Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Submarine Info On The Internet -- Good And Bad

Dealing with information about submarines in a public forum is always a mixed bag -- there are lots of things we know that we can't talk about, and because people can pretty much say whatever they want on the 'net, it's sometimes hard for people without the necessary background to figure out what's right and what's B.S.

On the "good" side, there's lots of great information out there on submarines that the discriminating reader can find -- some of it in unlikely places. A reader sent in this photo of a U.S. Los Angeles-class submarine (probably USS Minneapolis-St. Paul on her final journey) transiting the Panama Canal earlier this month that they got from the Canal's live webcams:

On the other hand, sometimes information of a more questionable nature makes it onto the web. Consider the recent report that a U.S. submarine had sunk a North Korean freighter carrying nuclear supplies and enriched uranium to Iran two weeks ago. From the article:
In reports first published by DEBKAfile, American naval and air forces intercepted two North Korean vessels clandestinely en route for Iran with cargoes of enriched uranium and nuclear equipment in the past month. The shutdown of Pongyong's nuclear facilities has made these items surplus to North Korea's requirements and the Islamic Republic was more than willing to pay a hefty price for the goods.
On July 12, the second intercepted North Korean freighter was sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine 100 miles southeast of the Iranian naval base-port of Chah Bahar. Delivery of its freight of enriched weapons-grade uranium and equipment and engines for manufacturing more fissile material including plutonium in its hold could have jump-forwarded Iran's nuclear bomb and warhead project, lopping off at least a year of work. For this Iran's rulers were ready to reportedly pay out a cool $500 million.
A few hours earlier, President Bush received an intelligence briefing on the vessel, its freight and destination. Apparently the shipment was brought forward by several weeks to evade detection by UN nuclear inspectors scheduled to visit Pyongyang this week to verify the dismantling of its nuclear facilities.
US airplanes had been tracking the freighter and picked up signs of radioactivity, indicating the presence of nuclear materials aboard.
President Bush had the option of ordering US Marines to board the vessel or to sink it. He decided on the latter - both because the North Korean freighter was approaching an area patrolled by Iranian naval units and seizure of the vessel by American marines might have provoked a clash; secondly, it was the better choice in order to avoid exposing US troops to radioactive contamination. American naval and air units in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and seas opposite North Korea were ordered to go on a high state of readiness and the torpedo the North Korean vessel was accomplished without delay.
After the attack, US warships raced to the spot where the ship went down where they picked up three lifeboats. Most of the North Korean sailors aboard were either injured or dead. Twenty in all died in the attack. They all bore symptoms of contamination. After the episode, the area was cordoned off and underwater equipment dropped to salvage the cargo from the sunken ship.
All the parties to the incident, the United States, North Korea and Iran, have kept the incident under wraps as the situation in and around the Gulf is inflammable enough to explode into a full-blown Iranian-US clash at the slightest provocation.
It's fairly obvious why this claim hasn't gotten more play in the regular media -- it just doesn't make sense. Besides that fact that it's fairly unlikely that North Korea has enough weapons-grade uranium to start exporting, the "information" in the article that U.S. aircraft were able to "pick up signs of radioactivity" from uranium -- an alpha emitter -- is enough to set off the B.S. detector for those who know about such things.

Bottom line: Submariners can help raise the level of public discourse by providing facts about whatever submarine-related tidbits of information make it into the public domain -- bound of course by the restriction that we can't use any classified information. The submarine bloggers listed at the right perform such a public service. With regards to the specific claim discussed above, while I could see a submarine being used for such a mission, this particular report doesn't really ring true, so I have to throw the flag at it.


Blogger Vigilis said...

Besides a questionable source, another problem with the story was this: "... sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine..."

There are two giveaways that the story was concocted. First, what kind of torpedo do modern U.S. subs carry for lightwork -sinking a small North Korean freighter (see freighter photo at BBC online). Secondly, there was little or no loss of life reported.

