Submarine News Between the Lines: Strange; Very Strange
Molten Eagle first noted a very curious submarine story back on April 7th: Taiwan Stiffs US Navy. At the time, we speculated on the report that: [the Navy's] "resistance to diesel submarine exports has been tacitly accepted by Pentagon and other administration officials" shows something very interesting (vastly different from public perception) could be going on regarding State strategy towards China. Perhaps some major, diplomatic inroad will be announced. Perhaps China's currency will soon begin to imitate other countries in its degree of float.
China's currency float has improved slightly, but that news is overshadowed by this development: the Pentagon just approved a two-phase plan for Taiwan to buy eight diesel submarines. Something very big is definitely afoot in China's backyard, in Taiwan and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
What it could mean now...
Connecticut Representative Rob Simmons (his district just happens to include General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard which builds submarines for the U.S. Navy) happens to have been a Chinese-speaking former intelligence officer who served in Taiwan back in the 1970s (before Washington extended diplomatic recognition to Beijing). Has Simmon's really been this effective in lobbying the Pentagon? Unlikely, but it makes a great cover for a more covert plot (read on).
Taiwan's Nationalist Party, known as the KMT or Kuomintang, had repeatedly blocked Taiwan's President Chen's efforts to appropriate $12 billion since 2001, when Bush a administration arms deal (coincidentally for eight diesel-electric submarines) was first offered. The KMT feared the deal would provoke Beijing. Perhaps the KMT has relented now, in 2006? Even more unlikely.
On April 21st, in Tracking The Gotland: The Attendant Mysteries Molten Eagle noted that Sweden will/(has) learn/(learned) the detection weaknesses of its Gotland class subs from joint-US exercises. The mystery is when will Sweden sell detection upgrades? We then speculated as follows:
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).
Finally, in awkward, multilateral political situations the United States already has demonstrated a clear precedent (revealed only once) for covertly contracting submarine construction (e.g. Electric Boat to a Canadian shipbuilder Vickers to get round US neutrality laws in 1915 ).
This time, will it be Taiwan? The U.S. would get a fleet of advanced AIP diesel boats forward based and flagged in Taiwan. Very, very strategic.