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Return of the Submarine Gunboat

July 13, 2010
tags: , ,

French cruiser/submarine Surcouf armed with 2x8 inch cannon. Time for a comeback? photo author PINGBOSUN via Picasa Web

Kudos to D.E. Reddick, Romanian blogger Resboiu, Alex and others for inspiring this notion!

First, D.E. started the ball rolling with this suggestion:

Recall that the Royal Navy built submarines with major artillery – i.e., 12 inch (305 mm) guns. Those were the M-class, which carried a single gun of that rather large size. Another class of RN submarines embarked with four 5.1″ (130 mm) guns in two twin turrets. Some of the largest USN submarines in service during WW-II carried two 6″ (152 mm) guns. So, what am I getting at? Well, why not mount a 155 mm AGS forward of the sail on a future SSGN? Maybe by then (late 2020s or ’30s) it’ll be an electromagnetic railgun rather than a chemically propelled artillery system. So, let’s consider a future SSGN type which can launch 100 to 200 cruise missiles (hypersonic speed) and also fire several hundred rounds of guided artillery munitions against various targets at lesser ranges (200-500 kilometers, let’s say). If done correctly, only the muzzle of the weapon would break the surface of the water. Just a silly idea, really…

Perhaps not so silly after all, as I will explain. But why the need for guns on a submarine in the first place? For a vessel intended to strike stealthy and silent underneath the surface of the sea, surely its torpedo’s would all important, right? Except in practice, as the craft was used mainly against merchant vessels, the gun became very handy, allowing the raider to save its rather costly and few torpedoes for high value targets. For most of the last world war, the U-boats spent more time on the surface than submerged anyway, mainly because the diesel engines possessed vastly greater range, and because the high surfaced speed allowed them to keep pace with any merchant ships.

The apogee of the gunboat submarine came with the French Surcouf, a fearsome vessel thankfully in the hands of a friendly ally. It is described here by Wikipedia:

Surcouf was designed as an “underwater cruiser“, intended to seek and engage in surface combat. For reconnaissance, she carried a Besson MB.411 observation float plane in a hangar built abaft of the conning tower; for combat, she was armed with eight 550 mm and four 400 mm torpedo tubes and twin 203mm/50 Modèle 1924 guns in a pressure-tight turret forward of the conning tower. The guns were fed from a magazine holding 60 rounds and controlled by a director with a 5 m (16 ft) rangefinder, mounted high enough to view a 11 km (6.8 mi) horizon, and able to fire within three minutes after surfacing. Using her periscopes to direct the fire of her main guns, Surcouf could increase this range to 16 km (9.9 mi); originally an elevating platform was supposed to lift lookouts 15 metres high, but this design was abandoned quickly due to the effect of roll. In theory, the Besson observation plane could be used to direct fire out to the guns’ 24 mi (39 km) maximum range. Anti-aircraft cannon and machine guns were mounted on the top of the hangar.

Surcouf also carried a 4.5 m (15 ft) motorboat, and contained a cargo compartment with fittings to restrain 40 prisoners. The submarine’s fuel tanks were very large; enough fuel for a 10,000-nautical-mile (20,000 km) range and supplies for 90-day patrols could be carried.

Sounds like the ancestor of our Ohio SSGNs which are true underwater battleships! As was said such vessels were few and far between, but consider such a craft in the hands of an unfriendly nation as Resiboiu alludes to:

If Surcouf was in the hands of the Kriegsmarine, I’m sure would be covered in glory by South Atlantic Crusades and even further in the Indian Ocean. I think it was well received and such a different version of “Strike from the sea” by Douglas Reaman. Incidentally, Surcouf in the hands of the Germans could bomb the American and Canadian ports with his heavy guns.

Only one Axis navy used very large submarines to any effect, but these were not gun-centric. The Japanese I-400 were used mainly as “submarine aircraft carriers“, and were not really effective though the concept was at least workable. The 6000 ton monsters carried 3 seaplanes in a hangar but weren’t all that lethal considering the poor bombing tech of the era (hence the need for huge airwings on land and sea). I think a submarine carrier is totally viable today since you have JDAMs assuring you get economy out of the handful of planes/UAVs you can carry.

