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NAVEUR: U.S. Must Invest in Undersea Tech to Keep Ahead of Russian Advances

Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kuzbass in 2016. Sputnik Photo

This post has been updated to correct the spelling of the Severodvinsk-class Russian submarine.

THE PENTAGON – Continued research and development into stealth technologies for U.S. submarines will be important as Russia continues research into undersea warfare and long-range missiles, the head of U.S. naval forces in Europe said on Friday.

Russia has “continued to pour rubles into the undersea domain research and development, because they know it’s a niche capability and they want to get better than us,” Adm. James Foggo said Friday at an Atlantic Council event.
“We have got to do the same to maintain the competitive edge.”

Later in the day, he told reporters at the Pentagon “Russia is not 10 feet tall, but they do have capabilities that keep me vigilant, concerned. One of them is in the undersea domain.”

“They have continued to do research and development and recapitalize in the undersea domain. They see that as asymmetric. They see it as one in which there is a challenge, and that challenge is the United States Navy and the United States submarine force,” Foggo continued.
“So, we have to continue to put a capital effort into the development of our technologies and antisubmarine warfare. This is not just submarines, it’s maritime patrol aircraft, it’s sensors of all types, and it’s the surface Navy with their multifunction towed arrays, and the training and the professionalism that goes along with it, for us to have the knowledge and the awareness of where the adversaries operate. “

Specifically, on the Russians’ undersea development, Foggo mentioned the new Dolgoruky-class submarine and the Severodvinsk-class submarine, as well as the new Kilo-class hybrid submarines – six of which are operating in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean right now, he said.

Improved Kilo-class (Varshavyanka-class) attack submarine. RIA Novosti Photo

He also noted the Kalibr missile, which can be launched from a ship, a submarine, an aircraft or from the shore.

“It has a range which, if launched from any of the seas around Europe – Europe’s really a peninsula: Caspian, Baltic, Arctic, North Atlantic, Mediterranean or Black Sea – could reach any one of the capitals of Europe. That’s a concern to me, and it’s a concern to my NATO partners and friends. So we should know where [the submarines] are at all times. Do I think that they would do something like that? No, I think they’d be foolish to do something like that. But, nevertheless, we should have that situational awareness. So it’s in our best interest to have a better submarine force, and I believe that we do.”

Foggo would not specifically say whether the U.S. Navy believes it is tracking all Russians subs at sea today, demurring and saying instead that “I can tell you that we hold an acoustic advantage, and we will continue to do that. Our boats are the best in the world.”

Earlier in the day, Foggo made the same point, saying that “it’s important that we have situational awareness and know what the Russians are doing in the undersea space at all times.”

Part of the ability to track all these submarines is the capability of U.S. submarines. To that end, Foggo said, the U.S. needs to robustly fund its own research and development for undersea warfare systems.

Novator 9M729 Cruise missile

“I think stealth, first and foremost. The ability to maintain a stealthy platform, one which has the acoustic advantage over the adversary, is essential. That’s the guy who wins in a knife fight because you can’t see him, you can’t hear him. So our R&D, a lot of it is directed at stealth technology,” he said.
“There’s no other platform in the world that can come close to a Virginia-class submarine. But … you can’t sit back on your laurels and say, okay, so we produced an excellent submarine, it’s very stealthy, it’s very capable, and it carries a greater kit. You’ve got to innovate as you go along in each class of these ships, so each hull has to be better than the last. And that’s the challenge to industry, to be able to do that to maintain the competitive edge.”

In addition to undersea capabilities, Foggo said at the Pentagon that Russia’s Novator 9M729 cruise missile, which also has a NATO designation of SSC-8, “was revealed to have a range that’s an INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty buster. General (James) Mattis, Secretary Mattis, talked about that recently. That is indeed unfortunate in the abrogation of a treaty which we have observed, the United States has observed, for a very long time.”

But, he continued, “these things happen, and so it’s necessary to have strong defensive capabilities in terms of defensive weapon systems.”

Foggo also spoke of Russia’s S-400 and S-300 Bastion anti-ship cruise missile, which is increasingly being introduced to new European locations.

