The comprehensive arms control plan between Osea and Yuktobania that went into effect in January this year has reached its next challenge: disposing of the most powerful strategic nuclear submarine in history. For two governments who have actively worked to shift from their wartime footing at the end of the Circum-Pacific War, there can be no greater symbol of their dedication towards disarmament than to dispose of a giant that was born of the cold war, survived a hot war, and whose unseen presence puts fear into the hearts of men. Today, it has been cast away to the far side of the world.
I arrived at Snider's Top, in the northern part of Usea. The tandem rotors of the helicopter whirred as we departed an offshore platform with the inspection party. Outside my window, rays of sunlight beamed down onto the northern sea, draped in a thick layer of fog. Despite the poor visibility, if I squinted, I could gradually make out a dark figure. The shape of a jet black submarine with a trimaran hull soon revealed itself. With an overall length of about 550 meters, her gigantic body, even larger than an aircraft carrier, might be best described as a moving islet. Her imposing form overwhelmed the tranquility of the northern sea, making even the four Osean tugs towing her look miniscule by comparison. The sense of awe I felt at seeing the submarine reminded me of seeing a whaling ship return as a child.
As we drew closer, the passengers began to smile. Seated beside me was General Gromov of Yuktobania's Far Eastern Military District. Across from him is Trade Representative Holland from the Osean Federation. The two wasted no time performing a toast with the wine and cheese we had been served. A woman in a business suit asked what I wanted to drink; I only asked for hot tea. From the back seat, two journalists in formal suits took a series of photos out the window with a truly impressive-looking camera. Casually-dressed analysts like me were few and far between. In the front seat, the Central Usean government’s Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Staedtler focused on taking photos with his smartphone. I reflected on the idea that we now live in an age where top-secret military projects could be revealed and spread over social media in the blink of an eye.
A public relations officer from GR Trading, the company responsible for the submarine's dismantling, explains the current state of the transfer from Yuktobania. In accordance with the implementation of START-3 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, 3rd Generation), signed by Osea and Yuktobania last year, the boat's armament was removed in January at Okchabursk's Special Ward B4, where it had been built. Following a four-week joint examination, the submarine's transfer to GR Trading began on February 17th. She was then towed across the high seas for two weeks with an armed patrol boat escort. After today's re-inspection and customs processing at Snider's Top Offshore Platform Site A, GR Trading plans to transfer her to their headquarters in Port Edwards for dismantling.
The boat's ballast tanks have been fitted with a valve that precludes diving, and multiple wheeled vehicles, relief supplies, and other equipment line the deck as an additional anti-tampering measure. "They're Humvees, made with Osean pride," Mr. Holland says in a satisfied tone. General Gromov nods his head, then proclaims, "this boat is no longer a weapon; our close collaboration has turned this vessel into top-quality scrap."
This isn't the first time we've seen this particular piece of top-quality scrap. The region was in a complete froth back around 2000. There had been a flurry of discussion about new submarines, with numerous rumors of a new class of Yuktobanian boomers being passed around the military analyst community at the time. After the production of the first submarine, Scinfaxi, and the second submarine, Hrimfaxi, a third vessel - or even an entirely new "Super Scinfaxi" hull design based on the first two - was rumored to be in development. This rumor was later confirmed thanks to Prime Minister Nikanor's Glasnost policy, which increased transparency within the Yuktobanian government in order to promote reform.
As a result, the name "Proyekt Alicorn" and partial construction blueprints came to light. The Yuktobanian term "proyekt" refers to naval vessels during the planning stages of development, and "Alicorn" refers to a type of winged unicorn. The "wings" in question refer to the twin propulsion units on either side of the main hull, and the "horn" refers to the boat's aircraft launching capabilities, as evidenced by the design of her main deck. A file full of images showing these features and bearing the stamp of the Yuktobanian New Naval Design Facility No. 4 found their way into the hands of military analysts around the world. However, due to the efforts of an unknown party to falsify information around that time, the whereabouts of the original file became uncertain.
Today, we can get our hands on Yuktobanian military information easily, but in the wake of the cold war in 2000, access was still limited. I remember how clueless media outlets used to speculate wildly based on sourceless info. All sorts of wild ideas floated around, such as one that claimed the Alicorn was a doomsday ship, equipped with 256 nuclear SLBM launchers arranged in 4 columns of 64 rows each.
How much of their guessing about this piece of scrap hit the mark?
