17 May 2010

“China’s Maritime Moves Prove a Game-Changer”

China’s Maritime Moves Prove a Game-Changer,” Canberra Times, 17 May 2010, A9.

… To discourage the US or other foreign navies from intervening in Bejing’s declared sphere of influence around Taiwan and in the South and East China Seas in a crisis, Chinese military strategists have developed a set of weapons and tactics to deny hostile forces access.

Among the weapons are submarines that are increasingly difficult to detect and an array of long-range, anti-ship missiles that are increasingly difficult to defend against. The latter include what would be the world’s first operational ballistic missile and maneuverable warhead guided by satellite and land-based, over-the-horizon radar to strike aircraft carriers at up to 12 times the speed of sound far out at sea. US military officials and analysts regard it as a serious threat to American naval operations in the Western Pacific.

The US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned earlier this month “the virtual monopoly the US has enjoyed with precision guided weapons is eroding especially with long-range, accurate anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that can potentially strike from over the horizon.”

China’s anti-ship ballistic missile, with a range of 1500km, would be fired from mobile launchers on land.

Admiral Robert Willard, commander of US forces in the Pacific, told Congress in March China was “developing and testing” the missile.

He added it was “designed specifically to target aircraft carriers.”

Gates said such a weapon could put at risk a modern nuclear- powered US carrier with a full complement of the latest aircraft an asset worth as much as $US20billion ($A22.6billion). A combination of lethal missiles and stealthy submarines “could end the operational sanctuary our Navy has enjoyed in the Western Pacific for the better part of six decades.” It is not the first time Gates has spoken about this threat. Last September, he said China’s “investments in anti-ship weaponry and ballistic missiles could threaten America’s primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific particularly our forward bases and carrier strike groups.”

The US Naval Institute cautioned a year ago that “the mere perception that China might have an anti-ship ballistic missile capability could be game-changer, with profound consequences for deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.” …


For the Naval Institute Proceedings article referenced above, see Andrew S. Erickson and David Yang, “On the Verge of a Game-Changer,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 135, No. 3 (May 2009), pp. 26-32.