Category Archives: The world’s submarines

News, views and stories about the rest of the world’s submarines

Sailing into the history books: the Navy’s first women submariners: Trio complete months of training to earn their ‘Dolphins’


  • First females in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service
  • Ban on women serving in submarines lifted in December 2011
  • During training the three women conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant
  • ‘Dolphin’ is the name give to the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Three women have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners – becoming the first women in the 110-year history of the Navy’s Submarine Service.

For years women were unable to serve on submarines because of possible health risks but, after an independent review found that only pregnant women should not serve, Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, lifted the ban in December 2011.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy

Today, Mr Hammond said: ‘This is not only a huge personal achievement for these three outstanding officers, as they take up their new roles supporting the ultimate safeguard of our national security, but also an historic moment for the Royal Navy and our armed forces.’

Following the arrival of woman officers, female ratings (non-commissioned personnel) will start training later this year with a view to serving on Vanguard submarines in 2015.

Female personnel will also be able to serve on Astute-class submarines from around 2016.

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

Ring ring goes the bell: After 110 years of the Silent Service, pioneering Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray have become the first women to serve onboard a Vanguard class submarine

During their training, previously only undertaken by men, the three women officers conducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, passing their rigorous final exams with flying colours, and will now embark on careers in the Submarine Service.

Lt Stiles, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said: ‘I wanted to be able to say that I had made the most of every opportunity that I had been given in the Navy.

‘It’s very intense and very challenging but that’s what makes it so rewarding. At the end of it, when you get your Dolphins and are accepted into the submarine community, it’s great.’

Describing the reception from the 165 male members of the 168-member crew, the 29-year-old, who has been in the Navy for four years, said: ‘As long as you can do your job and you’re good at what you do, I don’t think they cared whether you were male or female.’

HMS Vigilant's (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: 'I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board'

HMS Vigilant’s (pictured) commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw the training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board’

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their 'Dolphins' - the clasp worn by qualified submariners

A life under the ocean wave: Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray (left-right) have completed months of specialised training to earn their ‘Dolphins’ – the clasp worn by qualified submariners

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Ever vigilant: Lt Penny Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, will become an education oficer

Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead.

She said: ‘I kept volunteering and volunteering until it came in.’

She admitted that the three women might have ‘stuck out’ on board, but said: ‘They were really receptive. Having a slower process of introducing a few females first in the officer cadre and then ratings has helped. We haven’t just knocked on the door of a submarine and said ‘Can we come to sea please?’

‘I felt like a little sister to 165 brothers. You live as a very strange family. Once we got qualified they were glad for us the same way they had been glad for hundreds of submariners before.

‘At the end of the day manpower is a big thing for the Navy – as long as you can do the job, it doesn’t matter.’

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

Maxine Stiles will serve aboard HMS Vigilant as a logistics officer

 She added: ‘We did a long patrol, we’ve come across most things people want to know about, like how you live and how the guys get on with you.

‘I know there’s people who are interested but they haven’t been able to make an informed decision.

‘Of course it’s been challenging, but women are absolutely capable of doing this job. I think that change can always be a bit of a shock, but I look forward to seeing more and more women getting on board.’

Describing the living conditions on board, she said: ‘It’s slightly more cramped that you would be used to.

Actually you bring your perspective in so you don’t see the lack of space anymore – you see the space that’s there.

‘It’s a bit of an odd place to live – everything smells the same, it all has this diesel oily smell which you have to get used to. But it’s not a horrible place to live.

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

Always a rover: Lt Olsson, 26, from Tranmere, the Wirral, was inspired to volunteer to serve on submarines after childhood visits to see HMS Onyx at the Maritime Museum in Birkenhead

 ‘I managed to have a shower every day, we had laundry facilities. There was gym equipment. And food becomes a massive part of your day, it’s a routine you get into.’

Lt Thackray, 39, from Hightown in West Yorkshire, said: ‘You limit your horizons. I found I just forgot about the existence of some things – someone asked me if I missed bananas. I hadn’t even noticed until they mentioned it. I just forgot the outside world, you get a whole new world.’

After their training, Lt Stiles will continue her logistics officer post on board; Lt Olsson is undertaking deputy weapons engineering officer training; and Lt Thackray will become an education officer.

HMS Vigilant’s commanding officer Commander Matt Dennis, who oversaw their training, said: ‘I was impressed with how seamlessly the three women integrated on board.

