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Subject: It's Quiet Out There, Too Quiet
SYSOP    12/19/2012 5:53:23 AM
 
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Maddcowe    AIP   12/19/2012 2:12:36 PM
Great article, but it states that China does not have any AIP boats. It has been reported on several open-souce sites that the Chinese Type 041 Yuan SSK and the Type 043 Qing class both are equipped with an advanced AIP system. As for their status, they may not be operational at the moment, but as we see with China's naval developments, they will be soon.
 
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n1hook    Diesel/Electric   12/19/2012 3:24:40 PM
AIP boats should be a part of our inventory. smaller versions have a smaller crew, larger versions for longer voyages.
 
Why risk the expensive nuclear boat in the littorals? What would provide the best screening/security for our major naval bases both surface or submarine   a submarine   why use a nuclear boat  for that? Diesel/electric/AIP
 
Aircraft carriers are a huge target   who else can compete? no one   the expense and manpower make it a target.
 
Any country that can afford cruise missiles,torpedoes, the russian 600 knot torpedo,supersonic cruise missiles, or a low earth satellite containing dumb naval armor piercing shells,submarines of their own,  pre positioned concrete submarines can defeat our carriers and with it irreplaceable manpower, and planes.
 
Submarines, littoral surface ships, and long range land based aircraft optimized for a naval action would be a better combination.
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Skylark    Build smaller nukes   12/19/2012 3:32:56 PM
There are a lot of good reasons to re-visit the diesel submarine for the US Navy; not least of which being the perceived advantages in cost savings and a smaller size that makes operation in confined and shallow waters easier.  (The Straits of Taiwan and the Persian Gulf for example.)  But it should be remembered that US Submarines also need to be an integral part of a fleet, and that requires a boat capable of keeping up.  Diesel boats are quiet, but not fast, and while they can dash at speeds up to 25 knots, they cannot do it for long.  The last US diesel boat, the Barbel class, could only hold maximum speed for just 90 minutes, making them useless for anything beyond coastal defense and consequently worthless to a super-power.  The Kilo class (Arguably the most dangerous diesel boat out there.) is even slower with a dash potential of just over 10 miles.  The creation of a new class of diesel submarine would (as far as the US navy is concerned) create a limited use boat with the same problems associated with the navy's dubious flirtation with the Knox and Perry class frigate, which were built with an eye on saving money, but, as it turned out, were no bargain; being too slow to operate effectively with a carrier task force and doomed to early retirement.  The same would happen if the US started building diesel boats... we would have a boat without a clear mission and no ability to function as the unit of a task force.   Add to that the fact that the US navy has the ability to service nuke boats already in place, and it becomes clear that there is no reason for the US navy to re-introduce the diesel.  It would make much more sense to work on further miniaturizing the nuclear reactor until one can be mounted in a smaller hull like that of the Barbel, the 214 or the Kilo.  That would create a more versatile sub, capable of operating in shallow waters, with unlimited endurance at higher speeds, making them also a useful part of a fleet.  IMHO, we should leave the diesel designs to regional powers... Super powers need nukes...
 
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Reactive       12/19/2012 3:42:58 PM
^^ Exactly right
 
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American God       12/19/2012 5:39:06 PM
I don't think the size of the nuke plant is the problem. Pressurized water reactors of any size need water for cooling to be pumped through the reactor and the heat exchange system. Pumps mean a certain irreducible level of noise.
 
 Maybe what is needed is a new reactor design. Something that requires less cooling machinery, or that can be 'turned off' unlike the PW designs. There are a lot of new ideas in nuclear power worth researching.
 
But as for doing it cheaper - don't bet on it. Most American weapons systems acquire a certain inevitable amount of 'gold plating' as part of the Pentagon acquisition process. See also the F-35, DDG Zumwalt and the LCS for unfortunate examples. We might very well start out to build an economical smaller boat, only to find at the end, it has ended up costing as much as a Virginia. There is no easy solution.
 
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jaxn       12/19/2012 10:35:09 PM
How about magnetohydrodynamics for water flow rather than a pump?   Fluctuating magnetic coil energization makes sea water flow and has been considered as a propulsion method.  Similar to a rail gun in some ways.  We DO need to test our sonar methods but our newer high energy sonar DOES harm sea life including whales and porpoises and dolphins with their ultra sensitive sensing capabilities.  Why not test in the dead zones we have created, such as the Mississippi Delta, where all the nitrogen from fertilizers has killed off the fish and depleted the oxygen levels to the point there is little life there to begin with?   Apparently we do need quieter submarines.  Yet we are short on funding.  And waiting until we find out the hard way that our most likely near future adversary of major concern, China, has AIP and can do great harm to our ships (such as with their high speed anti-ship missiles, both cruise missile style and their ballistic missile type (D5?) that they already have) could have disastrous consequences.
 
