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Chinese Sub Pops Up Amid US Navy Exercise 916

One NATO figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik." 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 USS Kitty Hawk. By the time it surfaced, the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine had sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier. The incident caused consternation in the US Navy, which had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication.
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Chinese Sub Pops Up Amid US Navy Exercise

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  • by Skater ( 41976 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @09:16PM (#21330719) Homepage Journal
    More like a YEAR! []
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @09:18PM (#21330741) Homepage
    Though an older technology, diesel-electric submarines can actually be quieter than nuclear submarines. A nuclear reactor has constant motion. There are usually pumps, valves, turbines, all sorts of things that are moving. The US submarine fleet was designed from the beginning to be as quiet as possible, but there's still some noise. It's not practical to shut down and turn on the reactor, so there's always SOME noise being produced.

    A diesel electric submarine, on the other hand, only makes noise when the diesel is on. Running on batteries, in absolute quiet mode, a modern diesel-electric can be a hole in the water.

    Combine this technology with good intel, and you could conceivably station a submarine dragnet in the path of a carrier group a day in advance and sit on the bottom absolutely quiet. When your target approaches, pump some ballast out (at the risk of making noise) and begin an ascent. The dive planes can convert some of that bouyancy into forward motion, and you could fine tune your course and potentially be within torpedo range before being detected.

    The defense against this is to use active sonar. This is anathema to modern sub doctrine, so surface ships might do it, but it's akin to shining a flashlight in a dark room, it will let everyone else know where you are too.

    There are russian diesel-electric subs being tested with part-time reactors for extending the underwater life for minimal noise footprint. It will be interesting to see how these develop.

    The future of submarine warfare might end up being loud and fast. Google 'supercavitating torpedo' or 'schkval torpedo' to see more. Teaser: Underwater missiles that travel hundreds of miles per hour. Kablooey!
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @09:34PM (#21330889)
    diesel-Electric subs noisy? what are you smoking? and do you share it with US submariner's.

    The Standard Diesel-electric is quieter than Nuclear Subs. Do you know why? because Electric motors are very quiet. While both types of subs use electric drive motors the nuclear reactors also turn steam turbines which make noise all the time. While quieter than a diesel engine by several orders of magnitude it is louder than a pure electric motor running on batteries.

    Nuclear Power has several other advantages, including no need for consumable fuel, or exhausting harmful gases. A nuclear sub can also stay down on the bottom for the entire duration of it's mission, while diesel subs have to come up high enough to run the diesel motors to recharge the battery packs.
  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @09:45PM (#21330997)

    The all volunteer force is supposed to give us professional, dedicated warriors.

    Blackwater and other private armies are staffed with very dedicated warriors.

  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @09:45PM (#21331003)
    Diesel-electric boats are noisy only when running on diesel. On battery, they can be far quieter than a nuke boat. It's a pretty good bet he didn't *snorkel* into the formation, so his boat would have been pretty quiet. This is proof the Chinese have some pretty good diesel-electric technology.

    I also think there's more to this than meets the eye, but not the same thing you do. Giving away the fact that he was in range for a firing solution on a carrier could be regarded as a serious tactical error by the Chinese captain. It would be far better to let the carrier group pass by, then slip off in silence and keep that knowledge secret. Letting the US Navy know they can do that will only make the US Navy work very hard to find a solution to that problem and negate that advantage.

    However, maybe it wasn't so voluntary. Possible reasons for it include running out of battery, losing control of his submarine, an equipment failure on board, or being actively pinged and forced to acknowledge his presence. Granted, the first three of those still mean he got in undetected and the last means he may have done so before being hit with active sonar, but all of them put it in a different light than deliberately making his presence in the middle of the battle group known.
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Martin Foster ( 4949 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:00PM (#21331149) Homepage
    Iran comes to mind as a nation with a small fleet of submarines that may not have any particular love for the US. Submarine capable nations are pretty much everywhere around the globe and while they do not necessarily have high technology nuclear subs and instead make use of ageing Russian hand-me-down subs, they certainly can still prevent carrier fleets from entering certain waters.

    Subs in the Falklands war could have been deadly if their maintenance routines did not lead to interface cards being damaged. Chile is hardly an international powerhouse, still they managed.
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:5, Informative)

    by davidsyes ( 765062 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:02PM (#21331161) Homepage Journal
    Mwuh? Blue-green laser? For communications, but for detection? []

    I'm not up to current events with subs, but check these out: [] [] []

    As long as a sub can hide and wait for a CVBG to cross within, say, 5 NM to any side, a hidden sub can vertical launch or float into a vertical launch one or more missiles, mines, decoys or other devices as a ruse or means to disperse the fleet and weaken the shield/umbrella.

