The U.S. Navy will equip its attack submarines and all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles in an effort to ward off China’s growing threat in the Pacific, Trump’s chief national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday.
The service will install the weapons first on its Virginia-class attack submarines, then on its new Zumwalt-class destroyers, before eventually mounting the missiles on all three tiers of its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, according to Defense News.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard earlier today, “The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will provide hypersonic missile capabilities to keep targets from greater distances at risk.”
In total, more than 60 destroyers will be equipped with hypersonic weapons, capable of traveling at more than five times the speed of sound.
The move – which would vastly expand the Navy’s offensive arsenal and give the U.S. military critical new long-range capabilities – is seen as a critical step to the U.S. challenge of keeping China at bay in the disputed Indo-Pacific -region.
Investments in technology are also considered a priority by the Department of Defense. Rivals Russia and China have both made massive investments in the field, with Moscow claiming it already has hypersonic systems capable of defeating any existing US anti-missile technology.
The U.S. Navy will equip its attack submarines and all its destroyers with hypersonic missiles in an effort to ward off China’s growing threat in the Indo-Pacific region (a missile test is pictured aboard the Navy’s new Zumwalt-class destroyer)
The service will install the weapons first on its Virginia-class attack submarines (left), then on its new Zumwalt-class destroyers, before finally mounting the missiles on all three layers of its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (right)
Earlier this year, US defense sources warned that without serious reforms and investment in its naval fleet, the US would lose a war with China in the Indo-Pacific region and be unable to defend Taiwan against invasion.
The grim warning came amid mounting tensions between the two nations after President Trump quashed China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and repeatedly suggested the nation was lying about the magnitude of its crisis.
US defense sources said The times that one Pentagon simulation based on the year 2030, when China would have new attack submarines, aircraft carriers and destroyers, left the US overwhelmed by the country’s strength.
However, a threat is more immediate than it was in 2030, with every US base in the Indo-Pacific Command region seen as vulnerable to any kind of attack after China recently ramped up its stockpile of medium-range ballistic missiles.
The US island territory of Guam, home to three US military bases, has been identified as a particularly sensitive target.
“China has long-range ballistic missiles against ships and hypersonic missiles [more than five times the speed of sound] missiles, ”a US defense source told The Times.
Analysis by US experts on China has issued similar warnings.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the Chinese power project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and an adviser to the US government for East Asia, told The Times that Taiwan is the ‘most volatile issue’ between the two nations and fears that tensions may arise. erupt in nuclear war.
WHAT ARE HYPERSONIC MISSILES AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
Aircraft and missiles would be hypersonic as soon as they exceed speeds of Mach 5 and above, or five times the speed of sound.
This happens at 1,715 meters per second (3,836 mph / 6,174 km / h).
The latest class of hypersonic missiles would be smaller, guided and designed to transport conventional explosives for a time-sensitive, rapid response in theater operations.
There are two types of approaches to solve the hypersonic challenge in missiles: ‘scramjet’ and ‘boost glide’.
The air-breathing scramjet relies on high speed for its power.
As it accelerates, more air and fuel is pushed into the engine, allowing it to accelerate even more – to hypersonic speeds.
The boost glide model rides a reentry vehicle to extremely high altitudes, where it jumps over Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Traditional ballistic missiles already travel at hypersonic speeds.
Built to carry nuclear and conventional warheads, these weapons can reach space in their flights, but they cannot maneuver.
The U.S. island territory of Guam, home to three U.S. military bases, is of particular concern to U.S. defense officials, sources said
President Xi Jinping (right) and President Trump (left) in 2017. Tensions between the US and China – and the two leaders – have escalated in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the world.
China has taken advantage of the global battle with Covid-19 to stage a disturbing display of military firepower and enforce its claims to land in the South China Sea
Taiwan is increasingly in the middle of the political games between the two superpowers.
The Communist Party in China claims Taiwan as its own territory, but has no sovereign control there.
Beijing’s military activities in the South and East China Seas have been on the rise for months, including harassing carriers and building military outposts on artificial islands it has built in contested waters.
Meanwhile, the US has also increased its military presence in the seas and thwarted China by strengthening ties with Taiwan by boosting arms sales to the country.
In addition to the new hypersonic missile propulsion, more long-range ground-launched cruise missiles have been delivered to the Asia-Pacific region, with marine units along China’s seas also armed with more anti-ship missiles.
But Defense Secretary Mark Esper said much more needs to be done.
Earlier this month, Esper unveiled a plan to rapidly grow the Navy’s fleet to compete with China in its bid to become a first-class military force by 2049.
Chinese Navy is conducting exercises in the South China Sea in 2018. Beijing’s military activities have intensified in the South and East China Seas, while Taiwan is said to have become the “most volatile issue” between the two nations.
Esper promises to grow the Navy’s current fleet of 296 ships to more than 500 ships by 2045. More than 355 of those ships will be delivered by the mid-2030s, he said.
To get there, Esper said the Navy must first prioritize quickly building a submarine attack force of between 70 and 80 ships, a drastic increase from the current strength of 51.
The department also needs to rethink the use of carriers, Esper said, and suggested that the Navy introduce a lighter fleet with fewer carriers and large surface fighters.
Investing in the future is essential. Light and unmanned ships equipped with artificial intelligence are likely to play a role in the future of our country’s fleet, ‘O’Brien said Wednesday. The same goes for the small amphibious ships that are needed to move [Marine Commandant Gen. David] Berger’s marine coastal regiments around the islands of the Indo-Pacific. ‘
O’Brien also stated that the push for the Navy’s ‘Battleforce 2045’ will be achieved without diminishing the service’s capabilities in the meantime.
However, the pursuit of these new systems should not lead to a ‘rock bottom’ of strength, causing the nation to contend with diminished capabilities as we wait for future technologies and new ships to come online. Such a plan that trades current capacity for future out-year promises is not acceptable to the president, he said.