AN/BLQ-11 Autonomous Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

The AN/BLQ-11 was a heavy weight autonomous Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (formerly known as the Long-Term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS)) manufactured by Boeing. The 20 foot long vehicle was designed to be launched and recovered from an attack submarine (SSN) for covert mine countermeasures.

The AN/BLQ-11 comprises several elements in addition to the actual UUV itself. The system built by Boeing for the U. S. Navy comprises two 20-foot-long, 21-inch-diameter, torpedo-shaped UUVs, a 60- foot robotic recovery arm, onboard handling equipment, support electronics, a shore-based depot, and a specialized van for vehicle transportation.

The AN/BLQ-11 is fully autonomous and untethered, meaning that it can be sent on missions for several hours while the host submarine conducts other missions of its own. It is also designed for full launch, recovery, and maintenance from Los Angeles- and Virginia-class sub marines, using existing torpedo tubes as the launch technique. Four support personnel install, maintain, and utilize the system during operations. A typical mission is 40 hours, with each UUV alternated three times for a total of six separate sorties. During this time, the AN/BLQ-11 can cover a search area of 400 square nautical miles in its search for enemy mines.

The components of the AN/BLQ-11 UUV include a propulsion section, ballast and trim section, forward and aft electronics, side-look sonar (SLS) section, and forward-looking sonar at the front of the UUV.

Planned upgrades for the AN/BLQ-11 include the incorporation of synthetic aperture sonar (SAS), precision underwater mapping, and improved acoustic communications.

The AN/BLQ-11 is a five-year, over $100 million program that was started in November 1999. The previous program, the Near Term Mine Reconnaissance System (NMRS), completed testing in May 1999. Both programs were part of the Navy’s UUV master plan.

Boeing has been the prime contractor for the AN/BLQ-11 program and delivered the first system for testing to the U. S. Navy in November 2002. In October 2002, the Office of Naval Research announced that the SAS had been rapidly transitioned into the AN/BLQ-11 system. The SAS demonstrated four times the range and 36 times the resolution of the side-looking sonar and was, therefore, transitioned in ahead of the planned schedule.

The LMRS was first tested in September 2005 from USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723), when the vehicle was successfully launched. In January 2006, USS Scranton (SSN-756) demonstrated twenty four test runs, including torpedo tube launches, repetitive helo recovery, and the homing and docking of two AN/BLQ-11 vehicles. In October 2007, two vehicles were launched from USS Hartford (SSN-768) and then recovered into a torpedo tube with a recovery arm.

The AN/BLQ-11 was part of the U.S. Navy’s Mission Reconfigurable UUV System (MRUUVS) program, which was ended in December 2008. The system’s technical and engineering limitations resulted in an inadequate operational capability.


Naval Bomb Vessels

Granado bomb vessel, launched in 1742. It has two mortars inline. National Maritime Museum, London.

‘Erebus’ and the ‘Terror’ in New Zealand, August 1841, by John Wilson Carmichael.

In the 1690s an entirely new class of warship caused consternation and a crisis of conscience to the English ruling classes. The offender was the “bomb ketch”, a vessel copied from the French. Bomb ketches were small, shallow draft ships, able to get close inshore. They were armed with a dastardly weapon, a large bore mortar, which threw an explosive bomb far up in the air so that it cleared the walls of waterside cities or harbours and exploded when it struck the ground, damaging property and killing soldiers and civilians alike. The British used them thus to bombard St Malo, Le Havre, Dieppe and Dunkirk. John Evelyn, the diarist, wrote that the Navy should be employed to protect British shipping not “Spending their time bombing and ruining a few paltry little towns . . . a hostility totally averse to humanity and especially to Christianity”, however the bomb vessels, Christian or otherwise, continued to be developed and used. They fought the French off Gibraltar, where in a flat calm they engaged and severely damaged some French ships of the line, and at Toulon, where the fire from English and Dutch “bombs” destroyed several ships in harbour and caused the French to panic and scuttle the remains of their battle fleet at its moorings. This was a particularly significant action in that the Allies had landed observers ashore to watch the fall of shot and signal corrections to the gun layers afloat. This practice became frequently used when bomb vessels were employed, and a special force of observers were trained and retained by the Ordinance Board to undertake these duties. They would go to sea in tenders, one of which was attached to each bomb vessel to accommodate them and to carry spare ammunition.

These useful vessels remained in service throughout the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth centuries. A typical action was at Copenhagen in 1807. Britain was attempting to prevent the Danish fleet falling into French hands, following the agreement between Napoleon and the Tsar at Tilsit. The Danes refused to hand their ships to Britain “for safe keeping” and a fleet under Admiral Gambier accompanied by a force of 25,000 soldiers set out to compel them to do so. Thunder, Vesuvius, Aetna and Zebra, all bomb ketches, bombarded the fortress of Trekroner, in the approaches to Copenhagen, while troops and artillery advanced on land. After a pause for negotiation, which proved fruitless, fire was opened on the city itself as well as the fortress. This time, the efforts of the bomb vessels were supported by land based cannon and mortars. A huge timber yard was set on fire and eventually the city itself was in flames. The Danes capitulated and their fleet was captured or destroyed. In subsequent skirmishing Thunder was in action against Danish oared gun boats which she successfully drove off by using her mortar to fire “air bursting” bombs which exploded over their target, showering it with lead balls.

