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Virtual Earth Exposes Nuclear Sub's Secret

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the tarp-would-have-helped dept.

The Internet 355

NewsCloud alerts us to a story a few months old that has been getting a lot of play recently. A Seattle blogger, Dan Twohig, was browsing in Microsoft's Virtual Earth when he accidentally came across a photo of a nuclear sub in dry-dock. Its propeller is clearly visible — this was a major no-no on the part of someone at the Bangor Sub Base. The designs of such stealth propellers have been secret for decades. Twohig blogged about the find and linked to the Virtual Earth photo on July 2. The debate about security vs. Net-accessible aerial photography has been building ever since. The story was picked up on military.china.com on Aug. 17 — poetic justice for the Chinese sub photo that had embarrassed them a month before. On Aug. 20 the Navy Times published the article that most mainstream media have picked up in their more recent coverage. Twohig's blog is the best source to follow the ongoing debate. No one has asked Microsoft, Google, or anyone else to blur the photo in question. Kind of late now.

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The real secret (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445443)

is that all those sub sailors are butt buddies. But I guess that may not be a secret....

Re:The real secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445497)

Right, that is common knowledge.

Re:The real secret (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445587)

It's no secret that women and seamen don't mix.

Re:The real secret (4, Informative)

G Fab (1142219) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445787)

I served for a long time.

And I was exposed to all branches for long periods of time. You will not find a less gay friendly place than the Navy. Even the Marines are more tolerant. It's because of the hollywood archetyping of the navy as gay that the navy has had such a buildup of anger about it. The 1993 DADT policy greatly increased the problem, and violence against gays has increased by about an exponent from 1993-1999 (no idea of the exact recent statistic, but it has increased greatly up to today)

Gays int he military are usually quite good. dedicated to serve in spite of additional hassle. The Brits have been open for a while, and they are, man for man, extremely effective. I'm not implying that there is some kind of problem with gayness in the military.

But this is typical trash propaganda. Sounds ludicrously paranoid, but the fact is that there is an effort to portray soldiers as feminine weakling children or sociopathic monsters. You'll find most gays in the Army. You'll find the fewest in the Navy.

Re:The real secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446423)

I served too, and I had many homosexual relationships in the Navy. We always kept them a secret, but there were lots of gay guys, and they were easy to find.

Re:The real secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446695)

And I was exposed to all branches for long periods of time. You will not find a less gay friendly place than the Navy.
Maybe they doth protest too much. There's no one more rabidly homophobic than a repressed homosexual.

Re:The real secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446697)

So - you're saying that maybe the joke about a submarine being something that 90 guys go down in and 45 couples come up in may not be fair or accurate.

OK! Got it!

Google Cache (4, Informative)

tajmorton (806296) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445493)

Google Cache [72.14.253.104]

Re:Google Cache (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445685)

Your proliferation of this information, shameless and most likely premeditated, cannot but argue for an immediate and thorough dismantling of this abomination that is the Internet.

Clearly, the citizenry's desire to be on equal terms with its rightfully appointed overseers is misguided.

What could compare to the danger of such leaks? Only, perhaps, ability of the governed to guide the acts of the governors. (But, thank God and all that is holy, we need not contend with such a possibility.)

The proper solution to this satellite photo disaster is to establish government and international bodies, whose responsibility will be to oversee the propagation of information in its early stages. Press organizations, and other legitimately licensed speaking entities, could submit all reports and articles for government approval before publication, and thus dangerous knowledge would be stopped in its tracks. All information emanating from government bodies would be confidential by default, enforced by penalties befitting treason.

It is indeed a distant dream -- such a beautiful system of bureaucratic power and unquestionable hierarchy -- yet we must do what we can to stop out-of-control communication amongst the proletariat from further endangering the established, and righteous, distribution of power.

Slashdot (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445495)

Generally Posts news about 3-4 days after it has come to light, yet the picture of the propeller is still there, therefore i think we can assume the US no longer cares (because its too late, or they dont mind people knowing) about the picture

Re:Slashdot (4, Interesting)

jmauro (32523) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445741)

Or it's a fake plant to hide the real propeller design.

Re:Slashdot (2, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446059)

The real propeller design includes a "man-sized safe".

It's older than that... (3, Insightful)

JacksBrokenCode (921041) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445851)

The MonsterMaritime.com entry linked to in the writeup was actually posted on July 2, a full 2 months ago. 2 months later and they haven't tried to put the horse back in the barn so while it's technically a secret, it's probably not that important of a secret. Besides, even if they asked MS to blur the image on Live they'd still have to ask other companies with access to the data to blur it, and then they'd have to go to the source of the imagery and ask them to stop selling it (which they may not have a case for).

