Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chinese sub Threat

Sources: Navy was tracking Chinese sub

By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 21, 2009 8:11:19 EDT

Two defense officials have confirmed that the crew aboard the destroyer John S. McCain was tracking the submarine that struck its towed sonar array June 10 in the South China Sea off the Philippines.

The officials, who are familiar with the incident but were not authorized to speak on the subject, confirmed the array, which trailed up to a mile behind the ship, was hit by a Chinese navy submarine, although it was not sighted on the surface. Days after the incident, Chinese officials acknowledged that the submarine was theirs.

The McCain crew was able to retrieve the sonar array, which was damaged, although it’s not clear whether it was retrieved intact, the defense officials said. A mishap investigation is ongoing.

The destroyer, based in Yokosuka, Japan, pulled into port in Sasebo after the incident but soon went back to sea.

The officials would not specify whether the submarine was an attack boat or a ballistic-missile sub, and they were unsure of the time of the incident, which occurred in “international waters” south of Subic Bay.

The Associated Press reported that the collision took place 144 miles from Subic Bay, potentially placing it in the Mindoro Strait.

The collision has been described as “inadvertent” by defense officials.

Beyond that, little has been revealed about the circumstances.

The Navy by practice does not discuss operations that could reveal force capabilities, but observers have been looking for answers in this case because of the proximity of the submarine to a U.S. warship. Towed sonar arrays are dragged on a cable about a mile long, with the sensors placed toward the end of the line to avoid absorbing sound from the host ship.

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