During the Crimean War (1854-6) both French and British navies employed a number of bomb vessels and also developed a class of barges fitted with heavy mortars to engage targets on land. The first of these barges built in Britain had names, but subsequently they were only given numbers, a practice to be continued for the small monitors built many years later.

The bomb vessels of the nineteenth century shared many characteristics with their early forebears and indeed with the bombardment vessels of the two twentieth century world wars. Their primary role was shore bombardment and to achieve this they needed very heavy weapons which could out range or out shoot shore based artillery. Most of these ships had two mortars, one 13 inch and one 10 inch. To support the recoil of these enormous weapons vessels had to be extremely heavily built, and to fire at all accurately they had to be very stable. This, together with the need for shallow draft, so as to get close to the enemy fortifications, resulted in ships with a very broad beam and poor sailing qualities. Their appetite for heavy ammunition meant that they required capacious tenders. Early ships had indeed been “bomb ketches” – ketch rigged vessels with a fore and aft mainsail on a mast set well back in the hull – the mortar fired forwards, over the bows. They must have been horrors to handle. Later “bombs” were “ship rigged” with three masts, but they remained slow and unhandy at sea. When the ships were not required for their main purpose the mortars would be removed and replaced with conventional armament so that they could be rated as sloops and undertake convoy duties, although in this role they must sometimes have had problems keeping up with their charges. Conversely in war time merchant vessels were often requisitioned and converted into makeshift “bombs”. A very suitable occupation for naval bomb vessels in peace time was polar exploration, for which their very strong build and shallow draft made them ideal. Erebus and Terror – names which we will encounter again later – made an epic voyage to the Antarctic in 1841 and 1842 which included being severely damaged by ice, battered by gales, threatened by enormous ice-bergs and finally a near fatal collision. No ships except bomb vessels would have survived such hazards.

The adventures of these wooden sailing vessels may seem far removed from those of the monitors of the twentieth century, but in fact they are closely related. Both were small shallow draft ships, slow and unhandy but mounting massive fire power. Both were unsuitable for fighting other ships at sea but could be devastatingly effective against targets on land or enemy ships in harbour. Above all they both needed to work in close co-operation with land forces. This involved communicating effectively with observers on land (or later in the air), understanding the military situation and bringing down their massive fire power on the right spot at the right moment. At the same time they had to be relatively cheap ships with small crews, since they would be required to operate at great risk to themselves close under the guns of enemy fortifications, where it would be foolish to hazard a valuable ship of the line.

Project 651/Juliett SSG

The Project 651/Juliett SSG was an attractive submarine and, being diesel-electric, it demonstrated the scope of the Soviet commitment to the anti-carrier role. An auxiliary nuclear power source was evaluated for these submarines, but appears not to have been pursued.

Admiral S. G. Gorshkov, Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy from 1955 to 1981, used the term “revolution in military affairs” to describe the period of the late 1950s when cruise and ballistic missiles were integrated into the Soviet armed forces. For the Soviet Navy this led to an intensive period of development of cruise missiles, initially for the land-attack role and then for the anti-ship role, as well as the development and construction of several cruise missile submarine designs. Gorshkov observed that “. . . all the latest achievements in science, technology, and production were utilized in the course of building qualitatively new submarines, surface ships, and [their] armament.”

Significantly, of the 56 first-generation (HEN) nuclear-propelled submarines built in the Soviet Union, slightly more than half of them (29) were Project 675/Echo II cruise missile submarines. While this proportion was achieved, in part, by the termination of Project 658/Hotel ballistic missile submarine program, when considered together with the 16 Project 651/Juliett SSGs, cruise missiles represented a major Soviet investment to counter U. S. carriers that could threaten the Soviet homeland with nuclear-armed aircraft.

This was in sharp contrast to the U. S. Navy. Having aircraft carriers available for the anti-ship as well as for the land-attack roles, the U. S. Navy rapidly discarded cruise missile submarines as the Polaris ballistic missile became available.

Simultaneous with the building of Project 675 Echo II SSGN nuclear submarines, the Project 651/Juliett diesel-electric submarine was put into production. It had a submerged displacement of 4,260 tons and was 2813/4 feet (85.9 m) long. Missile armament consisted of four P-5/P-6 canisters, paired in the same manner as in the SSGNs. This was a TsKB-18 design under chief designer Abram S. Kassatsier.

Seventy-two Project 651/Juliett submarines were planned. In the event, only 16 of these submarines were built at Gor’kiy and the Baltic shipyard in Leningrad from 1963 to 1968. As with Project 675/Echo II submarines, these craft had a large, rotating radar in the leading edge of their sail, with one of these submarines later having a satellite targeting system fitted (Project 651K). The first few submarines were built with low-magnetic steel. These soon suffered significant corrosion damage as well as cracks. The later submarines were of standard steel construction.

The building of diesel-electric SSGs in parallel with nuclear SSGNs occurred because of limitations at that time in producing additional nuclear reactors. Because Juliett SSG construction was contemporaneous to the Echo II SSGN and other factors, some U. S. submarine analysts believed that there was “sufficient evidence to warrant at least consideration of the possibility that, with the advent of nuclear power, the Soviet Union, in addition to continuing the development of conventional diesel-electric submarines, also advanced the development of unconventional nonnuclear [closed-cycle] propulsion systems.” But the Project 651/Juliett SSG had conventional propulsion- except for one unit.

