Category: In Service

Assystem Energy and Nuclear Engineers pay a visit HMS/M Vengeance in Devonport

Assystem Energy and Nuclear Engineers pay a visit HMS/M Vengeance in Devonport

The 15,000 tonne Scotland based Trident submarine ‘HMS Vengeance’ sailed into Devonport in March this year. As part of a £350m Ministry of Defence contract to refit and refuel, it’s been suggested that the ballistic nuclear submarine has safeguarded upwards of 2,000 UK jobs across the defence industry.

Assystem Energy and Nuclear staff pictured outside the Trident refit complex in Babcock’s Devonport dockyard (left to right, Amy Bowers, Tim Wicksteed, Pete Gillham, Mike Ormston & Jason Lockley)

With work on the Vanguard class vessel securing 1,000 jobs at Babcock in Devonport alone, Assystem Energy and Nuclear is representative of a number of other companies involved in ensuring that this nuclear deterrent will continue to operate safely and effectively for years to come once back at sea and operational.

Sitting out of the water in her specially converted dry dock, Assystem Energy and Nuclear were invited to step aboard the 150m (492ft) long vessel. HMS Vengeance, the last of her class to be refitted in Devonport is undergoing a complete overhaul of equipment, improvements to her missile launch capabilities and upgrades to the onboard computer systems. A new reactor core will also be fitted, a core that has been designed to last the submarine until she is finally decommissioned.

UK Trident Submarine – HMS Vengeance – Photo (RN)

As guests of the HMS Vengeance’s Assistant Marine Engineering Officer – Lieutenant Sam Gill RN, Assystem Energy and Nuclear Bristol based engineers couldn’t help but marvel at the size and complexity of the vessel as they set foot onto the submarine’s casing.

” It was great to be able to link the work I’ve been doing with the people who are operating the submarines on a day-to-day basis. The UK’s fleet of nuclear submarines have an excellent safety record and that has only been possible due to the combined efforts of the engineers who design them and the crews themselves, whose meticulous approach to maintenance ensures any problems are identified and dealt with swiftly.” –  Tim Wicksteed (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Stress Engineer)

“It’s proved to be a very successful and rewarding day. Our engineers and designers work hard on lots of submarine projects, but not many of them ever get the opportunity to see where their bits of the puzzle fit into the incredibly large picture. I think it gives our guys a much greater sense of achievement to see their efforts up close” Jason Lockley (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Business Development Manager (ex Submariner))

“You don’t fully appreciate the density or diversity of the systems that are involved until you get to see them installed in an operational environment. It’s absolutely invaluable to talk to the teams that are involved with operating and maintaining the boat and to learn from their experiences”. Mike Ormston (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Principal EC&I Engineer) 

Assystem Energy and Nuclear engineering consultancy specialises in mechanical and electrical design, structural integrity work and the generation of safety reports for many primary nuclear components onboard the UK’s existing submarine fleet. Assystem Energy and Nuclear are also involved with future submarine programmes as well as being heavily involved in the civil nuclear sector, supporting new build, maintenance and decommissioning activities.

Rear Admiral Simon Lister was quoted as saying “The highly sophisticated nature of the work involved in the deep maintenance of these magnificent vessels is testament to the experience and skills of the workforce in Devonport and those in the supply chain across the UK.” (BBC News, 26 March 2012)

One of Assystem Energy and Nuclear’s bright young engineering stars, who’s soon to finish her PhD said.  

When you see the scale of the submarine and all the components involved it’s very impressive – it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to work on such projects. You only have to take a look at projects like this one and others that companies like ours are involved with to realise that we have great engineering talent in the UK. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. . Amy Bowers (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Graduate Stress Engineer)

Assystem Energy and Nuclear would like to thank HMS Vengeance ship’s staff, especially MEO – Lt Cdr Shaun Southward RN & AMEO Lt Sam Gill RN for such an enlightening tour, and the interest shown in how the wider MoD Supply chain works to support the submarine programme.


Navy detects Russian nuclear sub off U.S. East Coast

Navy detects Russian nuclear sub off U.S. East Coast

The moorages of the main Russian Northern Navy Fleet’s base in the town of Severomorsk. The Sierra-2 class sub is believed to be part of the fleet.

The U.S. Navy detected and tracked a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine less than 300 miles from the southern U.S. East Coast last month, according to U.S. defense officials.