In reality, if they censored the images the only people who wouldn't be able to see it are people not willing to spend money to see images of a classified submarine. Any country/organization with it's own program for developing nuclear submarines or technology to detect submarines likely has the financial/organizational resources to aquire this imagery without depending on a free website.

Probably not significant (4, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445499)

Waay too many assumptions in this article:

  • Our propellers are more advanced than the other guy's.
  • A 2-D snap from a satellite is going to reveal significant details.
  • The propeller is real and was revealed by "accident".

Re:Probably not significant (-1)

HNS-I (1119771) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445523)

Isn't seven blades on a propeller a bit overdone? I think three or four should be the most efficient.

Re:Probably not significant (2)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445577)

Isn't seven blades on a propeller a bit overdone? I think three or four should be the most efficient

I'd like to think that the naval engenieers who designed that thing didn't add blades just for the sake of it :)

Anyway, the propeller looks surprisingly like... a propeller. I was kinda expecting to see something completely weird with all that secrecy.

Re:Probably not significant (5, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445695)

I'd like to think that the naval engenieers who designed that thing didn't add blades just for the sake of it
No, no, your average Slashdotter is always smarter than an entire team of engineers.

Re:Probably not significant (2, Funny)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445611)

i can't figure out which joke to make, 'these blades go to eleven' or 'behold: a propellor with seven asses'.

Re:Probably not significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446483)

As neither joke was remotely amusing, I don't think you have to worry about that.

Re:Probably not significant (5, Informative)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445615)

Why three?

I am not a fluid dynamicist. But: To increase thrust at a certain RPM, it seems that you can either (1) increase the diameter of the propeller, or (2) increase the number of blades. The problem with increasing the diameter is that the velocity at the tips increases, which leads to effects like cavitation (which, besides being very noisy, damages propellers). So what you do is increase the number of blades.

Prop-driven airplanes produced near the end of WWII had many-blade propellers for this reason as well: They wanted a lot of thrust, but, if they made the blades any longer, then the tips would have been supersonic. (I think I got this factoid from the History Channel.)

My guess is that a quiet high-thrust propeller would spin slowly and have many, very wide and heavily-curved blades. Let's see if somebody who knows more agrees.

Re:Probably not significant (1, Redundant)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445757)

Looking at the picture, the screw on the boat looks remarkably like the designs from a couple of decades ago for high-efficiency, low-noise propellers for aircraft, where the blades wrapped backwards around the engine nacelle. The problem with aviation propellers is that to get more power, you can make the prop bigger in diameter, but eventually the tip speed reaches the speed of sound, which causes a huge increase in noise, vibration, and wear; a skewback propeller increases the driving surface while allowing the rotation speed of the prop to stay lower. The situation is just as important for submarine propellors, where the higher velocity of the outer edge of the screw will cause it to cavitate at a lower number of revolutions than the inner part, so you want to put more driving surface inside the critical diameter for the number of revolutions you expect to be making at cruising speeds.

Re:Probably not significant (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446407)

I have a friend who has a habit of repeating what was just said using slightly different language. Tell me, do you smoke way too much pot and work at Pizza Hut?

Mii No comprende but you for real! (0, Redundant)

Krozy (755542) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446465)

I have no idea what any of that means in real life, but it sounds enough like Tom Clancy writing that it must be true! Words like 'skewback', 'nacelle', 'cavitate' sound s-m-art.

Re:Probably not significant (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446757)

...Or increase the pitch of the propeller. Many Naval vessels use CRP or CPP (Controllable Reversible Pitch or Controllable pitch propellers)

Re:Probably not significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445671)

I also can't tell if you are joking, but efficiency isn't the goal. Avoiding cavitation [wikipedia.org] is the goal. More blades means less force on each surface. That's probably why it's so huge too.

Re:Probably not significant (1)

Kpt Kill (649374) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445771)

I defiantly believe engineers would be going for stealth over speed, though I'm just a simple IT guy and not privy to naval design.

Re:Probably not significant (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445811)

Isn't seven blades on a propeller a bit overdone? I think three or four should be the most efficient.
Efficiency isn't the only design criterion, stealth is an important design objective for a sub.

Re:Probably not significant (5, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445877)

The secret bit of these propellors is what materials they are made of, how precisely they curve, and to what tolerance they are engineered. The big problem with propellors is that they tend to suffer from cavitation [wikipedia.org] at high speed, where the sudden change in pressure causes bubbles to form and collapse. Apart from being rather noisy, referred to as "singing" (which is a bad thing for a stealthy submarine trying to make a fast getaway) it also causees damage to the blades (much like desert sand on engine turbine blades).

The purpose of having an odd number of blades is no secret - it is to reduce vibration. As the submarine travels through the water it leaves a wake behind it. Above the submarine there is less water pressure than below - so having two blades above and below at the same time is a bad thing. The more blades, the less vibration, but propellors are more efficient with fewer blades. You will see speedboat propellors with three or four blades, and fishing boats can have propellors with only two blades.

