Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Diesel Submarine Debates

Here are a couple of good articles discussing the use of diesel submarines by Western Pacific nations -- an article about China's expanding diesel fleet, and a blog post discussing the effectiveness of the Australian boats. I especially liked one quote about the downside for China of sending their boats out more often:
For China one downside of all this training is that the U.S. Navy has more opportunity to practice hunting Chinese subs. This is particularly true for American subs, which are well equipped with passive (listen only) sonar and are even more effective if they have a lot of sound samples for enemy subs operating underwater or on the surface.
I've always been an advocate for our potential adversaries getting their boats out as much as possible, and as close to the U.S. as possible, for that very reason. I've also been a big fan of the "we shouldn't waste our money building diesel boats since we have such excellent nuclear boats" philosophy, but understand that others have a different opinion. It's been a while since we've had this discussion, so I figure I'd open up the floor for it again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

diesel boats are a great idea for a country that is content to use them for coastal defense of their own shores.

But we are in the business of power projection. It is a long high-speed transit to get where we earn our pay. Diesel boats don't have the legs to make that trip.

We would need a diesel fleet of 3 times out current SSN numbers to accomplish what we do now.

Battlegroup ops? Forget about it.

2/16/2013 5:19 PM

Anonymous JoeShitTheSubMan said...

If we build diesel boats, will they have nuke officers on them???

If they bring back the GSOs, then they will be well worth it!!!

Imagine, getting underway on a sub and no nukes on it! It would hae the highest morale in the submarine fleet!!!!

2/16/2013 7:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ High morale....just like Bonefish? We have seen what GSOs can't do, and that is why they are gone.

2/16/2013 9:03 PM

Anonymous Gordon Roesler said...

Australia is a long way from anywhere. Their Collins class needs replacing. Last time they put out a plan (2009), they were going to build 12 replacements. That didn't happen. This time, their preferred solution is to lease Virginia class SSNs from the US. Does ANYONE want to take that bet?

2/17/2013 12:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

if they wants the VIRGINIA's let them have them. Those boats are a maintenance liability.

2/17/2013 4:56 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

As one of the few persons that can say they went from a BCPed, automatic valved diesel boat (BARBEL) to a twin screwed manual valved Nuc (SEADRAGON) - I will take the nuc anyday. Diesels serve a purpose for a coastal power but you need the flexability of a nuc for global reach.

2/17/2013 11:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Diesels serve a purpose for a coastal power but you need the flexability of a nuc for global reach."

Wouldn't that be a shame if the world threw war and nobody showed up?

2/17/2013 11:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought a combined approach in the diesel vs nuc debate made sense. If we had some DBF's reserved for coastal duty, that could free up the nucs for more power projection and battle group tasks. Also, in a pinch - for when a nuc is delayed/unavailable for whatever reason - a diesel boat could be scrambled if necessary on a short-term basis until relieved.

I'm sure it's been looked at before, so it probably boils down to a force flexibility vs logistical CBA issue. I have no idea what is involved with tooling up to manufacture new diesels while maintaining nuc capability and support.

All I know is: Being extended is a pain.

2/17/2013 1:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coastal defense is moot. We have F18 and F35 for ASUW and P3s or P8s for ASW. Given all our other assets, a coastal sub fleet is as useful as tits on a bull. Arguably so is our SSN fleet when an SSGN can do all its modern missions other than dedicated ASW.

2/17/2013 1:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The airdales got it covered? Please, don't get me started - too late!

That's all well and good, but I do believe the airdales may have missed a couple in the past. They're damn good, but not best. I wouldn't think we'd rely solely on air assets in any case. Sometimes it takes another boat down below right there in it to git 'er done. If you've ever located a diesel boat from a couple of transients, you'll know where I'm coming from.

GN's and BN's are value added SSN's, for sure. But any way you want to slice it, I remain convinced another sub is still the best ASW platform, bar none. Having some SS's in the mix could be a cost-effective stopgap in light of what looks like might be some upcoming reductions in deployable assets.

So how many DBF's can we punch out for the price of one nuc? Or is that just a stupid question...?

2/17/2013 4:02 PM

Blogger KellyJ said...

Another big problem with Diesel Boats is Diesel Fuel. The go-juice for a nuke is bought and paid for upon Commisioning.
Diesels have to buy gas as they use it (and that can get real expensive as the Political Admirals keep doing idiotic stuff like using bio-fuels that are astronomically more expensive that good old fasioned fossil fuels.
So whe push comes to sequestration your cheaper diesel subs go on oil hours like the skimmers and spend lots of time in port NOT operating and training like you fight.
Diesels for coastal defense? That would be the job of the SSNs working up at home prior to deploying.Any stray that makes it past the front line units, past the SOSUS lines, and actually make it to the US will give plenty of notice for a local SSN to cut upkeep short and deal with the intruder...and don't sell the airdales short. They may not have the legs for search, but once vectored in they have the tools required to localize and attack.

