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 a 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 thrown 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, could be 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 Gromov, commander 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, who is responsible for the submarine, explains the current state of the transfer. In accordance with the implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Osea and Yuktobania last year, the boat was disarmed this January in the Special Ward B4 of Okchabursk, where she was constructed. Following a joint examination that lasted four weeks, the transfer began on February 17th. She was towed through the high seas for two weeks, accompanied by patrol boats. After today’s re-inspection and customs processing at the ST Offshore Platform Site A, she is planned to be transferred to the GR Trading 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 things line the deck as an additional measure to deter tampering. “They’re HMVs, proudly made by Osea,” Mr. Holland says in a satisfied tone. General Gromov nods his head and proclaims, “the boat is no longer a weapon; our close collaboration has quite neatly turned this vessel to scrap.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this giant piece of scrap. The whole region was in a froth back around 2000. There had been rumors among the analyst community of a new class of Yuktobanian boomers for a while. Following the first vessel, Scinfaxi, and the second vessel, Hrimfaxi, was supposedly a third vessel – or else a new “Super Scinfaxi” based on the first two. What allowed us to confirm this rumor was then Prime Minister Nikanor’s policy of Glasnost (the dissemination of information with the goal of furthering reform of the government).
As a result, the name “Proyekt Alicorn” and partial construction blueprints came to light. The Yuke term “proyekt” is how they refer to naval vessels during the planning stage of development, and an “Alicorn” is a kind of winged unicorn. The “wings” surely refer to the twin propulsion units on either side of the main hull. The “horn” refers to her capabilities as an aircraft carrier, as evidenced by her main deck. A file full of images showing these features which bore the stamp of the Yuktobanian New Naval Design Facility No.4 fell into the hands of military analysts around the world, but due to the efforts of some unknown party to falsify information around that time, the whereabouts of the original became uncertain.
Nowadays we can get our hands on Yuke military information easily, but directly following the cold war in 2000, we were still limited. I remember how the clueless media used to speculate wildly based on sourceless info. There were all kinds of wild ideas floating around, like that it was a doomsday ship, equipped with 256 nuclear SLBM launchers in 64 rows and 4 columns.
How much of that 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 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, 3rd Generation). It calls for a serious reduction in nuclear and strategic weapons. Both because of the costliness of deactivation and the difficulties of actually giving up these weapons, they were known as “the burdens.”
Proyekt Alicorn was one of them.
The reason for this is what happened to the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi during the Circum-Pacific War a year prior. Both vessels were built over a long period of time and with a significant budget inside a covered dock in a suburb of Okchabrusk until, in 1991, the veil on the “Warships for a New Age” was lifted. But in reality, there were internal complaints about them being constructed with structural defects. Furthermore, when they were recently deployed in live combat some 20 years after construction, they were both sunk in the line of duty. The Alicorn is this concept expanded even further, and she still sits unfinished. You can hardly blame them 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 increased as part of Usea's private reconstruction and maintenance industry. They undertook half the costs of purchasing and tearing down the discarded vessel. Furthermore, it presented an excellent opportunity for the FCU government to obtain foreign technicians.
GR is Usea’s largest conglomerate, and having been entrusted with a job involving Yukto-Osean participation, they now plan to become a truly multinational corporation. For both countries, the appeal of contracting the consigned boat’s dismantling largely to technicians and personnel in the private sector was that it allowed them to pour their efforts into reconstruction. In September 2011, the three countries agreed that Usea would take possession of the consigned boat.
Some days later, the vessel entered Port Edwards, which is the GR Group’s headquarters and one of the “Usean Big 8” large-scale shipbuilding facilities. There are no facilities capable of berthing ships larger than this one. That is to say, when the boat entered the harbor that day, she caught more attention than any of the involved parties wanted. “In the south, they’re building an international space elevator, and in the north, they’re dumping foreign scrap on us.” Civil discontent reached a fever pitch, and overnight activists were calling out for large scale demonstrations on social media.
In order to nip this in the bud, our inspection party is to report on the true state of the Alicorn and communicate our findings to the world. And yet…how should I put this? If I’m being true to this purpose, it’s difficult to say in good faith that this boat is definitely headed for the scrap heap. There is a possibility that this boat 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.
