J-1 British submarine class

The British J’ Class submarines were designed for greater endurance than any previous class and were equipped with long-range wireless sets. They were intended to operate as fleet scouts penetrating enemy waters and reporting ship movements. Despite their promise they saw little action in the First World War.

The British ‘J’ Class submarines had three-shaft diesel/electric engines which produced 3600 bhp/1400 hp. This gave them a surface running speed of 19 knots and a submerged speed of 9.5 knots-the fastest submarine class in the world at that time. The bulk of the vessels were presented to the Royal Australian Navy in March 1919.

The ‘J’ Class were double-hull submarines developed from the ‘G’ Class but some 500 tons larger in order to accommodate a heavier machinery plant for high speed. They were designed primarily to counter the incorrectly reported construction by Germany of 18-knot submarines and as. at the time, the diesel engine had reached its limit in size they were provided with three 1200-hp Vickers 12-cylinder diesels instead of the more usual two.

Their designed surface speed was 19.5 knots and at the time of their completion during 1916-17 they were the fastest submarines in the world. It was hoped that this high speed would enable them to operate with the main fleet but they were never so employed which, considering the later experience with the ‘K’ Class, was fortunate. They also had high endurance (6400 km [4000 miles] at 12 knots) and were equipped with long-range wireless for reconnaissance in enemy waters. As completed the casing was stopped short of the bow but several had this extended forward while the gun, originally mounted on the casing, was moved to a platform in front of the conning tower.

During World War I they served in the North Sea. The J – 6 was sunk in error off Blyth by the Q-ship Cymric on 15 October 1918. The remaining British boats were transferred to Australia in 1919. All the Australia boats were sold for scrap between 1924 and 1929.

J-1 (6 November 1915), J-2 (6 November 1915 Builder: Portsmouth DY

J-3 (4 December 1915), J-4 (2 February 1916) Builder: Pembroke

J-5 (9 September 1915), J-6 (9 September 1915), [Australia] J-7 (21 February 1917) Builder: Devonport

Displacement: 1204 tons (surfaced), 1820 tons (submerged)

Dimensions: 275’6” x 23’0” x 14’0”

Machinery: 3 Vickers diesel engines, 3 electric motors, 3 shafts. 3600 bhp/1350 shp = 19.5/9.5 knots

Range: 5000 nm at 12.5 knots surfaced; submerged characteristics unknown

Armament: 6 x 18” torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 beam), total 12 torpedoes, 1 x 12-pounder gun, 1 x 30 AA gun

Complement: 44

J-1 British submarine class

 

 

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The PBR Story

A Uniflight pleasure craft and a PBR steam side by side. Both boats shared the same 31-foot fiberglass hull and were constructed in Bellingham, Washington. The PBR typified the ability of American manufacturers of the period to quickly develop specialized equipment for the military based on off – the- shelf technology.

This late-model Mark I boat (PBR-130) on the trailer features four finned underwater exhaust pipes for quiet running and two water jet nozzles with gates, shown here in the up position for forward motion. If they were in the down position, covering the nozzle discharge opening, the closed gate would cause water to shoot under the boat, resulting in reversing the boat’s motion.

The PBR’s life began at Hatteras Yacht Company in New Bern, North Carolina, in the spring 1965. Responding to a request for a 30-foot patrol boat, Hatteras’ president, Willis Slane, proposed a 28-foot fiberglass hull powered by water-jet pumps. Water jets would allow the new boat to operate in extremely shallow water. Enthusiastic about the proposal, the Bureau of Ships asked for a prototype. Slane, who had flown transports over the Hump for the Army Air Forces during World War II, gave it his all. Working 24-hour days, his team of builders and suppliers produced a working prototype in just two weeks. Powered by jet pumps manufactured by Indiana Gear Works and fitted with a wooden deck and a speedboat style windshield, the boat achieved speeds of up to 30.5 knots. Sadly, Mr. Slane did not live to see his creation showcased. The night before the demonstration, he died of a heart attack. Sarah Phillips, a long-time employee, had warned her boss to slow down, but Slane, who suffered from diabetes, ignored these warnings, ultimately working himself to death to transform his vision into a working prototype.

Impressed with his boat, the Navy asked for bids for a patrol boat similar to Slane’s beloved prototype. The boats had to achieve speeds of 25 to 30 knots, draw just nine inches of water while cruising, and accommodate a crew of four along with extensive equipment and weaponry, including a twin .50-caliber machine gun in an armored turret forward and a .30-caliber gun (later replaced by a .50-caliber) aft. Making matters even more challenging for the vender, the Navy requested 120 boats in less than six months. United Boatbuilders of Bellingham, Washington, won the contract with the lowest bid. Unlike Hatteras, which was primarily a builder of recreational boats, United had extensive experience working with the Navy, having previously built boats ranging from 15 to 52 feet under Navy contract. The eventual Mark I design incorporated United’s 31-foot fiberglass cruiser hull along with a completely new, Navy-designed superstructure. Twin General Motors’ 216-horsepower diesel engines powered the boat’s water-jet propulsion system, and Raytheon Pathfinder 1900N radar provided enhanced navigation and target acquisition capability. Fully loaded, the boat weighed 14,600 pounds and could reach speeds of up to 25.7 knots—slower than the Hatteras prototype but within the Navy’s specifications for a 25–30-knot boat. The original boats cost $75,000 each ($547,000 in 2014 dollars).

The beauty of the PBR design was its innovative application of off-the-shelf technology to a military role. The commercially manufactured Styrofoam-filled fiberglass hull, for example, would prove remarkably durable in combat. Unlike metal, it did not rust or corrode and was strong enough to withstand beaching. It was also relatively easy to repair. But most remarkable, shaped warheads often failed to trigger on the hulls: lacking a solid target to detonate, they tended to penetrate and exit the boat’s hull without exploding.

The PBR’s jet propulsion system allowed the boat to travel on virtually any waterway in the delta and perform maneuvers impossible for the traditional, propeller-driven boats. A PBR could run over a sandbar or beach itself on dry land without damaging the propulsion system and could stop or turn 180 degrees in its own length. Lieutenant Peter A. Huchthausen, a PBR officer in charge based in My Tho, developed a begrudging respect for the boat’s newfangled capabilities during training at Mare Island, California. “A PBR handled so well at high-speed that the slightest touch of the helm caused immediate and violent reaction. At slow speeds it was an obstinate beast. Successfully handling the PBR at lower speeds required the coxswain to turn the helm exactly the opposite than would be done on a normal boat because of the reverse effect of the nozzles.&helllip; Nevertheless, the ardent small-craft handler could learn in short order to set these bundles of energy smartly alongside a pier, even against the strong river current.” One of Seaman Jerry Hammel’s favorite tricks to play with his PBR was to spin it around on a single axis like a top. “You could hurt somebody if you did not tell them ahead of time what you were going to do. You could throw them off the boat.”

The PBR, though, was not immune to problems. Fully loaded, the Mark I PBR ultimately drew one foot 10.5 inches of water—far more than the nine inches planners had originally requested. The Mark I boats deployed to Vietnam never attained the trial speed of 25 knots. The GM engines, almost uniformly, could not reach speeds greater than 2600–2650rpm (rotations per minute) compared with the trial speed of 2700rpm. Many crews exacerbated the problem by carrying extra engine oil, water, and ammunition. “The boats were way slower than advertised,” lamented Fred McDavitt. “If a crew added a couple extra boxes of .50-cal ammo or carried the patrol officer and/or a Vietnamese policeman, the boat could barely achieve speeds above 12 knots.” At the heart of the PBR’s shortfalls were the Jacuzzi pumps, which greatly reduced the efficiency of the GM engines—so much so that with screws instead of water jets, one Uniflight representative told Fred McDavitt, the boat probably would have achieved speeds in excess of 40 knots.

