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A curious mini-sub in the news again

So in the past week, this bad boy caused a stir in California’s Monterey Bay:

Via KSBW

Some were concerned it was a narco-sub or possibly a spy boat or something, as there aren’t a lot of privately owned manned submersibles in circulation. Turns out, it is noting nefarious and is part of a crowdfunded Community Submarines project to get people into man-in-the-sea activities, which is admirable.

As for the boat itself, currently dubbed Noctiluca, it is the old British-built U.S. Submarines S-101, a 32-foot, two-person diesel-electric mini-submersible with a decent performance (range of 200 miles when surfaced, can dive for 72 hrs, 300+ foot operating depth/1250 ft. crush depth due to its 10 mm thick A43 steel pressure hull) built back in 1987.

If she looks familiar, she was used on a contract for the Royal Swedish Navy through the 1990s to serve as an OPFOR of sorts for that country’s coastal forces, mimicking Russian frogmen boats.

Then, in 1998, the Sea Shepherds (Whale Wars) guys picked it up cheap ($225K) from a Norwegian seller and, given a killer whale-style scheme, was intended to harass various fishing enterprises.

Passing into private hands in 2004, it has been up for sale off and on, most recently in Florida for about $80K.

It even showed up in a 2013 episode (S01E06) of the snorable cop show Graceland on the USA network:

Graceland Narco sub

Actor Manny Montana afloat in S-101, when it dressed up like a narco sub, in a 2013 episode of Graceland.

Either way, nice to see it still poking around.

Just hailing a ride on a Narco Sub

In the bonkers short video below, you see a U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces TACLET guy deployed on the U.S. Coast Guard Legends-class National Security Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) going for a ride on a 31-foot Long Range Interceptor “somewhere in the Eastern Pacific.”

Said Coastie makes a perfect landing on what JIATF-South calls “a self-propelled semi-submersible suspected drug smuggling vessel (SPSS)” but best just known as a Narco-Sub. The below happened June 18, 2019.

This is the SPSS when surfaced, to give a scale at just how much of the hull was below the sea:

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members inspect a self-propelled semi-submersible June 19, 2019, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members inspect a self-propelled semi-submersible June 19, 2019, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Just two weeks after the above video was shot, crewmembers of the USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South interdicted a second SPSS while conducting counter-trafficking operations in the Eastern Pacific.

(Coast Guard Photos)

The Coast Guard hasn’t been this busy fighting submarines since the Germans!

The Admiralty must love their Brazilian allies right about now

The Royal Navy and Marinha do Brasil have extensive ties going back to the 19th Century.

It should be remembered that the battle of Jutland had a Brazilain battleship sailing for the British. HMS Agincourt, with her impressive battery of 14x 12-inch guns, had originally been ordered in 1911 as Rio de Janeiro from the British company Armstrong Whitworth. Of note, the Latin American country’s two previous battleships, Minas Geraes, and São Paulo, were also built at Armstrong.

However, Brazil recently apparently promised Argentina not one but two new (by Argie standards) submarines. According to Janes:

The Brazilian Navy has agreed to transfer two Tupi class submarines – Type 209/1400 – to Argentina, following a meeting between Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macro.

The deal includes a potential future transfer of an additional two boats.

Brazilian submarine, Tupi-class Type 209 S Tikuna (S34)

The Argentine Navy has fielded 11 submarines over the years, but only two of these, a Type 209 (ARA Salta S31) and a Type 1700 (ARA Santa Cruz S41) are still active, and those only marginally. There has been lots of crowing in sub circles that ARA San Juan (S42), tragically lost in an accident at sea last year, suffered from poor maintenance and probably shouldn’t have been at sea.

The Argentine-Brazil sub deal could end up with four boats transferred in all, with an overhaul in Brazil prior to transfer. A quartet certified pre-owned German 209s could provide the Brits a good bit of heartburn in a Falklands Redux situation.

No comment from the First Sea Lord or MoD…who must be super happy they sold the RN’s gently used helicopter carrier HMS Ocean–now NAeL Atlântico (AND 140) to Brazil late last year for the military equivalent of couch change.

Warship Wednesday, June 26, 2019: The sub-smoking Greenfish of the Amazon

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 26, 2019: The sub-smoking Greenfish of the Amazon

Here we see into the sail of the Bahia-class submarine Amazonas (S16) of the Marinha do Brasil, in January 1985 as she was headed across the South Atlantic to the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire. Her crew is participating in a swim call and the bluejacket is armed with an FN49 battle rifle, dubbed an FS in Brazilian service, on shark watch. While our hearty sub never saw active ship-to-ship combat, she had a long life and would go on to sink not one, but two submarines on her own accord.

