dilluns, 27 de febrer de 2012

U.S. Navy Orders JHSV 8 and 9 from Austal *

Austal said today that the U.S. Navy has exercised contract options calling for the construction of the two additional Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs) worth an added $320 million.  The vessels are the eighth and ninth JHSVs ordered by the U.S. Navy in the potentially 10-ship program now valued at $1.45 billion.
As prime contractor, Austal was awarded the construction contract for the first 103 meter JHSV in November 2008, with options for up to nine additional vessels between 2009 and 2013 with a total value of $1.6 billion.  All 10 vessels are to be built at Austal’s Mobile, AL shipyard, which now has secured shipbuilding work until mid-2016 according to Austal.

The first vessel, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), is scheduled for builder’s sea trials in March and will be operated by Military Sealift Command.  JHSV 2 and JHSV 3 are also under construction and another six JHSVs have now been ordered. The tenth and final contract option is scheduled to be exercised within 12 months, according to Austal.

In other Austal news, the company recently christened a second Independence-variant 127 meter Littoral Combat Ship for the US Navy with the Coronado, or LCS 4, now preparing for builder’s trials.  The US Navy confirmed the construction of the first two of potentially 10 LCSs in December 2010 and March 2011. Austal says dditional options are expected to be awarded in the near future.
* Notícia publicada al blog gCaptain. La comanda de més JHSVs per la US Navy encarrila encara més la transformació d'aquesta flota cap a les operacions litorals.

diumenge, 26 de febrer de 2012

India Picks Rafale Fighter*

The Indian Defense Ministry called in the representatives of Dassault France and handed over a Letter of Intent to them Tuesday afternoon, in the process selecting the company to supply 126 Rafale fighters to the Indian Air Force over the next ten years.

The cost of this fleet of fighters will be an estimated $20 billion. The Rafale fighter, which beat out the Eurofighter in the final round, essentially comes in three versions:

1) The first variant is that used for the French Air Force – a multi-role fighter aircraft that has been successfully proven in combat in support of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and recently in Libya. This variant was demonstrated in India in air shows over the last 10 years.
2) The second variant is in service with the French Navy and has been operated from French aircraft carriers. This variant was also demonstrated extensively to the Indian Navy during visits by the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
3) The third variant of the Rafale aircraft is its nuclear capable version, in operational service with the Force de Frappe. This variant can be armed with the nuclear-tipped ASMP-A missiles.

The details of the contract will now be finalized between the Defense Ministry and representatives of Dassault over the next couple of months. Essentially, 18 aircraft will be supplied in fly away condition from France, and the remainder will be built in India. The Indian manufacturing agency will be HAL, Bangalore, which has had an extensive relationship with French aerospace companies since the 1950’s.

The contract will have options to increase the numbers of these fighters to be inducted into service from the 126 to likely 200 in the future. The Indian Navy has been patiently waiting in the wings for this contract to emerge, as in its estimation the Rafale naval fighter aircraft has the capability to be a game changer in the Indian Ocean region. Operating from Indian aircraft carriers likely to be inducted in the future, the reach of the Indian Navy would be enhanced as never before, both tactically and strategically. The commonality of this fighter aircraft in the Air Force and Navy would also ensure synergies in the Air-Sea doctrine the Indian armed forces are putting in place.

* Article publicat a The Diplomat. El resultat final del concurs MMRCA, amb l'opció del Rafale victoriosa, posa més llum sobre el futur de l'aviació naval índia. No obstant, no hem de perdre de vista els dissenys locals, de gran qualitat.

Antilles : exercices amphibies avec le Dumont d’Urville

Le 30 janvier 2012, le bâtiment de transport léger (BATRAL) Dumont d’Urville a pris la mer vers la Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélémy ainsi que les îles voisines pour une série d’exercices amphibies.
L’objectif était de valider un certain nombre de plages en vue de futurs exercices ou actions de coopération amphibies.
En à peine deux semaines, le Dumont D’Urville a reconnu six plages en coopération avec les autorités locales.
Un groupe du 33e Régiment d’Infanterie de Marine (RIMa) et leurs véhicules (P4 et TRM 2000) ont accompagnés les marins dans leur mission où l’équipage a enchainé les opérations de débarquement, les mouvements de chargements et de déchargements des véhicules à un rythme soutenu.
La France est un acteur régional important, notamment de la sécurité, du fait de la présence de ses forces armées de la zone. Des missions d'entraînement, d'instruction, des escales de bâtiments ainsi que des échanges sont régulièrement menés avec les pays de la région afin d'améliorer les capacités des Etats voisins.
La coopération régionale renforce la connaissance mutuelle et l'interopérabilité de nos forces. Elle permet en cas de crise ou de catastrophe naturelle de mettre en commun les moyens militaires nécessaire pour être réactif.
Sources : EMA
Droits : Ministère de la Défense et des anciens combattants

Navy Successfully Launches Next Generation Communications Satellite

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy's first Mobile User Objective System satellite was launched Feb. 24 from Space Launch Complex 41.

MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical communications system designed to improve communications for U.S. forces on the move. MUOS will provide military users simultaneous voice, video and data capability by leveraging 3G mobile communications technology.

Born from the need for stable, 24/7 ship-to-shore communication that could be successful regardless of environments and geographical conditions, the Navy is responsible for providing narrowband satellite communication for the Department of Defense.

"MUOS' top requirements include capacity, coverage and link availabilities. It will provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week global coverage," said Navy Capt. Paul Ghyzel, MUOS program manager. "The ability for a warfighter to make a telephone call over a MUOS terminal and send data at 10 times more capacity than they can now will be a significant improvement."

For the Navy MUOS team, many of whom have spent years on the program, the successful launch is just the beginning of work to come. "We are very excited to see this milestone today. It's the end of one phase and the beginning of another," said Navy Cmdr. Jeff King, a MUOS systems engineer who worked on the program for three years.

King explained that upon separation from the launch vehicle the satellite will stay in a temporary orbital slot for initial testing.

"The satellite will spend the next several months in its geostationary orbit and be thoroughly checked out by the combined government and contractor team before being turned over for operational use."

Operational use, also known as initial operational capability, for the first MUOS satellite is expected in summer 2012. Control of the satellite will then be turned over to the Naval Satellite Operations Command in Point Mugu, Calif.

Ultimately, the MUOS constellation will consist of four satellites and an on-orbit spare. The system also includes four ground stations strategically located around the globe, which provide worldwide coverage and the ability to connect users wherever they are. The ground system transports data, manages the worldwide network and controls the satellites.

With today's narrowband communication system, users have to be stationary with an antenna up and pointed toward a satellite.

"With MUOS they'll be able to move around the battlespace," said King. "They'll be able to communicate to users on the other side of a mountain or the other side of the world."