‘They qualified without any difficulty and two of them even completed additional training whilst at sea.

‘As I would expect, they were accepted as integral members of the ship’s company by the rest of the crew and have really paved the way for women on submarines to be business as usual from now on.’

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel said: ‘Women have been serving in ships at sea with the Royal Navy for more than 20 years and integrating them into the Submarine Service completes their inclusion into all seagoing branches.

‘This is a proud day for the Royal Navy but equally a major personal achievement for these three officers, as it is for all those qualifying.’

Source – Daily Mail.

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Australia Reviews Plan to Double Submarine Fleet

Decision to Revisit $32 Billion Purchase Comes as Asian Neighbors Bulk Up Military Muscle

The first of Australia’s six Collins class submarines hitting the water at Port Adelaide in 1993; Australia is reviewing a plan to replace its fleet with 12 new subs at a cost of more than $30 billion.

CANBERRA, Australia—Australia will review plans to double its fleet of submarines, with the new conservative government under pressure to rein in its budget even as Asian neighbors dramatically ramp up military spending.

Defense Minister  David Johnston  said he was unconvinced that Australia needed as many as 12 new conventional submarines currently foreseen by military planners. It comes as regional neighbors, led by China, build up their naval and air arsenals amid disputes over territorial waters, especially in North Asia.

At a cost of up to 36 billion Australian dollars (US$32.28 billion), doubling the submarine fleet would be the country’s largest single military purchase.

“It’s a mystery to me [where that number of 12 came from],” said Mr. Johnston, who has called for a review of military-equipment spending as part of a yearlong strategic planning process launched by the conservatives, who swept to power in September elections on a promise of fiscal restraint.

“That is a technical issue that the current circumstances will dictate and I want [the] navy to tell me what they foresee is the way forward. It might be more than 12, it might be less. I’m not sure,” he said in an interview.

Australia’s former Labor government in 2009 released a defense planning paper that called for a dozen large, conventionally powered submarines to replace the country’s existing six-boat fleet of Collins class submarines.

Although much larger than submarines operated by regional neighbors, the Collins class submarines have been plagued by technical problems. On Thursday, a fire erupted on the submarine HMAS Waller off the West Australian coast, Australia’s Defense Department said. There were no casualties.

A new fleet of larger, more powerful and longer-range submarines would counter a growing undersea presence in Asia. Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are fielding new submarines to counter threats to some of the world’s most important energy-trade routes, as well as to hedge against Chinese ambitions.

China in January sent a surface warship fleet—possibly backed by a submarine—into waters between Indonesia and Australia, demonstrating Beijing’s naval reach. The move prompted some alarm in Canberra, which sent a maritime patrol aircraft to keep watch.

Southeast Asian nations typically operate submarines of about 2,000 submerged tons, while Australia envisages boats of 4,000 tons or more, possibly equipped with submarine-launched cruise missiles for land attack and capable of deploying special-forces soldiers.

Australia’s submarine-replacement program, no matter how ambitious it turned out to be, wouldn’t add to regional rivalries, with the close U.S. ally having long fielded a small but highly capable military that was well respected regionally, Mr. Johnston said.

“For many, many years we have owned and operated the world’s largest conventionally powered submarine, so the neighborhood is well used to us having a large and unique diesel-electric submarine,” he said.

Australia already has embarked on an expensive buildup of military equipment, including two 27,000-ton amphibious assault ships, new attack and transport helicopters, guided-missile destroyers, tanks and Super Hornet strike and electronic attack aircraft.

Australia has a defense budget of some A$26 billion in the fiscal year to June, or 1.6% of gross domestic product. The government plans in the next few years to buy up to 100 F-35 Lightning joint strike fighters to provide radar-evading air power, at a cost of up to A$16 billion.

But the military has come under pressure to reduce costs as the world’s 12th-largest economy retreats from a mining boom, driving up joblessness and eating into government revenues. The government in December forecast budget deficits totaling A$123 billion over the next four fiscal year to June 2017, and said it would cut billions from spending.

Mr. Johnston said he was open to the idea of Australia’s far-flung Cocos islands, in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia, being developed as a base for U.S. or Australian Tritons. But he said there was no proposal currently to upgrade the islands’ dilapidated airstrip to expand maritime reach, as Chinese vessels increasingly patrol further from home.

China’s growing assertiveness in the East China Sea and elsewhere was to be expected of any country with growing energy needs, Mr. Johnston said, including a demand for Australian oil and gas resources. China is Australia’s largest trading partner.