To make the boats lighter, some crews removed engine covers and other unessential equipment. BM1 Williams often went out on patrol with just three-quarters of a tank of fuel and a minimum ammunition load, figuring that if his boat got into a real jam, the HAL-3 Seawolves could back him up with their helicopters’ extra firepower. Engineman Fireman (ENFN) Clem Alderson, a young River Section 531 sailor from Washington State, increased the maximum speed of Williams’ 105 boat and several others to 30 knots by shimming the governors of the engines so they could run as high as 3,200rpm as opposed to the 2,800 maximum rate set by the factory. Alderson also grafted triangular shaped wedges to the underside of the hull about three quarters of the way aft so that at about 12 knots the boats would “jump” up on the step and achieve speeds up to 25 knots. “Alderson had a surgeon’s touch,” explained McDavitt, “but no matter how fast your PBR could go, it couldn’t outrun a bullet. Speed, such as it was at 30 knots, provided a false sense of security.”

Other problems with the Mark I models included drive shafts that did not stand up well to the rigors of Southeast Asia and fiberglass hulls that were easily damaged during sampan and junk searches. 56 The hulls also developed leaks from pinhole cracks, as well as bullet holes, which caused water to seep into the Styrofoam between the fiberglass layers and slow the boats down. To rectify the problem, the boats had to be removed from the water and quarter-inch holes drilled in the keel to allow the water to drain. These holes, in turn, had to be patched with fiberglass.

Finally, just about every PBR crew complained about the constant need to clean clogged jet pump intakes. The screen over the intake had sharp blades, which cut up most of the water hyacinth and other plants before they entered the pumps, but what little got through this filter could wreak havoc on the propulsion system. When an intake clogged during a high-speed run, the PBR would make an unexpected U-turn known as a “flying 180,” occasionally sending equipment and crewmembers tumbling off the boat. To prevent such mishaps, boat captains had their crews clean the intakes once or twice per patrol, depending on the amount of flotsam on the river. Seaman Jere Beery vividly remembered the unpleasant duty: “The intakes are on the bottom of the PBR and I would have to strip naked, jump in, go underneath the boat, and clean them.” On occasion, a live snake would be caught in an intake. According to Lieutenant Robert P. Fuscaldo, “some of those snakes were pretty angry. We used to try and lift the cover off the pumps and push them out with a broom handle, but sometimes that didn’t work and you had to go underneath and pull them out, so it was interesting.”

Despite these issues, the boat generally performed better than expected given how hastily they were procured. As one Naval Ship Systems Command report explained, the PBR “was not built to current U.S. Navy standards,” nor was it subjected to an “adequate test and evaluation period.” Not surprisingly, a few bugs arose once it deployed in combat, but most were resolved expeditiously in theater. Author Tom Cutler, a veteran of the riverine forces, phrased it more eloquently: “Born in an atmosphere of urgency and tested under actual combat conditions, the PBR could have been a disaster. Instead, it proved to be a fierce little combatant that accomplished its mission.” More than anything else, the PBR demonstrated that off-the-shelf technology could be adapted for military use when circumstances demanded it.

In the blue-water oriented Navy of the Cold War, the PBR was a unique vessel in other ways as well. In contrast to the average Essex-class carrier of the period, with a crew of more than 2,600 men, the average PBR carried just four men: a boat captain, an engineman, a gunner’s mate, and a seaman. Initially, boat captains were junior officers and chief petty officers, but as the war progressed, a select group of first- and second-class petty officers also was given the opportunity to command these boats. In no other Navy command or ship were enlisted sailors given so much responsibility. Every crewmember cross-trained to perform every role on the boat, and during combat everyone was a gunner. For enlisted men accustomed to performing highly specialized work on large ships, the jack-of-all-trades nature of the PBR experience made them feel like sailors of yesteryear, and the danger of the rivers led many to think of themselves as a an elite group—a status unofficially conferred by the black berets they adopted as part of their uniform. “It was a unique experience to be on a 31-foot boat in the middle of a country where everyone wanted to kill you,” recalled Jere Beery. “You really develop a since of camaraderie.” Beery’s African-American shipmate, Seaman Harold Sherman, claimed many years later that it was the only assignment in his entire Navy career where he did not experience some form of racism.63 McDavitt agreed that PBR service was unique but challenged its “elite” status. “A lot of people ended up in riverine warfare who had been ‘volunteered’ from other commands,” he said. “We were no different from any other ship in the Navy.”

Patrols lasted up to 18 hours and covered distances of up to 35 miles from a base. For chow, sailors subsisted mainly on canned rations heated on the engine manifolds. To liven up the menu, some crews purchased kerosene camp stoves to prepare seafood and vegetables purchased from the locals. Eating Vietnamese food, however, was not without risk. Bacteria on unwashed produce could easily send a sailor running to the stern of the boat to defecate. Signalman 2nd Class Roderick Davis of River Section 512 described this act, known as “hanging ten,” as practically an Olympic event. “One had to step over the transom, drop trou, squat down on the flat stern board, hold on while hanging out, and finally, wipe while holding on precariously with one hand. Thence step back inboard. It took courage, skill, and balance and you could get points at the end of the exercise for a good dismount.” For the PBR sailor, privacy was the first casualty of war.

PBRs generally patrolled in two-boat sections. The main mission of the patrols during the day was inspecting river craft for contraband and checking IDs. One PBR would approach a contact at an angle, which allowed all weapons to concentrate on the target, and the crew would conduct the search while the other PBR stood at a distance to provide cover. All searches were to be conducted midstream as far from the shoreline as possible. Between 2100 and 0600, the patrols enforced night curfews and on occasion ambushed Viet Cong river crossings. Interdiction, in short, was the major objective of Task Force 116. The February 1966 Game Warden Operation Order stated that PBRs would not participate in shore assaults with the VNN River Force, nor would they normally conduct patrols in waterways and canals off the major rivers. If ambushed from the shore, the operation order advised PBRs to make a speedy withdrawal. “River Patrol Force Boats,” it noted, “are not designed, armed, or armored to stand and fight against superior firepower in the manner of VNN RAG craft.” Air strikes or artillery support could always be called in against the target following a tactical withdrawal.

The initial rules of engagement as promulgated in the February 1966 operation order allowed PBRs to stop any South Vietnam-flagged vessel (or one with no flag) to demand identification or search the vessel. Since PBRs did not have time to search every sampan and junk on a river, they often randomly chose their quarry. If a sampan failed to heed orders to come to, warning shots could be fired, but a sampan could not be engaged directly until its occupants fired first on the PBR. The staff officers who devised the operation order understood the counterinsurgency nature of the Game Warden mission and wanted to avoid alienating the local populace through the use of excessive force. Nevertheless, the inherent conservatism of these rules of engagement often put the PBR crews at a distinct disadvantage in combat. As Peter Huchthausen wrote, they “gave the enemy the luxury of choosing when and where to engage,” and whittled away “our advantage in firepower … to an easy parity with the Viet Cong.”

Bored with the endless searches of sampans and junks, some PBR sailors sought out firefights either by setting up night ambushes or by venturing up some of the smaller rivers and canals in the delta. Signalman 1st Class Chester B. Smith, a boat captain and patrol officer with River Section 531, explicitly favored night patrols because of the curfew. “We had full authority on the river after sunset,” he said in an interview. “If we saw something moving, we could go after it. You could not necessarily shoot them, but you could go after them because they were fair game. The philosophy was that if you could get them in a compromising situation, they would want to shoot. If they did, we could then return fire. There was nothing there that could outrun us unless they had a tremendous jump on us.” On occasion, this type of aggressiveness led to spectacular successes, but tragedies also occurred when some patrol officers were too bold. On large rivers the PBR’s maneuverability and firepower made them difficult targets, but in narrow canals or near the shore, the advantage rapidly shifted to the enemy. As critical as some sailors were of the TF 116 Operation Order, it was designed to minimize risk and maximize the impact of the River Patrol in stopping infiltration.

THE CAVITY MAGNETRON CLUE

Depth charges exploding after being dropped by the destroyer HMS VANOC over the spot indicated by the submarine detecting apparatus, which reported a contact during an Atlantic Convoy, May 1943. Some crew members can be seen at the stern watching the explosion.

A Type IXD2 under attack from US aircraft. The two flakvierling appears to be pointed in different directions, indicating it is under attack by more than one aircraft.