There is also the problem that having different metals in close proximity in a salt water environment, can lead to an electrolysis effect where the metals and water act as a kind of battery. Lots of technical papers on Propellor design [hydrocompinc.com]

"The most frequent cure for a singing propeller is the popular "anti-singing edge". This is a chamfer applied to the trailing-edge to promote separation of the vortices."

Re:Probably not significant (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446621)

The most important criterion is avoiding cavitation and the noise that makes, not the best possible propulsion efficiency.

-jcr

Re:Probably not significant (1)

PSGInfinity (607839) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445659)

Please Mod the parent up. To my eyes, it look like a fake prop, which would likely be standard procedure. For example, here's a link to a known photo of the USS Ohio [defenselink.mil] , the first Trident missile sub. Note that the propeller is fully submerged in the known photo.

Re:Probably not significant (4, Insightful)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445761)

In reply...
  • Our propellers are more advanced than the other guy's.

    They are.

    • A 2-D snap from a satellite is going to reveal significant details.

      It did.

      • The propeller is real and was revealed by "accident".

        It almost certainly is real; it's too similar to other known quiet props, with some interesting variations that the 2-D satellite image did in fact usefully reveal (blade advance angle), from the sun angle and shadows.

        Those in fact tell a professional in the field something useful about the operating capabilities of the sub, in terms of its relative optimization for different types of operations.

Re:Probably not significant (4, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446187)

It almost certainly is real

I tend to agree just because otherwise it would presume a really complicated hoax with a low chance of success (such as fooling a foreign government.) You'd have to replace the propeller, then make Microsoft or whoever takes pictures to take them, then you'd have to activate your agent to post the photos on a blog, and even then you'd still not know if the photo fooled anyone or not, since your adversary wouldn't be a complete idiot, so the fake must be realistic and mostly working.

With regard to the photo, what you have there is effectively one blade photographed from seven different angles. This allows the "other side" (whatever that is) to combine them to get a higher resolution.

But the main issue here is there are not too many countries in the world that would even care about such things. NATO countries probably don't need this photo, they have the real stuff. Russia is rumored to have procured such propeller designs about 25 years ago, and likely has enough computing power to improve on them as needed. China probably has many agents everywhere as well, you can't possibly keep such large things secret for long. What other countries then would want to know how to design a silent propeller, considering that even milling machines required to build the blades are not sold over the counter to anyone who asks, and they are not cheap either, and you have to have a solid manufacturing base to even produce the metal for the blades. So it's an expensive, high-tech business that only a handful of countries have the need and the money to get into. Not all major countries build submarines, many prefer to buy.

Re:Probably not significant (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446263)

How do you know this is our most advanced prop? Could be 8 blades is the best now, and this is an old design. I looked at ALL angles and there ARE no shadows, there is not an exact time of day printed on the photo. You don't know the angle of the photo either. You need both of those to compute size from shadows. Disinformation is very common, this might well be exactly that. We did a lot of that during the Cold War. We'd "leak" secrets to the Soviets that they jumped on, spent millions to check out only to find out we changed an essential part of the data (or left it out) and the design wouldn't work. We'd also then know the characteristics of the design (and it's weaknesses) if it was deployed. The boomer and hunter boat projects are black as midnight during a new moon. There is NO WAY this data is real. A security violation of that magnitude would result in dismissals, etc. which you'd hear about in the press. Remember all the fuss over the missing hard drives from Los Alamos? The noise would be at least that high.

Re:Probably not significant (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446363)

In reply...

        * Our propellers are more advanced than the other guy's.

            They are.
Not for long :)

Re:Probably not significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446615)

Why does everyone think this is a photograph from a satellite? It clearly is not. Particularly when you switch to the 3 other angles. It was shot from a relatively low flying aircraft...

Re:Probably not significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446753)

goodpoints..

The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445513)

11 Carrier Battle Groups. The ability to project naval, air, and underwater force anywhere in the world The US has the mightiest navy in the history of the world, greater than every country's navy put together.

This is not such a big deal. Let the Chinese try to copy this. Then they'll only have to build the aircraft carriers, fighter jets, support ships to protect it.

God Bless America, and God Bless the US Navy.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (5, Insightful)

Gerhardius (446265) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445573)

Hmm, do you believe that having subs means needing a big surface fleet to protect them? The US has a big navy because they have a need to be everywhere at once. Some places the US likes to get involved lack any friendly air bases so they need carrier groups. China has no need to try to match the US Navy, just as the US has no need to match the size of the Chinese Army. Additionally, any intelligence of value on current US sub programs is already in Moscow and Beijing: history has shown how simple it is to buy information in a debt driven economy.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (3, Interesting)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445605)

A submarine does not need a carrier battle group. The point of a sub, is a stealthy platform for launching missiles or for sneaking up on other vessels undetected. A group of effective submarines could make a carrier battle group ineffective. In a war against a major enemy, carriers will probably be useless unless their air, submarine and missile forces can be neutralized. They primarily for show and wars of aggression against far weaker enemies.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (5, Interesting)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446529)

"In a war against a major enemy, carriers will probably be useless..."

