A recent report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that China’s technological advancements are causing American superiority in the underwater warfare domain to erode. The report highlights Chinese submarines becoming increasingly difficult to detect as their technology improves, specifically in sniffing out enemy submarines. The Journal concludes that the age of unchallenged U.S. dominance under the seas around China is coming to an end. Christopher Carlson, a former Navy officer, acknowledges this shift and emphasizes the need for the U.S. and its Pacific allies to keep up by deploying more aircraft and submarines.
While the report acknowledges that, in terms of individual capability, China’s submarine fleet may not match that of the U.S., the production rates of Chinese submarines have been steadily increasing. In contrast, the U.S. is facing challenges in meeting its military requirements, particularly regarding nuclear-powered attack submarines. The military aims to have 66 such submarines to fulfill global obligations but currently possesses only 49 out of the desired 67. Even with the best construction progress, the Navy is not expected to hit that goal until 2049. In the meantime, China has already manufactured six nuclear-powered attack submarines and has the potential to produce three times as many per year as the U.S. once a prototype is finalized.
US Loses Military Dominance Over China in Key Area – 'Profound' Implications Predicted https://t.co/AxM5bNrvWW
— Lore Johns (@lore_johns) November 20, 2023
According to a Pentagon report, China is projected to possess 80 ballistic missile and attack submarines by 2035. Gen. Anthony Cotton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, has expressed concerns over China’s ballistic missile submarines, which hold the capability of striking U.S. mainland targets without leaving the vicinity of China. Moreover, China has been enhancing its ability to detect submarines, partly through an initiative known as the “Underwater Great Wall.” Upgraded sensors along the Chinese coast and in the South China Sea contribute to reducing the element of surprise. China’s integration of aircraft and helicopters in submarine hunting operations further adds to their improved capabilities.
The Journal report also notes the significant role of American submarines in simulations of potential attacks on Taiwan. However, if U.S. superiority in these simulations no longer exists, they might need to shift their focus to self-defense rather than attacking potential invading ships. Brent Sadler, a former submarine officer and senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, believes that China’s growing strength, along with increased demands on America’s forces, raises the likelihood of a confrontation. He asserts that the U.S. submarine force will be in greater demand than ever across the wider Pacific, with diminishing advantages over its main adversary.
The Defense Department highlights that China currently possesses the world’s largest navy, totaling 370 ships and submarines. These developments suggest that China poses a significant threat to U.S. national security in the underwater domain, necessitating a reassessment of American military strategies and capabilities. With the erosion of American superiority and the continuous advancements made by China, it is crucial for the U.S. to remain vigilant and adapt to the changing dynamics of underwater warfare in order to maintain its strategic position.