Slow Convoy, SC 127 eluded U-boats at one of the most difficult times in the Battle of the Atlantic. The ocean was so full of U-boats that the first sea lord feared that “We can no longer rely on evading the U-boat packs and, hence, we shall have to fight the convoys through them.” In addition, the B-Dienst was at the height of its powers, solving 5 to 10 percent of its intercepts in time for Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz C-in-C U-boat command, to use them in tactical decisions. Early information sometimes enabled him to move his U-boats so that a convoy would encounter the middle of the pack, enabling more boats to attack than if the convoy met only one wing of the patrol line.

But the first signs of German weakness had begun to appear. Stronger Allied defenses—more escorts, more airplanes—kept the U-boats from attacking with the vigor and daring of the previous years. Dönitz’s exhortations grew shriller, complaining that anyone who failed to engage the enemy closely was “no true U-boat man.” The rate of success declined. The great convoy battle of March 1943, during which U-boats sank Allied ships at twice the rate at which they were being built, was followed in April by a fight that brought poorer results: the Germans sank twelve merchant vessels, but at a cost of seven U-boats. The situation worsened the following month.

“In the Atlantic in May,” wrote Dönitz in his war diary, “the sinking of 10,000 tons was paid for with the loss of one U-boat, while not very long before that time one boat was lost for the sinking of about 100,000 tons.” He called such losses “unbearable,” and on May 24 he pulled the seventeen submarines on the North Atlantic convoy routes out and sent them to what he thought was a “less air-endangered area” to the south. From there they could operate against the convoys between the United States and the Strait of Gibraltar, through which supplies for the American forces in North Africa had to pass. But this was not the vital traffic whose loss would defeat Britain and keep the Allies from mounting an assault against Festung Europa. The move marked a major defeat for the Germans in the vital Battle of the Atlantic.

The success of Allied convoy diversions in January and February 1943 had again raised Dönitz’s suspicions about the security of his ciphers. For two and a half weeks in January, U-boat sweeps had discovered no convoys along the North Atlantic routes to Britain; for the first time since the United States entered the war, merchant ship losses in all Atlantic areas fell below one a day. In February, the few convoys that were not sighted by chance were spotted only by single boats at the ends of patrol lines, suggesting that the convoys were going around the wolfpacks. Dönitz’s concern was intensified when Allied destroyers came upon the U-459 as it was refueling an Italian U-boat some 300 miles east of St. Paul’s Rock, the desolate traditional division between the North and the South Atlantic, far from any destroyer bases and far from the normal convoy lanes. And the B-Dienst’s solutions of Allied U-boat situation reports raised suspicions. On April 18, for example, an intercept of an Allied submarine situation report showed that the Americans suspected the presence of twenty submarines in the rectangle running from 48° to 54° north latitude and from 38° to 45° west longitude. And the report was correct: TITMOUSE was in the area with eighteen boats.

Dönitz asked Vice-Admiral Erhard Maertens, Chief of Office of Naval Intelligence, Naval War Command, to investigate, as he had done in 1941. Again Maertens exculpated Enigma. The British U-boat situation reports themselves stated that the Allies’ information on submarine locations was coming from direction-finding, he said. Documents found in a French Resistance agent’s radio station showed that the Allies were obtaining information from the Resistance on departure times for U-boats and on whether they were headed for the North or the South Atlantic, enabling the foe, Maertens said, to estimate submarine movements with some accuracy. The British information about the wolfpacks DOLPHIN and FALCON was vague; if the information had come from cryptanalysis, it would have been exact. At worst, capture, perhaps of a cue word, which—contrary to all regulations—would have to have been written down, might have given the Allies insight into some messages. The chief of the Naval War Staff conceded that a capture was possible, and he approved Maertens’s plan to establish separate regional key nets.

Maertens was supported in his position by the coincidental discovery on February 2, in a British bomber downed at Rotterdam, of a new type of radar. It was based on the cavity magnetron, a block of copper with eight cylindrical holes bored in it parallel to and around a central axis. These hollows enabled the radar to operate on a wavelength of 9.7 centimeters, much shorter than the earlier 1.5 meters. Because its wavelength was measured in centimeters, the device was called “centimetric radar.” It gave the British two advantages: it depicted objects—coastlines, buildings—on the radar screen, which the older radar could not do, and the U-boats’ radar warning receivers, which were tuned to the longer wavelength, could not detect it. With centimetric radar, British airplanes could thus locate surfaced U-boats from a distance without alerting the submarines and could attack them by surprise. The Royal Air Force Coastal Command had begun doing just this with some success against U-boats traversing the Bay of Biscay. Though Dönitz had as yet no evidence that centimetric radar was being used in the Battle of the Atlantic, the use of this powerful new weapon could not be excluded.

So Dönitz accepted Maertens’s view that Kriegsmarine ciphers were secure and that the leaks were elsewhere. “With the exception of two or three doubtful cases,” he confided to his war diary, “enemy information about the position of our U-boats appears to have been obtained mainly from extensive use of airborne radar, and the resultant plotting of these positions has enabled him [the enemy] to organize effective diversion of convoy traffic.” And when SC 127 circumvented a wolfpack, he gave as the most probable reason that “the enemy has an extraordinary location device, usable from airplanes, whose effect cannot be observed by our boats.”

Nevertheless, suspicion that the Allies were solving naval Enigma messages would not die. Dönitz tried to reconcile his concern with Maertens’s reassurances, but he was not always able to. On April 27, as SC 127 was slogging across the ocean, the Allies, in a U-boat situation report that the B-Dienst solved, reported five U-boats within a 150-mile radius of 50° north, 34° west. “For some time resupplying has been carried out here,” Dönitz noted. “It remains disquieting that they were suspected precisely in the area in which no radioing had been done for several days.”

A few days later, Dönitz, for reasons that went beyond his fears about cryptosecurity, fired Maertens, sending him to Kiel to run a shipyard. He replaced him with the glass-eyed Captain Ludwig Stummel, Maertens’s chief of staff, promoting him to rear admiral. Stummel maintained, as always, that Enigma “had, on the basis of repeated and thorough investigations, proved itself up to the present as unbreakable and militarily resistant.” Dönitz apparently believed him, for in June he was telling the Japanese ambassador that U-boat losses were due to a new Allied direction-finding system.

Despite his claims, Stummel began in 1944 to prepare a measure that would carry the Kriegsmarine’s basic cryptosecurity principle to its logical conclusion. By subdividing the navy’s cryptosystem into as many key nets as necessary, Stummel sought to reduce the number of messages in a common key. As the volume of traffic grew, Enigma key nets had expanded from one in the early 1930s to separate home and foreign key nets and to the addition of a U-boat net and many others by 1943, when traffic averaged 2,563 radio messages a day. Now Stummel proposed to give each U-boat its own key.

Individual keys were issued to some submarines shortly after D-Day, June 6, 1944; they began to be widely used in November, and by February 1945 they were carrying practically all the operational traffic of the U-Boat Command. In that month, Dönitz told Hitler that Allied knowledge of wolfpacks came from radar and betrayal. By then Stummel had also been ousted, but his program of individual keys justified his faith in Enigma: G.C.&C.S. solved only three keys for brief periods. Perhaps not coincidentally, sinkings rose steadily from November 1944 to April 1945 in the North Atlantic and North Sea, although the absolute number remained small. Solution of these individual keys would have required a great increase in personnel and in bombes, but G.C.&C.S. felt confident that it would have been able to do it. Germany’s surrender saved it from this test.

Long before that happened, Dönitz mourned the loss of the source of information that he said gave him half of his intelligence: the B-Dienst. He had feasted on it for so long in part because the Germans had no monopoly on cryptographic failure. In this respect the British were just as illogical as the Germans. The surprise of the North African invasion confirmed the Admiralty’s belief that its cryptosystems were secure, just as Fricke had argued that the operations of British ships gave no indication that the British were reading German messages. And G.C.&C.S. retained confidence in its superencipherment (even though it had solved similar systems before the war) because it was encountering increasing difficulty in solving high-grade Italian codes after the summer of 1940 and fewer problems with nonnaval Enigma; this logic resembles the Kriegsmarine’s argument that Enigma must be secure because it was unable to break the American naval cipher machine.

