Monday, April 21, 2008

Belly Dancing - Sub Transport Ultrastealth

No doubt submarine afficionados and others have read this:

HAIFA, Israel, April 17 (Reuters) - Could Israel use submarines against Iran?

But how? ... the submarine is hidden in the belly of a commercial tanker, which delivers it to the Gulf. ... The submarines are a subject of deepest secrecy given speculation that they carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

Such is the plot of an Israeli thriller, 'Undersea Diplomacy'. Does it hold water? Perhaps not. Then again, the author, Shlomo Erell, is no mere novelist.
He's an ex-admiral with experience in Israel's most sensitive military planning.[emphasis added]

...Many analysts believe the Dolphins are Israel's 'second strike' weapons, referring to the Cold War theory that a country can deter foes from launching nuclear attacks by maintaining the ability to retaliate, even after its own territory has been laid waste. A nuclear "platform" out at sea is the best guarantee.

...Targets in Iran might be too numerous and distant for Israel's air force, especially as intermediate Arab states or Turkey would likely refuse overflight rights.

Had you realized the illustration above was created by M.E. and published on this blog back in 2006? - Trojan Transport for AIP Submarines - Cutaway of Amur sub in transport-tender Zephyr al Yemini (a juicy target). The transport vessel features an interior docking well for AIP-sized subs and provides a disguised helipad.

When did the good admiral actually write his novel? (Anyone found the book for sale on Amazon yet?) A lot of press, almost a puff piece for his novel. Can we believe the book's premise (Adm. Erell is mentioned in this, too) , or is it merely idle propaganda intended to intimidate Iran?

Submarines are always silent and strange. In their earliest days, such vessels were of necessity transported by ships, and therefore have been termed boats.



Sunday, April 20, 2008

Unique Surface Talent (Quote of the Week)

Molten Eagle has always held the talented folk of submarine tenders in high regard (and the same for Viet era shop personnel, especially some at the Groton sub base).

The quote of the week is from one of the slickest sub-related site that I have ever seen:

The USS Frank Cable AS 40 is the ONLY in service U.S. submarine tender in the world.

If you think the rarity of sub tenders bodes poorly for a related web site, guess again. Check out TenderTales. When you do, be sure to drag your mouse over the main screen (several times in fact). This site deserves an award, in M.E.'s opinion (no, don't know anyone connected with it, either). Very nice layout and an incredible wealthof information at the ready.

Almost two years ago (May 17, 2006), Vigilis posted Submarines, Always Silent and Stranger Than Fiction at Ultraquiet No More. How did I find this jewel of a web site?

Something in an article from today's (UK) TimesOnline caught my eye:

In 1943 Signalman 3rd class Schwartz, the son of poor Hungarian Jewish immigrants, began the happiest period of his life serving aboard the USS Proteus. He was fascinated by submarines, thanks in part to watching Cary Grant peer through a periscope in Destination Tokyo. .... 'It was hard work, sure, but it didn’t matter . . . because the 15 of us were waiting to be assigned to a submarine,' he wrote in TenderTale, a website devoted to the US Navy submarine tenders.

The article is worth a read. Who is Tony Curtis, 82, besides actress Jamie Lee's dad? An actor best known for Some Like It Hot (1959) with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, but he has had many other great roles.

Once in NYC he was at an adjacent table and gladly gave his autograph to a doll in our group. (At the time I was unaware of Curtis's WWII navy service). Too bad.



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Things Submariners Only Learn Later

If you have been there, you know exactly what I mean. Meanwhile, ever stood a sonar watch? Most of the time, much of the listening was to unidentified biologicals (carpenter fish sound familiar?). Well, we hear much more than that down there and had no idea what the sources really looked like. Now, at least, the still curious will have some very good, if somewhat surprising clues.

Let's observe the marine environment with an underwater camouflage YouTube:


Next, skip the photos and go about half way down this page to the Deep Sounds video. Did you hear the Midshipman Toadfish? The damselfish in my home aquarium never sounded like that.
Was the unknown biological an E.T.? Sure sounded like it.

Not Mediterranean enough for you? Something technical to read: THE SOUNDS OF CETACEANS AND MARINE BIOACOUSTICS.

Now, go here to click on one of the biological and hear its unique underwater sound. You did not see that carpenter fish did you?



