[Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. Navy ship

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[Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. Navy ship

WASHINGTON (CNN) full article -- In what a U.S. military official calls an "inadvertent encounter," a Chinese submarine hit an underwater sonar array being towed by the destroyer USS John McCain on Thursday.

The array was damaged, but the sub and the ship did not collide, the official said. A sonar array is a device towed behind a ship that listens and locates underwater sounds.

The official, who declined to be named because the incident had not been made public, would not say whether the U.S. ship knew the submarine was that close to it.

The Navy has complained in the past that Chinese vessels, including fishing boats, have deliberately tried to disrupt U.S. naval activities in international waters near China. In one widely publicized incident in March, five Chinese vessels maneuvered close enough to the USNS Impeccable to warrant the use of a fire hose by the unarmed American vessel to avoid a collision. The Navy later released video of that incident.

I do not know the protocols for close encounters of military ships, so discount my questions accordingly.  Anyways, if the "sonar array" was operational, wouldn't it see (hear) the approaching submarine?  And if they saw it approaching, shouldn't they have radioed the sub for safety?  If the sonar was not operational, shouldn't it have been brought back on board for repairs and safety?  

Of course, it is also possible that the Chinese submarine intentionally rammed it.  This could be a loud message - stop snooping in our sphere of influence.

In either case, will the Chinese exert their financial leverage - T-Bills?

Larry

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

I am sure that Dogs will comment on this since he is a submariner but it seems to me that the U. S. Navy is not going to want to reel in any towed arrays just because there is a submarine in the area. If this was to happen then the foreign subs would surely make it a point of "harrassing" the Navy ships to limit the use of towed sonar arrays.

If ships are in international waters they have a right to unimpeded passage.

 

Ken

 

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

ken serves the winner.

Because there is a submarine in the area is precisely why we deploy our towed arrays.  Can't elaborate anymore on this one...

The link below takes you to a picture of what happens when a submarine gets a little too feisty and drives at an array, snags it, completely fouls her screw and ends up getting towed to Cuba from just off the coast of South Carolina.

Oops, bad submarine.........

http://www.acig.org/artman/uploads/encounter_1983.jpg

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

Dogs & kenc,

I don't want to intrude in classified information (to be honest, I''d love to know); but I was hoping you might be able to comment - is this normal cat-n-mouse stuff or sis there something that should arouse our concern?  

Let's face it, we are debtors and China is a creditor - they hold the better hand. 

Larry

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

Yes, pretty much so, normal cat and mouse...

At least it was with UK/US Air and Naval Forces with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There were many times that a TU-16's invaded UK airspace during the cold war to be "escorted" back out by scrambled RAF interceptors i.e. follow us or die, and the same at sea with Subs and Surface ships.

As far as radioing the sub this isn't really feasible, VLF/ULF could be sent but then they have to be on the right channel, and then there's no guarantee that the Sub will do anything anyway, you could even send active sonar pings in Morse code. A Towed Array normally is streamed out up to 5 KM behind the vessel, so it might not even have been that close an encounter although in todays Naval ranges that's too close. Of course the Sub Commander who would know the position course type, and speed of the US Destroyer was stupid, he should have known the Towed Array was deployed and the maximum length of the array and adjusted accordingly, unless it was intentional saber rattling. Bet the Captain on the Arleigh-Burke Class was a bit highly strung during this...

BTW Larry this is all public domain knowledge :) as far as I can remember.

However in the grand scheme of things we'll never know. The Chinese will say it was a navigation error by the Sub Commander, or similar.

Dogs, was that a Victor III in the photo you posted?

 

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

There've been at least two highly publicized episodes in recent years where Chinese subs surfaced right in the middle of fleet maneuvers dangerously close to an American aircraft carrier.  In fact, the two episodes that I'm thinking of occurred on anniversary dates exactly one year apart.  The Chinese are making a statement.  In the one incident, at least, the Americans appeared to be taken completely by surprise. 

I haven't kept up on matters but the last I knew, although the Chinese had a nuclear sub and plan on building more, their naval doctrine seemed akin to their land doctrine ... overwhelm technology by numbers and strategy.  IIRC, they were focusing on conventional but technically advanced diesel/electric subs that were much cheaper but left less of a signature than nukes and would be armed with the latest in weapons technology like the Shkval type torpedoes ... lower tech sub, higher tech weapon.

My knowledge on the matter is superficial but it seems to me that if you send a large number of attack subs against an aircraft carrier, we have the technology to take most of them out quickly ... most of them. However, if they have let's say 20 subs and we take out 19, that means one is still going to get through and take out the aircraft carrier.  Knowing the reliability of Murphy's law, I doubt we'll be able to take every last one out before they take out their target.  The loss in American prestige will be immense when they take out our first nuclear carrier.

A high level Chinese memorandum intercepted years ago stated, without equivocation, that an armed conflict with the US over the issue of Taiwain is "inevitable" by 2015.  A top level Chinese general (their equivalent of our Curtis LeMay) is quoted as saying "We will bide our time until we can wreak our vengeance.".  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Read "Unrestricted Warfare" for some insights into their strategies.