A single, WWII vintage torpedo might be so ineffective, but the Debak report sites multiple torpedoes, not just one! I doubt that our modern SSNs waste space storing inaccurate, low-power torpedoes for use against smallcraft.

While the report's details are obvious Baloney! It is still possible that a non-U.S. sub did the dirty work. Debak does not make everything up entirely.

7/28/2007 11:04 AM

Blogger Subvet said...

Vigilis raises good points. My BS detector went off on this one also.

By the way, thanks for adding me to your list of blogs, I've already returned the favor.

7/28/2007 11:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may be BS, but it is also plausible.FYI Uranium emits gama radiation. It was these emissions from uranium that were first discovered in ~1900.
Also,our MK-46 only carry 98 lbs of HE. Against a sub, one would be catastrophic, but against a surface ship possibly not so.
The MK-50, another light torpedo, only carries 100lbs of HESC (high Explosive shape charge) explosives vs 650 lbs on the Mk-48

7/29/2007 4:14 PM

Blogger Babylonandon said...

On the subject of torpedoing in the gulf area.

Newer US attack boats carry a lot of different munitions types. It may be that what was used here was not a sub-launched torpedo but instead was one of our Naval mines.

US Naval mines come in different types but one of the nastiest (which was used to good effect to get rid of Saddamn's Navy during Desert Storm I) was the canister mine.

The canister mine is basically a torpedo in a can that is dropped on the sea bottom with a programed list of acoustic signatures that it will attack. Some are also wire guided or have other remote control means.

These canned torpedoes can be dropped by both surface units or subs and can remain quietly on station for extended periods of time, allowing the unit involved to set its trap and move to a safer area far away from any possible response to an attack.

The Navy laced Iraq's ports with these babies at the start of DS I and every time a boat left harbor it found itself chased down and obliterated by a torpedo that literally came from nowhere.

Our sonar types (on the Spruance-class Destroyer I was stationed on) told us about this little surprise that we had left for Saddamn's Navy when they tried to put to sea right after we and the rest of the fleet had gotten done flinging whole boat-loads of Tomahawks at Baghdad.

7/29/2007 5:37 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Anonymous -- I'm aware that alpha decay also results in the emission of gammas; however, these are all low energy gammas (< 1 MeV), and I assumed the enriched Uranium would be shielded. It's a big, big stretch to assume that a plane could pick up low energy gammas like that.

7/29/2007 11:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Mk 48 ADCAP torpedo, carried by US submarines is more than capable of sinking a surface ship. And personally, I have never been on a submarine that has carried any torpedos other than the ADCAPs.

I find it unlikely that more than one torpedo would have been used, as that's all it would take to sink anything smaller than a carrier, and while the report says "torpedoes" I find it unlikely that it would have been released how many had actually been used.

7/30/2007 6:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Side Bar note -

Navy Wife Radio interviews Hey, Shipwreck! creator, Pat Hrabe tonight 7/31 at 9pmET.

With his season finale soon to be released, tune in for a sneak peek!

Join us at

7/31/2007 6:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL does anybody know a torpedo works. Adcaps are by far our most superior torpedo. While doing a sinkex ops it only took one Mk-48 to sink a carrier. Now imagine an adcap, it carries 20 more pounds of HE then a regular 48. If your a submariner, then you should all ready know this. Even the most junior FT on a sub can explain to you how much of a bad ass weapon an ADCAP is (ADvanced CAPabilities). Does anybody know about the Uss Aparche? Uss Jimmy Carter? Spook boats. Take this as a look up and look it up! Does anybody know that there are collisions between submarines that go unreported all the time because of the sencitivity, such as US subs and Russian subs, are subs colliding with are subs. Pretty sure most of the ppl here don't have a clearence to read about them. Some stories may seem far fetched but are very possible!

8/06/2007 12:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is a picture of the Mighty MSP going through the Panama Canal on 13 July. It was a marvelous thing to watch from the main deck!

8/09/2007 11:40 PM


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