“They are hostage to the importation of food and energy. I think they would be dilatory were they not to want to protect those sea lanes,” he said. “I’m not reactive to these things that are happening in the South China Sea.”

Source – The Wall Street Journal

Fire damaged submarine returns to Canadian navy after nearly a decade

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HMCS Chicoutimi rests on the syncrolift after being removed from the harbour in Halifax, N.S., Canada on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2006. A newly rebuilt HMCS Chicoutimi is set to rejoin the Canadian navy’s submarine fleet, nearly 10 years after a deadly fire aboard the second-hand warship effectively crippled the program.

A newly rebuilt HMCS Chicoutimi is set to return to Canada’s naval fleet nearly 10 years after a deadly fire aboard the second-hand warship effectively crippled the Canadian navy’s submarine program.

The resurrection of the British-built vessel, which became emblematic of the sorry state of Canadian military equipment in 2004, has the Department of National Defence contemplating for the first time how best to employ its controversial subs.

One internal defence proposal foresees deploying the undersea warships to far-flung oceans, patrolling trouble spots the way the navy’s frigates do today.

Chicoutimi has been fully repaired and upgraded, says the navy’s top commander.

It entered the water in late November after three years of work at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd., a return that is about two years behind the navy’s original schedule.

The submarine is in the process of being turned over to the military and the crew is expected to begin sea trial in waters off Esquimalt, B.C. over the next few weeks, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

“We’re on the cusp of achieving what we laid out,” said Norman, who noted the original goal of the program was to have three of the navy’s four submarines operational at all times.

Chicoutimi will, however, be restricted to shallow-water diving for the foreseeable future, according to a series of defence documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

It’s been a long, excruciating journey since Jean Chretien’s Liberal government announced in 1998 it would buy four surplus diesel-electric boats from the Royal Navy in what was heralded at the time as a great bargain for Canadian taxpayers.

The poor condition of the mothballed submarines — they were rusty, prone to flooding and one had a dented hull — tarnished the reputation of the boats. But it was the fire aboard Chicoutimi in October 2004, which killed Lt. Chris Saunders and sent two other sailors to hospital, that nearly scuttled the program entirely.

A subsequent military board of inquiry found that an open hatch allowed sea water from a rogue wave to wash down the conning tower and inundate poorly insulated high-voltage wires, triggering the fire. Still, the 700-page report blamed no one for the tragedy, which occurred off Ireland during the ship’s voyage to Halifax.

The initial estimate to repair the boat was pegged at $15 million in 2005. It quickly increased to $20 million in 2006, but internal documents suggest the price tag could run to more than $125 million, including removal of all fire-damaged components.

Originally commissioned as HMS Upholder, the ship has spent the bulk of its nearly 28-year existence either in dry-dock or tied up to a wharf.

HMCS Victoria is the Canadian navy’s only fully operational submarine, having completed the test firing of a live torpedo. A third submarine, HMCS Windsor, is operational but has not gone through process of certification to fire its weapons and remains under dive restrictions.

HMCS Corner Brook is currently in dry-dock for life extension and repairs after slamming into the ocean floor off Vancouver Island.

Despite the trials, senior brass have been thinking ahead and want to see the subs play a meaningful role, possibly in extended deployments in waters off the world’s trouble spots in much the same way the Dutch have utilized their fleet.

Former chief of defence staff, general Walt Natynczyk, directed before he retired that the navy develop a deployment plan that would “accelerate the strategic reach of the submarines.”

Since the boats are slow and have limited range, Natynczyk envisioned the navy using a piggyback ship to whisk the submarines to support ongoing international operations, such as anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa.

“The immense effort this has required, and the massive investment it represents, must now begin to yield a visible and defensible return on your investment,” the former top commander wrote in a directive dated March 5, 2012.

Norman says the navy isn’t quite ready for such an operation, but concedes it is a goal.

“We see this as a viable deployment possibility, looking into the near future,” he said.

A number of factors would have to be considered, including the cost of transport, sustaining the submarine once it’s on station, and the climate, since the boats were designed during the Cold War for operations in the frigid North Atlantic.

“Those boats are more comfortable in cold war than warm water,” Norman said.

But it would be in Canada’s national interest to conduct such far-flung patrols in addition to keeping tabs on the country’s coastline, he added.

“If you can pre-position them in whatever area of strategic interest you may have, they become all that more useful.”

