China-U.S. Arms Race Takes to the Sea

The Wall Street Journal reports at-length about the accelerating naval arms race between China and the United States, and a new ballistic missile technology China is developing to keep American aircraft carriers away from its shores: 

China’s state media has said its new missile, called the DF-21D, was built to strike a moving ship up to about 1,700 miles away. U.S. defense analysts say the missile is designed to come in at an angle too high for U.S. defenses against sea-skimming cruise missiles and too low for defenses against other ballistic missiles.

Even if U.S. systems were able to shoot down one or two, some experts say, China could overwhelm the defenses by targeting a carrier with several missiles at the same time.

As such, the new missile—China says it isn’t currently deployed—could push U.S. carriers farther from Chinese shores, making it more difficult for American fighter jets to penetrate its airspace or to establish air superiority in a conflict near China’s borders.

In response, the Navy is developing pilotless, long-range drone aircraft that could take off from aircraft carriers far out at sea and remain aloft longer than a human pilot could do safely. In addition, the Air Force wants a fleet of pilotless bombers capable of cruising over vast stretches of the Pacific.

Rhetorical brinksmanship on both sides has heightened over the past year as China has sought to enhance its military capabilities amid American intentions to play a larger role in Asia. China acquired its first aircraft carrier and a Japanese patrol plane reported the first confirmed sighting of a Chinese secret drone last year, and in December President Hu Jintao instructed the Chinese navy to speed up its development and prepare for warfare. Bloomberg also reports that a Pentagon defense strategy review, scheduled to be released tomorrow, will urge the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces to combine resources to ensure that China cannot block America’s access to the South China Sea:

The military services must work more cooperatively to pool their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and cyber-security tools, as well as operational concepts, the review is expected to say, according to an administration official familiar with the review who asked not to be identified.

The U.S. should be able to deter any emerging anti-access capabilities such as the diesel attack submarines being developed by China and the anti-ship ballistic missiles deployed by China and Iran, and if necessary, defeat them, said the administration official.


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