Category Archives: submarines

Saving the Falcon

Kobben klasse undervannsbåt KNM Svenner (S309) og KNM Stord (S308) babord side (MMU.942589)

In the 1960s, West Germany’s Rheinstahl Nordseewerke in Emden built 15 small Type207 submarines for Norway with the cost split with the Pentagon.

A Development of the Bundesmarine’s own Type 205 “Baltic” subs, they were small, just 155-feet long/500-tons, but had an impressive bite in the form of eight forward-firing 21-inch torpedo tubes– enough to sink a Soviet battlecruiser if one came poking its nose in a Norwegian fjord (see Red Storm Rising).

From Mr. Clancy’s classic:

They found a gathering of submarine officers, which was not a surprise, but the center of attention was. He was a Norwegian captain, a blond man of about thirty who clearly hadn’t been sober for several hours. As soon as he drained one jar of beer, a Royal Navy commander handed him another.

“I must find the man who save us!” the Norwegian insisted loudly and drunkenly.

“What gives?” Simms asked. Introductions were exchanged. The Royal Navy officer was captain of HMS Oberon.

“This is the chappie who blasted Kirov all the way back to Murmansk,” he said. “He tells the story about every ten minutes. About time for him to begin again.”

“Son of a bitch,” McCafferty said. This was the guy who had sunk his target! Sure enough, the Norwegian began speaking again.

“We make our approach slowly. They come right”–he belched–“to us, and we creep very slow. I put periscope up, and there he is! Four thousand meters, twenty knots, he will pass within five hundred meters starboard.” The beer mug swept toward the floor. “Down periscope! Arne–where are you, Arne? Oh, is drunk at table. Arne is weapons officer. He set to fire four torpedoes. Type thirty-seven, American torpedoes.” He gestured at the two American officers who had just joined the crowd.

Four Mark-37s! McCafferty winced at the thought. That could ruin your whole day.

“Kirov is very close now. Up periscope! Course same, speed same, distance now two thousand meters–I shoot! One! Two! Three! Four! Reload and dive deep.”

“You’re the guy who ruined my approach!” McCafferty shouted.

The Norwegian almost appeared sober for a moment. “Who are you?”

“Dan McCafferty, USS Chicago.”

“You were there?”

“Yes.”

“You shoot missiles?”

“Yes.”

“Hero!” The Norwegian submarine commander ran to McCafferty, almost knocking him down as he wrapped the American in a crushing bear hug. “You save my men! You save my ship!”

“What the hell is this?” Simms asked.

“Oh, introductions,” said a Royal Navy captain. “Captain Bjorn Johannsen of His Norwegian Majesty’s submarine Kobben. Captain Daniel McCafferty of USS Chicago.”

“After we shoot Kirov, they come around us like wolves. Kirov blow up–”

“Four fish? I believe it,” Simms agreed.

“Russians come to us with cruiser, two destroyers,” Johannsen continued, now quite sober. “We, ah, evade, go deep, but they find us and fire their RBU rockets–many, many rockets. Most far, some close. We reload and I shoot at cruiser.”

“You hit her?”

“One hit, hurt but not sink. This take, I am not sure, ten minutes, fifteen. It was very busy time, yes?”

“Me, too. We came in fast, flipped on the radar. There were three ships where we thought Kirov was.”

“Kirov was sunk–blow up! What you see was cruiser and two destroyers. Then you shoot missiles, yes?” Johannsen’s eyes sparkled.

“Three Harpoons. A Helix saw the launch and came after us. We evaded, never did know if the missiles hit anything.”

“Hit? Hah! Let me tell you.” Johannsen gestured. “We dead, battery down. We have damage now, cannot run. We already evade four torpedoes, but they have us now. Sonar have us. Destroyer fire RBU at us. First three miss, but they have us. Then–Boom! Boom! Boom! Many more. Destroyer blow up. Other hit, but not sink, I think.

“We escape.” Johannsen hugged McCafferty again, and both spilled their beer on the floor. The American had never seen a Norwegian display this much emotion, even around his wife. “My crew alive because of you, Chicago! I buy you drink. I buy all your men drink.”

“You are sure we killed that tin can?”