A small nuclear reactor-designated VAU-6- was developed to serve as an auxiliary power source in diesel-electric submarines. It was a pressurizedwater reactor with a single-loop configuration coupled with a turbogenerator. After land-based trials it was installed in a Juliett (Project 651E) during 1986-1991. The sea trials “demonstrated the workability of the system, but revealed quite a few deficiencies. Those were later corrected.” In 1960, on the basis of Project 651, the Project 683 nuclear-propelled submarine was designed, also to carry the P-5/P-6 missiles. This was to have been a larger craft with more weapons; two small, 7,000-horsepower reactor plants were to propel the submarine. However, this design was not further developed.

Submarines with anti-ship cruise missiles were developed specifically to counter U. S. aircraft carriers, which since 1950 carried nuclear-capable strike aircraft on forward deployments to within range of targets within the Soviet Union. The high priority of defense of the Soviet homeland against this threat led to major resources being allocated to the SSG/SSGN construction. From 1963 to 1968 a total of 50 “modern” missile-armed submarines of the Juliett, Echo I, and Echo II classes were sent to sea carrying 326 missiles. These submarines, in turn, forced an increase in U. S. tactical anti-submarine warfare. While on the surface the SSG/SSGNs were increasingly vulnerable to Allied detection, although they were immune to the aircraft-carried Mk 44 and Mk 46 ASW torpedoes, which could not strike surface targets. This led to development of the Harpoon anti-ship missile for use by aircraft to attack cruise missile submarines on the surface. (The Harpoon subsequently became the U. S. Navy’s principal anti-ship weapon; it was carried by aircraft, surface ships, and, briefly, submarines.)

Cruise missile submarines thus became a mainstay of the Soviet Navy. With both cruise missile and a torpedo armament, these submarines provided a potent threat to Western naval forces. Indeed, some Project 675/Echo II and Project 651/Juliett submarines remained in service into the early 1990s.

Cold Waters with Captain Turkey

Project 611—NATO Zulu

A Project 611/Zulu IV showing the clean lines of this submarine. Production of this class as a torpedo-attack submarine was truncated, with the design providing the basis for the world’s first ballistic missile submarines.

The first-generation Cold War submarines of the Soviet Union and United States-including the highly specialized U. S. K-boats and the GUPPY conversions-borrowed heavily from German designs and technologies. The large number of GUPPY and Project 613/Whiskey submarines, as well as the smaller numbers of Tangs, K-boats, and Project 611/Zulu-class submarines, indicated that undersea craft would have a major role in the strategies of both the United States and the USSR in the Cold War.

During this period the role of advanced Soviet diesel-electric submarines remained largely the same as in World War II, that is, the destruction of enemy shipping and coastal defense. However, the role of U. S. submarines shifted to ASW in anticipation of Soviet exploitation of German U-boat technology and construction techniques that could flood the ocean with advanced submarines. Further, geographic factors would force Soviet submarines to reach open ocean areas through narrow straits, which, it was believed, would facilitate the use of hunter-killer submarines (SSKs) to intercept Soviet submarines en route to their operating areas.

These initial postwar submarine programs of both navies led to the creation of large submarine construction and component production industries in each nation.

Even as the Project 613/Whiskey design was being completed, in 1947-1948 TsKB-18 undertook the design of a larger submarine under chief designer S. A. Yegorov. 77 Project 611-known in the West as the Zulu-had a surface displacement of 1,830 tons and length of almost 297 feet (90.5 m). This was the largest submarine to be built in the USSR after the 18 K-class “cruisers” (Series XIV) that joined the fleet from 1940 to 1947. The Zulu was generally similar in size and weapon capabilities to U. S. fleet submarines, developed more than a decade earlier, except that the Soviet craft was superior in underwater performance- speed, depth, and maneuverability.

In addition to ten torpedo tubes with 22 torpedoes (or an equivalent load of mines), the Project 611/Zulu was intended to carry a twin 76-mm gun mount; instead, the first units were armed with a twin 57-mm anti-aircraft mount and a twin 25-mm mount. These were fitted only to the first few ships and were soon deleted. (Removing the guns increased the underwater speed by almost one knot.)

Project 611 again reflected technologies gleaned from the Type XXI U-boat, refined by Soviet designers and adapted to their requirements and limitations. For example, the power limits of available diesel engines led to the Zulu being fitted with three diesel engines to drive three propeller shafts. Project 611 was the first three-shaft submarine to be built in Russia in more than four decades. There was an effort to mount the machinery on sound-absorbing devices and other efforts were employed to reduce machinery noises.

The lead ship, the B-61, was laid down on 10 January 1951 at the Sudomekh shipyard in Leningrad. Her completion was delayed because of several defects being found in other Soviet submarines, some resulting in sinkings. Changes included the means of blowing main ballast tanks in an emergency, the hydraulic system, and strengthening the stern because of the increased vibration when all three shafts were rotating. The B-61 was launched in 1953 and accepted by the Navy on 31 December 1953, still a remarkable building time in view of the size and complexity of Project 611.

Early planning called for 30 submarines of Project 611. However, only 13 submarines were laid down at the Sudomekh yard, of which eight were delivered at Leningrad to the Navy. The other five ships were transferred in an uncompleted state through the Belomor-Baltic Canal system to the Molotovsk yard for completion. The Molotovsk yard, above the Arctic Circle near the port of Arkhangel’sk, was created by Stalin in the 1930s to produce battleships. Another 13 submarines of Project 611 were constructed at Molotovsk, the first ships to be completely built at the yard.

