With the ever increasing threat of war with North Korea, the rise of Chinese territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and unrest throughout the region, much of the world’s focus has now turned to the Asia-Pacific region.
These developments, together with the proliferation of submarine capability across the region in recent years, has also meant that Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) skills, which have arguably atrophied since the end of the Cold War, are now being relearned – or afforded more importance – by western powers.
The 2016 Australian Defence White Paper, for example, predicts that more than half of the world’s submarines will be operating in the (wider) Indo-Pacific region in the next two decades.
However, the ASW game has changed considerably since NATO and allied naval forces hunted Soviet submarines (and vice versa) in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the height of the Cold War. Submarine technology has advanced to the point where both nuclear and diesel-powered boats are much quieter, new stand-off weapons have been introduced, and the background noise of the ocean itself is ever increasing.
This evolution has resulted in many of the old sensors and tactics becoming less effective – and a new, much more holistic way of hunting and defeating the submarine threat has had to be devised.
The submarine threat
According to senior NATO sources it is estimated that 90 per cent of world trade is carried out by commercial shipping, a figure known to many analysts. The same sources estimate that 97 per cent of all data that flows from and to the United Kingdom does so via undersea cable.