Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bang, You're Dead

An interesting article in the Daily Mail caught my eye, regarding recent US Navy maneuvers in the sea between southern Japan and Taiwan.

You see, the United States Navy had an aircraft carrier battle group centered on the carrier USS Kitty Hawk operating in the area. An aircraft carrier never goes anywhere alone; it always has a gaggle of escorts (up to a dozen or so, including attack submarines) that are equipped with the latest in state-of-the-art sonar and other detection equipment.

Some of the escort ships are specifically built to hunt subs.

So what happens?

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy decides to crash the party. Without being detected, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced in the heart of the formation, within firing range of the Kitty Hawk.

Let me stress that.

Without being detected.

The 160-foot long Song class is not a nuclear sub - it's powered by diesels and electric motors, and when it's on electric drive it's very hard to detect. Other nations have similar boats in their inventory, notably Russia and Iran (which uses, I believe, a variant of the Russian Kilo-class).

But to slip through the escort cordon to get within firing range of the battle group's flagship - that shows either supreme incompetence on the part of a hell of a lot of sailors (which I seriously doubt) or the fact that the Chinese have been working on making their subs quieter.

Silence, you see, is the key to an attack sub. The usual expression is that the sub becomes "a hole in the water" so it can sneak up on the target and kill it.

Needless to say, there is probably a lot of midnight oil burning at the Pentagon and the various defense research labs.


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