Beyond providing continuous communication for all branches of the U.S. military, Navy provided space-based narrowband capability also ensures reliable worldwide coverage for national emergency assistance, disaster response and humanitarian relief.

The MUOS constellation is expected to achieve full operational capability in 2015, extending narrowband availability well past 2025.

Today's launch was originally scheduled for Feb. 16 and again Feb. 22, both canceled and rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions.

The program is managed by the Navy's Program Executive Office for Space Systems, Chantilly, Va., and its Communications Satellite Program Office in San Diego.

dimecres, 22 de febrer de 2012

China’s Falkland Islands Lesson*

We’re rapidly approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands War (April to June 1982), which saw the British military reclaim the United Kingdom’s remote South Atlantic island possessions from Argentine invaders.

Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, a former British Army chief of staff, recently made headlines when he proclaimed that defense cuts make it “just about impossible” for British naval forces to wrest back the Falklands should Argentina occupy them again. The Royal Navy retired aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal last year, leaving the navy with zero capacity to project fixed-wing air power by sea until the troubled Queen Elizabeth-class flattops enter service, presumably around the end of this decade. London also sold the nation’s entire inventory of Harrier jump jets to the U.S. Marine Corps for spare parts, leaving the navy with zero air power to project until the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enters service, also around the end of the decade.
Like nature, power politics abhors a vacuum. It’s probably no coincidence that Buenos Aires is ramping up its demands for the islands as Britain’s capacity to re-conquer them dwindles. Economically stagnant Argentina desperately wants to tap the natural resources found in the waters and seabed adjacent to the Falklands. A recent series of oil discoveries – most recently in the “Sea Lion” field eighty miles north of the islands – has spurred talk of a “black gold rush” in the South Atlantic. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has reproached London for exhausting “Argentinean natural resources” while vowing to “get [the islands] back.” Meanwhile, Britain’s shrinking expeditionary capability has reduced officials like Brig. Bill Aldridge, commander of British forces in the South Atlantic, to insisting that it matters little whether the British military can recover the Falklands; it will never lose them in the first place. Declares Aldridge, “I am not expecting to hand the islands over to anybody and therefore put us in a position to have to retake the islands.”

Maybe hope really is a strategy!

The latest kerfuffle has caught some attention beyond Argentina and the British Isles. You can bet strategists in China are monitoring events in the South Atlantic closely. These are people who do their homework. They afforded the 1982 conflict close scrutiny, finding much to commend and condemn on both sides, and many lessons to learn. A few years ago, my colleague Lyle Goldstein read their commentary on the Falklands and wrote an article documenting their findings. It only makes sense that Beijing would regard the campaign as a source of guidance for contemporary strategy. Just look at the map – a Western sea power fought a short war to reverse a weaker regional power’s seizure of islands it considered sovereign territory. Geography compelled the extra-regional power to stage military operations across thousands of miles of ocean, where the local power enjoyed such advantages as proximity to the combat theater, abundant manpower and resources, and intimate familiarity with the surroundings.

Sound familiar?

What lessons about strategy, tactics, and force structure is Beijing likely to derive from the British experiences then and now? Lyle’s article is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the bumper sticker for the guidance China takes from the conflict: a local power can overcome a stronger outside power if it is more willing than its antagonist to bear the costs and hazards of war, makes good use of its “home field advantage,” and acquires certain specialized weaponry in adequate numbers.
For example, Chinese commentators highlight the battle damage inflicted by Argentine Super Étendard fighter jets firing Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles. When I taught firefighting and damage control in the 1990s, we started off each new class by showing a film from the Falklands. My favorite part was when the skipper of the sunken HMS Sheffield recalled thinking it was “slightly bad news” when he heard an explosion and turned to see one of the ship’s gun mounts spinning around in the air high over the ship. Monty Python humor aside, the death of the Sheffield confirmed that sea-skimming missiles could evade modern shipboard air defenses and wreak lethal damage. Whether this inspired the People’s Liberation Army Navy to premise its anti-ship tactics on “saturation attacks” that overwhelm a fleet’s defenses is an open question. More likely, such encounters reaffirmed tacticians’ preexisting preference for cruise missiles as an implement of war. Had Argentine aviators possessed more than a few Exocets, conclude Chinese observers, the outcome of the conflict could have been far different.

Or, there’s undersea warfare. Both navies put submarines to effective use as an offensive weapon; both performed miserably at finding and sinking enemy submarines. A Royal Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine made short work of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, prompting the Argentine surface fleet to stay safely out of range for the rest of the war. For their part, Royal Navy anti-submarine crews were unable to reliably classify sonar or magnetic contacts, so they “classified targets with ordnance.” That’s a fancy way of saying they dropped anti-submarine munitions on anything with a signature remotely resembling that of an Argentine boat. This ham-fisted approach had a perverse strategic effect: it virtually exhausted the Royal Navy’s war stock of antisubmarine weaponry at a time of surging tension in the Cold War. The division of labor among NATO fleets assigned British mariners the task of policing North Atlantic waters for Soviet craft. That was hard to do once the Falklands campaign emptied Royal Navy warships’ weapons magazines. Lesson: antisubmarine warfare is hard even for the world’s most advanced navies.

How will the PLA Navy and the shore-based arms of Chinese sea power put such lessons to work in future conflicts? Savvy commanders might strike at U.S. Navy reinforcements steaming westward across the Pacific far from Asian coasts, wearing them down during their long voyage. Argentina missed several opportunities to make things tough on the oncoming British task force before it reached the theater. That China would repeat this mistake is doubtful. Targeting logistics vessels carrying supplies to U.S. carrier or amphibious groups, for instance, would be a convenient way to disrupt any relief operation off Taiwan or some other hotspot. These lumbering ships are few in number, carry token defensive armament, and often cruise without protective escorts. They would be easy pickings for Chinese submarines, let alone multidirectional cruise-missile strikes of the kind Chinese rocketeers envision. Take out the oilers, refrigeration ships, and ammunition ships, and the fleet withers on the vine.

In short, as they consider how to pierce Chinese “anti-access” defenses, U.S. strategists could do worse than investigate what pundits from the “red team” are saying about the Falklands dispute – then and now.

James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and co-editor of the forthcoming ‘Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age’ (Georgetown University Press). The views voiced here are his alone.