    Sure, they'll face retaliation, but for any rogue/stateless assailants wanting to damage or merely startle a CVBG (which may or may not end up in the press), this might be something we see more of -- by state-funded, stateless actors.
  • by ross.w ( 87751 ) <rwonderley AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:17PM (#21331283) Journal
    This is why the Australian Collins Class Subs, and diesel subs used by the Canadians and the Dutch regularly kick US carrier group butt [] in exercises.

    The Chinese are not the first to do this at all. Difference is of course that it wasn't an exercise this time.
  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:20PM (#21331309) Homepage Journal
    Pal, what you are describing as missing is being developed since hms Sheffield was sunk with a single exocet missile in falklands in 1982. "screening" a naval vessel from any incoming missiles with a hail of bullets is now a long widespread tech. there are many prominent systems on the use. and easily, carriers are the biggest platforms that carry most of these, and screen themselves quite well. im not even talking about fast, anti missile missile systems.

    what you said held true at 1980, and had there been a world war, carriers would go bust. but, by then eastern bloc didnt have that capability, west did, and by the time eastern bloc developed it, west developed point defenses.
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:5, Informative)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:24PM (#21331331) Homepage Journal

    Laser eye surgery is destroying the Navy
    As a Naval Reserve squid, I'd like to gently refute this.
    The decline of the US Navy is related to the lack of any nation that can go toe-to-toe with the US in a blue-water fight. Which is a Good Thing: engagements like Leyte Gulf [] ain't cheap. If the US has deterred opposing Navies from even showing up, then the job has been done.
    The Soviet Navy has, happily, rusted away at the pier for the most part.
    The Chinese Navy, while up-and-coming, hasn't really got the blue-water muscle.

    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.
    Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.
    Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War.
    For comparison, the US SSN-688 (Los Angeles [] class) is over twice as long and has ~three times the displacement.
    Electric motors are indeed quiet. No mention on Wikipedia of any bottoming capability, an even more scary possiblity.
    Interestingly, the Wikipedia page notes that this incident occured in October 2006 "in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan", at a range of 5 nautical miles (less than half the distance to the horizon) off Okinawa. One wonders if the Kittyhawk was conducting flight ops (the tone of the article would seem to indicate no).
    If you've been on one of her escorts and had to be plane guard for an aircraft carrier, you know her for a fickle wench out chasing a breeze. If the submarine commander wasn't really comfortable with his knowledge of the sea bottom, that surfacing could have had everything to do with fearing for his life. Trading paint with 84,000 tons of US diplomacy underway going full-tilt-boogy is not going to be a career enhancer.
    Not that this wipes the egg off the face of whoever was in charge of the escort screen, if the Chinese presence was indeed the surprise that the article touts it as.
  • How News Is Made (Score:5, Informative)

    by draevil ( 598113 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:27PM (#21331355)

    I would caution everyone to note first of all that the FA is from the Daily Mail and so most of the facts contained therein are subject to question.

    As some have noted this incident took place approximately a year ago and in fact it's not even the first time [] that the Chinese have stalked the Kitty Hawk - albeit from a greater distance that time.

    Essentially what the Mail have done here is to raise an issue that ticks all their usual buttons.

    • It takes a dig at the Americans - note the use of "dumbstruck", "embarrassment" and "red-faced".
    • It is a cheap article to do - dig up old news, stick some cheap stock pics in and you're done.
    • It's about the Chinese - who are scary and foreign.

    Consequently, on behalf of all Brits, I apologise for the existence of the Daily Mail - plainly we should do more to end it. On the other hand, however you have given the world Fox News and Ann Coulter - although they do hold a certain amusement value.

    As an exercise use google news to see how many other 'articles' have now sprung up which in places basically copy the DM article word for word.. :)

  • by NeverVotedBush ( 1041088 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:31PM (#21331389)
    "for fear that some Luke Skywalker wannabe would fly my transport into a mountain."

    Sadly this actually did happen. Pilot and copilot were on the voice recorder giggling about how someone actually paid them to have so much fun as they were flying low and pretending to be ace pilots. Too bad they didn't fly their flight plan. After hitting a mountain and killing almost everyone on board (an Air Force crew), the fact that they were nowhere where they said they would be doomed the survivors as no rescuers came before they died of exposure and their injuries.

    Blackwater sucks. Hard. They kill our own military with their recklessness. Morons.
  • by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @10:43PM (#21331483) Homepage

    Technically, the recent generations of nukes have low power settings where the reactor systems (esp. the cooling pumps) function via convection w/out actually using the massive pumps that generate most of the low-end mechanical noise.

