The Navy’s Next Attack Submarine Will Be Big, Expensive

Getty ImagesPaul Hennessy

The service will transition back from multi-mission subs to more capable, deeper diving hunter-killers.

By Kyle Mizokami

Oct 23, 2018

The U.S. Navy is designing a big, powerful attack submarine to fight the wars of the future. The new class will be considerably larger and more capable than the current Virginia class, with an emphasis on undersea combat. The new sub, SSN(X) will be a quiet, deep diving, heavily armed submarine meant to take on all comers in the mid 21st century.

Traditionally, the U.S. Navy’s nuclear attack submarine (SSN) fleet was given the mission of chasing down enemy surface fleets and attack submarines. This hunter-killer role required a submarine to locate enemy ships, stalk them, and then unleash a deadly ambush with missiles and torpedoes. This necessitated nuclear propulsion, a deep diving capability, powerful sonar, and long range guided weapons. This resulted in today’s Seawolf class. The three Seawolf submarines weigh 9,138 tons submerged, practically fly underwater at 35 knots, are equipped with eight torpedo tubes, and can dive to 2,000 feet.

Attack submarine USS Topeka taking on torpedoes at Guam.
U.S. Navy

The U.S. built only three Seawolf submarines from the late 1990s to early 2000s. Although the most advanced submarines ever built, the implosion of the Soviet Navy at the end of the Cold War effectively left them without an adversary. The projected cost was $33 billion for just 12 submarines. The Navy truncated the program to just 3 subs, each of which cost $4.4 billion each, and turned its attention to developing the smaller, more versatile, more affordable Virginia class. The Virginia boats have just four torpedo tubes and are limited to a depth of just 800 feet, but they are better suited to supporting a broader mission set, including intelligence collection and deploying Navy SEALs.

USNI News reports that the Navy is in the conceptual stages of a true successor to the Seawolf class, SSN(X). The rise of the Chinese Navy and the slow return of Russia’s submarine forces mean that the Navy must prepare for clashes with numerous and technologically advanced enemy fleets.

Kazan, an improved Yasen-class nuclear powered cruise missile submarine, March 2017.
Getty ImagesAlexander Ryumin

Like the Seawolf class, SSN(X) will be large and a deep diver. Diving depth is particularly important given Russia’s new apocalypse torpedo, Poseidon, has a claimed operating depth of 3,128 feet. Designed to vaporize coastal cities and military facilities with up to a 100 megaton warhead, an incoming Poseidon torpedo would have to be stopped at all costs. In addition, Russia’s new Yasen-class cruise missile submarines have an estimated maximum depth of 2,000 feet.

According to USNI News the submarine will also shift back to torpedoes as its primary armament. While the Virginia class has fewer torpedo tubes and carries Tomahawk cruise missiles for striking targets on land, SSN(X) will mount more torpedoes and torpedo tubes for attacking ships above and below the waves. The new sub could also incorporate unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) for missions such as baiting enemy ships into a trap or providing terminal guidance for guided torpedoes while SSN(X) sneaks away.

SSN(X) will likely begin construction in the 2030s, after the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines are completed. The Congressional Budget Office estimates each submarine will cost $5.5 billion.

Source: USNI News

This Blog’s Source: Popular Mechanics “The Navy’s Next Attack Submarine Will Be Big, Expensive”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Wait Till China Has Developed Capabilities to Attack US Homeland!

Washington Free Beacon’s article “China Rapidly Building Advanced Arms for Use Against U.S.” shows that the US is scared by China’s rapid military modernization, but the writer of the article knows well that so far China has only been developing weapons to resist US attack at Chinese homeland. I said in my book “Space Era Strategy” that it is no enough. China cannot prevent US attack until it has developed weapons to attack US homeland.

I foresee that such weapons are aerospace bombers China is developing (Popular Science regards them as space aircrafts and says China will begin their maiden flights by 2030). I call such weapons China’s conventional deterrence like China’s nuclear deterrence based on its second-strike capabilities.

Peace will be secured only when there is military balance. The US has to hurry up in developing its military but there will only be a balance between two instead the military hegemony of one hegemon. Or perhaps there will only be one hegemon but not the US as the US seems to keep on declining?

The following is the full text of Washington Free Beacon’s article:

China Rapidly Building Advanced Arms for Use Against U.S.

