BLUF

Due to technology making oceans transparent, the effectiveness of submarines is likely to end by around 2050.

Summary

Stealth is crucial to the effectiveness of submarines. This article uses science to examine the likelihood of losing that stealth by 2050 using an intelligence software tool, Intelfuze, which is:
  • Rigorous.
  • Transparent.
  • Defensible.
  • Able to be updated.
  • Works with poor data and strongly divergent opinions.
Key findings:
  • Oceans are very likely to become transparent by the 2050s.
  • Counter detection technology will reach its limit.
  • Disruptive changes in technologies are likely to affect the deterrent value of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
  • Improvements in counter detection have slowed dramatically since the Cold War.
  • The strategic importance of maritime geographic chokepoints will decline.
  • New ocean sensing capabilities will cover many physical, chemical and biological domains.
  • China (with the CSIRO) is developing a 'Transparent Ocean Initiative' using satellite light detection and ranging to pinpoint submarines at up to 500m depth.
  • Previously, the oceans' geography has generally been favourable to the West but not to its adversaries.
  • Local differences in ocean geography will make detection easier in some places and more difficult in others.