The cherished beliefs of the British were wrong. In December 1942, they learned from their Enigma solutions that the Germans were reading Naval Cypher No. 3, the main cryptosystem for convoy arrangements in the North Atlantic. And in Washington, in March 1943, Lieutenant McMahan of OP-20-G saw a German intercept that canceled an order by Dönitz of a few hours earlier and directed a radical change of course. McMahan thought that only a German solution of a message diverting an Allied convoy could have caused Dönitz to react like that. He went downtown to Convoy and Routing in Main Navy and, after some difficulty, persuaded them to let him see the messages to Allied convoys. His discovery of the very message that had ordered the detour brought together compartmentalized elements and confirmed the Allies’ recognition that the Germans were reading their traffic.

In June, when Naval Cypher No. 5 replaced Nos. 3 and 4, the B-Dienst made no real progress against it. Concerns about the security in heavy traffic of the superencipherment, called the long sub-tractor system, had been raised as early as 1940; G.C.&C.S. devised a replacement—the stencil subtractor—by 1941, but the services did not decide to adopt it until after extensive trials that ended in March of 1942. Design and production of the devices and printing of the tables took the rest of the year, distribution for the Royal Navy until the middle of 1943, and distribution within the U.S. Navy until January 1, 1944—a record of cryptographic negligence that compares favorably with Germany’s. Still, from the middle of June 1943, the B-Dienst was effectively shut out from its vital Anglo-American intelligence. In May 1944, Hitler asked his naval codebreakers which English systems could be broken. They had to confess that although they were solving a number of secondary systems and a convoy system for stragglers, “The two main English systems cannot be read, the one [the main warship cryptosystem] since the start of 1944 and the other [the convoy system] since the start of June 1943.”

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This admission unwittingly confirmed the Allied victory in cryptology. In August 1943, the British and the Americans had begun reading Enigma messages nearly always currently. The capture of the U-505 by an American task force on June 4, 1944, provided a copy of the Adressbuch that provided the keys for disguising grid positions; from then on the Allies read them as easily as the Germans did.

But solving German messages did not always mean the successful diversion of convoys. It is true that in January and February 1943, when solutions were almost uninterrupted, the Allies suffered far fewer losses than in March, when for days no solutions were achieved. On the other hand, two convoys out of three escaped detection in August and September 1942, during the ULTRA blackout, while less than half avoided being spotted in the first five months of 1943, when solutions were frequent. The totality of other factors eclipsed ULTRA: the number of U-boats on patrol, the quantity of very long range aircraft the Allies had, centimetric radar, shipboard direction-finding, operational research, the arrival of escort aircraft carriers, the increase in escort vessels. But when ULTRA worked with these new Allied strengths, particularly after Dönitz withdrew his U-boats from the North Atlantic on May 24, the results could be spectacular. On September 21, 1943, Churchill announced to the Commons that, in the third of a year just ending, not one merchant ship had been lost to enemy action in the North Atlantic. The House erupted in cheers.

George Crouch PT 1-4 and Scott Paine PT-9

The unusual hull shape of the Crouch-designed PT 1 is clearly visible in this view of the boat on the deck of a seaplane carrier. The whale-back form was carried along the full hull length, as in the CMBs.

On 11 July 1938, invitations to builders and designers (with the exception of inverted-V boat designers) were issued with prizes awarded for the winning PT boat designs given out on 30 March 1939. In an important note after winning the design competition for the smaller PT boat, George Crouch wrote that Hickman’s Sea Sled design would be far superior “in either rough or smooth water to that of the best possible V-bottom or hard chine design”. Earlier when Sea Sleds were specifically excluded, Crouch had informed the Bureau of Ships that the Sea Sled was the best type of vessel for the job. On 8 June 1939, contracts were let to the Fogal Boat Yard, Inc., later known as the Miami Shipbuilding Co., of Miami, Florida, for PT-1 and -2 “Crash Boats”, and to the Fisher Boat Works, Detroit, Michigan, for PT-3 and -4. These four boats were designed by George Crouch, and modified in some details by the Bureau of Ships.

PT 1 thru PT 4 based on the 25ft aluminum test model 9. Model was requested for use during training.

Original 3M2500s were left (port engine) and right (starboard engine). These were upgraded to two right 4M2500s in Jan 41. The engine and fuel tank compartment metal framing is all aluminum.

Construction: Considered superior and boat was 10% lighter than contract (light load 38,000 lbs – trial displacement 56,600 lbs). In comparison, sister boats PT-1 and PT-2 built in Miami were about 4,000-6,000 lbs heavier (not sure if this was due to construction or equipment). Items such as the portholes were light weight aluminum and the boat even used a lightweight Northill Anchor (same typed used by seaplanes).

Performance: Boat handled 8-10 ft waves very well and was compared favorably over PT-9’s pounding. Boat turned easily on a very close radius and gave a feeling of complete stability in turn (banked very well into turn). At 2000 rpm, boat turned in 4 1/2 boat lengths. Maintained a pretty constant 4 degree trim angle. Hump speed approximately 12-16 knots.

Big problem seemed to be the prop slip, which reduced the HP. At a top speed of 34 knots (2400 rpm with 3M2500s), boat was losing an estimated 450 HP. Two different sets of props were tested (first 25 x 23 and then 26 x 27) a third was requested (greater pitch and increased blade area) for model testing with the tests completed 5 months after the transfer of the boat to Lend-Lease. Hull performance graphs indicate the boat hull design would easily allow speeds up through 40 knots, however I could not find any follow on performance tests with the 4M2500s or if a third set of different size props were ever installed. Looking at all the early PT boat BuShips data, props, either having the wrong size (P and D), using race type wheels which wore out quickly, or suffering from excessive cavitation, seem to be a constant theme.

As far as critiques from the various reports, maneuvering and seakeeping were excellent, as were the cockpit layout and internal arrangement, however the boat’s small size (59 ft), restricted deck size due to the rolled chine and deck mounted mufflers, and the stern launched torpedoes came up on the negative. In response to the restricted deck, it was stated that the rolled chine gave this light weight boat great strength (it is true she never suffered the hull and deck problems of boats without the rolled chine). Since she planed early, not sure how well her design would have taken to weapons overloading and her small fuel capacity (1665 gal) would have also been a limiting factor. Lastly, having to run on 1 prop required excessive rudder to drive her at what turned out to be an inefficient speed (just below hump speed). Her best operational speed seems to have been about 25-26 knots.

Of note, PT-4 was built with two 3M2500s and was suppose to receive a centerline 700 HP Allison. Found no indication that this Allison engine was ever installed (initial trials done with just the two Packards).

PT-3 and PT-9 during test runs

PT-3

Considering that the US Navy really had no idea what they wanted at the time of her contract, she did directly address the severe weight (transportation) requirements and incorporated many advanced features.

Some noteworthy design features.

– oak steam bent framing spaced every 10 and continues through barrel back.

– curved tumble home provides strength and stiffens hull, and eliminates normally weak deck edge to hull transition.

– double longitudinal planking provides lightweight strength and eliminates additional weight requirement of sandwiched cloth/canvas.

– use of carriage bolts to secure planking to lightweight framing, allows crew to tighten hull from inside.

– combination of framing structure with planking provided a very strong and mildly flexible hull.

– hull form is a warped plane design and overall narrow in design, but keeping the stern wide, in comparison to midships, seems to have minimized suction and stern squatting. Photos indicate that boat lifted up on step at a constant angle. As fuel consumed, weight would shift slightly forward.

– used two Packards for power (first PT Boat with these) For this design, the Navy required the engines to be mounted on a steel frame. In order to accommodate the engines, boat uses some sort of “v” drive. PT-3’s engine compartment construction has a forward and aft steel bulkhead with engine hoist. Hull and deck framing are wood. During the construction in 1939, both PT-3 and 4 were delayed by four months due to the unavailability of the new 3M2500 Packards.

