China vs. America: A Submarine Showdown in the South China Sea?
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Rival U.S. and Chinese sub-hunting surveillance goods continue to pursue each other in the South China Sea as part of an ongoing competition to obtain information about each other and ideally to establish a kind of maritime superiority in the South China Sea.
The Chinese have deployed KJ-500 early warning and control systems and KQ-200 Y8 sub-fighters in the South China Sea region, according to the Global Times.
Referring to Taiwanese media reports referring to satellite images, the Global Times quotes Chinese experts: "China has the right to use defense weapons there according to the military threats to which China is exposed." While finding that Chinese officials have not officially confirmed the missions, the report quotes Chinese leaders who stress the country's right to defend its national security interests.
Satellite images of Chinese weapons and surveillance operations in the South China Sea are by no means unprecedented, as they have been identified several times. At one point, there were several reports of Chinese artillery, missiles and land warfare in the South China Sea, as well as satellite images of fighters in the island region. Years ago, US Poseidon P-8 surveillance aircraft discovered false island structures or "land reclamation" in the region and identified at times overt Chinese efforts to build airstrips for aircraft in newly added areas.
Submarine operations would of course be critical to any type of military engagement in the South China Sea. The extensive flat water coastal areas around the islands in the South China Sea naturally complicate the use of deep-sea vessels in the region, possibly apart from Navy Littoral Combat Ships with a shallow draft. Submarines can therefore approach coastal regions closer, monitor and attack them, which brings a decisive tactical advantage. Surveillance aircraft could also help find underwater and surface drones that are likely to be used in the region for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions or attacks.
With all of this in mind, the United States has continued, as part of an appropriate countermeasure, to deploy Chinese patrols with its Poseidon P-8 surveillance aircraft in the South China Sea area. It takes little imagination to imagine how its advanced sensors, sonobuoys, and weapons could work as part of a curb strategy against Chinese expansion - and even act as a deterrent to China's growing fleet of Nuclear Armed Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN).
The scale of the Y-8's submarine defense technology may remain a mystery as it may or may not compete with the new, improved US P-8 Poseidon. In addition to ISR-enabled SSN attack submarines, the Poseidon appears to be well positioned to conduct the US SSBN sub-hunting mission for several reasons. Not only is the P-8 significantly faster than the P-3 Orion it is replacing, but thanks to its six additional fuel tanks, it can search vast areas of the ocean and spend more time patrolling high-threat areas. Navy developers state that the Poseidon can perform ten-hour missions up to twelve hundred nautical miles away. More dwell capacity, reinforced by high speeds, appears to position the Poseidon well to cover large areas in search of "hidden" Chinese SSBNs.
The P-8A, a militarized variant of the Boeing 737-800, includes torpedo and speargun weapon stations, 129 sonobuoys and an in-flight gas station that offers greater ranges, deep penetration while hunting and various attack options. Because a P-8 can carry out Sonobuoy under-hunting missions from higher altitudes than surface ships, helicopters or other low-flying aircraft, it can be operated with less risk from surface fire and swarming small boat attacks. Unlike many drones and other ISR objects, a Poseidon can not only find and track enemy submarines, but also attack and destroy them.
In addition to the AN / APY-10 surveillance radar and the electro-optical / infrared cameras of the MX series, which are optimized for scanning the sea surface, the Sonobuoys with air parachute of the Poseidon can find submarines at different depths below the surface. The surveillance aircraft can act as a "node" within a broader sub-hunting network consisting of surface ships, unmanned surface ships, drone-mounted maritime sensors and submarines. As part of his contribution to interconnected sub-hunting missions, the Poseidon has access to an active electronically scanned array, a synthetic aperture radar, and an indicator of ground movement targets.
By lowering hydrophones and a magnetic compass to a predetermined depth, which is connected by a cable to a radio transmitter with a floating surface, Poseidon-Sonobuoys, according to an issue of "Physics Welt."
Sonobuoys shipped by Poseidon can also contribute to the much-discussed "US Navy Fish Hook Undersea Defense Line," a seamless network of hydrophones, sensors, and strategically positioned assets that extends from coastal areas off northern China near the Philippines to Indonesia, according to an article the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled "China's Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines and Strategic Stability".
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for national interests. Osborn previously worked at the Pentagon as a highly qualified expert in the army's deputy secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist on national television channels. He has been a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a master's degree in comparative literature from Columbia University.
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