Quotulatiousness

August 17, 2013

Delays in India’s submarine program

Filed under: India, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:21

In the Times of India, Rajat Pandit reviews the state of the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet:

Is India’s aging fleet of conventional submarines threatening to go the MiG-21 way? The Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), already 30 years in the making, was slated to replace the obsolete MiG-21 in the 1990s but is still at least two years away from becoming fully-operational.

Similarly, the Navy too was to induct 12 new diesel-electric submarines by last year, with another dozen to follow in the 2012-2030 timeframe. This was the 30-year submarine building plan approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) way back in July, 1999. But the Navy has not inducted even one of the 24 planned submarines till now, and is forced to soldier on with just 14 aging conventional vessels.

“The Navy is steadily modernizing in the surface warship and aircraft arenas. But our aging and depleting underwater combat arm is a big worry. But it also must be kept in mind that INS Sindhurakshak‘s accident is the first such incident we have had in over four decades of operating submarines,” said a senior officer.

Sources said INS Sindhurakshak, after Wednesday’s accident, is “a clear write-off”. Of the 13 submarines left now, as many as 11 are over 20 years old. The setback comes when China and Pakistan are systematically bolstering their underwater combat capabilities, with the former being armed with over 55 submarines.

Update: MarineLink reports on the investigation into the INS Sindhurakshak explosion.

The Indian Navy diving teams have been working nonstop to reach into the compartments of the submarine since rescue operations commenced early noon of August 14. The boiling waters inside the submarine prevented any entry until noon that day. Access to the inner compartments of the submarine was made almost impossible due to jammed doors and hatches, distorted ladders, oily and muddy waters inside the submerged submarine resulting in total darkness and nil visibility within the submarine even with high power underwater lamps. Distorted and twisted metal within very restricted space due extensive internal damage caused by the explosion further worsened conditions for the divers. This resulted in very slow and labored progress. Only one diver could work at a time to clear the path to gain access. After 36 hours of continuous diving effort in these conditions, Navy divers have finally reached the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours of August 16.

Three bodies have been located and extricated from the submarine from this compartment. The bodies are severely disfigured and not identifiable due to severe burns. The bodies have been sent to INHS Asvini, the naval hospital, for possible DNA identification which is likely to take some more time.

The state of these two bodies and conditions within the submarine leads to firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely.

February 1, 2013

USS Guardian to be dismantled in place after grounding on coral reef

Filed under: Environment, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The US Navy has decided that the best course of action is to break up the minesweeper USS Guardian after it ran solidly aground on a coral reef in the Sulu Sea:

USS Guardian aground in the Sulu Sea January 2013

“We’re working very closely with the Philippine coast guard, with their navy and their government personnel. We’ve been grateful for their support as we all work together to remove Guardian and minimize further damage to the reef,” James said.

It’s expected to take over a month to dismantle the Guardian, which ran aground before dawn on Jan. 17.

Crews have already removed 15,000 gallons of fuel from the ship. They’ve also taken off hundreds of gallons of lubricating oil and paint. They’ll be removing human wastewater and other materials that could harm the environment, James said.

The U.S. Navy is hiring floating cranes to help with the removal. A contractor in Singapore is sending the cranes, which should arrive on site in a few days.

The Navy originally said the Guardian would be lifted by crane onto a barge and taken to a shipyard. But now the Navy says the ship is “beyond economical repair.”

No one was injured when the ship ran aground at the reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park. The park is a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, about 400 miles southwest of Manila.

Update, 8 February: A bit more information about the salvage operations which are supposed to have started on February 4th.

May 19, 2012

Salvage operation on Costa Concordia to cost more than £200 million

Filed under: Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:45

The Telegraph headline says £200 million, but the scrap value of the vessel must be much lower than that:

The operation is due to start in the next few days and is expected to take a year, with the battered ship to be towed to an Italian port in one piece and then dismantled for scrap.

“This is the largest ship removal by weight in history,” said Richard Habib, the president of Titan Salvage, the American company that has been given the job of raising the 1,000ft-long, 114,500 tonne cruise liner.

“The magnitude of the job is unprecedented. But we feel confident that we can do it and do it safely, with the least disturbance to the environment and the economy of Giglio.” The Concordia has been wedged on rocks and semi-submerged just a few yards from the coast of Giglio, an island off Tuscany, ever since it ran aground on the night of Jan 13.

