In 2010, Three United States Submarines Showed China Who’s Boss In The Pacific

A recent report revealed that the United States deployed three stealth submarines to the Pacific in 2010 as part of an effort to respond to Chinese missile tests in the region.

Much has been made of the aggressive posturing by both Russia and China in recent years as the former country deploys fighters and bombers along the edges of United States territory, while the latter has tightened its hold on the South China Sea. In an incident mostly lost to history and recently highlighted by The Week, Washington utilized three submarines to stage a show of American military power intended to send a message to Beijing.

The incident was reported when it took place in July of 2010 by Greg Torode for the South China Morning Post. He detailed how three submarines surfaced in a trio of Asia-Pacific ports as part of a maneuver he described as “a show of force… not seen since the end of the cold war.”

Three Ohio-class submarines were reportedly involved in the incident. The USS Michigan surfaced in Pusan, South Korea, while the USS Ohio turned up in Subic Bay, which is located in the Philippines. The USS Florida, meanwhile, made its presence known in Diego Garcia, a strategic outpost located in the Indian Ocean.

The submarines’ collective maneuvers were meant as a signal to Beijing, communicating Washington’s disapproval of a series of missile tests which had taken place in the East China Sea. The appearance of such an impressive array of firepower in the region, however, was also meant to send a different, but related message.

At the time, the trio of submarines had recently been refitted, swapping their ballistic missiles for an impressive 462 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This made them capable of boosting the firepower of the Japanese-based Seventh Fleet by more than 60 percent. As the Seventh Fleet represented the core force of American military power in East Asia, the move was unlikely to be lost on Beijing.

“460-odd Tomahawks is a huge amount of potential firepower in anybody’s language,” an Asian military attaché was quoted as observing at the time. “It is another sign that the US is determined to not just maintain its military dominance in Asia, but to be seen doing so – that is a message for Beijing and for everybody else, whether you are a US ally or a nation sitting on the fence.”

The ensuing half-decade has seen a growing tension over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, but the appearance of these three submarines represented a now largely forgotten expression of military power.

[Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lynn Friant via Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]