Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Return of the Harpoon

The Navy is testing the return of Harpoon missiles to its attack submarines.

It is likely this is just a proxy to test systems for some future advanced missile rather than a true return of the Harpoon to the sub fleet.

That's good. You may recall my shock that we lost that capability long ago.

I thought I would have run across that fact, but a Harpoon-equipped sub fleet was a phantom capability that I assumed had continued. My error was enabled by the fact that ships still had Harpoon even as those ships declined as new construction left them out.

All that was a result of the Cold War victory when the Navy decided that carrier aircraft could take care of any surface fleet threat.

The rise of China's fleet and a partial revival of the Russian fleet has led the Navy to reverse the concentration of our offensive power in our few carriers and instead disperse ship-killing power throughout the fleet again.

And have no doubt, China's navy is expanding in numbers and ship sophistication. There is more to a navy than just that, of course despite their progress:

But the PLA-N still has a very long way to go before it reaches the necessary level of maturity to claim mastery of multidimensional operations in the contested environment of the open ocean.

Yet that is no reason for our Navy (and Air Force) to be complacent. If China continues to funnel resources to their fleet--and as a land power with land threats that historically hasn't maintained a fleet I don't assume that commitment can be made (The Soviet fleet was likewise an anomaly in Russian history that could not be maintained for long).

But with far more overseas trade by sea, China does have more reason to build a blue water fleet than the USSR had (or Russia has).

So yeah, our fleet needs anti-ship missiles to distribute ship-killing power throughout the Navy.