But to what purpose would be a gun-armed submarine be for this modern era of supersonic missiles and robot aircraft?  Though the rail gun against high value targets may be possible, I have a more economical idea. Consider the Dutch Walrus out there off Somalia, spying on the pirates. Perhaps she sees some Somali pirate dhows attempting a hijacking and there is no other ship available. Will she sink a 20 ft or so wooden pirate ship with a $100,000+ torpedo, or a million-dollar missile? So here I could see need for perhaps some retractable, disappearing decks guns on an SSK.

If the USN would grasp hold again of the conventional boats to bolster her falling SSN numbers, she could use such craft also in the Caribbean against smugglers, as it would be more economical than expending costly missiles. Even in a covert amphibious landing, which is an important mission for our SSNs, she may find the need to support Special Forces, provide them cover during an extraction off some Third World coast.

Perhaps not so silly after all D.E., but a back to basics solution to a growing problem!

*****

USS Nautilus (SS-168). Note the 2 × 6-inch (152 mm)/53 calibers.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2014 6:46 am

    encountered two or three severe headaches with the survey shit, but today it payed back :))

  2. proxima permalink
    August 25, 2012 3:12 pm

    Speaking of subs able to fight while surfaced, take a look at DCNS’s SMX-25 concept:

    27 crew + 10 commandos.
    109m, 2850t/4560t.
    emerged length ~30m
    2000 nautical miles range (at?) 38 knots while “surfaced”, 10 knots underwater.
    Depth ~100m
    Conventional propulsion by 3 gas turbines and batteries.
    3 Water-jets and 2 auxiliary side screws.
    4 heavy torpedoes.
    16 Anti-ship, land-attack and AA missiles in vertical launchers, retractable machine gun.
    Possible larger land attack gun.
    UAV (helo), UUV, vehicle for commandos.
    Optronic mast and air-survey radar.
    Very low radar signature. Low noise. Counter measures.
    30 days patrol.

    Its role is to be a pathfinder dedicated to intelligence gathering and littoral zone opening.
    According to DCNS, it requires only off-the-shelf components and no technological breakthrough.

    http://www.meretmarine.com/article.cfm?id=114389

    It looks like a modern “Surcouf-lite” although it could also field the role of a small LCS.

  3. July 15, 2010 8:33 am

    Well that is interesting…….

    So higher than I thought but not that much higher.

    Of course I was thinking more of attacking concrete than destroying ‘planes.

    But imagine the difference to a Falklands style campaign if you could have a few days grace to get forces ashore.

    (I do note that their Lordships have approved some non-submarine names for the last batch of Astutes. Shame a slot couldn’t be found for another HMS Ardent.)

  4. July 14, 2010 9:20 pm

    Hello,

    a quote from the summary of the Rand document:

    “The United States responds in
    a variety of ways, including deploying USAF combat aircraft to the
    following bases on the Arabian peninsula: Dhahran, Doha, Riyadh
    Military, and Al Kharj.
    These bases have a total of 14 potential parking areas ranging in size
    from 600 × 300 feet to 9,000 × 900 feet. The total area of the parking
    ramps at these bases is over 44 million square feet—the equivalent of
    almost 1,000 football fields. These bases can accommodate a huge
    number of combat aircraft and an intense aerial-port operation.
    However, the number of GPS-guided, submunition warhead cruise
    missiles and ballistic missiles required to attack this huge area is
    surprisingly small, assuming a 20-foot lethal radius for the 1-pound
    submunitions employed and standard USAF aircraft-parking procedures.
    A 0.9 Pk (probability of kill) against all aircraft on the parking
    ramps of these four bases could be achieved with 30 GPS-guided M-9
    and 30 M-18 ballistic missiles, and 38 small GPS-guided cruise
    missiles, at an estimated cost of about $101 million.
    Attacking the tent cities at all four bases and a Patriot or theater high altitude air defense (THAAD) radar at each requires an additional 40 ballistic missiles and 8 cruise missiles, raising the total cost to about $163 million—about the cost of four Russian Su-27 export-version fighters.
    The effect on USAF sortie generation of destroying a large
    number of aircraft, living quarters, most personal equipment, and
    some work centers while creating widespread foreign-object damage
    would be devastating.”

    Bear in mind these figures are based on attacking an expeditionary air force which will not have hardened shelters:

    tangosix.

  5. July 14, 2010 8:32 pm

    Hello,

    X said:

    “But how many TLAMs would it take/does it take to put an airfield out of action?”