2/17/2013 10:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That's all well and good, but I do believe the airdales may have missed a couple in the past. They're damn good, but not best."

True, but there's also the whole end of the Cold War and focus on GWOT thing going on. You know, that war that submarines barely contribute to because it's in the middle of the desert and the Taliban don't have a Navy.

2/18/2013 8:31 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Anon @ 0831: Two words--North Korea. A few more--Iran, Russia, and the PLN, to name a couple.

'nuff said.

2/18/2013 8:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point is twofold: first is that ASW is not an aviation community priority, and the airdales' skills at ASW has waned because they're busy supporting operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. If Russia really becomes an ASW threat again, the airdales will ramp up that skillset. Secondly, ASW is what SSNs do because there's really not much else we can do with SPECOPS and strike missions now being owned primarily by SSGNs, but Russia sending one Akula over here every 3 years or so (and getting detected and published in the news while doing it) certainly doesn't warrant the cost of maintaining 50+ SSNs, plus the proposed building of AIP boats for coastal defense.

Coastal ASW defense from North Korea? You must be joking.

It's a tough pill to swallow but in the scheme of US military priorities and capabilities that allow us to win modern wars, the SSN mission is pretty low on the totem pole.

2/18/2013 9:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon at 8:31 said "True, but there's also the whole end of the Cold War and focus on GWOT thing going on. You know, that war that submarines barely contribute to because it's in the middle of the desert and the Taliban don't have a Navy."

Really? 2 SSNs shot TLAM for OEF. Something like 10 SSN shot TLAM for OIF (770 shot in first 24 hours).

SSGN not part of the fun? How about 107 TLAM shot in 36 hours by the FLORIDA against Libya?

A lot of GWOT targets are within 1000nm of SSN operating areas. Anyone who thinks TLAM from SSN aren't part of the operational planning hasn't been to sea in the last 10 years.

2/18/2013 9:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 12 years of war 12 SSNs have shot TLAMs for OEF/OIF. Now compare that to the resources committed by other communities and branches and you'll realize how stupid you sound trying to make submarines seem like this important asset. Libya? Not the same war but good on SSGNs for allowing the Pres to unilaterally bomb 3rd world countries to install his crony.

2/18/2013 10:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone who doesn't understand the role subs play in our maritime strategy and future conflicts has no clue about what the submarine force does. It cannot be explained on this page. Just know that the sub force will be the last place the Navy looks to to cut funding in the current fiscal environment (thats the only real measure of our worth able to be discussed). The people who make decisions know the merit of our service and we will continue to do our job for the SILENT service.

Oh, and as for diesel subs...until the threat of asw near our shores increases significantly, the sub force will remain a forward power projection force that requires the services of nuclear submarines. Diesels may be a good idea if or when we feel an asw threat near home is realistic. We are nowhere near that yet.

2/18/2013 11:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Aussies want submarines that can do everything that our boats do without - you guessed it nuclear power. There is only one place I know of where that can happen - fantasyland.tiabig

2/18/2013 2:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every missile shot off by a submarine during the GWOT and operations in Libya, and anywhere else, were shot off the submarines for show and tell. They could just as easily have been launched from a skimmer platform or an air asset.

And logistically, it's a lot easier to reload a skimmer.

What submarines are best for is sinking ships and other submarines. And as the survivable leg of the second strike triad, something not much worried about anymore.

2/18/2013 6:45 PM

Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

"Arguably so is our SSN fleet when an SSGN can do all its modern missions other than dedicated ASW."

Could ya please tell that to COMSUBLANT and COMNAVSUBFOR as well.

Such a great idea could work if we could put it in action.

2/18/2013 10:47 PM

Blogger John Byron said...

Diesel boat: coastal defense, mobile mine field

Question of building US diesels: perennial study topic going nowhere; not an issue for serious planners.

DBFers: "incurable romantics."

2/19/2013 8:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything seems to be ok here. Good. I'll go see if any of the other rooms are tilted.

2/21/2013 6:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who measures the usefulness of the US submarine force by hulls sunk or missiles fired doesn't know (spoken: isn't cleared for) what they do on a daily basis. Recently coming off an SSN, I can tell you there's a higher demand for what we do than almost any other asset in the US arsenal. (I'll direct you to the news of recent CVN deployment cancellations and challenge you to name any SSN deployment cancellations).

