Royal Navy SSK?

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by donald_of_tokyo »

I agree SSK for RN is not a high priority.
- SSK is not good for global deployment.
- SSK is not so cheap, if in full spec (like 2000t-3000t+ with AIP and good sonar) (*1)

I agree North Atlantic ASW can be better covered well with P-8A or some USV-based ASW. SSK is not an efficient solution.

XLUUV is too small for sensor-carrying, and being a single node, it cannot join the multi-static ASW party (because it must be stealthy). XLUUV is not an efficient ASW solution, I think. (but good for ambush sensing).

To be effective in attacking and ASW, you need a good sensor and analysis power, such as those carried on Astute SSNs. And of course this is expensive. As it is expensive, I think it is not efficient to buy SSKs in addition to SSN.

As such, I think SSK is not a good option for UK, at least for ASW. Of course, not for global deployment. This is the reason because I'm considering more special-force oriented smallish SSK, if any SSK to be bought for RN.

It can contribute at east Med, operating from Cyprus base. At west-Med and west coast Africa, operating from Gib. Similarly, Persian Gulf from Baharain and/or Oman. With 6-7 SSN, RN can only deploy 2 (sometimes 3) SSNs. If one is with CSG, another around Britain, "other regions" can feel free from UK submarine threats. But, existence of these smallish-SSK assets will force the enemy to spend significant effort in ASW.

These will be a few merits of these smallish-SSKs. But, not sure if these reasons are "enough" to spend £1-2Bn?

*1: A 2000t Type212CD cost 5.5Bn euro for 6 hulls. Do not refer to JMSDF SSK cost, Japan has been spending a lot to keep the industry active, and also it does not include 1st-year support etc.

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

NickC wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 13:38
The IJN operates a fleet of ~ 30 Oyashio, Soryu and Taigei class SSKs, whereas the RN has 7 SSN's with all the attendant awkward nuclear realities and expenses entailed.
One look at a map will show you why that is the case. Australia, who is looking at exactly the same threat but with a much more difficult range question, has gone nuclear.
NickC wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 13:38You do wonder if the old saying 'Quantity has a quality all its own' applies, nuclear does bring advantages but does it offset the penny packet numbers of the RN SSNs? To be noted both China and Russia operate SSKs and SSNs.
That saying only applies if the capability you are buying meets the most basic capability you need. At full chat, an SSN @ 30 knots can get to the Falklands in 10 days. An SSK chugging along at 6.5kts (wiki Soryu max endurance speed) will take you 44 days, add on a few days at Ascension to refuel, restock and give the crew a break and you can see how unresponsive an SSK is on a global scale.

To say SSKs are slow is an understatement, they're possibly lethargic. If you're Sweden or Greece and your political classes only want to deploy close to home they're perfect, but the RN have global ambitions and that endurance at top speed is a huge factor. You'd probably need something like 30 SSKs deployed around the globe to beat the global mobility that 7 SSNs have.

China operates a mix due to transitioning from an all-SSK force, you're certainly going to see that balance shift in favour of nuc boats as they grow into a blue water force. The Soviets couldn't fund an all-nuc force, moreover two of their fleets are dedicated to small patches of water (Baltic/Black Sea) where nuc boats would be severe overkill.

France actually has a thriving SSK export business and they don't buy them. We might take note of that considering we align fairly well on maximising global capability on a limited budget.

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SW1 »

And yet an RN ssk saw service in the falklands war and a couple in the gulf war in 1991.

The reason they go with ssn is because they have to build ssbn and it’s too expensive to maintain the infrastructure for both.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 19:04 And yet an RN ssk saw service in the falklands war and a couple in the gulf war in 1991.
All of which did swimmer delivery which, thanks to Chalfont and SDV enabling bigger boats to deploy swimmers without getting as close to the shore, isn't the party piece it used to be.
SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 19:04The reason they go with ssn is because they have to build ssbn and it’s too expensive to maintain the infrastructure for both.
Jesus Christ.

That's exactly my point. SSKs make sense in a fantasy land where money doesn't matter, but when you have to think in terms of how things work in reality then it doesn't make quite as much sense

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SW1 »

Defiance wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 20:54
SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 19:04 And yet an RN ssk saw service in the falklands war and a couple in the gulf war in 1991.
All of which did swimmer delivery which, thanks to Chalfont and SDV enabling bigger boats to deploy swimmers without getting as close to the shore, isn't the party piece it used to be.
SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 19:04The reason they go with ssn is because they have to build ssbn and it’s too expensive to maintain the infrastructure for both.
Jesus Christ.

