Unexpected delays at major naval shipyards brought about by supply-chain problems and not enough employees have put almost 40% of Navy attack submarines out of commission, per a July 6 report received from the Congressional Research Service.
Typically, the Navy prefers that approximately 20% of its subs be in depot maintenance at any time, per the report. Eighteen of 49 nuclear-powered attack subs belonging to the Navy are classified as awaiting care or in depot maintenance, leaving the US at a disadvantage against China’s more extensive fleet.
China boasts the greatest Navy in the world with almost 340 vessels and subs, including its 125 major surface combatants, per a November 2022 report from the Department of Defense, US.
Video Credit: Straight Arrow News
Ronald O’Rourke, an experienced naval analyst, wrote the report that enhanced depot maintenance has substantially lowered the number of operational submarines, lowering the fleet’s capability for meeting day-to-day mission-specific demands.
Excluding 2021, when the Navy similarly had just 31 operationally ready attack subs, the service has not had so few operational subs since 2008, per the report.
In a statement, the Naval Sea Systems Command blamed material availability, planning, and shipyard execution, per Bloomberg. As of the end of June, 32% of its fleet, 16 submarines, were out of commission, per the command.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office stated that the Navy lost more than 10,000 operational days between 2008 and 2018 owing to delays getting out of and into shipyards.
US subs, which can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles and torpedoes, are perceived as a strategic advantage over China’s numerically superior Navy.
Submarines are one of those areas where the US retains its unchallenged superiority over China, Carl Schuster, the former director of operations at the Joint Intelligence Center of US Pacific Command, based in Hawaii and retired US Navy captain, informed CNN in April 2023.
This newly revealed backlog starkly contrasts the current governmental policy of projecting an increasingly visible display of force to Russia, China, and North Korea. For instance, repairs on the Seawolf-class USS Connecticut, which reportedly struck an underwater mountain in the South China Sea in 2021 (October), will not be complete until 2026, per Naval News.
Connecticut’s repair activities underscore the US Navy’s lack of repair surge capability, Diana Maurer, GAO’s Director of Defense Capabilities and Management, informed Bloomberg in June. That further raises questions regarding how the Navy would execute battle damage repairs in conflict situations.
After an April meeting between Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korean President, and President Joe Biden, the leaders agreed that the US would expand the “regular visibility of the country’s strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.
In June 2023, the US deployed its advanced, nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Michigan, to South Korea as part of the deal between the two nations.
Reference: Annistonstar, Bloomberg, The Messenger, Freebeacon
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