As the United States works to remain relevant in that part of the world, it falls to the U.S. Navy to operate forward in the Western Pacific littorals. But as it does, it faces an increasingly robust A2/AD challenge in areas where it seeks to reassure friends and allies, especially along the eastern periphery of the Eurasian landmass. In many of these areas—the South China and East China seas, the Taiwan Strait, and others—U.S. interests increasingly collide with China’s. And as the U.S. Navy will most likely be forward in times of rising tensions, its undersea forces will be the ones that must contend with this threat.
A generation ago, when the most compelling threat to U.S. naval forces operating forward came from the superpower of that day—the Soviet Union—Navy carrier strike groups faced a daunting challenge from Soviet aircraft and antiship missiles. To counter this threat the U.S. Navy evolved an airborne constellation of aircraft and missile ships linked by a network to form an effective shield. That airborne constellation remains in place today and continues to cover Navy carrier strike groups.