A member of the 121-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home. The Balao class was deeper diving (400 ft. test depth) than the Gato class (300 foot) due to the use of high yield strength steel in the pressure hull.

Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5,000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their deck guns. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.

Some 311-feet long overall, they were all-welded construction to facilitate rapid building. Best yet, they could be made for the bargain price of about $7 million in 1944 dollars (just $100 million when adjusted for today’s inflation) and completed from keel laying to commissioning in about nine months.

An amazing 121 Balaos were rushed through five yards at the same time, with the following pennant numbers completed by each:

  • Cramp: SS-292, 293, 295-303, 425, 426 (12 boats)
  • Electric Boat: 308-313, 315, 317-331, 332-352 (42)
  • Manitowoc on the Great Lakes: 362-368, 370, 372-378 (15)
  • Mare Island on the West Coast: 304, 305, 307, 411-416 (9)
  • Portsmouth Navy Yard: 285-288, 291, 381-410, 417-424 (43)

We have covered a number of this class before, such as the rocket mail slinger USS Barbero, the carrier-slaying USS Archerfish the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perchbut don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Originally to be named Doncella (after a shovel-nosed catfish), the Balao that became the first warship named Greenfish (after a Florida ladyfish) was laid down at Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, in June 1944– 75 years ago this week in fact– but came in too late for WWII service. She would be the 101st submarine to be launched at Groton.

Commissioned 7 June 1946, her shakedown cruises included one of the first transfers of personnel from an aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42), to a submarine by helicopter.

Greenfish in her as-built WWII-configuration, shown off Groton, Connecticut, in October 1947. Note her forward and aft 5-inch guns as well as her 40mm and 20mm cannon on the sail. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1974. Catalog #: NH 79772

Greenfish in her as-built late WWII-configuration, shown off Groton, Connecticut, in October 1947. Note her forward and aft 5-inch guns as well as her 40mm and 20mm cannon on the sail. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1974. Catalog #: NH 79772

Another task during her shakedowns was to Deep Six the captured German unterseeboot, U-234, off Cape Cod, Mass, 20 November 1947.

A Type XB “cargo U-boat” U-234 left Germany in the last days of the war in Europe with a dozen high-level officers and advisors, technical drawings, examples of the newest electric torpedoes, one crated Me 262 jet aircraft, a Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb and 1,210 lbs. of uranium oxide. She never made it Japan as her skipper decided to make for Canada instead after the fall of Germany. Two Japanese officers on board committed suicide and were buried at sea while the sub– packed with her very important glow in the dark stuff– surrendered to the destroyer escort USS Sutton south of the Grand Banks, Newfoundland on 14 May, a week after VE Day.

Though other U-boats popped up after her (U-530 and U-977 arrived in Argentina in July and August 1945, respectively) U-234 has been called “The Last U-Boat” in at least two different documentaries about her voyage.

Anyway, back to our sub.

After logging at least three short “Simulated War Patrols” in the late 1940s, less than two years after she left EB, Greenfish was sent back for GUPPY IIA (Greater Underwater Propulsion Power) SCB-47 conversion.

This conversion included adding German-style snorkeling equipment, enlargement of her sail, removal of much of her deck armament, and doubling her batteries to increase her submerged speed and range. She landed her WWII listening gear for an updated type WFA active and JT passive sonar set.

Also, her four electric motors were replaced by two of more modern design. Some 22 U.S. boats got such a conversion.

As noted by Capt. Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.), in his memoir Silent and Unseen on Patrol in Three Cold War Attack Submarines, from his time on Greenfish:

The most significant modification within the submarine, or below decks, was to provide the capability to shift electrical connections among the four main lead-zinc batteries from a normal parallel to connection in series. This shift, used during maximum or flank speed operations only, provided sufficient electrical current, or amperage, to the two direct-drive electrical motors such that they could drive both propeller shafts at a sufficiently high RPM to attain underwater speeds in excess of twenty knots, providing the hull was free of the marine growth that normally accretes from long periods in port. Such high speeds provided a boat, when under attack, with at least one good opportunity to break free of enemy active sonar contact and escape from an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) surface vessel.