    You may find this document interesting,particularly the table on page 79:

    http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/2006/MR1028.pdf

    tangosix.

  6. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 14, 2010 8:27 pm

    To all,

    Closely read and consider this report from Danger Room:

    Run Wired, Run Deep: Subs May Finally Get Online

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/07/run-wired-run-deep-subs-may-finally-get-online/

    So, a submarine could have 24/7 communications with CONUS, air recon assets, and satellites, etc., etc., etc. But then, what if some of the released buoys actually carry their own sensors to inform the sub of local tactical ISR? Such information (situational awareness) would be invaluable to a SSN, SSGN, or SSGGN about to launch any form of attack. A composite, distributed, networked mix of such buoys would allow a deeply submerged boat to be aware of the conditions above the sea’s surface – besides what its own sensors might be reporting regarding the surrounding subsurface and surface situation.

    It’s possible that such capabilities would allow a long-ranged gun equipped submarine to remain submerged with only the muzzle of its AGS or EM rail gun emerging above the surface to deliver its fire against targets. Consider the quandary of an adversary receiving practically mysterious fire of multiple rounds (TOT) arriving from an unseen and undetected platform. Not just TLAMs, not only the prospective future PGS hypersonic cruise missiles, but artillery with a possible range of several hundred kilimeters. And that’s all that my silly idea is about, really.

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 14, 2010 8:14 pm

    I’m still not convince of the rationale for an NGFS submarine. You don’t do NGFS unless you have air superiority. If you have air superiority why do you need the ability to submerge? NGFS normally takes time, because there are several targets. It is not a shoot and scoot.

  8. July 14, 2010 7:20 pm

    Hello,

    regarding the Tomahawk,I am far from convinced of it’s utility in future major conflicts.
    Many of these missiles went missing during Operation Desert Storm back in 1991.
    I seem to recall a report suggesting they were likely to have been shot down.
    They will be far easier targets for more modern air defence systems.

    On the subject of airfields,Hardened Aircraft Shelters were very useful before the era of precision weapons.
    When they have encountered precision guided weapons they have been repeatedly penetrated:

    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=25677f79d3555c31&q=hardened%20aircraft%20shelter&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dhardened%2Baircraft%2Bshelter%26start%3D18%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DX%26rlz%3D1T4ADBR_enGB235GB236%26ndsp%3D18%26tbs%3Disch:1,isz:l

    I was going to write more on that subject but the link provided by X goes into it far better than I ever could.
    However there are a few more points which should be noted

    Land based aircraft are usually dependent on large support aircraft which are too big to fit in hardened shelters and which require long and wide,high load bearing runways.

    Even if shelters re not penetrated it takes time to repair runways and taxiways and the engineers doing this work are themselves exposed to attack from the enemy airforces which cannot be countered by aircraft stuck on the ground while their runways are being repaired.

    Aircraft are extremely vulnerable to Foreign Object Damage (F.O.D.),a couple of F16s were disabled by stones thrown up by a taxiing aircraft in Afghanistan not long ago.
    Thus not only will runways have to be repaired but they will also have to be kept clear of foreign objects such as rubble thrown up by bombs.
    It is no easy task to keep a runway foreign object free while enemy aircraft are bombing it.

    tangosix.

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    July 14, 2010 6:04 pm

    x said, “TLAMs would it take/does it take to put an airfield out of action?

    Hard to say. Depends on the airfield and depends on how much you want to degrade it and for how long.

    I do agree that there may be cases where we want to use them put an airfield out of action for a period of time.

    The New Navy Fighting Machine advocated for a 50 TLAM arsenal ship – much smaller than the original concept, and presumably cheaper.

  10. July 14, 2010 5:01 pm

    Smitty said “We don’t have endless TLAM cells”

    I know. I am straying into the hypothetical realms. But how many TLAMs would it take/does it take to put an airfield out of action? I would suggest a number in the region of 40. Most airfields have two runways. Even bases with extensive taxiways seem to have lots of intersections. Though a lot of modern jets have amazingly short take off envelopes I think any cratering on the runway would invite more than caution.

    As for the number of TLAM cells. Well I am slowly swinging towards the arsenal ship; but not in the gold plated form it first appeared. For the cost of a squadron or two of JSFs you could build a ship and stock it will missiles to launch the scale of attack I advocate. I see a simple hull brought forward at the start of operation before retreating back home using the vastness of the ocean for cover. And I advocate a similar approach for fire sport for marines.

