China Is Building a ‘Undersea Great Wall’ To Take on America in a War

30-Oct-2019 Intellasia | NationalInterest | 6:02 AM Print This Post

As defense analysts brood over the evolving military balance in the western Pacific, considerations related to undersea warfare keep coming to the fore. Given the lethality of modern anti-ship cruise missiles, surface combatants of all types may well be scarce on the future naval battlefield. Moreover, precision strikes on airbases (and the inherent vulnerability of aircraft carriers) suggest that aerial platforms could additionally be rather sparse during the first few critical weeks of any military conflict that breaks out in the Asia-Pacific region. That leaves submarines (assisted by undersea robots) to decide the epic battle.

Western strategists have been reasonably comfortable with this conclusion, safe in the knowledge that Washington possesses a very considerable undersea advantage over Beijing. That advantage includes acoustic superiority, larger and more capable boats, and a wealth of experience both in operating submarines and in developing undersea warfare-technology innovations. However, this column has occasionally drawn attention to caveats in the assumption of US undersea superiority, including China’s robust mine-warfare posture, its broad front effort to improve its antisubmarine capabilities, as well as possible attempts to experiment with alternative submarine doctrines. That is not to even mention the fact that the US Navy fleet of nuclear attack submarines is now declining to a perilous low of just forty-one boats by 2029a “valley” in US naval capabilities that is widely noted in Chinese military sources.

This edition of Dragon Eye seeks to sketch out the undersea warfare competition in the western Pacific in slightly greater detail, by discussing a new Chinese-language article about China’s new “undersea Great Wall” that appeared in a late 2015 edition of China Ocean News. The article presents a rather complete discussion of China’s new “undersea monitoring system”. Making clear the national-security imperative for developing this system, the article begins with the suggestion that China’s maritime security situation has become “significantly complicated.” In particular, it is pointed out that in the undersea domain, China’s “doors have been left wide open”. China’s methods for tracking undersea targets are said to have been “weak.”

Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that the article does not rely on the military rationale alone to justify this ambitious research and development enterprise. A paragraph is devoted to the many nonmilitary applications of such a system, that include providing advanced warning of natural disasters, such as typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis. Thus, the undersea monitoring system is explained as an important way to “reduce social and economic costs” to China’s massive coastal population. Another rationale offered for the system is that all the other major maritime powers are involved in similar research projects, including Canada, the United States, Japan and the European Union. These systems under development by other countries have civilian research objectives “and at the same time have military goals too”.

 (The Nation)

(The Nation)



Category: China

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