The Army’s Plan to Use Ship-Killers
The pacific pivot was an Obama admin strategic realignment of naval forces and political ties in the region. Pres Trump seems inclined to continue the policy.
China now has a credible non nuclear ballistic missile force. The objection to that kind of weapon as suggested in Prompt Global Strike proposals was that the missile would be taken as a nuclear attack heralding armageddon level destruction. Now that the Chinese routinely live fire test these weapons and have firing ranges built to look and take damage just like our Guam and Hawaii bases, would we make the same assumption? I think not. I don’t see why nuclear missile agreements should tie our hands in a strictly conventional battle especially if fought by a non nuclear ally. Clearly we need to present a conventional deterrent in conventional and nuclear ICBM bases and warheads. Imagine we some day shoot down a nuclear warhead. We want a conventional option.
Land-based missiles may also offer a solution to a current dilemma faced by the US military in supporting Asian countries that often face off with China over competing territorial claims. The U.S. has traditionally relied on forward air bases and carrier strike groups—such as the USS Carl Vinson group that embarked on a patrol of the South China Sea in February—to provide highly visible reassurance to allies in the Pacific-Asia region. But such high-visibility military assets are also the most vulnerable to China’s many missile-armed forces if it came to open conflict.
The US military could sidestep this dilemma if it chose to “emulate China by fielding mobile, land-based missile forces of its own,” said Evan Montgomery, a senior fellow at CSBA, in a recent report titled “Reinforcing the Front Line: US Defense Strategy and the Rise of China.” Land-based anti-ship missiles positioned on the territory of U.S. allies could provide the same reassurance while also being much less vulnerable militarily—and perhaps reduce the overall risk of open war by acting as a powerful deterrent.
There is always the possibility that China would take a dim view of US military moves to reinforce its allies with land-based missiles. But any potentially stabilizing strategy beyond the status quo would be welcome, as tensions in the South China Sea continue to bubble and brew.