The Chinese Navy is already larger than the US Navy and is on track to reach up to 500 ships by 2030, not even counting its militarized Coast Guard ships. This means that the US Navy could find itself too dispersed in the event that the Chinese maritime forces concentrated in the Pacific organize some kind of offensive or aggressive military action.
The US Navy places a high priority on forward operations in vital hot spots around the world, and while the Pentagon has increased its number of naval assets in the Pacific, its forces are dispersed. worldwide to include the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Perhaps because of its vast size and global reach, the US Navy could find itself outnumbered and armed in certain areas concentrated by a larger Chinese naval force if conflict erupted in the Pacific.
The Navy’s new tri-service maritime warfare strategy, called Advantage at sea: prevail with integrated naval power in all areas“, Entertains and seeks to counter this risk by maintaining” advanced and credible forces in combat “to” dissuade potential adversaries from degenerating into conflict by making this fight impossible for them to win “.
Are there any circumstances in which an adversary might think he could launch a “winnable” fight in a particular area given the absence of a large-scale naval force of heavy warships? This may partly explain why, at least at the end of last year, the Navy still envisioned a Navy of five hundred ships as a goal or a goal to strive for. This would include a significant mix of manned and unmanned ships capable of dispersing while being networked effectively and relying on sensors and long-range weapons to execute any type of war operations required.
However, will the Navy maintain its plan to expand to five hundred ships or more as quickly as possible to keep pace with China’s intention to reach that number within a decade? Perhaps the Biden administration will adjust the aiming point to a smaller size as it did during the Obama years. If so, could the Navy find itself too dispersed to respond effectively in the event that more concentrated enemy forces move decisively to launch large-scale attacks or gain control of an area?
the Three-service strategy says that while China has well-known expansionary global ambitions, the PLA’s navy forces are highly concentrated in the Pacific, a circumstance that poses the risk that US forces will be vastly outnumbered in any kind of maritime engagement.
However, if properly reinforced by a large multidomain network of meshed combat nodes such as surveillance aircraft, submarines, aerial, surface and submarine drones, a smaller and more dispersed US naval force could it succeed in dissuading or stopping any type of Chinese offensive in the Pacific? There may be some arguments to be made when you consider that the range of arms, networking capabilities, and multi-domain operational capabilities could potentially compensate for having a numerically smaller force. Perhaps weapon effectiveness and the ability to instantly share targeting details with fighter jets, surface ships, drones, submarines, or even ground weapons along a coastline could be much more decisive in war than just having a certain number of ships?
“As the existing elements of our force structure continue to provide credible combat power and strategic deterrence, increased integration will allow us to do more with the forces we already have,” the strategy concludes.
Kris Osborn is the editor of Defense for the National Interest. Osborn previously served in the Pentagon as a highly trained expert in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air presenter and military specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.