As for her accommodations, McLaren notes:

Crews of seventy-five to eighty men normally manned diesel electric submarines of this era. All submarines—as high-speed, deep-diving warships—are compact, and Greenfish was no exception. By necessity they use every inch of interior space, but without compromising their war-fighting capabilities. Approximately a tenth of crewmembers had to hot bunk: that is, they had to share their bunk with a fellow shipmate, with one man climbing into a bunk as soon as its previous occupant had vacated it. Most hot bunking took place in the forward torpedo room where the most junior members of the crew slept in side-by-side pan bunks, positioned on top of the torpedo reloads.

Although all boats of this era had heating and air-conditioning systems, the systems were notoriously ill-distributed through any given submarine’s interior, despite the improvements that had been made since the war. Adding to crew discomfort when on the surface was the fact that GUPPY submarines now had a rounded bow, versus the previous uplifted, pointed or fleet bow, causing the submarine to ride less comfortably than previously on the surface, particularly when heading directly into rough seas. Finally, none of these older submarines was particularly clean below decks. The need to cram more and more improved equipment within each submarine created innumerable and inaccessible dirt- and moisture-collection areas throughout the boat, especially in the bilges, which became breeding grounds for cockroaches.

Her reconstruction lasting some eight months, Greenfish emerged ready to fight as one of the most modern diesel boats in the world and, assigned to the Pacific Fleet, arrived at Pearl Harbor 25 November 1948 to go about her Cold War career.

Greenfish stepside sail

Note her streamlined GUPPY IIA profile, with her guns deleted and a step-side sail

When the balloon went up along the 38th Parallel, Greenfish sailed for Korean waters and completed a war patrol there, 31 January to 1 March 1952. Following this, she was one of the first boats to operate among the ice with the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Lab— perilous duty for a snorkeler.

She conducted her second Korean War Patrol 21 Aug – 12 Oct 1953

Then followed a pattern of local operations out of Pearl Harbor, “special operations,” exercises along the American West coast, periodic overhauls, West Pac cruises, exercises, and the like, for several years.

She also proved a platform for a new breed of Recon Marines from time to time.

Reconnaissance scouts of the 1st Provisional Marine Air-Ground Task Force load into a rubber boat from Greenfish, a submarine of the Pacific fleet as they leave on a night mission against “enemy” installations on the island of Maui. The training afforded the Marines of the Task Force, which is based at the Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, is the most versatile offered to Marines anywhere October 7, 1954. Note the classic WWII “duck hunter” camo which had by 1954 been out of use for almost a decade except for special operations units. (Sgt D.E. Reyher DEFENSE DEPT PHOTO (MARINE CORPS) A290040.)

Night training launch from USS Greenfish 5.1.1953 via Force Recon Assoc

Night training launch from USS Greenfish 5.1.1953 via Force Recon Assoc

She would conduct at least six Special Patrols during this stage of her career:

Aug – Oct 1954
Oct – Nov 1955
21 Jul – 13 Sept 1956
3 Jun – 13 Jul 1958
17 -31 Jul 1958
Aug – Sept 1958

Stern view of four boats tied up in Pearl Harbor about 1959. Inboard to outboard are the Sabalo (SS-302), Carp (SS-338), Sterlet (SS-392) & Greenfish (SS-351).

Stern view of four GUPPY II boats tied up in Pearl Harbor about 1959. Inboard to outboard is USS Sabalo (SS-302), Carp (SS-338), Sterlet (SS-392) & Greenfish (SS-351).

Greenfish entered Pearl Harbor Shipyard 15 December 1960 for a FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) overhaul and extensive conversion to a GUPPY-III (SCB 223) class ship. This included cutting Greenfish in half and adding a 15-foot plug to her of hull to permit a new sonar room as well as space for more batteries and other equipment. She had one of her diesels removed to accommodate more A/C capacity and a larger freshwater distiller. She also picked up a BQG-4 PUFFS passive ranging (attack) sonar, with its distinctive three topside “shark fins.” Gone was her late 1940s WFA & JT sonars, replaced with PUFFS and augmented with a BQR-2B passive search sonar and BQS-4 active search sonar.

Only nine U.S. subs got the full GUPPY III treatment.