“You not kill,” Johannsen said. “My ship dead, my men dead, I dead. You kill.” A destroyer wasn’t exactly as good as sinking a nuclear-powered battle cruiser, McCafferty told himself, but it was a whole lot better than nothing, too. And a piece of another, he reminded himself. And who knows, maybe that one sank on the way home.

“Not too shabby, Dan,” Simms observed.

“Some people,” said the skipper of HMS Oberon, “have all the bloody luck!”

“You know, Todd,” said the commanding officer of USS Chicago, “this is pretty good beer.”

Ordered in 1959, the 15th Kobben-class SSK was delivered to Norway before the end of 1965, talk about expedited fulfillment!

Norwegian Kobben-class via Janes 1975-76

At the end of the Cold War in 1990, two of the Kobbens were disposed of, four were transferred to Denmark to jump-start that country’s submarine forces, and the rest reconditioned for another decade of service with the Norwegians as six new 1,100-ton Type 210 (Ula-class) SSKs were added to the fleet to make up the difference.

By 2001, Norway put their remaining 35-year-old Type 207s to pasture, passing five of the retired boats in better condition on to Poland, which had only just joined NATO and was looking to upgrade their Soviet-patterned fleet to something more western.

Today, the Polish Navy still operates two ~55-year-old Kobbens (as ORP Bielik and ORP Sęp) and has recently decided to preserve one of these boats– that have been serving their new country for two decades– as a floating museum ship.

ORP Sokół (Falcon), formerly His Norwegian Majesty’s Submarine Stord (S308)– shown at the top of the post– is now at the Muzeum Marynarki Wojennej w Gdynia, being readied for her new role.

Sokół/Stord will not be the only one of its class on display. The Norwegians have had ex-KNM Utstein (S302) as a museum ship at Horten since 1998 while the Danes have ex-HDMS Sælen (S323)/ex-KNM Uthaug (S304) on display at Copenhagen since 2004. Notably, the Danish boat clocked in for an epic 385-day deployment during the 2003-04 Gulf War, proving these little submarines remarkably able, even if they never did sink that Russki battlewagon.

Although there is still an outside chance…

Lost 52 Project Discovers Their 7th Submarine

USS S-35 (SS-140) Off San Diego, California, on 23 November 1923 NH 69868

The New York-based Lost 52 Project, which is dedicated to finding all 52 WWII American submarines on “Eternal Patrol,” recently announced they found the final resting place of a lost boat that, while not one of the 52, was nonetheless a very interesting submarine: the S-class “pig boat” USS S-35 (SS-140).

Laid down on 14 June 1918 by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in San Francisco, California, she was commissioned on 17 August 1922 then spent two full decades on the West Coast in training duties and, while obsolete, conducted seven war patrols, principally against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands and Northern Pacific. Relegated to training tasks after 1944, she was decommissioned on 19 March 1945 then sunk by torpedo fire on 4 April 1946 in deep water off Oahu.

As noted by Lost 52:

The S-35 lower hull underneath the control room and after battery is smashed in. This could indicate that the torpedo used to sink her detonated under the hull without actually striking it, most likely using a magnetic influence exploder. Strangely, the amount of damage doesn’t seem nearly bad enough if the weapon that was used was the typical Mk 14 or Mk 18 torpedo with their large 600 lb+ Torpex warhead. If one of those weapons had been used on the S-35 the most likely result would have been a completely broken keel with the wreck in two or more pieces. The weapon that might have been used could have been the Mk 27 “Cutie” homing torpedo. This was a much smaller weapon with a warhead of only 127 lbs. It was a new weapon at the time and there may have been a desire to conduct tests under real conditions to see how the weapon reacted.

Warship Wednesday, Aug 5, 2020: Number 52

Here at LSOZI, we 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, Aug 5, 2020: Number 52

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, taken by Stephen F. Birch, now in the collections of the National Archives Catalog #: 80-G-49466

Here we see the bow of the Balao-class fleet boat USS Bullhead (SS-332) approaching a Chinese junk to pass food to its crew, during her first war patrol, circa March-April 1945. Of the 52 American submarines on eternal patrol from World War II, Bullhead was the final boat added to the solemn list, some 75 years ago this week. In another grim footnote, Bullhead was also the last U.S. Navy vessel lost before the end of the war.

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, the sub-killing USS Greenfish, and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.

Commissioned 4 Dec 1944, Bullhead’s war diary reports that the “training at New London was of little value because of the bad weather, shallow water, and restricted areas. Ten practice approaches were made and three torpedos fired.”

Bullhead

The ship proceeded to Key West with sister USS Lionfish and had better training opportunities in Panama, where she fired 26 practice torpedos. From The Ditch to Pearl, she continued training while shaking down. From Pearl to Guam, in the company of USS Tigrone and USS Seahorse, the trio would join USS Blackfish there and, on 21 March 1945 “Departed Guam for first war patrol to wage unrestricted submarine warfare and perform lifeguard service in the northern part of the South China Sea.”

Her first skipper and the man who would command her for her first two patrols was CDR Walter Thomas “Red” Griffith (USNA 1934), a no-nonsense 33-year-old Louisianan who had already earned two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star in command of USS Bowfin earlier in the war.

An officer on the bridge, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. He may be Commander Walter T. Griffith, who commanded Bullhead during her first two war patrols. 80-G-49448

An officer looks through one of the submarine’s periscopes, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the shorts. 80-G-49459

Aboard Bullhead as she headed for war with her Yankee wolfpack was veteran newsman Martin Sheridan. One of the first reporters who enlisted as a noncombatant with the Army, Boston Globe correspondent Sheridan reported on Pacific conflicts for the North American Newspaper Alliance and was the only newsmen to go to see combat on an American fleet boat, covering Bullhead’s entire 38-day inaugural war patrol. He had the benefit of a Navy photographer among the crew, Stephen F. Birch.

A War Correspondent chatting with crewmen in the submarine’s galley, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. He is probably Martin Sheridan, who rode Bullhead during her first war patrol in March-April 1945. Note War Correspondent patch on his uniform, “Greasy Spoon” sign, and pinups in the background. This photo was taken by Stephen F. Birch. 80-G-49455

Via Birch’s camera, the candid moments of Bullhead’s crew hard at work under the sea were very well-documented, something that is a rarity. The photos were turned over to the Navy Photo Science Laboratory on 20 June 1945, just seven weeks before the boat’s loss.

A crewman examines medical supplies, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the copy of Navy Ordnance Pamphlet No. 635 in the lower right. 80-G-49453

Treating an injured crewman, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49454

A crewman talks with an injured shipmate, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49450

Church service in the submarine’s after torpedo room. 80-G-49458

Crewman reading in his bunk, atop a torpedo loading rack in one of the submarine’s torpedo rooms. Note the small fan in the upper left. 80-G-49457

A crewman washing clothing, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the small lockers above the washing machine. 80-G-49451

A crewman writes a letter home as another looks on, in one of the submarine’s berthing compartments. 80-G-49449

Officer takes bearings on the submarine’s bridge, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49446

Crewmen loading .50 caliber machine gun ammunition, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. 80-G-49447

Bullhead’s First Patrol was active, bombarding the Japanese radio station on Patras Island twice with her 5-inch gun with the first string delivered from 4,700 yards, Griffth noting, “The first 18 rounds landed beautifully in the area near the base of the radio tower with one positive hit in the building nearest to the tower.”

While conducting lifeguard duty, she only narrowly avoided friendly fire from the very aviators she was there to pluck from the sea. One B-24 came dangerously close.

Nonetheless, on 16 April, she rescued a trio of American airmen at sea off Hong Kong, recovering them from the crew of a Chinese junk to which they thanked with cigarettes and C-rations. They were from a downed B-25 of the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 5th Air Force.

Rescue of three injured crew from a downed B-25 with the help of Chinese fishermen, during a Pacific war patrol, circa Spring 1945. Note the Asian small sailing craft alongside the submarine. For the record, the aviators were 2LT Irving Charno (pilot), 2LT Harold Sturm (copilot) and SGT Robert Tukel (radioman) 80-G-49461

Putting in at Subic Bay on 28 April, Bullhead landed the recovered aviators as well as Sheridan and Birch, refueled, rearmed, and restocked, then departed on her Second War Patrol just three weeks later.

On 30 May, she destroyed her first vessel, a two-masted lugger of some 150-tons, in a surface action in the Gulf of Siam. The ship was scratched with 12 rounds of 5-inch, 16 rounds of 40mm, and 240 rounds of 20mm.

