Western knowledge of nonnuclear-powered submarines—growing in capability and desirability among Third World nations—is limited. Some insight into diesel sub operations and tactics might help Western navies in potential future conflicts.
During the Gulf War, modem sensors showed a remarkable capability to detect and keep track of small mobile platforms. Published photos from the joint surveillance target attack radar system scopes, showing Iraqi vehicles fleeing Kuwait City, have been studied all over the world. The conclusion must be the same for any regional power: If you are facing even a major regional power, it is no longer possible to hide on the surface or in the air. The only hiding place left is below the surface.
Today, 21 so-called Third World countries operate a fleet of 110 submarines. The number has declined somewhat in the past five years because of the scrapping of older boats, but what the figures do not show is the increase in quality that has taken place at the same time. Many of the old conventional submarines have been replaced by modem, much more capable boats.