Needed to Defend Taiwan.

Washington’s ability to deter or counter the threat to Taiwan is challenged by China’s growing military advantage, driven by industrial strength, ongoing military buildup, and geographical proximity to the island. The central concern is a potential Chinese amphibious assault on Taiwan, which, if successful, would establish China as the dominant military power in the Western Pacific.

The narrow Taiwan Strait, measuring only 80 miles at its narrowest point, poses a significant challenge. Chinese sensor networks closely monitor maritime and airborne traffic, making U.S. surface warships and aircraft vulnerable to attacks. While U.S. submarines are considered crucial for Taiwan’s defence, their limited numbers compared to local Chinese forces raise concerns about their effectiveness.

A potential solution involves U.S. submarines launching canisters with low-cost, unmanned drones to create a mesh network for surveillance and targeting of key Chinese assets. By deploying drones with reasonable endurance from half of the launch tubes on each Virginia-class sub, continuous surveillance of the Taiwan Strait during an amphibious assault could be maintained. Unmanned submersibles with similar capabilities could complement the manned submarine force.

These “attainable” (expendable) systems, equipped with high-frequency communication links, could resist Chinese electronic jamming. Their affordability and expendable nature make them a cost-effective option compared to Chinese countermeasures. Large-scale deployment would ensure a self-healing mesh network, transmitting precise information about high-priority targets to various users.

Companies like Sparton Corporation, a subsidiary of Elbit America, are exploring relevant technology. The concept aligns with RAND Corporation’s 2020 report on operating low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in contested environments. While these preparations aim to deter conflict, the use of attainable payloads launched from attack subs offers a concept with few counters if conflict arises.

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