USS Greenfish (SS-351) with the shark fin arrays with the standard BQG-4 PUFFS system. This photo was taken in the 1960's timeframe. Text courtesy of QM2(SS) David Johnston, USNR. USN photo courtesy of http://ussubvetsofwwii.org

USS Greenfish (SS-351) with the shark fin arrays of the standard BQG-4 PUFFS system. Note her streamlined sail which had been raised an additional 5 feet to accommodate ever-increasing amounts of ESM equipment. This photo was taken in the 1960’s timeframe. Text courtesy of QM2(SS) David Johnston, USNR. USN photo courtesy of http://ussubvetsofwwii.org

Our still comparatively young boat, less than 13 years old, had by then been upgraded and converted extensively twice at this point. Her continued service included assignment to the 7th Fleet in Japan during the Cuban Missile Crisis, more periods of “special operations” which would result in a Navy Unit Commendation, ASW exercises, and, last but not least, a Vietnam patrol.

It is during this time that Greenfish counted her second “kill” when she torpedoed former Warship Wednesday alumni USS Barbero (SS/SSA/SSG-317) off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 October 1964, after that ship was stricken. Barbero was a Balao-class sistership.

Like the other WWII-era updated GUPPY boats, she was in the twilight of her U.S. service but had reached her prime.

Greenfish (SS 351) on Oct. 29, 1964, just three weeks after zapping sister ship Barbero. Photograph by Walter E. Frost City of Vancouver Archives

Greenfish at dock Dec. 2, 1967, Note her “E” swash on the sail and visiting Canadian Forces on deck. Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives

Greenfish This submarine is shown underway in Subic Bay, Philippines, 28 October 1969. K-78775

Greenfish: This submarine is shown underway in Subic Bay, Philippines, 28 October 1969. K-78775

In 1970, Greenfish received a shipyard overhaul and was reassigned to Submarine Force Atlantic, making deployments to the Caribbean, the Med, and the North Atlantic for a northern European cruise as part of an ASW hunter-killer group together with the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CVS-11). It was during this time she apparently carried a couple Mk. 45 ASTOR nuclear torpedos.

Finally, Greenfish was decommissioned and struck from the US Naval Register on the same day, 29 October 1973, having completed 27 years of service for Uncle.

She had 16 skippers in U.S. service and made 2,600 dives while carrying the Union Jack:

CDR Ralph M. METCALF, USN 7 JUN 1946-27 JUN1947
CDR Robert C. GIFFIN, USN 27 JUN 1947-20 JUL1949
LCDR Murray B. BRAZEE, Jr., USN 20 JUL 1949-29 AUG1951
LCDR William P. W WILLIS, Jr., USN 29 AUG 1951-18 APR1953
LCDR Davis E. BUNTING , USN 18 APR 1953-10 JUL1954
LCDR James H. STEVENS, Jr. , USN 10 JUL 1954-23 JUN1956
LCDR John T. KNUDSEN, USN 23 JUN1 956-16 JUL1958
LCDR John A. Davis, Jr. , USN 16 JUL 1958-18 JUN1960
LCDR Homer R. BIVIN, USN 18 JUN 1960-7 JUL1962
LCDR John W. HEMANN, USN 7 JUL1962-10 JUL1964
LCDR Samuel L. CHESSER, USN 10 JUL1964-23 JUN1966
LCDR Robert C. BLANCHARD, USN 23 JUN 1966-13 MAR1968
LCDR Mark W. BYRD, USN 13 MAR 1968-7 APR 1970
CDR Karl L. PETERSON, USN 7 APR 1970-4 JAN 1972
CDR Kent B. LAWRENCE, USN 4 JAN 1972-26 OCT 1973
CDR Robert K. SLAVEN, Jr. , USN 26 OCT1973-19 DEC 1973

However, she was only halfway through with her career.

On 19 December 1973, she was transferred under terms of the Security Assistance Program to Brazil, where she was rechristened as the submarino Amazonas (S-16), the 8th such Brazilian warship to carry the name of that nation’s iconic river system.

Lt. Robert Wolfe, who was on board Greenfish for two years in the end her U.S. Navy career up to the transfer, was interviewed by the United States Navy Memorial in 2018 about the handover, being one of about a quarter of the crew who assisted with the physical transition.

The Brazilian Navy has long lived the words of Tenente Naval Engineer Emílio Julio Hess who said, “É o valor militar que justifica o submarino e define sua importância como arma de guerra” (It is the military value that justifies the submarine and defines its importance as a weapon of war.)

The Latin American nation has been in the submarine biz for 105 years, first contracting with the Italian firm of Fiat-Laurenti to craft three submersibles– F1, F3, and F5— commissioned 17 July 1914.

First Brazilian submarines: F1, F3, and F5, circa 1914.

