The US Department of Defense, in its budget request for the Fiscal Year 2021 published a map showing Russian and Chinese naval activities in recent years. [pdf]
“Our global competitors continue to grow their naval forces, and they are expanding their areas of operations and collaboration with each other. China’s battle fleet, for example, has grown from 262 to 335 surface ships over the last decade while Russia continues to invest in advanced submarines with stealth capabilities. Other nations such as Iran, North Korea, and non-state actors are exploiting asymmetric capabilities to create instability and uncertainty on the global maritime commons. We simply have a lot more to protect from increasingly capable maritime adversaries who will present challenges to our economic security and indeed, our very way of life.”
The report also underlines that reliance on the maritime system remains strong, and it is even becoming more used as time goes by.
“We continue to see increased reliance on the maritime system, with maritime traffic increasing four-fold over the last 2 decades; 90 percent of all global goods being shipped, and new trades routes opening to the north,” the document explains. “Almost the entire internet and trillions of dollars in trade are carried today on a largely unsecure network of undersea cables.”
It doesn’t specifically say that Russia and China are planning to carry out some sort of attack on the underwater internet cables, but the map shows that the Russian and Chinese navies are heavily active around the areas where the underwater cables pass through.
“Overall, the maritime system is more heavily used, more stressed and more contested than ever before,” it continues.
The map doesn’t specifically say what time period it covers, it doesn’t also explain what ships were traced, for neither of the country.
It, however, shows that Russia is active southeastern United States, as well as in the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean, as well as in the Arctic region.
Russian naval vessels also follow clear transit routes in the Atlantic, as well as the Pacific, according to the map.
On the other hand, China is quite active in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic northwest of the Bering Strait, north of Russia’s Far East regions, according to the map.
This, overall, is a clear reflection of the explosive growth in the size and capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, as mentioned above.
The map provides a picture of the challenges the US navy faces, and provides some insight into what it does to meet those challenges.
“To meet the challenges discussed, the Navy and Marine Corps provide forward postured sea-based forces (Figure 9.2), including 51,371 Sailors and 32,900 Marines currently deployed or underway on 94 ships, two Carrier Strike Groups, and two Expeditionary Strike Groups. In addition, the Navy maintains 40 cyber mission teams across the globe conducting cyber operations in support of Naval forces.”
The map below provides for the US Naval deployments around the world.
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