And where did that factoid come from? One would imagine that a ship with the capability to strike at extremely long distances is always useful, if you can hit your enemy before their weapons can reach you you have an advantage. As for carriers being vulnerable to subs that's only partially true. Certain types of submarines, especially advanced nuclear subs (and diesel ones, so long as they don't surface anywhere near the carrier group and have enough battery power to get in and out) could conceivably slip through the defenses around a carrier and then it's aircraft would be useless. Given that the last major (that I know of) engagement between large groups of submarines and carriers was WWII, and that was clearly decided in favor of the carrier groups (53 u-boats sunk to less than 10 of the CVE mini-carriers) I'd say a generalization like 'Subs counter carriers' is kinda...wrong. A carrier battle group at war would typically have at least 1 radar plane (Orion?) on CAP. If the sub surfaces nearby radar has a chance of picking it up. In addition the carrier's escorts have darn good sonar and wouldn't be too hesitant to use it.

So basically, 1 lone carrier vs sub is an easy win for the sub, unless the carrier sees it coming from a long way off and launches anti-sub efforts. 1 carrier battlegroup is at least a match for any similar number of warships, including subs, and very good at other tasks such as beach assault, long range support etc. A carrier battle group is currently the most versatile type of navy imaginable, as such it may not be the best way to counter all threats (a pair of destroyers working in tandem with some anti-sub helicopters would be cheaper and pretty effective against small numbers of subs). It's a Jack of All Trades, master of none type of thing, a Carrier group is good at anti-surface ship, anti-sub, and anti-land combat.

Sneaking up on a ship which is fully prepared for war is a lot harder than some things would lead you to believe. Just because you're underwater and pretty quiet doesn't mean your undetectable, and if you're too quiet you can be detected that way (one possibly problem with modern US subs is that they're actually quieter than the surrounding ocean and could *conceivably* be detected that way). No amount of noise-reduction is going to save you if even 1 enemy ship is using active-sonar, you're going to be detected unless it's a cloak-and-dagger fight which is something aircraft carriers rarely engage in, they're more 'Hey look, I'm right here, I don't need to hide because I'm that much better than you' style fighting, and in that arena (when radars are at full and sonars are active) subs lose all stealth benefits, and an unstealthed sub vs a carrier group is just asking for trouble.

So to sum it up, no, a carrier battle group is not useless. Subs are easily countered (unless you're trying to be stealthy as well) and missile blocking is what Aegis (common in CBG's) class destroyers were partially built for. Aircraft carriers are built for show, and are good against weaker enemies, but also against equals, it's against stronger enemies (few and far between at this moment) that they begin to look impossibly weak and fragile.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446785)

They primarily for show and wars of aggression against far weaker enemies.

      This made me laugh. You obviously have no idea what a carrier battle group can do. It can seriously ruin ANYONE's day. Tell me something - why do you think the island hopping in the Pacific in World War II happened AFTER and not before the Japanese lost their carriers in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway? Why do you think that the main objective of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was to sink the US carriers - and not finding those carriers sealed their fate?

      Carrier groups have ASW capabilities, it's what they do when they're not flying air to mud missions. Oh, and carrier groups also usually have friendly subs around them looking for enemy subs. A "group" of enemy submarines would have to be very lucky indeed to get close enough to score a hit on a carrier.

      Owning carriers is not for "show". If you have a carrier group, you own the ocean, and you own the air above whatever shoreline you want, for the simple reason that you know where you are, and the enemy doesn't. You can strike at any time, from any direction on the compass. This gives you the initiative.

      Oh and who else has carriers? Not many countries, and most of them have just the one.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0, Troll)

GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445633)

Wow, you can almost here the banjo pluckin in the background of this ignorant redneck's post.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445763)

The US has the mightiest navy in the history of the world, greater than every country's navy put together.
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446089)

This sonnet is often incorrectly quoted or reproduced. The most common misquotation -- "Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!" -- replaces the correct "on" with "upon", thus turning the regular decasyllabic (iambic pentameter) verse into an 11-syllable verse.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446279)

Well quoted from Wikipedia, though I'm not sure what your point was...

