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Emergency at sea – the crisis on a nuclear sub that had to stay secret

Emergency at sea – the crisis on a nuclear sub that had to stay secret The nuclear submarine HMS Revenge is arrives at Rosyth naval dockyard in April 1980. BRIAN WILSON Published: 08:21 Updated: 14:19 Tuesday 20 March 2018 Share this article Sign Up To Our Daily Newsletter Sign up 2 HAVE YOUR SAY It was June 1978, the Cold War was in full swing and the Polaris submarine, HMS Revenge, was on patrol somewhere so sensitive that 40 years later we still cannot be told.

Controlling nuclear power in HMS Revenge.

A sudden roar that “sounded like a jumbo jet taking off” was followed by the cry of “Steam leak in the TG (turbo generator) room”. The scene was set for the most serious crisis in the history of Britain’s nuclear fleet – as far as we know. On Her Majesty’s Nuclear Service by Eric Thompson The detailed story of that event is told for the first time in a book by Eric Thompson, the Senior Engineer on watch aboard HMS Revenge that day. He went on to become Commodore in charge of the Faslane base and the submarines it served. “I knew the emergency drill by heart,” he writes. “‘Shut Both Main Steam Stops’. That would shut off all steam to the engine room. At a stroke, it would kill the leak… it would also scram the reactor, the pumping heart of the submarine; the plant would automatically go into emergency cooling and there was no recovery from that at sea. Temp without losing benefits? If your job ends you can start your Universal Credit payments again, so temp work’s a great place to start.  Sponsored by HM Government “We would have lost our power source, be reduced to a dead ship. We would have to surface and signal for a tug. Unthinkable… We were in our top-secret patrol position. Our number one priority was to remain undetected.” The undignified prospect of Britain’s nuclear deterrent limping back from wherever-in-the-world to Faslane on the end of a tug-line would, as Thompson points out, have had considerable political ramifications: “It would mean national humiliation. The credibility of our nuclear deterrent was at stake… Jim Callaghan’s government was riven by anti-nuclear sentiment… if the deterrent appeared to fail, Britain’s nuclear strategy would be holed below the waterline.” Controlling nuclear power in HMS Revenge. In the end, crisis was averted by deploying an “obscure dockyard procedure never used at sea.” This involved by-passing the main engines so that the steam was fed directly into the condenser.

The nuclear submarine HMS Revenge is arrives at Rosyth naval dockyard in April 1980.