Of these 26 Project 611/Zulu-class sub marines, 21 went to sea as torpedo-attack craft from 1953 to 1958, and five were completed or refitted as ballistic missile submarines. The torpedo-armed units of Project 611 and the large number of the Project 613/Whiskey class became the mainstay of the Soviet submarine force during the 1950s and 1960s, well into the nuclear era.

With these new submarines would come new torpedoes, among them acoustic homing torpedoes or use against surface ships as well as submarines. Soviet interest in acoustic torpedoes began after the German U-250 was salvaged and found to have on board three T5 acoustic homing torpedoes. These became important for Allied as well as Soviet torpedo development, with British technicians being given access to the recovered T5 weapons following a specific request from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Stalin.

After the war Soviet engineers gained access to more German torpedo technology, and in 1950 the first Soviet acoustic homing torpedo was accepted or service, the SAET-50. This weapon was rough y the equivalent of the German T5 acoustic torpedo of 1943. In 1958 the first fully Soviet-developed ASW torpedo was accepted, the SET-53. It had a peed of 23 knots, with a range of 6,560 yards (6 km); the range was soon increased with improved batteries. The SET-53M variant of 1963, which had a silver-zinc battery, had a speed of 29 knots with a ange of 15,310 yards (14 km).

While advanced diesel-electric submarines and new torpedoes were being produced in the United States and the Soviet Union from the late 1940s, more advanced concepts in submarine propulsion were also being developed.

Cold Waters with Captain Turkey

The Evolution of French Battleship Protection Schemes 1900–1910

The recently-completed Courbet departs Toulon in January 1914. She is flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Boué de Lapeyrère, C-in-C of the Armée Navale.

Courbet departing Toulon in the Spring of 1914. The broad white band on the first funnel marks her out as the lead ship of the 1st Division of the elite 1st Battle Squadron.

The Evolution of French Battleship Protection Schemes 1900–1910

The reintroduction of a substantial medium QF battery meant that the simplified protection system of the Patrie and Danton classes, in which the ammunition trunks of the turrets rose above the ‘citadel’ as isolated armoured cylinders or cones and the single casemate guns were in independent armoured redoubts (see accompanying schematic), had to be drastically modified.

Eighteen of the 22 battery guns were housed within a large armoured casemate on the 1st deck which extended from the sides of the barbette of turret 1 to just aft of amidships, embracing the working chambers and ammunition trunks of the two wing turrets. The remaining four guns were in a casemate on the main deck, between the barbettes for the two after turrets. The casemates themselves were protected by thick walls of cemented plates which extended at their full thickness down to the main belt, so that the larger of the two casemates formed an ‘upper citadel’ amidships.

The other modification to the earlier Patrie/Danton scheme was that some of the layered protection amidships previously applied uniformly to the main deck was moved upwards to form the roof of the casemates, which now constituted extended armoured boxes above the citadel.

Protection of the hull and machinery was on a similar level to the Danton class. The two-strake belt, which was of cemented plates with a maximum thickness of 250mm, extended from the bow (Frame 165) to Frame 2, where it was closed by a transverse bulkhead of 180mm cemented armour. It was 4.05 metres high, with 1.7m being beneath the waterline at normal loading, and was steadily reduced in thickness to 160mm at the ends. In a break with previous practice, there was no light upper belt of special steel (cuirasse mince) forward of the main casemate, and the 160mm forward and after walls of the latter, which were two decks high and extended down to the main deck, formed the transverse bulkheads against enfilading fire.

The caisson cellulaire behind the belt retained the cofferdam which was a feature of earlier ships, comprising watertight cells a single frame in length directly behind the outer hull plating. However, the passageways immediately inboard of the cofferdam were suppressed in favour of a single broad central passageway and a system of tight compartmentation outboard of it. Virtually all the compartments outboard of this central passageway served as coal bunkers.

The protection scheme for the Dantons was essentially the same as for Liberté, with continuous layered protective decks above and below the entrepont cellulaire, and every key item above the main deck (turrets, casemates, conning tower) treated as an armoured ‘island’. Note also in the drawings of Liberté and Danton the light upper belt of special steel forward, and the armoured transverse bulkhead abeam 30cm turret 1 to protect against enfilading fire.

Courbet marked a complete break with earlier practice. The main QF battery and the after casemate guns were in boxes of 160mm cemented armour above the citadel, and the upper armoured deck was broken to provide protection to the roofs of the casemates. There was no separate upper belt of special steel forward.

The main and after casemates, which extended the full width of the hull, were protected by plates of 160mm cemented armour secured to a double thickness of 10mm plating; only the curved plates of the cylindrical gunshields were of special steel. There was the same level of protection for the end bulkheads as for the sides. Outboard of the wing turrets on either side of the ship there were two large cemented plates 232mm thick which provided additional protection for the working chambers and ammunition trunks.