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446577)

An interesting point, all power fades. Completely pointless in usage since the quote was not saying 'The US has, and will always have...' but rather pointing out that, as of now, the US has the best navy. The quote does nothing to disparage that and in reality only seems to emphasize the original poster's point as the quote is commonly believed to be referencing Ramesses the Great (wikipedia) who pretty much was the world power at his time. Of course that power faded but it doesn't mean that it never existed in the first place.

Just thought I'd add something to the discussion. I'm not a big fan of the 'US has the biggests [insert military type] in the world and could crush all the other [insert military type]' as the logistics are nigh impossibly to accurately compute (one after the other? All at once? etc.) but responding with a quote like that, one that in reality reinforces the original post but seems at first to disparage the original post just irked me a little.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446637)

You completely missed the point. The original post was practically dripping with jingoism. The quote was a refutation of the jingoism.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1)

spyfrog (552673) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445825)

When WWII started, then the British fleet was the far most advanced, biggest and strongest fleet in the world.

Still, the German Navy almost defeated them with their much more effective submarines.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445951)

When World War II started the British Navy was probably the most outdated of any of the major powers. Their naval air arm consisted mostly of WWI era planes, most of their battlefleet was 20 years out of date, and their destroyers were totally unsuited for the kinds of roles which they were going to be employed in. Germany on the otherhand possessed a very small, but much more modern navy.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1)

spyfrog (552673) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446023)

If the British surface navy was so extremely bad as you suggest, then why was the quite good German admirals so afraid of facing it?
Very few German surface navy ships saw action against the British navy, one exception being Bismarck which coincidently was sunk mostly due to the actions of the "ancient" Spearfish planes on the British fleet carriers....

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446075)

I don't recall him saying anything about the British surface navy being bad. In fact, he said it was the most powerful navy in the world at the time.

Hence his point about effective use of advanced submarines.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446659)

then why was the quite good German admirals so afraid of facing it?

      Oh I dunno, some 500 years of British naval combat experience perhaps? Plus the Brits had the numbers on their side. Technology will only help you so far, but numbers win every time.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446673)

Still, the German Navy almost defeated them with their much more effective submarines.

      The German U-boat fleet rarely engaged the Royal Navy. And with the occasional exception, when they did this, they were sunk. The U-boats were used as commerce raiders, and had great success. For a year or so. Now please look up the statistics on how many u-boats actually survived the war, and talk to me about "success". It was a disaster, like almost everything else Germany did after taking France.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1)

greendoggg (667256) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445995)

Actually, this particular item is supposed to be kept a secret. These propellers are/were put onto the nuclear missile submarines, and they're designed to make as little noise as possible, so that the missile subs are undetectable, and thus in the event of nuclear war, the enemy is unable to stop our "deterent". So because of this, I'm sure the navy would rather not give out the secret of how to build an undetectable missile sub, because then the enemy (whoever that currently is) may be able to use the same tricks against us (an unstoppable "deterent").

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446269)

"This is not such a big deal. Let the Chinese try to copy this. Then they'll only have to build the aircraft carriers, fighter jets, support ships to protect it."

Considering that they build everything else in the world, I'd give them 3 years.

But carrier battle groups and nation states are so 20th century. All you have to do to invade someone these days is walk over a border, set up a restaurant that serves tasty cuisine, make sure that you only buy raw materials and land, and have lots of children.

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446437)

U.S.A.!!! U.S.A!!!

Sorry :The US Navy Arte the Bad Guys (1)

Sad Adam (1036862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446681)

woooo! hahahahahaha! Squeels of a forest monkey! Except of course most of the world considers the US to be the bad guys. God help the US Navy indeed. It needs a few friends (or "collaborators" more to the point)

Re:The US Navy Is Not Such A Secret (1, Flamebait)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446767)

"God Bless America, and God Bless the US Navy."

You sound like a religious nut.

God bless nuclear weapons... sure.

Interesting for average joe, but... (3, Insightful)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445521)

isn't it safe to assume that all countries with satellites in orbit have been watching each others military facilities for decades?

It isn't about other nations. (1)

N-icMa (1149777) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445599)

Remember, if we don't keep everything secret, the terrorists will win!

Re:It isn't about other nations. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446633)

Remember, if we don't keep everything secret, the terrorists will win!

      The "terrorists" have already won. Where have you been the past 5 years or so?

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445673)

That's part of the point. The sub should not have been dry-docked with its propeller visible. The fact that it made it to Google Maps is not the story, just the way we know about the story.

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446475)

Unless the plainly visible screw in that photo has a deliberate inherent flaw that they would like other nations to waste a few years on!

If indeed, the exposure of the screw is an accident, a bunch of civillians seeing it on google isn't a problem. If civilian aerial photos exist, you can bet that even better spysat photos exist. The horse is already out of the barn, why demonstrate how important the info is by closing the door in a panic?