While the submarine did not enter U.S. territorial waters or follow any U.S. Navy ships, its arrival came while a Navy carrier strike group was training off Florida, according to defense officials who could not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The move by the Russians to put the ship close to the U.S. demonstrates its desire to ramp up deep-water patrolling by its submarine fleet – something the Russian government has said it would do, officials said.

The newer Sierra-2 submarine is thought to be part of the Russian Northern Fleet, and this is the first time this class of sub has been detected this close to the U.S., the officials said. The sub was discovered about 275 miles off the southern East Coast in international waters about two weeks ago and has been followed by the Navy since, defense officials said. Officials said the sub did not come close to the major U.S. Navy submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia, home to attack and ballistic missile submarines.

“Things worked the way they were supposed to,” according to one of the officials when referencing how the Navy discovered the submarine.

While the officials would not disclose how the submarine was detected, the Navy has sensors in the air and water to detect and track such vessels.

The submarine has since turned back, and on Tuesday, it was about 600 miles off the U.S. coast heading eastward toward Europe, according to Navy officials.

It is not clear what the submarine was doing this close to the U.S., but officials say they assume it was conducting anti-submarine exercises, a return to a Cold War activity.

“They are doing what the U.S. does, patrolling and conducting exercises,” one of the officials told Security Clearance.

The detection of the sub was first reported in the Washington Free Beacon.

The Sierra-2 is similar to the U.S. Los Angeles-class attack submarine and does not carry ballistic missiles – only torpedoes and other anti-submarine weapons.

The last time a Russian sub was detected close to the United States was in 2009, according to defense officials.

Source – CNN

Royal Navy submariners help marine life research in Indian Ocean

Royal Navy submariners help marine life research in Indian Ocean

Royal Naval submariners from nuclear-powered HMS Trenchant recently gave marine life experts a helping hand with an environmental project on the Indian Ocean island paradise of Diego Garcia.

Lieutenant Commander Dan Simmonds handles a hawksbill turtleLieutenant Commander Dan Simmonds handles a hawksbill turtle at Turtle Cove
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

The hunter-killer vessel paid a rare visit to the remote British overseas territory of Diego Garcia, tagging rare marine life and celebrating the traditional naval ceremony of Crossing the Equator.

Enjoying a six-day break on the remote atoll after the latest patrol in their lengthy east of Suez deployment, the 130 crew of the Devonport submarine were the first British submariners to call in at the base in five years – and made the most of it.

While the boat was stocked up on supplies and underwent a spot of maintenance, some of her crew offered to help Swansea University researchers Professor Graeme Hays and Nicole Esteban, who are studying the behaviour and population of turtles in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

By day the sailors joined in expeditions to find and tag indigenous hawksbill turtles, and by night they sought to tag migratory green turtles which return to the island every few years to lay their eggs.

In recent years marine life experts have noticed an increase in numbers at the appropriately-named Turtle Cove, a rise attributed to the long-term protection afforded the turtles of the Chagos Archipelago.

HMS Trenchant submariners carry a turtle for loggingHMS Trenchant submariners carry a turtle for logging
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]


A range of data-logging transmitters are fitted to the turtles, sending back data which reveals their patterns of behaviour. The creatures feed during the day and sleep on the seabed at night, diving for up to 45 minutes between breaths.

Night expeditions looking for nesting green turtles found eight of the animals, which were fitted with satellite tags. The turtles ranged in shell length from 101-115cm (39-45in) and weighed at least 136-158kg (300-350lbs).

Once the turtles left the island, they swam west; two have already been tracked to several hundred miles away with approximate positions from the initial data sent back.

Also on the nesting beaches sand temperatures are being monitored for the next year so researchers can predict the proportion of male and female hatchlings being produced on the beaches.

A team of four sailors – Lieutenant Commander Stuart Barrie, Warrant Officer Class 2 Frank Shirnhofer, Leading Seaman Damien Sheperson and Leading Seaman Gareth Arnold – joined Professor Hays and Nicole on a late-night expedition on the seaward side of the island looking for the nesting turtles.

Submariners from HMS Trenchant measure a turtleSubmariners from HMS Trenchant measure a turtle
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]


Lt Cdr Barrie said:

“The turtles wait for a high tide so that they can get onto the beach over the reef, then move up the beach into the undergrowth to find a suitable place to nest.

“Once they have laid their eggs they cover them with sand before leaving the beach, heading away from the island. We found two sets of tracks, then traced them to a fresh nest on the beach. The experience was remarkable.”