That's exactly my point. SSKs make sense in a fantasy land where money doesn't matter, but when you have to think in terms of how things work in reality then it doesn't make quite as much sens

It highlights “global” deployment off RN ssk

Calm down the comment was a general one not aimed at your post or I would replied directly

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 20:59
It highlights “global” deployment off RN ssk
You can't honestly think an SSK can match an SSN in strategic mobility, or even be in the same league

Apologies regarding the tone of my last post
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SW1 »

Defiance wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 21:03
SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 20:59
It highlights “global” deployment off RN ssk
if you think an SSK can match an SSN in strategic mobility, or even in the same league
Didn’t say they did, just highlighted the RN deployed them globally to major conflict as well up into the traditional hunting grounds of the barent sea
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

SW1 wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 21:11
Didn’t say they did, just highlighted the RN deployed them globally to major conflict as well up into the traditional hunting grounds of the barent sea
You're right, i'm being unfair. I'm not anti-SSK, I just feel I have to challenge their suitability for the RN with budgets being the way they are

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by wargame_insomniac »

Defiance wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 10:40
wargame_insomniac wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 09:42 I was nt proposing "globally capable SSK". And I gave examples of what we could use SSK for. e.g. for initial training and for use in shallower waters such as UK, North Sea, Mediterranean i.e etc.
But that's what the RN wants, boats capable of global deployment in support of British interests wherever they may be. Initial training can be done more cheaply at shore establishments and be easier/cheaper to upgrade, the North Sea isn't exactly short of ASW assets from a NATO perspective and the same can be said about the Med. Does the RN spend limited funds on assets perfectly suited to areas that aren't short of capability?

What NATO is incredibly short of however are nuclear submarines that can range deep into the Atlantic and the high north.
wargame_insomniac wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 09:42As I said that would free up our 7*SSN to patrol open oceans i.e. globally. If you want to send submarines up to the High North or GIUK Gap, or to Indian Ocean or to South China Seas, that would be the exisiting 7*SSN doing what they do best.
Realistically those 7 SSN would become closer to 5 (as these SSKs would have to be paid for and crewed, and 'spend more money' isn't a realistic answer to that challenge as it isn't going to happen) which means at best one or two boats deployable. Once you factor in the CSG demand then you probably only have one nuclear boat that can actually do useful tasks on a good day.
wargame_insomniac wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 09:42I was just trying to think up ways of freeing this limited number up for more important missions by getting cheaper smaller SSK's to do some of the basic work.
I would challenge if it's the RNs responsibility to provide dedicated assets to do the particular basic work you suggested. I definitely appreciate the sentiment, but the problem is that most of the benefits of SSKs, while true, fall away when you actually examine them in the cold light of day.

A combined SSK fleet could maybe work if defense spending was scaled up, but even then an expansion of the nuclear fleet would probably be the better option
The last Astute Class, HMS Agincourt is unlikely to be ready until at least 2026, if not later. Then Barrow will be busy building the 4 Dreadnought SSBN's. The House of Commons Defence Commitee is currently expecting that the Astute-replacement Class SSN won't be ready until 2040, and based on recent construction times there is always the risk that that date could slip further into 2040's.

So I was merely thinking should the RN blindly accept that 19-20 year gap in terms of numbers of SSN?? Or is there any scope that they could minimise that two decade constraint and look at maybe 4*SSK to ease that constraint? Apparently not.....

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

wargame_insomniac wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 22:05 The last Astute Class, HMS Agincourt is unlikely to be ready until at least 2026, if not later. Then Barrow will be busy building the 4 Dreadnought SSBN's. The House of Commons Defence Commitee is currently expecting that the Astute-replacement Class SSN won't be ready until 2040, and based on recent construction times there is always the risk that that date could slip further into 2040's.

So I was merely thinking should the RN blindly accept that 19-20 year gap in terms of numbers of SSN?? Or is there any scope that they could minimise that two decade constraint and look at maybe 4*SSK to ease that constraint? Apparently not.....
The trouble is when you look at SSKs in an RN context, and only really look at reasons why it's good, it naturally produces a favourable case. We need to be more realistic and consider the implications of such a buy on the wider force.