The Fate of the Scrapped Boat
Prime Minister Nikanor (who was sworn in again in April of last year) and President Harling are both proud of their complete renewal of Yukto-Osean relations. The first step in this undertaking was the implementation of START-3, which calls for a major drawdown of nuclear and strategic weapon stockpiles. Due to the costliness of deactivation and the difficulties associated with actually giving up these weapons, they have become known as "the burdens."
Proyekt Alicorn was one of them.
The reason for this can be found by considering the stories of the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi during the Circum-Pacific War a year prior. Both vessels had an extensive development and assembly process with a huge budget. The submarines sat in a covered dock in a suburb of Okchabrusk until 1991, when the veil on the "Warships for a New Age" was lifted. However, there had been numerous internal complaints about the vessels being built with structural defects. Furthermore, when both the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi were deployed in live combat some 20 years after their construction, both submarines were lost in operational incidents without making much of any contribution. The Alicorn is the Scinfaxi-class submarine concept expanded even further, and yet she still sits unfinished. One can hardly blame the Yuktobanian government for calling her a burden.
This is where GR Trading came in. They are a trading company which forms the core of the GR Group, whose value has risen as part of Usea's private reconstruction and maintenance industry. They undertook half the costs of purchasing and tearing down the discarded vessel. Furthermore, they convinced the FCU government that it was an excellent opportunity to acquire foreign engineering talent and expertise.
General Resource LTD (GR) is Usea's largest conglomerate. Having been entrusted with a job involving Yukto-Osean participation, they now plan to develop into a truly multinational corporation. For both Yuktobania and Osea, the appeal of contracting the consigned boat’s dismantling primarily to technicians and personnel in the private sector was that it allowed them to focus their efforts on reconstruction. In September 2011, the three nations agreed that Usea would take possession of the consigned boat.
Some days later, the vessel entered Port Edwards, home to GR Group's headquarters and one of the “Usean Big 8” large-scale shipbuilding facilities. There are no other facilities capable of berthing such an enormous hull. When the boat entered the harbor that day, she caught more attention than the company wanted. “In the south, they’re building an international space elevator, and in the north, they’re dumping foreign scrap on us.” Civil discontent quickly reached a fever pitch, and overnight, activists on social media began calling for large-scale demonstrations.
In order to address these complaints, our inspection party has been tasked with reporting on the true state of the Alicorn and communicating our findings to the world. And yet – how should I put this? — if I'm being true to this goal, I find it difficult to say in good faith that this boat is definitely headed for the scrap heap. There is a possibility that this vessel will, for one reason or another, end up in the hands of one of three countries. There are three reasons why I believe this to be the case.
First, GR Trading is, of course, a trading company. GR Trading is in the business of mediating more trade with third parties and turning a profit. If what GR Trading says is true, that third party is a scrapping company. If the Alicorn is to be scrapped, then the dismantlement of her nuclear reactors is unavoidable. That costs money. Both governments are providing funding for the dismantlement, but there's no way either nation can provide the full amount necessary so soon after the war. Even with the profits GR Trading will make off selling the scrap metal, I don't think there's any way they can end up in the black.
The second reason can be found in GR Trading’s annual fiscal report from last year. In addition to GR Trading's main business, maintaining various Usean cities, they accounted for 23% of global sea trade and 18% of the global air trade. However, the reality is that a third of these figures come from logistical support, meaning that these figures also include procurement for maintenance. People like us who fly around the world can easily tell that, day by day, the number of containers marked with the GR Group's letter "G" logo in airports, harbors, and even battlefields is increasing.
The third and final reason is the existence of GR Marine and Ships, which handles GR Group's shipbuilding projects. GR Marine and Ships bought up companies from various countries which couldn't turn a profit during periods of decreased shipbuilding work. This, along with having secured exclusive resource procurement routes and internal cost cutting, has caused their share of global maritime shipping built to rise to 35% by 2011. They manage the shipyards at Port Edwards, and the rest of the Usean Big 8 – North Point Shipyards, Farbanti Shipyards, Denis Shipyards, Anchorhead Docks, Dakiouk Arsenal, Comberth Shipyards, and Saint Ark Shipyards – are under their influence as well.
My point is that over the last ten years, about 45 million tons of shipping had been sunk in various conflicts. Roughly half of this has been military shipping. In recent years, GR Marine and Ships has targeted this issue by taking orders for general-use military vessels that are just short of cutting-edge. However, they do not have an outstanding portfolio with regards to modern military ships. My guess is that they hope to build that reputation with the refit of the Alicorn.
Of course, the obvious question then becomes what the Alicorn's true destination is. Between my fellow analysts, Leasath, Estovakia, and Erusea are the leading candidates among the nations who are in the market for such a vessel.