    The main enemy is the government accountant. He has to be convinced that expending the equivalent cost of one escort in ordnance at the start of the campaign would greatly reduce casualties, collateral damage, and costs later in the campaign.

  11. B.Smitty permalink
    July 14, 2010 4:24 pm

    D.E.R.,

    LRLAP/AGS has a range of 74nm. An SSGGN will have to park close to shore to reach even a bit inland. And it will have to stay at least at periscope depth while firing. And none of those rounds will penetrate a HAS.

    Sounds more useful for NGFS than strike.

    Who knows how far a rail gun will go, or when one will be practical.

  12. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 14, 2010 3:41 pm

    B. Smitty,

    You stated: “We don’t have endless TLAM cells.”

    Well, if you had a SSGGN (Ship, Submarine, Guided Missile, GUN, Nuclear) then you could deliver 600 long-range rounds from a standard 155 mm AGS along with however many TLAM or PGS are carried. And if the gun system were an electromagnetic rail gun then the range could be extended beyond that of the chemically propelled AGS. Still not an endless source for sending rounds down-range, but an improvement.

  13. B.Smitty permalink
    July 14, 2010 3:09 pm

    x said, “I don’t know. Even if the aircraft were in harden are they safe?

    The point is, if airfields are hardened to the point where you have to expend one or more weapons per aircraft, or numerous weapons to cut runways and taxiways, just to achieve temporary incapacitation, is it really worth it? We don’t have endless TLAM cells.

  14. July 14, 2010 2:08 pm

    Smitty said “However, unless the enemy is dumb enough to line their aircraft up nice and neat on the tarmac,”

    I don’t know. Even if the aircraft were in harden are they safe?

    http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2008-02.html

    But also we should consider that even if the aircraft is nice and safe in a bunker the apron immediately outside will be (probably) of no greater thickness (probably at lot less) than the runways. So unless the targeted airforce has someway of getting an aircraft around or over a bomb crater the aircraft isn’t going anywhere quick . Even hitting the door, even if the door is armoured, could potentially cause enough problems to make sure the aircraft inside never reaches the runway, let alone the sky.

  15. Heretic permalink
    July 14, 2010 11:27 am

    You want crazy idea?

    Try USMC operated SSK+AIP built as dedicated off-shore artillery to fulfill the NGFS role. Mount a 155mm AGS on the top deck and give it a “healthy” magazine capacity for supporting landings. Be extra nice if it was possible to reload the AGS magazine at sea from an ammo ship.

    Rather than being a sub-vs-sub or sub-vs-surface design, it would instead be a sub-vs-shore gunBOAT.

  16. Al L. permalink
    July 13, 2010 11:11 pm

    For those who are interested in positing submarine tactics based on real world submarine history I recommend this book:

    http://www.submarine-history.com/subreviews.htm

    An excellent easy to read survey of sub history that will shine historical light on this inane thread.

  17. RW2 permalink
    July 13, 2010 10:54 pm

    I wonder how many shots with this mythical gun a sub like this would get off before she gets made? not many I suspect. If I had my way, a extended hull Virginia class SSGN should be built, and the remainder of the Ohios should be converted. Maybe a sub launch version of the SM-3 to take out those pesky orbital spies. Or other high value targets at H hour.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2010 8:27 pm

    @x

    I see the SSGN’s value against static targets (I actually really like those subs!) but fail to see how a sub-mounted gun could effectively attack them.

    Al

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 13, 2010 6:16 pm

    Thanks Scott and D.E. for the info on the Muraena gun. Perhaps some personal weapons, armed guards on RHIBs would be enough for the foe in the Gulf.

    Like Scott I don’t see submarines as ideal pirate busters, but if they happen to be in the area…

    Concerning “silly ideas”, also once described the airplane, the tank, the submarine, etc.

  20. B.Smitty permalink
    July 13, 2010 5:50 pm

    Hudson said, “Therefore, it is not idle to speculate that some sort of ship-to-shore fire power, especially in the absence of any other air-sea friendly fire support in the area, might also concern the Navy.

    TLAM plus IDAS seem like the easiest answer. A LRLAP-firing CVGS might be a somewhat more complex but more capable solution (if it fits in a VPT or Trident Tube). All of them could be removed when not needed.