Space weapons, drones using artificial intelligence priority in Beijing military buildup

BY: Bill Gertz
May 11, 2018 5:00 am

China is rapidly building space weapons and other advanced arms infused with artificial intelligence capabilities as part of Beijing’s bid for military dominance, according to a congressionally sponsored study.

Anti-satellite missiles and orbiting killer satellites, swarms of attack drones, hypersonic missiles, maneuvering warheads, lasers, and high-speed rail guns are key systems China is fielding in the coming years in a bid to leap ahead of the U.S. military supremacy.

“All of China’s advanced weapons systems are moving forward at ‘full speed’ and are all seen as ‘priorities given [China’s] overarching emphasis on finding a vulnerability in the U.S. armor,'” the report warns, quoting a 2013 Chinese military strategy.

The advanced weapons are part of a shift in Beijing’s military focus from deploying high-technology “informatized” weapons to “intelligentized” arms—revolutionary capabilities boosted by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the report said.

The study examined five advanced arms being developed by China: space weapons, unmanned vehicles, maneuverable missile warheads, directed energy weapons, and electromagnetic railguns.

“Past history and existing potential point fairly clearly to the likelihood that these systems will become a feature of the strategic landscape in a decade. Or less,” states the report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report was produced by five analysts for the defense contractor Jane’s IHS Markit and made public Thursday.

Publication of the congressional report comes as the Trump administration has undertaken a strategic shift that recognizes China as one of the major nation state threats facing the United States.

The advanced weapons systems will destabilize the Asia-Pacific region by upsetting alliances as China seeks to control the area and will increase the danger of regional conflicts.

The report also concludes the United States is falling behind China in the development of advanced weapons and will have to hurry to avoid being overtaken.

“The United States has a small window, only a decade at most, to develop new capabilities and concepts for countering China’s advanced weapons programs,” the report said.

According to the report, China’s space warfare efforts are currently the highest priority. China has demonstrated all components of its weaponry. They include direct ascent anti-satellite missiles, lasers, and high-powered microwave guns and other beam weapons, weaponized orbiting satellites, and cyber anti-satellite capabilities.

Other Chinese space warfare support systems include a hyper-spectral imaging satellite designed to detect stealth aircraft and a quantum satellite for secure communications.

The strategic competition between China and the United States, from Beijing’s view, is designed to counter what China perceives as regional efforts to “contain” Chinese hegemony, the report said.

“China views its role as capitalizing on the opportunities presented by globalization and the informatization of society to propel itself forward economically, socially, and technologically,” the report said.

A key capability the Chinese military is pursuing is artificial intelligence—the fusing of masses of data with high-speed computing to produce weapons capable of reacting very quickly without human intervention.

“Artificial intelligence stands out as an especially powerful catalyst of the development of ‘gamechanging’ military capabilities,” the report said. “China recognizes that AI will transform warfare.”

AI weapons will greatly help intelligence operators to know the strategic and operational environment, spot patterns and imminent threats, and track enemies very rapidly.

Pilots and vehicle drivers also will be relieved by AI systems in mundane tasks of interpreting data streams allowing greater focus on missions of flying or driving.

“Drone swarms, autonomous (or semi-autonomous) munitions and cognitive electronic warfare systems all pose new challenges to even the most technologically advanced militaries,” the report said.

China’s development of quantum computing and encryption also will hamper military intelligence collection, a key advantage of the U.S. military.

Quantum computing involves the use of emerging technology known as quantum bits that operate differently than digital electronics based on electronic transistors.

Quantum computers are expected to be extremely powerful and will assist in the use of AI for both military and civilian purposes.

Chinese advanced manufacturing and materials, robotics, and cloud computing also “are improving China’s military capabilities as well as the proficiency of China’s industry to design and build more advanced capabilities,” the report said.

Among the potent asymmetric weapons China is expected to deploy in the future are large numbers of AI-managed swarm or cluster deployments of unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles and hypersonic glide vehicles.

Hypersonic vehicles are launched atop ballistic missiles or from aircraft and travel at speeds of 7,000 miles per hour or greater, making them difficult to counter with air or missile defenses.

China’s drone weapons are progressing quickly and its defense industry is shifting from copying western drones to developing indigenous systems. Air, land and underwater drones are being developed.

Its maneuverable strategic arms include warheads capable of changing course to avoid defenses and a hypersonic glide vehicle that has been tested seven times since 2014.

Directed energy arms are primarily for use against satellites, and development of Chinese electromagnetic rail guns has progressed slower than other advanced arms.

