With the end of the Soviet Union, it looked like there was no longer a significant threat from submarines. The Coast Guard, whose ASW assets were already largely obsolete, took the opportunity to simplify its training and maintenance requirements by eliminating what remained of the Coast Guard’s ASW capability. It made sense at the time, but times have changed.
The Emerging Threat
For the first time, with narcotics traffickers starting to use true submarines, it looks like an ASW capability is essential to do a peacetime mission. (The primary surface ship ASW sensor, the towed array, can also help us find semi-submersibles and possibly other targets as well.)
In addition, the threat of military submarines has reemerged. There are still relatively few nuclear submarines in the hands of possible adversaries (other than possibly Russia) but their numbers are growing, and new air independent submarine technologies are making diesel electric submarines deadlier then ever.
Why the Navy will need Help
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http://www.informationdissemination.net/ which has been providing excellent coverage of the crisis in Korea, also found a piece of particular interest to the Coast Guard in Der Spiegel (in English) recounting an interview with a man purported to have piloted vessels smuggling cocaine North for two years including semi-submersibles.
It makes interesting reading.
D. E. Reddick was good enough to point me to this site, which seems to have good information on various vessels that narcotics trafficers used or apparently intended to use to smuggle their product.
Some of the other pages on the site might also be interesting, particularly if you might be involved in harbor defense some day.
The reports of the Ecuadorian Police and DEA finding a true submarine, that is one capable of submerging, about 100 feet long, built to smuggle six to ten metric tons of Cocaine, appeared over the 4th of July weekend. If you missed the reports, they are here and here.
The existence of such a sub raises some interesting operational questions.
First of course, they are more difficult to find than even the semi-submersibles that have been used in the past, and the Coast Guard has essentially no capability to detect a fully submerged submarine.
But even if the submarine is detected, first you have to be sure it is a Narco sub and not one of the hundreds of other subs out there that belong to the over forty countries that operate subs. Then how do you stop it? How do you even signal it? Do you sink it? In international waters? You might not be able to maintain contact for very long, so it better not take too long to get a decision on use of force?
Would be very interesting to find out what the true capabilities of the sub would have been.
Time to stock up on percussion grenades?