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Run silent, run deep ...
Posted by: McQ on Monday, November 12, 2007

And pop up like a cork in the midst of a carrier battle group:
American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.
We talked about this a bit on the podcast last night, but this is a very serious incident as far as the US Navy is concerned. And it brings to mind a few questions.

(1) Has our Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability degraded since the demise of the USSR?

During the Cold War our Navy spent a tremendous amount of time doing active ASW by chasing real, live enemy submarines, i.e. the Soviets. Since the end of the Cold War, there really haven't been any threats to our sea power. Nothing drives technological advance like necessity, and as the Soviets improved their ability to run silently, we improved our ability to detect and track them. And it was a pretty hot, albeit quiet, conflict that was waged under the seas with many speculating the loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968 was a direct result of an attack by a Soviet submarine (in retaliation for the loss of the Soviet K-129 earlier that year that the Soviets felt the US was complicit in sinking).

But since then, there has been no real ASW threat to go up against ... until the Chinese Song class diesel-electric boat popped up near the Kitty Hawk.

Now one of the reasons we were able to track Soviet subs is most of them were nuclear and their reactors were pretty darn noisy. But this new generation of diesel-electric subs, when running on electric, are pretty darn quiet. And it requires a whole new level of technological sophistication to detect them as is obvious. And that brings us to the second question.

(2) How many times have the Chinese been able to successfully do this?

My guess is, more than once. I recall - and haven't looked for it - that some months ago there was a story about a Chinese sub lurking around the edge of a carrier battle group, but we detected it and ran it off. But you have to wonder if this is the first time they've successfully pulled this off. I'd have to guess the answer is no. And even if it is, that brings up the third and most puzzling question.

(3) Why in the world would you let the US know you had both the tactics and technology to do this?

Oh it certainly is an embarrassment to the US. No question about it. And it certainly shows the Chinese navy as a player. And it even sends the very strong message, "so you think you can control the Taiwan straits do you"?

But why in the world would you let a potential enemy know of your capability when it is possible at some point that it might be useful if and when your national military authority decides to take that "rogue province" back?

There is no question, given the incident, that ASW will become the absolute top priority for the Navy. I can also pretty much assure you that the Navy will find a way to detect and track those submarines. And should it ever come to a showdown over Taiwan, the first priority targets for the Navy will be those 13 Song class subs.

That's why I'm scratching my head over the Chinese revealing this capability in the way they have.
 
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I like how you two had a hard time believing that someone actually called in... :)
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://

Nuclear powered submarines, are much quieter, than their Diesel counterparts. We in the west supposedly have the best ASW platforms in the world, been yet for whatever reason we were unable to detect an ostensibly easier to detect submarine than the nuclear powered ones that we’ve all been concerned about.

Granted, diesel power was not likely running when they were within range of our people. But what kind of range are we talking about?

Best I can figure out... Either the sub was sitting on or close to the bottom, waiting for the group to come along, or they drove from just outside range, to within range, all on battery power. Must be a hell of a battery powering that thing.

If it’s the latter of the two, that is one extraordinarily quiet submarine. If it’s the former, and I think this more likely, what we have here, is an incredible stroke of luck, that the sub chose the right spot to sit in, to wait for the group to show up. If that’s the case, I have my doubts that exposure of that ability was ever intended. It just happened.

Why in the world would you let the US know you had both the tactics and technology to do this?
Well, these are communists we are dealing with. Everything that they do is politically motivated. Making the assumption that that is what they’re doing, (I haven’t, yet, but for the sake of discussion ...) I would view this as propaganda value. Sort of like spending a couple of billion dollars on a satellite whose only ability was to play monotone music over a short wave frequency back to earth... the music being "THe East is Red".

I wouldn’t call it saver raveling, exactly, but again everything they do is politically motivated; doubtless, they see it as having a positive effect on their negotiations around the world on things not military . Fear, he is, after all, a great motivator.

