United States Submarine Import and Export Behavior

Imports

The United States does not import submarines.

Exports

The United States does not export nuclear-powered submarines nor does it operate, produce, or export diesel-powered submarines. [1] U.S. shipbuilder Litton Ingalls (now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding) built the U.S. Navy's last conventional submarine in 1959. If required, the United States does possess sophisticated diesel-electric submarine designs that can be used for future production. [2]

The U.S. Navy has long opposed the export of diesel-electric submarines, as it is concerned about the effect of submarine technology proliferation on the ability of its forces to operate securely in coastal waters around the world. In 1992, the U.S. Congress approved domestic production of conventional submarines after a surge in international sales of diesel-electric vessels. [3] In response, the Navy submitted a report to Congress stating, "Construction of diesel submarines for export in U.S. shipyards would not support the U.S. submarine shipbuilding base and could encourage future development and operation of diesel submarines to the detriment of our own forces." [4] Despite the navy's objections, however, the U.S. government approved the construction of two diesel-electric submarines for Egypt. [5] In 2001, Egypt signed a letter of intent with Litton Ingalls for Moray-class submarines designed by the Dutch company RDM, but to be constructed at the Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. [6] However, the deal never came to fruition. [7] Naval representatives did not want export submarines to be produced at the same yard as advanced nuclear submarines due to the risk of inadvertent technology transfer.

In 2001, Taiwan became another potential customer for U.S.-made submarines after Congress approved an arms package that included eight diesel-electric submarines. [8] Because the U.S. did not produce conventional submarines, government officials considered contracting with HDW of Germany or RDM of the Netherlands; however, both European governments declined to have their technology sold to Taiwan. [9] Instead, the U.S. decided to help Taiwan build the vessels through a contract with a U.S. shipbuilder such as Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, or Raytheon. [10] However, the U.S. Navy feared that producing diesel-electric submarines in the United States would negatively impact the nuclear submarine industry. [11] So while publicly supporting the deal, the U.S. Navy raised the submarine purchase price to $12 billion dollars and refused to allow Taiwanese participation in the design or construction, making the deal unattractive to Taiwan. [12] It was this high price, coupled with Chinese opposition, that ultimately led to the exclusion of submarines from the package. [13] In January 2010, the Obama administration announced a U.S.-Taiwan arms deal totaling $6.4 billion that did not include any diesel-electric submarines. [14]

Sources:
[1] "Submarine FAQs," Chief of Naval Operations: Submarine Warfare Division, www.navy.mil.
[2] Danielle Revelle and Lora Lumpe, "Third World Submarines," Scientific American, August 1994, p. 16-21.
[3] Danielle Revelle and Lora Lumpe, "Third World Submarines," Scientific American, August 1994, p. 16-21.
[4] Shirley A. Kan, "Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990," CRS Report for Congress RL 30957, 21 May 2012, www.fas.org.
[5] Danielle Revelle and Lora Lumpe, "Third World Submarines," Scientific American, August 1994, p. 16-21.
[6] Vago Muradian, "Litton Team Works Egyptian Diesel Sub Deal with DoD's Blessing," Defense Daily International, 20 October 2000, www.lexisnexis.com; Pamela Hess, "Ingalls May Build Submarines for Taiwan," United Press International, 24 April 2001, www.lexisnexis.com.
[7] "Submarine Forces (Egypt)," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, 21 January 2011, https://articles.janes.com.
[8] "Wade Boese, "Bush Approves Major Arms Deal to Taiwan, Defers to Aegis Sale," Arms Control Association, May 2001, www.armscontrol.org; Edward Cody, "Politics Puts Hold on Taiwan Arms Purchase," Washington Post, 10 October 2004, www.washingtonpost.com.
[9] Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, "US DOD: DoD News Briefing – Part 1 of 2," M2 Presswire, 25 April 2001, www.lexisnexis.com; Anton La Guardia and Hannah Cleaver, "Europeans Vow to Stop America Selling Submarines," The Daily Telegraph, 26 April 2001, www.lexisnexis.com.
[10] Shirley A. Kan, "Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990," CRS Report for Congress RL 30957, 21 May 2012, www.fas.org; "US Seeks Help to Deliver Taiwan Submarine Promise: Jane's," Agence France Presse, 19 November 2001, www.lexisnexis.com.
[11] Wendell Minnick, "Taiwan Claims U.S. Navy is Sabotaging SSK Plans," Jane's Defence Weekly, 15 February 2006, www.lexisnexis.com; Megan Scully, "Navy Works Stall Submarine Deal with Taiwan," Government Executive, 6 April 2006, www.govexec.com.
[12] Megan Scully, "Navy Works Stall Submarine Deal with Taiwan," Government Executive, 6 April 2006, www.govexec.com.
[13] Edward Cody, "Politics Puts Hold on Taiwan Arms Purchase," Washington Post, 10 October 2004, www.washingtonpost.com; Michael Ashby and Jeff Abramson, "U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deal Angers China," Arms Control Today, March 2010.
[14] Michael Ashby and Jeff Abramson, "U.S.-Taiwan Arms Deal Angers China," Arms Control Today, March 2010.

August 9, 2012
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The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2018.