Metal Barracuda

A vision of the 21st Century Nuclear Attack Submarine

Andrew Talon

The following is a fictional briefing to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Advanced Technology Office, responsible for studying and creating new weapons systems and technologies for use in maritime, aerospace, and ground warfare for the United States Armed Forces and it's allies. Mr. Andrew Talon, representing the fictional firm Vulcan Advanced Industries, makes the following presentation to the DARPA/AOT. I do not own DARPA/AOT, but the technology listed in this essay is real. It just hasn't been applied in these fashions yet.

ANDREW TALON: Mr. Director, members of the evaluation board, and observers, welcome. To begin this presentation, I would like to first acknowledge that I have not been entirely truthful to the AOT office regarding my program.

DIRECTOR: In what way, Mr. Talon? If this is a plea for more money because of over-budgeting, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place.

ANDREW TALON: No sir. That is not the omission I was referring to. The omission I made was regarding the scope of the project in question. (Indicates PowerPoint) However, in order to explain this omission, I will need to bring up some background information… (shifts through some folders) My apologies for the slight delay. Ah. Here we go. (Opens folder) In 1964, Alfred W. Richardson, a physiologist, and Sujoy K. Guha, a biomedical engineer from India, were research methods of pumping blood through the human body by artificial means. It was during experimentation with electromagnetic pumps that they discovered something interesting. Using a weak salt solution to simulate human blood, they found that with the proper application of electromagnetic force, the sodium atoms in the solution would move very quickly, and pull the water they were contained in along with it. While electromagnetic pumps have been in use for several decades in nuclear reactors, no one had ever created one that could move sea water, not to mention several other types of liquids. The medical benefits of such technology are obvious, but what interested my firm was in it's applications to propulsion.

For well over two centuries in the submarine, from the tottering Turtle used in the Revolutionary War, to today's Virginia-class attack boat, the primary method of propulsion has been the reliable screw/propeller. However, propellers involve moving parts, which causes friction, which causes noise. Furthermore, from an efficiency standpoint, the screw is essentially the only part of the sub pulling its weight, in order to push the weight of the vessel. Sure, it's worked just fine for several centuries, but newer, quieter, and faster drives have begun development. Even as we speak the Chinese, most likely through stolen Western technology, are creating water pump engines for their latest generation of attack submarines. The Russians are building newer subs that employ low-noise fans, pump jets, and even experimental hydro-electromagneto drives. And those subs are going to Pakistan, China, and several other nations that we may or may not face one day in naval combat. Even more troublesome is the development of so-called "sub fighters", small, usually one-man submersibles that are capable of very high speeds and of carrying deadly payloads. What once was science fiction is now swiftly becoming science fact, ladies and gentlemen. And the truth is, the current generation of American submarines, while certainly advanced in their own right, was built for a different kind of war.

For example, in a recent skirmish involving four Egyptian sub fighters, built in Russia, against two Israeli German-built submarines, the Egyptian boats were able to sink both subs within a matter of minutes. They were only destroyed by maritime-patrol aircraft just a few miles from Hafia. The two Israeli submarines were the Dolphin-class INS Dolphin and INS Leviathan. Both were German-built. Both had recently been upgraded with pump-jet engines, essentially the same as we have on our own submarines. Both had advanced sonar and electronics. Both had very well trained crews.

Their opponents were Акула-class sub fighters, powered by commercial hydro jets, each only carrying two small torpedoes. Their electronics and sensor systems are primitive by our standards. They had no sonar. Their pilots were fresh out of pilot training. And yet, because of the shape of the sub fighters, plus their speed, and just how quiet they were, they were able to sink two far larger, far more advanced and capable ships than themselves.

This engagement clearly shows that a revolution is coming about in naval warfare. The era of the submersible fighter has arrived, and like the battleships of World War II when faced with the aircraft carrier, our submarines are facing a military doctrine that they were never designed to counter. To be frank, it is just plain stupid and arrogant for the United States Armed Forces to continue to ignore this new, lethal threat.

DIRECTOR: Mr. Talon, I believe you have made your point. However, I fail to see the connection this has to your firm's project.