The obvious implications for vulnerability aside , and along with it the questions about our ASW ability... one question we’ve not asked yet...Would we have been better off.. as in, more cost effective... staying with Diesel power technology in our submarines? After all, the Chinese appear to have figured out a way to make them quiet enough to be effective....

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
This was dismissed, I guess with a good point. What would be the action if we did know the sub was there? Open fire or give a warning and reveal we could detect them? So its hard to say if the sub penetrated without detection and I wouldn’t expect the Navy to be forthcoming if we did or didn’t.

OTOH, I think the fact the Chinese are probing us this way is not what friendly nations do. So that in of itself is what is a concern here.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
one question we’ve not asked yet...Would we have been better off.. as in, more cost effective... staying with Diesel power technology in our submarines?

Short answer, "No." Longer answer for a global navy nuclear was and most likely IS the way to go. Diesel, to be distinguished from more recent AIP systems, is only "silent" when the boat is running on battery. Diesel does not give you the range that nuclear does. A diesel boat is noisier and much shorter "legged" than it’s nuclear counter-part. For a Navy that may have to deply submarines from Norfolk to Tyre or San Diego to the Red Sea, or Plymouth to the Falklands, nuclear is the only real choice. Diesel works well for those navies staying in their backyards, Israel, Argentina, and the like. But if you ae looking at extended patrols, thousands of kilomtres from home, nuclear is the way to go.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
These subs have undergone some serious design changes. They must be spending some big bucks to make these things effective. Another website said they’re sub technology is equivalent to where we were in the 80’s.

Here’s what Fallon said about the incident.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/14/world/main2179694.shtml
The aircraft carrier and its supporting ships were conducting exercises in an unidentified location when the encounter occurred, Adm. William Fallon, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters.

The carrier group was not engaged in anti-submarine exercises, but if it had, "and if this Chinese sub came in the middle of this, then it could have escalated into something that could have been very unforeseen," he said.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Granted, diesel power was not likely running when they were within range of our people. But what kind of range are we talking about?
How much range do they need to cover the Taiwan straits?

No one is arguing the Chinese are attempting, at this point at least, to challenge us globally. They’re at best still a regional power. But in the near future the only real area where we could end up head to head is Taiwan, and they just demonstrated a capability which could, at least theoretically, up the ante there if we plan on defending the island as we say we will.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
How much range do they need to cover the Taiwan straits?
Heh... true. I wasn’t thinking about that part, really... I was wondering about at what range such a sub could normally be detected and tracked by the ASW folks. If I recall rightly, and the open ocean, that can be quite a bit of real estate . Maybe not so much in the straits. Hmmm.

But, your point about their position, does seem to lean toward the idea that they were sitting at or near the bottom and not moving much. A standard patrol situation if you were concerned about Taiwan. if that’s what they were doing, my guess is they were making any noise at all, and thereby no platform in the world is gonna be able to detect them.





 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
The obvious answer to your question, McQ, is that the Chinese would genuinely prefer not to go to battle with the US. If they wanted and intended to fight,they’d keep their capabilities secret so that they could use them against a brashly overextended enemy. If they don’t want or intend to fight, they reveal those capabilities to make it clear that they might not win but they could inflict enough damage to make any US victory a Pyrrhic one. This is their way of countering US bravado, and making sure we don’t formulate flawed policy based on a mistaken assumption that our mighty navy enables us to act with impunity. It’s similar to Mutual Assured Destruction, or to a guy in a bar making sure you see he’s carrying something besides bare knuckles. China just wants to make us think twice.

The other possibility is that this is not the most advanced of their capabilities, so they lose nothing by revealing it while they hold something else in reserve. If we focus massive efforts on countering this threat, what other one might we be blind to?
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
But, your point about their position, does seem to lean toward the idea that they were sitting at or near the bottom and not moving much.
That’s what subs do.
If that’s what they were doing, my guess is they were making any noise at all, and thereby no platform in the world is gonna be able to detect them.
Not necessarily true. They’re still a big old metal anomaly on the sea-bed.