If SSK's were to be a net gain for the RN, with an associated rise of budget, then that's one thing. But we all know that won't happen, so discussing SSKs in an RN future force we need to understand

- The real requirements of the RN and their operational challenges
- The impact on the nuclear force (acquisition and sustainment)

My challenge is, taking the budget consideration into account, spending £2.5 Billion+ on 4 SSKs doesn't actually buy you a lot of capability and could ultimately result in a less flexible and capable fleet. Certainly not compared to another 9 P-8A, expanding the frigate force or, down the line, expanding the nuclear fleet. Moreover it would likely see an overall reduction of the nuclear fleet which is a real discriminating capability that we can offer NATO

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Scimitar54 »

When discussing whether the RN should get SSKs, it was never meant as an alternative. The fact is that the RN has a serious lack of Attack Submarines! Any acquisition of additional submarines would require extra resources (budget, manufacturing infrastructure and crewing for a start).
The question must be, What would be the most efficient way of using those extra resources required (in those same terms) to provide sufficient extra operational submarines within the shortest possible timescale?
If the answer is to be additional SSNs then so be it, but that would require the necessary actions to be taken now. However, some might say that this could provide risks to the Dreadnought class.
With that in mind (and even with the RN’s current all SSN policy), it MAY be that the ONLY acceptable way to increase numbers during the short to medium term, is to acquire a number of SSKs. If so, we should not cut off our nose to spite our face! :mrgreen:
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Lord Jim »

Yet is seems that according to some sources the RN is looking at unmanned SSKs rather that is being discussed here. Maybe they think that being unmanned they won't affect the number of SSNs the RN operates going forward. Who knows?

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

Lord Jim wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 09:36 Yet is seems that according to some sources the RN is looking at unmanned SSKs rather that is being discussed here. Maybe they think that being unmanned they won't affect the number of SSNs the RN operates going forward. Who knows?
I buy into XLUUVs supporting the submarine force a lot more. There's plenty of utility using an unmanned asset to do intelligence gathering missions. They can be significantly smaller, cheaper and quieter than an actual submarine. Probably a longer endurance too

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Tempest414 »

I do like the idea of having say 10 x 30m unmanned subs some of these along with 4 more P-8's could re-leave the type 26's from TAPS
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by NickC »

Defiance wrote: 10 Jan 2022, 21:03
if you think an SSK can match an SSN in strategic mobility, or even in the same league
Agree, but with total seven boats and if approximately max 3 to 4 available at any one time? (remember recent comment that only two were available, one with the CSG), with these penny packet numbers the strategic mobility is very, very compromised.

PS Navy Lookout showed history of days at sea over the years by destroyers and frigates in response to a Parliamentary question, anyone know if similar figures available for the subs so as to get a realistic feel for the capability the dockyards can keep SSNs operational, don't think it will be that high a the priority as that will always be Vanguard/Trident nuclear deterrent.

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SW1 »

Have to say I don’t really understand this line of thinking.

The number 1 RN priority that trumps all others is to provide CASD and it’s protection. It’s allegedly why Type 26 costs so much a passive blue water hunter of SSNs yet all that seems to be wanted is some way to remove these assets from the task.

If resourcing that principle task means other more photogenic opportunities need to be done away with so be it.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Repulse »

Tempest414 wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 10:56 I do like the idea of having say 10 x 30m unmanned subs some of these along with 4 more P-8's could re-leave the type 26's from TAPS
I would agree with more P-8s as armed correctly with ASMs they can do both ASW and strengthen the UK's ability to project sea control into the North Atlantic.

I'm also a fan of XLUUVs, and I think for basic ASW surveillance the capability could be there in the next decade. What the UK is lacking though is offensive ASW capability - for this I really think the UK should consider a small armed interim semi-autonomous fleet allowing a small crew to make key offensive decisions.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Defiance »

NickC wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 11:35 Agree, but with total seven boats and if approximately max 3 to 4 available at any one time? (remember recent comment that only two were available, one with the CSG), with these penny packet numbers the strategic mobility is very, very compromised.
It is compromised, I agree, but SSKs don't solve that problem. Especially when the likely result of such a purchase would probably be the SSN force reducing to around 5 boats in the longer term. That'd produce an SSN force that can only cover CASD and CSG roles reliably with a lone SSK chugging around a very limted part of the world. That doesn't sound like a more flexible or capable overall force to me considering the level of investment it would take.