[. . .]

The two companies’ plan for removing the wreck involves extracting the huge chunk of rock embedded in its side and patching up the torn hull.

Engineers and divers will then construct an underwater platform beneath the ship.

They will also fix steel compartments or ‘caissons’ to the side of the ship that is out of the water.

Two cranes will slowly pull the ship upright so that it rests on the submerged platform.

The caissons will be filled with water to help the cranes lift the massive weight of the ship.

Once the vessel is upright, more chambers will be attached to the other side of the hull.

All the caissons will then be emptied of water and filled with air, which will stabilise the ship in preparation for it being towed to a nearby port for demolition.

February 29, 2012

The US Navy’s mirror-image cost problems with aircraft carriers

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:51

Strategy Page talks about the ever-rising cost of building aircraft carriers:

The first of the new Ford class aircraft carriers keeps getting more expensive. The price for the first one has gone up $161 million in the last ten months. The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) was originally supposed to cost $8 billion, plus $5 billion for R&D (research and development of new technology and features unique to this class of ships). Now it appears that the cost of the Ford will not be $13 billion, but closer to $15 billion. The second and third ships of the class will cost less (construction plus some additional R&D). Thus the first three ships of the Ford class will cost a total of about $40 billion.

The current Nimitz-class carriers cost about half as much as the Fords. Both classes also require an air wing (48-50 fighters, plus airborne early-warning planes, electronic warfare aircraft, and anti-submarine helicopters), which costs another $3.5 billion. Three years ago, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), the last of the Nimitz class carriers, successfully completed its sea trails and was accepted by the U.S. Navy. The Bush was ready for its first deployment in 2010.

At those costs, it should be no surprise that few other navies operate carriers at all, and none operate the size of carrier that the US Navy does. Build costs are rising rapidly, and although the Ford class will carry significantly fewer crew members, they’ll still be very expensive to operate.

The costs don’t end there, however, as all warships have limited lifespans. Disposal of the retired ships is another area where costs are headed ever higher:

Last year, the U.S. Navy decided to go back to the breakers (where ships are broken up for scrap). Four retired aircraft carriers (USS Constellation, USS Forrestal, USS Independence and USS Saratoga) were to be scrapped instead of sunk, or simply allowed to rust away while tied up. These ships were taken out of service between 1993 and 2003 and have been waiting since then while a decision was made on their disposition. But there are seven carriers waiting to be scrapped and the navy has an economic disaster on its hands. Keeping carriers in reserve costs $100,000 a year, but it can cost over a billion dollars to scrap one of them.

Since the 1990s, sending warships to the scrap yard has not been considered a viable alternative. It’s all about pollution, bad press and cost. The largest warship to be scrapped, the 45,000 ton carrier USS Coral Sea, took until 2000 (seven years) to be broken up. Thus the process is not only expensive, it takes a long time. Then the navy discovered that the cost of scrapping the carrier USS Enterprise would be close to a billion dollars. This was largely the result of lots more environmental and safety regulations. With so many navy ships (especially nuclear subs) being broken up in the 1990s, and all these new regulations arriving, the cost of disposing of these ships skyrocketed. This was especially true with carriers.

[. . .]

It gets worse. With the really vast number of single hull tankers being scrapped and large numbers of old, smaller-capacity container ships laid up and likely to be offered for scrap fairly soon, the market for difficult-to-scrap naval ships is going to shrivel, and the price for scrap steel will drop. Efforts to get the navy include the costs of disposal in the budget for lifetime costs has never caught on, and now it’s obvious why not. The real nightmare begins in 2013, when the first nuclear powered carrier (the 93,000 ton USS Enterprise) is to be decommissioned. The cost of dismantling this ship (and disposing of radioactive components) will be close to $2 billion.

January 23, 2012

Raising the wreck of the earlier HMS Victory

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

The famous British warship HMS Victory preserved in Portsmouth was built to replace an earlier ship lost in a storm in 1744:

The remains of a 300-year-old warship are to be raised from the sea bed, according to reports.

The wreck of HMS Victory, a predecessor of Nelson’s famous flagship, was found near the Channel Islands in 2008.

The British warship, which went down in a storm in 1744 killing more than 1,000 sailors, could contain gold coins worth an estimated £500m.

The Sunday Times says the Maritime Heritage Foundation is set to manage the wreck’s raising.