All this does is ratchet up the awareness after pointing out the threat. The Navy isn’t going to accept or conclude that "no platform in the world is gong to be able to detect them", trust me.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The obvious answer to your question, McQ, is that the Chinese would genuinely prefer not to go to battle with the US. If they wanted and intended to fight,they’d keep their capabilities secret so that they could use them against a brashly overextended enemy.
That’s not obvious at all. That’s simply one of many possible answers. The other could be that they’re saying what bithead said above: "we can do this at will and no ASW platform you have will detect us." If you don’t think the Chinese are as arrogant or brash as anyone else, you don’t know much about the Chinese.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The Americans had no idea China’s fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

Well, it could be that it was thought to be a whale or some type of human error.
 
Written By: Syloson of Samos
URL: http://ingenuus.blogspot.com/
"That’s why I’m scratching my head over the Chinese revealing this capability in the way they have."

A warning, perhaps? Deterrence only works if the other side knows you have the capability.


"that some months ago there was a story about a Chinese sub lurking around the edge of a carrier battle group"

Coincidentally, in Oct., 2006, the Kitty Hawk encountered another sub in similar circumstances. There was no date for the incident given in the article, could it be the same incident?

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/song.htm


"and I think this more likely, what we have here, is an incredible stroke of luck, that the sub chose the right spot to sit in, to wait for the group to show up. If that’s the case, I have my doubts that exposure of that ability was ever intended. It just happened"

Perhaps with a little help from information relayed from Chinese reconaissance satellites or other sources.


"I was wondering about at what range such a sub could normally be detected and tracked by the ASW folks."

Soviet subs were detected and tracked from the time they left port. Between satellites, our submarines and aircraft, and underwater listening arrays (SOSUS), almost every Soviet submarine was under constant surveillance. Evidently we do not have this capability anymore.



" The best of the latter boats, such as the German-designed Type 209 or the Russian KILO, can remain submerged on battery at slow speed for periods on the order of three to five days"

http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_13/propulsion.htm

Conventional diesel-electric submarines have used up their battery power after about two days cruising under water

http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/events/archive/2002-05/Germany-Launches-Submarine-Fuel-


 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
That’s what subs do.
Depends on how much ground they’re patrolling.

That was also a point I’ve been thinking of. I’m wondering about how much territory this particular sub was watching. If it was a fairly smallish area, we can assume either they had a pretty good idea where the group in question would be, or they had enough subs in the area of the straights to allow each to be stationary for extended periods. a fair number of these things being around would seem to put this whole conversation on another level.
...big old metal anomaly on the seabed


Which would seem to imply, that you’re thinking they should have been detected by, say, gravinomiter, or some magnetic means. A good point. Thing is, if they made the hull of titanium, (As we and I think the Soviets have been doing for some time) and the titanium is pure enough, there isn’t enough iron in the mix trip either one of them. And anyway, for such a device to work even on a steel hulled sub, you’d have to be passing just about on top of the thing. From the descriptions we’ve seen, it was around a mile away from the group.

All this does is ratchet up the awareness after pointing out the threat. The Navy isn’t going to accept or conclude that "no platform in the world is gong to be able to detect them", trust me.
Right enough. Then again, that would have happened after the first ’surprise’. Given that this has been going on for awhile now as you point out, it would appear that haven’t found an answer that question just yet.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Even if they had been sitting on the bottom, the sounds of "hull pop" should have alerted the boys (or girls) working the SONAR on any one of those ships.

