01 February 2010

Strategic Research Professor Wins Third Place in Nation’s Oldest Essay Contest

Tyler Will, Naval War College Public Affairs Office, Strategic Research Professor Wins Third Place in Nation’s Oldest Essay Contest,” 1 February 2010.

Associate Strategic Research professor Andrew Erickson at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) recently won third-place in the U.S. Naval Institute 2009 General Prize Essay Contest, with an article that explored Chinese development of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs).

An ASBM, if developed and deployed successfully, would be the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award,” Erickson said. “The Naval Institute is making a fantastic contribution both to supporting the U.S. Navy in general, and to supporting in-depth research across the waterfront on issues of interest to the Navy.”

Started in 1878, the General Prize Essay Contest is perhaps the oldest continually operated writing contest in the nation. Authors do not submit entries; a committee chooses the best essays from the magazine Proceedings over a one-year period.

Erickson, who is a member of NWC’s China Maritime Studies Institute, co-wrote the article, titled “On the Verge of a Game-Changer,” with a Rand Corporation researcher.

The work represents over nine months of research and years of broader study; Erickson’s interest in Chinese defense affairs dates back to when he wrote his doctoral dissertation at Princeton University, which focused on Chinese aerospace development.

“Examining Chinese sources made me realize how rapid and far-reaching Chinese development has been in aerospace, particularly with regard to ballistic missiles,” Erickson said of his dissertation. “If China could achieve an ASBM capability, it would be extremely significant, with implications for the U.S. Navy.”

The essay itself offers multiple perspectives on this topic. Erickson initially examines the potential consequences of ASBM development and deployment, then surveys related Chinese efforts and the strategic goals that drive them.

His findings come from Chinese open sources, particularly technical journals and military and defense industry publications. Erickson also consulted civilian experts in various academic and scientific disciplines to help authenticate the information.

In assessing China’s development of ASBMs, Erickson said that China has likely made great progress regarding hardware, but that mastering detection, targeting, and bureaucratic coordination is likely to require ongoing effort.

“I have no doubt that China can accomplish virtually anything with respect to missiles that it sets out to do,” said Erickson. He believes that Chinese development of ASBMs is well underway and poses very real challenges for the Navy.

Professor Robert Rubel, Dean of NWC’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies, links this issue to a larger strategic imperative: “The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower calls for the concentration of credible combat forces in Northeast Asia in order to prevent war or win it if it occurs,” Rubel explained. “Credibility must be in the eyes of the Chinese, the North Koreans or anyone else who might contemplate military aggression. Erickson is doing the Navy and the country a service by calling attention to a development that might erode the credibility, in their eyes, of our naval forces.”

Erickson’s award-winning article suggests a nuanced response to ASBM development.

“The United States must redouble its efforts to promote peace and cooperation while ensuring that its own capabilities remain strong should deterrence fail,” Erickson said in the article.