It also reports that the charity will employ Odyssey Marine Exploration to carry out the recovery.

The American company found the ship four years ago, with the ship’s identity confirmed by a bronze cannon.

October 31, 2011

Shipwrecks: salvage or preserve?

Filed under: Environment, History, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:26

An article at the BBC website looks at some of the issues involving shipwrecks in international waters:

When a ship sinks and lives are lost, it is a tragedy for the families involved.

For the relatives of the dead, the ship becomes an underwater grave but as the years pass the wreck can become a site of archaeological interest.

In recent years technological innovations have allowed commercial archaeologists, decried by some as “treasure hunters”, to reach wrecks far below the surface.

[. . .]

In November 2001, the Unesco Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage was finally adopted.

But 10 years on, it still has not been ratified by the UK, France, Russia, China or the US, and commercial archaeologists continue to locate wrecks, remove their cargoes and sell them off.

“The convention has not been ratified yet because of the issues it throws up about the cost of implementing and policing it,” a spokesman for the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, says. “Discussions continue within government, but ratification is not currently seen as a priority.”

It’s telling that the convention has not been ratified by five of the nations most likely to have both the technology and the interest to take on major underwater archaeological or salvage projects.

Robert Yorke, chairman of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee, argues the real reason the government, and the Ministry of Defence in particular, are not ratifying the convention was becayse of a misplaced fear about the implications for British warships around the world.

The internationally recognised concept of “sovereign immunity” means nations should not interfere with foreign warships.

Under the Military Remains Act 1986, a number of British warships around the world are protected, including several ships sunk during the Falklands conflict. Also covered are several German U-boats in UK waters.

October 23, 2011

DARPA’s new project: space vampires

Filed under: Military, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:04

Yep. DARPA is hoping to release “swarming robot space vampires”* in geosynchronous orbit:

More than $300 billion worth of satellites are estimated to be in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO—22,000 miles above the earth). Many of these satellites have been retired due to normal end of useful life, obsolescence or failure; yet many still have valuable components, such as antennas, that could last much longer than the life of the satellite. When satellites in GEO “retire,” they are put into a GEO disposal or “graveyard” orbit. That graveyard potentially holds tens to more than a hundred retired satellites that have components that could be repurposed — with the willing knowledge and sanction of the satellite’s owner. Today, DoD deploys new, replacement satellites at high cost — one of the primary drivers of the high cost is the launch costs, which is dependent on the weight and volume of antennas. The repurposing of existing, retired antennas from the graveyard represents a potential for significant cost savings.

DARPA’s Phoenix program seeks to develop technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. “If this program is successful, space debris becomes space resource,” said DARPA Director, Regina E. Dugan.

[. . .]

“Satellites in GEO are not designed to be disassembled or repaired, so it’s not a matter of simply removing some nuts and bolts,” said David Barnhart, DARPA program manager. “This requires new remote imaging and robotics technology and special tools to grip, cut, and modify complex systems, since existing joints are usually molded or welded. Another challenge is developing new remote operating procedures to hold two parts together so a third robotic ‘hand’ can join them with a third part, such as a fastener, all in zero gravity. For a person operating such robotics, the complexity is similar to trying to assemble via remote control multiple Legos at the same time while looking through a telescope.”

* “Swarming robot space vampires”, courtesy of jwz.org.

September 22, 2011

BT is worth negative £30bn

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:11

The British telecoms firm is actually worth much less than the scrap value of its copper wire network:

British Telecom is, as a telecoms company, worth minus £30bn. Yes, that’s a negative number there. And yet it is literally sitting on top of billions in assets.

[. . .]

Ten pairs of copper cabling weighs around 132kg per mile. Which by the miracle of multiplication can be seen to be about 10 million tonnes of copper. Which, at current LME prices of just over £5,000 a tonne, is £50bn.

BT’s current market capitalisation is just north of £20bn. So, as an operating telecoms company they’re worth £30bn less than the mountain of copper they’re sitting upon: that is, they’re worth less than the physical assets or they have, as a telecoms company not a mountain of scrap copper, a negative value.

September 5, 2011

How the wreck of a ship-of-the-line led to the Mary Rose

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:41

The bottom of the Solent must be carpeted with shipwrecks:

According to naval historian Dr John Bevan, the largely forgotten flagship, which sank in the Solent at Spithead in August 1782, helped divers to locate the wreckage of the Mary Rose in the 1830s — a full 150 years before the stricken vessel was raised from the seabed.