LS Arnold thoroughly enjoyed the chance to work beside the academics. He said:

“The experience of working at night with the team was amazing and I would like to thank them again for letting us take part.”

The boat’s Commanding Officer, Commander Irvine Lindsay, joined the daytime tagging party, helped recover the largest turtle, and took it to a measuring station at Turtle Cove, where readings were recorded and the animal tagged.

A turtle carrying a satellite transmitterA turtle carrying a satellite transmitter on its shell heads for the sea
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]


He said:

“I have been lucky enough to get involved in an international research project investigating the lives of sea turtles. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Although principally a US naval and air base, Diego Garcia is UK soil with a small contingent of British military personnel based on the island. While there, many of the ship’s company took the opportunity to enjoy the sailing, fishing, windsurfing, snorkelling and kayaking on offer after a protracted period at sea.

The respite finally allowed the men of HMS Trenchant to carry out the traditional Royal Naval ceremony of Crossing the Equator; the island is seven degrees south of the Equator. More than 60 novices who’d never crossed the imaginary line before, including the ship’s mascot, were summoned to appear before the court of King Neptune (played by the captain) and then dunked in water.

Cdr Lindsay summed up the stopover as:

“an ideal location to unwind, play some sport and take in the breathtaking scenery. The visit has proved the ideal opportunity to recharge our batteries and prepare us for the next stage of our deployment.”

Source – Ministry of Defence

Alex Salmond reiterates SNP’s ‘no to nuclear weapons’ policy – Video Clip

Alex Salmond reiterates SNP’s ‘no to nuclear weapons’ policy

SNP leader Alex Salmond has reiterated his party’s policy on outlawing nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland.

BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Scotland host, Isabel Fraser, quizzed the first minister on whether a go-alone Scotland would prevent nuclear weapons-carrying warships doing exercises in Scottish waters.

Mr Salmond said: “The issue about visiting warships, etc, no country ever confirms the existence of nuclear weapons on its warships – that is well known.

“This is an issue all non-nuclear countries have to face up to within Nato and out of Nato and we will do exactly the same thing.”

Nuclear weapons ‘outlawed’ in an independent Scotland, says Salmond

Faslane submarine
Nuclear weapons carrying submarines currently reside at the Faslane Naval base on the Clyde

The leader of the SNP has said that if his party won power in an independent government it would make nuclear weapons illegal.

Alex Salmond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Trident, which currently resides at Faslane Naval base on the Clyde, would have to go.

He also said a go-alone Scotland would remain a member of the European Union.

Mr Salmond was being interviewed from Perth where his party has been holding its annual conference.

The first minister was asked by the broadcaster to respond to UK government suggestions that moving Trident from Scotland would be “prohibitively expensive”.

Interview One: Alex Salmond is quizzed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr

He said: “The UK government has two choices – they either relocate Trident to another part of the rest of the UK or alternatively they could use nuclear facilities in America or France.”

Mr Salmond made a further point that it was possible for a UK government to decide a “much better policy” and decommission its weapons system.

He added: “That would be a matter for the London government. That doesn’t mean we think it reasonable to lease out part of Scottish territory to what you [Andrew Marr] describe as a Cyprus situation. If Scotland, by majority, doesn’t want nuclear weapons, the SNP proposition is to write that into the constitutions of the state.

“So, that would make the possession of nuclear weapons illegal.”

The SNP leader was being interviewed after a decision by his party to back joining nuclear-based military alliance Nato in the event of an independent Scotland.

Following his appearance on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Salmond reiterated SNP policy to outlaw nuclear weapons during an interview on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme, hosted by Isabel Fraser.

“There is a large amount of good will toward Scotland in the rest of the EU”

Alex Salmond SNP leader and first minister

She quizzed him on whether an independent Scotland would prevent nuclear weapons-carrying warships doing exercises in Scottish waters.

Mr Salmond said: “The issue about visiting warships, etc, no country ever confirms the existence of nuclear weapons on its warships – that is well known.

“This is an issue all non-nuclear countries have to face up to within Nato and out of Nato and we will do exactly the same thing.”

The first minister’s BBC appearances follow a deal reached earlier this week between the Scottish government and UK government on the rules governing a Scottish independence referendum in two years’ time.

Mr Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement in which it was decided there would be a one-question referendum to be held before the end of 2014.

Sturgeon speech

On the subject of Scotland’s membership of the EU in the event of a independence, Mr Salmond told the Andrew Marr Show that it would not lead to “vexed negotiations”.