The study urges the United States to fortify a “quadrilateral” alliance in Asia to counter China, with key allies Japan, Australia, and India.

“The appropriate response must gather these overlapping interests and bundle them to American and allied advantage, notably via deliberate plans to understand and counter China’s destabilizing moves,” the report said.

“China does not stand ten feet tall. It remains vulnerable to internal stresses and discord. Adversaries can play on China’s anxieties and phobias.”

Utilizing limitation agreements and playing on Russian fears of China also should be exploited by the United States.

For example, because China’s hypersonic missiles are destabilizing strategic weapons that will be deployed in the not too distant future, the study urges the Pentagon to build hypersonic weapons.

“Given the progress in China’s hypersonic research, and an expectation of future production and deployment by late in the next decade, the United States and its technologically competent defense partners, have little choice but to regain superiority in hypersonic glide vehicle capability,” the report said.

Countering hypersonic missiles also should be stepped up, including the use of electro-magnetic rail guns that fired non-explosive projectiles at high speeds and more advanced missile defenses.

The study recommended improving U.S. intelligence capabilities by gaging China’s comparative strengths and vulnerabilities with that of the United States to create strategies to maintain U.S. military superiority.

The report makes several references to an authoritative 2013 Chinese military report called “The Science of Military Strategy.”

The strategy says the threat of a large-scale ground invasion is minimal but that the major threat will be an attack from the Pacific.

“The most severe war threat is a large-scale strategic sudden attack launched by a strong adversary, which aims at destroying our war potential to force us to surrender,” the strategy says. “The most probable war threat is a limited military conflict from the sea. The war we need to prepare for, particularly given the background of nuclear deterrence, is a large-scale and highly intensive local war from the sea.”

China is stepping up efforts to steal or buy foreign technologies related to artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

Other targets include the Internet of Things, virtual reality and augmented reality, smart sensors, 3D and 4D printing, robotics and unmanned systems, smart materials, quantum computing and encryption, semiconductors and energy capture, and storage technologies.

China Shrewdly Diverted Military Spending as City’s Island Building

The large airport on China’s artificial island on Yongshu Reef (Fiery Cross Reef).

In my post “Why China Can Win in Its Arms Race with the US?” on January 16, 2016, I said:

In the arms race between China and the US, China is the sure winner because China relies on its enterprises including state-owned and private ones for the development and production of advanced weapons. Those enterprises do not live on the country. They have to make money through their own sales. Only when their products meet the country’s needs in its arms race with the US can they sell their products to the state. Even so, they can only make normal profits. Often they cannot sufficiently recover their R&D costs by their sales to the state alone and have to make ends meet through their sales to other customers or of other products.

A typical example is Chinese state-owned aircraft producer’s development of J-31 stealth fighter jet on its own without government funding.

In the US however, weapon developers and producers live on their country. They are ensured not only recovery in full their R&D costs but also a substantial profit in developing and producing weapons for their country.

That is why China can win even though its military budget is much smaller than the US.

In addition, state owned enterprises (SOEs) may be ordered to provide military hardware at very low prices with little profit. That is no problem for the state as after all the profit belongs to the state. However, the burdens on military budget are shifted on SOEs so that the military can get hardware with a much smaller budget.

The above are shrewd ways to make do in its arms race with the US with a much smaller military budget than the US. However, the shrewdest way to divert military spending to civil one is China’s treatment of the construction of artificial islands for defense against US submarines as a civilian project for fishery, fish farming, energy exploitation and tourism.

China’s military budget will be far from enough if the huge costs of island building are included in the budget. However, China has justified reasons to do so as the islands will indeed be used as fishery, fish farming and energy exploitation bases and tourist resorts. China has indeed been building the islands as parts of its prefecture-level Sansha City for civilian purposes as it claims though first of all for military purpose.

Everybody is clear that the islands have been built for defense, but cannot deny their civilian usage. That upsets US military especially profoundly as China is now able to fully control the South China Sea if those islands have been militarized. US military can do nothing except sending warships to conduct freedom of navigation operations, but that gives China the excuse to militarize the islands as it wishes.

Article by Chan Kai Yee

Undoubtedly China Is Conducting Arms Race with US

Whatever the defense budget that China has made public, China is conducting an arms race with the US. There is no doubt whatsoever about that.

We shall judge by what China is doing instead of what it is saying. Good relations with the US are very important for China’s economy as the US is China’s major trade partner. China certainly is not so stupid as to upset the US by declaring that it is conducting arms race with the US.