“That’s a concern to all of us. We watch that very carefully,” he said.

  • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

    LOL. In the first photo, at first glance, it appears that the Kuzbass is flying the Confederate battle flag. I am using my iPad, and had to enlarge the pic. Maybe Kuzbass should be renamed Hunley II.

  • Duane

    The admiral is correct. We have had the best undersea tech since the dawn of the nuclear age, but we must always be several steps ahead of the competition, which is not just the Russians, but the Chinese, and even third tier opponents. The “holiday from history” of the immediate post-Cold War era has been over for many years, and we’ve been a little slow in reacting, But we have reacted, and we will need to ensure that we remain cutting edge in areas like sensors, UUVs, networked multi-domain forces. weapons development, and such.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    There is something about the Akulas that make them look bad to the bone and awesomely terrifying. They’re like the Klingon Vor’cha class attack cruisers of Star Trek… they might not BE the best, but they look awesome.

  • Secundius

    The “Lotus Effect”! The US Navy has in invested in the R&D in the Lotus Effect in Plants. Which prevents Water from forming on the Hull. Think of it as “Rain-X” on Super Steroids. Which can also be applied to Electronics, Aircraft’s, Naval Artillery Systems (Guns/Missiles) to make them more Water Resistant to Seawater…

  • Western

    Our best deterrent to Russian and Chinese undersea warfare is to quit giving away our tech.

    • vetww2

      How clever. Why couldn’t our leaders think of that?

  • SierraSierraQuebec

    Its not so much investing in new technologies as it is investing in the most effective and efficient technologies, the prevailing status quo is rapidly becoming untenable as costs skyrocket much the same way the old battleship navies did.

    Aluminum-Air fuel cells as applied to a 5000t submarine with a crew of 30-40 and 25-30 weapons (realistic numbers, not theoretical maximums):

    35MW at 200W/kg (power to weight) = 175 (x 2) metric tons, at 350 mt x 1300 W-h/kg (total energy)
    35MW for 17.5 hours yielding 40 knots over 700nm
    15MW for 40 hours yielding 30 knots over 1200nm
    4.4MW for 140 hours yielding 20 knots over 2800nm
    1.8MW for 14 days yielding 15 knots over 4800nm
    550KW for 6 weeks yielding 10 knots over 11,000nm
    700 metric tons of aluminum provides energy for a patrol range of approximately 22,000nm at 10 knots (not including air compression, ship service, and other energy allocations and losses)

    Oxygen Required: (to complete the 4Al-3OH hydrated alumina & energy release end product)
    311.5 metric tons at 0.75323 m3 per kg = 234,630 m3 at 1.0 atmospheres or 237,738 m3 at 1 bar
    7000psi/482.63bar titanium tanks: 421 m3, 2 x spherical tanks fore and aft (d=7.4m, A=172m2, m=442t)
    (Note: these vessels gain displacement during the patrol as oxygen and water is absorbed, since the aluminum oxide would be retained for regeneration, although theoretically available as an dischargeable ballast; the electrolyte would have to be filtered/precipitated/catalyticly removed to remain in operation without congestion).

    The boats would leave port with OEA100, maintaining pressure with air quickly taken in by stopping and sending up an air line with a flotsam disguised head that is subsequently purified by methods similarly to generating nitrox or other catalytic or membrane techniques after getting underway again; the oxygen concentration would slowly drop during a patrol since replenishment with only oxygen would likely be impractical. The naval and general diving community has lots of expertise with oxygen-air tanks. Although this is a severely reduced summary of the undertaking, the feasibility is in the range of possible as it was decades ago.

    • SierraSierraQuebec

      The basic SSA would be supported by and augmented with a number of boats based on the same propulsion technology. Given the technical impracticality of achieving comparable propulsive performance in a small 500t SSQ drone submarine, these vessels would have to spend much of their time at the ends of the performance envelope either deep snorkelling or operating below the thermocline, generally at speeds well below the normal operational levels of the manned boats, but for patrol endurance periods that could be as high as 6-12 months. The SSQ would operate strategically with the manned submarines with their own AI grade autonomous command guidance in concert with an AI based fleet wide detection and command management system. Development of the SSQ drones first would reduce the risk of implementing the fully manned vessels with then matured design methods.
      The principle weapon of the manned submarines would be an aerial/submarine torpedo based largely on existing technology but making use of winglets and aeropropulsors to
      increase range and speed to target tenfold. These torpedoes would be supported by small numbers of VLS ESSM’s with a programming insertion to allow autonomous search and lock on to air threats, alternatively this function being assumed by a SM-6 development with a lower weight rocket (quasi-)ramjet motor and larger warhead to form a proper anti-air and
      anti-ship supersonic missile.

      • SierraSierraQuebec

        A SSG submarine of twice the SSA’s displacement would have large float on, float off modules comprised of surface attack missiles and/or extra fuel cell modules to extend the ranges over which they can operate with surface battle groups. The SSB would double up the propulsion of the SSA with some extra oxygen-air, having more than sufficient endurance to complete patrols, emit no noise other than its shrouded propulsor, and have 40 knot speed to aid in evading other submarines from tracking it.
        For the same cost as operating its future fleet of 40 SSN and 10 SSBN, the Navy could afford 50 SSA, 40 SSG, 10 SSB, and 100 SSQ, and still have money left over for more surface ships and aviation. Potential markets include Australia (10 SSA/20 SSQ), Taiwan (10 SSC), France, Japan, and the U.K. (10 SSA/5 SSG/25 SSQ each), Canada (10
        SSA/10 SSQ), and numerous other allied nations. With the tacit aid of the global corporate-socialist movement, expansionist Belt And Road Bejing, the world’s largest manufacturing economy, will not resist using its huge manpower advantage over second and third tier opponents, if a rough strategic impasse is not maintained trouble will follow that a distant and weak divine wind from America will not stop.

        • vetww2

          Al/air fuelcells were investigated by ONR back in 1979. I heard that the R&D was abandoned ~2002, because it was judged impractical. Was it reinstated? I hope.

  • Curtis Conway

    There is a case to be made for a “Zoned Defense” w/r/t the US Navy Submarine Force within a Regional Tasking regime.

    The case for a US Conventional Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) Submarine:
    1. The primary experts in the submarine community are obviously all practitioners and aficionados of a nuclear SSN/SSBN, and their understanding, habits, and proclivities lean in that direction. In most arguments we would call them bias in their opinions.
    2. There are more conventional submarines worldwide than SSN/SSBNs, who perform Regional Patrols, who have in the past and continue to defeat the best of our Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) activities even today.
    3. The US has not built a conventional submarine since the adoption of the SSN, but we certainly have superior technology with which to do so.
    4. Conventional submarines cost much less than nuclear submarines (better than two to one) or half cost, and operate very differently than the SSN/SSBN.
    5. Conventional submarines can be constructed more rapidly (once the prototype is complete).
    6. Conventional submarines typically have smaller crews and have a smaller operational support budget.
    7. Presence of Regional Conventional AIP SSKs in the Med, Baltic, South Korean Peninsula, and South China Sea (and other places) will free up SSNs for the roles they do best in the greater oceans that cover over 70% of the planet.
    8. US AIP SSKs will not replace SSNs, they will displace them in specific regions based upon their inherent capabilities.

    This equation is NOT THAT HARD! It is those timid souls who do not want to grow into this new conventional submarine role, with its very specific and limited capabilities compared to an SSN (that the SSK does not need in Regional tasking) that stand in the way of an American Convectional AIP SSK.

    The United States should join the Royal Australian Navy in selection of a new AIP SSK which would be the largest and longest range in modern times. Split the cost and move out.

    If a Conventional AIP SSK is adopted, the Submarine Tenders should increase in number as we upgrade/replace the class (USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and USS Frank Cable (AS-40)) most likely with a LPD-17 hull-form, and share the cost with the RAAN, and perhaps other Allies.

  • vetww2

    One might consider 2 russian classes which outclass ours:
    BOOMERS ….TYPHON vs… 733
    ATTACK………..ALPHA vs….688