Yesterday, the USS Missouri, a Virginia class submarine, was commissioned. (The previous USS Missouri was a battleship on which the Japanese signed an Act of Unconditional Surrender.)
Opponents of a strong defense, including Bob Gates (whose wife served as the ship’s sponsor), claim that America is now facing only irregular threats, and that against these threats, submarines are useless.
But they are wrong: America is facing numerous conventional threats (including two peer competitors, China and Russia), and submarines are usable against the entire spectrum of threats facing the US – nuclear, conventional and irregular threats alike.
According to the official website of the USN:
“Missouri is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions in both the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters.”
Virginia class submarines (like their Seawolf class peers) can launch UAVs and deploy Navy SEALs, as well as gather intelligence data. So they’re good anti-terrorist weapons.
I agree with Secretary Mabus, who
“reminded the crew of the versatility of their future missions.
“It may take you underneath the Arctic ice or the warm waters of the Indian Ocean,” said Mabus.
Secretary Mabus also stressed the importance of the savings of the construction program, citing the submarine’s early completion and delivery ahead of schedule.”
Indeed, the submarine’s completion and delivery ahead of schedule proved that the Virginia class submarine program is a well-functioning program which deserves additional funds.
Other government officials have also stated that the USS Missouri was a worthy investment indeed:
“Other speakers included Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, who noted Missouri “will deliver an outstanding return on the nation’s investment.”
Missouri will directly enable five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.
Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was the keynote speaker.
“There is none better,” said Skelton, referring to the submarine. “This amazing submarine and the other submarines of this class are vital to our national security. The simple reason is contained in one word: stealth.””
Of course – the Virginia class submarines are extremely quiet (on par with Russian Improved Akula class and Syevyerodvinsk class submarines), and together with their Seawolf class peers, they’re the quietest submarines ever operated by the USN. Indeed, rather than develop an entirely new SSBN type, the DOD should develop a derivative of the Virginia class of attack submarines.
The Virginia class program is the best investment ever made by the US.
Nonetheless, additional Virginia class submarines are absolutely necessary to fend off the Chinese threat and the Russian threat, because the US military is no longer the strongest military in the world.
Bob Gates has falsely claimed that America has more nuclear-propelled submarines than the rest of the world combined. His claim is demonstrably false.
America currently has 52 nuclear-propelled attack submarines (most of which are slated to retire by 2025), 4 SSGNs and 14 SSBNs, a total of 70 nuclear-propelled subs.
China has 10 nuclear propelled subs (and is building additional ones), including 3 SSBNs. Russia has 5 SSGNs, 18 SSBNs (including 3 Typhoon class boats), 4 Sierra class SSNs, 4 Victor class SSNs, and 13 Akula class (Shchuka class) submarines. This is a total of 54 nuclear submarines. On top of that, France has 10 such boats (4 SSBNs and 6 SSNs), and Britain has 11 (4 SSBNs and 7 SSNs, including one Swiftsure class submarine and 6 Trafalgar class submarines). That’s a total of 75 nuclear submarines, 5 submarines more than America has. Moreover, because the USN operates no conventional submarines, these 4 countries combined have more nuclear submarines than the USN has submarines of all kinds.
Moreover, we shall not ignore the fact that conventional submarines can compensate for a lack of nuclear submarines, and can be as quiet as their nuclear counterparts. China has 1 conventional ballistic missile submarines and 47 conventional hunter submarines, including 24 extremely quiet AIP-equipped submarines of the Yuan class, the Song class and the Kilo class, which the USN is utterly unable to detect. In 2008, a Song class submarine stalked an American aircraft carrier battle group, which was unable to detect it until it surfaced. And when it surfaced, it was close enough to sink the carrier.
The Russian Navy possesses 17 Kilo class submarines.
Altogether, the Chinese submarine fleet consists of 58 boats of various kinds, and China is building additional boats to equal the USN in terms of numbers. Together with the Russian submarine armada, the Chinese undersea fleet vastly outnumbers the submarine fleet of the USN.