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (2, Informative)

xirtam_work (560625) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445815)

Actually, the majority of the images you see when zoomed in on Google Earth and Google Maps, as well as Microsoft Virtual Earth, are from aeriel photography. i.e. taken from planes. Check with Google if you don't believe me.

Commercially available satellite imagery does not have the resolution to show you a photo of your house from orbit. Images used by the 'intelligence' communitity and the military have higher resolution, but not at the magnification that they'd like you to think they have.

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (2, Insightful)

solevita (967690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446157)

I don't understand your point... Sure, the image in question here could be from any of a number of sources; you've chosen to talk about aerial photography. But, the OP was talking about the abilities of other nations with "spy" satellites - something you allude to in your post could have a high enough resolution to produce an image similar to this. So in effect, you only agree with the OP's point: this is interesting for the average Joe, but for nation's with spy satellite technology (and the huge amounts of man power required to pour over it), this probably isn't anything particularly new.

Not to mentionthis [slashdot.org] really good post on the subject that I found much more persuasive than your own.

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (1)

Conspicuous Coward (938979) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446513)

Exactly, I think it's safe to assume that if some braindead blogger can find it the foreign intelligence services have known about it for decades.
In general it annoys me that military organizations complain so loudly about their bases being visible on Google earth, anyone who would actually know how to abuse such information already has access to it anyway ffs. They want to prevent the population from knowing what they're up to, nothing to do with national security.

Re:Interesting for average joe, but... (2, Insightful)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446775)

Yes, but there's probably a Cathedral and the Bazaar-type effect going on. With enough eyeballs, all military secrets become rather easy to find out. The military can only hire so many people to look at the satellite information, but when Random Joe can play around with Google Maps on his lunch break and then report whatever looks "weird" on their blog, it becomes a lot harder to keep a lid on things.

From TFA: (5, Informative)

dominious (1077089) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445545)

You may have to be in Internet Explorer to see this...
Firefox shows just fine! just so to let you people of /. know:)

Pubic area made available for the world to see (2, Funny)

Cretin de Troyes (1134255) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445607)

My favourite part from TFA (emphasis mine):

The company that took the photos made them available to the pubic (for a price) then Microsoft Live Search picked them up and broadcast them on the internet for anyone to see.
Indiscrete photos+pubic+Microsoft in one sentence... priceless.

Re:From TFA: (2, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445651)

Firefox shows just fine! just so to let you people of /. know:)

Windows Live Maps has a bad habit of checking user agent strings in order to support non-IE browsers. While most people won't have a problem with Firefox, there have been cases of people using Firefox browsers with the old 2.0 beta codename "Bon Echo" as the user agent string, and it's possibile that non-Firefox Firefox browsers like Iceweasel [wikipedia.org] (Firefox without the Mozilla copyright bits) may have a non-Firefox user agent. In those cases, you'll get redirected to a barely-functional page instead of the proper map view. A good way to play around with this is to use Opera's ability to easily change the browser's UA (to mimic Firefox or IE). With Opera's normal UA (or a broken Firefox UA), you'll see this [daishar.com] . If you change Opera to masquerade as Firefox, you'll see this [daishar.com] instead.

The correct solution is to stop using UA strings for browser detection, but have fun trying to convince Microsoft to do that.

Re:From TFA: (1)

jadin (65295) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445921)

You may have to be in Internet Explorer to see this...
Firefox shows just fine! just so to let you people of /. know:)
Come on.. this is slashdot. Do you really expect us to think 'Oh, I guess better not try firefox or something bad might happen!'?

You clicked it. I clicked it. We are all going to click it. Probably more so since we were told it might not work.

Sorry had to vent.

Is it really so secret? (4, Informative)

spyfrog (552673) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445557)

Is this really so secret nowdays?

I think I remeber that the thechnology to make these kind of silent propellers where sold by a norweigan company to a KGB front in the early 1980:s. As I recall, it was a major scandal when the news brooke.
As I have understod it, most soviet nuclear subs had these improved propellers since late 80's and that most of the eastern block started to get access to the same technology.

Most western submarines has had these kind of silent props for years and I belive that most submarine nowdays have one.
You could try to track the Swedish HMS Gotland with passive hydrophone and see how far that takes you, for instance... she insn't even a NATO sub but she is more silent than even the american SSN subs.

Re:Is it really so secret? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445597)

diseal-electric boats will always be more silent than nuclear powered ones. until you have to surface and recharge that is. and i'm sure the us navy came up with something better since the 80s. then again, it might be something that you can't figure out at given resolution/angle of the shot. maybe the military took one look and went "heh".

Re:Is it really so secret? (2, Interesting)

spyfrog (552673) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445629)

If you look thing up, you would know that HMS Gotland has so called Stirling motors and thus can remain submerged for about one month without going up to snorkling deapth.