* Article publicat a The Diplomat. Recomanem enormement la lectura d'aquest article del professor James Holmes sobre les lliçons apreses per la Xina sobre el conflicte de les Falkland.

dilluns, 20 de febrer de 2012

Russia Lays Down New Corvette for Pacific Fleet*

The Amur Shipyard in Russia’s Far East has started the construction of a new Steregushchy class corvette for the Russian Pacific Fleet, the Khabarovsk Territory government said.
“A Steregushchy class corvette will be built for the Pacific Fleet,” the Khabarovsk Territory government said in a statement on Friday. “It will be delivered in 2015.”
The Gromky corvette is the sixth Steregushchy class vessel designed by the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau and second being built at the Amur Shipyard.
Two corvettes of this class, the Steregushchy and the Soobrazitelny have been already put into service with the Russian Navy, while three others are under various stages of construction and trials.
The Steregushchy class corvette can be deployed to destroy enemy surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and to provide artillery support for beach landings. Advanced stealth technology is used to reduce the ship's secondary radar field, as well as its acoustic, infrared, magnetic and visual signatures.
Russia plans to have up to 30 vessels of this class to ensure the protection of its coastal waters, as well as its oil and gas transportation routes, especially in the Black and the Baltic seas.
Each corvette has a displacement of 2,000 metric tons, maximum speed of 27 knots, and a crew of 100.
The ship's armament includes SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship cruise missiles, a 100-mm gun, a variety of air defense and anti-submarine systems, and a Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopter.

Notícia publicada a RIA Novosti.

divendres, 17 de febrer de 2012

Somali Piracy Update: The End of Monsoon Season*

U.S. Navy via Getty Images


A U.S. Navy warship rescues an Iranian fishing boat crew held by pirates Jan. 5
Monsoon season in the Indian Ocean is set to end sometime in late February. Somali pirates will take advantage of the calmer waters to enlarge their presence in the area. But several factors -- including armed contractors on commercial vessels, land-based security clampdowns and a more sophisticated international military response -- may limit the pirates' success.

An article from Somalia Report, a news agency specializing in Somali affairs, has suggested that Somali pirates are readying their boats for the end of monsoon season around Feb. 20, nearly coinciding with an international conference to be held Feb. 23 in the United Kingdom on Somalia and counterpiracy efforts. Indeed, calmer seas present greater opportunity for hijackings and other piratic activities. Of course, Feb. 20 is merely an approximation, and meteorological phenomena like monsoons may continue for weeks after this date. But soon the weather will clear, and Somali pirates will embark on a new season of activity.

Every year from 2008 to 2011 Somali pirates expanded the areas in which they operated. But in 2011, their areas of operation contracted, due in part to the increased use of armed guards on commercial vessels and monitoring by anti-piracy naval forces. It is unclear whether this trend will continue. So far in 2012, only one vessel and three fishing boats have been hijacked by pirates, whereas eight commercial vessels had been hijacked by this point last year. In any case, the end of monsoon season invariably will give rise to an increased pirate presence in the greater Indian Ocean basin. Whether this presence leads to additional hijackings depends on a variety of factors.

In 2012, Somali pirates so far have favored the same ports as in the past, particularly those between Harardhere in southern Somalia and Bandar Bayla in northern Somalia. However, a new port known as Harfan, located on a northern Somali peninsula that juts out into the Indian Ocean toward Socotra Island, is gaining recognition as a port from which pirates conduct their operations. According to reports, heightened security in Haradhere, El-Dhanane and Garacad has led more than 100 pirates to relocate to Harfan in the past five months alone. Further security clampdowns could lead to other alternative ports.

Already there is evidence that pirates are venturing outside their traditional areas of operations. On Jan. 20, there was an attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Oman. While Somali pirates have occasionally operated in the area before, they have never successfully hijacked a commercial vessel. Doing so would indicate their expansion into a new area.

In our 2012 Piracy Annual, we noted the relatively new trend that Somali pirates could begin hijacking vessels within or just outside commercial ports, evidenced by the August 2011 hijacking of the MV Fairchem Bogey within the Salalah, Oman port limits. Already in 2012 we have seen another instance of this trend. On Jan. 23, pirates attempted to hijack a commercial vessel just outside the port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

There is also evidence in 2012 of a tactical development in Somali piracy not seen in recent years. In January, pirates who had boarded the FV Shiuh Fu No. 1 cut off the captain's arm to convince the ship's owners to pay a ransom. Typically, pirates eschew physical violence against hostages; pirates are happy as long as they get paid. If such violence becomes habitual, anti-piracy operations increasingly may be carried out by various special operations forces -- though such operations would be conducted only by the country of the abducted individuals and if it has the intelligence to do so.

Such was the case in January, when U.S. Special Forces rescued American Jessica Buchanan and her Danish co-captive. This demonstrated how the U.S. military will respond to such incidents. (Notably, the military had the requisite intelligence to act, and Buchanan's health condition provided an added impetus for action.) Accordingly, pirates may begin to house hostages on commercial vessels, given that vessels are more difficult to raid than smaller skiffs or land-based facilities.

While the end of monsoon season will result in a larger presence of pirate vessels, several factors may limit their successes. Armed contractors continue to be used on commercial ships in 2012, and this year no vessel carrying these contractors has been successfully hijacked. Thus, we expect they will continue to be deployed in 2012. In addition, the U.S. Navy reportedly is retrofitting the USS Ponce to be used by special operations forces in the Central Command area of operations, and anti-piracy operations fall into their purview.

Moreover, domestic Somali forces, including those of Galmudug and Puntland, as well as the pro-Somali government Sufi militia Ahlu Sunnah Waljamaah, have been arresting pirates in the regions they control. This is an indication that land-based forces are also pressuring pirate activity. Such measures may be more effective at reducing piracy over the long term than arming merchant ships, but it remains to be seen if this pressure on land can be sustained.

In the past Somali pirates have been adept at developing countermeasures, so armed anti-piracy tactics alone may not bring about an end to piracy off Somalia's waters. The end of the monsoon season may embolden pirates to increase their presence, but it does not ensure their success rate.

* Article publicat al web de Stratfor. L'evolució de les accions contra la pirateria és quelcom que cal seguir especialment, donada la dependència de l'economia catalana respecte a les víes marítimes de comunicació.

Exercise Proud Manta 2012 gets underway *

Nisida, Naples 14 February 2012: During the night between the 13 and 14 February, five NATO submarines slipped their moorings and disappeared into the winter waters off Sicily. At the same time 12 surface vessels steamed out to the exercise area to begin a complex game of cat and mouse which will last until 24 February. Proud Manta 12, NATO’s largest annual anti-submarine exercise, is underway.