After these three, Rio ordered a further four larger subs from the Italians in the 1930s including a Balilla-class and three Perla-class boats, which they used through WWII.

In 1957, the Brazilians went American by borrowing the Gato-class fleet boats USS Muskellunge and USS Paddle for five years under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program before turning them back in in 1963 for a pair of Balao-class boats: USS Plaice (SS-390), and USS Sand Lance (SS-381).

During  the 1972-73 time frame, Brazil pumped up their sub fleet with five surplus GUPPY II boats: USS Sea Leopard (SS-483), USS Amberjack (SS-522), USS Dogfish (SS-350), USS Odax (SS-484), and USS Grampus (SS-523) while Greenfish joined another GUPPY III, USS Trumpetfish (SS-425), as a pair of new British-made O-class subs were being built.

Greenfish/Amazonas went on to put in two decades with the Brazilians– including a 1985 African cruise, shown in the shark bait swim pic at the top of this post.

Amazonas na Baia da Guanabara, note red sail numbers and PUFFS system. Via naval.com.br

She took part in regular UNITAS operations, observed the British build up for the Falklands War, and, as noted by a former skipper, continued to carry old Mk 14 semi-straight running torpedoes and conduct (sometimes risky) dives to 400 feet well into her final years.

Greenfish/Amazonas struck from the fleet on 15 October 1992 but continued to serve as a museum boat at the Centro Historico da Marinha in Rio de Janeiro until 2004 when she was sold for scrap, as her condition had deteriorated.

Scrapping ex-Greenfish, Aft via HNSA

As such Greenfish/Amazonas outlasted five of Brazil’s six U.S. smoke boats, as Grampus and Odax were retired in 1981, Dogfish was scrapped in 1983, Amberjack in 1987, and Trumpetfish left the fleet in 1990. Sea Leopard endured as a pier side training vessel until 1993.

Greenfish is well remembered in maritime art.

USS 351 USS Greenfish loading a torpedo by John Houlden NHHC

USS Greenfish (SS-351) in Drydock – Bow by Jonathan Scott NHHC Accession Number 88-160-EG

Crew of Greenfish Shape-Up on Deck, December 16, 1970. Painting, Acrylic on Paper; by Dante H. Bertoni 88-161-aq

The crew of Greenfish Shape-Up on Deck, December 16, 1970. Painting, Acrylic on Paper; by Dante H. Bertoni NHHC 88-161-aq

Although Greenfish is no longer afloat– and her name was never reused– eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.

Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:

-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

As for Greenfish‘s final home country, currently, the Brazilians field five German Tupi-class (Type 209) SSKs commissioned between 1989 and 2005, which are slated to be replaced by five Riachuelo-class (French Scorpene type) submarines in the near future.

Brazilian submarine Tupi class S30 SSK German Type 209 frogmen commando swimmers

Brazilian Tupi (S30) a German Type 209 SSK, with frogmen commando swimmers. The more things change…

Meanwhile, the name Amazonas has been reissued a ninth time by the Marinha do Brasil, to a British-built corvette (P120) commissioned in 2012.

Specs:
Displacement:
1,848 tons (1,878 t) surfaced (as built); 1,870 GUPPY IIA; 1,975 GUPPY III
2,440 tons (2,479 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft as built; 307 ft. GUPPY IIA; 322 ft. GUPPY III
Beam: 27 ft 4 in
Draft: 17 ft
Propulsion:
(1945)
4 × General Motors Model 16-278A V16 diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
4 × high-speed General Electric motors with reduction gears
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
(1949): Snorkel added, one diesel engine and generator removed, batteries upgraded to 504 cells, 2 electric motors
Speed:
(Designed)
20.25 knots surfaced
8.75 knots submerged
(Post-GUPPY)
Surfaced:
18.0 knots maximum
13.5 knots cruising
Submerged:
14.1 knots for a ½ hour
8.0 knots snorkeling
3.0 knots cruising
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 knots
Endurance:
48 hours at 2 knots submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth: 400 ft (120 m)
Complement:10 officers, 70–72 enlisted
Armament:
10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
6 forward, 4 aft
24 torpedoes
2 × 5-inch (127 mm) /25 caliber deck guns (removed for GUPPY)
1x Bofors 40 mm and 1x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon (removed for GUPPY)
two .50 cal. machine guns

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Columbia headed to realty, in just 12 short years

Huntington Ingalls showed off footage of cutting the first steel plate of the new Columbia-class (SSBN 826) ballistic missile submarine at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia last week.