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

Larry -

This one was a yawner.  Typical poor submarining and loss of tactical control on the part of the Chinese.  The worst that happens is that the array gets cut or fouled in the sub's screw - being towed back to port is no fun.

As far as VLF/ELF underwater comms, the data rate is so slow you can get a character out about every 10 minutes, so any type of info exchange isn't feasible.

ao - Unlike our ADCAP torpedoes, the skvall is a standoff ASW weapon, straight line, no maneuvering, unless the firing platform has a 100% solution and has an exact intercept course figured out, all that's going to happen is the skvall is going to ensonify a lot of water as it goes shooting out.

I think you are remembering the incident where the KILO surfaced a few miles from the KITTY HAWK battle group - not quite in the middle of the exercise, but close enough to have been able to get a shot off.  Even the Chinese aren't that stupid - frogging around in the middle of another country's battle group exercise is a good way to get accidentally shot at. 

And I wouldn't put too much creedence in an attack across the Strait of Taiwan.  The Chinese have no blue water amphibious capability or any ability for sustained power projection or air space dominance outside their borders.  2015 will likely come and go without event.

Except I remember reading another thread here on CM that the world is comng to an end in 2012 anyway.....

Gungnir - yes, VICTOR III.  Pretty good platform back in '86, but still no match for a US 688 or 637 class fast boat.

 

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...
Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

ao - Unlike our ADCAP torpedoes, the skvall is a standoff ASW weapon, straight line, no maneuvering, unless the firing platform has a 100% solution and has an exact intercept course figured out, all that's going to happen is the skvall is going to ensonify a lot of water as it goes shooting out.

LOL.  OK, Dogs, you're going to have to translate.  What does "100% solution" mean?  Love the "ensonify".;-) 

 

I thought the newest generation Shkval was guided?

 

Here was the one incident (I can't find the other with a cursory check):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-492804/The-uninvited-guest-Chinese-sub-pops-middle-U-S-Navy-exercise-leaving-military-chiefs-red-faced.html

Here's some info about the developing Chinese naval capability (see second to last paragraph especially):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/china-submarines-foreign-relations

 

I remain concerned though when less than 5% of our college graduates are getting degrees in engineering while 40% of the Chinese are, how long it will take them to catch up.  My daughter had a Chinese roommate last year.  Their nationalistic fervor is intense.  And they've always been willing to take losses we would find unacceptable.  And then with Obama cutting the F-22 program, air superiority starts becoming more iffy ... 

 

 

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...
ao wrote:

LOL.  OK, Dogs, you're going to have to translate.  What does "100% solution" mean?  Love the "ensonify".;-) 

I thought the newest generation Shkval was guided?

ao -

Sorry, after 30 years it's easy to fall right into the lexicon.  A 100% solution means the firing platform knows the exact range, course and speed of the ship they are shooting at.  If you know what the other guy is doing, you already know what your ship is doing, so plotting the correct bearing to shoot your torpedo down to achieve an intercept is easy math.  Back in WWII, before we had torpedoes with active and passive sensor pacages, we had to shoot a spread of torpedoes to account for being a few hundred yards off in range or a few degrees off in course or a few knots in speed.  Not all of the torpedoes fired would achieve a hit.  Today, we just have to be sorta close.  The MK 48 ADCAP is a superb torpedo - long range, fast, good sensors package and a hefty thump when it detonates.  You can preset the weapon to go off on impact (if it were to intercept the target) or influence - the torpedo senses the ship and detonates when it is beneath it.

I am pretty sure the skvall is little more than an underwater niosemaker - don't get me wrong, if it hit you, the ship would be lost - but I would take the odds that the other guy doesn't have a 100% fire control solution.

Ah yes, the SONG incident.  I remember being privy to details of a conversation - well, not sure that you can call it a conversation when the only person talking (at about 120 dB) is a three star admiral and everyone else in the room is in simplex receive only while being shat on.

It's no secret that the Chinese are building up their force structure - but the key element in a successful weapons system is the software - the pilot, sub crew, the surface ship.  These are things that the US has nearly 4 generations of experience in.  We have honed our tactics and tested them in battle.  Nothing really changes except the gear.  You fly an F/A-18 Hornet just like you did an F-4UF Corsair - just faster and higher.  Air to air dogfighting geometry is unchanged (thrust vectoring on an F-22 notwithstanding).  Same thing with submarine approach and attack - it's just a big nuclear powered geometry and trigonometry problem.  These things are part of the culture of our warfare communities as they have been developed under fire.

The Chinese don't enjoy such a luxury (if that's the right word) with thier forces.  They haven't honed their skills in combat like we have.  That's not to say that they aren't capable and would be a tough opponent when things went hot, but there is no substitution for proven tactics developed from experience.

Should we be worried?  In short, no.  IMO, wary is probably a better stance - the Chinese could go either way with their military and there's no sense in worrying about something that hasn't come to pass.

What we should worry about is economic warfare - that's a pretty level playing field.  The only consolation is that both China and the US are acutely aware of each others economic Achille's Heel and in this case they are attached to the same body.

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Re: [Chinese] Sub collides with sonar array towed by U.S. ...

Dogs,

Thanks for the indepth discussion.  Very informative.

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