Monday, November 13, 2006

Sub Stalks 'Hawk


The Washington Times is reporting that a Chinese diesel-powered sub “stalked” the USS Kitty Hawk and her battle group, surfacing within torpedo and cruise-missile range before being spotted:

According to the defense officials, the Chinese Song-class diesel-powered attack submarine shadowed the Kitty Hawk undetected and surfaced within five miles of the carrier Oct. 26.

The surfaced submarine was spotted by a routine surveillance flight by one of the carrier group's planes. The Kitty Hawk battle group includes an attack submarine and anti-submarine helicopters that are charged with protecting the warships from submarine attack.

According to the officials, the submarine is equipped with Russian-made wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Kitty Hawk and several other warships were deployed in ocean waters near Okinawa at the time, as part of a routine fall deployment program. The officials said Chinese submarines rarely have operated in deep water far from Chinese shores or shadowed U.S. vessels.

It’s received wisdom in defense circles that a) Chinese subs lack the ability to evade U.S. detection efforts, and b) China lacks “blue water” capabilities, i.e. the equipment and training to operate far from shore. The Kitty Hawk incident provides a big affirmation for China’s program to build a military that can compete with the U.S. in at least Pacific waters:

"This is a harbinger of a stronger Chinese reaction to America's military presence in East Asia," said Richard Fisher, a Chinese military specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, who called the submarine incident alarming.

"Given the long range of new Chinese sub-launched anti-ship missiles and those purchased from Russia, this incident is very serious," he said. "It will likely happen again, only because Chinese submarine captains of 40 to 50 new modern submarines entering their navy will want to test their mettle against the 7th Fleet."

Stay tuned for many more accidental, incidental or just plain kooky encounters with China’s 21st-century navy.

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