She can also run as fast as most nuclear boats for this time, so having a silent propeller is a major factor. And, I can tell you that it looks exactly like that one in the picture after having seen other Swedish sub propellers.

Toshiba did their part in the selling, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446061)

http://japanlaw.info/lawletter/april87/fdf.htm [japanlaw.info]

In May 27 1987 the Japanese police arrested two senior executives of Toshiba Machine, who had been in charge of designing and exporting machine tools to the Soviet Union, for selling four nine-axis in 1982-1984 and 4 five-axis milling machines in 1984 to the Soviets, in violation of COCOM provisions.

Re:Is it really so secret? (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446103)

It was a machine tool made by a subsidiary of Toshiba (Toshiba Machine Co.) and a Norwegian numerical controller that were sold to Russia. This [japanlaw.info] page has a good writeup. The sale was made in direct contravention to Japanese export controls with full knowledge of the people running the company. If the numbers are to be believed, Toshiba Machine's 17 million dollar sale cost the U.S. thirty billion in lost military superiority. This technology is important, actually.

Re:Is it really so secret? (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446105)

Actually it was the Japanese that sold the milling machines capable of making this design to the Soviets. They could not make the the tools need to fabricate the compound curves. The USSR probably had pictures and even specs for several classes of our boats but did not have the capability of copying it. The Soviet boats were very noisy compared to all of ours in the late 70's. The pictured boat is an Ohio. They are so quiet that we have trouble tracking one. Nobody else ever has.

pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445559)

A satellite photo isn't going to expose the technology that makes our propellers ultra quiet.

It's the Sound signature, not the noise level. (2, Interesting)

GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445613)

The US is not just concerned about others trying to copy the propeller to reduce the noice made by their subs.

The submarine will still make some noise. They would be concerned because knowing the propeller design gives you an idea of what type of noise it will make in use ... the sonar signature.

The signature can be used to identify classes of submarines and potentially individual subs.

So rather than other countries copying it ... the problem is that other countries may now have a good idea what that particular sub will sound like, and may know when the US is illegally sneaking in and out of other countries waters etc with this sub, or if this sub is positioned just outside their waters with all it's nuclear WMD's ready to go.

On the other hand, maybe the US doesnt care at all ... maybe this was an old propeller design being replaced and retired.

Face it.... (2, Interesting)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445621)

... In the age of Google Earth, Virtual Earth, etc. (not to mention Google), there are no secrets. Welcome to the new world.

Re:Face it.... (1)

WombatDeath (681651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445849)

I would guess that the navy doesn't particularly care - if this were some ultra-sensitive technology they probably wouldn't have left it lying around in the open. If you can build a bleeding-edge submarine you can build an enclosed space to put it in.

Re:Face it.... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446613)

If you can build a bleeding-edge submarine you can build an enclosed space to put it in.

      However an "enclosed space" with lots of soldiers around it and signs saying "TOP SECRET" and "KEEP OUT" will only attract attention. Sometimes hiding things in plain sight is a viable option.

If its still available to view (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445641)

Then its not that much of a 'leak' and i bet its rather old ( ie, known ) technology.

Re:If its still available to view (1)

high_rolla (1068540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446557)

This could indeed be true. But I'm wondering if it goes further. I wonder what the possibility is that this was an experiment observe just how people are analysing this information and the patterns in which it would spread. Which would be useful information to know for various reasons.

Link to base since the blog is hosed (4, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445657)

Since the guy is over quota: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=4 7.7276611328+N,+122.7155085586+W&ie=UTF8&ll=47.721 427,-122.718315&spn=0.070444,0.139046&t=k&z=13&iwl oc=addr&om=1 [google.com]

Coordinates are +47 43' 39.58", -122 42' 55.83" for the base (this can be plugged into Google Earth.)

The location of the snapshot is of the dry-dock at 4744'36.08"N, 12243'48.51"W.

This link may or may not work: http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=ryqjnb4s5 7d5&style=o&lvl=2&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=1 0352732&encType=1 [live.com]

There's no propeller visible in the Google Earth imagery. All you can see is that there's what might be a sub; it's quite blurry. The Windows Live imagery shows a blurry whirly instrument of death; looks like a bunch of boomerangs.

Honestly, it's stupid. Half the shit that's classified, is just classified to impress. For example, the top speed of various US air craft carriers. Like that can't be figured out by a foreign government...? Like our *propeller technology* is that much more advanced, and other nation's subs haven't figured out what it sounds like? C'mon.

Re:Link to base since the blog is hosed (4, Interesting)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446019)

Think again! 99.9% of the Navies of the world don't have sonar good enough to even get a sniff of one of our boats. The best the Soviets ever had was 2 generations behind! There is supposed to be a canopy over the the screw before the dock is pumped out. If you ever go to Groton for a launch you might notice that the boats are launched without a screw, it is installed later alongside the pier. Of course there are 2 different screws for each class of boats. A speed screw is used on the first few to generate top performance numbers then removed. A silent screw goes on all operational boats. The difference? Shape, pitch, and number of blades.
I rode a Fast Attack in the Cold War, so I might know more than someone who hasn't been there.