    Yes, however those require the sub to be moving at a certain rate in order to force a little bit of circulation. Diesel-electrics, on the other hand, can lay absolutely still in preparation for an ambush while making no noise. In fact, its better for them to lay still, because they're not draining their batteries then.
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:10PM (#21331753) Journal
    USS Hartford grounding (I was onboard for that one)

    It's hard to describe, but the attitudes changed as the old-timers who were on the ship when I was the new guy left. People lost pride in their jobs. Basic DC (damage control) skills evaporated. For all those reading this where were/are on a submarine: can you find all the EAB manifolds between shaft alley and the watertight door blindfolded? Did you every try?

    It is a requirement that a submariner earn his warfare pin within one year. If he couldn't do it, then he was sent to the surface fleet. Now people routinely go past the 1 year mark and it is almost unheard of for a person to not qualify, no matter now little they know. If another major submarine fire happens underway, I really expect the ship to be lost because no one took that training seriously.

    The worst part is that for all the bad things that happened on our ship, many of the other ships were even worse.
  • It's About Time! (Score:2, Informative)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:20PM (#21331855) Homepage
    Back in 2004, just before I left the Navy, I had a conversation with a contractor who was doing work on the RIM-161 Standard SM-3 [] defense system out at sea. I asked him what he thought about the Chinese strategy, and explained what I'd been reading about.

    The Chinese are following a doctrine of asymmetric warfare [], in that they know they can't stand against us toe-to-toe. We've got bigger, faster, stronger ships, planes and weapons. Our defenses are very powerful, and we can sink 20 of their ships in minutes.

    So they've been building twenty-one ships for everyone one of our attack ships. Not only that, our defenses are built around sub-sonic missiles and munitions? So the Chinese have developed hyper-sonic weapons, such as the SS-N-22 Sunburn [] anti-ship missile, against which we have no effective defense.

    And lastly, I explained how the Chinese didn't spend billions of dollars on growing their own, proprietary C4I network. Instead, they approached the most advanced, NON-MILITARY businesses in the world-including the US-and said, "We'll give you exclusive rights to business in China if you build us the best C4I network you can design. We'll pay all your expenses and supply free labor."

    The result is that they have a C4I network that, while it doesn't match ours, come exceptionally close. On top of that, their C4I uses satellites as an augmentation, not the foundation of their strategy. If we shoot down their satellites, they won't be as blind as we would be if they shot down ours. []

    Next to last, their coastal and landward borders are protected by a layered defense grid that doesn't rely upon the network as it's sole source of input. Rather, they use a combination of communications strategies to keep each unit in touch with the others, as well as the central command network. Sure, we have the same thing, but they've developed and deployed it along their entire border. NIMBY [] doesn't seem to be a problem in Communist China like it is elsewhere in the world.

    And now we have this.

    Up until now, the Pentagon has been aware of Chinese defensive capability and it's ability to severely restrict our ability to launch an effective attack against mainland China. Heck, the Chinese sent us copies of their war doctrine back in 2003, just to brag about it! The gentleman contractor I was speaking with dismissed each of my concerns, saying, in effect, "We know what they can do and have them in the bag. Don't worry, they can't touch us."

    I wonder what he's thinking now?

    This isn't a warning? This isn't even a threat. This is the Chinese pulling a Nelson [] and going "HA-HA!" in front of the whole world-and that gentleman contractor-and there's not a whole lot we can do about it.
  • the Kitty Hawk (Score:3, Informative)

    by NullProg ( 70833 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:21PM (#21331883) Homepage Journal
    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.

    The Kitty Hawk is not a super-carrier. Its the last conventional carrier left in the US Navy. Japan won't allow a Nuke powered aircraft carrier to be home ported in Japan.

    Considering the Kitty Hawk has no S3 Viking (Anti-Submarine) Wing, this is a non-story except for people who want to bash the USA. []

    The Daily Mail in the UK can't report this?

    Cheers to the Chinese Navy though. Job well done.

  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:5, Informative)

    by number11 ( 129686 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:22PM (#21331889)
    What the hell does all this mean? Could someone translate in proper English for us non-native-English-speaking /.ers?

    1) Aircraft carriers may change directions (getting lined up with the wind) in ways that are not predictable to the captain of a Chinese submarine.

    2) It would be really bad to be hit by a carrier, they are very large.

    3) But the vessels that are supposed to be guarding the carrier should have detected the "enemy" sub.
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirTreveyan ( 9270 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:26PM (#21331945)

    It seems to be in simple English to me...but let me try to explain.

    "If you've been on one of her escorts and had to be plane guard for an aircraft carrier, you know her for a fickle wench out chasing a breeze." Sea breezes constantly change direction. A carrier will try to steam into the wind whenever launching or landing aircraft. As a result the carrier changes directions quite frequently. This forces the surrounding escorts to change direction. I may be wrong but it is my understanding is that passive detection methods are hindered during these changes of direction.

    "Trading paint with 84,000 tons of US diplomacy underway going full-tilt-boogy is not going to be a career enhancer." Being in command of a submarine when it gets run over by a U.S carrier running at top speed will not make you a top candidate for the next Admiral slot that opens up.

