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It looks like ONR is picking up Sea Hunter

I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.


DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).

The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.

ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.

Warshot! 27 years ago today

As seen through the submarine’s periscope, a BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) targeted on an Iraqi position leaves the water after being fired from a vertical launch tube aboard the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN-720) during Operation Desert Storm, January 19,1991. She was the first U.S. submarine to launch wartime Tomahawk Cruise missiles as part of the First Gulf War.

(OPA-NARA II-8/8/2015).

Pittsburgh, whose motto is Heart of Steel, was commissioned on 23 November 1985, and let her TLAMs fly into Iraq once again in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Groton-based sub, still very much in active service at age 32, recently passed her 1000th dive milestone.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018: One of the luckier sugars

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, Jan. 3, 2018: One of the luckier sugars

Photo by famed Boston Herald cameraman Leslie Jones via The Boston Public Library, colorized by my friend and the most excellent Postales Navales

Here we see the somber crew of the early “Government-type” S-class diesel-electric submarine USS S-8 (SS-113) — back when the Navy just gave ’em numbers– as she pulls into Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard some 90-years ago today: 3 January 1928, in the twilight of her career. They are no doubt still reeling from the loss of her close sister, S-4 (SS-109) just two weeks prior, to which the boat stood by to help rescue surviviors without success.

The S-class, or “Sugar” boats, were actually three different variants designed by Simon Lake Co, Electric Boat, and the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) in the last days of the Great War in which U.S.-made submarines had a poor record. Looking for a better showing in these new boats, of which 65 were planned, and 51 completed in several subgroups. These small 1,000~ ton diesel-electrics took to the sea in the 1920s and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online.

The hero of our tale, USS S-8, was 231-feet oal, could dive to 200 feet and travel at a blistering 15-knots on the surface on her twin MAN 8-cylinder 4-stroke direct-drive diesel engines and two Westinghouse electric motors for 11-knots submerged. Armament was a quartet of 21-inch bow tubes with a dozen fish and a 4″/50 cal popgun on deck for those special moments. Crew? Just 38 officers and men.

Her Government-type sister, USS S-4 (SS-109) Interior view, looking aft in the Crew’s Quarters (Battery Room), 25 December 1919. Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. Note folding chairs and tables, coffee pot, Christmas decorations door to the Control Room. NH 41847

USS S-4 Description: (Submarine # 109) Interior view, looking forward in the Crew’s Quarters (Battery Room), 25 December 1919. Taken by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. Note folding chairs, table, benches, and berths; also Christmas decorations. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41848

S-8 was technically a war baby.  A BuC&R design Government-type boat, she was laid down 9 November 1918 at Portsmouth Navy Yard, just 48-hours before the Armistice. Commissioned 1 October 1920, she was attached along with several of her sister ships (including the ill-fated Portsmouth-built USS S-4 whose interior is above) to SubDiv 12 and, together with SubDiv18, sailed slowly and in formation from Maine via the Panama Canal to Cavite Naval Station with stops in California and Hawaii.

USS S-8 (SS-113) Underway during the 1920s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41749

In all, the journey from Portsmouth to the Philippines took a full year, but according to DANFS, “set a record for American submarines, at that time, as the longest cruise ever undertaken. Other submarines, which had operated on the Asiatic station prior to this, were transported overseas on the decks of colliers.”

S-8 and her sisters formed SubFlot 3, operating in the P.I. and the coast of China while forward deployed for three years, the salad days of her career.

USS S-8 (SS-113) At the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands, circa 1921-1924. Note the awning and the type’s “chisel” bow. Collection of Chief Engineman Virgil Breland, USN. Donated by Mrs. E.H. Breland, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 103259

Submarine tender USS Camden (AS-6) Photographed circa the middle or later 1920s, with ten S type submarines alongside. The submarines are (on Camden’s starboard side, from left to right): USS S-18 (SS-123); unidentified Electric Boat type S-boat; USS S-19 (SS-124); USS S-12 (SS-117); and an unidentified Government type S-boat. (on Camden’s port side, from left to right): unidentified Government type S-boat; USS S-7 (SS-112); USS S-8 (SS-113); USS S-9 (SS-114); and USS S-3 (SS-107). Note the awnings. Collection of Vice Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 100459

By Christmas 1924, S-8 was at Mare Island, California and was a West Coast boat for a minute before chopping to the Panama Canal for a while.

Submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3) in the Canal Zone, with several S type submarines alongside, circa 1926. Note the Submarine Division Eleven insignia on the fairwaters of the two inboard subs. Submarines present are (from inboard to outboard): unidentified; USS S-25 (SS-130); USS S-7 (SS-112); USS S-4 (SS-109); USS S-6 (SS-111); and USS S-8 (SS-113). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 53436

May 1927 found S-8 and several her SubFlot 3 alumni sisters stationed on the East Coast at the big submarine base in New London.

It was during this time that tragedy occurred off New England.

On 17 December 1927, sister USS S-4, while surfacing from a submerged run over the measured-mile off Provincetown, Cape Cod, Mass., was accidentally rammed and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard-manned destroyer USS Paulding (DD-22/CG-17), killing all on board. An inquiry later absolved the Coast Guard of blame.

As noted by Naval, “The two ships had no idea the other would be there.”

Per DANFS on the incident:

The only thing to surface, as Paulding stopped and lowered lifeboats, was a small amount of oil and air bubbles. Rescue and salvage operations were commenced, only to be thwarted by severe weather setting in. Gallant efforts were made to rescue six known survivors trapped in the forward torpedo room, who had exchanged a series of signals with divers, by tapping on the hull. However, despite the efforts, the men were lost. S-4 was finally raised on 17 March 1928 and towed to the Boston Navy Yard for drydocking. She was decommissioned on the 19th.

Diver descending on the wreck of the USS S-4 from USS Falcon (AM-28)

Half submerged S-4 sub after accident. Charlestown Navy Yard – Pier 4 Leslie Jones Boston Public Library 3 12 1928

USS S-4 Description: (SS-109) Interior of the Battery Room, looking aft and to port, 23 March 1928. Taken while she was in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, after being salvaged off Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she had been sunk in collision with USCGC Paulding on 17 December 1927. The irregular object running the length of the compartment, just above the lockers on the right (port) side, is the collapsed ventilator duct through which water entered the Control Room. Into this duct water forced the curtain and flag, which clogged the valve on the after side of the bulkhead, preventing it from closing. It was this water which forced the abandonment of the Control Room. S-4 flooded through a hole, made by Paulding’s bow, in the forward starboard side of the Battery Room. See Photo # NH 41847 and Photo # NH 41848 for photographs of the Battery Room, taken when S-4 was first completed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41833

SS-8 went to the aid of her sister, but it was to no avail.

Sub S-8 at the Navy Yard after standing by S-4 off Provincetown when she was rammed and sent to the bottom by USS Paulding. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

U.S. sub S-8, Charlestown Navy Yard Jan 15, 1928. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

U.S. sub S-8, Charlestown Navy Yard Jan 15, 1928. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

With just a decade of service under their belt, the age of the Sugar boats was rapidly coming to an end as the Depression loomed, and precious Navy Department dollars were spent elsewhere on more modern designs. Three others of the class were lost in peacetime accidents– S-5, S-48, and S-51— while a number were scrapped wholesale in the 1930s.

Departing New London on 22 October 1930, S-8 sailed to Philadelphia where she was decommissioned on 11 April 1931.

Subs S-3/S-6/S-7/S-8/S-9 going out of commission at Philadelphia Navy Yard. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

She was struck from the Navy list on 25 January 1937 and scrapped.

Though obsolete, several S-boats remained on the Navy List and served the Navy well in both the Atlantic and Pacific (including several lost to accidents) during WWII. A half-dozen were even transferred to the Royal Navy as Lend-Lease including class leader and former submersible aircraft carrier, USS S-1.

None of these hardy, if somewhat unlucky, craft endure though keeps their memory alive.

Specs: (Government-type S-class boats which included USS S-4-9 & 14-17)

Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
Length: 231 feet (70.4 m)
Beam: 21 feet 9 inches (6.6 m)
Draft: 13 feet 4 inches (4.1 m)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN diesels, 1,000 hp (746 kW) each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 600 hp (447 kW) each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft. (61 m)
Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes)
1 × 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 “wet mount” deck gun
Crew: 38 (later 42) officers and men

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find.