A sub is not perfectly silent when it rises from the deep, even if everything is shut off.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
The obvious answer to your question, McQ, is that the Chinese would genuinely prefer not to go to battle with the US. If they wanted and intended to fight,they’d keep their capabilities secret so that they could use them against a brashly overextended enemy. If they don’t want or intend to fight, they reveal those capabilities to make it clear that they might not win but they could inflict enough damage to make any US victory a Pyrrhic one.
Oh I see like sports teams, the ones that come up with the best counters to their opponent’s strengths never run practices usingthose counters, but reserve them only for game day....OH WAIT.

The Soviets practiced launching massed bomber attacks against US CVBG’s all the time. You only get good at stuff you practice. Now the Soviets nor the Chinese probably revealed ALL of how they intend(ed) to destroy the CVBG, but they practiced it quite often. And the US noted it...just like the US Army practiced defeating SOviet Motorized Rifle units at Ft Irwin for a decade or the US Navy and USAF practiced flying and defeating WTO aircraft in the desert for decades. Sorry, Platypus the PRC wasn’t holding this in super-secret reserve for war day...you only know if it’ll work if you practice it beforehand.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I called my ex-submariner brother and asked him about this, and here is my take on his comments (errors are likely my misunderstanding of him):

1. He doesn’t know the details of the Song class (after his time, which ended in the early 1990s), so he can’t speculate about anything related to the characteristics of the sub other than the obvious, that the class is diesel-electric and probably based largely on Soviet technology acquired by the Chinese on earlier (purchased from the USSR) submarines.

2. A sub usually won’t sit on the bottom, even on the continental shelf, but will move very slowly - at their best quiet speed.

3. Diesel-electric subs are VERY quiet when running on batteries, much quieter than nukes. On diesels, they have to be surfaced or near-surfaced with a snorkel, and are very loud.

4. There are several ways to detect subs, most of which are very problematic.
4.a. Active sonar blinds everything in the area to anything other than the ping and return (the noise of the target is drowned out), and acts like a beacon to draw the sub to you - you can (as a submarine on passive gear) hear the active sonar far further than it can detect you. So most ships with ASW gear use passive sonar except when trying to localize or spook a target already detected by passive means.
4.b. Helicopters are an exception: they can drop active and passive sonobouys in a mix, because the sub can’t hurt the helicopter by detecting the sonobouy.
4.c. Both active and passive sonar are subject to distortions from a layer of different temperature and salinity that sometimes (often?) exists in any but shallow water.
4.d. You can detect magnetic anomalies if you get close enough, this is usually done from aircraft, due to the metal of which the ships are made distorting the local gravitational field. There are some other ways dealing with pressure, temperature, and odd light spectra that he wouldn’t talk about in detail, other than to say that they exist and are of varying utility in different situations.

In summary, it is very difficult to detect a sub, particularly a diesel-electric boat on batteries commanded by a competent captain and with a well-trained crew. Apparently the Aussies and Germans are scary good with their boats.

5. He’s not terribly surprised: subs he was on "killed" carriers several times in exercises: the advantage is with the sub. ASW is very hard.

6. Most likely, if an enemy sub is detected approaching a CVBG (carrier battle group) in peacetime, it would be watched but not alerted (no active search or prosecution to drive it off). That’s because we don’t want the enemy to know how good we are; we want their fangs to get nice and long so that we can cut them off.

7. Shallow water is dangerous for subs (less for diesels than for nukes) because it’s harder to hide. This probably happened in deep water.

8. If the sub got inside the line of escorts without being detected, there will be some escort captains on the beach in short order.

9. Chances are, the Song skipper got lucky, and got through a gap in the escorts. Changes are that he was also detected before surfacing, because any transients (odd noises from pressure changes on the hull, opening weapons systems doors, etc) would have been picked up unless the escorts’ gear was off - and it never is in normal operations outside home waters.

For what it’s worth, thought I’d pass that along.
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
Why does everyone assume that because it showed up in the middle of the group that it was undetected? Are anonymous sources really that reliable?

