The Defense Commission of the Danish parliament yesterday conducted a hearing on the question of whether Denmark should reintroduce submarines and sea mines in the naval arsenal. Both were phased out in 2005 but especially the importance of submarines has been a question of intense debate ever since.
Rear admiral Nils Wang, commandant of the Danish Defence College, made some headlines in local newspapers with a statement from the hearing that an investment in submarines would be “a flagrant waste of money”. Wang’s argument was that a military conflict in the Baltic area would encompass a Russian invasion of the Baltic states and a subsequent Russian defensive posture in the Eastern part of the Baltic basin. Denmark would thus find itself in a position where the navy must play the offensive role in a mission to escort troops to the Baltic states under the support of allied forces counting several carrier strike groups located in the North Sea. In this scenario Wang primarily sees a need for area air defense, land attack strike missiles, a range of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets, and mine counter measures (MCM). However, Wang does not see a role for submarines in this scenario as, supposedly, they do not give any particular advantage in ASW in littoral areas.
Commodore Ulrich Reineke of the German Navy begged to disagree with his Danish colleague, saying that Germany finds submarines crucial for ASW and has good experiences with coordinated use of aircraft, surface units, and submarines for ASW in the Baltic. Reineke also stressed the important role for submarines in intelligence collection and operations with special forces. The disagreement also seemed to cover basic assumptions about the nature of the operations as the German point of view was that the regional powers must be prepared to manage a conflict in the Baltic Sea without external support from allies.
Naval historians Hans Christian Bjerg and Søren Nørby also argued in favor of a reintroduction of submarines into Denmark’s Navy.
It’s hard to say what the politicians took away from the hearing as there clearly wasn’t consensus among the called-upon specialists. At present it is certain, however, that there isn’t a political majority in favor of Danish submarines, and it is likely that public support has also dropped a bit as Wang’s point about submarines as a waste of money took most of the attention in the media.