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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USS S-28 and HMAS AE1, checking in from eternal patrol

USS S-28 (SS-133) Photographed during the 1920s or 1930s. U.S. Submarine, S-28. NH 42689

An S-1 class submarine missing since 1944 has been located.

Commissioned 13 December 1923, S-28 spent much of her career on the West Coast and, when war came in 1941, moved to Alaskan waters where she was very active, completing several war patrols in the hazardous waters of the Bering Sea. Then came an ordinary day in July…

According to DANFS:

On J3 July, she began training operations off Oahu with the Coast Guard cutter Reliance, The antisubmarine warfare exercises continued into the evening of the 4th. At 1730, the day’s concluding exercise began. Contact between the two became sporadic and, at 1820, the last, brief contact with S-28 was made and lost. All attempts to establish communications failed. Assistance arrived from Pearl Harbor, but a thorough search of the area failed to locate the submarine. Two days later, a diesel oil slick appeared in the area where she had been operating, but the extreme depth exceeded the range of available equipment. A Court of Inquiry was unable to determine the cause of the loss of S-28.

S-28 was awarded one battle star for her services in World War II and has been marked on eternal patrol since then.

However, according to The Lost 52 Project (named after the 52 missing U.S. submarines from WWII), they have found her in the very deep regions of the Pacific’s cold embrace.

On September 20th, 2017, a team led by noted award-winning explorer Tim Taylor, supported by STEP Ventures LLC and carrying Explorers Club Flag #80, discovered the remains of the WWII submarine lost in over 2600 meters (8500 feet) of water off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

Based on preliminary video and other documentation, the team currently speculates that the sub suffered a hull failure that resulted in the eventual separation of the bow, causing a near-instant loss. She is the final resting place of 49 US sailors.

More on S-28, here


HMAS AE-1, an the E-Class submarine manned by the Royal Australian Navy was the first submarine to serve in the RAN but was lost at sea with all the crew near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea on the 14th September 1914, after less than seven months in service. The cause of the loss has remained a mystery.

Since 1976, 13 search missions have attempted to locate the wreck. The submarine has finally been found near the Duke of York Islands. The men of AE1 are commemorated in the “Book of Remembrance” kept in the Submarine Memorial Chapel in Fort Blockhouse.

The names of the crew are listed in the “Area of Remembrance” at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. There is also a small dedicated memorial to the Australian Submarines AE1 & AE2 (the latter a Warship Wednesday alum) in the Fieldhouse Building at the Submarine Museum.

However, as noted by the Australian Department of Defense, AE-1 is lost no more after 103-years.

“The Royal Australian Navy teamed up with a range of search groups in this latest expedition, funded by the Commonwealth Government and the Silentworld Foundation, with assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea Government. The expedition was embarked on the survey ship Fugro Equator which is equipped with advanced search technology.”

More on AE-1 here.

350 in, 350 to go

In 1962, with the “Skybolt crisis,” which arrived when the promised GAM-87 Skybolt cruise missile tanked, leaving British Vulcan bombers hamstrung, the Royal Navy announced they would add a ballistic missile program to HMs Submarines and moved to produce five Resolution-class SSBNs, a 8,400-ton vessels each armed with 16 U.S.-made UGM-27 Polaris A-3 ballistic missiles, each able to deliver three British-made 200 k ET.317 warheads in the general area of a single metropolitan-sized target. This enabled a single British Polaris boomer on patrol to plaster the 16 most strategic targets in the CCCP.


With all of the moving parts and ominous tasking, the Resolutions, a modified Valiant-class design, were given traditional battleship/battlecruiser names (Resolution, Repulse, Renown, Revenge, and Ramillies) though just four were ultimately completed.

On 15 February 1968, HMS Resolution fired the first British Polaris on a test range off Florida and on 15 June began her first deterrent patrol.

Now, fast forward 49 years and the British have announced that between the four Resolutions and the four follow-on Vanguard-class Trident missile boats (also named for battleships) that replaced them in the 1990s, the force has completed 350 patrols, with at least one at sea at any given time, ready in case the world needs a nuke fed-exed. They also advise there has never been a time since then that a Brit SSBN has not been out there lurking somewhere drinking tea and running EAM missile drills.