  21. B.Smitty permalink
    July 13, 2010 5:38 pm

    x said, “ I see the SSGN as smoothing the way for more dynamic elements.

    I agree. In fact I see TLAM in general in that light. It is very useful to help “crack the nut”.

    However, unless the enemy is dumb enough to line their aircraft up nice and neat on the tarmac, would reserve them first for C3 and other high-value, fixed nodes.

  22. Hudson permalink
    July 13, 2010 5:29 pm

    “Now – I can see possibly a way of deploying surface raiding teams in while at shallow depth using some sort of RHIB carried on the back plus commando swimmers. That would definitely give small boat opponents pause – especially in darkness where traditionally Western forces enjoy a tactical advantage thanks to NV equipment and doctrine.”

    Four Ohio class SSBNs have been converted to SSGNs, which can carry large, externally mounted Dry Dock Shelters, and smaller Swimmer Delivery Vehicles, plus Zodiac boats, weapons, supplies, etc. Some Virginia class SSNs are being similarly outfitted.

    So, while the Navy today is not much interested in mounting guns on its subs as anything like a major weapons system, it is very interested in, and equipping the fleet for, extensive special operations ashore. Therefore, it is not idle to speculate that some sort of ship-to-shore fire power, especially in the absence of any other air-sea friendly fire support in the area, might also concern the Navy.

  23. July 13, 2010 5:21 pm

    Al said “Another objection to this idea is one a lot of people raised about the SSGN, how the heck are you going to get targeting info to a submerged sub?”

    Good point. But if used against static targets not so much a problem. For example unlike aircraft carriers airfields tend to stay where they are put. I see the SSGN as smoothing the way for more dynamic elements.

  24. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 13, 2010 5:09 pm

    If we made Mike’s 1,000 corvette submersible, when the weather gets bad, at least it could submerge long enough to give the crew some rest and let them eat a meal in peace.

  25. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:43 pm

    B. Smitty,

    I have to disagree. I believe that the hit rate for Mike’s blog are independent of any postings regarding silly ideas.

    Less than two weeks from now: One Million (1,000,000) hits at New Wars.

  26. B.Smitty permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:31 pm

    D.E.R.,

    Keep the silly ideas coming! :) We need to pump up Mikes hit numbers!

  27. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:20 pm

    As WWII progressed, the opposition got weaker, and the targets smaller, US subs got progressively larger gun batteries beginning with a single 3″/50 to 4″ to 5″ to ultimately two 5″/25s, two 40mm and in some cases shore bombardment rockets.

    If opposition ASW forces are not a concern, but we still want to exploit the stealth of a submersible, including covert observation and intelligence gathering, perhaps a new class (really an old class) of submersible diesel-electric warships, rather than true submarines. Bring back a hull form optimized for cruising on the surface to allow it to deploy quickly, along with the capability to lay on the bottom. (an updated AIP Gato). For anti-piracy/drugs, you would also need a boarding boat capability.

  28. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:20 pm

    To all,

    Recall that in my original posting I ended it with “Just a silly idea, really…”

    Sometimes a silly idea is a good way of examining a possibility not presently being considered in any serious manner. So far, I mostly like and have enjoyed what I’ve been reading here.

    However…

    MEMORANDUM TO: D. E. Reddick
    REGARDING: SILLY IDEAS

    Retain any further such silly ideas to oneself, lest ‘Mad’ (Iron) Mike Burleson promote such silly ideas via his blog.

    D.E.R.

    ; – )

  29. B.Smitty permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:09 pm

    IDAS missiles from periscope depth would lessen the danger to the sub while not requiring any major modification.

  30. B.Smitty permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:03 pm

    D. E. Reddick said, “In the case of the Dutch Walrus class SSK being sent to gather intelligence about Somali pirate operations, then I would prefer that it be somehow armed for emergency surface actions.

    How about an FN MAG on a bipod from the conning tower?

    If they want to get really crazy, they could carry a Panzerfaust 3 or Spike ATGM.

    I think the likelihood that a 13kt (surfaced) Walrus will be in any kind of position for an “emergency surface action” to thwart a pirate attack is rather small.

