Subantics

By Bryan • china, military • 15 Nov 2006

The US Navy caught sleeping:

The Pentagon has ordered an investigation into reports that a Chinese Song-class submarine secretly stalked a U.S. naval battle group while conducting routine training near an American base in Okinawa, Japan last month.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman played down the risk of the Chinese sub despite coming within a few miles of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier.

He said “I think you’re generating more concern than perhaps is warranted.”

But an expert said a Song-class submarine is capable of hitting a carrier from a distance of more than 25 miles.

Richard Fisher, an expert on Chinese subs said, “Any time a potentially hostile submare operates in such proximity to critical naval assets like an aircraft carrier should be of concern to American military leaders.”

I would say it would be a pretty big damn concern having Chinese boats operating within torpedo range of the cornerstone of your Western Pacific military presence, not to say the least that it had being doing this undetected (only being discovered after it had surfaced). Apparently the Kitty Hawk battlegroup wasn’t operating it’s ASW platforms, but even so, I have to admit that I’m surprised…having previously written off PLAAN subs as easy meat for an ASW experienced USN (Supposedly, by the end of the Cold War, the USN was able to track and shadow every single Russian nuclear submarine).

The Song class boat is domestically produced version of the World War Two era Romeo diesel-electric Russian design. Production began in the 90’s and there is an estimated 9 boats currently in service.

I would say this is a marker for the Chinese sub service, and something to be proud of. Not everyone can get the jump on a carrier battlegroup. However, despite this, it’s probably the USN that comes out on top, as they are now totally aware of the ability of the Song to penetrate escort defenses, and probably won’t be caught sleeping again.

Also, it appears that the US, was surprised again by the introduction of the brand-new Yuan class diesel attack sub which hit the oceans this year.

One official said the new submarine was a “technical surprise” to U.S. intelligence, which was unaware that Beijing was building a new non-nuclear powered attack submarine. U.S. intelligence agencies have few details about the new submarine but believe it is diesel-powered rather than nuclear-powered, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The new boat, which appears to be a combination of indigenous Chinese hardware and Russian weapons, suggests that China is building up its submarine forces in preparation for a conflict over Taiwan, defense analysts say.

The Yuan boats are obviously meant to replace the older Ming and Romeo class which forms the bulk of China’s 57 unit submarine service (40 Ming’s and Romeos). Those older models date back to the 40’s and do little more than pad the numbers, and it is doubtful that the PLAAN will produce numbers of that size, choosing to go lean and mean with numbers similar to previous Song class. I still believe it’s not enough to take on Taiwan. When the PLA develops a serious amphibious force capable of transporting more than one division across the straits (the current capacity) I’ll be slightly more concerned.

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