“This year we have a very large contribution to this exercise by Allied nations,” stated Vice Admiral Veri, Commander Maritime Command Naples (MC Naples), during a media day held 13 February. “Surface and sub-surface vessels, helicopters and planes are coming together in an extremely complex and progressively difficult scenario.” Admiral Veri also pointed out that Proud Manta 12 foresees the switching of roles from hunter to hunted for all those participating with periods of ‘free-play’ in which ships, planes and submarines will use all their stealth, experience and equipment to hunt and neutralize each other. He also took the opportunity to point out the continued importance of the role of the submarine and the need for NATO to continue to train for full interoperability in all aspects of submarine warfare. He also stressed the established and verified importance of submarines in surveillance and Special Forces operations.
Nisida, Naples 14 February 2012: During the night between the 13 and 14 February, five NATO submarines slipped their moorings and disappeared into the winter waters off Sicily. At the same time 12 surface vessels steamed out to the exercise area to begin a complex game of cat and mouse which will last until 24 February. Proud Manta 12, NATO’s largest annual anti-submarine exercise, is underway.
Proud Manta 2012
This year’s event sees 15 helicopters and fixed-wing airtcraft joining in the proceedings to include, for the first time, Italian Eurofighters and Tornadoes posing a fast-attack air threat.

Rear Admiral James Foggo III, Commander Submarines, Allied Naval Forces South, responding to a journalist’s question on the importance of Proud Manta 12, put great emphasis on the training in interoperability offered by the exercise. He pointed out that many of the personnel and assets exercising were equally likely to find themselves operating side-by-side in NATO-led operations where they could, for example, find themselves combating piracy or terrorism. He also reminded those present of the important maritime operations that NATO had carried out in Mediterranean waters as part of Operation Unified Protector in 2011.

A portion of the Proud Manta 12 surface fleet is made up of the ships of Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) currently under the control of MC Naples. Asked what role his ships would have in the exercise Commodore Ben Bekkering (COMSNMG1) told journalists that, other than offering strong competition to the submarines, his Group is an Immediate Reaction Force and that he must be able to carry out the tasks that the Exercise participants are being trained to do immediately upon receiving orders from NATO.

This year’s Proud Manta also includes a growing role for the NATO Underwater Research Centre (NURC) from La Spezia, Italy. Scientists and technicians aboard the NATO Research Vessel Alliance are this year sailing in the very midst of the exercise carrying out experiments on detection and tracking using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, testing software, and using NATO-developed ‘gliders’ to better understand the presence and behaviour of marine fauna.

* Notícia publicada a Navy Recognition. L'OTAN continúa realitzant exercicis ASW, i amb molta profusió de recursos. Un bon indicador de l'amenaça que mai han deixat de representar els submarins,

dimarts, 14 de febrer de 2012

Drug smugglers and pirates beware: top five offshore patrol craft*

Drug smugglers and pirates pose a very different threat to naval vessels compared to traditional enemy forces. As a result, the rise of the offshore patrol vessel has seen smaller, faster and more agile patrol vessels grow in importance and popularity. Liam Stoker profiles five of the most popular and emerging offshore patrol craft. 

The rising number of incidents involving drug smuggling and piracy has led to an increasing demand for patrol vessels capable of fulfilling a variety of roles and operational requirements.
Capable of operating in and around shallow water and littorals, offshore patrol craft combine high cruise speeds with efficient armaments in order to counter fast-moving and agile vessels used by pirates and drug smugglers, while also providing an operating base for naval helicopters and fast-moving deployable boats used by special forces.

Armidale Class patrol boat

Acquired to replace the Freemantle Class patrol vessels, Australia's fleet of Armidale Class patrol boats are based in Darwin and Cairns, reserved for use in surveillance, interception and escort missions, and were first commissioned in December 2003.

The main tasks of the Armidale Class vessels are to support civilian authorities in custom patrols and measures against illegal immigration, both key tasks for Australian authorities. Although the vessel's cruise speed is approximately 12kts, two Zodiac waterjet boats can be stored on the stern deck, allowing rapid deployment of additional forces.

Due to the nature of the waters surrounding Australia, the Armidale Class vessels have been designed to conduct surveillance missions in conditions up to sea state five, with wave heights of up to 4m, whilst also being able to successfully operate within cyclonic weather conditions.

In terms of armament, the patrol boats come armed with a Rafael Typhoon 25mm stabilised naval gun mount with an ATK Bushmaster cannon, whereas BAE Systems Australia has provided the vessels with its passive radar identification system (PRISM III) in order to provide detection and direction finding capabilities.

Holland Class patrol vessels



Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding was tasked with constructing the Holland Class Patrol vessels in December 2007 as part of a €467.8m project to provide the Royal Netherlands Navy with four offshore patrol vessels.

Due to be commissioned between 2011 and 2013, the Netherlands' fleet of Holland Class patrol vessels have been designed to support international task forces, aiding in anti-piracy missions and counter-drug missions, while also operating as support ships during crisis relief. The Royal Netherlands Navy will deploy the vessels to the Caribbean and North Seas.

The vessel's broad platform provides stability in marine seas and has been constructed using thick steel, reducing its tensile strength but increasing the vessel's capability to resist the impact of small-calibre weapons more commonly associated with anti-piracy missions.
All armaments onboard the vessel, which include a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid gun and a 20mm Oto Melara Marlin WS gun, can be operated remotely, while the vessel also comes with a fully equipped hangar capable of supporting an NH-90 helicopter.

Sentinel Class fast response cutter



Being constructed as part of the US Coast Guard's (USCG) Deepwater programme, Sentinel Class patrol boats have been commissioned in order to address USCG patrol gaps and assist in immigration and drug interdiction missions within the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Following the award of a $166.1m contract option in September 2010 for four additional craft, the USCG's total order stood at eight vessels, worth $410.7m, with the USCG planning to acquire a total of 58 patrol boats within the vessel's operational expectancy.

A modified version of the Damen Stan 4708 patrol vessel, the fast response cutter (FRC) features a bow thruster for manoeuvring within narrow anchorages and channels, underwater fins to resist rolling and pitching in large waves and a Bushmaster 25mm chain-fed autocannon.

One particular strength of the FRC is its versatility, with the vessels capable of operating independently in a vast array of missions including coastal security, marine environmental protection, search and rescue and national-defence operations.

The vessels are also capable of remaining operational in sea state four, and can survive in sea state six.

L'Adroit offshore patrol vessel

France's L'Adroit offshore patrol vessel, belonging to the Gowind Class of offshore patrol vessels, was launched in May 2011 and was delivered to the French Navy in October 2011, having successfully completed its sea trials two months prior. Although the French Navy will carry out additional tests of its equipment and systems until 2014, the ship is seen as vital to France's counter-piracy, environmental protection and drug interdiction capabilities.

Capable of providing 220 days of at-sea-availability each year, the L'Adroit offers shelter for a 5t helicopter and a landing facility for a 10t helicopter, as well as also carrying two rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB) for use by onboard forces. Fast commando boats can be covertly deployed within five minutes and the vessel also has the capability of launching naval UAVs.
The vessel can be equipped with both lethal and non-lethal weapons. Whereas the main armaments of the L'Adroit consist of a 20mm gun located on the foredeck and two 50 cal. machine guns, the wings of the ship can be equipped with water cannons for non-lethal dispersal of enemy ships.

