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'Well-built machines of war' — Esper touts the US submarine fleet as a critical edge over Russia and China
GROTON, Conn. -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a month into the job, toured Electric Boat on Tuesday, including a walkthrough of the Navy's newest attack submarine, USS South Dakota, which is undergoing a major upgrade to make the already stealthy submarine even quieter in response to continued advancement by China and Russia in their undersea fleets.
Esper's focus of late has been on China, which is increasingly staking a claim in the Indo-Pacific region, and which recently tested multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles. He told a crowd at the Naval War College in Newport earlier in the day that the Pentagon is looking at ways to increase its presence in the region.
SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a large, newly built submarine, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, potentially signaling continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.
Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems of the submarine that was built under "his special attention", and will be operational in the waters off the east coast, KCNA said.
It said the submarine's operational deployment was near.
"The operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in national defense of our country bounded on its east and west by sea," Kim said.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Fourteen Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out while their deep-water research submarine was carrying out a survey of the sea floor near the Arctic, the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday.
A Russian media outlet, RBC, cited an unnamed military source as saying the submarine was nuclear-powered, but Russian officials made no comment on the type of vessel involved.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deepening Chinese activities in the Arctic region could pave the way for a strengthened military presence, including the deployment of submarines to act as deterrents against nuclear attack, the Pentagon said in a report released on Thursday.
The assessment is included in the U.S. military's annual report to Congress on China's armed forces and follows Beijing's publication of its first official Arctic policy white paper in June.
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Recent visitors to the bay surrounding a submarine base on the southern coast of China's Hainan Island describe a curious nocturnal phenomenon. Powerful spotlights are sometimes trained directly on the ocean frontages of neighboring hotels at night, making visibility out to sea virtually impossible. Some of the lights are mounted on land and others on passing naval patrol boats.
"The effect is incredible," said one recent visitor. "The glare is so great you can hardly stand it on the balcony. You go inside and draw the curtains tight."
The blinding lights cannot obscure something of intense interest to the world's military intelligence agencies: evidence that China has made a breakthrough in its drive to rival America and Russia as a nuclear arms power.
Satellite imagery reveals the regular presence of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines at the strategic base near the resort city of Sanya. Specialized surface warships and aircraft designed to protect the subs are prowling key waterways off the coast. Facilities at the base appear to have been built to store and load ballistic missiles. Antenna arrays that support the hunt for foreign submarines have appeared on Chinese-held islands in the hotly contested South China Sea. And a veteran submariner has been appointed to command Chinese forces in the south of the country.
Taken together, this means China has a force of missile submarines that can launch nuclear attacks from beneath the waves and now appear to be heading out on patrols, according to serving and retired naval officers, diplomats and security analysts. That gives Beijing something it has until recently lacked: a more reliable "second strike" capability if its land-based nuclear arsenal comes under attack.
An investigation is underway to determine why a barge capsized two months ago at the U.S. Navy's stealth submarine research facility at Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho.