The US Navy has loaded a warship with an ultramodern cruise missile in the Pacific, which experts believe could help restore the balance of power in the South China Sea dominated by Beijing.
The USS Gabrielle Gifford left San Diego, California earlier this month with the Naval Strike Missile, which can hit a ship 100 miles away.
The rocket skims and is difficult to detect with radar. It can also evade enemy defense systems and detect precise targets on a ship – such as the hull or the stern – with less room for error, according to the weapon's designer.
It is linked to an MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter drone that helps find ships on the horizon.
USS Gabrielle Gifford, deployed earlier this month from San Diego, California, set out for an undisclosed location in the Asia-Pacific region
It is equipped with the Naval Strike Missile (not shown) that can hit targets more than 100 miles away and evade enemy defense systems
& # 39; The Pentagon is building a military force that can operate on a more sustainable basis and has a better chance of fighting and surviving in the deadly anti-access, area denial of the People & # 39; s Liberation Army & # 39; s (PLA) & # 39 ;, Rand Corp. senior defense analyst Timothy Heide CNN told.
China and a number of other countries dispute the ownership of the South China Sea that covers the Spratly Islands.
Vietnam and the Philippines are the next largest claimants after Beijing, followed by smaller countries, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.
China and a number of other countries dispute ownership of the South China Sea area, which covers the Spratly Islands
Although the US is still lagging behind in the region, the deployment of the Naval Strike Missile is an important development to send a message to Beijing.
& # 39; This is a first step toward restoring that imbalance with more to follow in the coming years & # 39 ;, said former US Navy Captain, Carl Schuster.
It could also inform American allies in the region that America is still strongly present. Vietnam and Singapore, two close allies, see increasing friction over mineral and island rights in the Pacific.
The investment in such an expensive and technically advanced piece of weapons can also demonstrate US commitment to distance and increase the willingness of other countries to unite with America, experts say.
Although there is no official news about where the USS Gifford is going, analysts expect it is en route to Singapore or the Gulf of Thailand.
The bulk of China's firepower is based on military installations on artificial islands and reefs, often in the controversial sea areas.
Much of China's firepower is based on military installations on artificial islands and reefs, often in the controversial sea areas
US Navy & # 39; s coastal battleship USS Montgomery sails in formation with naval ships of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the US-ASEAN maritime exercise on the Gulf of Thailand
China defends these constructions as necessary for self-defense and says that the United States is responsible for boosting tension in the region by sending warships and military planes close to the claims of the Beijing islands.
America promotes itself as a more stable friend for those countries in territorial disputes with Beijing by conducting frequent security operations and making attempts to keep the area open for passage.
In April, the Chinese naval chief said that freedom of navigation should not be used to violate the rights of other countries.
The freedom of navigation operations saw two American ships sailing close to islands that Beijing claims to possess.
The US Army, together with Russia, put China at the center of a new national defense strategy last year, shifting priorities after more than a year and a half of focusing on the fight against Muslim militants.
Naval Strike Missile
A US Navy rocket being fired in 2014
- 100 nautical miles range
- Sea skimming and avoiding radar
- Can locate precise ship areas with infrared
- Flying over or around land mass & # 39; s
USS Gabrielle Giffords
USS Gabrielle Giffords (pictured)
- Built for sailing on shallow water
- & # 39; Agile and stealthy surface battleship & # 39;
- Costs $ 475 million
- Can drive at a top speed of 54 mph
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