“This is the most complex and dynamic security environment in my life time.” – John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, on July 20, 2019.
Yesterday, two Chinese H-6 bombers and two Russian TU-95 bombers followed by a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) flew through the South Korean and Japanese Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). The accompanying Russian A-50 AEW&C violated South Korean air space on two occasions. This is the first time in 66 years, since the start of the Korean Armistice Agreement, that a foreign military aircraft violated South Korean airspace. South Korea scrambled jets to intercept the planes after entering the ADIZ and fired 360 warning shots and deployed 20 flares at the Russian A-50 AEW&C after it entered South Korean airspace. There is no operational realism for China or Russia to fly early warning and control airplanes and bombers with extended long-range cruise missiles into U.S. allied defended territorial airspace except only as an intended strategic message of unification and symbolic provocation by China and Russia exemplifying their peer competition against the United States and allied Japan and South Korea for influence and power in the region. The ramifications of a dual integrated Chinese and Russian sophisticated, complex threat and military partnership demonstrated in South Korean airspace brings forward a change of calculus for the U.S. and its allies of Japan and South Korea in their responses to a nuclear proliferating North Korea as well as impact on the territory and artificial islands dispute in the South China Sea with China. Taking advantage of scaled down U.S.-Korean military exercises, Russia and China flexed their capabilities in their own unified exercise.
Both of these Chinese and Russian bombers possess the capability to launch, from deep within their territory and defended airspace or from international airspace, long-range and over the horizon cruise missiles with ranges of 1,000 miles and more, as well as future hypersonic missiles with these same or greater ranges. The Russian A-50 AEW&C also does not have an operational need to go into allied territorial airspace to perform its sensor surveillance as well as command and control as it can stand back and operate. The same Russia bombers have also intruded the United States and Canadian ADIZ in Alaska and Canada earlier this year. These alone and combined cruise missile capabilities are a considerable significant complex threat to the U.S. and allied forces in the Far East, Pacific region, and the United States homeland not just because they are technically challenging to defend against due to their small size, their maneuverability, ability to fly close to the ground or sea, and hypersonic capabilities in the near future but because the United States and its allies have tremendous gaps in strategic regional cruise missile defenses from sensors to interceptors regionally and globally.
Some of the Chinese and Russian cruise missiles that their bombers can carry:
- Range – 1500 km
- Range – 2000 + km
- Raduga KH-101/102
- Range – 2500-2800 km
- KH-55 Granat
- Range – 2500 km
“This isn’t just a homeland defense problem if you look at the proliferation of cruise missiles all over the world – certainly coming from the Pacific Theater. That is a very difficult challenge to be able to have to deal with the respect to the proliferation of the Chinese cruise missile threat. So this is not something just specific to Russia or something very specific to the homeland defense. This is a capability capacity that we need to continue to develop I think really for our ability to operate all over the world.” – General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), on July 22, 2019.
“If you look at the northern approaches through the Arctic – that’s a that’s a key Avenue of approach that we have to be able to defend. That’s places where we haven’t traditionally operated. We haven’t trained up there to the level that we probably should have over the last several decades. So we’re seeing a resurgence in our ability to operate within the Arctic and the need to operate in the Arctic and the ability to defend ourselves against attacks coming from the Arctic. I would also say when you look at some of the capabilities like to Yasen class submarines that the Russians built – very capable submarine that can carry cruise missiles with the intent to hold us at risk. So we have to maintain our ability to defend against those going forward. We certainly can do that from a point defense capability. It’s something I think we need to focus on we’ve been working very closely with certainly with OSD as trying to continue to advance our capability.” – General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), on July 22, 2019.
To address these challenges of strategic cruise missile defenses posed by long-range cruise missile and hypersonic capabilities being launched from platforms deep within Russian and Chinese territory or in 360 degree capabilities from air, sea, and land, the U.S. needs to first deploy global space-based sensor layer that would provide overhead sensor and birth to death tracking coverage for all missile types and launch platforms. A comprehensive command and control (C2) architecture global and regional, that uses artificial intelligence for the fusing of radar and sensor data to que the best effectors, would integrate this space-based sensor layer with the terrestrial sensor layer to both defensive and offensive capabilities for layered deterrence and defensive capabilities on both left-of-launch and right-of-launch platforms and missiles. But to fully address this defensive challenge, the U.S. cannot only defend against the multitude of arrows (cruise missiles), but must also have to defend and defeat the archer (long-range bombers flying thousands of miles away in protected areas from their targets). This can be accomplished with the development and deployment of cross domain long distance fires land longer range air-to-air missiles that can be put on 5th generation aircraft or future Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), further development of directed energy on UAV air platforms, and future development of space-based kinetic and directed energy defenses. All to be able to hit the archers at their stand-off distances as well as hitting the arrows with a fully integrated fused offensive-defensive capability and capacity to produce the deterrence necessary to close the Pandora’s box of strategic cruise missile and hypersonic glide vehicles
The nation and the world now look to the 27th United States Secretary of Defense, Dr. Mark Esper in following the precedent set by General Mattis in giving unified direction on the near peers of China and Russia through a clear military strategy. His challenge is the guidance to lead the way to find solutions to defeat these long distance cruise missile threats being demonstrated by China and Russia to enhance deterrence and thereby creating stability and peace.