Space-Centric Warfare, Part Five: Underwater Combat

(To start reading from the beginning of this essay, click HERE. And by the way, Happy 4th.)

Though the Eurasians possessed no equivalent to the Raft, their own navies didn’t lack for funding. This was in large part due to the fact that the most interesting thing about the ocean was, as ever, what was lurking beneath the surface. In fact, the seas were essentially the only place where mobile weapons/vehicles could be hidden from satellite surveillance. Such surveillance was far better than in the 20th century—when it had essentially been nonexistent—but it still remained far from perfect against a deep-running, stealthy submarine.

All the more so against a submarine capable of suddenly attaining “warp speed”: because, ultimately, the one factor above all else that guaranteed that naval items would be a priority item in the defense budgets was that the speed of 22nd century undersea warfare promised to render that of the previous century slow-motion—literally. Tapping the possibilities inherent in supercavitation technologies allowed the development of vessels that could reduce hydrodynamic drag by traveling inside superheated, self-generated bubbles of water vapor and gas—and that could thereby move at hundreds of kilometers per hour, irrevocably altering the pace at which undersea warfare would be conducted.

A critical byproduct of supercavitation was that it intensified the urgency of anti-submarine strategies, particularly in the vulnerable areas near the coast. Just as with geosynchronous orbit, technological/strategic realities drove a mutual understanding regarding the positioning of munitions here as well:  by the 2080s, the two powers had tacitly agreed to recognize the extension of territorial waters to four hundred kilometers out. Most admirals believed that even this was not enough, given the speed of hypersonic missiles and the reality of directed energy.  Accordingly, those four hundred kilometers were awash with underwater sensors, sea-bottom stations, mines, and anti-submarine submarines.  Destroyers cruised the surface and prowled around ocean-going platforms of varying size, while swarms of jet-copters patrolled the skies.

To be sure, littoral waters were an area where the U.S. (despite the positioning of the Rafts as forward attack platforms) had much more to lose than did the Eurasians, since so many of the large American launch pads were situated in relatively close proximity to the coasts.  The United States therefore poured tens of billions of dollars into its Atlantic and Pacific Walls, which extended as far south as the northern parts of South America.  Nor did Navy (and, eventually, NavCom) officers ever tire of arguing that these defense lines should be extended all the way to the Horn (a strategy that would mean absorbing the few neutral territories situated down there).  It could also be assumed (though no one ever admitted it) that both sides had positioned strongpoints at various places in the deep trenches across the world’s oceans, as these avenues represented logical points of concealment for approaching attack submarines.

In this regard, the most studied and speculated-upon undersea theater was that of the Arctic Ocean, across which the two superpowers directly faced each other at a relatively short distance.  The ice-packs may have been dwindling, but they were still much in evidence—and they would make it even more difficult for space-based and aerial recon platforms to intervene in the ever-shifting game played out by hunter and hunted in the most frigid of all waters.

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5 Responses to “Space-Centric Warfare, Part Five: Underwater Combat”

  1. jd Says:

    it’s depressing to realize i’m stupider than i thought and do need a bigger dictionary,too. great stuff,you. i got one thing though-ba nang kee, that’s how i call him, is a chickenshit alright. i don’t even understand why not the gov but a private corp is in charge of money. ok, that’s enough,good stuff, Dave.
    ps. also i do think they should make a movie out of your book, not Bay, my choice would be, Terry Gilliam or Scott brothers – a movie will save my brain.

  2. David Williams Says:

    Glad you’re liking it so far, JD. Stay tuned for more . . .

  3. Joni Says:

    I am wondering how supercavitating submarines would be stealthy. I mean wouldn’t they be terribly noicy and if they travel in a super-heated bubble wouldn’t that be quite easy to find?

  4. David Williams Says:

    You’re entirely right–they wouldn’t. Thanks for the catch–I’ve cleared up the wording now.

  5. Phil Osborn Says:

    I didn’t see a good other place to put this, but at last Wednesday’s Orange County Science Fiction club, I pointed out that there are replacements for satellites, both for surveillance and for communications, such as tethered balloons or dirigibles.

    One tech that I have yet to see explored: We know that the police have these marvelous high-power video-telescopes in their copters. Given all the motion and vibration, they have to have some amazing image stabilization.

    With much lower quality stabilization, it should be possible to aim a modulated laser, such as a $200 200mW green laser pointer, at a fixed surface, such as a billboard or convenient building wall. Someone else could “tune in” to the laser by simply aiming a telescope at that point. If you had a feedback loop to keep the reflection centered, then you could have very high bandwidth communications, and, if you used UV or IR, it might be very hard to detect, much less decrypt.

    In fact, if you had something conveniently high in the sky, such as a mirror-surface tethered dirigible, say, as a backup to the satellites being knocked out, then the entire bandwidth of the L.A. area could be handled that way. No fiber, no copper, just fairly low-powered modulated lasers sending signals point-to-point. (Of course, weather could be a problem… Weather? WEATHER? We don’t need no STINKIN WEATHER! (Eat your heart out – non Californios.))

    Might be useful to your upcoming sequel’s terrorists…