M80 Stiletto

The future of offshore patrol could, however, lie in the design of the US next generation vessel - the M80 Stiletto.

Constructed with carbon-fibre materials, the M80 posses a unique hull design allowing the vessel to achieve speed, ride quality, payload capability and provision for unmanned vehicle support that is currently unmatched in the naval field.

The vessel, currently in field trials conducted by the US Department of Defence, is designed for high-speed military missions in shallow, littoral and near-shore waters. The twin-M-hull vessel is capable of reaching speeds of up to 60kt, creating an air cushion by recapturing the bow wave and using its energy in order to produce less drag.

While also posing greater energy efficiency, fleet costs are reduced due to higher reliability of construction and maintenance, both sure to be increasingly attractive for a navy forced to contend with budget restraints.
The M80 has previously participated in Trident Warrior joint-force exercises and has seen action in Colombia, participating in shallow-water drug interdiction operations that resulted in the capture of 1,800lb of cocaine.

* Article publicat a Naval Technology. Efectivament, les operacions contra pirateria, contraban i terrorisme, estan generant respostes en l'àmbit del pensament naval, i en conseqüència, en el disseny. Recomanem per això la lectura d'aquest article.

dilluns, 13 de febrer de 2012

Russia Dock Fire Submarine Had Nuclear Warheads*

A Russian nuclear submarine which caught fire during repairs in the Arctic in December had its nuclear-tipped missiles and other weapons on board, the newspaper Kommersant Vlast reported on Monday.
The Yekaterinburg submarine was being repaired in a dry dock outside the north-western city of Murmansk when wooden scaffolding next to it caught fire and the flames spread to the craft on December 29. Nobody was killed in the blaze which raged on for hours.The Defense Ministry said all weapons had been unloaded before the vessel entered the dock at the Roslyakovo shipyard.

Officials also said there had been no radiation leak from the Yekaterinburg, the Delta-IV-class nuclear submarine.But the newspaper Kommersant Vlast claimed on Monday the sub “was in the dock with torpedoes and missiles on board.”The Yekaterinburg, launched in 1984, can carry 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each with four warheads, and 12 torpedoes.“For almost an entire day, Russia was on the verge of the worst anthropogenic catastrophe since Chernobyl,” the paper said. The explosion at a nuclear plant in Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 was the worst accident in the history of nuclear power.Weapons are normally removed from docked nuclear subs but the final decision often lies with commanders, the paper said.

Unloading can take up to two weeks, which can delay scheduled maneuvers. This might result in disrupting Russia’s nuclear parity with the United States, it said. The Yekaterinburg, or K-84, traveled to two missile depots in early January.“The only meaning of this move would be to unload the missiles and torpedoes onboard the K-84,” Kommersant Vlast said. The paper said it also had the evidence of “several independent sources in the leadership of the Navy and the Northern Fleet.”

The fire was the latest in a string of Russia’s naval accidents, the worst being the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000, which left 118 people dead.

* Notícia publicada al RIA Novosti. Una situació de risc que demostra que el procés de transició de l'Armada russa encara no està conclós.

LCS Diplomacy: A New, Old Option When Facing China*

The Obama administration recently announced plans to forward-deploy some of the U.S. Navy’s new, lightly armed Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to the South China Sea. The news conjures up images from a century ago, when the itinerant U.S. Asiatic Fleet lumbered from port to port, patrolled Chinese rivers and strove to defend the PhilippineIslands.

This was no battle fleet, nor was it meant to be. It was an implement of diplomacy, plain and simple.
Properly configured,an LCS flotilla would be a worthy successor to the Asiatic Fleet. The 2007 Maritime Strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” designates non-combat missions like coalition-building and maritime security as “core capabilities” of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. A latter-day Asiatic Fleet could perform such functions admirably despite — indeed, because of — its lack of combat punch.

That is, U.S. sailors could do their work without fanning paranoia — well, much paranoia — in nearby China.
Upheaval in fin-de-siècle Asia warranted stationing a fleet in Far Eastern waters. China’s Qing Dynasty tottered during the 19th century before collapsing into civil strife in 1911. Predatory European and Japanese empires seemed poised to divide the country among themselves, barring competitors such as the U.S.

Historian Alfred Thayer Mahan likened China’s predicament to carrion birds’ descent onto a tasty “carcass.”
The Asiatic Fleet’s first purpose was to keep order in China, chastening warlords and other ne’er-do-wells menacing American citizens or trade. It was adequate to this task. Few in China could resist the firepower of even obsolescent men-of-war.
Its second purpose was to telegraph resolve, upholding Washington’s “Open Door” policy in that beleaguered land. Standing policy implored the imperial powers to keep all of China open to commerce. The fleet was woefully unequal to guaranteeing U.S. access against encroachment from the likes of Japan or Germany.

The faraway fleet would have been forced to dispatch reinforcements if the great powers slammed the “Open Door” shut.

A motley assortment of warships constituted the Asiatic Fleet. Its flagship was a heavy cruiser such as USS Augusta, once skippered by Capt. Chester Nimitz, or USS Houston, immortalized by historian James Hornfischer in “Ship of Ghosts.” The flagship’s entourage included low-end combatants such as light cruisers, destroyers and gunboats. Think USS San Pablo from the Steve McQueen film, “The Sand Pebbles.”

The Imperial Japanese Navy made quick work of the Asiatic Fleet following its December 1941 onslaughts on Hawaii and the Philippines. Crews fought their ships valiantly, but in a foredoomed cause. That’s the usual result when a fleet meant for non-combat missions encounters a fleet meant for battle.

What do the life and death of the Asiatic Fleet tell us? Historical similes are never exact. As Navy officials contemplate maritime strategy in the South China Sea, they must recognize important differences between Asia then and Asia now.

Then, the U.S. Navy could use castoff ships to overawe a fractured Chinese populace while brandishing the combined might of the Asiatic and Pacific fleets to face down — for a time — external competitors. Today, the dynamics have reversed. No longer does a power vacuum draw outsiders in. Instead, a strong China is pressing outward, oftentimes at the expense of U.S. allies like the Philippines.

Rather than fend off rapacious outsiders, Washington intends to help friendly outsiders right the regional balance vis-a-vis a strong central power. Geographically speaking, U.S. strategy is more peripheral than it was during the Asiatic Fleet’s heyday.

Then, Pacific Fleet reinforcements were based too far away to backstop Far Eastern forces effectively in wartime. Today, heavy Pacific Fleet forces reside in relatively nearby Japan and Guam. They could move even closer if Washington negotiates access to Australian seaports for U.S. Navy carrier or surface action groups.

