The U.S. Navy’s 2021 budget proposal apparently will request no new money to purchase the service’s only long-range anti-submarine aircraft, despite a growing undersea threat and a shortfall in aircraft designed to cope with that threat.
The P-8 Poseidon multi-mission aircraft, a militarized version of the Boeing 737 jetliner, conducts anti-submarine, anti-surface and shipping interdiction missions from land bases, flying much further with greater payload than any carrier-based plane could.
Poseidon rotates frequently to the bases of overseas allies as it conducts maritime surveillance of the Northern Atlantic, Western Pacific and other areas. The plane uses acoustic sensors and radar to detect hostile warships, and carries munitions such as torpedoes that would be used in wartime to destroy such threats.
However, the Navy says it has a validated warfighting requirement of 138 Poseidons to cope with Russian and Chinese naval forces, and it looks likely to stop purchases at 117—far short of that requirement. Congressional appropriators are asking the Navy how it would replace the aging sub hunters in two Navy Reserve squadrons—which must retire in the near future—if production of the P-8 is prematurely terminated.
A Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine transits the English Channel in 2018.
During the Cold War, the Navy operated three dozen squadrons of land-based sub hunters as it sought to counter the threat posed by hundreds of Soviet submarines and the powerful surface fleet of the Red Navy. Today it has only a dozen such squadrons, even though the Russians continue to invest in new undersea technology and the Chinese Navy is building