The 12 Columbias will replace the 14 Trident II Ohio-class SSBNs, the newest of which, USS Louisiana (SSBN-743), is pushing into her 22nd year on active duty.

The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget asks for $1.7 billion in advance funding and $533.1 million in R&D funding for the program, which will cost many times that amount.

Columbia, with a planned 50-year service life, is expected to enter service in 2031.

190306-N-N0101-125 WASHINGTON (March 6, 2019) An artist rendering of the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The 12 submarines of the Columbia class are a shipbuilding priority and will replace the Ohio-class submarines reaching maximum extended service life. The Columbia-class Program Executive Office is on track to begin construction with USS Columbia (SSBN 826) in fiscal year 2021, deliver in fiscal year 2028, and on patrol in 2031. (U.S. Navy illustration/Released)

While the Ohios carry up to 24 Trident D5s, the Columbias are designed to tote 16 Trident D5s, in addition to their self-defense torpedo tubes. U.S. Navy illustration 190306-N-N0101-125

Welcome back, Torpedomen!

Commander, Submarine Forces sent this out yesterday:

You spoke up and we’ve heard you, Submarine Forces! Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has approved re-naming the Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) rating to Torpedoman’s Mate. Still some paperwork to be done, but details to follow in the weeks ahead from Chief of Naval Personnel – N1

Forward torpedo tubes of Gato-class submarine USS Cero , during a simulated torpedo attack, while at the Groton, Connecticut, Submarine Base in August 1943

Forward torpedo tubes of Gato-class submarine USS Cero , during a simulated torpedo attack, while at the Groton, Connecticut, Submarine Base in August 1943

Warship Wednesday, May 22, 2019: The Defiant Bicyclist

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 22, 2019: The Defiant Bicyclist

Il sommergibile Enrico Toti 2

Here we see the Balilla-class diesel submarine Enrico Toti of the Italian Regia Marina around 1933, dressed to impressed. Although many of Il Duce’s undersea boats met grim ends at the hands of the Allies in World War II and had little to show for their career, Toti had a much higher degree of success on both accounts.

While British, American and German submarines are given a lot of press for their storied achievements during the conflict, it should be noted that Italy was no slouch in the submersible department, historically speaking. The first Italian “sottomarino,” Delfino, was designed by marine engineer Giacinto Pullino at the La Spezia Navy Yard back in 1889, predating John Philip Holland’s designs for the U.S. and Royal Navy by a decade.

Over the next four decades, the Italians produced more than 100 subs, including some for the King of Sweden, the Kaiser of Germany and the Tsar of Russia, while in turn adopting a modicum of contemporary British designs to learn from. During World War I, the Italian submarine force counted some of the few Allied “kills” in the northern Adriatic when the Regia Marina’s F-12 torpedoed the Austro-Hungarian U-boat SM U-20 in 1918. Importantly, after the war, Italy received the relatively low-mileage German Type UE II long-range submarine SM U-120 as reparations, which the country’s designers apparently learned a good deal from.

In 1927, with an increasingly fascist Italy on track to build the fourth largest navy in the world, Rome ordered a new class of four Balilla-class “cruiser” type submarines, large enough to operate independently in the Indian Ocean and around Italy’s African colonies which at the time included Italian Somaliland and Eritrea on the strategically important (Red Sea/Suez Canal) Horn of Africa.

The country’s first post-WWI submarine design, the big Balillas went 1,900-tons and ran 284-feet long, capable of making 17-knots in a surface attack. Capable of diving to 400 feet– which was deep for subs of the 1920s, they could travel 13,000 nm on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 16 torpedoes for their six tubes as well as a 120mm deck gun, the design rivaled the U.S. Navy’s later Porpoise-class subs (1900-tons/289-feet/18-knots/16 torpedoes) of the early 1930s, which in turn was the forerunner of the USN’s WWII fleet boats. A fifth Balilla was constructed for Brazil, which in turn triggered Argentina to order three later Cavallini-class subs from Italy in the 1930s

Built by OTO at Muggiano, largely side-by-side, Italian Navy sisters Balilla, Domenico Millelire, Amatore Sciesa, and Enrico Toti were all in service by 1928.

Balilla class member Domenico Millelire, note her conning tower-mounted short-barreled 120mm gun. This was later replaced by a longer gun mounted on the deck.

