ASW Top PacFleet Priority
The new commander of the Pacific Fleet, ADM Gary Roughead, says that anti-submarine warfare is the fleet's top priority.
“If you want to be able to move freely” at sea “and have commerce flowing freely, you have to be able to overcome any submarine threat that exists,” Roughead told Stars and Stripes when visiting Japan last week.
"Some 250 non-U.S. subs are believed to be in the Asia-Pacific region alone, he said.
"The danger they represent and the means to track them has not changed much since the Cold War. But their numbers, capabilities and the countries now owning them means the U.S. Navy and allies must bolster their ability to find, track and, if needed, destroy them, he said.
"China has 70 submarines, the Heritage Foundation reported in March. North Korea has 76, the world’s fourth-largest sub fleet."
The Navy has been trying to improve their ASW capability for the last several years, after the post-Cold War de-prioritization of that mission of the 90s. One step that the Navy's made towards improving coordinated ASW was standing up the Fleet ASW Command in San Diego last year. They've got a lot of good people working over there, and I know that if it's possible to get the surface and aviation guys to hunt submarines smartly, they're the ones who can do it.
The thing is, our most likely conflicts involving submarines are going to be either with North Korea or China. With North Korea, the submarines we'll be fighting against are mostly old Romeo class boats using technology from the 40s and 50s (basically WWII Type XXI U-boats built by Russians and maintained by North Koreans -- not too fearsome). They've also got a bunch of Sang-o class mini-subs built for coastal infiltration; they mostly make the news when they wash up on South Korean shores.
As far as China goes, I'm a little bit out of touch with most of the right side of the blogosphere in believing that we're not going to be going to war with China for the foreseeable future. My thought is that the Chinese leaders are way too good at keeping power to do the one thing that might possibly cause them to lose power: start a war with the U.S. Anyway, Taiwan gives them a boogeyman to blame if their economic policies don't work out. If war does break out, though, we'll be going up against a few really, really loud nuke boats that can't stay submerged, a few good Kilos, a couple of indigenously-built Songs, and... a bunch of Romeos and Mings (Chinese-built Romeos).
Our surface and aviation forces can help fight these guys. It's only when you're dealing with nuclear boats (or really good diesel boats and crews) that you really need to just clear all the skimmers and airdales out of the way and let our subs take care of the problem.