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The Chilean navy's Carrera, a diesel-electric submarine, has arrived for a training mission with the 3rd Fleet in San Diego, Navy Times reports.

The latest generation of diesel-electric subs, with their unusual stealthiness and relatively low price have become troublesome for U.S. defense planners. As smaller countries acquire more of them, safe access for U.S. ships to world coastal areas and the high seas could be jeopardized, the Pentagon argues.

"Once they have powered up their batteries, the submarines can sail to the bottom of coastal waters and remain undetected for days," says an account in National Defense Magazine.

"Though they can’t travel long distances or sail very quickly, advancements in technologies, such as air-independent propulsion and fuel cells, have allowed diesel submarines to extend their operational ranges underwater.

"But perhaps their best selling point is their relatively inexpensive price tags. The Russians have sold diesel submarines for as little as $200 million and the French have exported their Scorpene submarines for $300 million."

"China’s new Song-class diesel submarines have tracked U.S. Navy ships operating in the seas near Japan and Taiwan. Last November, after China denied the USS Kitty Hawk’s port call in Hong Kong at the last minute, a Chinese submarine shadowed the carrier as it entered the Taiwan Straits on its return voyage to Yokosuka, Japan.

"In the late fall of 2006, a Song-class submarine surfaced within torpedo range of the Kitty Hawk* off the coast of Okinawa, Japan."

According to the account in Navy Times, the current San Diego visit will allow the U.S. to "train its submarine crews as well as surface ships, patrol squadrons and other units to hunt and operate with the foreign subs."

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