ERA OF THE TYPHOON MONSTER BOAT IS OVER
If news coming out of Russia is to be believed, the legendary Typhoon Class ballistic missile boats will soon no longer prowl the deep. It is claimed that the Kremlin has decided to abandon plans to modernise two of the boats – known as Typhoons in the West, but Akulas in Russia – while the third surviving operating example will continue for a few years as a test platform before being retired. Severstal and Arkhangelsk have been moored alongside at Severodvinsk, in a non-operational state since 2004 and 2006 respectively. The Dmitry Donskoy, which operates from a base on the White Sea, has most recently test fired Bulava intercontinental missiles, the weapon being fitted to the new generation Borei Class SSBNs. The Donskoy will be decommissioned in two years time, while the other Typhoons will never put to sea as operational warships again. The fact that it would cost the same as building two new Boreys to modernise the Typhoons has prompted the decision. Originally it was intended they would serve on until 2019. The first Typhoon was laid down at Severodvinsk in 1975, launched five years later and declared operational in 1983. With a submerged displacement of 33,000 tons the Typhoon/Akulas are the largest submarines ever built. Not long after they entered service a writer named Tom Clancy shot the Typhoons to global fame in his blockbuster novel ‘The Hunt for Red October.’ In it a renegade Soviet submarine captain successfully defects with his Typhoon despite the best efforts of the Red Navy to sink him. The whole idea of the Typhoons was that they would hide under the polar ice, then bash up through it using their very tough double hulls and launch nuclear annihilation. Their closest competitors during the Cold War were the US Navy’s 16,000 tons Ohio Class SSBNs, roughly half the tonnage but as long. The Typhoons are much fatter and bigger all ‘round. In the end the Ohios should continue to carry their nation’s nuclear deterrent for some years to come, while the Typhoons will be consigned to history.
WAS SSBN ARMED WITH NUKES DURING FIRE?
Meanwhile there have been claims in the media that the Delta IV Class SSBN Yekaterinburg, whose bows were engulfed in a massive fire in late December while in dry-dock, was armed with nuclear weapons at the time. It has been alleged 16 SS-N-23 ‘Skiff’ ballistic missiles (each carrying four nuclear warheads) plus a possible load of nuclear armed torpedoes, were onboard. The usual practice is for such weaponry to be offloaded before a submarine docks for repairs. Had there been an explosion, large amounts of radioactive material would have been spread over a wide area. Experts doubt the warheads themselves would have detonated. Russia maintains there was no release of radiation. When quizzed about the incident, deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin remarked that the removal of weapons was not required for what he described as minor repairs. Without saying yes or no to the question of whether or not Yekaterinburg was carrying her nuclear missiles he observed: “It was not [even] a medium-sized repair…” He explained that nuclear missiles are not removed from their tubes in an SSBN if the boat goes in for minor repairs. This appeared to be the case with the Yekaterinburg.
NEW ISRAELI SUB
Amid tight security the German shipyard Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) rolled out an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine constructed for the Israeli Navy. At 68.6 metres-long she is the largest such vessel built in Germany since WW2. Two days after that event, the Kiel-based shipbuilder lowered the (as yet officially unchristened) submarine into the water via the shiplift. Another two days later the boat – which some sources say is to be called Tannin (Hebrew for Alligator) – was towed by two tugboats to a secluded outfitting pier. Harbour test trials for the Dolphin Class (Batch 2) submarine have been started. It is expected sea trials for what is the first of three AIP submarines for Israel will start in late summer. Under an ambitious schedule, the delivery of submarine number one is planned for the end of 2012, while number two is due to be handed over in late 2013.
FUTURE BRAZILIAN CARRIER
Brazil has taken a significant step toward building a new aircraft carrier by asking European shipyards to provide information on a potential design-and-build strategy. Last year Brazil issued what was effectively a request for information (RfI) covering issues such as design, procurement support and construction of a carrier capable of carrying between 40 and 50 aircraft.
The Brazilian Navy is currently operating the Sao Paulo, an ex-French carrier. While it has begun qualifying helicopter crews for carrier operations, the Brazilian air force’s A-4N Skyhawk maritime strike aircraft are still based ashore. The old ship, the former FNS Foch, is increasingly difficult to operate and earlier this year caught fire, adding impetus to the need for a brand new carrier.
One member of the Sao Paulo’s crew was killed and another two suffered burns during the blaze, which occurred in an accommodation space while the ship was at Rio de Janeiro Arsenal pier. It is the second such incident in the ship since she was transferred to the Brazilian fleet. During the earlier incident, in May 2005, three of her crew were killed.