(From the National Interest)
The mighty American nuclear-powered attack submarine: they were, at least until very recently, supposed to be the secret sauce, the big stick that America and its allies would use against China or Russia if things got ugly—and for good reason. With both nations along with Iran and others developing anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities that make it tough for traditional power projection tools like aircraft carriers to patrol critical waterways in a crisis, stealthy American submarines seemed the best way to ensure tactical and strategic advantage—waging war below the waves of deadly A2/AD battle-networks. U.S. attack subs were even at one point the main ingredient for America’s main effort to turn A2/AD on its head, the always controversial and misunderstood Air-Sea Battle Concept.
But as all things, advantages that once seemed long-lasting can erode and decay over time. With advances in new ways to detect submarines that move far beyond simple acoustics and with China beginning to place critical sonar nets in places where U.S. submarines would surely sail in times of trouble, many have begun to worry that America’s technological sophisticated subs could become the “battleship” of the twenty-first century. Read more