Re:Link to base since the blog is hosed (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446593)

Think again! 99.9% of the Navies of the world don't have sonar good enough to even get a sniff of one of our boats.

      That's very funny, considering that a judge [cnn.com] ruled against the environment and for the navy's use of high powered sonar because, after all, national security comes first. His excuse - "we are at war!". So obviously you are wrong - we must be prepared to meet the threat from the Iraqi and Afghanistani navies - those devious bastards know exactly where our subs are.

      Seriously, the judge could have ruled what he wanted, and the navy can claim that international waters are outside his jurisdiction. It would make a lot more sense than this comedy.

Re:Link to base since the blog is hosed (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446459)

The propeller's blades bear a resemblance to the AH-64 Apache's main rotor -- straight for a certain length, then a sharp bend followed by a shorter length of prop blade. It's similar to the C-130J's as well.

Interesting, but a fluid dynamicist could probably make more of the prop's exact dimensions &c than I could.

Slashdotted blog link? (1)

Claws Of Doom (721684) | more than 7 years ago | (#20445747)

I found a Google Cache [64.233.183.104] copy working well enough...

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445941)

Google uncovers naughty state secrets? Oh, boy. Sure it's "tech" and "freedom" but it's a none story that nobody cares about. Seriously, this is at the level of some game forum fanboi trying to get attention from developers and their peers. Slashdot jumped the shark ages ago. This is just more of the same. Pathetic.

Will the last person out switch off the light. Thanks.

krull (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20445971)

so basically the top secret propeller design is based on the blade from "krull".

movies (2, Interesting)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446039)

I swear to ghu that I saw a propeller like that in some sub movie- though it fails to render a name in my mind. I remember seeing a prop just like that on a cg shot of the sub driving away/up - perhaps in a torpedo sequence?

Anyway, I could be wrong, but I think I've seen one before.

Same here - I clicked the link (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446273)

I clicked the link, saw the propeller, and though - meh, I've seen that before.

Of course I don't know what I am looking at, technically, but I know I've seen a propeller that shape before, somewhere.

I am sure, as far as efficiency and stealthiness, the devil is in the details and there is a lot more to it than seeing a clear, but distant, photo to gleen any "secrets".

In fact, if you zoom in, the third blade from the top, counter-clockwise, says Made in China right on it.

Fantastic images! (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446169)

Better than the leaked Keyhole satellite shots of the first Soviet Carrier.

The image is of a Ballistic Missile or "boomer" submarine, OHIO class. There are two sets of screws or propellers that they can put on them, a speed screw and a patrol screw. Obviously, the screws are named for their performance level and how quiet they are at a given speed.

The US Navy spent untold hundreds of millions in hydrodynamics and propeller research, so they don't want to make it easy for the opposition to get their grubby paws on one of the most efficient screw designs in the world.

Frankly, I would not be surprised if the NSA or the USN would step in and order the images pulled. It aint like it was taken up close and personal, with dimensional references.

Closeup of the propeller (1, Informative)

newscloud (1037538) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446185)

K changed my original post but I put a close up of the liveearth propeller image here [idealog.us] . I agree the U.S. govt doesn't care about it at this point or MSFT would have blurred it.

Closeup? (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446283)

Closeup? It's simply a cropped part of the original image...Close up would...closer up?

Re:Closeup of the propeller (1)

newscloud (1037538) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446455)

Sorry, it is just a thumbnail crop ...

Misdirection? (4, Interesting)

TallGuyRacer (920071) | more than 7 years ago | (#20446587)

Perhaps the U.S. Navy put a fake propeller on the sub.

U.S. Navy: "Hey you guys do the aerial photos for Google and Mircosoft, right?"
Acme Aerial Photos: "Yip."
U.S. Navy: "When are you guys next flying over our base?"
Acme Aerial Photos: "Next Tuesday. Weather permitting."
U.S. Navy: "Thank you. You have been very helpful. <evil laugh>"

It's been seen before... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20446625)

I have a book (U.S. Submarines Since 1945, An Illustrated Design History, by Norman Friedman, 1994 Naval Institute Press) that shows an old publicly released official Seawolf model with a hooked propeller very similar to the one shown in that image. The same book also has a very good image of the scythe-bladed propeller of a Las Angeles class submarine, whos manufacturing techniques were at the root of the late Toshiba milling technology sale scandal) I'm thinking that the blogger who discovered this has made a few assumptions about the level of secrecy associated with the item in question as the propeller form, at least, has appeared in public before.
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