– muffler system (although huge)

You can understand why this small boat was considered obsolete once the Navy figured out what they didn’t want (stern fired torpedoes), but I believe she was an important design worthy of note in PT Boat development and exceeded the designs of newer boats in frame and hull construction and showed the experience of George Crouch.

The hull is relatively straight chine aft of midships (widest part and transom only differ by 2 ft) and the back portion of the hull only has a slight change in deadrise. The hull is also not concave in form, you would expect suction loads to be on the lesser side and would not expect to see much squatting of the boat on plane. Trim angle on plane (from photographs) estimated at about 2.5-3°.

Because of the position of the fuel tanks (aft) and the weight of the engine room steel framing and engines, the center of gravity (CG) for PT-3 is pretty far aft. The center of buoyancy (CB) is guestimated at about 23-21 feet from the transom. As she starts to plane, CB would move aft and probably move very close to the boat’s CG which I believe to be about 20-18 feet from the transom.

She probably rides very well on glass calm based on other George Crouch designs. Deadrise is good at entry indicating potential for a smooth ride, however, in rougher sea states, her lack of a deep forefoot would probably result in some pounding forces, although the steep deadrise and slight convex shape of the bow would help. Having such a large hull sail area out of the water forward would probably make PT-3 very susceptible to beam wind forces when on plane. When operating at lower speeds, the CG being aft of the CB would probably make PT-3 susceptible to yawing motions in following seas. As for turning, she was probably good at slower speeds, but would suffer a bit at higher speeds due to not having the forefoot in contact with the water.

PT-3s actual hump speed is probably somewhere about 25-26 kts. Even with the steel framing in the engine room, weight saving building techniques are obvious, so she was intended to be a planing hull design.

PT-9        70′ Scott Paine Experimental Motor Torpedo Boat:

  • Laid down by the British Power Boat Co., Ltd., Hythe, Hampshire, England
  • Acquired by the Navy 24 July 1940, placed in service and assigned to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron ONE (MTBRon 1) for evaluations
  • MTBRon 1, under the command of Lt. Earl S. Caldwell, USN, was the first squadron commissioned, and originally was made up of experimental boats
  • Transferred 8 November 1940 to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron TWO (MTBRon 2) under the command of now Lt. Comdr. Caldwell
  • MTBRon 2 tested the first 70′ Elco boats in Florida and Caribbean waters in the winter of 1940/41
  • Transferred to the Royal Navy 11 April 1941 and reclassified HM MTB-258
  • Transfer to the Royal Navy canceled, subsequently transferred to Canada 23 September 1942 and reclassified V-264 where she served in the Halifax and Gaspe area as a harbor defense force vessel
  • Reclassified S-09
  • Reassigned in March 1943 to Quebec for blackout patrols on the Saint Lawrence River
  • Reassigned in 1944 to Toronto, Ontario as a range control and safety vessel
  • Returned to U.S. custody 1 February 1945
  • Sold for scrap 5 September 1946Naval Vessel Register of 1 January 1949 lists transfer to the War Shipping Administration in October 1946.Specifications:
  • Displacement 55 t.
  • Length 70′
  • Beam 20′
  • Draft 5′
  • Speed 41 kts.
  • Armament: Four 18″ torpedoes and two twin .30 cal. Browning machine guns Torpedoes removed prior to transfer. Machine guns retained and eight depth charges added by Royal Canadian Navy
  • Propulsion: Three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines, three shafts Reengined with two 550hp Kermath V-12 gasoline engines.

 

 

UNITED STATES: VIRGINIA CLASS (2005)

This class was designed to be a slightly cheaper alternative to the Seawolf type, whose cost overruns had caused consternation within the navy and Congress. Principal savings were expected to arise from the greatest possible use of ‘off- the- shelf’ electronics, but the type still proved more expensive than the Seawolf class. Congressional and naval concern that the United States might soon be reduced to a single yard capable of constructing submarines led to the decision to build these boats at both the Newport News and Electric Boat yards. The Newport News facility builds the stern, habitability and machinery spaces, torpedo room, sail, and bow, while Electric Boat builds the engine room and control room. The two yards alternate work on the reactor plant as well as the final assembly, test, outfit and delivery. Contracts have been let for eight boats so far, with orders anticipated for one additional boat in 2007 and 2008, and ultimate plans for building 24 submarines of this type with delivery on an annual basis.

With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, and the Navy’s changing emphasis to littoral (shallow water) operations, came the development of the new Virginia class fast attack boat, a smaller and less expensive replacement for the aging Los Angeles class attack subs. A redefined requirement called for an advanced, multi-mission nuclear-powered submarine highly capable in both deep ocean anti-submarine warfare and littoral operational environments.

To reduce the acquisition and life-cycle costs of the Virginia class design and engineering process, a whole range of state-of-the-art methods are being employed. These include concurrent engineering design/build teams, computer-aided design and electronic visualization tools, system simplification, parts standardization and component elimination. These innovations help to keep the new submarine affordable in sufficient numbers to meet the Navy’s future nuclear attack submarine force level need.

Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Connecticut is the lead design authority for the Virginia class and is the builder of the first boat of the class, the Virginia, SSN 774, at Newport News, Virginia, and commissioned in 2004. The Navy’s total requirement for the Virginia class is thirty submarines.

The Virginia class submarine is similar in size to her Los Angeles class predecessor, at 377 feet long and a thirty-four-foot beam, but her submerged displacement is greater at 7,800 tons. She is fast (twenty-eight knots submerged) and has a published depth of 800+ feet. She comes with four twenty-one-inch torpedo tubes and twelve vertical launch system tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles. She can also deliver advanced mobile mines and unmanned undersea vehicles. Her command center is installed as one single unit which rests on cushioned mounting points. Her control suite is equipped with computer touch screens and her steering and diving control is via a four-button two-axis joystick.

The Virginia class sub features an Advanced Swimmer Delivery Vehicle which is a mini-submarine atop the hull for delivering special warfare forces such as SEAL teams or Marine reconnaissance units for counter-terrorism or localized conflict operations. At sixty-five feet in length, the ASDV is nearly twelve feet longer than the Holland, the U.S. Navy’s first submarine.

Acoustically, Virginia has a lower noise level than that of the Russian Improved Akula class and fourth-generation attack submarines. This is achieved through the use of a newly designed anechoic coating, isolated deck structures, and a new-design propulsor. Without a traditional bladed propeller, the Virginias use pump-jet propulsors, originally developed for the Royal Navy’s Swiftsure submarines. Propulsors significantly reduce the risks of cavitation and allow quieter operation.

The Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence system of the Virginia integrates all of the boat systems (sensors, navigation, weapon control and counter-measures). The vertical launch system is capable of firing sixteen Tomahawk cruise missiles in a single salvo. A 3,500-pound Tomahawk can deliver 1,000 pounds of high explosive within inches of its target over a distance of 1,500 miles. Capacity for twenty-six Mk 48 heavyweight ADCAP torpedoes and Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles is provided. The Mk 48 can bring 650 pounds of high explosive a distance of more than five miles. Mk 60 CAPTOR mines may also be carried.

Virginia class sensors include bow-mounted active and passive array, wide aperture passive array on flank, high-frequency active arrays on keel and fin, and towed arrays. Her propulsion unit is the General Electric Pressure Water Reactor S9G which is designed to last as long as the submarine itself, two turbine engines with one shaft and a pump-jet propulsor. The reactor will not need refuelling during the entire lifetime of the boat.

Operated by a crew of 113 officers and men, according to the U.S. Navy Virginia’s performance surpasses that of any current projected threat submarine, ensuring U.S. undersea dominance well into the century.

Focus NNS: Update on the Virginia-Class Submarine Program

Virginia Pivot: The USA’s Multi-Year Block IV Sub Deal

The Black Sea: The Naval War in the South 1942–43 I

“S 47” in the Black Sea still without the armoured bridge – the Kalotte.

