Submarine and Autonomous Vessel Proliferation; Implications for Future Strategic Stability at Sea
Moltz, James Clay
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"Conventional wisdom from the late Cold War onward suggests that the U.S. submarine force is virtually invulnerable to attack, particularly since the demise of the Soviet Union. U.S. nuclear force planning and a range of other Navy long-range procurement plans assume the safety of future SSBN [Ballistic Missile Submarine] and SSN [Nuclear Attack Submarine] operations and the relative absence of threats. This scoping study tests and challenges these assumptions by examining international trends in the proliferation of submarines and autonomous vessel technology. It begins by observing that undersea strategic stability during the Cold War relied on specific factors that may not be present in the future. The study then surveys the range of new countries and capabilities emerging in the 21st century undersea environment. It concludes by suggesting that undersea warfare is going to pose serious new challenges to the U.S. Navy, possibly putting its sea-based leg of the triad at risk as the number of operational boats declines, while also observing that overseas SSN operations will be complicated by changing conditions and ASW [Anti-Submarine Warfare] developments. Finally, Moltz offers several possible remedies: 1) revision of currently laissez-faire U.S. policies in the area of submarine export controls; 2) revised procurement and basing policies in regard to U.S. SSBNs to reduce emerging vulnerabilities; and 3) reconsideration of diesel/AIP [Air-Independent Propulsion] boats as a supplement to U.S. SSN forces for enhanced ASW and for conducting certain domestic and overseas missions better suited to smaller, less costly, less vulnerable, and more nimble vessels."
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