All the vessels were named after famous Italian heroes:

Balilla was the nickname of one Giovanni Battista Perasso, a Genoese youth who is credited with a revolt against the Austrians in 1746.

-Millelire was an officer in the Sardinian Royal Navy who reportedly gave the first defeat to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1793.

Sciesa was an Italian patriot hung by the Austrians in 1851.

As for Toti, the namesake of our sub, he was a one-legged bicyclist who was allowed to join the elite Bersaglieri in the Great War and was killed by the Austro-German forces at the horrific waste that was the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo in 1916, famously throwing his crutch at the enemy lines and remaining defiant to the last.

The 1 October 1916 cover of La Domenica del Corriere, a popular 20th Century Italian weekly newspaper famous for its cover drawings akin in many ways to the American Saturday Evening Post, on Toti’s deed

The class soon engaged in a series of long-range peacetime cruises, waving the Italian tricolor around the globe. Boston photojournalist Leslie Jones documented Balilla off the Boston lightship on her way to Charlestown Navy Yard in May 1933.

Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library

Note how large the sail is on these boats. Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library

In September 1933, Toti, in conjunction with her sister Sciesa, set sail from La Spezia to circumnavigate the African continent East-to-West, passing through the Suez, and calling at Mogadishu, Chisimaio, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-Salaam, Diego Suarez, Lourenço Marques, Durban, Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Lobito, São Tomé, Takoradi, Dakar, Praia, Las Palma, Gibraltar and Barcelona before making it back to Italy in February 1934. In short, visiting every important British, French, Portuguese and Spanish port in Africa and the Med.

Il sommergibile Enrico Toti

In 1934, the class was updated with a more modern 120mm/45 cal gun (from the old 27cal weapon) mounted on the deck rather than the conning tower, while Breda M31 13.2mm twin machine guns on innovative pressured disappearing mounts replaced the older Hotchkiss singles.

Images of Toti in March 1935, showing her new configuration, via Association Venus :

Deck mounted 120mm gun

Images of the internals of WWII Italian submarines are hard to come by

At sea, note the new conning tower profile

One of the few pictures I’ve ever seen of the twin submarine mount Breda M31 AAA machine guns. It could reportedly telescope in and out of the pressure hull like a periscope.

Starting in 1936, Toti and her sisters became heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War, semi-secretly supporting Franco’s forces without any (published) successes.

When Mussolini finally joined WWII proper in June 1940, just in time to deal a death blow to France, the Balilla class were no longer the best subs the Italians had in their fleet, as a staggering 150~ follow-on large submarines were either in commission or on the drawing board. With this, the four Balillas were largely relegated to training use although they did undertake a few war patrols early in the conflict. Toti was the only one that was successful.

Just after midnight on 15 October 1940, off the Italian central Mediterranean town of Calabria, Toti, commanded by LCDR Bandino Bandini, encountered the British Royal Navy T-class submarine HMS Triad (N53) at a distance of about 1,000 meters.

HMS Triad (N53)

Toti, like the British sub, was operating on the surface and moved to close at flank speed, managing to hit Triad with her 120mm deck gun as the vessel was submerging. RN LCDR George S. Salt, the skipper of Triad, went to the bottom with the vessel’s entire 52-man crew. Salt and Triad did not go down without a fight. Her own deck gun hit Toti‘s pressure hull and injured two Italian sailors, while a torpedo from the British boat reportedly came within just a few feet of her opponent.

Once Bandini and the crew of the Toti made it back to port, they were celebrated as heroes. After all, they had sunk a British submarine (and would be the only Italian boat to do so, although HM Submarine Force would scratch 17 Italian subs). However, there would be enduring confusion over just which RN ship they should be credited for. The Italian press was initially told it was HMS Perseus (N36), a British Parthian-class submarine which in fact would only be sunk by an Italian mine in the Ionian Sea on 6 December 1941.

A 22 October 1940 Domenica del Corriere cover depicting Toti’s deck crew splashing a British submarine in a night action, incorrectly identified as Perseus.

For decades, both the Italians and the British mistakenly thought Toti sank the submarine HMS Rainbow (N16), which had actually been lost off Albania at about the same time after she struck a submerged object.

It was only in 1988 that Triad, which had been listed as missing for 48 years, was positively tied to the Italian boat that sunk her. In a twist of fate, Triad‘s lost commander was the father of British RADM James Frederick Thomas George “Sam” Salt, who was captain of the destroyer HMS Sheffield during the Falklands when that ship was lost to an Argentine Exocet– the first sinking of a Royal Navy ship since WWII. The junior Salt was only six months old at the time of his father’s disappearance in the Med.

