. . . While China has not embraced global sea power, it is moving from coastal defense to extending its naval reach into disputed water in order to protect regional trade routes. Of most concern, the Chinese military is exploiting information technology to greatly improve and extend its targeting of surface ships, especially U.S. aircraft carriers, with missiles, submarines, and cyber weapons.Okay, here's today's challenge: What are "more distributed, numerous, diverse, elusive, small, long-range, and hard-to-find naval strike forces?"
Defending U.S. ships against extended-range missiles and quiet submarines is difficult, expensive, and probably futile in the face of China’s accelerating, well-funded anti-naval build-up. With known technologies, neither ballistic missile defense nor anti-submarine warfare can keep pace with the offensive enhancements of such a large, capable, and resolute rival.
The U.S. Navy, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, is responding with “Air-Sea Battle” to counter China’s anti-naval and other anti-access capabilities by targeting its “kill chain” of sensors and weapons. While this is a worthwhile option, it could become vulnerable to Chinese cyber attack, might require the United States to strike first or preemptively, and could be escalatory, in that most targets are on Chinese territory. A better approach is to take full advantage of networking technology and shift toward more distributed, numerous, diverse, elusive, small, long-range, and hard-to-find naval strike forces, while also exploiting drones and cyber-war. Yet even more distributed and less visible U.S. forces may become targetable. Moreover, the U.S. Navy is unlikely to shift rapidly to such survivable sea power, given fiscal constraints and institutional-industrial inertia. Meanwhile, the vulnerability of U.S. sea power will increase, and regional stability could suffer.
Submarines, I would think.
Many more submarines.
Lots of smaller ships designed for operations in the straits and islands of WestPac.
More firepower in small packages.
Surface and semi-submersible drones.
Creative use of "mother ships" to support smaller vessel ops.
Exploiting the U.S. and its Allies' island chains.
Sooner is better than too late.