My guess is Estovakia.
Leasath is certainly putting effort into modernizing its navy, but they aim to be a brown water navy, in which case the Alicorn would be excessive. Erusea is in the midst of a transition from the provisional autonomous government to the monarchy, and, due to concerns about public opinion, there has been no visible military buildup.
Estovakia's state of affairs is different. The country reeks of gunpowder from the ongoing civil war, the Eastern Faction’s Colonel General Gustav Dvornik's proposed "Aerial Fleet" concept has seen little progress, and, due to pressure from Osea's strategic resource export controls, they have been unable to purchase arms from Belka. Most importantly, they are a nation surrounded by the sea.
Although the country seems headed towards reunification and putting aside old grievances, their true intention is to use loopholes to get their hands on new weapons. With the Alicorn, Estovakia can fulfill that desire.
The Full Details of Proyekt Alicorn
Outside my window, the fog began to clear, and the Alicorn's details slowly revealed itself. I requested a turn to starboard from the PR manager.
Unlike the original Scinfaxi-class's bulged single-hull design, the Alicorn is a trimaran. The question of why the new design deviated from its predecessors was quickly answered. Looking closely, I noticed that the wake between the outer hulls and the center hull was especially calm. A lightbulb went on inside my head. "So that's it!"
There are tunnels running from front to back, necessitating the increase in width over the Scinfaxi-class. As I thought, analysis on the real thing is the best way to be certain. Seeing the Alicorn in person confirmed my earlier hypothesis that it used an electromagnetic drive, perhaps an inductive type designed in the 20th century.
I don’t think this giant vessel is powered by just two pump jets, since raising the rotation output of the screws lowers efficiency and creates noise. If you take into account stealthiness, it would make more sense if she had four propulsion units in total, including the electromagnetic drives. If true, then she should be equipped with reactors which have a considerable excess in output. As a Yuktobanian boat, she should have either one large or two mid-sized liquid metal cooled reactor units. Due to damage control considerations, two mid-sized units would be appropriate.
On the flight deck running through the tunnel in the center of the sail, steam catapults for launching manned fighters and a bay for point defense weapons gradually become visible.
I’ve seen enough to start putting together why the Alicorn wasn’t put into service during the Circum-Pacific War: it was likely the aforementioned electromagnetic propulsion unit and steam catapults. First, while the Alicorn may use electromagnetic propulsors, inductive-type units might not provide adequate propulsive force. Furthermore, the rails for the steam catapults have open surfaces. When the boat submerges, sea water may ingress through the high pressure piping connecting them to the steam generator. While I’m sure they have valves and other systems to compensate for this, this must have limited her operating depth and lengthened launch preparation times – fatal flaws for a boat designed to be both an aircraft carrier and a submarine.
On the sides of the sail are eight relatively large bays, which may be UAV launchers similar to those used effectively by the Hrimfaxi. It’s possible that the Alicorn’s model for air ops is a compromise between the manned aircraft-operating Scinfaxi and the UAV-operating Hrimfaxi. Having UAVs undertake manned aircraft escort, recon, spotting, target designation, and terminal guidance missions while manned aircraft undertake counter-air and ground attack missions would allow the Alicorn to avoid having to operate too many different airframes, and avoid embarking additional aircrew.
By having UAVs undertake manned aircraft escort, recon, spotting, and guidance while manned aircraft undertake counter air and ground attack missions, they could avoid adding the complexity of operating various types of aircraft, and embarking additional aircrew.
On either side of her hull, twelve rows and four columns of SLBM launchers are visible for a total of 48. It’s a somewhat small number, considering the size of the boat. Based on its shape and placement, the strange bay in front of the SLBM launchers may be a naval gun.
The pump jets are nearly half exposed: evidence of her shallow draft, possibly because she’s been emptied for towing. By the same token, her condition lets me see that there are no torpedo launchers in her bow – the one weapon most synonymous with submarines. There’s no question that torpedoes are inferior weapons in range and accuracy. It’s the consensus among analysts like myself that torpedo battles between submarines are no more than a fiction created by daydreamers. The Alicorn is an elegant design which puts theory into practice and does away with underwater combat capability entirely.
Altogether, I can say little about the Alicorn other than that she is unlike any existing boomers or attack boats. She is a vessel which combines the ability to cruise stealthily while submerged, the capabilities of a guided missile cruiser with her deck gun and missiles, and the capacity to launch manned aircraft and UAVs of an aircraft carrier. If I were to give her a name, “submersible aviation cruiser” would be more appropriate.