R boats (Räumboote in German)

Verkehr mit Kleinfahrzeugen (MFP) in the Black Sea

During Operation Barbarossa, Army Group South marched through the Ukraine towards the shores of the Black Sea. The forces that comprised the Army Group had been weakened slightly by the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece resulting in greater reliance on troops from other Axis nations, arguably blunting Barbarossa’s spearhead. The port city of Odessa held out against the invaders for two months under siege before Soviet forces successfully evacuated, while the Crimea then became the scene of some of the fiercest fighting on the Eastern front during 1941. The prize, Sevastopol, came under German siege on 30 October 1941 and stubbornly refused to crack. Key to Soviet ability to hold both cities was the Black Sea Fleet, comprising one battleship, five cruisers, three destroyer Leaders, eleven modern destroyers, four old destroyers, forty-four submarines, two gunboats, eighteen minesweepers and eighty-four MTBs.

Opposing them was the Royal Romanian Navy comprising four destroyers, six fleet torpedo boats, one submarine, five Midget submarines, two Minelayers and seven MTBs. The submarine Delfinul was temporarily commanded by Kaptlt Hermann Eckhardt, who had occupied a shore position in Constanta in a bid to help train Romanian submarine crews. At least ten Germans served alongside the Romanian crew during April 1942. Eckhardt was later posted to U432 and killed when his boat was sunk on 11 March 1943. The Germans for their part could field only the six small riverine vessels of the Danube Flotilla. Initially, a German naval mission in Romania had provided cooperation between the Axis powers, but Barbarossa necessitated greater German commitment. Kriegsmarine control of the region rested at the highest level with Marinegruppenkommando Süd (MGK Süd), headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria. Immediately below this office was Admiral Black Sea (Kommandierende Admiräl im Schwarzen Meer) to which the U-boat commitment would be directly added. The Black Sea was further divided into three regions – Ukraine, Crimea and Caucasus – with individual Seekommandanturen, responsible for coastal security and working alongside a bewildering array of Italian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Croatian naval units as well as a small Ukrainian volunteer unit.

On 26 December 1941, Soviet troops made seaborne landings on the northern coast of the Kerch Peninsula, establishing five bridgeheads up to one battalion in strength each. While huge resources were still engaged in battering Sevastopol, the Germans were momentarily thrown off balance by their enemy’s ability to land troops in force with naval artillery support. Sevastopol was still supplied by freighters protected by the Black Sea Fleet, who simultaneously used artillery to great effect on besieging Axis troops. Typical supply convoys were small: generally one or two steamers with a small escort. In Berlin OKW recognised the Soviet Navy’s dominance of the Black Sea and both U-boats and S-boats were committed to transfer to the region.

Debate followed within OKW as to the best means of relocating U-boats to the Black Sea. During the First World War, small UB and UC-class U-boats that had comprised the bulk of the Adriatic’s Pola flotilla, were transported in segments overland by rail: each boat requiring three wagons, one for each major component with further wagons for the conning tower, engines and batteries. Reassembly took approximately fourteen days before the boats were ready for sea trials. The same principle would be applied to the transport of six small U-boats from Germany, using the combination of rivers, roads or rail.

Initial investigations into overland transport by OKM’s Quartermaster Division reported that by December 1941 boats could be moved from the Elbe to the Danube on railroad cars which could accommodate small Type IIs, with their engines and conning towers removed. If carried by pontoon along the river system a Danube bridge, which was being preserved as a historical monument, would require demolition. The total transfer time was estimated at ten to twelve months, causing Hitler to dismiss the idea in a conference on 12 December and instead concentrate on the transfer of the S-boats from the 1st S-flotilla. R-boats of the 3rd R-flotilla would also be transferred using this method, beginning in May 1942. Eventually, two R-flotillas, one S-flotilla, two escort flotillas, three U-Jagd flotillas, one Artillerietrager flotilla, one transport flotilla and four landing flotillas would comprise the bulk of the Kriegsmarine surface deployment within the Black Sea, all bar the S-boats grouped within the 10th Sicherungsdivision.

Nonetheless in January 1942 Hitler returned to the idea of Black Sea U-boats, proposing that Germany solicit the cooperation of neutral Turkey. U-boats already within the Mediterranean could perhaps be exchanged for Turkish submarines within the Black Sea, or sold to the Turks, transferred into the Black Sea and then bought back by the Reich. The suggestion that this political complexity could be subverted by simply sending U-boats through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus Straits was strongly refuted by OKM as Turkey could only allow U-boats to enter the Black Sea by violating the Montreux convention of 1936 that gave Turkey full control of the Straits, which restricted the passage of military vessels not belonging to Black Sea states. Historically, it had been proven that the upper echelons of the Third Reich were relatively unconcerned with adherence to international treaties and protocols. Since the convention was working to Germany’s advantage by preventing British naval forces from entering the Black Sea and Russian forces from entering the Mediterranean, Germany stood more to gain from Turkey’s adherence to the agreement. Furthermore, the sale and resale of U-boats was discounted as, if the Turks agreed, it would be a thin deception displaying Turkish disregard for her obligations as a neutral power. A separate proposal to simply purchase existing Turkish submarines was also refused by OKM as they would require considerable conversion and upgrade to reach the standards required by the Kriegsmarine. Thus, with Barbarossa clearly not bringing the rapid defeat of the Soviet Union envisaged by Hitler during 1941, the transfer of an initial three Type II U-boats was once again proposed and accepted.

On 15 April 1942, three Type IIB boats – U9 and U24 of Pillau’s 21st U-training flotilla and U19 of Gotenhafen’s 22nd – were chosen. All three boats had seen action within the North Sea and English Channel during the early months of the war before relegation to training duties. The same limitations in action noticeable in 1939 and 1940 would become evident once more, including a poor maximum surface speed of 13 knots. Underwater the boats could reach 7 knots, though only briefly before batteries ran dry. Armed with three bow tubes, a maximum of five torpedoes or twelve TMA mines could be carried. Crewed by between twenty-two and twenty-four men, the Type IIB originally sported a 20mm deck weapon though improvements within the Black Sea would later see some equipped with Wintergarten flak platforms abaft the conning tower.

On 15 April the three U-boats were gathered in Stettin awaiting the clearance of ice that marred the passage to Kiel. The entire transfer to their planned base at Constanta, Romania, was expected to take twenty-six weeks, each U-boat despatched in three to four week intervals. If the schedule was adhered to, they could be operational in the Black Sea before the Danube froze for winter 1942. In Kiel’s Deutsche Werke shipyard, they were stripped of as much as possible: conning tower, diesel engines, electrical motors, batteries, decking and other smaller items lifted out to reduce hull weight.

The upright hulls were attached to shallow-draught rafts, each constructed from five pontoons, which, once complete, were rotated 90 degrees until the U-boat lay on its starboard: in itself a complex task, manoeuvring the 250-ton hulls by way of careful partial flooding of the pontoons and U-boat trimming tanks. Beginning with U24 the rafts were then moved through the Kiel Canal to Hamburg and from there upstream along the Elbe River to Dresden. In the suburb of Übigau the pontoons were lifted by slipway from the water and the U-boat hull craned across to low-bed transport trailers fitted with solid rubber tires and pulled by heavy Kuhlemeyer trucks, each trailer pulled by four separate trucks. The Kuhlemeyer operated in various configurations: in line, on a single broad front or with two before and two behind dependent on the road and weather conditions at the time. The Deutsch Amerikanischen Petroleum Gesellschaft had previously used the vehicles to transport small tanker ships overland to the Danube and so the same principles were applied to the U-boats. From the slipway the autobahn that stretched to Ingolsdtadt was easily accessible. Travelling at a maximum of 8km/h the U-boat transport occupied 600 men and took fifty-six hours of laborious constant travelling – drivers changed without bringing the convoy to a halt. The manpower included shipbuilders, transport drivers, traffic police, security troops and engineers assigned to remove any potential obstacles along the route. Workshop vehicles, communications vehicles and tanker trucks laden with fuel accompanied each U-boat transport enabling supply and replenishment of the heavy Kuhlemeyer trucks. Each bridge to be traversed was examined by structural engineers before the U-boat was carried across and, if necessary, reinforced for the U-boat’s passage.