However, judging by China’s great efforts in developing top weapons such as hypersonic glide vehicles, scramjet engine, stealth fighter jets, etc., China is certainly conducting an arms race with the US in order to have the capabilities to defend itself against US attack.

In fact, if China had not developed such advanced weapons as aircraft killer ballistic and cruise missile and fleet of Type 022 stealth fast missile boats that can remain undetected by radar, sight and sound until they come close to their target, the US would have driven Chinese land reclamation ships away to stop China’s construction of artificial islands.

I had a post titled “Chinese Military’s Unlimited Budget” on March 10 as comment on SCMP’s report on March 9, 2017 titled “Is China avoiding arms race with US by setting ‘low-key’ defence budget?’.

In the report, SCMP quotes Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie as saying that the 7 per cent increase (in defense budget), which is the smallest annual increase since 2000, showed that ‘Beijing wants to clarify a long-standing misunderstanding’ at home and overseas that the PLA is in an arms race with the US.

Misunderstanding? No, not misunderstanding but reality. Li himself says, “The US wants to be the global police, but China just takes care of its peripheral security environment”. That determines that there is bound to be an arms race between them.

Being global police, the US wants to impose the Hague arbitration award on China to deprive it of all its historical right and interests in the South China Sea. That certainly damages China’s peripheral security environment that China has to take care of. China has to enhance its military capabilities to deal with the issue.

Therefore the misunderstanding at home and overseas is not about the existence of the arms race, which is a reality, but about China’s goal in its arms race with the US.

Previously the Soviet Union incurred heavy burden in conducting an arms race with the US for world hegemony, which perhaps caused its collapse. Since Soviet collapse, the US has been the sole hegemon in the world. However, in order to maintain its hegemony, it has become heavily in debts. Will China repeat Soviet and US failures? Chinese leaders are simply not so stupid. Their goals are to make all Chinese people moderately well-off by 2021 and turn China into a developed nation by 2049.

Therefore, China’s goal is entirely different from that of the US in conducting arms race with the US. The US wants to maintain its world hegemony while China only wants to grow strong enough militarily to deter US attack.

The situation is a little similar to the fairy tale of Snow White. Uncle Sam asks a mirror everyday who is the strongest in the world while Snow White’s step-mother asks who is the prettiest. When the step-mother learns that Snow White is prettier, she uses a poisoned apple to remove her, but when Uncle Sam hears that China will be stronger, he has no poisoned apple. Even if he has one, he is unable to make China eat it. He has first try to use aircraft carriers, then attack submarines and finally to spend billions of dollars to develop B-21 bombers to attack China.

For the US it is an arms race to get more advanced weapons to attack China while for China it is an arms race to develop weapons to resist US more advanced weapons of attack.

It is as stupid as Snow White’s step-mother, but China cannot help that.

Further comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at

Exclusive: Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea – sources

By Nobuhiro Kubo | TOKYO Fri Feb 17, 2017 | 6:25am EST

Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China, three people with knowledge of the plan said.

Japan previously was building one 5,000-ton class destroyer a year, but will now make two 3,000-ton class ships a year, beginning from the April 2018 fiscal year, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media.
It aims to produce a fleet of eight of the new class of smaller, cheaper vessels, which may also have mine-sweeping and anti-submarine capability.

Naval shipyard operators including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United Corp (JMU) and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding are expected to bid for the work, the people said.

Japan and China dispute ownership of a group of islands in the East China Sea, about 220 km (140 miles) northeast of Taiwan. In Japan, they are known as the Senkakus, while China calls them the Diaoyu islands.

Senior Japanese military officials have said they are concerned that China may seek to increase its influence in the East China Sea around Japan’s southern Okinawa island chain. Japan provides military aid to Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines and Vietnam that oppose China’s territorial claims in the neighboring South China Sea.


In a departure from normal procurement practice, Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a report published on Wednesday it will require the winner of the – eight frigate – contract to offer major portions of the build to other bidders.

The change is meant to ensure naval shipyards remain open.

In the past two years, JMU has won contracts to build the larger Aegis-equipped destroyers, raising some concern among defense ministry officials that rivals could shutter their shipyards, one of the sources said.

“We need to ensure our ability to build naval vessels at home,” the person said.

The new ships will cost 40-50 billion yen ($353-$443 million) each, another of the sources said.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea – sources”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Motherland-lover v. Money-lover in Arms Race

With much smaller military budget than the US, China is able to develop weapons rival to and even better than US.