By 1941, the obsolete Balillas were removed from frontline service. Of the quartet, Millelire and Balilla were soon hulked and used as floating battery charging vessels. Sciesa was disarmed and hit by an air attack in Benghazi in 1942 while running resupply missions to the Afrika Korps then later scuttled in place as the Americans advanced on the city.

Toti, true to her past, remained more active than her sisters.

From March to June 1942 she carried out a reported 93 training missions at the Italian submarine school of Pula, which saw her very active.

Enrico Toti submarine at the submarine school in Pula

She was then was used for four short-run supply missions across the Med to Italian forces in North Africa, landing her torpedoes and instead carrying some 200 tons of medicine and high-value materials as well as transferring most of the diesel fuel in her bunkers ashore for use by panzers and trucks.

Enrico Toti returns to Pola June 42, note her newly supplied camo scheme applied to run supplies to Italy Via Lavrentio/WarshipP reddit

Submarine blockade runners in North Africa: Enrico Toti (left) with the smaller Bandiera-class submarine Santorre Santarosa (in the center) and the Foca-class minelaying submarine Atropo (right) in Ras Hilal, Libya on 10-7-42. Of these, Santarosa would be grounded and scuttled in place 20th January 1943 while Atropo would be used to supply isolated British forces in the Dodecanese after the 1943 armistice and scrapped after the war. Via Lavrentio/WarshipP reddit

By April 1943, Toti was hulked and used to charge batteries, a role she continued through the end of the war.

The Italians lost over 90 subs during the war, almost one per week, with little bought with their loss. This figure is made even more considerable once you figure the Italians were only an active Axis ally from June 1940 to Sept 1943. By 1945, the country could only count about a dozen semi-submersible vessels and most of those had been laid up/disarmed for months.

On 18 October 1946, Toti was retired for good, along with the last of the Italian submarines. You see, the Regia Marina was dissolved with the end of the monarchy and the Treaty of Paris in 1947 banned Italy from operating submarines. With that, Toti and the last few Italian boats were scrapped or given away to victorious Allies as war reparations.

Jane’s 1946-47 edition does not list Italy with a single submarine of any kind.

Italy, with her navy rebranded as the Marina Militare, was only allowed out of the Treaty restrictions after the country joined NATO in 1949, effectively refraining from submarine operations until 1954 when the Gato-class submarines USS Barb (SS-220) and USS Dace (SS-247) were transferred to Italian service, where they became Enrico Tazzoli and Leonardo da Vinci, respectively. Through the 1970s, the Italians went on to acquire nine former WWII U.S. fleet boats.

The first of a new class of domestically made Italian submarine since WWII was laid down in 1965 by Fincantieri and commissioned in 1968 with the name of one of Italy’s most succesful boats, Enrico Toti (S 506). She went on on to provide nearly 25 years of service to the Italian Navy, much of it during the Cold War spent keeping tabs of the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet

This newer Toti has been preserved at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan since 2005.

The latter Toti, via the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan

Today, the Italian Navy fields eight very modern SSKs of the Todaro and Sauro-classes, with two more of the former on order.

Italian submarine Salvatore Todaro (S 526) passing the Castello Aragonese di Taranto by Alberto Angela

Specs:
Displacement: 1464 tons (1927 submerged)
Length: 284 ft.
Beam: 26 ft.
Draft: 15 feet.
Operating depth 100 m
Propulsion:
2 4,000 hp Fiat diesel engines, twin shafts
2 Savigliano electric motors, 240 cell battery
Submerged speed, max: 9 knots
Surfaced speed, max: 17 knots
Range: 3,000 miles at 17 knots or 13,000 nm at 7 knots; 8 miles at 9 knots underwater
Crew: 5 officers, 47 enlisted. Given as 77 in wartime.
Armament:
(1928)
1 120mm/27cal Mod. 1924 gun (150 shells)
2 single Hotchkiss 13.2 mm machine guns
6 torpedo tubes (4 front, 2 rear) of 533 mm, 16 torpedoes
4 mines in dedicated tube
(1934)
1 120mm/45cal Mod. 1931 gun (150 shells)
2 twin Breda M1931 13.2mm machine guns on disappearing mounts (3000 rounds per machine gunner)
6 torpedo tubes (4 front, 2 rear) of 533 mm, 16 torpedoes
4 mines in dedicated tube

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