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Behind the Kitty Hawk Incident (Updated)

by jason on November 14, 2006

Several readers have given me all kinds of grief for not posting about the USS Kitty Hawk incident. My apologies — I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to add to the story, about a Chinese Song–class sub shadowing an American carrier group.
song_sub.jpgThe In From the Cold intel blog has some insights, however. “Spook86” notes that America’s sub-detection capabilities have been on the decline for a while, now.

With the collapse of the old Soviet Navy in the early 1990s, the USN [U.S. Navy] began to de-emphasize its ASW [anti-submarine warfare] capabilities, figuring that the preeminent submarine threat had essentially evaporated, and it would take years — perhaps decades — for a similar challenge to emerge.

But Rear Admiral Hank McKinney, the former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s submarine force, tells us not to be to hard on the sub-hunters:

Noah, I have no inside information on this event, but it is very difficult to detect a quiet diesel submarine and the Song–class submarines are quality submarines. Operating in international waters in the vicinity of a US battle group is perfectly normal — good operational training.
The Chinese very well could have staged this event to make a point about the vulnerability of the Battle Group to submarine attack. The US Navy is fully aware of [those] vulnerabilities…
The Chinese are building a credible submarine force which will make it very difficult for the US Navy to maintain sea control dominance in or near coastal waters off of China.

McKinney concludes with a question: Did the Chinese “stage this event” to coincide with Adm. Gary Roughead’s visit to China? Roughead currently serves as “CINCPACFLT” — Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
(Big ups: Chuck)
UPDATE 11/15/06 11:25 AM: More from the Washington Times and In From the Cold.
UPDATE 11/15/06 11:50 AM: This will make China-hawks’ heads explode. But the chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon, says the incident highlights the need for closer Sino-American ties.

“There is a need to have a fundamental understanding,” he said, adding that Admiral Gary Roughead, head of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was currently visiting China for the first naval exercise between the United States and the People’s Liberation Army.
“This is the kind of thing that we must encourage and continue so we can move ahead from what I would characterize as kind of Cold War thinking and truly broaden the dialogue.”

Meanwhile, as Brad notes in the comments, Barnett is yawning.

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