I agree with previous posters that diesel boats are vastly limited in their mission areas, such missions are infrequent in today's world, and SSN's (and airdales, assuming they've had 8 hours sleep) could easily cover them when they do happen to occur.

Waxing poetic: SSN's are a tool of covert power, somewhat like the UN-Silent Drone service, in that the subject of the tool never knows they are the subject. You can literally read the headlines today of how AQIM, et al. now know they are never safe from drones and ergo are developing and disseminating counter-drone strategies. BZ to the sub force for avoiding a similar fate.

-Served ENG

2/21/2013 10:53 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/22/2013 11:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having spent a considerable amount of time on two different SS boats followed by time on an SSN I think that the SSN is certainly the way to go. Too many reasons to list, all of them obvious to anyone with any critical thinking skills at all. However, there is one area where I think that SS boats could help us out. Training. Not just training against them, but having our own people understand their nuances. How they operate, when and where they operate best, longevity, power ammortization etc; Nothing puts one in character like actually living it. Having a few around for the SSN's to train with and for our tacticians to learn from would be beneficial. I would gladly crew one of them for free.

2/22/2013 2:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Served ENG.

1) How can you know the relative demand on your SSN than any other unit in the military. the pointy end does not exactly have a broad view of the spear.
2) Just because your in high demand, that doesn't mean that what you are doing is actually providing any value. There is no cost to an admiral asking for a submarine, so the demand isn't indicative of need, just desire.

I am at a loss at what exactly SSN's could be doing that is so amazingly valuable. There is either something super out of the box that I can't imagine, or you guys are much more worried about N. Korea and China than you should be.

2/22/2013 8:10 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

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2/24/2013 6:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Just because your in high demand, that doesn't mean that what you are doing is actually providing any value..."

Is that how that works? Really? It would take an edict by royal proclamation at the very least to make that sort of logic seem reasonable to a few, much less even remotely palatable to most. And then - it would have to be backed up by some pretty heavy artillery! (Lots of it).

Get qualified, stand the watch for a few years. Keep your eyes open. Maybe even learn how to make proper 1MC announcements, that sort of thing. That should help you at least get a leg up on the issue, with an added bonus thrown in for good measure:

You won't have to rely on your imagination quite as much!
ttfn, dearie. Still rainin' over there? (Let it go...)

Conn, Sonar. Regain contact Umptysquat, bearing all over the place....


2/24/2013 12:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you are out tracking the dreaded Chinese Han in the South China Sea along with two p3s, a SURTASS, and some DDG's.

Got it.

There's a reason big Navy has been shipping sub sailors to The ME for the last ten years instead of saying the sub mission is too valuable to risk it's sailors.

2/25/2013 8:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We do not discuss submarine operations.

2/28/2013 4:18 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

A well designed fossil fueled boat - with a sterling rather than the Rock Crushers we had - would be an extremely valuable asset. Shorter time to build, much lower cost, shorter training cycle - all lead to a far more efficient machine. The Sterling design allows the boat to remain submerged for extended periods of time.

3/13/2013 8:15 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

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3/18/2013 3:09 PM

Anonymous Byron Banks said...

Being an active duty coner that plays in the snake pit on field day and stacks dots and plays with flaming arrows on watch... I cant fully expound on how I feel here but in reguards to our wallets and expounding on what Dave said... who needs a blue water Navy when you forward deploy? We did just that with SSBN's back in the day. Mush Morton once said "Wahoo is expendable" we have no where near the cost effectiveness of a Gato or Balao class submarine based on today's budget. Qualifications are like debates (and sometimes are debates when the khaki has no idea what he's talking about...) know your references... heres a reference I can actually share.

AIP and you!

3/21/2013 6:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my 20 years of submarine duty I served on fast attacks, diesel boats, and boomers (in that order). I was a geo plotter on all three (and I like to think I was a damn good one). My experience on one of the old B-girls taught me two things. (1) We could kick the crap out of anybody they wanted to send up against us if the war lasted 2 days or less, and (2) wars last more than two days.

3/25/2013 9:21 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

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4/09/2013 4:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be a big fan of the "Diesel Boats to protect our littorals" theory. Problem with that now is it's outdated. I'm actually surprised that this point has not been raised in this discussion so far.

In the world of autonomous operations, low maintenance costs (relative), low operations costs, etc. our future littoral defense lies in the following link:

4/13/2013 9:59 AM


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