Once in Ingolstadt the boat was returned to the pontoons which had been shipped by rail from Dresden and then towed along the Danube River by tug boat to Galati, Romania. There the boats were reassembled, returned upright by once again using trimming tanks and the flooding of pontoons.

The Kriegsmarine already planned to strengthen the U-boat presence within the Black Sea to more than just three. Not only was it considered an ideal prospective training ground for future crews once Russia was beaten – the destruction of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet expected complete by November 1942 – but Hitler decreed in conference with Raeder on 26 August 1942 that the presence of an increased U-boat flotilla would have a ‘favourable political influence’ on pro-Axis Turkey. Correspondingly three more Type IIBs from the 21st and 22nd U-training flotillas were chosen for transfer while the original trio was still in transit. During September U18, U20 and U23 were taken to Kiel to begin an identical process of deconstruction and transport toward Constanta. Ironically, although the second trio of U-boats would find their passage interrupted and delayed for several weeks due to ice on the river, it was the summer heat that set back the first group – their transit by way of the Danube deferred due to drought causing low water level at Ingolstadt.

After a belated arrival, each boat took between forty-two and forty-five days to reassemble in Galati, recommissioned into the Kriegsmarine once complete and joining the newly established 30th U-boat Flotilla. From the shipyard they continued along the Danube, arriving eventually in Sulina within the Danube Delta, travelling onward in convoy with other craft into the Black Sea and on to the Romanian naval base at Constanta, the new home of the 30th U-boat Flotilla. Oberleutnant zur See Klaus Petersen’s U24 was the first boat to complete the journey: recommissioned on 14 October 1942 and reaching Constanta at 10.33 p.m. on 16 October. Kapitänleutnant Hans-Joachim Schmidt-Weichert’s U9 was recommissioned on 28 October, reaching Constanta on the penultimate day of the month while ObltzS Hans-Ludwig Gaude’s U19 was commissioned on 9 December and arrived at 30th U-boat Flotilla headquarters on 30 December.

As early as 6 October 1942, the flotilla’s operational plans had been outlined by SKL. German troops fighting in the Crimea required supply by sea and land, the former under threat from Soviet naval and aerial attack:

Adopt the view that southeastern Black Sea ports will remain in Russian hands for some time. They are, to a limited extent, jumping off bases for nuisance raids on our supplies and coast. Traffic of warships and merchant vessels converges off them.

This sea area (after the probable fall of Tuapse, mainly off Poti and Batum) is a favourable operational area for our U-boats; attack on warships to be the principal objective [original emphasis], for the moment, down to and including destroyers. Given favourable opportunities, attacks on submarines are likewise unrestricted. U-boats are to regard attacks on enemy supply lines off the coast as a secondary task but should nevertheless take advantage of any favourable opportunities e.g., they might on occasion – for direct support of Army operations – concentrate their attack on supply traffic.

On the first operation the commanders will have to devote a certain amount of time to observing enemy warship movements and the naval situation within the operational area. Moreover for subsequent operations after the first surprise attack, enemy reactions will have to be taken into account.

The simultaneous employment of German and Italian U-boats in the same area is impracticable. An endeavour will be made to remedy the low operational efficiency of Italian boats by having them towed to the operational area by German U-boats. Such operations will depend on the outcome of discussions. The operational areas should be so divided that the Italians operate immediately to the northwest of our U-boats, primarily against merchant shipping, Italian boats will make the return passage on their own. It will thus be possible to occupy a fairly long coastal patrol line enabling us to observe traffic and at the same time attack warships off the most southerly bases, protect supplies from Russian attacks, prevent interference with merchant shipping off the coast further to the northwest and give direct support to German Army operations on the Caucasus front.

Operations would gain considerable support from cooperation with the Luftwaffe. Concentrated air attacks on the principal bases of the Russian Fleet would force it to put to sea and so create an opportunity for our U-boats to attack. There is, however, little hope of this until the Luftwaffe is free of other tasks. The findings of daily reconnaissance could for the time being be utilized for U-boat operations.

To extend U-boat operations involving a relatively long approach passage, a jumping off base is being established in Theodosia or Kerch, so that boats can be put in for a brief spell between two operations for restocking with torpedoes, refuelling, reprovisioning etc., and even to relieve certain sections of the crews.

Based in Bucharest, V.A. Hellmuth Heye (Admiral Black Sea until early November 1942) would later add his own addendum to these instructions, relating his opinion to 30th U-boat Flotilla officers that the Soviet Black Sea Fleet’s ‘excellent morale and capabilities’ would make its expected destruction by Luftwaffe harbour attacks unlikely. However, the presence of the U-boats would not only tie down Soviet naval forces and keep them away from army supply convoys, but also prevent the likelihood that – if faced with defeat as the land war passed them to the east – Soviet naval units could dismount their vessels’ heavy weapons for use ashore. Therefore every ship destroyed was also of direct benefit to the land war.

The 30th U-boat Flotilla was established under the command of veteran U-boat skipper Kaptlt Helmut Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum had joined the Reichsmarine in 1932 and served first aboard light cruisers as a Fähnrich zur See before transferring to the U-boat service in time to make more than one patrol as a watch officer during the Spanish Civil War. In February 1939 he took command of the Type IIA U2, making two war patrols within the North Sea before being transferred to skipper the new Type VIIB U73. Aboard this boat Rosenbaum sank eight ships within the Atlantic before breaking through the dangerous Strait of Gibraltar and scoring his largest victory on 11 August 1942 when he torpedoed and sank the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. Rewarded with a Knight’s Cross, Rosenbaum was brought ashore and posted to Romania and command of the 30th U-boat Flotilla, his flotilla engineer the talented Kaptlt (Ing.) Heinz Bruns previously of U75. Like the Arctic U-boat command, Rosenbaum was not directed by BdU but rather formed an operational staff within the Admiral Black Sea command: Heye replaced in November by VA Robert Witthoeft-Emden. Unlike most other flotilla commanders, who were primarily responsible for logistical matters, Rosenbaum would also exercise tactical control over his small flotilla. Rosenbaum conferred with Heye upon arrival in Romania, his superior emphasising the importance of attacking naval targets, such Russian merchant convoys that could be found likely to be not only very small and in shallow waters, but heavily defended and flanked by anti-U-boat minefields, best left to the attentions of S- and R-boats.

Meanwhile flotilla headquarters was established in Constanta, administrative and stores buildings provided near the harbour’s North Pier at the end of the main railway spur. The crews and staff were accommodated streets away within the town itself. Constanta, already fortified by the Romanians, had received German reinforcement since the country’s 1940 entry into the Axis alliance. The German mission in Bucharest planned defences at key points along the Black Sea coastline, modernising Romanian coastal artillery that was largely obsolete. During the winter of 1940 three 280mm cannon were situated at Constanta: the backbone of the Tirpitz naval battery, completed with 75mm and 20mm flak weapons. The battery – and its surrounding land defences – was served by 700 Kriegsmarine personnel of the 613th Marine Artillerie Abteilung, and by the time the 30th U-boat Flotilla began operations, over 3,700 German troops were stationed in Constanta alongside nearly 40,000 Romanian troops. The Tirpitz battery saw action against Soviet Naval Forces only once, on 26 June, 1941, when destroyers Moskva and Kharkov fired 350 shells into the harbour and its railway station. Several tanker carriages were destroyed before Romanian artillery and destroyers returned fire. The Tirpitz battery added thirty-nine shells to the battle, lightly damaging Kharkov and panicking the crew of Moskva enough with near misses that she ran onto a minefield and sank killing 331 of the 400 crew.

Petersen’s U24 sailed operationally on 27 October, escorted from harbour by three minesweepers and destined for the south-eastern waters off the Georgian coast. The three Soviet naval harbours of Batum, Poti and Sokhumi were considered the most promising areas for operations against military targets, although with little intelligence available on enemy dispositions – including minefields – within the area, Petersen was expected to spend time on reconnaissance for future U-boat operations.