For the benefit of the lay audience, Thompson helpfully equates this to “emptying the domestic hot water tank straight into the toilet”. He writes: “For what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened. The roaring of the steam continued. The humidity was unbearable. Then there was a mighty whoosh down the starboard steam range behind my back… The boiler had been deflated. The roar of steam had stopped.” Damage had been done and the vessel lost much of its power. “We could launch our missiles if necessary but our maximum speed was severely reduced… For the next eight weeks we would be walking a tightrope; one machine failure could bring everything tumbling down. “Submarines on deterrent patrol do not break radio silence. No one knew of our plight. Nobody would for another eight weeks.” One member of Thompson’s team was given a bravery award for his efforts to isolate the leak. “He had been within three metres of it before being driven back by the heat… he had ripped his back open whilst squeezing through a jungle of pipework.” Picture: submitted But let’s cut to the chase. While steam leaks and the derring-do required to address them are all very exciting, they also beg a bigger question. Was there at any point a threat of a nuclear accident? Eric Thompson remains adamant in his denial. “Absolutely not. The worst that could have happened was that we would have had to surface – and maybe I would have been poached alive.” You get the impression he might not have regarded this as a worse fate than being towed back to Faslane in the full glare of publicity and political outrage. Thompson grew up in Coatbridge and his destiny was set when his father spotted an advert for scholarships to Britannia Royal Navy College, Dartmouth. In the face of intense competition, mainly from the public schools, he gained admission and embarked on a stellar naval career which coincided with the hottest years of the Cold War. Another of that Dartmouth intake later became Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Boyce. The two became lifelong friends and Boyce provides a foreword in which he encapsulates an argument which goes to the heart of the debate about nuclear weapons. “The secrecy of the Submarine Service means that few outsiders know what life was like or what kept us busy. Yet we were performing the greatest public service of all, making a hugely significant contribution to the prevention of a third world war. In this, history shows that we succeeded: the Cold War ended peacefully.” Boyce continues: “It is no coincidence that in the first half of the 20th century there were two horrific world wars but none in the second half; one could argue that the difference was that in the second half, we had a strategic nuclear deterrent.” One could also argue, of course, against that proposition. What is unusual about this book is that it provides a perspective that often goes unrepresented – that of a professional practitioner who lived for decades in close proximity to nuclear weapons, while regarding them as instruments of peace rather than war. In the aftermath of the crisis aboard HMS Revenge, Thompson recalls how he “staggered through the Reactor Compartment into the eerie tranquillity of the Missile Compartment, as if I had entered another world in which 16 one and a half metre diameter vertical tubes each containing a Polaris intercontinental ballistic missile stood like silent sentinels…The order of the day in the Missile Department was serenity.” Eric Thompson, who now lives in Craigendoran, has spent much of his career in Scotland. He courteously sent me an advance extract from his book because of a nice reference, dating back to the early days of the West Highland Free Press and the decision to establish a torpedo testing range in the Sound of Raasay. His superiors thought that local opposition would be ill-informed and easily brushed aside. Thompson, whose father-in-law was from Lewis, knew better and probably enjoyed the spectacle as his superiors were taken apart at a public meeting in Kyle of Lochalsh, where the Commodore finally expostulated: “You should all count yourself damn lucky. If you were in the Soviet Union, you wouldn’t be allowed to ask these questions!” The range was established and complaints these days are only heard if there is to be a loss of civilian jobs. In the same way, the public assimilate most of what the military want and decide, on balance, that it is probably for the public good. Thompson’s down to earth memoirs and practical insights will probably help to reassure them. At root, nuclear weapons involve a moral issue more than a political one. The case against is that it is wrong to possess weapons which cannot, under any conceivable circumstances, be used. The case in favour is Lord Boyce’s – that it is possession which guarantees that they will never be used. Take your pick. Thompson says that he has written the book because, at 75, he is one of a diminishing band who saw the Cold War from his end of the periscope. As international tensions threaten to return to Cold War levels, he remains confident about the power of deterrence. “There will always be surrogate wars,” he says, “but ultimately, no regime is prepared to risk its own destruction.”

On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service by Eric Thompson

– On Her Majesty’s Nuclear Service by Eric Thompson is out now, published by Casemate at £19.99, tel: 01226 734350, http://www.casematepublishing.co.uk

Read more at: https://www.scotsman.com/news/emergency-at-sea-the-crisis-on-a-nuclear-sub-that-had-to-stay-secret-1-4708761

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Reactor incidents on new nuclear subs double in one year

Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute (right), at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 20, 2016. See PA story DEFENCE Trident. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wir

Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute (right), at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane.

The Royal Navy’s new nuclear-powered submarines have been plagued by 69 safety incidents and “near misses” over the last four years.

The Astute class of submarines based at Faslane on the Clyde has seen reported reactor incidents at sea or on shore almost double from 12 in 2014 to 21 in 2015. Though the MoD insists that the incidents are all minor, critics warn that they undermine the boats’ reliability and safety.

The first submarine of the class, HMS Astute, has already been out on operations, and the second, HMS Ambush, was launched in 2011. The third, HMS Artful, was formally handed over to the Royal Navy in December 2015.
The four remaining Astute submarines are either still being built by the defence firm BAE Systems at its Barrow shipyard, or are due to be built there. The construction programme has been subject to a series of delays and cost overruns.

The Ministry of Defence revealed the number of safety events recorded with Astute submarine reactors between January 2012 and January 2016 in response to a request under freedom of information law. There were an average of more than 17 a year, or one every three weeks.