The protected decks were on the built-up principle which characterised earlier French battleship construction, using two/three layers of mild steel steel on the flat, and replacing the upper layer by thicker plates of armour-quality ‘special’ steel on the slopes to provide a back-stop for shells and splinters which penetrated the upper belt. The lower armoured deck (1st platform deck), which was just above the waterline, was continuous, and comprised three layers of mild steel with a total thickness of 40mm (12/14/14mm); the upper (12mm) layer was replaced on the slopes by plates of 42mm special steel for a total thickness of 70mm. However, the upper armoured deck (main deck) had layered protection only fore and aft of the main casemate, comprising three layers with a total thickness of 48mm (12/18/18mm), reducing to two layers 30mm thick (12/18mm) at the bow and stern. This deck was effectively raised amidships to form the roof of the main casemate, which comprised two layers with a total thickness of 40mm (15/25mm).

The 30cm turret armour comprised five plates of 250mm cemented armour on the face and sides, secured to a double thickness of 20mm steel; the rear wall, intended to counterbalance the weight of the guns, comprised two plates of 360mm mild steel with a similar backing. The roof comprised three layers of 24mm steel, and the turret floor a single thickness of 60mm special steel on a double layer of 20mm; the rangefinder hood for the turret/section commander and the rangetaker was of 200mm cast nickel steel.

The ring bulkheads for the end turrets were protected by 236mm cemented plates on a double thickness of 17mm steel. This was generally reduced to 56mm special steel inside the casemates, although the outboard sides of the ring bulkheads for the wing turrets were reinforced to 116mm and were connected to the outer wall of the main casemate by angled bulkheads of 130mm special steel.

The conning tower was virtually identical in its configuration and protection to that of the Danton class.

The Courbets were France’s first dreadnoughts. They constituted a break with earlier construction not only by virtue of their uniform all-big-gun armament but also in terms of their size: they were fully 20 metres longer than their immediate predecessors of the Danton class and had a displacement 25% greater. They had a new hull form and a radically different layout. They also featured a powerful dual-purpose battery of medium-calibre QF guns capable of both supplementing the main guns and engaging enemy destroyers.

Given the novelty of the design, it is unsurprising that there were defects which became quickly apparent once the ships entered service. Sea-keeping would have been much-improved had only a single turret been mounted on the forecastle, as in their British and German counterparts. The restricted elevation of the main guns would prove to be a major issue: the design of the turrets permitted a maximum elevation of 12 degrees, whereas 15 degrees was standard for contemporary foreign dreadnoughts, and in the latest British ships it was 20°. Firing the new heavyweight shell, the 30cm guns could range only to 13,500m. When the Courbet class was designed the French thought it inconceivable that future battle ranges would exceed 10,000m due to the difficulty of providing effective fire control. Moreover, the new ‘all-big-gun’ ships were intended to fight alongside the battleships of the Danton class, which would be completed only during the second half of 1911 and would remain first-line units for many years to come, not to supersede them. It was therefore a considerable shock to the Marine Nationale when the early actions of the Great War, and in particular the Battles of the Falkland Islands and Dogger Bank, saw ranges of engagement of 14,000–17,000 metres.

These failings would be addressed in future years, but due to the pressures of war it would be the 1920s before the ships were subjected to a radical reconstruction which focused on extending gun range and on corresponding improvements in fire control. As it was, despite British influences on the design, the dreadnoughts of the Courbet class remain essentially French in conception.


St Petersburg, museum S-189 Whiskey class submarine

Some 240 diesel-electric Whiskey patrol submarines were built between 1951 and 1957 at four different shipyards. As with the Romeo, planned production numbers were reduced (from 340) because of the introduction of nuclear propulsion. Along with its larger contemporary, the Zulu, the Whiskey class showed many similarities with the German U-boat. The Whiskey class appeared in five types: types I and IV had guns forward of the conning tower, the type II had guns at either end, and the types III and V had no guns. They proved to be a highly popular export, with forty transferred to half a dozen countries. Despite their age, Whiskey boats served throughout the Cold War and by 1986 around fifty were still operational, with another sixty-five held in reserve.

Many Type XXI characteristics were incorporated in TsKB-18’s Project 613 submarine-known in the West as “Whiskey.”60 This design had been initiated in 1942 as Project 608, but was rejected by the naval high command because it displaced 50 tons more than specified in requirements. The redesign of Project 608 into 613 was begun in 1946 under the supervision of Captain 1st Rank Vladimir N. Peregudov, who incorporated several features derived after studies of Type VIIC and Type XXI U-boats. One of the former, the U-250, had been sunk by the Soviets in the Gulf of Finland on 30 July 1944 and subsequently salvaged and carefully examined.

The hull and fairwater of Project 613 were streamlined, and the stern was given a “knife” configuration, with the large rudder positioned aft of the twin propellers. The propeller shafts were supported outside of the hull by horizontal stabilizers rather than by struts (as used in most U. S. submarines). The stern diving (horizontal) planes were aft of the propellers. The “knife” arrangement provided the possibility of a more maneuverable submarine than the U. S. Fleet/GUPPY configurations.

A small attack center, or conning tower, was fitted in the Project 613 fairwater, a feature deleted from the Type XXI. When retracted, the various periscopes and masts were housed completely within the superstructure.

Propulsion on the surface was provided by two diesel engines with a total output of 4,000 horsepower; submerged propulsion normally was by two main electric motors producing 2,700 horsepower plus two smaller motors that provided 100 horsepower for silent or economical running. This feature-derived from the German “creeping” motors-was the first German feature to be incorporated into Soviet submarine designs. Two large groups of batteries with 112 cells each were installed. Later a snorkel system would be installed for submerged operation of the diesel engines. This propulsion system could drive the Whiskey at 18.25 knots on the surface and 13 knots submerged.

