submarine or its reactor systems, was resolved by the crew after a few hours using standard operating procedures.

“A number of personnel who showed signs of heat related symptoms were treated by the submarine’s medical team.

“All recommendations resulting from the investigation into the incident have been fully implemented.”

Source – The Daily Telegraph

HMS Tireless returns to Plymouth for the final time before being decommissioned

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • Picture by Helen Pearse

  • HMS Tireless returning to Devonport Naval Base this evening. Picture by Nick Copson.

NUCLEAR-powered Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless has returned home to Plymouth for the last time.

The service’s longest serving nuclear-powered hunter killer sub is due to be decommissioned after nearly 30 years of service.

The vessel, base ported in Devonport, operated as one of the Cold War “warriors”, a Navy spokesman said.

“Out of sight and mind, she deployed for long, secret and often dangerous missions out into the Atlantic,” he added. “She patrolled for months at a time searching for and stalking her enemies.

“Renowned for her stealth and many successes she enjoys a strong reputation to this day.”

The sub returned home tonight after completing the first deployment by a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine to Australia in seven years.

HMS Tireless had also been assisting in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

HMS Tireless was launched in 1984 and commissioned a year later.

She surfaced at the North Pole in 1991, 2004 and 2006, and between 2010 and 2011 took part in a 10-month deployment, the longest continuous deployment by a UK nuclear-powered submarine up to that date.

This year she has been on East of Suez deployment, which included her searching for Flight MH370.

Source – Plymouth Herald