An all-out attack on undersea cable infrastructure would cause potentially catastrophic damage to the U.S. and its allies

Thursday, June 1st, 2023

It is not satellites in the sky, retired Admiral Stavridis notes, but pipes on the ocean floor that form the backbone of the world’s economy:

Currently, more than 95% of the traffic coursing through the global internet is carried by just 200 undersea fiber-optic cables, “some as far below the surface as Everest is above it,” Stavridis wrote in the forward to a 2017 report, “Undersea Cables: Indispensable, Insecure,” which raised alarms about the extreme vulnerabilities of the seabed commercial networks.Stavridis, who led the NATO alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander, warned that an all-out attack on undersea cable infrastructure would cause “potentially catastrophic” damage to the U.S. and its allies, and their ability to transmit confidential information, conduct financial transactions and communicate internationally.

“Whether from terrorist activity or an increasingly bellicose Russian naval presence, the threat of these vulnerabilities being exploited is growing.… The threat is nothing short of existential,” according to the report itself, which was written by then-British parliamentarian Rishi Sunak, who is now the country’s prime minister. The U.S. — and its allies and adversaries — are focusing on this potential threat from an offensive as well as a defensive standpoint, according to Stavridis and other experts, including a U.S. naval analyst. They are also tapping into the telecommunications cables as valuable sources of intelligence.


Last month, two major submarine internet cables were cut to at least one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, raising U.S. concerns about possible sabotage by China, the archenemy of the key U.S. ally, said the Washington-based U.S. naval analyst, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military issues. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission has blamed China but stopped short of saying it was intentional. Even so, the U.S. analyst said, the incidents heightened U.S. concerns that China is testing its seabed warfare capabilities, perhaps in advance of a military invasion of Taiwan. Seabed warfare also has gained significance because of Russia’s efforts in mapping undersea infrastructure and its suspected role in the Nord Stream pipeline attacks. Russia has built its own deep sea spy sub, the Belgorod, which can fire two-megaton nuclear warhead torpedoes at depths no existing weapon system could intercept — and could take out an entire U.S. port or aircraft carrier strike group. And it quietly has been building other specialized deep seabed war vessels, including intelligence ships and submarines that disrupt undersea cable infrastructure. Last month, Ireland’s military released surveillance footage of at least two Russian ships off the Galway coast near a newly opened seabed communications cable. Irish senator and security expert Tom Clonan told local media the ships were well-known to the Irish defense community, including one that has a diving platform and carries deep-sea submersibles. Six years after that report was published, Stavridis told USA TODAY, “I am more concerned now than I was in 2017 about the dangers of an attack on undersea cables.”


Navy has commissioned a next-generation attack submarine that can sneak along the ocean floor and perform covert operations.


According to Pentagon budget documents and a congressional report on this sub. It will cost roughly $5.1 billion; a standard submarine in the same category cost $3.45 billion in 2021.


They said the Navy remains committed to completing the Orca, an extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle that can lay mines, conduct surveillance and engage in Special Operations offensive warfare missions. The Navy wants to deploy five of the massive robotic submarines to do the dangerous job of laying undersea mines. And though the Navy has cited that as an urgent priority, the effort is more than 3 years behind schedule and has exceeded costs by at least $242 million, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report last September. Another vehicle known as the Snakehead, or “Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle” (LDUUV), also aims to support U.S. subsea and seabed warfare and has been undergoing in-water testing, the three Navy leaders wrote. “The LDUUV program aimed to address a critical gap with increased depth, endurance, and payload capacity,” they said, but it has been put on hold, at least temporarily, “to support higher Navy priorities.” And a third, the MK 11 SDV, can clandestinely ferry Navy SEAL teams to conduct offensive and defensive operations against China in contested areas.


  1. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    Someone blowing up critical underseas infrastructure for poorly defined geopolitical ambitions? For some reason, that seems to ring a bell…

  2. Allen says:

    It would be amusing If Putin said: “The west did the attacks themselves.”

  3. Gavin Longmuir says:

    “its [Russia's] suspected role in the Nord Stream pipeline attacks”

    Come on! Everyone with a brain knows that it was Biden* who ordered the destruction of those gas pipelines to Germany — an act of war … against Germany as well as against Russia.

    Interestingly, Russia Today reports that China has cancelled plans to build floating nuclear power plants to provide electricity for islands off its coast, because of fears that unidentified culprits might sabotage them too.

  4. Jack Nife says:

    The great Satan is projecting again.

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