The principal combat capability of the Whiskey was the six torpedo tubes-four bow and two stern, with six reloads in the forward torpedo room- a total of 12 torpedoes. This torpedo loadout was small in comparison to U. S. submarines and the Type XXI, but was comparable to the five tubes and 15 torpedoes in the Type VIIC U-boat. The tubes were fitted with a pneumatic, wakeless firing system that could launch torpedoes from the surface down to almost 100 feet (30 m); in subsequent upgrades firing depth was increased to 230 feet (70 m). Previously the USSR, as other nations, had produced specialized minelaying submarines. Beginning with the Whiskey, Soviet submarines could also lay mines through their torpedo tubes (as could U. S. submarines). In the minelaying role a Whiskey could have a loadout of two torpedoes for self-defense plus 20 tube-launched mines.

Early Project 608/613 designs had provided for a twin 76-mm gun mount for engaging surface ships. With the plan to conduct most or all of a combat patrol submerged, the gun armament was reduced to a twin 57-mm anti-aircraft mount aft of the conning tower and a twin 25-mm anti-aircraft mount on a forward step of the tower. (Guns were installed in Soviet submarines until 1956.)

With the use of a completely welded pressure hull using SKhL-4 alloy steel coupled with the design of its pressure hull, the Whiskey had a test depth of 655 feet (200 m) and a working depth of 560 feet (170 m).66 This was considerably deeper than the Type XXI as well as the new U. S. K1 class, and almost as deep as the Tang class. Unfortunately, in achieving the greatest feasible operating depth while restricting displacement, the designers excessively constrained the crew accommodations in the Whiskey (as in subsequent diesel-electric classes).

The Project 613/Whiskey introduced a new level of underwater performance to Soviet undersea craft, incorporating many German design features that would be found in future generations of Soviet submarines. The final TsKB-18 contract design was approved by the Navy in 1948, and construction began shortly afterward at the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard in the inland city of Gor’kiy, some 200 miles (320 km) to the east of Moscow. Submarines built at Gor’kiy would be taken down the Volga River by transporter dock for completion at Caspian and Black Sea yards.

The lead submarine of Project 613-the S-80- was laid down at Gor’kiy on 13 March 1950, followed by additional production at the Baltisky (Baltic) shipyard in Leningrad, the Chernomorskiy yard in Nikolayev on the Black Sea, and the Leninsky Komsomol yard at Komsomol’sk in the Far East. Automatic welding and prefabrication were widely used in Project 613 construction.

The S-80 was put into the water-launched from a horizontal assembly facility-on 21 October 1950 when 70 percent complete. She was immediately transported by barge down the Volga River to the port of Baku on the Caspian Sea, arriving on 1 November. After completion and extensive trials, the S-80 was commissioned on 2 December 1951, a very impressive peacetime accomplishment The massive Project 613/Whiskey program produced 215 submarines for the Soviet Navy through 1958 (i. e., an average of more than 2 1/2 submarines per month of this design).

This was the largest submarine program in Soviet history, exceeding in tonnage the combined programs of the Soviet era up to that time. Indeed, in number of hulls, Project 613 would be the world’s largest submarine program of the Cold War era. (According to available records, a total of 340 submarines of this design were planned.) In 1954 the documentation for Project 613 construction was given to China, and three additional submarines were fabricated in the USSR, dismantled, and shipped to China for assembly at Shanghai’s Jiangnan shipyard. China then built 15 submarines at the inland shipyard at Wuhan on the Yangtze River, initially using Soviet-provided steel plates, sonar, armament, and other equipment. Soviet-built units also were transferred to Bulgaria (2), Egypt (8), Indonesia (14), North Korea (4), Poland (4), and Syria (1); Cuba and Syria each received one unit as a stationary battery charging platform to support other submarines. The Soviet Union transferred two submarines to Albania in 1960 and two additional units were seized in port by the Albanian government when relations with the USSR were broken for ideological reasons in 1961.

The Project 613 submarines would form the basis for the first Soviet cruise missile submarines and would be configured for a number of specialized an research roles. Four submarines were converted to a radar picket (SSR) configuration at the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard in Gor’kiy, with the first completed in 1957. These craft were fitted with the large Kasatka air-search radar (NATO Boat Sail) as well as additional radio equipment. Designated Project 640(NATO Canvas Bag), these submarines initially were based at Baku on the Caspian Sea, apparently to provide air-defense radar coverage for that region. One of the Project 640 submarines was provided with a satellite link at the Sevmorzavod shipyard in Sevastopol in 1966 (Project 640Ts).

In 1960 a submarine was converted to the Project 613S configuration to provide an advanced rescue system. That work also was undertaken at Gor’kiy. In 1962, at the same yard, another Project 613 submarine was modified to Project 666, a rescue submarine with a towed underwater chamber that had a depth of 655 feet (200 m). In 1969 that submarine was again modified to test prolonged exposure to pressure. One submarine was rebuilt to the Project 613Eh configuration to test a closedcycle propulsion system.