She would break out her guns again on 18 June when she encountered the camouflaged Japanese “Sugar Charlie” style coaster Sakura Maru No.58, 700 tons, off St. Nicholas Point near the Sunda Strait. In a 20 minute action, it was sent to the bottom.

The next day, Bullhead came across a three-ship convoy with picket boats and went guns-on, sinking Tachibana Maru No.57, another Sugar Charlie, while the rest of the Japanese ships scattered.

One of the most numerous small Japanese merchant vessels, especially in coastal trade, was Sugar Charlie variants, in ONI parlance.

On 25 June, a third 300-ton Sugar Charlie was sunk by gunfire in the Lombok Strait. Hearing the cries of her crew, she picked up 10 men who turned out to be Javanese and “stowed them in the empty magazine” and later landed ashore.

The next day she fired torpedos unsuccessfully on a Japanese ASW vessel and received a depth charging in return for her efforts.

Of interest, all of the vessels sent to the bottom by Bullhead were in surface gun actions.

On 2 July, Bullhead put into Fremantle, Australia, marking her Second War Patrol as a success. There, Griffith and some others left the vessel.

Fremantle was a submarine hub in the WestPac during WWII, with Allied boats of all stripes to include British and Dutch vessels, mixing with locals and Americans. In all, some 170 Allied subs at one time or another passed through Fremantle between 1941 and 1945.

Final Patrol

With a new skipper, LCDR Edward Rowell “Skillet” Holt, Jr (USNA 1939), Bullhead departed Australia on her Third Patrol on 30 July, ordered to patrol the Java Sea.

As detailed by DANFs:

She was to transit Lombok Strait and patrol in the Java Sea with several other American and British submarines. Bullhead rendezvoused with a Dutch submarine, Q 21, on 2 August and transferred mail to her. Four days later, the submarine reported that she had safely passed through the strait and was in her patrol area.

When all U.S. and Allied subs in the Pacific were ordered to cease fire and return to port on 13 August, Bullhead was the only submarine not to acknowledge receipt of the message.

No further word was ever received from her, and, on 24 August, she was reported overdue and presumed lost.

Her name was struck from the Navy list on 17 September 1945. Bullhead received two battle stars for her World War II service.

Postwar analysis of Japanese records revealed that a Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia dive bomber of the Japanese Army Air Force’s 73rd Independent Flying Chutai, depth-charged a submarine off the Bali coast near the northern mouth of Lombok Strait on 6 August [ironically the same day that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima].

The pilot claimed two direct hits and reported a gush of oil and air bubbles at the spot where the target went down. It was presumed that the proximity of mountains shortened her radar’s range and prevented Bullhead from receiving warning of the plane’s approach. The submarine went down with all hands, taking 84 with her.

Her crew was among the 375 officers and 3,131 enlisted men lost on the 52 submarines during the war. To put this in perspective, only 16,000 men served in the submarine force during the conflict.

Legacy

Sheridan, the war correspondent, would go on to write a book about his time with the crew of the Bullhead after the war. Entitled Overdue and Presumed Lost, it was originally published in 1947 and reprinted by the USNI Press in 2013. The hard-living writer died in 2004 at age 89.

At least 16 one-time members of her crew, mostly plankowners, didn’t make Bullhead’s eternal patrol and in 1981 the Washington Post chronicled their enduring haunting by that fact.

Griffith, who lived to become a post-war rear admiral reportedly told a friend, “My boys shouldn’t have gone down without me. All so young. I should have been with them.” He later took his own life in a Pensacola motel, aged 54.

As for the three aircrewmen Bullhead plucked from the Chinese junk? As far as I can tell, Irvin Chano, Harold Sturm, and Robert Tukel all apparently survived the war and lived long lives.

Memorials exist for the Bullhead and her crew at the Manila American Cemetery, the National Submarine Memorial (West) in Seal Beach, California and at the National Submarine Memorial (East) in Groton as well as in San Diego and the dedicated USS Bullhead Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1997, Congress noted her sacrifice in the official record.

Bullhead’s engineering plans, reports of her early patrols, and notes on her loss are in the National Archives.

Although Bullhead’s 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.

