The current issue of The Diplomat magazine includes an interesting take on the future of submarine warfare -- large submarines with a host of new electronic systems, unmanned vehicles and weapons -- akin to an undersea aircraft carrier:
The U.S. Navy’s dominant position in undersea warfare can no longer be taken for granted. “Emerging technologies present a serious challenge in that they may empower development of potential rival undersea forces and erode the stealth of U.S. submarines,” concludes a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). The report, entitled “The Emerging Era in Undersea Warfare,” lays out the rapid changes occurring in the technological realm and how they will affect future combat under waters.
While the report’s author, Bryan Clark, notes that the United States will have the opportunity to be the “first mover” and establish itself as a leader in this emerging new field within undersea warfare, he also unequivocally points out that the U.S. Navy will have to give up its current undersea warfare concepts due to the “vulnerability of today’s principal undersea platform, the manned submarine.” The U.S. must develop “a new family of undersea vehicles,” Clark argues
He singles out the rapid increasing in computer processing — big data –to be one of the biggest game changers (e.g., in helping to run sophisticated oceanographic models) and permeating all aspects of a new form of undersea warfare. He cites three technological advancements in particular:
New ASW capabilities to find and attack undersea platforms;
Undersea platform improvements that will enhance their endurance and stealth; and
New undersea weapon, sensor and communications systems.
From an operational point of view, the report notes that “manned submarines will likely need to shift from being frontline tactical platforms like aircraft to being host and coordination platforms like aircraft carriers.” This would be a big change from how large portions of the U.S. submarine fleet are used today. The aircraft carrier comparison would also imply that future submarines would need to be bigger than today’s Virginia-class submarines, in order to accommodate a host of new systems, as well as an array of unmanned vehicles and weapons.