Tracking The Gotland: The Attendant Mysteries
The 200-foot Swedish submarine HMS Gotland represents an emerging threat of ultra-quiet, diesel submarines. Incorporating sound-silencing technology, it stays submerged for weeks at a time thanks to AIP. AIP can be retrofitted into existing diesel submarine hulls by insertion of a new hull section. The Gotland and her crew (25 - 30) have been playing electric rabbit in joint exercises with the U.S. Navy, which could extend its opposing force services for another year, the military said Wednesday. North Korea, India, China and Iran, have diesel submarines that stay close to beaches and are very quiet when they run on electric power underwater. HMS Gotland's small size (displaces only 1,490 tons compared to 6,900 for a 360-foot Los Angeles) also minimizes sonar echo cross section.
Mystery One: Capt. David F. Steindl, commander of the U.S. Destroyer Squadron Seven, said earlier this year that his sailors found ways to track the Gotland during their exercises, though he declined to say how. The mystery is how such detections were accomplished.
Speculation: Sonar and seabed anchored electromagnetic flux detection.
Mystery Two: Since detections were successful, an obvious mystery is why consider continuing the exercises for another year?
Speculation: Time is obviously needed to upgrade and retest detection hardware and software.
Mystery Three: Sweden, a country of 9 million residents, has not engaged in war since 1814. Yet, it not only deploys submarines, Kockums has built them for other countries. Certainly, Sweden will learn the detection weaknesses of its Gotland class from these joint-US exercises. The mystery is when will it sell upgrades?
Speculation: First the DOD sees the big advantages to deploying AIP subs in the U.S. fleet. Unit cost is closer to $100 million than over $2 billion for the latest Virginias. Operating costs are much lower, as well, without nuclear power. While U.S. companies will build these subs, Sweden will not sell upgraded stealth technology to foreign countries, because Sweden will provide AIP and perhaps other key hardware to Electric Boat. The U.S. boats will be between 236 and 256 feet in length, around 3,000 tons displacement and still crewed by 30 sailors (with room for 20 or so SEALs or mission hardware).
Final speculation: The name and hull designation for the new class will be as unorthodox as SSN-21 Seawolf was. Perhaps, SP-50 Lehman class.