He said: “We are part of the EU, we have been part of it for 40 years. We would be negotiating our positions from inside the EU. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I don’t think it will be a vexed negotiation at all.

“There is a large amount of good will toward Scotland in the rest of the EU.”

The SNP conference will finish later with a speech by deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon.

She is expected to say that UK Chancellor George Osborne should use the opportunity presented by his forthcoming Autumn Statement to increase capital spending for the UK, including Scotland.

Source – BBC News

US Navy Defends Boomer Submarine Replacement Plans

US Navy Defends Boomer Submarine Replacement Plans


boomer sub 428x285

A top U.S. Navy official is defending the service’s plans to replace its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine fleet, saying the Navy has the right design and boat numbers to execute the mission for decades to come.

“We conducted a detailed analysis of many force structure options,” says Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, Navy undersea warfare director, in a recent blog. “A force of 12 Ohio Replacement nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) with 16 missile tubes satisfies national strategic deterrent requirements at the most affordable cost. Twelve Ohio Replacement SSBNs meet at-sea strategic patrol requirements and sustain this requirement while some of the SSBNs are unavailable due to planned maintenance.”

Bruner says, “Reduced-force options [that] we considered failed to meet the current at-sea and nuclear employment requirements, increased risk for force survivability, and limited the flexibility in response to an uncertain strategic future. A 12-ship, 16-missile-tube SSBN force has sufficient, not excessive, flexibility and capacity.”

He acknowledges that because ship construction of the Ohio Replacement shifted to 2021 from 2019, there will be fewer than 12 SSBNs from 2029 to 2042 as the Ohio-class retires and Ohio replacement ships join the fleet.

// Addressing recent critics of the shortfalls, he says, “During this time frame no major SSBN overhauls are planned, and a force of 10 SSBNs will support current at-sea presence requirements.”

However, he says, “This provides a low margin to compensate for unforeseen issues that may result in reduced SSBN availability. The reduced SSBN availability during this time frame reinforces the importance of remaining on schedule with the Ohio Replacement program to meet future strategic commitments. As the Ohio Replacement ships begin their mid-life overhauls in 2049, 12 SSBNs will be required to offset ships conducting planned maintenance.”

He also says the Navy and Pentagon are keeping a lid on proposed costs. “The Department of Defense set an aggressive cost goal of $4.9 billion per hull (calendar year 2010) as an average cost for hulls 2-12. To date, the Navy has reduced costs by reducing specifications to the minimum necessary to meet national strategic deterrent requirements, implementing modular construction design, reusing the Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System, and reusing Virginia- and Ohio-class components where feasible. The Virginia-class construction program, through aggressive management and collaboration between government and industry, has developed into a model ship building program, continually coming in under budget and ahead of schedule. Ohio Replacement design and construction will build on this success.”

Source –

Submarine nuclear missile tests postponed due to software glitch

Submarine nuclear missile tests postponed due to software glitch

Software glitches in the automated launch control system on board the Borey-class strategic submarines has caused a new delay in scheduled tests of the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, a minister said.

“There are technical problems involving software in the automated launch control system, and we are trying to fix them,” Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said.

The minister expressed hope that the next test-launch of the Bulava missile from Russia’s second Borey class submarine, the Alexander Nevsky, could be carried out before the end of the year.

All previous test launches were conducted from the Typhoon class Dmitry Donskoy submarine and the first Borey class submarine, the Yuri Dolgoruky.

The Bulava (SS-NX-30) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 km.

The three-stage ballistic missile is designed for deployment on Borey class nuclear submarines.

Despite several previous failures, officially blamed on manufacturing faults, the Russian military has insisted that there is no alternative to the Bulava.

Serdyukov also admitted that the handover of the Yury Dolgoruky submarine to the Russian Navy by the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) has been delayed again, this time indefinitely, due to a number of technical flaws.

“The USC has so far failed to deliver the Yury Dolgoruky submarine. I am not sure when they will fix all the problems (with the sub), they are still not able to get it done,” Serdyukov said.

The Borey class is set to become the mainstay of the Russian Navy’s strategic nuclear deterrent fleet, replacing the ageing Project 941 (NATO Typhoon class) and Project 667 (Delta-3 and Delta-4 class) boats.

