World 79 years after the first submarine-launched commando raid, Navy SEALs say it hasn't gotten any easier
France is furious after Australia scrapped a submarine deal to partner with the US and UK. Here's how American, British, and French subs stack up
Experts told Insider that it makes sense for Australia to go with nuclear-powered subs over conventional diesel-electric submarinesAustralia wants to replace its Collins-class attack submarines. The plan was initially to purchase a dozen diesel-electric Shortfin Barracuda submarines from France, but Australia has since abandoned that plan and partnered with the US and UK to acquire nuclear submarine technology.
- In August 1942, US Marine Raiders conducted the first amphibious attack ever launched from submarines.
- Advances in technology since then have allowed commandos to conduct far more complex submarine operations.
- Submarine operations are a great way to deploy special-operations forces, but they're still tough to pull off.
August marked the 79th anniversary of the first special-operations raid directly supported by submarines.
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"Let's remember, tens of thousands of Australians died on French soil over two World Wars protecting France in France," Australia's Deputy Prime Minister said.France canceled meetings with British and Australian officials, and has recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for the first time in a rarely-seen move between allied countries.
Decades later, submarine special-operations have become a staple of the Navy SEAL Teams and one of the US military's most valuable capabilities.
The first underwater commandos
In August 1942, US Marine Raiders conducted the first amphibious attack ever launched from submarines.
During the raid on Makin Island, the USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut landed 200 Marine commandos on the small Japanese-held island with the goal of destroying enemy installations, capturing prisoners, and gathering intelligence.
Although the raid was neither a success nor a failure - the Marine Raiders achieved some objectives but failed on others - it paved the way for future special operations from submarines.
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A brief Navy narrative of a fatal helicopter crash off Southern California says the aircraft experienced “side-to-side” vibrations that caused the main rotor to hit the deck of an aircraft carrier while landing, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The MH-60S Seahawk fell off the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on Aug. 31. One crewmember was rescued and five were declared dead after a search. Five sailors on the carrier deck were injured.The crash summary in a Naval Safety Center document, first reported by the Navy Times, did not include any information on what might have caused the vibrations.
Since World War II, advances in submarine and combat diving technology have allowed for far more complex submarine operations involving commandos.
Nowadays, submarines don't have to surface to land special operators, as they did during the Makin Island raid, and can instead deploy commandos while submerged.
Submarine operations can be used to ferry a special-operations team close to a target without leaving a trace, making them the perfect starting point for a special reconnaissance, direct action, sabotage, hostage rescue, or personnel recovery operations.
Navy SEALs, the maritime component of US Special Operations Command, are the natural choice for such operations. From the start, SEAL training emphasizes the water element, and all SEALs get advanced underwater training.
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But Navy SEALs aren't the only special-operations unit in the US military that can launch from submarines. For example, Army Special Forces combat diver teams also train and conduct submarine operations.
The difference between the two units, however, is that Green Berets use combat diving as an insertion method - a way to the target - whereas Navy SEALs can also conduct direct action or sabotage operations at sea after launching from a submarine.
Some submarine operations can last for long periods of time. The special-operations contingent aboard can be underway for days, weeks, or even months.
For example, during the Falklands War in the South Atlantic, British Special Boat Service commandos - the UK equivalent of SEAL Team Six - spent several weeks on submarines as they deployed from the UK to the Falklands to begin operations against Argentina.
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Singapore's prime minister hopes the deal will "contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture."Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, in a phone call. Lee said he hopes the deal will "contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture," the ministry said.
When underway, the special-operations element will usually "make do" - sleeping, eating, planning, and working out wherever there is a little spare room, such as in the torpedo room.
Rife with danger
To prepare for submarine operations, Navy SEALs and other commandos with a maritime specialty conduct realistic training exercises, such as escape trunk drills in pools or reservoirs and dockside training on moored submarines.
Escape trunk drills are very important. Combat divers and submariners are placed in a spherical trunk about 6 feet tall that is flooded with water almost to the nose level. The trunk is placed at the bottom of the pool or reservoir. The person inside can breathe but can't do much more.
Then the trunk's hatch is opened to flood the last few inches, immersing the person inside and forcing him to swim 30 feet or 40 feet to the surface. This drill is used to simulate escaping from a sunk submarine.
"Submarine operations are always tricky and dangerous. You can't get complacent regardless how many platoons you have under your belt. But they are also very useful for several contingencies," a former Navy SEAL officer told Insider.
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The AUKUS deal is "not something that anybody needs to worry about, and particularly not our French friends," U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson said.Paris has voiced anger over Australia's decision to forge a submarine deal with the U.S. and scrap a plan that involved a deal with France instead.
"Locking out and locking in - respectively, exiting and reentering a submerged submarine - are tricky affairs, especially if conducted in the dead of night. The ocean can get pretty dark at night. You can't even see your hand in front of your face, [it's] that dark," the former officer said.
"That's why we always operate in pairs, and operators are tied together by a rope. But these procedures are important, and we must master them for they allow us to infiltrate and exfiltrate clandestinely," the former officer added.
During lock-out and lock-in operations, Navy SEALs and other combat divers enter a specially designed room on top of the submarine, called the "lockout trunk," with their scuba gear. Then, the trunk slowly floods with water to match the outside water pressure.
Once that pressure is reached, the commandos open the hatch and swim out of the trunk, retrieving mission-essential gear from boxes fitted to the submarine's hull. The submarine remains underwater but close to the surface because the lower pressure there allows the commandos to operate.
"During a lockout operation, you have to be careful with the air levels, ensuring that the air supply within the trunk doesn't become over-polluted with CO2, because that can prove deadly or compromise the mission by emitting bubbles the enemy can pick up on sonar. It's a delicate process," the former Navy SEAL officer said.
In a conflict with China or Russia, submarine operations are a great way to deploy special-operations forces close to an enemy target.
The South China Sea, where Beijing is building and fortifying scores of man-made islands, or the Black Sea, where Moscow is turning Crimea into a fortress, would be ideal environments for such operations.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
Australia is Playing a Dangerous Game With its Nuclear Submarine Deal | Opinion .
Australia has seemingly created enormous economic and diplomatic divisions globally, while revealing none of the specific details around its deal to the Australian taxpaying public. Australians don't know where the port for submarines will be located, nor what the contingency plans are if something goes wrong. We don't know who will operate these submarines nor who will service them, since nuclear technology is an entirely different set of skills to operating and maintaining conventional submarines."We are not going to be able to build these things. We don't have a nuclear industry.