The latest report on American and Chinese submarines has thrown a wrench into the battle beneath the waves. According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s technological advancements have made their submarines increasingly elusive, posing a potential threat to American dominance in the deep blue sea.
The Journal’s analysis suggests that the days of unrivaled U.S. supremacy in the waters surrounding China could be numbered. It’s a wake-up call that has rattled former Navy officer Christopher Carlson, who warns that the U.S. will need to rev up its efforts by deploying more aircraft and submarines to keep pace with China’s underwater capabilities.
While the report acknowledges that the individual prowess of China’s submarine fleet may not stack up against that of the U.S., the sheer volume of Chinese submarines being churned out is cause for concern. With China ramping up its production while the U.S. grapples with the struggle to match that pace, the scales are tipping in an unfavorable direction.
In a sea of challenges, the U.S. military has voiced the need for 66 nuclear-powered attack submarines to fulfill its global commitments. However, with only 49 submarines currently in operation out of a fleet of 67, the Navy is facing an uphill battle to reach its target by a far-off 2049. Meanwhile, China, with its six nuclear-powered attack submarines, could potentially outstrip the U.S. threefold in annual submarine production once they settle on a prototype.
The Pentagon’s forecast points to China amassing 80 ballistic missile and attack submarines by 2035. Gen. Anthony Cotton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, has underscored the threat posed by China’s ballistic missile submarines, which have the capability to strike targets on the U.S. mainland while remaining in close proximity to China.
— Connee Holcomb (@ConneeHolcomb) November 21, 2023
Adding to the mix, China has fortified its ability to detect underwater intruders with what it terms the “Underwater Great Wall,” featuring upgraded sensors along its coast and in the South China Sea. This sophisticated network has diminished the element of surprise, bolstered by China’s adeptness in deploying aircraft and helicopters for submarine tracking.
The Journal’s report highlights the integral role played by American submarines in simulated scenarios of a potential Taiwan conflict. Yet, the erosion of superiority over China raises the specter of a shift in strategy, with a potential necessity for U.S. submarines to focus on defense rather than offense in the face of potential invasion threats.
As tensions simmer, Brent Sadler of the Heritage Foundation forewarns of a scenario where China unleashes its submarines east of Taiwan to stalk U.S. counterparts. He cautions that as China’s might burgeons and demands on American forces mount, the likelihood of a showdown amplifies, with U.S. submarines finding themselves in greater demand across the wider Pacific.
The Defense Department’s observation that China commands the world’s largest navy, comprising 370 ships and submarines, further underscores the perilous landscape that confronts the U.S. in the maritime realm.
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