Reported events are not detailed. But they included “any occurrence that has, or could have, led to a reduction in nuclear or radiation safety or that provides an opportunity for operator experience feedback.”

According to the independent nuclear engineer John Large, the submarines were suffering serious problems. “This continuing experience of the Astute class reactor problems not only imperils the boats when at sea but is likely to result in cutbacks to the number of patrols, voyage durations and the extent of roaming of the high seas,” he said.
John Ainslie, coordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed out that Astute submarines had been involved in a series of mishaps, including running aground on the Isle of Skye. “It is only a matter of time before one of these incidents results in a serious nuclear accident,” he said.

An MoD spokeswoman said: “In line with our high safety standards, we record all incidents regardless of how minor they are, to ensure lessons are learnt. There are no issues with the safety of the submarines and the MoD has safely operated over 80 nuclear reactor cores since 1963.”

Story – Herald Scotland

BAE gets £201m for fresh design work on new nuclear submarines

BAE gets £201m for fresh design work on new nuclear submarines

Replacement for ageing Trident submarines moves closer as BAE gets funding for advance work on new vessels

An artist’s impression of the Successor submarine due to replace the Vanguard-class boats which carry Trident missiles Photo: PA

A replacement for Britain’s ageing Vanguard-class nuclear missile submarines has come a step closer after the Ministry of Defence awarded £201m to BAE Systems to develop the so-called “Successor” vessels.

The funding will allow the FTSE 100-listed arms business to develop the design of the new submarines, including the layout and systems, and build early prototypes.

The move comes despite the massive project having yet to get formal approval in Parliament.

The project to upgrade Britain’s nuclear submarine deterrant is estimated to cost £31bn, with a £10bn contingency fund to pay for any unexpected costs.

Last week, MPs on the Defence Select Committee wrote to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon saying that there was an “unacceptable level of uncertainty” on the Successor programme among “not only Parliament, but also main contractors and their supply chains”.

The current Vanguard submarines are approaching the end of their life  

Committee chairman Julian Lewis said there was “growing concern” no date had been set for a Parliamentary vote on whether or not to go ahead with the programme, adding that MPs on the committee would “be grateful for an indication of when this long-anticipated vote is due to be held and an explanation of any reasons for not proceeding forthwith, now that the political obstacles which existed in the previous parliament no longer apply”.

If it does go ahead, the Successor submarine project will be one of the biggest the military has undertaken in decades. It will also see the creation of some of the most technologically advanced and stealthiest submarines in the world.

BAE will be the lead contractor on the project and expects to have between 5,000 and 6,000 people working on the programme at its peak, out of a total of about 9,000 people in the unit at the time. BAE’s submarine business currently employs 7,700 staff, with the bulk of them working on the Astute-class attack submarines.

Other major companies involved include Rolls-Royce, which will build the nuclear reactors on the submarines, and Babcock. Hundreds of other smaller companies will also be in the supply chain for the programme.

The forward end of the third Astute class submarine, Artful, is worked on inside the New Assembly Shop.

BAE Systems builds submarines – such as the Astute class – for the Royal Navy at barrow in Furness  Photo: BAE Systems

More than £1bn has already been spent on design work, as well asexpanding BAE’s shipyard in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, where the submarines will be constructed.

The round the clock nuclear deterrent is as crucial to Britain’s national security now as it has ever been. We use it everyday to deter extreme threats that cannot be countered by any other means.
Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence

However, Mr Fallon has previously warned that the industry will put national security at risk if the project suffers delays or goes over budget.

Vice-Admiral Simon Lister, chief of materiel for the Royal Navy’s fleet, said: “We are now in the detailed design stage of the most technologically advanced nuclear submarine in the history of the Royal Navy. Building on cutting edge developments carried out by the MoD, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Babcock, this funding will allow us to continue to move forwards with the programme.”

Tony Johns, managing director of BAE’s submarines division, said: “We are incredibly proud of the role we play in designing and building our nation’s submarines.

“The Successor programme is one of the most challenging engineering projects in the world today and this additional funding will enable us to further mature the design”.