Then, outdated ships could accomplish U.S. goals. Today, ships designated for overseas service remain modest in combat power, but they’re brand-spanking new rather than retirement age. It will be harder to consider an LCS contingent expendable in wartime than it was to think of the Asiatic Fleet that way. Navy officials must fight the temptation to pile defensive armaments onto the LCS or forward-deploy frontline combatants to Southeast Asia for protection.

Lavish improvements would discredit the LCS squadron in Chinese eyes. Such a force will be valuable precisely because it can perform diplomatic and constabulary missions alongside regional sea services — and because it can do so without appearing to encircle and contain China. Stationing a battle-worthy fleet in Southeast Asia could set in motion a mercurial, escalatory cycle of American action and Chinese reaction.
The chief lessons from Asiatic Fleet history: Keep diplomacy at the forefront of the LCS squadron’s endeavors while arranging new basing options should conflict threaten.
This phantom from the Navy’s past still renders good service.

James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and co-author of “Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy.” These views represent only those of the author’s.

* Notícia publicada a DefenceNews. Sens dubte, les aportacions del professor James Holmes han de ser preses en consideració.

dimecres, 8 de febrer de 2012

U.S. Navy to test 32 megajoule EM Railgun in the coming weeks*

The United States Navy will receive the industries first 32 megajoule EM Railgun prototype and begin testing in the coming weeks.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced today that they will begin testing an advanced Electromagnetic Railgun (EMR) within the next few weeks. The development and testing of this advanced EMR is the result of a $21 million contract awarded to BAE Systems by the Office of Naval Research roughly two years ago. For those that may not know, the ONR is the office within the United States Department of the Navy that facilitates all science and technology programs for the U.S Navy and Marine Corps through various institutions, such as universities and government laboratories.

While most munitions both heavy and small depend on chemical propellants (like gunpowder), the EM Railgun launcher (as you may have guessed from its name) utilizes magnetic energy instead. The EM Railgun propels a conductive projectile along metal rails using a magnetic field powered by electricity. The magnetic field produced by the high electric currents thrusts a sliding metal conductor between two rails to launch a projectile at velocities of 4,500 to 5,600 mph. By contrast, the average velocity of a chemical propelled weapon is limited to about 2,700 give or take.

So what does that mean? Well, this increased velocity should allow for the Navy to reach targets of up to 50 to 100 nautical miles away or, if you’re inner sea-dog is a little rusty, about 57 to 115 miles out. Navy planners hope to eventually increase that range even further to distances up to 220 nautical miles (253 miles).

According to ONR, this increase velocity and extended range will give sailors multi-mission capability, and allow them to conduct precise naval surface fire support. In addition, ONR states that the EM Railgun may provide effective ballistic missile defense.

BAE Systems EM Railgun was delivered to the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren on January 30, 2012 and features a 32-megajoule payload. To add some perspective, one megajoule of energy is equivalent to a one ton car traveling at 100 miles per hour.

* Notíca publicada al Digital Trends. És de gran interés seguir l'evolució dels Railguns, unes armes que, se'ns dubte poden revolucionar el camp de batalla modern, especialment el naval.

The Russian Navy Grows from Bottom up*

RIA Novosti military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov

While the nation’s leaders work at overhauling the Navy organization, the Navy itself continues to order new ships. Last year’s persistent scandals over nuclear submarine contracts proved a hard nut to crack when assigning government contracts in 2011. For a time, the submarine scandals confused the process for ordering surface ships. Meanwhile the focus there is being shifted to the production of time tested projects built around today’s armaments.
“Due to the lack of funding, the Navy has come close to a numerical minimum required to fulfill its mission,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at a meeting with the heads of the Sevmash and Zvezdochka shipyards, and the Navy command. The meeting was called to discuss the development of Russia’s Navy.
The deputy prime minister said many ships are being used beyond their service life and the Russian Navy needs urgent renovation. “The now widespread practice of rebuilding and renovating the fleet ship by ship to extend its service life has destroyed our production cooperation,” Rogozin said.

Building quietly and stubbornly

Still, it’s inaccurate to say that only one-off vessels are being constructed. Last Wednesday, two ships were laid down in St. Petersburg: the Project 22350 Admiral Golovko frigate and the Project 20385 Gremyashchy corvette.
The Golovko is the third vessel in the Project 22350 class. The first one – Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov – hit the water in October 2010 and the second (Admiral of the Fleet Kasatonov) is scheduled to be launched this year. The Gremyashchy is formally the first Project 20385 ship, but it is a further development of Projects 20380 and 20381 corvettes, two of which have already joined the Baltic Fleet, with one more undergoing trials and another under construction. Current contracts provide for the building of eight Project 22350 frigates (including the Gorshkov and the Kasatonov) and eight Project 20385 corvettes (the Gremyashchy will be the first).

What are we building? 

The Russian Navy is not obsessed with grand-scale projects or the “de facto global standard” – strike groups of heavy ocean-going ships deployed around nuclear aircraft carriers. Even at its height the Soviet Union failed to live up to that standard with reasons ranging from weaknesses in industry and ship repair facilities to the varying rants of top military and defense industry leadership.

The Russian Navy orders simple and ordinary workhorses for the sea. When a large number of ships was decommissioned in the 1990s (the non-strategic portion), it left a big gap in the country’s naval forces.
The commissioning of single surface vessels for each main class (like the Pyotr Veliky in 1996) did little to prevent the overall degradation of Russia’s four fleets.

Project 20380/20385 corvettes (or more precisely, multi-role short range escort vessels) are intended to close the gap in the coastal defense forces. 

Project 22350 frigates (multi-role offshore patrol vessels) are believed to be the core of Russia’s new Navy now. In the early 2000s, when this project was accepted as promising, the number of vessels to be built was 30. It is difficult to appraise such Napoleonic plans, but the approach has not changed: the volume of construction anticipated is up to 20 units over the next 15 to 20 years.

Next in line is the development and construction of ocean-going destroyers. A competition is currently under way for the best project. These ships need to be large enough and well-armed. They will be in fact missile cruisers rather than destroyers. The Navy is growing “from the bottom up” as it tries out new directions and unifies the armaments on its new vessels.

Roman Trotsenko, the head of United Shipbuilding Corporation, who touts the new shipyards at Kotlin Island, regularly promotes the idea of a nuclear aircraft carrier. The military is cautious: it says the State Armaments Program till 2020 does not mention an aircraft carrier. Yet it has launched a series of research and development projects just in case to determine the role and place of such ships in the Navy of the future.

Marine standard

The tendency of the Russian military to save costs and unify the fleet’s missiles is worth a separate comment. In the Soviet days, the Navy went on a spree of producing “unique” strike missile systems with incompatible launchers and missiles. In each case the adoption of one or another system was absolutely justified by tasks at hand. But it all produced a monstrous zoo full of combat weapons in the Navy. The defense industry, accustomed to spending freely, also lent a hand: sometimes military experts, who were practically-minded, combined a new missile with an old launcher. The result was self-evident.