Sunday, April 13, 2008

Extrasensory Perception: A Hypothetical Case for Rare Females on Submarines

Did the military ever test you for color blindness? The condition disqualified many from duties in which practical limitations were predictable and potentially grave.

Would any submariner want a color blind Magellan interpreting his boat's navigation charts?

Color blindness is usually considered a disability. In some situations, however, color blind people have advantages over those with normal color vision. Color blind individuals are better at detecting certain camouflages, for instance. In WWII it was discovered that analysis of color aerial photos yielded greater information when at least one analysis team member was color blind. From an evolutionary perspective, hunting groups including a color blind hunter (one in twenty) could probably spot prey others cannot.

Monochromats may have a minor advantage during the first five and a half minutes of dark adaptation. Are you thinking of Rig for Red situations? What about low-light, submarine damage control?

Only two percent of females are color blind (Sewell, 1983) versus eight percent of males since the latter are at greater risk of inheriting an X linked mutation in their single X chromosome.

For a few women it may be possible to have four different types of retinal cones. Such rare women are tetrachromats, since they require a mixture of four spectral lights to match an arbitrary light. This means they may be able to see wavelengths beyond those of a typical human being's eyesight, and may be able to distinguish colors that to a human are identical.

Humans and closely related primates normally have three types of retinal cone cells and are therefore trichromatic. However, at low light intensities rod cells can contribute to color vision, giving a small region of tetrachromacy in color space. One study suggested that 2–3% of the world's women might have the kind of fourth cone that lies between the standard red and green cones, giving, theoretically, a significant increase in color differentiation.[2]

Having a tetrachromatic female on a submarine would impart powers of a nature previously ascribed to such fictional characters as Mr. Spock. My guess is that tetrachromatic females can be seen in full color spectrum only by one another.


Because light behaves differently in water and air, land-adapted human vision is lousy in water. Someone, however, forgot to tell the Moken - gypsies who ply the Burmese archipelago and Thailand's western coast. Moken children, who spend days diving for clams and sea cucumbers, can see twice as much fine detail under-water as European children. While the pupils of the latter expand underwater, in response to the dimness of the light, Moken pupils shrink to their smallest possible diameter, improving acuity underwater. Mokens also use the lenses of their eyes more, squishing them to the limit of human performance.

Does anyone yet have a photo (drawings do not count) of either the hypothetical, tetrochromatic human female, or the shabbily documented (but still unphotographed) Abyssobrotula galatheae? Just a thought.

YouTube for color blind and teratchromatics only (the rest may be disappointed, and 3-D glasses will not help, Mad Dog):

If color blind, what did you see?... Everyone else sees lots of red camouflage.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Submarine Navigation Chart Updated, Yet?

How many U.S. submarines (not to mention those of other nations) have admittedly struck a few of the roughly 30,000 discovered seamounts? Those wondering may browse the bottom half of the preceeding link for a hint of frequency.

Remember the January 8, 2005, submarine tragedy? U.S. nuclear sub runs aground in Pacific 20 crew members injured (Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley was reported dead the following day as a result of severe head injuries).

Much news coverage and more contoversy ensued in submarine blogs over the next year.

Submerged subs must always expect the unexpected. The sea floor is in a perpetual state of unseen flux, sometimes dramatic:

04/08/2008 - Iceland Review - Giant Underwater Volcano Discovered -
... a team of scientists recently discovered a more than 50-square-kilometer volcano off Reykjanes peninsula, southwest Iceland, and expect it to erupt at any time. ... the volcano is at a depth of 1,500 meters. The volcano’s discovery is considered significant because geographers believed it couldn’t exist in that area. 'Such large volcanoes are not located on oceanic ridges. They are always drifting apart and that prevents a volcano from being created. This is why the volcano’s existence came as a surprise,' Höskuldsson said.

How many seamounts, indeed. Submarines hope to steer clear of charted obstacles. Accurate navigation, and updated charts are fundamental for uneventful, underwater travel, when you cannot see where you are going.

Play with sound turned up high...

Submarines are always silent and strange.



Monday, April 07, 2008

Excuse me if the leftmost photo conjures up a certain former shipmate residing in California, who drinks his coffee black and takes his target practice very, very seriously. I will not tell you who he is - that would be obvious from his own frequent and numerous postings of both proficiently used targets and enviable firearms. My guess is either that he was using a 9mm at 75 yards, without his new eyeglasses, or he was shooting at a moving cursor -- otherwise, the shot pattern would have been much tighter.