I'm more of the opinion if we want to surge ASW capability, it's probably better done in the medium term through expansion of the P-8 force. It'd be a lot cheaper than SSKs too.

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Repulse »

I've read that traditionally the planning assumption was 3.5 SSNs are needed to ensure 1 deployed SSN on a 100% sustained basis - so the current target fleet of 7 SSNs would give two: CASD/North Atlantic and CSG Escort. I guess with increased use of training simulators, lower maintenance requirements and dual crewing you may get to 1 in 3, but again given technical issues and accidents it is unlikely you'd be able to go lower on a 100% sustained basis.

In the longer term the UK should be aiming to get back to the 11-12 SSN mark - anything more would be unrealistic from a budgetary standpoint and probably could not be supported in terms of crew. If we could get XLUUVs acting as "loyal wingmen" then RN would have another significant global power projection tool.

Having additional SSKs looks attractive based on unit cost, but in reality when you look at the broader support and manufacturing costs and lack of economies of scale it makes no sense.

However, I'd agree on more P-8s in the shorter term - at @£300mn each, the thing is what gives... Feels about the same price as a T31 ;)
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Tempest414 »

what would the cost / safety be in upgrading / reactivating say Torbay and Trenchand to give us a fleet of 9

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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Repulse »

Tempest414 wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 15:58 what would the cost / safety be in upgrading / reactivating say Torbay and Trenchand to give us a fleet of 9
I don't think anyone outside of the MoD/BAE will know and even if they did they would not say, but given previous discussions it's a non starter as they are over 30 years old and there has been well publicized issues with the reliability of the reactor systems.

HMG should have taken the option to build an 8th Astute around the 2010 SDSR, but decided instead to waste money by slowing the build cycles. The public number being bounded around at the time was that to get an 8th would have been an additional £500mn.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by Lord Jim »

We need to revert to the old SSN building schedule where we had two classes in service at any one time. Therefore the SSN(R) should not be a replacement for the Astutes but compliment them, with their production dovetailing right after the Dreadnought class is built. The next class after SSN(R) would actually be the replacement for the Astutes, and the result would be a steady stream of submarines being build for the RN in Barrow.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SD67 »

I think in practice the idea of designing and building at Barrow a type of vessel they haven't built in 40 years, in between Astute, Successor, SSN(R) and whatever we contribute to the RAN is a recipe for disaster. Especially if it's a single class with no followon or exports. If we really wanted SSKs, I'd suggest just get Japan to build them for us as part of some grand AUKUS+ or Tempest+ strategic deal.

In terms of rebuilding the SSN fleet, my understanding is PWR2 was the limiting factor, it was at the end of its development life and difficult to build . Plus lack of skills due to the 10 year gap between Tboats and Aboats. . With PWR3 coming in and steam boilers going out, plus major investments in Barrow costed into Successor, the build efficiency should go up. The 17year olds being recruited now to build successor will be fully trained and approaching their peak years. I reckon that could give us interesting options to grow the fleet in the late 2030s
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by SD67 »

Repulse wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 16:46
Tempest414 wrote: 11 Jan 2022, 15:58 what would the cost / safety be in upgrading / reactivating say Torbay and Trenchand to give us a fleet of 9
HMG should have taken the option to build an 8th Astute around the 2010 SDSR, but decided instead to waste money by slowing the build cycles. The public number being bounded around at the time was that to get an 8th would have been an additional £500mn.
I was there at the time, it was not possible. They didn't have the capacity and Rolls couldn't get the core built. The "slow down of the build" was just formalising a delay that would've happened anyway.
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Re: Royal Navy SSK?

Post by wargame_insomniac »

Thanks - the discussion has helped me understand a bit more about the pros and cons of SSK.

A few people have suggested buying a second batch of P8 aircraft. I can see the merits of that for patrolling home waters and North Atlantic, especially if can be fitted with ASuW missiles. Given the collapse of the civil airline industry due to the Covid Pandemic, presumably now would be a good time to purchase new aircraft as I would imagine Boeing would welcome sales?
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