Tags: China | Threat | Grows | U.S. | Navy | Faces | Sub

As China Threat Grows, U.S. Navy Faces Sub Shortage

Friday, 27 April 2001 12:00 AM

The move makes General Dynamics the only sub builder in the U.S., giving it a monopoly on U.S. Navy contracts.

"I have been given assurances that there will be no layoffs for the foreseeable future and that, in fact, the merged company plans to continue hiring additional personnel," stated Sen. George Allen of Virginia, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I have had a chance to be briefed by both sides in this merger, and though I will watch with great interest as it moves forward, I am optimistic that this new partnership can be positive for the thousands of Virginia families who rely on these good-paying jobs, and for the strategic military interests of our nation."

"I also believe that having two nuclear-based shipbuilding facilities with the advantages of common ownership will be beneficial to our national security needs," noted Allen.

However, other defense analysts disagree with Allen's assessment of the proposed merger. One Capitol Hill national security advisor expressed concerns over the move, noting that it could result in higher prices and less capability for the U.S. Navy.

"The General Dynamics merger with Newport News underscores the need for America to re-energize our shipbuilding industry," stated Al Santoli, national security adviser to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

"A single contractor bidding on all U.S. Navy submarine contracts does not sound like good news for the Navy, American national security or the U.S. taxpayer. Our Navy is already at the forefront of our greatest security challenge of the 21st century. We are already spread way too thin."

To make matters worse, the German government indicated that it intends to block the sale of conventional submarines to Taiwan proposed by President Bush. The diesel-powered submarines cannot be manufactured in the United States because both American submarine builders, General Dynamics and Newport News, can construct only nuclear submarines.

"The German action to block submarine sales to Taiwan simply underscores the fact that we need to renew our domestic defense industry to meet our national security requirements," stated Santoli.

"The Germans requested our help recently in the Kosovo conflict. Now they are reluctant to help us when we need their assistance to stabilize Asia. This shows that we cannot depend on our allies to supply the needed equipment. We need an indigenous shipbuilding program, including conventional submarines.

"Many of our Asian allies need modern diesel-class submarines to defend themselves," noted Santoli.

"They simply cannot afford nuclear submarines. Taiwan has only four submarines, and two of those are World War II relics that should be floating museums. Communist China has dozens of advanced boats including nuclear attack submarines and new Russian-made Kilo submarines. They have frequently threatened to blockade Taiwan."

Ironically, Beijing officials echoed Santoli's statement, renewing Chinese threats to blockade Taiwan with submarines. In an open broadcast, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue hinted that China might consider a naval blockade of Taiwan or begin boarding all ships to search for weapons.

China has more than 60 submarines, including five Han-class nuclear attack boats. The Chinese navy is also planning to produce as many as a dozen more advanced nuclear attack submarines by the end of this decade. In addition, Russia also maintains a fleet of nearly 50 active submarines centered on a core force of 20 nuclear-powered Akula and Victor attack boats.

In comparison, the U.S. Navy maintains a force of 55 nuclear attack submarines but has no conventional submarines. The heavy expense of this all-nuclear fleet has forced the U.S Navy to cut back submarine production while increasing deployment.

The all-nuclear fleet also led U.S. defense contractors General Dynamics and Newport News to abandon production of non-nuclear submarines, forcing Taiwan to seek conventional-powered boats made in Germany and the Netherlands.

"The real shame is that we are not buying enough submarines to keep two shipyards economically healthy," stated Jack Spencer, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

"This presents a two-fold problem. First, we have an ever-decreasing defense industrial base, and second a shrinking submarine force structure. Both of these trends have devastating national security consequences.

"Without a healthy defense industrial complex, the United States will find it increasingly difficult to procure high-quality, reasonably price weapons. Also should the United States find itself in a war, it could have to produce weapons at a fast pace.

"As for the shrinking submarine force structure the bottom line is that the subs are a multi-mission capable, stealthy, fast weapon system," noted Spencer.

"It can deliver Tomahawk cruise missiles, collect reconnaissance, deliver special teams forces, and a multitude of other missions. The U.S. Navy is being asked to do all of these things but with fewer boats."

"We simply need more subs - now," concluded Spencer.

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The move makes General Dynamics the only sub builder in the U.S., giving it a monopoly on U.S. Navy contracts. I have been given assurances that there will be no layoffs for the foreseeable future and that, in fact, the merged company plans to continue hiring...
Friday, 27 April 2001 12:00 AM
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