We both support the right of U.S. citizens (who have not forfeited their rights by convictions in courts of law) to keep and bear arms. By all appearances, the ex-submariner I have in mind, is also a tidy environmentalist. I am sure that he must take care in appropriately disposing spent ammo and obsolete electronic equipment. (Doubly so, if he is married to a wife like mine).
Finally, here is a rather fitting tribute to one John Charles Carter, aka the late, great Charlton Heston.



A Few Submariners in the Thick: Going Around as History Came Around

From 1964 - 1969 - After graduating from Annapolis, John Howard Dalton served in the Navy receiving naval nuclear power training. He served on USS Blueback (SS-581) and USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630). He attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander while in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

December, 1979 - Former submariner President Carter nominated Dalton to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (representing the largest collective source of home mortgage and community credit in the United States), where he served as member and chairman until July 1981.

August 9, 1989 - The Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), was adopted in the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. It established the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to close hundreds of insolvent thrifts and provided funds pay out insurance to their depositors. It also took over the insurance functions of the former Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

1992 - More than 1,000 savings and loan institutions (S&Ls) failed in what economist John Kenneth Galbraith called 'the largest and costliest venture in public misfeasance, malfeasance and larceny of all time.'[1] The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD$160.1 billion, about $124.6 billion of which was directly paid for by the U.S. government -- that is, the U.S. taxpayer. ... Major causes of Savings and Loan crisis according to United States League of Savings Institutions ... Fraud and insider transaction abuses were the principal cause for some 20% of savings and loan failures the past three years and a greater percentage of the dollar losses borne by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC). ... The Lincoln Savings failure led to the Keating five political scandal, in which five U.S. senators were implicated in an influence-peddling scheme named for Charles Keating, head of Lincoln Savings, who made $300,000 political contributions to them. Three of those senators - Alan Cranston, Don Riegle, and Dennis DeConcini - found their political careers cut short as a result. Two others - John Glenn and John McCain (whose dad was a submarine officer) - were rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for exercising "poor judgment" for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating. [11]John McCain, candidate in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, was the only Republican implicated in the Keating Five scandal.

July, 1993 - November, 1998 - John H. Dalton served Bill Clinton as Secretary of the Navy.
July 23, 1994 - The New York Times - Navy Chief Settles Old Debt, $17,900, to Savings and Loan Bailout Agency - John H. Dalton, the Secretary of the Navy, settled an old debt to the agency overseeing the savings and loan bailouts by paying the Federal Government about $17,900 last week, a Navy spokesman said today. ... Mr. Dalton denied in the settlement agreement and again today to the Associated Press that he had acted improperly during his tenure as president and chairman of Seguin. But Seguin's insurance company paid $3.8 million last year to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to settle the civil claims against Mr. Dalton and other officers of Seguin.

Does any of the foregoing sound familiar? Which politicians and submariners will be snared in the latest Home Loan crisis?

Feb. 19, 2008 - - How Bad Will the Mortgage Crisis Get? - Home prices fell about 6% in 2007 and are expected to tumble another 15% in 2008, 10% in 2009 and 5% in 2010. Unemployment, which climbed to its highest level in two years in December at 5%, will hit 5.8% by year end and 6% in 2009, predicts Merrill Lynch economist Kathy Bostjancic.



Saturday, April 05, 2008

In Plain Sight

Given ample time, games of hiding assume the best locations are least expected. Plain sight often satisfies when daunting enough for any number of excellent reasons.

As scheduled, submarine tender USS EMORY S. LAND (AS 39) is now one of 30 Military Sealift Command ships in the Special Mission Ships Program.

Curiously, however, this Military Sealift Command ship is still commanded by a Navy Captain.

Federal government employees who work and sail on government-owned Military Sealift Command ships known as civil service mariners or CIVMARs are responsible for navigation, deck, engineering, galley and steward services and communications and supply functions.

Capt. Jeffrey M. Hughes assumed command of USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) during a change of command ceremony in 2006. As of October 2007, the AS-39 had a crew of about 97 officers and 1,266 enlisted. Final numbers shown in the prior link for FY2010, are only 160 CIVMARs and 292 uniformed Navy personnel -- a move that appears to eliminate 911 (70%) of the Navy sailors while availing CIVMAR efficiencies.