Chinese Submarine Practiced Missile Attack on USS Reagan

Cruise missile targeting of carrier risked naval shootout

Song-class submarine

Song-class submarine

A Chinese attack submarine conducted a simulated cruise missile attack on the aircraft carrier USS Reagan during a close encounter several weeks ago, according to American defense officials.

The targeting incident near the Sea of Japan in October violated China’s 2014 commitment to the multinational Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, known as CUES, designed to reduce the risk of a shooting incident between naval vessels, said officials familiar with details of the encounter they described as “serious.”

A section of the non-binding 2014 agreement states that commanders at sea should avoid actions that could lead to accidents or mishaps. Among the actions to be avoided are “simulation of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of vessels or aircraft encountered.”

Navy officials recently briefed congressional staff on the incident that took place during the weekend of Oct. 24—days before the Navy warship USS Lassens sailed within 12 miles of disputed Chinese islands in the South China Sea, triggering vocal criticism from Beijing.

The Obama administration has kept details of the submarine targeting incident secret to avoid upsetting military relations between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army.

Asked directly about the incident, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, did not deny that the encounter occurred. “I have nothing for you,” Harris stated in an email.

Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Darryn James earlier directed questions about the targeting to the Chinese navy. James also stated that Navy ships in the region are capable of defending themselves.

“I cannot discuss submarine operations, reports of submarine operations, or rumors of submarine operations,” James said. “I can tell you that we are completely confident in the effectiveness and capabilities of the ships and aircraft of the forward-deployed naval force.”

Additional details about the submarine-carrier encounter emerged after the Free Beacon first reported the incident Nov. 3.

The nuclear-powered Reagan is currently the Navy’s sole forward-deployed aircraft carrier strike group. It arrived at its base in Yokosuka, Japan on Oct. 1 and replaced the USS Washington strike group there.

Aircraft carrier strike groups are equipped with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, including ships armed with sensors and submarine-killing torpedoes.

Disclosure of the aircraft carrier targeting comes as two Chinese navy warships arrived in Pearl Harbor on Sunday.

China’s official news agency said the ships’ visit to Hawaii will last five days. “During the fleet’s stay here, the U.S. navy and the Chinese fleet will hold receptions for each other,” Xinhua said. “Friendly sports activities, such as basketball and soccer games, will be held between the two sides.”

The Pentagon has made developing closer ties with the Chinese military a top priority, despite concerns that the exchanges are boosting Chinese war-fighting capabilities.

Members of Congress have called for curbing the exchanges in the face of Chinese cyber attacks and destabilizing activities in the South China Sea.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, said he is concerned by reports of China’s simulated ship attack.

“If true, this would be yet another case of China trying to show us that they can hold our forces in the region at risk,” said Forbes.

“Coming on the heels of anti-satellite tests and other demonstrations, this latest incident should be a reminder of the destabilizing course that China is on and the challenges we face in maintaining a stable military balance in the Asia-Pacific region,” Forbes added.

Naval warfare analysts said the incident highlights Chinese efforts to counter U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups, the United States’ major power projection capability in the Pacific.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said the submarine incident, if confirmed, would be another clear case of the Chinese navy targeting the carrier strike groups, known as CVNs.

“The PLAN submarine force is on the leading edge of the PLAN for targeting U.S. CVNs in the East Asia arena, all for the expressed purpose of being able to attack and disable them in a contingency operation” he said. PLAN stands for People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Rick Fisher, a China military specialist at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Chinese navy operates several types of submarines capable of firing anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Song-class and Yuan-class attack submarines can fire two types of torpedo tube-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, including the YJ-82 with a range of up to 22 miles.

Eight of China’s 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines are armed with Club anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 137 miles. Newer Shang-class submarine can also fire cruise missiles.

“That the U.S. side would be able to determine that the submarine was conducting a cruise missile strike would indicate that the Chinese submarine was under close surveillance,” Fisher said.

“That also raises the potential that the U.S. side could determine the Chinese submarine had hostile intent, potentially leading to the launching of defensive weapons.”

