IAFM - Ship Types - SSK


Soryu-class SSK

In the June 2010 Proceedings article, "The Right Submarine for Lurking in the Littorals", Milan Vego, of the Naval War College, lays out a case for a US Navy SSK.   Advantages include,

  • Better suited for operations in shallow, confined waters.
  • Sufficient sensors and weapons for operating in these regions.
  • SSNs are three to five times more expensive than SSKs.
  • Less problematic to home-port SSKs abroad.
  • Sufficient range and speed for operational deployments, if home-ported near their operating areas.
Another Naval War College professor, James Holmes, laid out similar arguments at the National Interest, "Diesel Submarines: The Game Changer the U.S. Navy Needs" and "U.S. Submarines: Run Silent, Run Deep...On Diesel Engines?" He adds,
  • Procuring and operating a common SSK with allies would show the US has "skin in the game" and demonstrate US resilience and resolve.  However even if not common, home-porting SSKs with allies still demonstrates "skin in the game".
  • Defending choke points and a static island doesn't require high SSN speed or range.
  • Numbers matter when you have to keep up a constant rotation of picket stations.
  • Replenishing wartime losses is far easier and faster with cheaper SSKs
I'll throw out a couple more reasons,
  • A large SSK buy would let us stand up aggressor boats on the east and west coast, that could routinely train task forces working up for deployments.  SSNs are far too few in number to devote to this.  These training opportunities could be more advanced and against seasoned aggressor sub crews.  
  • With large-diameter tubes on some modern SSK designs (A26), they could be used for covert MIW.
The IAFM includes a fleet of 50 SSKs.  A notional home-porting breakdown could look like this,


Home-ported SSKs50% FDNF Availability
US-based42
USEUCOM42
USCENTCOM21
USPACOM4020
Total50


With forty SSKs home-ported in the Pacific, twenty could be deployed and on station at any moment.  These could form a barrier around the first island chain.

Notional SSK Patrol Areas

Design

The Japanese Soryu-class is a useful starting point for a Navy SSK design.  The latest Soryus dispense with the Sterling AIP system used in earlier boats, for a larger battery stack based on Lithium-Ion Batteries.  This multiplies their battery capacity, and offsets the loss of AIP. 

For the IAFM SSK, I'd follow suit.  I'd focus on range a bit more than the Soryu's, perhaps closer to the Australian Attack-class submarines.

I'd borrow systems from the Virginia-class SSN, where possible, cutting down size and capability to fit in an SSK, when necessary.

Soryu Specs  (AIP variant),
Displacement:
  • Surfaced: 2,900 tonnes (2,854 long tons)
  • Submerged: 4,200 t (4,134 long tons)
Length:84.0 m (275 ft 7 in)
Beam:9.1 m (29 ft 10 in)
Draught:8.5 m (27 ft 11 in)
Depth:900 m (3,000 ft)[2]
Propulsion:
  • 1-shaft 2× Kawasaki 12V 25/25 SB-type diesel engines diesel-electric
  • 4× Kawasaki Kockums V4-275R Stirling engines
  • 3,900 hp (2,900 kW) surfaced
  • 8,000 hp (6,000 kW) submerged
Speed:
  • Surfaced: 13 kn (24 km/h; 15 mph)
  • Submerged: 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph)[3]
Range:AIP endurance (est.): 6100 nautical miles (11297.2 km; 7060.75 miles) at 6.5 knots (12 km/h; 7.48 mp/h)[3]
Complement:65 (9 officers, 56 enlisted)
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • ZPS-6F surface/low-level air search radar
  • Hughes/Oki ZQQ-7 Sonar suite: 1× bow-array, 4× LF flank arrays and 1× Towed array sonar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Armament:

A US Navy SSK would carry a mixture of large, Mk48 heavyweight torpedoes and cruise missiles and smaller diameter weapons like the Quad Pack Cruise Missile (QPCM) and Mk54 lightweight torpedo.  These smaller munitions would allow it to carry more munitions. I would look seriously at incorporating a surface-to-air missile like the German IDAS, or the Raytheon AIM-9X.  This would allow it to chase away or destroy those pesky ASW helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft while it snorkels. 

Conclusion

Noteworthy navalists and naval studies have shown the value of adding a conventional submarine (SSK) to the Navy's fleet architecture.  If multiple SSKs can be bought and operated for the cost of one nuclear-powered SSN, we can increase forward presence, especially in shallow, confined waters where SSNs are ill-suited. Forward-deployed on deterrence patrols, they don't need the SSN's high sustained speed.  They can also allow for regular training opportunities for the rest of the fleet in how to deal with these quiet, deadly boats. 




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