More than 900 people died when the Royal George sank, including 300 women and 60 children who were visiting the ship which was due to head for Gibraltar with HMS Victory.

It was the biggest loss of life in British waters.

The 100-gun battleship had been heeled on to its side for repairs to be carried out on its sea cock — a valve on the hull — when it began to take in water though its open gun ports. It capsized and sank.

“For weeks after the tragedy, bodies washed ashore at Southsea, Gosport and Ryde and were buried in mass graves along the seafront,” said Royal Marines Museum historian Stuart Haven.

The Royal George remained in shallow water just beyond the entrance to Portsmouth harbour for many years, “her masts standing above the water a macabre reminder of the tragedy,” Mr Haven said.

Some 50 years later the pioneering divers Charles and John Deane tried to recover the battleship, which had become a hazard to other vessels.

Between 1834-36 the brothers undertook a series of dives.

April 19, 2011

The “super-organism” that is eating the Titanic

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:17

This is absolutely fascinating:

In 2000, Roy Cullimore, a microbial ecologist and Charles Pellegrino, scientist and author of Ghosts of the Titanic discovered that the Titanic — which sank in the Atlantic Ocean 97 years ago — was being devoured by a monster microbial industrial complex of extremophiles as alien we might expect to find on Jupiter’s ocean-bound Europa. What they discovered is the largest, strangest cooperative microorganism on Earth.

Scientists believe that this strange super-organism is using a common microbial language that could be either chemical or electrical — a phenomenon called “quorum sensing” by which whole communities “sense” each other’s presence and activities aiding and abetting the organization, cooperation, and growth.

The microbes are consuming the wreck’s metal, creating mats of rust bigger than a dozen four-story brownstones that are creeping slowly along the hull harvesting iron from the rivets and burrowing into layers of steel plating. The creatures also leave behind “rusticles,” 30-foot icicle-like deposits of rust dangling from the sides of the ship’s bow. Structurally, rusticles contain channels to allow water to flow through, and they seem to be built up in a ring structure similar to the growth rings of a tree. They are very delicate and can easily disintegrate into fine powder on even the slightest touch.

April 9, 2011

Rare WW2 German bomber discovered off British coast

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:32

What may be the only intact example of the German Dornier 17 bomber has been discovered in the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent:

The plane came to rest upside-down in 50 feet of water and has become partially visible from time to time as the sands retreated before being buried again.


Image from Reuters

Now a high-tech sonar survey undertaken by the Port of London Authority (PLA) has revealed the aircraft to be in a startling state of preservation.

[. . .]

Known as “the flying pencil,” the Dornier 17 was designed as a passenger plane in 1934 and was later converted for military use as a fast bomber, difficult to hit and theoretically able to outpace enemy fighter aircraft.

In all, some 1,700 were produced but they struggled in the war with a limited range and bomb load capability and many were scrapped afterwards.

Striking high-resolution images appear to show that the Goodwin Sands plane suffered only minor damage, to its forward cockpit and observation windows, on impact.

“The bomb bay doors were open, suggesting the crew jettisoned their cargo,” said PLA spokesman Martin Garside.

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

July 29, 2009

Another lost WW2 combat aircraft discovered

Filed under: History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 20:28

This time it’s a US Navy carrier plane:

On May 28, 1945, the SB2C-4 Helldiver was on a practice bombing run from a nearby aircraft carrier. The crew members survived the emergency landing.

At the time, the Navy opted not to recover the plane.

Yesterday, Raia said she couldn’t comment on how long it will take Navy officials to decide whether to salvage the plane. Typically, the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., plays a major role in the evaluation process.

One of the pilots is believed to be 90 years old and living in Michigan, but the Navy hasn’t provided his name.

“Wouldn’t that be something to fly him out here and have him standing on the shoreline when they lift the plane out?” Manville said.

That’d be cool . . . as long as they don’t make him pay for the recovery of the plane.

July 26, 2009

I’ll take his word for it

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:14

. . . but it looks like a random collection of bits to me:

Fairey_Swordfish_wreck

It may not look like much to the untrained eye, but to those of us who are Warbird afficionados, it is incredibly complete. There have been rebuilds to fly from wrecks recently dragged out of the Russian wilderness which were found in worse condition that this.

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