Fisher said the incident was serious because a U.S.-China shootout would likely result in the destruction of the Chinese submarine and the loss of its crew. “Even though China would have been at fault for the incident, the Chinese government would likely then use it as an excuse for initiating a series of attacks or incidents against U.S. naval forces,” he said.

Additionally, the targeting “certainly runs counter to a 2014 U.S.-China agreement to avoid such incidents at sea, which could indicate that China may have little intention to honor such this or other military confidence building agreements,” Fisher said.

The Navy’s main close-in anti-submarine warfare weapon is the RUM-139C rocket-launched anti-submarine torpedo, with a range of about 17 miles.

Ben Ho Wan Beng, a military analyst at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the Chinese military is focused on using of cruise missiles against carriers. “China seems to stress the centrality of this weapon in attacking ships,” he wrote last week in the Diplomat.

Recent improvements in Navy defenses against submarines include a new electronic combat system, a towed sensor array, and the P-8 maritime submarine patrol aircraft.

“Whether or not these and similar measures would enable the U.S. to retain a distinctive edge in the undersea combat realm vis-à-vis China remains to be seen,” Ho said.

Lyle J. Goldstein, a U.S. Naval War College expert on the Chinese military, wrote on Sunday that a Chinese defense journal recently discussed ways to sink U.S. aircraft carriers.

A Chinese military analyst recently revealed that China is closely studying a report from earlier this year revealing that a small nuclear-powered French submarine successfully conducted a simulated attack on the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt, sinking the ship and several support ships in the simulation.

“The article illustrates how Chinese military analysts are diligently probing for cracks in the U.S. Navy’s armor,” Goldstein wrote in the National Interest.

The October showdown between the Chinese submarine and the Reagan took place as the carrier sailed around the southern end of Japan on the way exercises in the Sea of Japan along with four other strike group warships.

Days after the incident, two Russian strategic bombers flew within a mile of the carrier at a height of 500 feet, prompting F-18s from the ship to scramble and intercept them.

The October incident was not the first time a Chinese submarine threatened a U.S. carrier strike group.

In 2006, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the USS Kitty Hawk.

The state-controlled China Daily praised the implementation of the CUES maritime code agreement last year as a major step in U.S.-China military relations.

Wen Bing, a researcher at the Chinese army’s Academy of Military Sciences, told the newspaper that the code of conduct and U.S.-China warship exercise at the time “demonstrate the resolve of both countries to deepen military ties and avoid a maritime conflict escalating due to a lack of communication.”

In December 2013, a Chinese amphibious warship sailed in front of the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens and stopped, causing a near collision in the South China Sea.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Link – Free Bacon

Canada – Submarine HMCS Windsor hobbled after $209M refit

HMCS Windsor

HMCS Windsor is on restricted duties because it has a broken generator.

Setback leaves Royal Canadian Navy with just one fully operational sub

CBC News has learned there is more trouble for Canada’s fleet of used British submarines.

The Royal Canadian Navy has confirmed that HMCS Windsor – fresh from a $209 million refit – is unable to perform as expected because of a broken mission-critical diesel generator.

“We have restricted her in range of operations and her endurance,” Captain Luc Cassivi, director of Canada’s submarine force told CBC in an interview.

That means that the Windsor will only be able to operate in Canadian coastal waters until the diesel generator – a huge 16 cylinder engine – is removed from the submarine and replaced.

The Windsor has a second diesel generator which is still working. The diesel generators are used to charge the batteries that allow the submarine to operate under water.

Restrictions in place

A source has told CBC that the submarine’s diving depth is severely restricted and the navy has been forced to withdraw the sub from planned exercises off the southern U.S. coast.

Capt. Cassivi said he is unable to provide exact details of the restrictions because they are “classified and linked to operational capabilities,” but he denies that any exercises have been cancelled.

“It’s an unexpected defect, and that is why we are going through the investigative process,” said Capt. Cassivi.