The first reason is that GR Trading is, of course, a trading company. That means it’s 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 she is to be scrapped, then it’s unavoidable that her nuclear reactors be dismantled too. That costs money. Both governments are providing funds for the dismantling, but there’s no way the two can provide the full amount so soon after the war. Even with the profits they’ll make off selling the scrap metal, I don’t think there’s any way they can end up in the black.
The second reason is GR Trading’s annual fiscal report last year. Aside from GR Trading’s main business of maintaining various Usean cities, they accounted for 23% of global sea trade, and 18% of air trade. However, the reality is that a third of this figure is logistical support. In other words, that figure includes procurement for maintenance. People like us flying around the world can feel in their bones how day by day, the number of containers marked with the letter G at airports, harbors, and even battlefields is increasing.
The third reason is the existence of GR Marine and Ships, which handles their shipbuilding. They bought up companies from various countries which couldn’t turn a profit during periods of decreased shipbuilding, and having secured exclusive resource procurement routes, along with thorough cost cutting, their share of global maritime shipping built rose to 35% by 2011. They manage the shipyards at Port Edwards as well. The rest of the Usean Big 8 – North Point Shipyards, Farbanti Shipyards, Denis Shipyards, Anchorhead Docks, Dakiouk Arsenal, Comberth Shipyards, and Saint Ark Shipyards – all support the company.
My point is, over the last ten years, about 45 million tons of shipping have been sunk in various conflicts, about half of which have been military shipping. In recent years, targeting this deficit, the company began to take orders for general military shipping short of state of the art vessels. However, GR Marine and Ships does not have a strong track record with modern military shipping. My guess is that they hope to build their reputation with the refit of Alicorn.
What I’m about to talk about next is, of course, her destination. Among those in the market, Leasath, Estovakia, and Erusea are the leading candidates.
I propose Estovakia.
Leasath is certainly putting effort into its navy, but it aims to be a brown water navy, which this vessel is not suited for. Erusea is in the midst of transferring control from the provisional autonomous government to the royalty, and due to public opinion there has been no publicly visible military buildup.
But Estovakia is different. It’s the place with the strongest smell of gunpowder on earth; leader of the eastern military clique, General of the Army Gustav Dvornik’s proposed “Aerial Armada” concept has been frustrated; and due to pressure from Osea’s strategic resource export regulations, they have been unable to purchase arms from Belka. Most of all, they are a nation surrounded by the sea.
Though they may be headed towards reunification and forbearing past grievances, their true intention is to use workarounds to get their hands on new weapons. With this vessel, they may fulfill that desire.
The Full Details of Proyekt Alicorn
Outside my window, the fog began to give way to sunshine, and the boat could be seen in detail. I requested a turn to starboard from the PR officer.
The Alicorn is a trimaran. The original Scinfaxi class was a single hull with a bulge. The question of why the two differed was dispelled. Looking with eyes wide open, I gradually noticed that the wake particularly between the left and right hulls and the center hull was especially calm. “So that’s it,” I said to myself, slapping my knee.
There are tunnels running from front to back. That’s why she’s wider than the Scinfaxi class. Seeing the real thing confirmed my analysis. I had been thinking it was an electromagnetic drive, perhaps an inductive type designed in the 20th century.
I certainly don’t think this giant boat is powered by just two pump jets. If you take into account stealthiness, it would make more sense if she had four propulsion units in total, including the electromagnetic drives. If that’s the case, 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 molten 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, gradually, a bay for point defense weapons becomes visible.
From what I’ve seen so far, I’ve come to understand why it was the Alicorn was not put into service during the Circum-Pacific War: it was probably the aforementioned electromagnetic propulsion unit and steam catapult. First of all, while she may have electromagnetic propulsion units, the inductive propulsive force may not have been adequate. Furthermore, the rail for the steam catapults have an open surface, and when the boat submerges, sea water may ingress through the high pressure piping connecting them to the steam generator. While surely valves and other measures compensated for this, depth and launch preparation time must’ve been limiting factors. This is a fatal flaw as both an aircraft carrier and a submarine.
On the sides of the sail are eight comparatively large bays, which may be the UAV launchers used to some effect by the Hrimfaxi. Perhaps the Alicorn’s model for aircraft operation is a compromise between the manned aircraft-operating Scinfaxi and the UAV-operating Hrimfaxi.