And in the late 1950s one of these submarines, the S-148, was disarmed and converted to a civilian research ship. Renamed Severyanka, she was operated by the All-Union Institute for the Study of Fisheries and Oceanography with a civilian crew. Two Project 613 submarines were lost-the S-80, a radar picket craft, in the Barents Sea in 1961, and the S-178 in the Pacific in 1981.

Whiskey Class medium range SSK

Units: 236 Displacement: 1,055 tons surfaced / 1350 tons submerged Dimensions: 249 ft, 2 in x 20 ft, 8 in x 15 ft, 1 in Armament: 6 x 21-in bow torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern) Machinery: 2 diesel engines; 4,000 bhp / 2 x electric motors; 2,700 shp / 2 x electric creeping motors; 100 shp / 2 shafts Speed: 18.25 kn surfaced / 7 kn surfaced snorkeling / 13 kn submerged Range: 22,000 nm surfaced at 9 kn / 443 nm submerged at 2 kn Diving Depth: 655 ft Complement: 52 In Service: 1951 – mid 1990s

Alabama (Confederate Navy, Commerce Raider, 1862)

Captain Raphael Semmes, CSS Alabama’s commanding officer, standing by his ship’s 110-pounder rifled gun during her visit to Capetown in August 1863. His executive officer, First Lieutenant John M. Kell, is in the background, standing by the ship’s wheel.

The USS Kearsarge, right, sinking the CSS Alabama off the coast of France in 1864. Painting by Jean-Baptiste Henri Durand-Brager, 1814-1879.

The most famous of the Confederate commerce raiders during the 1861-1865 U. S. Civil War. Built by John Laird & Sons at Liverpool, England, and launched in May 1862 as the Enrica, she was outfitted in the Azores, where in August Captain Raphael Semmes placed her into commission as the CSS Alabama.

A sleek, three-masted, bark-rigged sloop of oak with a copper hull, the Alabama was probably the finest cruiser of her day. She weighed 1,050 tons and measured 220′ x 31’9? x 14′ (depth of hold); she could make 13 knots under steam and sail, and 10 knots under sail alone; and she had a crew of 148. She mounted 6 x 32-pounders in broadside and two pivot-guns: a 7-inch 110-pounder rifled Blakeley and a smoothbore 8-inch 68-pounder amidships.

During the period of August 1862 to June 1864, the Alabama cruised the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific all the way to India. She sailed 75,000 miles, took 66 prizes, and sank the Union warship Hatteras. Twenty-five Union warships searched for her, costing the federal government over $7 million. Her exploits had been a considerable boost to Confederate morale.

Semmes knew his ship was badly in need of an overhaul, and he sailed her to Cherbourg, France. Cornered there by the Union steam sloop Kearsarge, on 19 June 1864 Semmes took his ship out to do battle. In one of the most spectacular of Civil War naval engagements, the Kearsarge sank the Alabama.

In 1984 the French navy located the Alabama within French territorial waters. British preservationist groups wanted the wreck, if raised, to be displayed at Birkenhead, where she was built. The U. S. government asserted ownership, however, and in 1989 Congress passed a preservation act to protect the wreck.

Alabama Claims
Claims by the United States against Britain for losses suffered at the hands of the Confederate raiders by Northern shipping during the 1861-1865 U. S. Civil War. As early as November 1862, the U. S. government had filed claims with the British government for these losses. After the Civil War, the fact that London had allowed the fitting out of the Alabama and other Confederate cruisers became a major stumbling block in Anglo-American relations. Washington believed, rightly or wrongly, that London’s persistent disregard of its own proclamation of neutrality had heartened the South and prolonged the conflict.

Charles Sumner, the powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, asserted that Britain owed the United States half the cost of the war, or some $2.5 billion. He proposed that the United States take British possessions in the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, as compensation.

Little was done to meet U. S. demands for compensation until 1871, when Germany defeated France. With the European balance of power decisively changed, statesmen in London believed it might be wise to reach some accommodation with the United States against the possibility of a German drive for world hegemony. London proposed establishment of an arbitration tribunal.

Consisting of five representatives-from Britain, the United States, Brazil, Switzerland, and Italy- the tribunal met in Geneva beginning in December 1871 to hear and determine “claims growing out of the acts committed” by the Alabama and the other Confederate commerce raiders fitted out in Britain, “generally known as the Alabama claims.” The commission did throw out Washington’s demands for indirect claims, such as for expenditures in pursuit of the cruisers, the transfer of U. S. shipping to British registry, and any prolongation of the war. Nevertheless, on 14 September 1872 the tribunal awarded the U. S. government $15,500,500. A special U. S. court was then set up to disperse the funds, and it ultimately awarded $9,416,120.25. Another claims court made payments beyond those cases covered by the Geneva tribunal. What money remained was used to refund premiums paid by shippers for war insurance. Direct losses were indeed paid in full and insurance charges were prorated.

The Alabama claims settlement has come to be regarded as an important step forward in the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and a victory for the rule of law.

Kearsarge (U. S. Navy, Screw Sloop, 1862)
U. S. Navy screw sloop, one of the most famous ships of the Civil War (1861-1865). The Kearsarge was the second in the two-ship Mohican-class. Her sister entered service in 1859. Commissioned in January 1862, the Kearsarge was 1,550 tons, 198’6? (between perpendiculars) x 33’10? x 15’9?, and bark-rigged, and she mounted 2 x 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbores in pivots and 4 x 32-pounders in broadsides. She also mounted a 1 x 30-pounder rifled gun and had a small 12-pounder boat howitzer (the latter not included in her official armament). Her complement was 160 men. The Kearsarge was in the European Squadron from 1862 to 1866. In June 1864 she was off Calais keeping tabs on the Confederate ships Georgia and Rappahannock when word was received that the Alabama was at Cherbourg.