Source –

Nuclear Submarine Commander Faked Own Death to Escape Lover

Nuclear Submarine Commander Faked Own Death to Escape Lover


Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II salutes at an Aug. 3 ceremony before taking command of the U.S.S. PittsburghPhoto: Navy


Ending a romantic affair by faking your own death is usually a bad idea for — I don’t know — everyone. What’s an even worse idea? Faking your own death weeks before taking command of the Navy’s nuclear submarine U.S.S. Pittsburgh. Now you can read the Navy’s internal report that tells the sordid story.

On Sept. 5, Navy Cmdr. Michael P. Ward II was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, dereliction of duty and adultery (an offense in the uniformed services) after staging his death to deceive a younger lover with whom he was having an affair, according to a Navy investigative report (.pdf) obtained by Danger Room through a Freedom of Information Act request. As punishment, Ward received the punitive letter of reprimand and has been relegated to administrative duties at Naval Submarine Base New London, the home port of the Pittsburgh.

The Navy wouldn’t comment on whether or not Ward will be kicked out of the service. But the 43-year-old former submarine commander’s naval career is now more or less over. ”Commander Ward’s dishonesty and deception in developing, maintaining, and attempting to end his inappropriate relationship … were egregious and are not consistent with our Navy’s expectations of a commissioned officer,” Capt. Vernon Parks, the head of Submarine Development Squadron 12, wrote in the report.

The story, first reported by the Connecticut newspaper The Day, began last October, when Ward met a 23-year-old woman from Virginia — whose name was redacted from the report — on a dating website. They began to have an affair. Ward was married and had children, but didn’t reveal that to his mistress. At the time, Ward worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the two saw each other when he came down for classes at the Joint Forces Staff College. He also communicated with her over e-mail using the phony name “Tony Moore,” and falsely told her he was a special forces operator.

In June, Ward apparently wanted out of the affair. So he — in a striking further display of bad judgement — concocted another false identity, this time a supposed friend named “Bob,” and sent an e-mail telling his mistress that he had died, according to the report. ”He asked me to contact you if this ever happened,” the e-mail said, according to The Day. “I am extremely sorry to tell you that he is gone. We tried everything we could to save him. I cannot say more. I am sorry it has to be this way.”

Three days later, the woman drove from her home in Chesapeake to Ward’s house in Burke, Virginia to pay her respects. Instead, she was greeted by a new owner who told the family that Ward “had not actually died, but rather had moved to Connecticut to take command of a U.S. Navy submarine,” the report said.

Then, Ward learned his former lover was pregnant. He resumed contact — after he faked his death. In late July, Ward traveled to Washington D.C. for a medical appointment and met with her to discuss “how to handle the pregnancy.” She then lost the baby due to complications and the illicit relationship came to an end. But the ex-couple kept up contact which the Navy believes impaired “his ability to take full responsibility” for the sailors under his command.

The Navy didn’t find out, though, until a relative of Ward’s ex-mistress got in touch with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Wad was then booted from his post one week after taking command of thePittsburgh.

“Cmdr. Ward’s actions directly contradict Navy standards, especially the high standards of conduct expected of our commanding officers,” says Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokeswoman for the submarine group. ”Leaders who fail to meet these standards, like Cmdr. Ward, are removed from leadership positions and referred for appropriate disciplinary or administrative action.”

It’s an exceptionally awful story, and frankly bizarre. But it’s difficult to detect a trend in commander firings represented by Ward’s dismissal. Ward appears to be the seventeenth Navy commander relieved of duty in 2012, according to the Navy.  ”That’s less than one percent of the total personnel that we have serving in Navy commanding officer billets,” says Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a Navy spokesman. “The vast majority of our commanding officers serve with distinction.”

It’s more than the 13 commanders cashiered in all of 2010, but short of the 23 commanders fired last year and still down from a record high of 26 sacked officers in 2003. Among 2012′s cashiered commanders include officers fired for falsifying administrative records (Cmdr. Corrine Parker, April 16); “inappropriate personal behavior” (Capt. Jeffrey Riedel, program manager of the Littoral Combat ship program, January 27); and creating “a poor command climate” (Cmdr. Dennis Klein, May 1). In June, the Navy sacked Capt. Chuck Litchfield of the U.S.S. Essex amphibious assault ship after the ship collided with an oiler off the California coast.

Most of the firings, though, involved “personal misconduct,” with the true nature of the offenses left undefined. But Ward’s misconduct, we now know, was one of the more extreme cases — one that involved manipulating loves ones for the sake of a career now in tatters. It was also one of the most idiotic.

Source –