The Buzz

Here Is How Japan Plans on Killing China's Aircraft Carriers

Instead of trying to imitate China, then, Japan would be best served by pursuing its own competitive strategy. Developed by the business world and adopted by the Pentagon near the end of the Cold War, competitive strategies seek to exploit one’s comparative advantages and an adversary’s comparative weaknesses. China’s anti-access/area-denial doctrine towards the United States is a case in point, since it harnesses Beijing’s geography and Washington’s need for access.

As already noted, Japan does not have experience with missiles, but submarines are an area where it excels. Tokyo’s Soryu-class submarines are arguably the most capable diesel-electric subs in the world. And, as I noted in an article last week, even far less capable submarines pose an enormous threat to aircraft carriers. As one U.S. official was recently quoted as saying in regards to Russia’s lesser subs, “One small submarine has the ability to threaten a large capital asset like an aircraft carrier.” This is not a projection like the DF-21Ds: submarines sank eight carriers during World War II.

Submarines are also cost effective. Even the relatively expensive Soryu submarines are roughly half a billion dollars per unit, meaning Japan could build eleven of them for the amount of money America spent building the Pershing-II missiles. Best of all, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) is a noted weakness of China. Although Beijing has taken steps to bolster its ASW capabilities in recent years, many of its efforts are focused on detecting submarines near its coastal waters, not in the open seas. Thus, submarines offer the most economic and cost effective way for Japan to deal with China’s future carriers.

Zachary Keck (@ZacharyKeck) is a former managing editor of The National Interest.

Image: The Kokuryu submarine of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) bursts to the surface during a fleet review at Sagami Bay, off Yokosuka, south of Tokyo October 15, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter​

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