Wednesday, December 05, 2007

China's Underwater Security: Another Object Lesson for the U.S.?

Apparently, China's 'free' press has gone out of its way to resurface a 1978 rumor (Yes, that was during Nixon's time). They cite recovery of a certain torpedo in March of 2006 and of a submarine last April. What is your natural instinct? - To learn more, of course:

BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) - Naval frogmen to remove underwater security threats for Olympics - A contingent of 78 naval frogmen will surveil open water areas for Beijing Olympics 2008. The divers from a search and rescue troop of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy are believed to take the responsibility of clearing underwater security threats for Olympic water sports venues, the PLA Daily reported Wednesday. ... Dong Yan, captain of the group, said before the SCO summit last summer 24 of his divers combed 97,000 square meters of the Huangpu River bed in seven days of duty. In a joint military exercise in April, the frogmen were successful in rescuing a damaged submarine from 86 meters below the sea surface, the newspaper reported.

2006-10-23 - Anti-terror underwater monitoring sys.to be deployed - The program's chief researcher Xu Feng said that the system incorporates devices including diver detection sonar, underwater low-light-level imaging system, 3D high-definition side scanning sonar, and remote-controlled underwater vehicle. 'The monitoring system could detect, trace, identify and provide early warning of objects moving underwater, and it is also designed to search harbors and pools for underwater threat objects,' said Xu, who is also a researcher with the Institute of Acoustics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

In March 2006, a new type of torpedo, test fired by a submarine, suddenly disappeared from the sonar screen. After nine days of difficult search, the divers recovered the unexploded torpedo, whose test statistics were vital to improvement of its performance. The Chinese Shkval torpedo, or this Yu-8 variant, perhaps:

In 2007, domestic Chinese sources have claimed that Yu-8 torpedo had become the test vehicle and subsequently the first torpedo to be armed with a new warhead that was developed by the Chinese naval research institute. The new warhead utilizes sodium hydride compounds / chemical reaction and once detonated, large amount of sodium powder is released. The chemical reaction of sodium powder and sea water produce huge amount of hydrogen at very high temperature within very short period of time and the within range of several dozen meters, the temperature instantly increased to over two thousand degrees (celsius) as the chemical reactions taken place with hydrogen and oxygen, destroying the target even if no direct hit is scored. During the test in East China Sea, a retired twelve thousand ton ship was hit by two Yu-8 torpedoes on one side, and the side that was hit was completely melted within fifteen minutes. source

Interestingly, it had been reported that in October 1978, a Chinese fishing vessel had "salvaged" a US Mk 46 torpedo in the South China sea. source

In an article China Strategic Review, Larry Englemann quotes from an interview with a Chinese naval officer: 'A group of American ships from Subic Bay, headed by the Coral Sea, came into the South China Sea near the Xisha (Paracel) Islands. While the Americans were patrolling in the area, either an American ship or helicopter with the group dropped several Mark 46 torpedoes near the islands. They beached themselves, unharmed, in the mud near our naval forces. We were able to salvage them successful and bring them ashore. Quite obviously, they were intended for us, and the object of the Americans was to provide them to us both secretly and intact. That was done. The two Mark 46s were armed. Everything. They were complete.' <<<>informal source

Can this seemigly mundane news story contain a buried diplomatic message that only a few, code-word cleared U.S. officials understand clearly? The U.S. can't very well send this near China and feign innocence, but who knows what may really lurk in a carrier task force. Maybe the Chinese did not want to take a chance.

----------------------------------------NOTES-----------------------------
Is underwater security unprecedented? Not at all. Routine since 9-11: July 21, 2004 - Underwater Security Installed In Athens - The main port of Athens was sealed for two hours yesterday to allow divers to install an underwater monitoring system as part of an Olympic security network that protesters contend is a privacy invasion. The fiber-optic cables are a key element of an electronic web of cameras, sensors and other intelligence-gathering devices designed to help safeguard next month's Olympics. Greece had budgeted $1.24 billion on Olympic security, you may recall.

Capabilities are formidable, too. - 19/09/2006 - QinetiQ's leased two of its high performance swimmer detection sonar system, Cerberus, to Elecnor Seguridad, the Spanish company contracted to provide security systems for the duration of the 2006 ranking events in Valencia. Cerberus is able to detect and locate swimmers and divers at ranges exceeding 800 metres (about 1/3 mile).

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