Chinese Sub Stalks U.S. Battle Group
By Mike Blair
A Chinese submarine risked setting off a military confrontation by closely shadowing a U.S. aircraft carrier sailing near Japan, according to the Navy’s top commander in the Pacific.
“The fact that you have military units that would operate in close proximity to each other offers the potential for events that would not be what we would like to see—the potential for miscalculation,” Adm. William Fallon told The Washington Times.
The eyeball-to-eyeball encounter off the Japanese island of Okinawa demonstrated that Beijing is developing the capability to challenge the might of the U.S. Navy, according to military experts.
The Chinese sub had shadowed the USS Kitty Hawk and was spotted on a routine surveillance flight by one of the carrier’s planes only after it had surfaced less than five miles from the U.S. ship and well within missile range.
It was a David and Goliath encounter: a 244-foot dieselelectric submarine displacing 2,350 tons and with a crew of 60 pitted against the might of a 1,062-foot, 81,123-ton Navy behemoth with a crew of nearly 3,000, plus an air crew of
nearly 2,500 to man and service its 80 fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters.
The U.S. battle group included a screen of guided missile cruisers and destroyers and a nuclear-powered attack submarine to protect the giant ship.
But all of this protection proved for naught as the Chinese submarine trailed the carrier group until it revealed itself upon surfacing.
The encounter was an embarrassment for Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, who was making his first visit to China to meet senior military leaders.
The visit was part of a U.S.-China military exchange program being promoted by Adm. Fallon, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and aimed at improving relations between the two militaries.
While the United States has aggressively pursued the program and has been open with the Chinese military, the Chinese have not reciprocated and have denied access to key facilities, including a Beijing command center.
A military analyst told The Taipei Times “China’s submarine strategy has been aimed at targeting U.S. aircraft carriers and making it more difficult for the U.S. to use force in Asia.”
He said China has ambitions for its submarines beyond blockading Taiwan.
“While other nations have one shipbuilder for constructing submarines, China has three,” he said.
Military analysts noted that China’s recent stunt was aimed at showing the United States that if the U.S. military wants to protect Taiwan against a Chinese attack on the island, the Chinese military could make trouble for U.S. forces throughout the Pacific.
(Issue #48, November 27, 2006)