Take, for example, the saga of Project 670 and 670M submarines, which were to be equipped with one missile system (there were plans to arm older submarines with the new Malakhit missile with an extended range). The upshot, however, was that each project retained its original armaments – until the boats were decommissioned in the early 1990s. 

But times change and the money, not a lot even in the glorious era of Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, came to an end. The concept of a multi-purpose ship firing system became overriding: all ships in the basic classes – including Projects 20385 and 22350 and their likely cousins (ocean-going destroyers) – are now to be equipped this way.

In effect, it is a group of unified vertical launchers which offer a wide range of configurations. A ship equipped with this multi-purpose system can carry anti-ship Oniks cruise missiles or missiles from the all-purpose Kalibr system (in three configurations: supersonic anti-ship, subsonic for engaging ground targets and anti-submarine). Future plans contemplate extending this armory by including surface-to-air missiles, although for the time being the new system is employed only in strike systems.

The West will help us

The delay in commissioning Project 22350 vessels (the first ship was laid down in 2006) suggested a simple solution. It was decided that the amount of time needed to start the construction Gorshkov class ships could also be spent on a simultaneous commissioning of Project 1135.7 frigates.

This frigate is a very interesting ship. It is based on Project 1135.6 – a distant descendant of Soviet Project 1135 patrol ships developed for the Indian Navy (known as Talwar-type frigates). The Baltic shipyard has already delivered the first three vessels of this class to India. Three more are under construction at the Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad.

The Russian Navy, which badly needs new ships, has requested a “domestic” version of the Talwar, code-named 1135.7 instead. The projects turned out to be so similar that many systems adopted for the 1135.7 turned out to be systems developed for overseas customers and until recently they lacked the authorization for use in the Russian Armed Forces.

The Russian Navy has now placed orders for six Project 1135.7 frigates with Yantar. Two of them are already laid down: the Admiral Grigorovich in December 2010 and the Admiral Essen in July 2011. For 2012, plans call for the start of two or three more ships, and one or two in 2013.

But the feeling is that six frigates are not the limit: Project 22350 is costly and needs to be brought up to date. The current brass, badly shaken by the 1990s disaster, is holding to the maxim: “If it works, don’t fix it.” So if the 1135.7 is accepted by the Navy, a large series will be built – perhaps in an upgraded configuration.

This will be the Russian surface fleet for the 21st century: tight-fisted, pragmatic and knowing its limits. Public opinion seems abashed to see its military in this light – but it will have to get used to it.

* Anàlisi publicat al RIA Novosti. Recomanem la seva lectura per la comprensió de l'evolució futura de l'Armada russa.

L’EDAR teste son interopérabilité dans le radier du San Antonio*

Mise à jour : 07/02/2012 10:02
Le 4 février 2012, le nouvel engin de débarquement amphibie rapide (EDAR) a réalisé avec succès plusieurs essais de manœuvres sur le bâtiment amphibie américain USS San Antonio .
Dans un créneau de deux heures, l’EDAR a réalisé trois enradiages successifs dans le radier du San Antonio  dont deux en embarquant un véhicule de transport de l’US Marine Corps de près de 7 tonnes. Le chef d’équipage de l’EDAR explique que «a préoccupation portait sur l’éventuel manque de profondeur d’eau dans le radier». Le commandant du San Antonio  s’est dit «impressionné par la plateforme amovible de l’EDAR, qui mue l’engin en une sorte de catamaran une fois les véhicules chargés».
Les huit marins qui composent l’équipage de l’EDAR ont pu conduire cette manœuvre inédite avec les manœuvriers du San Antonio , eux-mêmes assistés de trois manœuvriers français montés à bord un peu plus tôt.
Ces essais font suite à l’accueil récent, dans le radier du BPC Mistral , des Landing Craft Air Cushimon (LCAC), bolides sur coussin d’air américains. Le BPC Mistral  avait procédé à la certification de ces engins en vue de leur éventuelle utilisation sur de prochaines missions. Le succès de ces divers essais bi-latéraux témoigne de la bonne interopérabilité des deux marines, malgré la différence des matériels, des procédures et des habitudes françaises et américaines.
L’EDAR peut charger jusqu’à 80 tonnes de matériels sur sa plateforme mobile et atteindre une vitesse d’une vingtaine de nœuds en pleine charge.
Sources : © Marine nationale

* Notícia publicada al web de la Marine Nationale. Els exercicis Bold Alligator 2012 estan demostrant la interoperabilitat entre la US Navy i la Marine Nationale.

HMS Liverpool Shadows Russian Carrier*

The Portsmouth-based Type 42 warship was acting as Fleet Escort as she followed a carrier-led Russian task group from the Channel off south-west England to the seas off south west Ireland.

Liverpool’s Commanding Officer, Commander Colin Williams, said:
 “As an island nation it is essential for the UK to maintain a military presence in our waters.
“HMS Liverpool is well-placed to carry out this duty after her extremely successful Operation Ellamy and NATO contributions off Libya last year.”
In December the Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS York was sent to shadow the Kuznetsov group as it sailed south from Russia – the closest that a Russian naval task group had been to the United Kingdom in 20 years. 

After a handover from the French warship Le Henaff, Liverpool established her position between the UK and the Russian Task Group, shadowing them as they progressed north past Land’s End, then Ireland. The Task Group of two warships and five support ships are making their way home to the Northern and Baltic Fleets of the Russian Navy.
Liverpool is due to decommission at the end of March but has already gone through a maintenance period in Portsmouth and a visit to London, where thousands of members of the public stepped aboard. On leaving London she was activated as Fleet Ready Escort.
When her escort duty finishes HMS Liverpool will conduct training exercises in the UK and Norway, before a final visit to her home town of Liverpool. She decommissions on March 30 in Portsmouth.

* Notícia publicada al web de la Royal Navy. Creiem important compartir la notícia del retor de l'esquadra russa al seu port base després de la missió al Mediterrani.