“That the Royal Navy has completed 350 deterrent patrols without once breaking the chain is simply a momentous achievement,” said Rear Admiral John Weale OBE, Head of the UK Submarine Service. “Everyone knows that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Whether it is the dedication of our submariners, the expertise of our engineers and support staff, or the love of our families– each link remained strong throughout.”

The RN is planning to replace the Valiants with the Dreadnought-class, which will be the most expensive undersea warships ever built in Europe but will keep the UK with an SLBM option into the 2060s, at which point they will have been in the buisness for going on 100 years.

British Vanguard class SSBN

VJ Day ship decommissioned for good after 75 years of hard service

TCG Akin (A-585), 2013, image via ShipSpotting

The news comes that the Chanticleer-class submarine rescue ship TCG Akin (A-585) was retired from the Turkish Navy last month, on whose flag she operated under since 1970. Starting life as USS Greenlet (ASR-10), the 251-foot was built by Moore Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Co., Oakland, California, commissioned 29 May 1943.

According to DANFS:

Constructed as a submarine rescue ship, she served at Pearl Harbor and at Midway for more than a year, making escort runs and conducting refresher training for patrol-bound submarines. As the progress of the war advanced steadily across the Pacific, she sailed to Guam 21 December 1944 to carry invaluable submarine training closer to the patrol areas.

While at Midway and Guam, Greenlet helped train some 215 submarines, among them such fighting boats as Tang, Tautog, Barb, Snook, Drum, and Rasher. Indirectly, she contributed to the sinking of 794 enemy ships, including a battleship and 6 aircraft carriers. Eleven of the submarines trained by Greenlet were lost during the war, but her charges sank more than 2,797,000 tons of Japanese military and merchant shipping.

She is listed as one of the Allied ships present in Tokyo Bay during the Surrender Ceremony, 2 September 1945 and later supported submarine operations in Korea and Vietnam before her warm transfer to the Turks where she served as that country’s only submarine rescue asset until replaced earlier this year by a newer ship. If you note in the above image, she has her floats and dive chamber ready on deck.

Moore Dry Dock & Co. sure knew what they were doing.

USS GREENLET (ASR-10) San Deigo 1949 80-G-427645

The trace buster, buster, Captain Nemo edition

Ahh, the unlikely scourge of the armored leviathans of the early 20th Century– the plucky torpedo boat as seen by German naval artist Willy Stower, titled “Torpedo boats on maneuver”

Once the spar and locomotive torpedoes claimed their first victims in 1864 (USS Housatonic) and 1878 (the Turkish steamer Intibah), the world’s fleets began to research torpedo nets to be carried by capital ships to protect them from such infernal devices. By the early 20th Century, such an idea was common.

This, of course, led to:

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 84492

Behold, a net cutter fitted to an early MKV Whitehead Torpedo, at the Newport Torpedo Station, R.I., March 1908

In service from 1910 through the mid-1920s, the MKV was cutting edge.

Manufactured under license at Newport, the 1,400-pound fish carried 200-pounds of gun-cotton with a contact exploder in its nose and– a first for Whitehead– was hot-running. It was also variable speed on its 4-cylinder reciprocating engine, capable of being set for a sedate 27-knot clip for 4,000-yards (though the gyroscope keeping it in a straight line for that long was a stretch) or a blistering 40-kt pace for 1,000.

In 1908, Whitehead was the household name in locomotive torpedoes, having made them for over 30 years.

They sold the first to the Royal Navy back in 1877 and didn’t look back.

The early Whitehead: NH 95129 Illustrations of Torpedo Warfare Line engraving Harpers Weekly, 14 July 1877 early Whitehead torpedo

Whiteheads, later versions: Copied from the Journal of Scientific American Coast Defense Supplement, 1898. A widely-used naval torpedo, propelled by compressed air. This cut-away view shows the torpedo’s major components. Description: Catalog #: NH 73951

An improved Mark III Whitehead Torpedo fired from the East Dock, Goat Island, Newport Torpedo Station, Rhode Island, in 1894, torpedo boat destroyer USS Cushing in background

In the end, the Navy went with domestically designed and produced Bliss-Leavitt torpedoes over the Whiteheads, scrapping the latter in all their variants by 1922.

But they did outlive torpedo nets, which were ditched by ships in the early days of WWI, though defended harbor entrances continued to use anti-submarine nets through the 1940s.

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