The U.S. Navy faces a growing submarine threat that it soon will be unable to match numerically. It is imperative that the service find an alternate approach. One solution is to use the U.S. Navy’s newly fielded P-8 Poseidon aircraft in tandem with the unmanned surface vessel Sea Hunter to prosecute submarines cheaply and with minimal manning.
A Numbers Problem
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is investing heavily in diesel submarines, which are cheaper to produce than the United States’ nuclear counterparts. Given the price disparity, the PLAN likely will be able to deploy more submarines than will the U.S. Navy in the event of a future conflict. Currently, the U.S. Navy expects to have just 42 attack submarines by 2028, while the PLAN is projected to have at least 70 by 2029.1 Exacerbating this situation is that U.S. submarines must patrol the globe while China is able to narrow its mission area to the Indo-Pacific.2