China has spent hundreds billions of dollars modernizing its military over the last few years, and the Chinese Navy has been the primary focus of the modernization campaign. Military experts say the new Chinese Navy has emerged as a real threat to American dominance of the high seas in the Pacific region.
Analysts point out that the American military has been the dominant power on the high seas for more than four decades now. Over the last decade and change, however, China has rapidly built up a naval force, spending tens of billions of dollars a year to build new warships, and has developed a formidable arsenal of missiles and other technology.
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Long-time foe Russia has also been on a naval building spree in the last few years, and showed off the result to the world last week by launching cruise missiles to hit rebel positions in Syria from its new stealth-class submarine.
However, it is the growing threat from China that has led U.S. military planners to reconsider their current strategy and make the development of a new anti-ship missile (for ship to ship combat) a high priority. As a first step, the Navy is working to modify existing missiles originally designed for other uses.
It is becoming increasingly clear to naval strategists that the U.S. can no longer afford to assume it will rule the high seas or not suffer significant casualties in a potential naval battle with China. The old strategy of a two-stage campaign to take out air and other defenses is being updated with a new strategy where U.S. forces move quickly and stealthily, working to engage and “defang” an adversary without necessarily “winning a war.”.
Military analysts note that part of the new strategy is securing access to air and/or naval bases at various remote Pacific islands to minimize the potential vulnerability of larger bases within the range of China’s missile arsenal.
Old Harpoon ship-to-ship missile is a potential liability
The U.S. navy has developed a broad range of sophisticated missile defenses, drones, sonars, new fighter jets and other hardware in the last couple of decades. However, the American Navy still uses the same Harpoon anti-ship missiles that were first used back in 1977.
A number of senior military officials argue that many new Chinese warships could shoot down or outmaneuver the aging Harpoon, and that the U.S. Navy needs sophisticated weapons are needed to maintain our superiority on the high seas.
That is why the Navy brass is pushing hard for its surface vessels and submarines to be equipped with modern anti-ship missiles with longer ranges and a better chances at penetrating high-tech defenses. Not long ago, engineers tested a converted Tomahawk to see if it could hit a moving target at sea, and officials were pleased with the results of the test.
Lt. Robert Myers, a Navy spokesperson, noted that the service plans to start deploying the converted anti-ship Tomahawk in “the fleet in the next few years.”
The Pentagon is also looking into modifying a newer weapon, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, which is fired from an aircraft. Another possibility is buying a new Norwegian-manufactured naval missile that is already in production, or trying to rework a high-tech air defense missile such as the SM-6.
Given the ongoing battle for strategic influence in the Asia-Pacific region today, U.S. naval commanders are apparently determined to stay ahead of China. The importance of greater firepower on U.S. surface ships (versus relying on aircraft carriers and subs) can be seen in a new unofficial slogan frequently heard among senior naval officers: “If it floats, it fights.”
Related to this situation, Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden, the Navy’s current Surface Force Commander, has called for additional offensive power from top to bottom in the U.S. fleet, including even arming tenders and supply ships that have not been equipped with weapons. traditionally
Rowden explained in a recent interview that developing new missiles that can destroy enemy ships from a distance means that potential enemies “will wake up and instead of just worrying about aircraft carriers or torpedoes from subs, they now have to worry about all surface ships and their ability to attack them.”