Okinawa, is smack dab in the middle of the entrance to the East China Sea and sits in the “first island chain” that stretches from the islands north of Japan to Taiwan, alongside the Philippines, then hooking through the South China Sea up to the coast of Vietnam. The first island chain strategically surrounds China to its east and south and all of its sea ports and ocean access to the world at large. China, with the second largest economy in the world, which grew by 6.6% in 2016, cannot rely on its own resources to sustain its economic growth. China is completely dependent on gaining and maintaining access to resources outside its territory and relies on maritime shipping to sustain and grow its vast economy.
Published by the Chinese military, The Science of Second Artillery Campaigns asserts that to secure the first island chain, China must disable American bases, aircraft and aircraft-carrier strike groups in the region, doing so by tactically unleashing a pre-emptive conventional missile attack.
Okinawa is the most strategically important base in the region for the Americans and the Japanese to maintain the status quo by sustaining air superiority, naval superiority and maritime amphibious superiority for the islands in these waters if threatened. Okinawa is the closets U.S. base to the Spratly Islands that China is disputing and is a direct supporter of American forces in the Republic of Korea. Japan is dependent on military bases in Okinawa for its air policing and air defense for all of its southern islands including the Senkaku Islands which are being challenged daily by Chinese military aircraft. Both the United States and Japan have two F-15 fighter squadrons and Navy P-3 sub hunters assigned to Okinawa as well as fuelers and C-130 transport aircraft.
China has developed, deployed and pre-positioned in massive capacity and capability offensive ballistic missiles and cruise missiles on land, sea and in air specifically designed to overwhelm and defeat U.S. capability to defend Okinawa, which is an invaluable strategic base for the United States and Japan. So dominant in their capability and capacity to strike Okinawa, the Chinese seem to ignore challenging Okinawa at all as they focus their military aircraft flying towards Guam with practice standoff range cruise missile missions and challenging the Senkaku and other Japanese islands in this first island chain.
Okinawa does have integrated air and missile defense deployed capabilities on the island from both the Japanese and the United States. Each country has a Patriot air and missile defense battalion deployed on Okinawa along with four squadrons of F-15s that are cruise-missile-defense-capable. The two countries’ Patriot battalions are working to becoming interoperable with each other. The United States 1-1 ADA Battalion deployed in Okinawa will be soon modernized with the newest equipment and upgrades to bring forward the MSE (Missile Segment Enhancement) Patriot interceptor that would include upgrading the radars for this longer range interceptor. The North Korean and China ballistic missile threat to Okinawa is of concern, however, unique to the rest of the air and missile defense defended forward operating bases around the world is that Okinawa has the potential of a 360-degree threat which China has clearly demonstrated with standoff long range cruise missiles from their military aircraft, submarines and naval ships.
To continue to secure Okinawa and the U.S. Air Force base at Kadena, both the United States and Japan must increase missile defense capacity, force multiply their forces together through integration and interoperability, modernize and invest in breakthrough technology to deploy hypervelocity powderguns, electromagnetic railguns, directed energy weapons and electronic attack to change the game and maintain the status quo on the first island chain by having capability to defeat complex and massive ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missile threats from our near-peer, China.
Click here to read MDAA’s op-ed in The Washington Times titled, “Missile Defense in the Next Four Years.”
As President Trump continues to bring closure to his National Security Council that will underwrite stability for the President’s likely aggressive global growth policies of the United States economy over the next four years, they must collectively as a team thoroughly think through the reactions of their most formidable peer to the United States, China.