Captain John A. Winslow and his well-trained crew had spent a year searching for the Alabama, and he was determined that she would not again elude him. The Kearsarge was soon under way. Two months out of a Dutch dockyard and in excellent condition, she arrived at Cherbourg on June 14 and quickly located the Alabama. The Alabama’s captain, Raphael Semmes, elected to fight, and the battle occurred on 19 June 1864, in the English Channel. It was one of the most spectacular of Civil War naval engagements. Despite Semmes’s later claims that the Kearsarge had the advantage in size, weight of ordnance, and number of guns and crew, the two ships were actually closely matched. The Kearsarge’s 11-knot maximum speed made her slightly faster than her opponent, and her broadside weight of metal was about a quarter greater than that of her opponent (364 lb. to 274). Winslow also had ordered chain wrapped around the vulnerable parts of his ship. During the battle Winslow outdueled Semmes, but he was fortunate that a shell from the Alabama, which lodged in the Kearsarge’s wooden sternpost, did not explode.

The Kearsarge enjoyed a long service life, succumbing only to shipwreck off Central America on 2 February 1894.

Raphael Semmes, (1809-1877)
Confederate navy officer and captain of the cruiser Alabama. Born on 27 September 1809 in Charles County, Maryland, Raphael Semmes was raised by relatives in Georgetown, District of Columbia, after the death of his parents. In 1826 he won a midshipman’s appointment. Promotion was slow, and it was 1837 before he made lieutenant. In long leaves of absence ashore, Semmes took up the study of law, a profession he followed when not at sea.

From 1837 until the Mexican War Semmes spent most of his time on survey work along the southern U. S. coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. Early in the Mexican War he commanded the brig Somers. In December 1846 she sank in a sudden squall off the eastern coast of Mexico. Half of her crew were lost, but a court-martial found Semmes blameless. In March 1847 he took part in the capture of Veracruz; later he participated in the expedition against Tuxpan and, accompanying land forces to Mexico City, was cited for bravery. After the war he again found himself in a navy with too many officers and spent much of his time on leave. In 1852 he published Service Afloat and Ashore during the Mexican War. Promoted to commander in 1855, the next year he joined the Lighthouse Board.

Semmes had moved his permanent residence to Alabama, and, following that state’s secession and creation of the Confederate States of America, in February 1861 he resigned his U. S. Navy commission and the next month entered the Confederate Navy as a commander. Sent into the North, he purchased military and naval supplies and equipment. In mid-April Semmes met with Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory and secured command at New Orleans of the Sumter, the first Confederate commerce raider. Between June 1861 and January 1862, Semmes took 18 Union prizes until, his ship in poor repair and blockaded by Union warships, Semmes abandoned her at Gibraltar.

In August 1862 the Confederate Congress advanced Semmes to captain, and Mallory gave him command of a new ship nearing completion in England. Semmes named her the Alabama. For nearly two years the Alabama ravaged Union shipping. Through July 1864 she took 66 prizes and sank a Union warship, the Hatteras. In all, Semmes took 84 Union merchantmen. He estimated that he had burned $4,613,914 worth of shipping and cargoes and bonded others valued at $562,250. Another estimate placed the total at about $6 million.

Semmes finally put into Cherbourg, France, with the Alabama for repairs, but French officials rejected his request to use the dry dock there. On 19 June 1864, Semmes sortied to engage the Union steam sloop Kearsarge. In the ensuing battle the Kearsarge sank the Alabama, but Semmes escaped on an English yacht.

Semmes then made his way to Richmond via the West Indies, Cuba, and Mexico. Promoted to rear admiral in February 1865, he commanded the James River Squadron of three ironclad rams and seven wooden steamers. When Confederate forces abandoned Richmond on 2 April, Semmes destroyed his vessels. The men of the squadron then formed into a naval brigade under Semmes as a brigadier general. He surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Paroled in May 1865, Semmes returned to Mobile. Arrested in December, he was transported to Washington and held there for three months to await trial on charges he had violated military codes by escaping from the Alabama after her colors had been struck, but he was released when the Supreme Court denied jurisdiction. He was then briefly a probate judge, a professor at Louisiana State Seminary (now Louisiana State University) at Baton Rouge, and a newspaper editor. Political pressure cost him all three positions. Following a profitable lecture tour, he resumed the practice of law. In 1869 he published Memoirs of Service Afloat, during the War between the States. Semmes died at his home in Point Clear, Alabama, on 30 August 1877.

References: Semmes, Raphael. Memoirs of Service Afloat, during the War between the States. Baltimore, MD: Kelly, Piet & Co., 1869. Reprint, Secaucus, NJ: Blue & Grey Press, 1987. Taylor, John M. Confederate Raider: Raphael Semmes of the Alabama. Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1994. Tucker, Spencer C. Raphael Semmes and the Alabama. Abilene, TX: McWhiney Foundation Press, 1996. Sinclair, Arthur. Two Years on the Alabama. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1895. Robinson, Charles M., III. Shark of the Confederacy: The Story of the CSS Alabama. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995