Every once in a while, something appears in open sources that lets you know there’s a lot more going on with the Navy’s fleet of attack submarines than the sea service publicly discloses. A case in point: on July 29 Brian Fung and Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post produced an article about how U.S. subs are being used to hack the undersea cables of other countries. The story reported that the Navy conducts hundreds of “computer network exploitations” every week. (SIBC editor’s note – Read the Washington Post article here)
Some of these exploits are probably accomplished using mast-mounted antennas on subs rather than cable intercepts, because atmospheric conditions along coastlines often bend radio signals so they can be collected and analyzed hundreds of miles from their point of origin. Either way, the inherent stealth of submarines permits intelligence-gathering near places like North Korea and Russia that would not be feasible using satellites or aircraft.
When you combine that with the better-known ability of attack submarines to monitor the movement of hostile warships on the ocean’s surface and beneath the seas, it is clear that they are uniquely valuable reconnaissance assets. And that’s not all — they also are equipped to conduct anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare; to defeat or deploy mines in maritime chokepoints; to conduct strikes against targets ashore; and to insert or recover special operations forces. So their covertness enables remarkable versatility in peacetime and wartime.
However, a crisis is fast approaching for the undersea fleet, because lagging modernization of naval assets is conspiring to drive the number of attack subs far below the minimum number the Navy says it must have to meet the requirements of national strategy.
Read the full article here.