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Reactive       12/19/2012 10:41:01 PM


And shielding - backup coolant systems, turbines etc - But I have a feeling that current PWR designs could be made somewhat smaller were it really operationally desirable.  

 Maybe what is needed is a new reactor design. Something that requires less cooling machinery, or that can be 'turned off' unlike the PW designs. There are a lot of new ideas in nuclear power worth researching.

 There definitely are: one being SMR's (small modular reactors) are the new buzzword in the civilian market - the DOE has just approved funding for the next generation of systems which will undoubtedly have knock-on effects - water as a coolant seems to be on the way out which will mean "inherently safe" reactors - i.e. higher burnup rates, lower-grades of fuel and passive shutdown. There's hundreds of viable designs out there but the problem is funding testbeds, highly controversial politically and after Fukushima anything that has the word "nuclear" is going to be a hard-sell. 

But as for doing it cheaper - don't bet on it. Most American weapons systems acquire a certain inevitable amount of 'gold plating' as part of the Pentagon acquisition process. See also the F-35, DDG Zumwalt and the LCS for unfortunate examples. We might very well start out to build an economical smaller boat, only to find at the end, it has ended up costing as much as a Virginia. There is no easy solution.
 
Remember when the F-35 program was going to be the cure-all for the procurement "death spiral" - I'm not sure what the operational requirements are for smaller subs - given the increasing use of SSN's as dual-use missile platforms (and SSN displacement iteratively increases with each new class) i'm not sure there's any immediate likelihood of such a development in the near-future - but to go back to what you said before, big money is starting to flow back into reactor R&D - Thorium as a "holy grail" reactor fuel is being seriously looked at by India, the PRC, even Norway as a reactor fuel - in the case of the latter Thorium will be be burned in a conventional Westinghouse BWR and imv it's inevitable that given its abundance it will eventually replace uranium despite the enormous challenges it might turn out that it gives us the 100+ years that I suspect will be needed to get Fusion Power (which has been 'just around the corner' for the last 60 years) operational. 
 
All of which is to say it won't be long (perhaps only two decades) before nuclear powerplants are scalable to a far greater degree with inherently safe design to boot.
 
 
 

 
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American God       12/19/2012 11:06:25 PM
Yeah nothing beats nuclear power for flexibility and speed when it comes to subs. We have a Nuke culture in the navy thanks to Rickover which is exceedingly cautious - which is why we have such a superlative safety record. But to get a smaller design you're going to have to experiment with new designs. Money is going to be the sticky wicket, though. If we can get our economic issues in hand we'll be okay; otherwise...
 
 
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vahitkanig       12/22/2012 12:38:14 PM
Nuclear  subs  good  for as mobile  launcer for  balistic  missiles and  deep  ocean  patrol 
But on the  battlefield  as  part  of  asimetrik  warfare they  have mostly   ambush,suprize attack  function for  its  valuable target such  a  aircaraft  carrier.Diesel electirc, AIP  or  nuclear subs  is  not alternative  each  other.
 
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Corsair700       12/22/2012 10:04:10 PM
There are many reasons for having non-nuclear boats.
 
Nuclear subs are VERY easy to find in shallow water or when operating in a limited environment eg when operating with a carrier battle group - ask the Australian submariners. Conventional subs are very hard to find - ask the Americans who have tried to find Australian subs, even when they have confined them to a very small area for exercise purposes.
 
Operating nulear subs in coastal areas around China, North Korea, Vietnam, etc is all but impossible - unless you want them found. Australian subs operated with impunity off North Vietnam during the war and have done so since (though no-one says anything about it). Given the unreliability of the Collins Class subs, such taskings have been rare.
 
Replacement submarines are a much discussed topic in Australian defence and government circles. Political reasons will mean that they will be built in Australia at HUGE cost, rather than buying them in from overseas.
 
There is no way they will be nuclear for polital reasons and that they will need to operate (or at least transit) the shallow waters of SE Asia. I trust AIP will be a design requirement.
 
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