  31. Juramentado permalink
    July 13, 2010 3:58 pm

    I honestly cannot see a surface action by a modern submarine using guns. Let me clarify, the NGFS mission is one thing – I don’t have any opinions on that other than there are better ways to skin the cat. I’m talking about surface action against raiders, smugglers, small boats armed with nothing bigger than say a MMG or RPG. Now more than ever, a sub’s stealth is predicated upon the integrity of it’s pressure hull, not just being breached to open air/sea, but it’s surface remaining relatively unvarnished – think of all those anechoic tiles that coat the surface. Pock enough holes in that, even with the pressure hull remaining intact, and you sound like a junkwagon in high wind to any sonar listeners. Ask any modern submarine commander if s/he fancies surfacing for reasons other than emergencies or pre-planned navigation moves and they’ll shake their heads vehemently. The subs of today are modern platforms reliant on stealth and surprise to complete their primary mission. Take away that stealth and you might as well have deployed a surface vessel.

    Now – I can see possibly a way of deploying surface raiding teams in while at shallow depth using some sort of RHIB carried on the back plus commando swimmers. That would definitely give small boat opponents pause – especially in darkness where traditionally Western forces enjoy a tactical advantage thanks to NV equipment and doctrine.

  32. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 13, 2010 3:17 pm

    Scott,

    More like pineapples and grapes, rather than apples & oranges.

    Whether a submarine were to be carrying a 155 mm AGS or a 30 mm cannon, it would need local, tactical situational awareness. That was the point that I was trying to make. The proposal for a network of deployed sensor buoys that would surround an SSK / SSN / SSGN would be the source for tactical information and also strategic targeting data (in the case of submarine armed with long-range, strategic weapons).

    In the case of the Dutch Walrus class SSK being sent to gather intelligence about Somali pirate operations, then I would prefer that it be somehow armed for emergency surface actions. It really is that ‘What If’ scenario which might require that the sub had to intervene in a pirate attack which raises the need for a weapon such as the 30 mm Muraena.

    Again, pineapples and grapes…

  33. Hudson permalink
    July 13, 2010 3:12 pm

    Or, at relatively small expense and invasion of the sub’s interior space (I mean, if you planned for the thing), one could install a breach loading mortar internally that would fire through a hatch. A 120mm bomb would give you pretty good thump out to 10,000 meters and keep your sub away from RPG rounds, perhaps support fire for a SEAL team. I’m just sayin’.

  34. Scott B. permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:52 pm

    Reddick said : “As Scott has suggested, Muraena is rather attractive for Mike’s intended use against pirates or smugglers:”

    For the record, I’d like to make it clear that I certainly don’t think submarines should be the weapon of choice against pirates or smugglers.

    I was merely pointing out that something like the 30mm Muraena would be more than plenty enough should a submarine ever find itself in a situation where it needs to engage some Somali pirate dhow or the likes.

  35. Scott B. permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:47 pm

    Reddick said : “So, whether the submarine had a large gun system like the 155 mm AGS or a much smaller system such as the 30 mm Muraena,”

    155mm AGS and 30mm Muraena are really two different concepts, apples and oranges if you want. The former is for long range NSFS (with no direct fire capabilities BTW), the latter for short range SUW.

  36. July 13, 2010 2:23 pm

    Hello,

    there were two jobs which a submarine’s guns were good at during the Second World War.
    One of those was sinking civilian vessels,particularly Japanese junks.
    The other was shooting at aircraft,the Royal Air Force had something like 600 aircraft shot down or damaged (I forget which) by fire from submarines.

    tangosix.

  37. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:10 pm

    Al,

    Given the projected development of networked sensor buoys deployable by USN SSNs & SSGNs, then the gun-armed submarine would be aware of any threats which might preclude it from surfacing to carry out a gun attack. Such a submarine-deployed sensor system has been discussed recently on other military blogs or news sites. So, whether the submarine had a large gun system like the 155 mm AGS or a much smaller system such as the 30 mm Muraena, it would have both local, tactical situational awareness and targeting information provided via its buoys – having received such from remote assets (UAVs, satellites, etc.).