Three days from harbour U24’s bridge watch sighted smoke but failed to locate the corresponding vessel. On 1 November Petersen attempted an attack against a Soviet submarine: two shots fired and both torpedoes failing, probably missing due to excessive range. It was a pattern repeated throughout the short patrol. On 5 November Petersen made a surfaced attack on what he identified as a small tanker – in actuality Soviet minesweeping trawler T492. At 7.18 p.m. a single G7e was fired that passed beneath the target ship, machine-gun fire from the trawler forcing U24 to dive and seek a second firing position. Just over two hours later, Petersen fired a G7a steam torpedo, which hit below the Soviet’s bridge, although a defective pistol rendered the torpedo a dud. Determined to make his attack count Petersen surfaced and opened fire with his deck-mounted 20mm cannon, the trawler returning machine-gun and rifle fire. Following at least one good hit on target, a magazine jam brought the attack to a halt and once again U24 was forced to dive away. Torpedoes exhausted, Petersen returned to port reporting his boat’s echo-sounder out of action and at least ten days repair required to repair gunfire damage to the conning tower. Petersen was ordered to return via the Turkish coast: reporting ‘lively merchant shipping traffic’ running near neutral waters.

Indian Navy

The Indian Navy Project 17 frigate Sahyadri operating with the Project 28 corvette Kamorta in May 2017. Both ships are amongst the newest of their types in the Indian Navy but new designs are in preparation.

The last year has continued to see the Indian Navy’s ambitious plans for enhancement and expansion held back by a number of familiar problems. These have included an inadequate – and declining – budget for naval modernisation; a strong emphasis on local shipbuilding in spite of a poor track record of executing programmes on time and to budget; an over-reliance on defective Russian-supplied equipment; and ongoing mishaps attributable to human error.

India’s 2017–18 defence budget estimate amounted to INR262,390 crore (US$41bn) excluding pensions, a year-on-year increase of 5.3 percent. This rate of growth is slower than in recent years. One consequence has been a rise in the proportion of the budget allocated to revenue expenditure to the obvious detriment of modernisation accounts. With much capital consumed by Indian Air Force requirements, the navy has been suffering. The 2017–18 naval modernisation account was INR18,750 crore (US$2.9bn), a twelve percent reduction on the previous year and totally inadequate to support expansion efforts.

A further problem relates to the wisdom with which money is being spent. With the exception of the strategic missile submarine Arihant, only one major warship has been commissioned into Indian Navy service in the last twelve months. This is largely a reflection of local industry’s inability to deliver new ships in accordance with the navy’s expectation. The extent of the problem was revealed in a ‘Performance Audit on Construction of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier’ published by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in July 2016. This revealed there was complete disagreement between the navy and builders’ Cochin Shipyard as to when the new carrier, Vikrant, was likely to be delivered. Whilst the Indian Navy is holding to a schedule requiring delivery of the ship by December 2018, the shipyard now believes that 2023 is a more likely estimate. The end result is likely to be India having to rely on just one operational aircraft carrier for an extended period in spite of a long-stated aim to have three in commission.

Whilst the performance of the Indian shipbuilding sector has been far from stellar, reliance on Russian industry has also proved problematic. The CAG report referred to above makes frequent references to delays in the receipt of Russian design documentation and equipment. It also highlighted a host of problems with respect to the Russian MiG-29K/KUB strike fighters acquired for both Vikrant and the existing Vikramaditya. These were riddled with defects relating to their airframe, engine and fly-by-wire system, resulting in serviceability as low as sixteen percent.

Meanwhile, on 5 December 2016, the navy suffered the latest in a series of mishaps to impact the fleet when the frigate Betwa fell over onto her side whilst the cruiser graving dock in Mumbai Dockyard was being flooded-up. Two sailors were killed in an incident that left the ship with significant damage. Betwa was subsequently righted in February 2017. Repairs are expected to take around twelve months to complete.

The table below suggests that there has been very little change in the overall structure of the Indian Navy year-on-year. The formal decommissioning of Viraat (the former HMS Hermes) on 6 March 2017 – she had already effectively been out of service for around a year – leaves Vikramaditya as the navy’s sole aircraft carrier. The surface fleet welcomed the final Project 15A Kolkata class destroyer, Chennai, which commissioned on 21 November 2016. Her arrival was balanced by the withdrawal from active service of the Project 16 Godavari class frigate Ganga, which undertook her last operational voyage on 27 May 2017. She will be formally decommissioned later in the year. Godavari ended her service life in December 2015 and Gomati, the third member of the class, is also expected to leave the fleet soon.

Construction of major surface combatants encompasses three programmes. The most advanced is that for four Project 15B Visakhapatnam class destroyers, which are based on the previous Project 15A design. Builders Mazagon Dock Ltd launched Mormugao, second of the class, on 17 September 2016. Deliveries are scheduled to take place every two years from 2018, although this seems ambitious on past performance. Mazagon will also undertake construction of four of the seven Project 17A stealth frigates derived from the Shivalik class. The joint programme shared with Kolkata’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) should enter the production stage in the next twelve months. A third programme involves the licence-built construction of Russian-designed Project 1135. Talwar class frigates. This project – which was initially reported to include transfer of some of the similar Russian Admiral Grigorovich class frigates currently laid up in a half-completed state at the Yantar yard due to nondelivery of their Ukrainian gas turbines – has seemingly been allocated to Goa Shipyard. It seems that the plan is to acquire four frigates, taking the complete class up to ten ships.

There has been little material change to the composition of the balance of the surface fleet. Two Project 28 Kamorta class corvettes remain under construction following a decision to redesign their superstructures around a carbon-fibre composite structure to mitigate top-weight issues found with the earlier pair. It was originally envisaged that more ships of the type would be built to a slightly improved Project 28A design. However, this plan appears to have been overtaken by the issue of a request for information in October for seven ‘Next Generation Corvettes’. The 120m ships will be larger and more heavily armed than the Kamorta class and have a more general-purpose orientation than the anti-submarine focused Project 28 design. There is also a requirement to replace the smaller corvette/fast attack type vessels of the Soviet-designed Veer and Abhay classes, which are starting to decommission. Discussions have been held with industry around next generation missile ships and smaller shallow water anti-submarine vessels but there has been no confirmation of any orders to date.

There is also an urgent requirement to recapitalise the mine-countermeasures fleet. This has now been reduced to just four vessels following the decommissioning of two of the remaining Pondicherry class minesweepers on 5 May 2017. The remaining ships – all around thirty years old – are also expected to retire shortly. They will be replaced by a new class of mine countermeasures vessels being licence-built by Goa Shipyard under a controversial deal with South Korea’s Kangnam Corporation. However, construction has yet to begin and there will therefore be a considerable gap before the new ships are delivered. Progress has also been slow with plans to order four new LPD-type amphibious transport docks under a programme estimated to amount to around US$3bn. Two shortlisted local private-sector yards – allied with DCNS and Navantia – have been asked to resubmit bids for the project after plans to involve state-owned Hindustan Shipyard in construction were reversed.

Developments with respect to the submarine force have been somewhat more positive. The unconfirmed entry of Arihant into service is a major step forward for the navy’s strategic ambitions whilst good progress with trials of the lead Project 75 ‘Scorpène’ type boat Kalvari has been followed by the maiden voyage of the second member of the class, Khanderi, on 1 June 2017. It has now been decided not to fit an indigenously-developed air-independent propulsion (AIP) system on the last two members of the class, potentially speeding their completion. Current plans envisage submarine production switching to a new Project 75I class boat when the six ‘Scorpènes’ have been completed. However, a builder has yet to be selected. The ‘Scorpène’s’ designer DCNS had hopes that the delay might result in an interim order for a further batch of boats but the leak of over 22,000 pages of technical information on the design to The Australian newspaper has considerably reduced this prospect. The Indian Navy hopes to transition to constructing a class of nuclear-powered attack submarines after the Project 75I boats but this is some distance in the future. In the interim, it appears that a second Russian ‘Akula II’ type boat will be acquired on lease once the current arrangement with respect to Chakra expires. The agreement could see Indian technical experts involved with completing the boat, therefore helping pave the way for its own programme.