AIP and ASW
A decent article in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs discusses the U.S. Navy's new focus on ASW and especially the need to counter the potential threat from Air Independent Propulsion boats.
"The AIP-equipped Gotland-class submarine, one of five in Swedish service, will be stationed at the United States Naval Base at Point Loma in San Diego, and will be involved in training exercises in both the Pacific and Atlantic. Officials expect the information gained in the training operations to enhance American sonar technology and to lead to the establishment of a solid bank of operational experience versus AIP-equipped subs. Rear Admiral Donald Bullard, Director of Readiness and Training for Fleet Forces Command, said, “This will vastly improve our capability to conduct realistic, effective antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training [and further]... our efforts in developing coalition ASW tactics, techniques and procedures.”
"The U.S. Navy is concerned that “rogue” states and terrorist organizations will acquire this capability because it is far less expensive to build and operate diesel-electric submarines with the AIP system than nuclear submarines. Countries that operate AIP-equipped submarines include Sweden, Germany, Greece, Italy, Pakistan, and Russia. The Spanish Navy has funded a three-part process of researching and developing AIP systems for its new S-80 submarines, four of which are scheduled to be commissioned between 2005 and 2014. These submarines are expected to cost some $650 million each.
"Over the past decade, the U.S. Navy has experienced a marked decrease in ASW training missions including those in shallow, crowded waters. It is in these “littoral” waters where the threat was most clearly manifested. The Straits of Hormuz, crowded with supertankers, thousands of smaller craft, shallow waters, reefs and wrecks, is the chokepoint a hostile navy could easily block, cutting the flow of oil dramatically. The tight and the underwater noise generated by the immense traffic severely diminish the effectiveness of advanced sonar systems."
Those who think the U.S. Navy should move towards AIP forget not only how long it takes these boats to get anywhere, and also the fact that since we are unlikely to cut back on our safety requirements, U.S.-built AIP boats would cost much more that the $650M mentioned.