So how does one make her an even more valuable commodity?
I haven’t heard of GR Marine and Ships building a submarine before. Just copying and pasting a hullform wouldn’t work in reality. GRMS wouldn't have any problems getting enough power out of the Alicorn’s liquid metal cooled reactors, so they probably haven’t been replaced. It’s difficult to make out under the shadow of the sail, but the main addition would likely be an aircraft elevator with an aperture far larger than those seen on submersible aircraft carriers previously.
Along with an improved elevator, I’d also add Integrated Electric Propulsion (IEP). We can expect a considerable performance increase if GRMS has gone this route. If they could make use of the boat’s large internal volume to fit lithium batteries, the Alicorn could also use those as a power source for stealthy cruising. The electromagnetic drives and catapult should obviously be replaced as well. The Alicorn's hull form wouldn't need modification to have her electromagnetic drives replaced with a high-performance helical type. The problems I previously pointed out with the steam catapults would also be resolved by replacing them with electromagnetic catapults.
I expect the weapons systems have been updated to an even greater extent.
The naval artillery she already has is probably a conventional deck gun. It could be replaced with a railgun when the IEP is installed. The SLBMs were removed in Yuktobania. Even so, it’s easy to locate a firing vessel during the launch and boost phase. With modern missile defenses (MDs), SLBMs are no longer as relevant as they once were. The SLBM launchers were probably converted for use with tactical weapons. I posit that if the launchers were fitted with multi-type canisters, the Alicorn could be loaded up with intermediate-sized surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and cruise missiles, improving the boat’s anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and surface attack capabilities.
In addition to these refits, the onboard software would almost certainly be replaced. It’s easy to imagine that new weapons keeping only on the basic design of the old ones will be designed.
Commander Gromov laughed off my concerns. “Specialists always paint a worst-case scenario. It’s in their blood. But times have changed.” Nothing would make me happier than to find out my concerns were just fantasies.
The whistle of the escort boat echoed; the discarded vessel will soon reach its relay point near the offshore platform. Aboard our helicopter, a woman in a pencil skirt handed out paper bags one by one. Apparently, we were being given souvenirs. Deputy Secretary Staedtler raised his voice in delight from the front seat. I received a bag as well. Inside of it was a beautiful vanity case embossed with my name. It contained a cutting edge smartphone released by GR Phone Tech just the other day. I was impressed. There was an excitement in the air that made it impossible to resist, so I immediately opened the box and pointed the camera out the window.
I zoomed in on the escort boat running alongside the Alicorn. On the hull were the letters “GRGM,” representing GR Group’s new subsidiary, GR Guardian Mercenaries. GRGM describes itself as a “maritime escort company.” In other words, they’re a PMC. The façade they present is that they’re needed to escort GR’s own vessels, due to the severe damage piracy has inflicted on deep sea shipping involved with post-Continental War reconstruction. Their equipment consists of patrol boats configured like the merchant vessels constructed by GR Marine and Ships, but their armament is pretty good. There’s also rumors that in the future they, GRGM may have an escort force for their air freight sector as well. The rapid growth of their inventory has been remarkable. I suddenly came to my senses and put my smartphone away.
GR Trading procures equipment, GR Maritime and Ships has been making inroads with military vessel construction, and GR Guardian Mercenaries has been accumulating experience from combat operations.
Taken individually, it’s hard to see a scheme within each separate business. However, I can't be the only one who feels that there's something going on that can only be seen by looking at the bigger picture.
Up until now, military analysts like me have judged the armaments of great powers, the outcomes of wars, new weapon developments, and related topics within the scope of the information available to us. But a new era is upon us. Now, a final victor cannot be determined without factoring in what goes on behind closed doors, economic factors, and the conspiracy theories that link them together. It's a brave new world.
General Resources LTD. In today's world, militaries, civilians, and analysts like myself are all becoming little more than resources for them to harvest, even off the battlefield.
 The editor would like to clarify that this is, in fact, very wrong. Torpedoes – either dropped from aircraft, or launched from ships and subs – are the most potent anti-submarine weapon currently in service. Further, the next best way to kill a sub, other than hunting it with aircraft, is sending in another sub with modern guided torpedoes. Fast attack boats like the USN's Virginia and Los Angeles-class, or the Royal Navy's Astute-class, are always very busy escorting CSGs, shadowing boomers, and other anti-submarine duties. This line likely refers to the lack of submarine-on-submarine kills (with only one taking place in real history, near the end of World War II) due to the lack of any wars between major submarine-operating navies since 1945.