Source – The Province

World War II Japanese mega-submarine discovered off Hawaii

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  • The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory Pisces V submersible at the deck of the I-400 submarine. (NOAA HURL ARCHIVES)

  • I-400.jpg

    The I-400 was one of the “Sen-Toku” class submarines, which were the largest submarines ever built until nuclear-powered subs were invented. It could travel one and a half times around the world without refueling.

A Japanese submarine that was lost at sea after it was intentionally scuttled by the U.S. Navy during World War II has been located by a team of explorers off the coast of Hawaii.

A spokesman for the University of Hawaii at Mānoa said in a press release the discovery of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s mega-submarine, the I-400, solves the decades-old mystery of where the submarine lay on the ocean floor.

The I-400 was one of the “Sen-Toku” class submarines, which were the largest submarines ever built until nuclear-powered subs were invented. It is 400 feet long and could travel one and a half times around the world without refueling.

“The I-400 has been on our ‘to-find’ list for some time,” said veteran undersea explorer Terry Kerby, who led the expedition that found the submarine. “It was the first of its kind of only three built, so it is a unique and very historic submarine.”

Kerby said finding the submarine where they did was “totally unexpected” because they had expected it to be further out to sea.

“It was a thrill when the view of a giant submarine appeared out of the darkness,” Kerby said.

The U.S. Navy captured the I-400 and four other Japanese submarines at the end of the war and brought them to Pearl Harbor to inspect them. In 1946, the Soviet Union demanded access to the submarines under the terms of the treaty that ended the war.

Instead of allowing the Soviets access to the submarines’ advanced technology, the U.S. sunk them and claimed to have no information about where they were. Four out of the five submarines have since been located.

The I-400 was discovered in August and its discovery was announced Tuesday, after the NOAA reviewed the discovery with government officials in the U.S. and Japan.

Source – Fox News

China – Nuclear submarine fleet comes of age

Sailors stand at attention on the nuclear submarine, stationed at the Qingdao base.

Sailors stand at attention on the nuclear submarine, stationed at the Qingdao base.

Excellent safety record, demanding training make force exceptional

China’s nuclear submarine fleet has had a remarkable safety record for more than 40 years and gained rich experience through rigorous training and drills, its fleet commanders said.

“We are China’s first nuclear submarine force, and the 42 years since our establishment have witnessed our success in avoiding nuclear accidents,” Rear Admiral Gao Feng, commander of one of the People’s Liberation Army navy’s submarine bases, told reporters during a rare open house in Qingdao.

China's nuclear submarine conducts a drill with other submarines.

China’s nuclear submarine conducts a drill with other submarines.

This is a tremendous achievement because almost all of the other naval powers in the world, including the United States and Russia, have had nuclear accidents on nuclear submarines, Gao said.

Senior Captain Jin Xupu, deputy chief of staff of the base, said nuclear reactors at nuclear submarines are much more sophisticated than those used in nuclear power stations and require higher safety standards.

“A nuclear submarine is like a moving nuclear power station, and its reactors must be capable of resisting stormy waves.”

Soliders stand guard at the Qingdao submarine base

Soliders stand guard at the Qingdao submarine base

 Jin said crewmembers on nuclear submarines must be able to respond quickly and promptly to any kind of contingency, such as a steam leak or fire.

“It’s very difficult to handle a fire during combat because the situation is different than when the submarine stays on the surface or it is peacetime, so crewmembers must pass numerous training tests and exercises on emergency response.”

When stationed in the base, captains and their crewmembers must check equipment on the boat on a weekly basis so that hazards can be discovered and fixed before the submarine leaves the base, said Peng Weihua, head of equipment supervision at the Qingdao base.

Ever since it was founded, the elite unit has been maintaining a low profile. Military observers and analysts have had few opportunities to look inside the deterrence force.

Sun Ruiqiang, a submarine captain, gives orders during a drill

Sun Ruiqiang, a submarine captain, gives orders during a drill

 The official debut of the fleet was in 2009, when the PLA navy celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding with a spectacular parade that included warships from China and 14 other nations.

Two nuclear submarines of the Chinese navy led the parade and attracted much attention from the international media and the public, with many foreign military observers speculating that China’s nuclear submarine force had become strong and confident enough to show its muscle.

However, the force had chosen to continue a low profile until a recent open house for Chinese journalists.