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 for the size of the boat. From its shape and position, perhaps the strange bay in front of the SLBM launchers is a naval gun.
The pump jets are nearly half exposed: evidence of her shallow draft. Perhaps it’s because she’s been emptied for towing. On a related note, one can see from her current state that the torpedo launchers are missing from her bow. In other words, she does not have the one weapon most synonymous with submarines. Certainly, torpedoes are inferior in range and accuracy. Battles between submarines with torpedoes is no more than a fiction created by daydreamers; this is the consensus of everyone in our position. Her’s is a clean design which puts this into practice and does away with the ability to battle underwater.
Taken together, I can say nothing except that this boat 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 missiles and naval artillery, and a capacity as an aircraft carrier with her manned aircraft and UAVs. If I were naming her, “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. Simply copying and pasting the hull wouldn’t work. There wouldn’t be any problems with the output of the molten metal cooled reactors, so there’s likely been no reactor replacement. It’s difficult to make out under the shadow of the sail, but the main change would likely be the fitting of an aircraft elevator with an aperture far larger than that of normal submarines.
With that, the next thing I’d add is IEP (Integrated Electric Propulsion). If they’ve done this, then we can expect a considerable performance increase. Maybe if they could make use of the boat’s large internal volume to fit lithium batteries, she could use them as a power source for stealthy cruising. Of course, the electromagnetic drives and catapult should be replaced as well. If the electromagnetic drives were changed to a high-performance helical type, there wouldn’t be a need to modify the hull form. If the steam catapult were replaced with an electromagnetic one, the previously identified problems would be resolved.
The weapons systems would be updated to an even greater extent.
The already-equipped naval gun is probably a piece of naval artillery. Perhaps it will be replaced with a railgun along with the IEP. The SLBM launchers' missiles were removed in Yuktobania. Even so, it’s easy to locate a firing vessel during the launch and boost phase. With improvements in MD (Missile Defense), SLBMs no longer have the relevance they once did. These launchers were probably converted to tactical weapons. I suggest that by inserting multi-type canisters into the launchers, she can be loaded up with intermediate-sized surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and cruise missiles, so that the ship’s anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and surface attack capabilities could be improved.
In addition to all this, the software would almost certainly be replaced. It’s already easy to imagine that new weapons using only the basic design will be created.
Commander Gromov laughed the matter off. “The specialist is painting the worst case, as always. It’s in his blood, but times have changed.” But if this possibility were mere fantasy, I’d be very happy.
The whistle of the accompanying ship echoed; the discarded vessel will soon reach its relay point near the offshore platform. Aboard the helicopter, a woman in a tight skirt handed out paper bags one by one. Apparently, we were being given a souvenir. From the front seat, Deputy Secretary Staedtler raised his voice in delight. I, too, received a bag; inside of it was a vanity case with my name embossed. It was a cutting edge smartphone that was released by GR Phone Tech just the other day. Impressive. There was something 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 ship running alongside. On the hull were the letters “GRGM.” It’s GR Group’s new subsidiary, GR Guardian Mercenaries. They describe themselves as a maritime escort company. In other words: a PMC. Their façade is that they exist to escort GR’s own vessels due to the great damage piracy has inflicted on the deep sea shipping involved with reconstruction after the Continental War. Their equipment consists of patrol boats configured like merchant vessels constructed by GR Marine and Ships, but their armament is pretty good. There are rumors that in the future they may have an escort force for their air freight sector as well. The expansion of their inventory is 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.
It’s hard to see a scheme within each individual business. However, I can't be the only one who feels as if there is something that can only be seen by those who grasp the bigger picture.
Up until now, military commentators like me have judged the armaments of great powers, the outcomes of wars, new weapons development, or related topics within the scope of the information available to us. But a new era is upon us. From now on, a final victor cannot be determined without factoring in what goes on behind the curtain, economic factors, and all the intertwined conspiracy theories. It truly is a new world.
In today's world, militaries, civilians, and, of course, analysts, are 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 might just be referring to the lack of submarine-on-submarine kills (with only one taking place in real history, near the end of World War II). But then again, perhaps doctrines are different in Strangereal.