Navantia Commissions OPV for the Spanish Navy*

Navantia has commissioned the naval ship BAM 'Relámpago' for the Spanish Navy, in a ceremony presided by Pedro Morenés, the minister of defence.
The ceremony has also been attended by the CEO of Navantia, Luis Cacho, the chief of the navy, Manuel Rebollo, and other naval and political representatives, including defence attachés of other countries such as South Africa, Turkey and Australia.
BAM 'Relámpago' is the third OPV of an initial series of four that Navantia is building for the Spanish Navy. The first two units, 'Meteoro' and 'Rayo', were commissioned in July and October 2011.
BAM is a moderately sized, high performance ship with great versatility regarding missions. It enjoys a high level of system commonality with other Spanish Navy ships and has low acquisition and life cycle costs.
BAM's main missions are:
  • Protect and escort other ships
  • Control maritime traffic
  • Control and neutralise terrorist actions and piracy
  • Operations against drug trafficking and human trafficking
  • Maritime rescue and salvage operations
  • Crisis situation support and humanitarian assistance
  • Control of fishing legislation
  • Control of environmental and anti-pollution legislation
Main features:
  • Length overall: 93.90m
  • Maximum beam: 14.20m
  • Depth to flight deck: 7.20m
  • Displacement at full load: 2,575t
  • Scantling draught: 4.4m
  • Maximum speed: 20.5 knots
  • Autonomy (at 15kn): 8,000 miles
  • Crew: 35
  • Additional capacity: 35
* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. Creiem que l'aposta de l'Armada espanyola pels BAM és una bona iniciativa en les perspectives d'operacions navals actuals

diumenge, 5 de febrer de 2012

Deep secret – secure submarine communication on a quantum level*

Quantum key distribution technology could enable submarines to communicate securely both at depth and speed. Berenice Baker investigates how rapid underwater communication can be achieved at a level of secrecy protected by the very laws of physics themselves.

Submarine communication challenges

Submarine communication is restricted by the depth at which vessels can exchange information and the speed at which they can do so through the medium of water.
Recently however, researchers have made impressive strides in solving this dilemma using a technique called Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).
QKD promises to guarantee secure communication through the principles of quantum mechanics, without sacrificing speed or forcing the submarine to rise nearer the surface.
For a submarine to retain all its tactical advantage, it must remain submerged in the mixed layer, which is around 60 to 100 metres deep, below which surface sonars cannot detect them. Submarine communications are currently carried out while submerged using ELF or VLF radio waves because only very low or extremely low frequencies can penetrate the water at those depths.
Using ELF and VLF presents a number of disadvantages, however. The transmission sites have to be very large, meaning the submarine must tow cumbersome antenna cables, plus it usually has to align on a specific orientation and reduce speed to obtain optimal reception.
The VLF and ELF frequencies only offer a very low bandwidth: VLF supports a few hundred bits a second while ELF sustains just a few bits each minute. This prevents the transmission of complex data such as video.
One potential solution is to carry out optical communications using a laser, a concept which has been around since the 1980s when experiments were carried out to demonstrate that it is possible to maintain an optical channel between a submarine and an airborne platform.
The Quantum Technologies group at defence technology specialist ITT Exelis is looking at taking this a step further through research into the feasibility of laser optical communication between a submarine and a satellite or an airborne platform, secured by using quantum information.
The work ITT Exelis carries out for the US Government includes research in a wide variety of quantum information topics, including the development of quantum algorithms, quantum sensors and novel solutions for quantum communication systems.

Perfectly secure keys

Dr. Marco Lanzagorta, the director of the Quantum Technologies group in the Information Systems department of ITT Exelis, explains that QKD is a protocol which uses quantum information to generate a pair of perfectly secure keys.
"Quantum information is different from classical information, because in classical information the unit is the bit and it can have the value of zero or one," said Lanzagorta. "The unit of quantum information is the qubit, which is a quantum state of a photon. It can be on zero, one or any superposition of zero and one. It's more of a concept of information than the classical one."
Quantum information has two important properties for securing communications. It cannot be copied which means it cannot be forged, and every time a quantum state is measured by an observer it gets collapsed, which means its properties are very difficult to detect.
Combined in QKD, these properties can be used to generate perfectly secure keys because the secrecy of the keys is guaranteed by the laws of physics.
Lanzagorta explains that in traditional cryptosystems - such as the public domain system RSA, Diffie-Hellman and ElGamal encryption methods - the security is based on the solution to a very hard mathematical problem.
However, there is no formal proof that this mathematical problem, for example prime factorisation in the case of RSA, could not be broken by an advanced algorithm. It has also been conjectured that hypothetical quantum computers could break these types of ciphers exponentially faster. Hence QKD would offer an unbeatably secure solution.

Optical communication

The technology for QKD already exists and is commercially available but it is currently carried out through an optical fibre, rather than photons travelling freely through air or water.

"Some experiments have been done on QKD using photons moving in free space," said Lanzagorta. "Most recently an experiment was done in the Canary Islands where they did first base QKD at a distance of 144km, showing it is feasible to have this free space quantum communication.
"Other work has been done on connecting a ground site with a satellite platform, but we're working not on a ground platform but on one that is submerged in the water."
In addition to the challenges of transmitting photons through water and free air, the researchers need to establish a laser link between the transmitter and a receiver on a satellite or airborne platform.
This is currently being tackled by a QinetiQ North America team which is developing a specialist tracking system.
Once the optical link between the submarine and the satellite is established, the ITT Exelis researchers' work takes over, investigating how to enable the QKD protocol to secure communications. This is done using a photosensor working in what is known as the Geiger mode, which effectively means it counts photons which arrive in a certain polarisation.
"For the transmission of quantum information, you need something that will polarise the photons, so the quantum state will be in a given basis, and to have a filter that detects this in the transmitter and receiver," said Lanzagorta.
"You cannot use regular lasers as you need specialist photon lasers, which is like a very diluted laser. These send one photon at a time and each photon has a well-determined quantum state."

Feasibility studies

The next stage for the programme will see the US Naval Research Lab carry out a series of experiments to establish how well a photon's quantum state is preserved as it travels through water to verify the accuracy of ITT Exelis' theoretical feasibility study.
If the experiments support the theoretical model and the research moves on to the next stage, an experimental prototype could be in place within five years. However, a number of factors are at play with such a radical new approach.
"It's not only a scientific technological question but also has to do with funding levels and politics," claimed Lanzagorta.
However, if the powers that be do see it through, the benefits could be substantial. The proposed system could potentially deliver perfectly secure transmission, the highest level of security available, at rates of up to 170kb a second, which is around 600 times more bandwidth than current VLF systems are capable of, easily coping with complex data such as video.
Additionally, there would be no loss of operational efficiency or stealth for the submarine itself, as in principle it would not have to slow down, remain at depths of less than 100m or change orientation to exchange data.
These factors would be addressed by the transmitting laser and receiving system part of the solution, which is being tackled by QinetiQ.
However, the entire success depends on how travelling through water affects the photon. "The biggest challenge is to see what is the best way to send the single photon pulses in such a way that the quantum state is protected even if it travels through water," said Lanzagorta. "We need to find a way to do some sort of encoding, like error correction encoding, that protects the quantum state of the photon so we can have a larger range of operations."

* Article publicat a Naval Technology. Les comunicacions amb submarins en immersió sempre han estat quelcom tant problemàtic com vital. Aquest interessantíssim article n'aporta algunes claus de futur