“After more than 40 years of development, now is the time for us to show the world our determination and ability to safeguard peace and tell our people about this ‘mysterious’ force,” said Rear Admiral Li Yanming, political commissar of the Qingdao base.

Officers walk past the submarine's nuclear reaction cabin

Officers walk past the submarine’s nuclear reaction cabin

With China’s advancements in technological and manufacturing capabilities together with the increasing investment in arsenal modernization, the nuclear submarine fleet has made huge strides in its long-distance patrol trainings, senior officers said.

“I think the claims of some on the Internet that we are backward and can’t defeat other nations’ navies are biased,” Gao said. “Although our boats are not as advanced as our rivals’, we have the ‘spirit of victory’, and our tactics are good enough to enable us to compete with them.”

Moreover, the training and drills are designed for and simulate actual combat, leading to submariners being well prepared for any situation, he said.

In addition, we have gained a lot of experience through confrontation with our rivals, and such occasions testify to our prowess and confidence.”

Gao’s remarks were endorsed by retired commanders.

Qu Weiping, former political commissar at the base, said: “A nuclear submarine is a symbol of a powerful nation and a guardian of national security. We are the only maritime strategic force in Asia and an important part of the navy’s emergency-response combat forces.”

Qu said he has received several foreign military delegations that have visited Chinese nuclear submarines, and they all spoke highly of the crewmembers’ performance. Although he is unable to compare the skills and abilities of foreign submarines’ crewmembers with his own submariners, “I am convinced our men are able to rival any of their foreign counterparts”.

He said the world record for longest voyage of submarine, 90 days, was set by one of his boats, and the distance it traveled is one and a half times the length of the equator.

Wang Ping, a retired officer at the base who had been political commissar on a nuclear submarine, said he had taken part in receiving a visiting delegation of French naval officers.

“Back then, our vessel and equipment were backward compared with theirs, but they were impressed by the good condition of our equipment and my officers’ excellent ability to operate and maintain them,” he said.

Officers said their dreams have become realities as more advanced submarines and weapons are delivered to them.

“When I first joined the nuclear submarine force, becoming a captain was my dream,” said Senior Captain Yang Su, deputy commander of the base.

“And now, what I dream is to navigate our most advanced, modern nuclear submarine to sail around the world to promote peace and friendship

Source – China Daily

Canada – Underway on board a Canadian submarine (Video)

No one would argue the Canadian Navy has had an easy time of it with its four Upholder-class diesel-electric submarines. Each one has been plagued with problems since they were acquired from the British Royal Navy a decade ago.

Here’s a nice video of one of them, HMCS CORNER BROOK (ex-HMS URSULA) underway in early June 2011. One of three submarines based on the west coast at Esquimalt, British Columbia, the CORNER BROOK had just transferred from the east coast when this video was shot.

Sadly, the cheerfulness shown in the video didn’t last long. The submarine struck bottom while operating submerged near Vancouver Island in Nootka Sound on June 4, 2011. Despite injuries to two sailors and damage to the submarine, CORNER BROOK was able to return to Esquimalt under her own power. There she remains, awaiting full repairs that are not expected to be completed until at least . . . 2016.

Of the four Upholder-class submarines, only one, HMCS VICTORIA, is operational, although she has yet to be elevated to the fully operational status.

Source – Defence News

Russia to hand over first submarine to Vietnam in November

 Admiralty Shipyards this year will hand over to the Vietnam Navy, the first of the six diesel-electric submarines of Project 636 Varshavyanka.

submarine, russia, vietnam, navy, kilo class
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the 636 Kilo class submarine named “Hanoi” of Vietnam’s navy during his visit to Russia

The first of the six submarines of project 636, built at the Admiralty Shipyard has passed the tests successfully

“The tests have been completed. The delivery of product signing is scheduled in early November this year. In late January 2014, the submarine will be sent to Cam Ranh and the final minutes of the receipt of goods will be signed,” a spokesman for the shipyard said.

Earlier, the “Kanwa Defense Review” magazine, dated November, made an exclusive interview with Deputy Director of RUBUN Design Bureau (Russia), Mr. Andrey Baranov, who said that the manufacturing of the six Kilo 636 class submarines for Vietnam was progressing very smoothly.

Under the plan, in 2014 Russia will hand over a 636 Kilo class submarine to Vietnam, three others in 2015 and the last two in 2016. These boats are equipped with more modern technology than the submarines of the same type of the Chinese navy.

Source – Vietnam Net