The Halifax–based Windsor went back in the water in April, 2012 after a five-year refit designed to bring the submarine up to Canadian standards. The refit was three years behind schedule and until now, the navy has refused to say exactly how much it cost.

Capt. Cassivi confirmed to CBC that the Windsor’s five-year refit totalled $209 million. The cost of removing and replacing the diesel generator is not included in the refit price.

“We have a plan for rectification as soon as the parts are available,” said Capt. Cassivi.

The submarine should be hauled out of the water in Halifax in late summer and it could take a “few months” to replace the engine, he said.

One operational submarine

Canada purchased the four Victoria-class submarines in 1998 after the British navy declared them surplus. At $750 million, the deal was hailed as a bargain, and at a price far less than buying new submarines.

HMCS Victoria completed its refit last year at about the same $209 million cost as the Windsor, said Capt. Cassivi.

HMCS Chicoutimi’s refit is more complicated and expensive because of damage done to the submarine by a fire that killed one sailor on the boat’s first voyage under a Canadian flag. The Chicoutimi has been sidelined ever since the 2004 fire but may become operational by the end of the year.

Also, the refit to HMCS Corner Brook is expected to exceed the $200 million-plus price tag because of damage done to the sub’s bow when it slammed into the seafloor off British Columbia. The Corner Brook has not gone to sea since its grounding in June 2011.

The unexpected repairs to the Windsor and the resulting restrictions means that the navy has only one fully operational submarine in service. The west coast-based HMCS Victoria – which was discovered to have a large dent in its hull after delivery – is the only submarine capable of firing torpedoes, unrestricted diving and movement.

Source – CBS News

Submariner calls for official presentation of Arctic convoy medals – Video Clip

A World War Two submariner has said the long-awaited Arctic convoy medals awarded to him and his comrades ought to be presented officially.

 

Eric Wills, aged 92, of Kingsthorpe, made two treacherous journeys between Britain and Russia, protecting vital supplies that kept Stalin’s soldiers fighting on behalf of the Allies.

He is one of more than 200 remaining survivors of the Arctic convoys and is finally due to be sent an Arctic Star medal from the UK government. He said: “I was thrilled to bits when I heard we’d finally been recognised. But it would be nice for there to be some sort of presentation rather than it being handed over by the postman.

“It seems there are a handful of us left in Northampton so it would be a worthwhile ceremony.”

Although the Russian Government had issued several anniversary medals to Arctic Convoy veterans, the British Government had never done so. Unofficially, the reason was believed to be that Britain and Russia became Cold War enemies soon after World War Two, so a decoration linked to Russian aid was thought inappropriate.

However, veterans told of enduring horrific weather conditions of minus 30C and mammoth waves for the Allied war effort, as well as enemy fire from land, sea, air and beneath the water.

Even submarines were not able to keep out of the terrifying conditions, Mr Wills said.

“We were a close escort to the ships we were protecting, which meant we had to be on the surface all the way to Russia unless the really heavy German ships attacked,” he recalled. “It was an unusual job from that aspect alone.

“But we were told that if we dived there was a good chance we’d hit our own convoy’s depth charges. As a result we were very exposed to enemy planes.”

Roger Conroy, Mayor of Northampton, said: “We need to recognise what they went through because I think it’s despicable how they’ve been ignored.

“I, for one, would be fully supportive of an official presentation of the medal, and I’d be prepared to do it myself if that’s allowed.”

Councillor Conroy said any potential recipients of the Arctic Star, or families of deceased veterans who have applied for the medal, can contact the Chronicle & Echo on Northampton 467033 so interest in a local medals’ ceremony can be gauged.

Source – Northampton Chronicle

Royal Navy funnies – Shep Woolley – Video Clips

Whilst scanning the resources for submarine news and views etc. I came across these beauties on Youtube. I’d forgotten all about this fellow and his tunes.

I apologise for veering off track a bit here but thought they might stir a few old memories and remind a few of us about times gone by.

Hope you like!

Messing around in the dockyard

Ram it

Watching the Ships sail by