Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on Chinese subs

DefenseTech has a note from fmr. Admiral McKinney of Pacific Fleet, re: finding Chinese diesel subs:
I have no inside information on this event, but it is very difficult to detect a quiet diesel submarine and the Song-class submarines are quality submarines. Operating in international waters in the vicinity of a US battle group is perfectly normal -- good operational training...

The Chinese are building a credible submarine force which will make it very difficult for the US Navy to maintain sea control dominance in or near coastal waters off of China.
I confess this isn't one of those debates in the PLAN that I follow extremely closely, but one of the interesting developments in the last decade or so has been the invention of low-noise, long-duration diesel submarines that offer some of, though by no means all, of the benefits of nuclear power. More intriguingly, the Song-class submarine seems to be built locally, not bought from a foreign power.

Some people are also saying the Chinese managed to sneak up on the US because of the post-Cold War degradation in US anti-sub warfare. Of all the things you were going to cut, I suppose ASW is the easiest to justify with the Soviet Navy rusting on Siberian shores.

This is sounding more and more like it actually happened, and not just made up by the nutjobs at the Washington Times. In any case, it's worth remembering that this is the whole reason that some countries own quality submarines, and train with them very seriously - if you do it right, you surprise the hell out of the other side. All the same, Global Security rates the Song class thusly:
Overall, their shape is like that of Western submarines and their technology is equivalent to the international level of the early 1980s.


auntiegrav said...

Even a noisy, crappy sub is a credible threat to an aircraft carrier. All they have to do is know where the carrier is going to be 'sometime', and take turns sitting on the bottom of the shallows waiting for it to get within torpedo range. With modern torpedoes and MRE's, the Chinese production rates, and their availability of extra people to sit around doing nothing, they could cover all of their coasts.
Now, add to that the recent negotiations and treaties between the Chinese and Iran, and you see why we can't go to war with Iran (who already has Russian diesel subs) without saying goodbye to the Persian Gulf as a source of oil. Aircraft carriers have at least SOME detection gear and defenses (as long as they are at flight ops or with a battle group), but supertankers are just great big barn walls.
To get in the mood, read "Nimitz Class" or "Kilo Class" (well done on audio versions) by Patrick Robinson.

bigcitylib said...

Are these things still running on battery underwater?

john said...

Generally, yes, diesels still run on batteries underwater. There is "air-independent propulsion", which is basically running a diesel boat on stores of liquid oxygen or some other oxidizer. Provided you don't try to go very fast (as auntigrav says, loitering waiting for targets is one tactic) you can stay underwater for weeks.