China has moved a step closer to creating a supersonic submarine that could travel from Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours.
In theory, a supercavitating vessel could reach the speed of sound underwater, or about 5,800km/h, which would reduce the journey time for a transatlantic underwater cruise to less than an hour, and for a transpacific journey to about 100 minutes, according to a report by California Institute of Technology in 2001.
However, supercavitation technology has faced two major problems. First, the submerged vessel has needed to be launched at high speeds, approaching 100km/h, to generate and maintain the air bubble.
Second, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to steer the vessel using conventional mechanisms, such as a rudder, which are inside the bubble without any direct contact with water.
From Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia, p 69:
One reason Europe’s imperial powers missed the warning signs [about how catastrophic World War I would be] was that these new instruments of war had previously been employed almost exclusively against those who didn’t have them – specifically, those non-Europeans who attempted to resist their imperial reach. In such situations, the new weapons had allowed for a lopsided slaughter not seen since the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and more than any other single factor had accounted for the dramatic expansion of Europe’s colonial empires into Asia and Africa in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
It is perversely appropriate, then, that among the few people who did appreciate this new face of war and the problems it would pose was the man who had officiated over more of these one-sided battlefield slaughters than probably anyone else alive: Lord Kitchener. At the battle of Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898, Kitchener had trained his Maxim machine guns on horsemen charging with spears; at a cost of forty-seven British army dead, he had killed ten thousand of the enemy in a single morning. But what would happen when the other side had Maxims too? Kitchener had a pretty good idea. At that cabinet meeting on August 7 , where some other ministers imagined a conflict lasting months or even weeks, the newly appointed war secretary predicted years. “It will not end,” he told his colleagues, “until we have plumbed our manpower to the last million.”
I hope this is an exaggeration:
By 2020, the Chinese Navy will be substantially larger than America’s, with their entire force (except for their amphibious vessels) outfitted with long-range and advanced anti-ship missiles. China will have integrated air defenses, 1500 modern fighters in theater, upgraded intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, the ability to attack America’s space assets in every orbital regime, and a large inventory of conventional ballistic missiles and land based cruise missiles capable of striking U.S. assets as far away as Guam.
Meanwhile, American power is in decline. The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since before World War I, and the number is headed down.
Fortunately, The Chosen One™ has assured us all there’s absolutely nothing to worry about…
“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists. I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example, a lawnmower.”
— Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle