Thursday, October 22, 2009

Navy's new warships reach speeds of 52 mph "better able to chase down pirates"

BATH, Maine – The Navy's need for speed is being answered by a pair of warships that have reached freeway speeds during testing at sea.

Independence, a 418-foot warship built in Alabama, boasts a top speed in excess of 45 knots, or about 52 mph, and sustained 44 knots for four hours during builder trials that wrapped up this month off the Gulf Coast. The 378-foot Freedom, a ship built in Wisconsin by a competing defense contractor, has put up similar numbers.

Both versions of the Littoral Combat Ship use powerful diesel engines, as well as gas turbines for extra speed. They use steerable waterjets instead of propellers and rudders and have shallower drafts than conventional warships, letting them zoom close to shore.

The ships, better able to chase down pirates, have been fast-tracked because the Navy wants vessels that can operate in coastal, or littoral, waters. Freedom is due to be deployed next year, two years ahead of schedule.

Independence is an aluminum, tri-hulled warship built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. The lead contractor is Maine's Bath Iron Works, a subsidiary of General Dynamics.

Lockheed Martin Corp. is leading the team that built Freedom in Marinette, Wis. It looks more like a conventional warship, with a single hull made of steel.

The stakes are high for both teams. The Navy plans to select Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, but not both, as the builder. The Navy has ordered one more ship from each of the teams before it chooses the final design. Eventually, the Navy wants to build up to 55 of them.

Speed has long been relished by Navy skippers. Capt. John Paul Jones, sometimes described as father of the U.S. Navy, summed it up this way in 1778: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."

Eric Wertheim, author and editor of the U.S. Naval Institute's "Guide to Combat Fleets of the World," said speed is a good thing, but it comes at a cost.

"This is really something revolutionary," Wertheim said. "The question is how important and how expensive is this burst of speed?"

Early cost estimates for Littoral Combat Ships were about $220 million apiece, but costs spiraled because of the Navy's requirements and its desire to expedite construction. The cost of the ships is capped at $460 million apiece, starting in the new fiscal year.

Both ships are built to accommodate helicopters and mission "modules" for either anti-submarine missions, mine removal or traditional surface warfare. The modules are designed to be swapped out within 24 hours, allowing the ships to adapt quickly to new missions.

While they're fast, they aren't necessarily the fastest military ships afloat. The Navy used to have missile-equipped hydrofoils and the Marines' air-cushioned landing craft is capable of similar speeds, Wertheim said. And smaller ships are capable of higher speeds.

Nonetheless, the speed is impressive, especially considering that other large naval vessels have been cruising along at a relatively pokey 30 to 35 knots for decades.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, noted that Independence sustained 44 knots despite a 30-knot headwind and 6- to 8-foot seas in Alabama's Mobile Bay. "For a ship of this size, it's simply unheard of to sustain that rate of speed for four hours," he said.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vanguard class submarine "nuclear ballistic missile submarines"


The Vanguards were designed from the outset as an unlimited-range nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, unlike the previous Resolution class which was adapted from the then existing Valiant class and the American Lafayette class of nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN in US terms). At 149.9 metres (492 ft) long and 15,980 tonnes (15,730 long tons) submerged displacement the Vanguards are roughly twice the size of the Resolutions, and are the third largest submarines ever built, by displacement when surfaced, after the RussianTyphoon and American Ohio classes. The great increase in size is largely related to the much larger size of the Trident D-5 missile as compared to Polaris.

The Vanguards were designed and built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL), now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions. The Devonshire dock hall was built specifically to build these submarines. The missile compartment is based on the system used on the Ohio class, though only 16 missiles are carried rather than the 24 of the Ohio.

In addition to the missile tubes the Vanguard class is fitted with four 21 inches (53 cm) torpedoSpearfish heavyweight torpedo, allowing it to engage submerged or surface targets at ranges up to 65 kilometres (40 mi; 35 nmi). Two SSE Mark 10 launchers are also fitted to allow the boats to deploy Type 2066 and Type 2071 decoys, and a UAP Mark 3 electronic support measures (ESM) intercept system is fitted. tubes and carries the

HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance were commissioned in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2000 respectively.


Vanguard carries the Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar. The Type 2054 is a multi-mode, multi-frequency system, which incorporates the 2046, 2043 and 2082 sonars. The fleet is in the process of having their sonars refitted to include open architecture processing using commercial off the shelf technology.

A Type 2043 hull-mounted active/passive search sonar is also carried, as is a Type 2082 passive intercept and ranging sonar. Finally a Type 2046 towed array is carried. This operates at very low frequency, giving a passive search capability.

Two periscopes are carried, a CK51 search model and a CH91 attack model. Both have a TV camera and thermal imager as well as conventional optics.

A Type 1007 I-band navigation radar is also carried.

Command system

A specialised Submarine Command System (SMCS) was originally developed for the Vanguard[2] boats and was later used on other Royal Navy submarines.


A new pressurised water reactor, the PWR 2, was designed for the Vanguard class. This has double the service life of previous models, and it is estimated that a Vanguard class submarine could circumnavigate the world 40 times without refuelling. This should allow the class to carry out their entire service life without the need for expensive refuelling. The reactor drives two GEC turbines linked to a single shaft pump jet propulsor. This propulsion system gives the Vanguards a maximum submerged speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). Auxiliary power requirements are provided by a pair of 6MW Steam-turbine generators supplied by WH Allen, (later known as NEI Allen, Allen Power & Rolls-Royce) with two Paxman diesel alternators for provision of backup power supply.

Class overview
Builders: Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness
Operators: Royal Navy
Preceded by: Resolution-class
Succeeded by: N/A
In service: 1993 -
Completed: 4
Active: Vanguard (S28)
Victorious (S29)
Vigilant (S30)
Vengeance (S31)

General characteristics
Displacement: Dived: 15,680 long tons (17,560 short tons)
Length: 149.9 m (491 ft 10 in)
Beam: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)
Draught: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
Propulsion: 1 × Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor
2 × GEC turbines
1 × shaft pump jet
27,500 hp (20.5 MW)
2 × auxiliary retractable propulsion motors
2 × W H Allen turbo generators
6 MW
2 × Paxman diesel alternators
2 × 2,700 hp (4 MW)
Speed: Dived: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range: Essentially unlimited distance; 20 years
Complement: 14 officers
121 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems: BAE Systems SMCS
Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar suite comprising:
Type 2046 towed array sonar
Type 2043 hull-mounted active and passive search sonar
Type 2082 passive intercept and ranging sonar
1 × Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 I band navigation radar
1 × Pilkington Optronics CK51 search periscope
1 × Pilkington Optronics CH91 attack periscope
Armament: 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
16 × ballistic missile tubes
Spearfish torpedoes
16 × Lockheed Trident D5 SLBMs carrying up to 128 warheads

Britain's Independent Deterrent

The announcement that Britain intends to reduce its nuclear deterrent capability by one submarine comes at a time when great pressure is being put on the government to reduce public spending. It also comes at a time when Britain is being asked to demonstrate a clear determination to reduce nuclear stocks globally, not least to persuade Iran not to embark upon the nuclear road.

With three remaining Vanguard nuclear submarines, of which one will be home based for essential maintenance, the future of the independent deterrent would appear to be in doubt. A new non-proliferation treaty appears to be in the offing. And with system replacement costs estimated at up to £20bn, there will be many from all three services that will be making persuasive claims that the deterrent is no longer affordable and is in any case, of dubious relevance to 'wars among the people' such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. As in previous decades, there will be further debate as to the merits of a deterrent other than a submarine-based one. And with an in-service date of 2025, the procurement clock is already ticking.

The ethical and pragmatic case against continued possession of an independent deterrent is compelling and perhaps best articulated by (retired) General Sir Hugh Beach. In his 'White Elephant or Black Hole' RUSI journal of February 2009, he points out that 188 states are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and seem none the worse for having opted out of the nuclear arena. He also makes the entirely valid point that most conflicts in recent years have been of a conventional or asymmetric variety, where nuclear weapons played no part. He further reminds us that the missiles are in any case from a shared pool provided by the US under the Mutual Defence Agreement of 1958, an arrangement recently extended to 2014. His demolition of the case for using the deterrent in the context of an Al Qaida terrorist threat is also convincing.

The importance of independence

"Britain is being asked to demonstrate a clear determination to reduce nuclear stocks globally."

UK Shadow Defence Minister Julian Lewis and the late defence strategist Sir Michael Quinlan have made an equally powerful claim that the UK can and must continue its deterrent capability. Lewis points to the notion that the era of high-intensity state-on-state warfare is gone for good is a 'dangerous fallacy' and equally important and he reminds us that our capacity to predict future conflict is woefully inadequate, this despite well over a century of political pseudo-science with its claims to the contrary. His reference to advice offered by former chiefs of staff in 1964 that in the event that a government decided to abandon Britain's independent deterrent, that they should be absolved from further responsibility for the defence of the UK, is chillingly prescient.

Most of the reasoning for a requirement to change the current position over nuclear deterrence is spurious. Claims that 'globalisation' or 'the end of the Cold War' have led to a situation of rebus sic stantibus are simply flawed. Nothing has fundamentally changed since the1962 Nassau Agreement. The UK needed then, and still needs now, the degree of independent political action that will ensure its retention as a close ally of the USA as well as its place on the UN Security Council. The cost of so doing may well have been high, such as siding with the US over the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the face of overwhelming public outcry and now remaining alongside the US in Afghanistan. The price in blood and treasure may indeed be seen as unacceptable but it is there, nevertheless.

"All three services may be making persuasive claims that the nuclear deterrent is no longer affordable."

Reductions in the size of the deterrent system may well become a reality, as proposed in the 20% reduction in missiles in the 2006 defence white paper. Politicians are also entitled to uphold the moral high ground of an aspiration for a nuclear-free world, entirely laudible yet hopelessly unrealistic as this might be for as long as countries such as North Korea are engaged in obtaining a nuclear capability.

Possession of an independent nuclear deterrent has been universally welcomed over generations and possession of a fleet of Vanguard submarine replacements will guarantee jobs at Barrow-in-Furness for many years to come, especially once the Astute fleet has been built.

UK continuous at-sea deterrent

Could the UK seriously contemplate a future as a maritime power without submarine capabilities of reach, stealth, endurance on station and the capacity for either nuclear or conventional strike at any point on the globe as our continuous at-sea deterrence (CASD)? This was, after all, one of the key arguments of 1962. The world was then a dangerous place, as was witnessed by the Cuban missiles crisis of that year. And who in government would contemplate a reversion to unilateralism, guaranteed to bring political isolation for decades to come?

Whilst agreeing with Hugh Beach that the 'logic' of possession is difficult if not impossible to sustain, perception is all in international politics and chance an uncertainty are its bedrock. Or as Clausewitz would say in his book On War 'The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war'.

Gunmen, bomber hit 4 sites in Pakistan, 38 die

LAHORE, Pakistan – Teams of gunmen attacked law enforcement facilities across the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, paralyzing Pakistan's cultural capital, while a car bomb devastated a northwest police station, killing a total of 38 people in an escalating wave of terror in this nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

The bloodshed, aimed at scuttling a planned offensive into the militant heartland on the Afghan border, highlights the militants' ability to carry out sophisticated strikes on heavily fortified facilities and exposes the failure of the intelligence agencies to adequately infiltrate the extremist cells.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, though suspicion fell on the Taliban who have claimed other recent strikes. The attacks Thursday also were the latest to underscore the growing threat to Punjab, the province next to India where the Taliban are believed to have made inroads and linked up with local insurgent outfits.

President Asif Ali Zardari said the bloodshed that has engulfed the nation over the past 11 days would not deter the government from its mission to eliminate the violent extremists, according to a statement on the state-run news agency.

"The enemy has started a guerrilla war," Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. "The whole nation should be united against these handful of terrorists, and God willing we will defeat them."

The wave of violence halted activity in Lahore. All government offices were ordered shut, the roads were nearly empty, major markets did not open and stores that had been open pulled down their shutters.

The violence began just after 9 a.m. when a group of gunmen attacked a building housing the Federal Investigation Agency, a law enforcement branch that deals with matters ranging from immigration to terrorism.

"We are under attack," said Mohammad Riaz, an FIA employee reached inside the building via phone by The Associated Press during the assault. "I can see two people hit, but I do not know who they are."

The attack lasted about 1 1/2 hours and ended with the death of two attackers, four government employees and a bystander, senior government official Sajjad Bhutta said. Senior police official Chaudhry Shafiq said one of the dead wore a jacket bearing explosives.

The FIA building was the target of a suicide truck bomb in March 2008 that killed 24 people and wounded more than 200.

Soon after the building was hit Thursday, a second band of gunman raided a police training school in Manawan on the outskirts of the city in a brief attack that killed nine police officers and four militants, according to police and hospital officials. One of the gunmen was killed by police at the compound and the other three blew themselves up.

The facility was hit earlier this year in an attack that sparked an eight-hour standoff with the army that left 12 people dead.

A third team of at least eight gunmen scaled the back wall of an elite police commando training center not far from the airport and attacked the facility, Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore said.

A family barricaded itself in a room in a house, while the attackers stood on the roof, shooting at security forces and throwing grenades, said Lt. Gen. Shafqat Ahmad, the top military official in Lahore.

Two attackers were slain in the gunbattle and three blew themselves up, he said. One police nursing assistant and a civilian also died in the attack, he said.

Television footage showed helicopters in the air over one of the police facilities and paramilitary forces with rifles and bulletproof vests taking cover behind trees outside a wall surrounding the compound. Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister of Punjab province, said police were trying to take some of the attackers alive so they could get information from them about their militant networks.

Officials have warned that Taliban fighters close to the border, Punjabi militants spread out across the country and foreign al-Qaida operatives were increasingly joining forces, dramatically increasing the dangers to Pakistan. Punjab is Pakistan's most populous and powerful province, and the Taliban claimed recently that they were activating cells there and elsewhere in the country for assaults.

An official at the provincial Punjab government's main intelligence agency said they had precise information about expected attacks on security targets and alerted police this week, but the assailants still managed to strike. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the situation.

Despite their reach and influence, the nation's feared spy agencies have failed to stop the bloody attacks plaguing the country.

Kamran Bokhari, an analyst with Stratfor, a U.S.-based global intelligence firm, said Pakistan needed to penetrate more militant groups and intercept conversations to prevent attacks, but the task was complicated in a country so big and populous.

"The militants are able to exploit certain things on the ground, like the anti-American sentiment, which is not just in society — it's also in the military," he added.

In the Taliban-riddled northwest, meanwhile, a suicide car bomb exploded next to a police station in the Saddar area of Kohat, collapsing half the building and killing 11 people — three police officers and eight civilians — Kohat police chief Abdullah Khan said.

The U.S. has encouraged Pakistan to take strong action against insurgents who are using its soil as a base for attacks in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are bogged down in an increasingly difficult war. It has carried out a slew of its own missile strikes in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt over the past year, killing several top militants including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

One suspected U.S. missile strike killed four people overnight Thursday when it hit a compound in an area in North Waziristan tribal region where members of the militant network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani are believed to operate, two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Pakistan formally protests the missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe it has a secret deal with the U.S. allowing them.

The militants have claimed credit for a wave of attacks that began with an Oct. 5 strike on the U.N. food agency in Islamabad and included a siege of the army's headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that left 23 people dead.

The Taliban have warned Pakistan to stop pursuing them in military operations.

The Pakistani army has given no time frame for its expected offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, but has reportedly already sent two divisions totaling 28,000 men and blockaded the area.

Fearing the looming offensive, about 200,000 people have fled South Waziristan since August, moving in with relatives or renting homes in the Tank and Dera Ismail Khan areas, a local government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

NKorea warns naval incursions could spark clash

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea warned South Korea on Thursday that a rash of "reckless" incursions at their disputed maritime border could spark a naval clash.

North Korea's navy accused South Korean warships of routinely broaching its territory — 10 times on Monday alone — in the waters off the divided peninsula's western coast.

"The reckless military provocations by warships of the South Korean navy have created such a serious situation that a naval clash may break out between the two sides in these waters," the military said in a statement carried Thursday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The warning of a clash in the West Sea — site of deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002 — comes even as relations between the two Koreas show signs of improvement after more than a year of tensions.

South Korea's Defense Ministry dismissed the North's claim, saying its navy ships have never violated the western sea border.

"They've repeating this for a long time. We don't really care about that," said a ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The two Koreas technically remain in a state of war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953. They are divided by a heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.

North Korea, however, does not recognize the western maritime border drawn unilaterally by the United Nations, and it routinely issues warnings to the South about incursions across the military line.

Recently, there have been signs that relations might be improving. On Wednesday, North Korea extended a rare apology to the South for releasing a massive amount of water from a dam near their border last month. Six South Koreans drowned in the flooding.

South Korea's top official for inter-Korean relations, meanwhile, indicated that Seoul is prepared to offer the North food aid without conditions as a humanitarian gesture — an apparent softening of the government's stance toward Pyongyang.

"We will provide limited humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable groups in North Korea regardless of political and security circumstances," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said in a speech to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

"We will do our part to end the suffering of our brothers in the North," he said.

For a decade, South Korea was one of biggest donors to the impoverished North. But the flow of aid from Seoul stopped when President Lee Myung-bak took office last year, saying any help must be conditioned to denuclearization.

North Korea has faced chronic food shortages since flooding and mismanagement destroyed its economy in the mid-1990s. Famine is believed to have killed as many as 2 million people in the 1990s.

Hyun did not elaborate on a time frame or amount of possible aid to North Korea.

South Korea, meanwhile, wants to discuss the return of 560 soldiers who have been held by North Korea since the war and 504 civilians, mostly fishermen whose boats have been seized near the maritime border.

North Korea says the civilians voluntarily defected to the North and denies it has any South Korean prisoners of war.

South Korea also wants to stage more reunions of families divided by the war. On Friday, Red Cross officials are to meet in North Korea to discuss staging future reunions.