Kicking Down the Door: Ohio-Class Subs vs. China’s A2/AD

ASIA TIMES — How best could the United States metaphorically “kick down” the anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) “door” of a near-peer adversary during a conflict? This has been an idée fixe for American defense planners during recent years, in view of the rising A2/AD capabilities of strategic competitors such as China. There seem to be no clear answers to this question.

What is quite unanimous, however, in the defense community is that the relatively short striking reach of America’s naval crown jewels—its large-deck aircraft carriers—means that they would have to operate well within the enemy’s A2/AD envelope, rendering the flattops vulnerable to attack. As such, they are unlikely to partake significantly in “first day(s) of war” operations, that is, to be involved in the opening kicks on the adversarial A2/AD door when enemy defenses are at their strongest.

That said, the U.S. possesses two deep-strike capabilities that stand a much better chance of circumventing the access-denial barrier: Air Force stealth bombers, and the navy’s Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAMs), which is deployed on cruisers, destroyers and submarines. And with regard to the Tomahawk-armed naval platforms, the Ohio-class nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine (SSGN) is undoubtedly the most potent in terms of TLAM capacity, as well as being the most survivable, owing to its extremely low observability. Hence with its stealth and firepower, the Ohio SSGN is arguably the ideal counter–A2/AD naval platform in the U.S. arsenal.

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