26 April 2017
The Navy can only meet half of the requirements for attack submarines from U.S. Pacific Command, according to a top military officer.
The attack submarine force is among the weapon platform shortfalls U.S. forces face in the Pacific, according to PACOM chief Adm. Harry Harris.
"Our submarine numbers are low and getting smaller," Harris said during an April 26 House Armed Services Committee hearing on threats in the Pacific region. "The number of submarines, without going into precise detail here, the Navy can only meet about 50 percent of my stated requirement for attack submarines."
The shortfall has deepened since last February, when Harris told Senate authorizers the Navy could meet just 62 percent of his attack submarine requirements in the Pacific.
Harris said this week that the problem is projected to worsen, as the attack submarine force is expected to dip from 52 boats today to 42 submarines in the late 2020s. The admiral said he supports the Navy's recent force structure assessment, which delineates a requirement for 66 attack submarines.
Meanwhile, Harris' written testimony states 230 of the world's foreign submarines are operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, including 160 belonging to China, Russia and North Korea. Harris noted that U.S. attack submarines are vastly superior to any other country's.
Harris also said PACOM requires more small diameter bombs, as some of its inventory has been transferred to U.S. forces fighting in the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, the admiral said U.S. forces in the Pacific require more air-to-air missiles and torpedoes.
Integrated air and missile defense capabilities in the Pacific also need to be increased, according to Harris. He called the 44 land-based interceptors based in Alaska and California "critical," and said the Defense Department should consider putting a permanent radar and interceptors in Hawaii as well. Previously, Harris has called for making operational the Aegis Ashore test site in Hawaii.
"Across the range of integrated air and missile defense, we can and need to do more," Harris said. His calls for more missile defense capabilities come as North Korea has continued developing longer-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Harris called North Korea "the most immediate threat" in the region.
"Despite a number of noteworthy shortfalls in training and equipment, we must take seriously the substantial inventory of long-range rockets, artillery, close-range ballistic missiles, and expansive chemical weaponry aimed across the Demilitarized Zone at the Republic of Korea and U.S. forces stationed there," his written testimony states.
Harris was expected to brief the committee in a classified session immediately following the April 26 open hearing.