View Full Version : Pentagon: New Class Of Silent Submarines Poses Threat

09-08-2008, 12:38 AM
Pentagon: New Class Of Silent Submarines Poses Threat

POSTED: 6:54 pm PDT October 19, 2006
UPDATED: 6:15 am PDT October 20, 2006
[NEWSVINE: Pentagon: New Class Of Silent Submarines Pose threat.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The Pentagon said it believes the greatest undersea threat facing the U.S. Navy since the end of the Cold War has arrived.


The threat involves a new a new class of silent submarines -- subs that the U.S. Navy is having trouble finding under water. In this exclusive investigation, NBC4's Chuck Henry looked into one of those submarines in San Diego.

Following is a verbatim script from the on-air report.

CHUCK HENRY: The threat is real. And it has the Navy so concerned that it's turning to Sweden for help. That's because the Swedes have those silent submarines.

And right now, one of them is stationed at Point Loma. Earlier this month, NBC4 had unprecedented access to the Swedish sub and its crew.

What NBC4 aired few people have ever seen and certainly not in the United States.

On the surface it looks like any other submarine, but the U.S. Navy said it could be the most dangerous sub in the world.

FREDERICK LINDEN: Being noisy is something that is dangerous for us.

HENRY: Fredrick Linden is the commander of the HMS Gotland. He and his crew of 29 call the sub base at Point Loma home. They came to San Diego because the Navy is worried about this new generation of silent subs.

The Pentagon leased the Gotland for one year, but now has extended the lease for a second year, as they try to learn why this submarine so difficult to find underwater.

Subs have always had two weaknesses: they make noise and can't stay submerged very long. But the Gotland runs on a high-tech system called Air Independent Propulsion -- or AIP.

LINDEN: With AIP, I can stay submerged for weeks.

HENRY: Not only can the sub stay submerged for up to a month, the AIP technology also makes it quieter than other subs, and almost impossible to pick up on sonar.

When the Gotland wants to be silent and undetectable, especially along coastal waters, there's not a place it can't go. And that's one of the reasons it's here.

Since last summer the Navy has spent months playing a game of cat and mouse with the Gotland off San Diego, and time after time the Swedish sub has eluded its pursuers.

HENRY (TO COMMANDER): As an adversary, how good are you at what you do?

LINDEN: Very good.

HENRY: Can you tell us about your accomplishments?

LINDEN: We are satisfied with being good.

HENRY: According to Swedish newspapers, in training exercises the Gotland has sunk our most sophisticated nuclear submarines. But perhaps even more disconcerting, it reportedly sunk our largest aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Reagan.

NORMAN POLMAR, NAVAL ANALYST: She's really run rings around our carrier groups.

HENRY: Norman Polmar is a military analyst specializing in naval intelligence. He says since the end of the cold war, funding of the navy's anti submarine warfare program has been scaled back dramatically.

As the U.S. funnels billions into the war on terror, countries like North Korea, China and Iran are building or trying to get submarines like the Gotland.

Two months ago in the Persian Gulf, Iran tested a new anti-ship missile fired by one of its subs.

If the Iranians are successful in getting a Gotland-class submarine, it could pose a new silent danger to vital oil tanker traffic in the region.

POLMAR: With more of these submarines being bought by countries that don't particularly like us, Iran being a good example, yes, there is a potential. There is a threat.

HENRY: And the commander of the Gotland knows just how vulnerable the United States could be if a sub like his fell into the wrong hands.

HENRY: If you look at our coast, North America, is there any place that you can't go?


HENRY: No place?

Linden then shakes his head.

HENRY: Although this emerging undersea threat is a top priority for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. is committed to its nuclear submarine force, and has no plans to develop subs like the Gotland.

The Navy says it just wants to know how to detect and kill them.

Its not only subs, but new class of sub-cavitation torpedoes and cruse missiles that have never been experienced in war and may pose unheard of dangers.

09-08-2008, 02:16 AM
By coincidence, I was talking yesterday to a friend who was at the RIMPAC exercise this year.

The U.S. Navy put a dunking helo right over the Australian Collins class submarine 24 hours a day for the duration of the exercise because they knew that once they lost it, game over.

Heard the final cocktail party on the aircraft carrier (Kittyhawk?) was a real blast.

A.T. Hagan
09-08-2008, 09:18 AM
POSTED: 6:54 pm PDT October 19, 2006
UPDATED: 6:15 am PDT October 20, 2006

09-08-2008, 10:02 PM
The US Navy has tried to avoid this new type of sub for a number of years now. The NIH (not invented here) Syndrome I think.

Congress has been more concerned about the development of these new fuel cell and small AIP subs than the Navy has ... and it was Congress that finally forced the Navy Brass to begin a serious investigation in how to track and handle them.

Nuclear Power is great ... but the reality is that Fuel Cell Technology and AIP Technology has suddenly leaped up technologically to a point where it makes for a viable power plant ... a nearly totally silent power plant in the case of AIP Technology and a totally silent power plant in the case of Fuel Cell Technology unlike a nuclear reactor with it constant need for high levels of cooling (ie pumps running). Our Navy for now remains committed to extremely expensive Nuclear Sub ... saying it will NOT even consider having one of these fuel cell subs in it's fleet (the Germans offered to sell us some Fuel Cell subs and the Swedes offered to sell us some AIP subs at very good pricing so we could experiment around with them). That may be akin to a navy remaining with Battleships once Aircraft Carriers were developed and perfected.

There is no doubt about it ... if properly designed these subs are both quieter than nuclear subs, and MUCH cheaper to build. The Chinese are already working on their first models, and once they feel they have the design and systems perfected they will easily be able to field MORE subs than the US has for much less money than they US has invested in it's sub fleet. (the Chinese are also developing new generations of nuclear subs also)

Time imo for the US Navy to think about building/acquiring some of these smaller super quiet fuel cell and AIP subs as hunter killers. That appears to be the intent of the Chinese.


09-09-2008, 01:30 AM
Curious has it right. The big Nukes are much much faster, but not nearly so stealthy as anything with an electric motor.

We offered to build America some of our Collins class subs, but no deal.

In any case its been going on for years, one of our old Oberon class boats has a picture of the screws on the Enterprise, she completely evaded the carriers escorts, and the Collins class boats are even quieter and much much more capable.

09-09-2008, 09:36 AM
Neat, first I'd heard of these. I'll have to look into it further when I've got some time to kill.


Sean Connery approves.

09-09-2008, 04:10 PM
For me the most fascinating of the new subs are those utilizing fuel cell technology. Germany has already built several of these, though they are much like the Swedish subs in that they are currently geared for coastal/regional defense versus world wide motnths of on end cruising of the seas. (they only have a 30 to 40 day underwater patrol length ability at the moment and like the Swedish subs are crewed by only about 35 to 40 men)

As shown by the Swedish sub's experiences against the US fleet, small and stealthy can be more effective than large and more capable ... and in reality ANY sub that actually sinks a carrier or other capital ship is going to get sunk itself so why not use a cheaper smaller one of which you can afford LOTS of than a large expensive one?

If you want to find out more about these new types of subs check out what the Germans are building with fuel cell technology (they are now the backbone of the Israeli Submarine Navy ... and Israeli nuclear cruise missiles have been retrofitted to be able to be fired from them, which finally gives Israel a "Second Strike" capability)


09-09-2008, 05:33 PM

and in reality ANY sub that actually sinks a carrier or other capital ship is going to get sunk itself so why not use a cheaper smaller one of which you can afford LOTS of than a large expensive one?

That's not the experience so far in exercises.