While the Media and bloggers continue to pick at this old sore, concerning a Chinese Song class diesel submarine surfacing undetected in firing range of the carrier USS Kitty Hawk, they do keep alive a valid and serious issue: our unprecedented and enormously expensive carrier fleet is at risk from silent and deadly conventional submarines. Here is a post from Discourse.net:
While they excel in force projection against weak third world nations, there have been increasing signs that aircraft carriers are also awfully big targets. Some suggested that in these days of cruise missiles, the carrier’s days were numbered.
Some, including me have suggested this more than once. I actually consider the launching of the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear powered submarine in 1954, as sounding the death knell for the big ships. Now the undersea boats, which we only defeated with great difficulty and enormous national effort in two world wars, has the speed, endurance and weaponry to match the big ships. Many armed with supersonic cruise missiles, they can easily outrange our best ASW defenses before they can react.
Some argue that if not the carriers, then what? No other warship currently in the Navy's inventory can equal the giant flattops in staying power, in the ability to launch precision bombs against long range land targets on short notice, and remain in the area as long as needed the carrier advocates contend. Almost a 100,000 tons of US sovereign territory, they have no need of a permission slip to park their planes off a hostile shore, as the Air Force and Army so often required before going to war.
My own answer to this is "what if the submarines force the issue", and sink or damage these mighty symbols of American power, much as these same vessels drove the battleships, themselves once thought unsinkable, from the world's oceans. As we have seen so often since 9/11, the new insurgent enemy rarely plays by our rules, and the hard won lesson as proven by General Petraeus in Iraq is our armed forces must adapt to change or die.