    As Scott has suggested, Muraena is rather attractive for Mike’s intended use against pirates or smugglers:

    “The Muraena gun is a is a mast-mounted gun system for submarines proposed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft. The system is a hoistable, mast-mounted automatic gun designed specifically for submarines. HDW expects to complete the system development by 2007. The unique design enables the submarine to use lethal force without having to surface, therefore maintaining the element of surprise. The hoistable mast, designed by Gabler Maschinebau, is fitted with a Mauser 30mm automatic gun (RMK 30×230) from Rheinmetall Waffe Munition (Mauser Werke) without having to surface. The gun can be operated from periscope depth, enabling the submarine to remain underwater and not expose itself to hostile small arms, RPG or missile fire. The gun is accommodated in the submarine’s super structure, in a pressure-tight container and can be hoisted hydraulically like a snorkel. For a gun of this calibre to be installed on top of a hoistable mast, it is essential for it to be recoilless.”

  38. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:10 pm

    Thanks Juramentado!

    Al

  39. Juramentado permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:03 pm

    A quick question: If guns have all these advantages, why were they removed from submarines in the first place?

    Guns were also fitted to subs because the torpedos at the beginning of sub warfare were unguided, limited in number and lethality, and in some cases quite unreliable. So the guns gave an additional (and in that time, neccessary) offensive punch to supplement major fires capability.

    The guidance, reliability and lethality of torpedos grew. In parallel, the submarine’s stealth and speed were enhanced particularly when nuclear power was proven as a means of main propulsion. So the gun became a liability, because you’re giving up that stealth and speed by surfacing and remaining still or traveling slowly in order to conduct a surface attack.

  40. Juramentado permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:55 pm

    “If the USN would grasp hold again of the conventional boats to bolster her falling SSN numbers, she could use such craft also in the Caribbean against smugglers, as it would be more economical than expending costly missiles.”

    Mike,

    You and I and Hokie had this discussion on the last thread about the Narco submarines (SPSS). Stopping smugglers is the same tactical and strategic problem. Did you not read the CDR Pfieff document that I linked? Submarines are, NOT, repeat, NOT effective when it comes to CIT operations. Period, end of statement. You can position them to try and *catch* smugglers, but using them as full detection and prosecution platforms is unworkable. And you’re talking about conventional (presumably AIP) boats, which don’t have the sustained sprint capability to get to someplace quickly and make an interception, assuming it even knew where to go in the first place.

  41. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the answer x :-)

    Another objection to this idea is one a lot of people raised about the SSGN, how the heck are you going to get targeting info to a submerged sub?

    Al

  42. Hudson permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:50 pm

    Today’s round sub hull forms would pretty much preclude deck guns. The ever-inventive Germans have a design for a periscope tree-mounted 30mm cannon for its 212/214 boats that could take on pirates. The Dutch Walrus has a flatter deck surface than most boats. If it wanted to intervene against Somali pirates, it could do so with machinegun-armed crew members, perhaps risking an RPG strike. Or it might surface under the offending skiff, like a whale, and pluck the terrified gunmen from the water.

    BTW, Surcouf probably never fired its big guns in battle. It seems to have been struck and damaged by a freighter on a dark night, and was sunk by American heavy bombers in waters around Panama in 1942.

  43. July 13, 2010 1:38 pm

    Al asked “why were they removed from submarines in the first place?”

    A couple of reasons. As I pointed out guns aren’t much use!!! Sinking anything by gun fire is hard work!! Aircraft and RADAR were driving the need to stay submerged more of the time. And there is another problem in that the traditional deck guns aren’t very hydrodynamic. Fitting a casing around them wasn’t deemed worth the effort as post war the Allies worked hard to catch up with Kriegsmarine submarine technology.

  44. Scott B. permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:36 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Perhaps she sees some Somali pirate dhows attempting a hijacking and there is no other ship available. […] So here I could see need for perhaps some retractable, disappearing decks guns on an SSK.”

    Muraena is what you’re looking for. More info in this brochure by Gabler of Germany.

  45. July 13, 2010 1:31 pm

    Guns were fitted because there was no alternative. Shells in penny packets aren’t much use; even if they are GPS guided.

  46. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:28 pm

    “For most of the last world war, the U-boats spent more time on the surface than submerged anyway, mainly because the diesel engines possessed vastly greater range, and because the high surfaced speed allowed them to keep pace with any merchant ships.”

    Modern submaines are significantly faster submerged than surfaced. Also, modern SSNs don’t need to worry about range.

    A quick question: If guns have all these advantages, why were they removed from submarines in the first place?

    Al

Trackbacks

  1. Empty Oceans Pt 2 « New Wars
  2. What if, Surcouf… « Resboiu

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