Encounter of Indian Submarine with Chinese Warships off Somalia

by OldSailor on February 5, 2009

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Chinese news papers on February 03/04 reported that Chinese warships on piracy patrol off Somalia were stalked by an Indian attack submarine on January 15  China_India_submarine_encounternear the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, at the western end of the Gulf of Aden. Neither India nor China has officially confirmed or denied the reports.

Some of the interesting features of the Chinese news report are:

  • The Chinese destroyers after picking up an unidentified submarine on their sonar, soon identified it as a 70 metre long vessel armed with 20 torpedoes.
  • The description of the detected submarine matched with the Kilo class submarine belonging to the Indian Navy.
  • The submarine tried to jam the Chinese warships’ sonar system and further tried to evade the Chinese warships by diving deeper. But the Chinese warships continued the chase. kilo_class
  • The Chinese ships sent an anti-submarine helicopter to track the submarine and at some point of time, the Chinese commander even ordered the helicopter to have its anti-submarine torpedoes ready.
  • But the two destroyers finally cornered the submarine and forced it to surface. Tension prevailed on both the sides for at least half an hour.
  • Then the Indian submarine left the area without further confrontation.
  • Further, reports say that the submarine had been
    • trailing the Chinese ships since they had entered the Indian Ocean on the way to Somalia.
    • the Indian submarine is believed to have been collecting electronic signals and sonar data from the Chinese warships as such information would be crucial in naval conflicts.

In response to this, the Indian news papers on February 04 have reported that

  • India keeps track of warships transiting near Indian waters through maritime reconnaissance aircrafts, surface vessels and submarines.
  • No Indian submarine surfaced in that area.
  • No vessel can force a submarine to surface in international waters.Wuhan_DDG_169

To understand better, we need to recollect that

  • Two Chinese destroyers (Wuhan DDG-169, Haikou DDG-171) and a supply ship Weishanhu (pennant number 887) left Sanya port of China’s southernmost island province of Hainan on December 26, 2008 on anti piracy mission to Somalia.
  • All three warships belong to the South China Sea Fleet, headquartered in Zhanjiang of Guangdong Province.
  • Wuhan (DDG-169)
    • is a multi-purpose missile destroyer of Type 052B.
    • was built by Jiangnan Shipyard of Shanghai in 2002.
    • has a displacement of 7,000 tonnes.
    • is equipped with 16 anti-ship missiles, 48 surface-to-air missiles, close-in weapons system and a helicopter.
    • has maximum speed of 30 knots.Haikou_DDG_171
  • Haikou (DDG-171)
    • is the latest destroyer of Type 052C destroyers.
    • was built by Jiangnan Shipyard in2003.
    • is equipped with China’s first generation of phased-array radar and a vertically launched long-range air defence missile system.
    • has a displacement of nearly 7,000 tonnes.
    • has maximum speed of 30 knots.
  • The supply ship, Weishanhu (pennant number 887)
    • is of the Navy’s Qiandaohu class.
    • was launched by Huangpu Shipyard in Guangzhou in 2003 and was commissioned in 2004.
    • is designed to have round-the-clock supply capacity.
    • has a displacement of 23,000 tonnes.Weishanhu_887
    • has maximum speed of 19 knots.
    • has eight 37 mm guns.
  • The Chinese naval ships entered the Indian Ocean on December 30, 2008.
  • The Chinese naval ships arrived on January 06 in the waters of the Gulf of Aden off Somalia to carry out the first escort mission against pirates.

Now by going through the Chinese news reports, the following doubts come up:

  • Identity of the submarine:
    • though it is identified as Kilo class submarine, the nationality is not confirmed.
    • the number of Kilo class Project 877EKM submarines of Russia are used by India (10), China (4), Iran (3), Algeria (2), Poland (1), Romania (1).
    • the submarine being referred can belong to any other country also.kilo_class_877
    • by going through the location reported, Iran is more closer to Bab Al-Mandab Strait.
  • Why two weeks to identify the submarine ?
    • reports say that the submarine was trailing the Chinese ships since they had entered the Indian Ocean on the way to Somalia.
    • the Chinese warships entered the Indian Ocean on December 30.
    • the Chinese warships forced the submarine to surface only on January 15 near the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, at the western end of the Gulf of Aden.
    • it is surprising to know that, it took two weeks for the Chinese warships to force the submarine to surface and identify.
  • What other Indian Navy ships in that area were doing ?
    • During the second week of January, Information Dissemination reports that the following Indian Navy ships were in the area on anti piracy mission.
      • INS Mysore (D60)
      • INS Beas (F24)
      • INS Tabar (F44)
      • INS Ganga (F22)
    • If an Indian submarine is involved as reported, then other Indian Navy ships in the area would have reached the scene. But no reports on this account are available.

It appears that the Chinese news reports are incorrect.

Read more about Kilo class submarines 877EKM, from Naval Technology.

The Chinese news report is at Chinese Military News Blog.

The Indian news reports are at Hindustan Times.

Post in MarineBuzz on this day a year before:

No Clear Picture on How Undersea Internet Cables were Cut

Update: February 09

As expected, news reports now say that reports of a standoff between Chinese warships and an Indian submarine in the Gulf of Aden were false. Read more from South China Morning Post and The Times of India.

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