The Chinese, who have tremendous economic interest in the growing health of the United States economy, love U.S. container ships in the Pacific but hate U.S. military ships in the Pacific. China continues to build and operate massive amounts of military ships and weapon systems that have exceeded in gross overmatch of U.S. military ships and military capacity in the Pacific. China is creating an Anti -Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) regional strategy in the Pacific
Last week, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), a unified combatant command responsible for the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, testified to Congress in the Senate Arms Service Committee hearing on the United States Pacific Command.
“USPACOM faces unique Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) challenges despite efforts to forward station additional IAMD sensors and weapons capabilities in the Indo-Pacific to protect our forces and allies. Hawaii, Guam, and our Pacific territories are part of our homeland and must be defended. “ – Admiral Harris
The challenges Admiral Harris alludes to are the Chinese advancement and superiority of intermediate- and long-range, non-ballistic trajectory, missiles in the Pacific region, that are maneuverable and over six times the speed of sound and can be launched thousands of miles away from different platforms to stand off U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups and military presence operating in the Pacific. These hypersonic and cruise missiles are proven and capable of being launched from aircraft, missile silos inside of China, and their ships in the Pacific. The Chinese DF-26 and the Chinese DF-21D or ‘Carrier-Killer’ are being constantly developed, tested, and produced. These new revolutionary missiles are being put in operation to defeat and overwhelm current U.S. missile defense capabilities in the Pacific. Force multiplying this revolution is the overmatching of capacity in exercising numbers of medium- and intermediate-range missiles to stand off U.S. military presence in the Pacific.
“Going forward, USPACOM supports all efforts that improve the capability and capacity of ballistic missile, cruise missile, and UAS defense technologies to further enhance Homeland defense capabilities and protect key regional locations from aggressive action. The development of a credible and effective defense against advanced and future missile and UAS threats remains vital to our operational plans and critical to the continued defense of the U.S.”
And we cannot do this alone to hold the status quo in the Pacific, our allies are integral and critical to share the burden, enabling freedom of access in the Pacific.
“USPACOM will continue working with Japan, the ROK, and Australia to improve our level of staff coordination and information sharing with the goal of creating a fully-integrated Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) architecture that addresses the increasing cruise missile threat.”
The credible and effective missile defenses the U.S. and its allies have today are exclusive to non-hypersonic capabilities, have policy restrictions, and are mostly limited to older generation anti-air-to-air/surface-to-air archaic systems and limited ballistic missile defense systems in capability and capacity that lack full system integration with deployed air defenses. The exception is the Aegis BMD ship platform with the Standard Missile-6 (SM-6), deployed in numbers on these ships that continues to be developed, tested, and mass produced to be a current generation solution today to the Chinese maneuverable, non-hypersonic ballistic and cruise missiles.
Missile defense against a Chinese hypersonic ballistic missile has to be solved and could be the most challenging engineering feat of this decade.
In addition, more new and next generational U.S. anti-missile systems need to be developed, tested, and operational in capacity numbers – the hardest hurdle may not be the technical engineering, the resources, or the political will – but it is undoubtedly the U.S. acquisition processes that is taking five years for a new requirement to be deployed and become operational.
All of these issues will have to be addressed in the upcoming Missile Defense Review, which has made the significant and symbolic step of deleting ‘Ballistic’ in its original title.
The United States and its Pacific Allies must guarantee freedom of international passage in the Pacific Ocean and deter the masters of rocketry, China from its current path of denying access through military dominance in missile capability and capacity to the islands and waters in the Pacific.