Chinese weapon developers are motherland lovers. They begin development of weapons they think useful for national defense with their own funds before asking for the government for funding.

That is why J-31 stealth fighter jets is being developed even when the government has decided to develop J-21 only. Development of a stealth fighter is very expensive, but J-31’s developer is willing to do so with its own funds.

The developer hopes the military will buy J-31 so that it can recover the costs, but it cannot be sure about that. Anyway, it wants to strengthen China’s national defense and believe that J-31 will be useful as long as it is successfully developed.

Some speculates that J-31 will grab quite a big market share from US F-35 and thus enable the developer to make big money. In that respect, the developer’s goal, again, is to benefit China in making money for the growth of China’s weapon industry and reduce the profit of the weapon producer of a potential enemy.

Whatever the developer’s goal, it is patriotic.

That is what a big weapon player has been doing.

There are lots of Chinese firms and organizations enthusiastic in developing unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles (UAV and UUV) for military purpose without government funding. That is why China is able to catch up with and surpass the US in UAVs and UUVs.

China is making big money in exporting UAVs so that other countries are helping Chinese patriots with funds in developing UAVs.

China’s weapon developers are motherland-lovers. A patriot is willing to sacrifice even his life for his motherland. He certainly is willing to take financial risk in developing weapons for his country. Experience tells us those who are willing to take great risk may make great money. That seems the case with Chinese weapon developers.

In the US, however, the military has first to ask Congress for funds before telling US weapon developers to develop weapons as US weapon developers are money-lovers instead of motherland-lovers.

They usually do not take initiative in developing weapons but wait passively for government funding. Sometimes, they do have some initiative in developing new weapons but only for the goal of attracting government funds for the development and production to enable them to make big money. As soon as it is clear that the government is utterly not interested, they give up no matter how good the weapons will be in strengthening US military.

If the situation remains so, there is no hope for the US to win its arms race with China.

Article by Chan Kai Yee.

China Needs Only Weapons for Active Defense Not All US Weapons

US B61-12 smart nuclear bomb. SCMP photo

US B61-12 smart nuclear bomb. SCMP photo

SCMP says in its report “United States’ first ‘smart’ nuclear bomb signals new arms race with China and Russia: analysts” yesterday that China may intensify its arms race with the US in developing such nuclear bombs. It warns China that if China follows the example of the Soviet Union in conducting arms race with the US, it may also be bankrupt and collapse.

I have described China’s arms race with the US for quite a long time but not stressed that China’s arms race with the US is quite different from the Soviet Union.

China’s arms race is to obtain equal or better military capabilities to resist US attack instead of seeking world hegemony like the Soviet Union.

China needs but the capabilities: 1. to resist US attack from near it; 2. to prevent its trade lifeline from being cut by the US; and 3. the conventional deterrence to utterly prevent US attack.

With the above focuses, China may win the arms race with much less spending.

China has developed sufficient air force, navy and anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles to prevent attack by US aircraft carrier battle groups and built artificial islands in the South China Sea to deter US submarine attack from the South China Sea. When it has satisfactorily developed its J-20 fighter jet to grab air supremacy from US stealth fighters, it will have achieved capabilities 1.

Its One Belt, One Road initiative, if has succeeded, will ensure its trade lifelines to its west. It can ensure its trade lifelines to its east by building 2 to 3 float artificial island battle groups, each consisting of two conventional aircraft carriers and a number of conventional submarines. That will not cost too much as the islands may bring income from tourism, fishery and fish farming and even from exploitation of mineral and energy resources from sea bottom. That is for capabilities 2 while the float artificial battle group may also constitute capabilities 3 with the ability to attack US homeland if the US attacks China.

One float artificial island battle group will not cost more than one sophisticated US aircraft carrier and two US attack nuclear submarines.

The third and most expensive and complicated is the development of aerospace bombers capable to bomb US homeland within a couple of hours. The aerospace bomber project at maximum will not cost more than US B-21 project.

As for other US weapons such as the expensive B61-12 “smart” nuclear bombs why shall China need them?

They are useful for the US to achieve world hegemony, but useless for China’s active defense. For active defense, submarine launched or aerospace bomber-fired precision cruise missiles can do the job satisfactorily without the smart bombs. The ability of such weapons to cause destruction to US homeland is quite enough to prevent US conventional attack of Chinese homeland.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP report, full text of which can be viewed at