An Anduril Industries graphic of the Extra Large Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, or XL-AUV. (Anduril)

For Survivable Resupply, Look to Autonomous Submarines

Conventional wisdom says it would be over quickly: China would bring overwhelming military power to bear against Taiwan, and the island would quickly capitulate. But wars are unpredictable things; they seldom go as planned. The possibility of a protracted Taiwan fight – like the kind Ukraine is waging now – should not be overlooked.

And in such a scenario, the logistics of resupplying the isolated island – especially its potential insurgents – would be vital to restoring the status quo. What’s more, a credible capability to deliver sustained food, aid, and weapons could well complicate Beijing’s decision calculus enough to deter an attempted invasion in the first place.

U.S. defense planners should place a high premium on innovative solutions for doing just that, especially as present resupply challenges do not inspire confidence. The Philippines, for example, is currently facing extreme difficulties resupplying its far-flung outposts due to Chinese interference in an ostensibly peacetime environment. With China’s land-based missiles able to sink surface ships 4,000 kilometers out to sea, with its land-based fighters significantly outnumbering U.S. and allied aircraft, it is imperative to think outside the kill box and reassess the potential roles played by submarines.

Beyond their traditional use in naval power projection and intelligence gathering, submarines offer a far more survivable means for delivering sustained vital supply lines to isolated islands, whether Taiwan, U.S. bases, or other partners.

A little discussed history shows this to be the case, but it’s recent developments in autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that could prove the point well enough to make a difference now. War creates extreme necessity amongst combatants, and as all know, necessity is the mother of invention.

Read the rest at C4ISRNET.

Bill Rivers is a Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

Matt DiRisio is a logistics officer in the U.S. Army and previously served as an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Military Academy.

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