Specs:

Displacement:
1,848 tons (1,878 t) surfaced (as built);
2,440 tons (2,479 t) submerged
Length: 311 ft as built; 307 ft.
Beam: 27 ft 4 in
Draft: 17 ft
Propulsion:
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
Speed:
(Designed)
20.25 knots surfaced
8.75 knots submerged
Range: 11,000 nautical miles surfaced at 10 knots
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
1x Bofors 40 mm and 1x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
two .50 cal. machine guns

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Kanyon: Not just a torpedo

Possibly one of the scariest weapons ever devised, the Russian 2m39 Poseidon (aka Status-6) NATO: Kanyon, a 65-foot long nuclear-powered intercontinental torpedo with an estimated warhead as large as 100 mega-tons, may or may not ever become operational. Submarine wonk HI Sutton over at Covert Shores has been covering this device for the past couple of years.

To put the strategy behind such a weapon into perspective, Dr. Mark B. Schneider, a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, just penned an essay at Real Clear Defense that paints a grim picture.

“Poseidon is a strategic rather than a tactical nuclear weapon. Calling it a ‘torpedo’ is also a mischaracterization,” says Schneider, pointing out that it is a semi-autonomous nuclear-powered UUV drone.

The crux:

The role of Poseidon appears to be to terrorize the U.S. and NATO into not responding to the initial Russian low-yield nuclear attack after the seizure of bordering NATO territory. Under its “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to win” nuclear doctrine, Russia is going to use nuclear weapons first. Deterrence and defense are necessary. A new generation of weapons is probably necessary to destroy the Poseidon. At a minimum, deterring genocidal nuclear attacks against our major port cities is a critical equity. There is no nice way of deterring genocide.

More here

So long, FF-1073

The Republic of China, aka KMT China, aka Taiwan, only has four somewhat operable diesel-electric submarines– two 1980s era Dutch Zwaardvis-class and two GUPPY-vintage Tench-class training boats– along with a shrinking supply of about 60 aging German-made 533mm AEG SUT 264 torpedoes. I say shrinking because last week, the country’s Navy burned at least one SUT on a retired frigate, the ex-ROCN Chi Yang (FF-932). Notably, it was the first time the country has fired a “warshot” torpedo in at least 13 years.

The SINKEX seems to have gone well.

Chi Yang was the former Knox-class destroyer escort/fast frigate USS Robert E. Peary (DE/FF-1073). Commissioned in 1972, she spent a solid 20 years stationed in the Pacific, including numerous Westpac cruises during the Vietnam era, before she was decommissioned in 1992 as part of the peace dividend.

Peary, the third such ship named for the famed Arctic explorer, in better times:

A starboard beam view of the frigate USS ROBERT E. PEARY (FF-1073) underway during Fleet Week activities. Visible in the background are the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. 1 October 1981. USN Photo DNSC8401914 PH3 CURT FARGO

The frigate went on to serve Taiwan for 25 years.

The ROCN still has six former Knoxes, now all in their mid-40s, in service as the much-modified Chi Yang-class, up-armed with Standard SM-1MR missiles in 10-cell box launchers as well as possibly new Hsiung Feng III missiles in addition to their old 5-inch gun, ASW torpedo tubes, and clunky Mk. 16 launcher filled with both Harpoons and ASROC. Of note, the country has over 20 frigates and destroyers, hulls that would be much in demand for sub-busting in the event that the PRC decides to get handsy.

As for replacement torpedos for the ROCN, in May, it was announced that the U.S. would sell Taiwan up to eighteen MK-48 Mod 6AT heavyweight torpedoes for $180 million, marking the first time the country has used such fish.

A Cod…Peace

This great shot taken from an 814 Naval Air Squadron Merlin shows the Type 23 (Duke)-class frigate HMS Westminster (F237), the Icelandic Coast Guard ship Thor, and Westminster’s sister, HMS Kent (F78), operating together during the opening phase of NATO Exercise Dynamic Mongoose off Iceland earlier this month. Unseen are three NATO submarines who are the OPFOR.

LPhot Dan Rosenbaum, HMS Kent

Of course, the Royal Navy and Icelandic Coast Guard may have been NATO allies since 1949, but that doesn’t mean they were friends by any accord.

Perhaps, you recall the Cod Wars?

