AI and satellite imaging make aircraft carriers vulnerable

US aircraft carriers and the naval ships of other nations have long been vulnerable to enemy submarines and missiles. French Exocet missiles destroyed British ships in the Falklands War.

* Air Independent Propulsion submarines are cheaper and quieter and deadlier
* New faster and longer range missiles make ships more vulnerable
* the key is AI and satellite imaging makes it easier to track ships around the world in realtime

It is the AI and cheap and common satellite imaging that will make the big difference in vulnerability to all surface navies.

AIP are quieter, cheaper, more common and deadlier

In the 1990s Sweden deployed the first submarine to use Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), the Gotland. A variety of AIP technologies allow for a new generation of very quiet and very cheap ship-hunting submarines that cost as little as roughly one-sixth the price of a nuclear submarine, and can operate up to two to four weeks underwater, albeit at fairly slow speeds.

China now possesses fifteen Type 41 submarines, employing the same Stirling AIP system as the Gotland, with another fifteen planned, while dozens of German-made Type 212, 214 and 218 AIP submarines are entering service across Europe and Asia.

New antiship missiles are becoming faster, longer-range and more widespread, and can be deployed from platforms including long-distance patrol planes and bombers, small and stealthy fast-attack boats, and even shipping containers concealed in a harbor.

The greater range means new missiles can be more safely lobbed at the carrier without necessarily entering within range for easy retaliation.

Carrier air defenses would be even more vulnerable to a new generation of hypersonic missiles—weapons exceeding five times the speed of sound. On June 3, Russia claimed to have successfully tested the hypersonic Zircon missile, with a reported speed of 4,600 miles per hour.

Sputniknews claims the Aegis’ reaction time is about 8-10 seconds. Even at a speed of 2 kilometers per second, the Zircon will travel a distance of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) in this period of time. Thus, the US much-praised missile defense system would have no chance to detect and destroy it.

Some claim that China and Russia lack adequate the maritime intelligence assets and operational experience to mount a well-coordinated maritime search-and-destroy campaign against a carrier task force, even if they possess armaments that could theoretically prove effective against one.

However, high resolution satellite imaging is becoming very inexpensive.

The Private company Planet Labs uses 149 microsatellites to monitor the pulse of our planet with daily news and imagery, stories, and tech updates. The satellite constellation provides a complete image of Earth at 3-5 meter optical resolution and open data access.

Analysts trained an algorithm to track changes in the quantity and position of white and blue pixels in a given area. That might not sound particularly revolutionary, but it enabled them to verify that the number of military vessels was unusually low during a window of time in March 2016. This meant vessels were missing from a strategically important port. Scouring for additional open-source clues, 3Gimbals verified that Venezuela was running an unscheduled and unplanned military exercise.

They were even able to deduce what types of boats were engaged in the exercise and whether they were new.


Planet Labs view of Disney Parking Lot

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