ANDREW TALON: Again, I must apologize, Mr. Director, sir. I was merely being thorough. The cliffnotes version of the first part of my presentation is thus: Naval warfare is undergoing a revolution. A revolution that our current forces are not equipped to handle. My firm's aim is to correct this deficiency and give the United States Navy the edge against any conceivable threats for the next twenty years, quickly and cheaply. (Clicks the Powerpoint) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you Vulcan Advanced Industry's flagship project. No pun intended. (Clicks Powerpoint) This, ladies and gentlemen, is Experimental Combat Submersible Vehicle 01, or XCSV-01. Privately we call her the Barracuda. She is actually a converted Discovery 1000 luxury submarine, with a 40 kW diesel engine.You will note that Barracuda has no screw, no waterjet, no pump to move. The submersible, instead, is sheathed in a 5 inch thick patented electromagnetic material. When powered and directed by computer control… (switches to a PowerPoint movie) the vessel moves. Completely silent, I might add, save for the noise of the diesel engine.

DIRECTOR: Impressive, Mr. Talon… But how is this drive superior to a conventional one?

ANDREW TALON: Simple. One, the entire surface of the ship is moving the water around it, a much wider area that produces less disruption of the water and thus much less noise. Two, the drive can push/pull the water around it in any direction, up, down, forward, or backward. This, combined with conventional ballast tanks, allows for much faster submergence times. Third, the ship using this drive is much more nimble, able to reverse the electrical flow in any direction needed to twist and turn the boat as though it were an aircraft. Fourth, with enough power and the right hull area, a ship equipped with our drive can reach speeds in excess of sixty knots, according to our computer models. And five, the hull, when charged, becomes stronger, allowing the sub to take more punishment and greater pressure. However, the Barracuda is only the test bed. We have actually drawn up designs for an entirely new, affordable, and infinitely adaptable attack submarine. A submarine that, with your approval, we can begin construction on immediately.

DIRECTOR: Well… You certainly have a flair for the dramatic, Mr. Talon. So, tell us about this "super sub" of yours.

ANDREW TALON: (grin) Gladly. We like to call her the Coback. (PowerPoint screen shows vessel). For no other reason than that we like the name. I dunno, it seems to stick. Anyway, she will be one of the largest combat submarines ever built, and yet, paradoxically, one of the most cost efficient. Essentially, we'll be taking two rather un-extraordinary, two-deck pressure hulls, two pressurized docking modules for offloading SEAL SO teams or sub fighters, two small modules for telescopic communications/photonic masts, four large canisters for equipment payloads of missiles, extra torpedoes, mines, robots or whatever, four conformal sonar array modules, a reactor compartment, and a few other odds and ends all wrapped up in a two-meter thick hull made of our electromagnetic propulsion material. This hull will have modular sections that can be pulled off in order to get to the goodies inside. All of her torpedoes will be held in special 9-weapon "clips" that are already available. They will be inserted into the top of the sub's hull and lowered in, much like some machine gun magazines, and use gravity, aided by some simple braking mechanisms, to reload. Two clips to each set of launchers, one slightly higher than the other, will give the vessel a total of 72 rounds of the new Supercavitating Rocket torpedo, to be deployed through eight torpedo tubes, four aft and four forward. Combined with four twelve-cell cruise missile canisters, this will easily make her the most heavily armed submarine ever built, and able to snap off shots faster than anything else in the seas today.

The sub will have a complement of 60, with provision for 60 additional persons, Navy SEALs and sub fighter pilots. Unique in her design will be the ability to function as a blockade runner, or evacuation transport, with the installation of what we call "bunk canisters". In place of missiles, she can carry cots and supplies for beleaguered troops that have access to the sea. This also increases her ability to perform humanitarian missions. In fact, we're thinking of all kinds of missions for this baby: Sea floor mapping, espionage, search and rescue, you name it. And all at the speed of sixty to seventy knots, non-stop.

DIRECTOR: What's her maximum projected depth?

ANDREW TALON: Well into the two thousand meter range. When I say sea floor mapping, I mean sea floor mapping. She can simply out dive the bad guys if she wants to, or outrun them. Or both. Believe me, Mr. Director, this is the submarine to end all submarines… For a while, anyway.

DIRECTOR: Cost estimates?

ANDREW TALON: Well, a lot of the R&D has been done already for her. The only really "new" technology she'd be using would be the EM hull drive. Her size will be around one and a half times that of a Virginia. That much EM hull drive material will come in at around $20 million dollars. The reactor can just be taken off a Virginia. The canisters aren't very hard to make, they're actually based off some civvies designs. The conformal sonar arrays will have to be custom made. All told, around $400 million-A bargain compared to most of the other ships in the fleet. And yet, deadlier than most of them. (nods)

DIRECTOR: Understandably, we'll have to talk this out with the DoD… But for what it's worth, Mr. Talon, you've sold me.

ANDREW TALON: Thank you sir. My presentation is thus concluded. Have a nice day.

Well, I'm working on a novel, and this sub will be in it. So keep an eye out!