Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Submarines About to Become Obsolete


In his well-written February 14, 2015 article, Are Submarines About to Become Obsolete?, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Center for the National Interest Harry J. Kazianis tries to make this case:
America and others have "sunk" trillions of dollars into advanced submarines. They could simply become the next battleship.
What would happen if U.S. nuclear attack submarines—some of the most sophisticated and expensive American weapons of war—suddenly became obsolete? Imagine a scenario where these important systems became the hunted instead of the hunter, or just as technologically backward as the massive battleships of years past. ... If advances in big data and new detection methods fuse with the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) ambitions of nations like China and Russia, naval planners around the world might have to go back to the drawing board. 
So what can Washington do to mitigate the problem? While presenting a number of solutions, one alluded to by CSBA’s Clark seems quite genius: essentially turning submarines into underwater aircraft carriers that would carry drone-like underwater unmanned vehicles or UUVs.
While some of Kazianis's arguments and the solution he terms genius may appear cogent, he seems to discount the inherent handiness of subs in favor of the widely hypthesized myth of a push-button war of the future. Interested readers will want to delve into his 2 pages linked above.  


Unspecified: The timetable the author references by "About to become".  

Short of nuclear fussilade exchanges, there is scant practicality in robotized (push-botton) wars popularized in many sci-fi novels.  The elements persistently overlooked by Kazianis are stealth dominance, and the superiority of weapons and crew proficiency.  

The fictitious element being over-emphasized (fusion of big data and new [submarine] detection methods), entails constantly variable underwater conditions automatically overcome in visible and RF spectrums available above sea level:
  • Accurate identification of multiple targets and decoys
  • Timely feedback on multiple target position, course and speed data
  • Dynamic prioritization of multiple threats and coordinated situation analysis 
Surely, the above details could be left to powerful computers programmed to DoD specs by contractors and tested in postulated "war game" scenarios suitable for Xbox-war games. In reality the complexity is multivariate, subject to unknowns and changing parameters for turbidity, salinity, temperature, espionage, defects, malfunctioning equipment, etc.  

A  better strategy, until U.S. subs actually become vulnerable to unwitting detection may be to nudge potential enemies to place their confidence and spend their rubles on impractical electronic "solutions" to hypothesized problems while DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) continues to refine stealth and swarms of decoys to confound adversaries. Hmmm!

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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