Torpedo Tube Treasure Chest

The Gato-class fleet boat USS Cod (SS-224), which completed seven war patrols in WWII and was decommissioned in 1954 only to survive for another 15 years as an NRF training sub in Cleaveland, has been a museum ship there since 1976. Recently, the museum staff has managed to open her long-ago sealed forward torpedo tubes and a pair of outer doors in preparation for maintenance work.

It provides an interesting perspective shot, complete with an inert MK18:

They also found a series of wood crates and metal boxes stuffed inside the tubes that they think are parts and equipment that were stored there to reactivate and upgrade the tubes if Cod was returned to service.

A commenter who was around when the USS Batfish (SS-310) museum did a similar “untubing” in 2009 said the find wasn’t surprising as they discovered “a tube maintenance sled, block and tackle, and all the attachments for loading and unloading torpedoes into the tubes, as well as probably a half dozen miscellaneous torpedo room parts.”

More here. 

Torpedoes at work, Med edition

In a follow-up to the post on the German Type 212A submarines earlier this week, check out this SINKEX of the former Hellenic Navy transport Evros (A-415)— herself the ex-West German Navy Type 706 replenishment ship Schwarzwald (A1400)— sent to the bottom of the Agean by the Greek Papanikolis- (German Type 214)-class submarine HS Pipinos (S-121) through the use of a warshot SST-4 Mod. 0 Robbe (Seal) torpedo off Karpathos island last month.

The SST-4, introduced by Atlas Elektronik in 1980, is a Cold War-era 533mm heavyweight wire-guided/passive homing torpedo that has been replaced in German service with more modern fiber-optic guided torps. Still, it seems to work well enough to do the job against a stationary target ship, anyway.

In the video below, you can see the fish track all the way on the surface to make a near-perfect hit.

Of note, the Turks, who also operate German-made subs, had a SINKEX, two years ago, with TCG Yıldıray (S-350) using an SST-4 against a retired tanker, TCG Sadettin Gürcan (A 573)– of course putting the Greeks on notice.

Aboard U32, a modern German shark

WELT has recently posted this super interesting 50~ minute English-language doc on the German Type/Klasse 212A Unterseeboot, U32 (S182) “on its journey from the Eckernforde naval base through the difficult-to-navigate Kiel Canal to Plymouth in England,” for a NATO exercise.

I caution you now, when compared to U.S. bubbleheads, the modern crop of Germans are a bit sloppy looking and sport a lot of hair, but then again, that has been pretty common in the past few decades with Western European NATO militaries with the exception of the French, Brits, and Italians. 

Nonetheless, Type 212s are excellent platforms.

Commissioned in 2005, U32 is tiny when compared to U.S. boats, tipping the scales at 1,800-tons (submerged) and having a length of just 183.7-feet.

She carries up to 13 fiber-optic-guided torpedoes in time of war or tension. With her X-tail, she can dive in seas as shallow as 55-feet– making her able to operate almost to the edge of the 10-fathom curve in littoral space– and, using AIP, remain submerged for weeks without poking a snorkel up. Periscope depth is just 44 feet.

On such a compact vessel, everything is a bit cramped and every compartment serves multiple purposes– the boat’s small arms locker is under the skipper’s bunk.

Sister U31. I still think a laughing sawfish would look great on her sail. 

U31

Of note, Germany only has six of these vessels in a single squadron and a total of just about 80 active submariners in four crews, each of about 20~ men (and women).

“There are more Bundesliga footballers than submariners in Germany.”

The German boat also has beer aboard, enough for two cans per sailor per day– stored in empty torpedo tubes.

Donitz is surely rolling in his grave!

Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins– NATO edition

On 13 June 1923, CPT (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King, at the time Commander, Submarine Division Three, proposed to the Secretary of the Navy that a distinguishing device for qualified U.S. submariners be adopted.

That initiative led to today’s Submarine Warfare Insignia–best known as “dolphins” or “fish.”

All photos via NATO Submarine Command (COMSUBNATO)

Of course, most other fleets that field submarines also have similar badges, though not always accompanied by marine life.

Here are the NATO ones:

Royal Canadian Navy

French Navy

Deutsche Marine (German Navy)

Hellenic (Greek) Navy

Italian Navy

Netherlands

Norwegian

Polish

Portuguese

Turkish Navy

Royal Spanish Navy

Royal Navy

The more you know…

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