Here the Navy explains what its two, commissioned sub tenders did in 2007. The other tender is the USS Frank Cable (AS-40) in Apra Harbor. Sub tenders rarely log long voyages. I bet those deck, galley, steward, and supply civilians get some awesome background clearances. Why?

This YouTube will help you recall a certain cook, for example:

Igor Loginov, the Cook from The Hunt for Red October...

Where have you heard of Lt. Emory Land before? His 1913 words were quoted recently.



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reminders for Fading, U.S. Submarine Strategists

In the early days of submarining, when five C Boats had barely become capable of escorted navigation beyond U.S. shores, Lieutenant Emory S. Land stated (12 January 1914):

There can be no doubt that for submarine engines none of the types that have been created till now are entirely suitable.

- Building American Submarines, 1914-1940 By Gary E. Weir, Dean C. Allard

Although Land's critical, engine observation was eventually resolved, the submarines fatal weakness (Achilles Heel) merely transitioned, first to snorkels then to nuclear power.

During submarine school we were reminded that despite the awesome power of nuclear subs, there would always be a stubborn Achilles Heel --- the requirement of crews to replenish stores (to eat). Otherwise, subs could be isolated far longer, lurking anywhere. This problem has either been covertly overcome by submarine motherships, or could be when necessary.

Again, however, the nuclear submarines' Achilles Heel paradigm shifts. Mouth of the South, Ted Turner (not a submariner) predicts:

If steps aren't taken to stem global warming, 'We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow,' Turner said during a wide-ranging, hour-long interview with PBS's Charlie Rose that aired Tuesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 04/03/08.

Another way to interpret the Mouth of the South is merely a variation on what had been stated earlier in submarine school: In the unlikely event Turner's prediction came to pass, submariners would certainly not be replenished -- no more food to eat, no submarines.

Then, Turner goes native with a more dire prediction:

'Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals,' said Turner, 69. 'Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable.' ... Right now, the U.S. is spending $500 billion a year on the military, which is more than all 190 countries in the world put together,' he said. Ted Turner: Global warming could lead to cannibalism, [ibid], [emphasis added].

Is Ted Turner the only soul predicting the breakdown of civil order? Today, gloom and doom prophecy is fairly common. M.E. had this to say, about rising temperatures and cannibalism in 2005.

But, others are more serious about the submarine's Achilles Heel, it is an easy budgetary target:

New London, CT -, Apr 3, 2008 - Annual Pig Book Finds Funding For Submarine Helped Boost Pork-Barrel Spending In Connecticut - ... the Pig Book cited the defense budget ... $588 million to accelerate construction of a second Virginia-class submarine.

Washington DC - Asia America Initiative, October 24, 2006 - China In Focus - Number 14 : China Targets America's 'Acupuncture Points' :

The danger of the dollar collapsing is intensified by the mounting US current account deficit, which sky-rocketed to $900 billion at an annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2005. ... We have seen what China can do. How can Russia or Iran, in turn, cause a dollar downfall? ... The two biggest oil and gas producers, in cooperation, say, with Iran, could control oil production and sales to keep the price of oil relatively high, destabilizing the international economy.

This is another awesome prospect from the same fellow:

Aircraft carrier battle groups are the mainstay of US military and protect commerce supremacy which is primarily through ocean-transit. They serve as America’s chief instrument for global power projection and world dominance. In this capability, the US has no equal. At the moment, the US maintains a total of 12 aircraft carrier battle groups. In comparison, China has none. However, China’s strategy in defeating the superior by the inferior is shashaojian or the 'assassin’s mace'. 'Mace' is not only a blinding spray; it is also a meaner and deadlier weapon, a spiked war club of ancienttimes used to knock out an adversary with one blow. The spikes of the modern Chinese mace may well spell the end for aircraft carriers. The first of these spikes consists of medium- and short-range ballistic missiles (modified and improved DF 21s/CSS-5 and DF 15s) with terminally guided maneuverable re-entry vehicles with circular error probability of 10 meters. DF 21s/CSS-5s can hit slow-moving targets at sea up to 2,500km away.

The long and short of the modern, nuclear submarine's Achilles Heel continues to be multi-billion dollar copying cost. Should the U.S. ever follow Ted Turner's opinion on military spending, however, those few of us who understand the submarine's role will not be sleeping as well.