What do you do when you are in a diesel sub, you’re closing on a carrier as an exercise, and suddenly you’re being actively pinged by multiple surrounding destroyers with ASW torpedoes ready, you hear two Los Angeles class subs flooding tubes that you didn’t even know were there... and you’ve almost exhausted your batteries just getting this this point?

I think I would surface where I was and limp home. If that happened, the US wouldn’t be broadcasting the true situation, and neither would the Chinese. I don’t know if this is the case, but assuming that they were undetected (or even undeterred) is a vast leap of logic.
 
Written By: Phelps
URL: http://phelps.donotremove.net
Is it a point of concern that that sub was (perhaps) waiting around at the undisclosed location of the exercise?
 
Written By: Tom
URL: http://
Thanks Jeff ... excellent stuff.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Changes are that he was also detected before surfacing, because any transients (odd noises from pressure changes on the hull, opening weapons systems doors, etc) would have been picked up unless the escorts’ gear was off - and it never is in normal operations outside home waters.
Right enough, but I’d guess by the time you hear the hull popping with him coming shallow, it’s already too late.

Also the phrase "sitting on the bottom" was not intended to mean actually sitting on the actual bottom, but making minimum headway just above it. Bad turn of a phrase, and my bad.
3. Diesel-electric subs are VERY quiet when running on batteries, much quieter than nukes. On diesels, they have to be surfaced or near-surfaced with a snorkel, and are very loud.
Again, correct. I wasn’t thiknng of himm running on deisels within earshot. I wondered, however just what that earshot would have been. Battery capacity would have to be pretty impressive. I’ve seen quotes for operations of a couple days before there’s an issue, so perhaps that’s it.

My assumption was, that he should have been making some small cavs at least, if he was moving at anything above minimum steerage. Now, given the nature of the straights, that noise might have gotten buried, particularly given the noise the group itself must have been putting up, plus all the civ traffic around there... so that may be a moot point.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the real story, here. Interesting to speculate, however.


And great stuff, Jeff.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Yes, apparently this is the October 06 incident - why the Daily Mail writer wrote ’recently’ in November 07 is not clear to me.

According to Global Security, the Song class is as quiet as the US Los Angeles class subs.
 
Written By: JohnS
URL: http://
Your metaphor is inappropriate and your sarcasm inane, Joe. As much as people like you like to pretend otherwise, war is not a sport. I guess your theory is why the Manhattan project wasn’t subject to any secrecy, and was all conducted out in the open, huh? :rolleyes: Experience is a valuable military asset, but so is surprise. Sometimes the latter outweighs the former. If the Chinese revealed a capability, they probably did so for a reason, and your machismo does nothing to explain what that reason might have been. It’s classic arrogance, to assume that an opponent was just careless or lucky and not operating according to some plan. What country was Sun Tzu from, again? What did he have to say about the merit of winning a battle vs. winning without one?
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
It seems likely to me that this sub was detected before surfacing but was not notified of such because we are at peace. Even in peacetime that would be a gamble but to inform the Chinese that they aren’t quite quiet enough would be a gamble too. Letting them believe they have achieved parity is a much better idea and seems more likely considering the rapidity with which they’d have to be advancing to be close to defeating us already.
 
Written By: Moron Pundit
URL: http://moronpundit.blogspot.com
And it even sends the very strong message, "so you think you can control the Taiwan straits do you"?

On that note, back in January the Chinese demonstrated considerable success with an anti-satellite weapon system. Also, a few months ago there were reports about a Chinese cyberattack on the Pentagon.
 
Written By: Fredrik Nyman
URL: http://
You all got snookered and then I got snookered too, credulously posting this because I read it here.

This a big load of BS we debunked back in 2006.

http://jiujitsutalk.com/index.php?topic=844.0;all

Very lame.

What’s that reporters name? MATTHEW HICKLEY. Have to remember that one he’s a lying POS.
 
Written By: Will Myers
URL: http://jiujitsutalk.com/

 
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