    "Not that this wipes the egg off the face of whoever was in charge of the escort screen [...]" The escorts screwed up bu not properly anticipating the carrier's movements. The escorts should have changed their direction in a way that would have minimized any reduction in the effectiveness of the task forces passive sonars.

  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:3, Informative)

    by thestreetmeat ( 1055390 ) on Monday November 12, 2007 @11:28PM (#21331963)
    You're absolutely right: flying a plane is easy. But military pilots don't get paid to fly planes. We get paid to know tactics, deploy weapons, and complete a mission.
  • Re:the Kitty Hawk (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:36AM (#21332467)

    Ummm ... the Kitty Hawk (CV-63) [] is conventionally powered. otherwise, it would be a CVN.

  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:06AM (#21332681) Homepage
  • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:34AM (#21332837)
    Armor is not the really the solution either. Invariably it is impossible to armor every area of the ship or even critical areas equally or enough to counter the more accurate targeting of modern missiles and torpedoes which can be set to detonate directly under the keel or hit the weak points in the superstructure (or anywhere else they might be). If the ship has even one weak area (which it invariably will) then it can always be sunk eventually by hitting the weak point or the chink in the armor so to speak. Armor also makes the ship slower, reduces the amount of payload that the ship can carry, and makes the ship less maneuverable (i.e. increases momentum and the amount of energy required to change directions).
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:07AM (#21333335)
    And funding both defense systems is exactly what the federal government should be doing. Since it's constitutional mandate is to protect the nation. Not literacy and environmental programs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:17AM (#21333389)
    China, which, like a lot of Asian cultures strongly favors male babies, has been practicing infanticide (whether by abortion or outright murder) upon it's female population for quite a few years now. End result is that there are, today, more male Chinese babies born every year than female Chinese babies. And the difference between the two is increasing every year.

    It's a result of their "one child" policy.

    As I recall, this trend, if it continues, is expected to lead to a Chinese M-F birth ratio of something like 130(M)-100(F) by 2050.

    Consider: This will result in a LARGE population of Chinese males in 2050 who cannot find Chinese females...because there are none (at least none living within the borders of China).

    For the sake of pinning down some actual numbers, let's assume Chinese population growth suddenly stopped today: Based upon today's population levels (1.3 billion Chinese), this sort of imbalance would result in a population balanced with something like 170 million more males than females. A population with 170 million frustrated, angry, men who can't find any women....

    Ghengis Khan would have loved it--an army numbering a potential 170 million men. Men who each have some some real, personal motivation for conquest.


    The only possible equalizer the west would have against such massive numbers would be nuclear weapons--otherwise, even the largest conventional armies the west could muster wouldn't make a perceptible dent in such a massive horde.

    Therefore, the west would HAVE to use N-weapons to have any hope. Hope even of managing a draw.

    Which would compel the Chinese to retaliate in kind....

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:42AM (#21333487) Journal

    What Stalin did was to hold Russia together. If he was soft Russia would have been wiped by the Nazi Germany

    Oh, give me a fucking break! Do you have ANY knowledge whatsoever about that of which you speak?

    Stalin bears zero credit for "holding Russia together" during the Great Patriotic War (WW2). Stalin's paranoid purges of the Red Army prior to the war weakened his forces to the point that Finland was able to hold them off. Stalin's attempts at military "leadership" (pushing offenses against the advice of Zhukov) all ended in disaster. Stalin's sole saving grace over Hitler is that he eventually realized this and allowed his military men to conduct the war.

    Why don't you go to Russia today and try to sell people on the idea that Stalin was the savior of Russia. Let me know how that works out for you.

    If he was so psychotic, why was he helped by the USA then?

    Because he was slightly better then Hitler and the USA couldn't allow the Soviet Union to be conquered by Germany?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:23AM (#21333651)
    'Fortunately' for the idiot flying into the ski lift cables, he was cleared of charges by the US military court. Guess not only Blackwater protects their own incompetents.

    The EU was pretty pissed off about this: []
  • Re:Simple solution: (Score:2, Informative)

    by trellick ( 67244 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @05:05AM (#21333815)

    Do you work for Fox news!?

    Talk about alarmist!!

    As has been pointed out its takes a LOT of resources to keep any type of sub 'afloat' (excuse the pun).

    The US has the equipment, its just a question of training training and more training. Like in the Cold War days. I suspect that the US crews (submariners especially) had grown complacent.

    In many ways the US Navy should thank the PRC - talk about a wake-up call !

    Might even scaremonger a few hundred million dollars out of Congress.

    Of course, the conspiracy theorists could hint 'hey, they let the Chinese sub get close, just to scare some funds out of government.' But I suspect not, as this will look very very very bad on all the commanding officers involved.

Loose bits sink chips.