For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy finds itself challenged to keep pace with emerging Russian and Chinese submarines. Enemy Submarines are the single most dangerous threat to U.S. aircraft carriers and America’s surface fleet.
In an article written by Dave Majumdar of The National Interest, he discusses the U.S. Navy’s forty-eight boat requirement and what needs to be done to raise that number to mitigate the risk.
Enemy submarines remain the single most dangerous threat to the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers and its surface fleet at large. However the service is working on improving its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities as the once-dormant Russian undersea force reemerges and China grows its fleet.
While anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles often capture the lion’s share of the attention, submarines armed with Russian-made 533mm and 650mm waking-homing torpedoes are among the only threats that can actually sink an aircraft carrier. “A torpedo properly placed under the right part of the keel is one of the few things that can actually flatout sink an aircraft carrier,” retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security told The National Interest.
The U.S. Navy’s top leadership agrees—submarines remain the single greatest threat to the carrier and the surface fleet. “That’s not new news,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told The National Interest on Aug. 25 during an interview in his office in the Pentagon. “The submarine is a very asymmetric weapon. By virtue of its continued ability to stay hidden… It’s immune from a lot of those detection systems, which is the first step in any kind of a weapon engagement—you got to detect.”
Richardson said that the U.S. Navy is focusing more on ASW with a combination of air, sea and undersea forces. One way to ensure the safety of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet is to ensure that the service’s attack submarine (SSN) force remains dominant in the undersea realm. “We spend a lot of time on that dynamic,” said Richardson, who spent most of his long naval career onboard nuclear-powered submarines. “One is for our own submarines, we want to make sure they can get into those really influential places and stay there—and part of staying there is being stealthy enough to remain hidden and keep that undersea superiority we have.”
But increasingly, for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy finds itself challenged under the waves. “There is an awful lot of competition for that space,” Richardson said. “So we can’t get complacent, we can’t rest on our laurels for one minute, otherwise that window will close and we’ll find—that they’re achieved parity undersea. So we’ve got to continue to push and also to develop our own anti-submarine warfare systems—which is an area of really big emphasis.”
The U.S. Navy currently has about fifty-two attack submarines in its fleet against a requirement for forty-eight boats. However, even with fifty-two boats, the service is struggling to meet the demands of combatant commanders in the North Atlantic and the Pacific as the Russian and Chinese fleets ramp up their activities. But the problem is that the SSN force is set to shrink to forty-one by 2029.
Read more here.