Army Long Range Strike Gives China A Taste of Its Own Medicine
In response to China's increasingly powerful blue-water navy and deployment of long-range "carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles, the U.S. Army has developed a suite of weapons designed to destroy or suppress Chinese targets from very long ranges, and do so quickly and precisely while reducing the threat these Chinese weapons pose to vital Navy and Air Force offensive weaponry.
The commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee he likes the Army's idea.
When Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., posed a question about China's disruptive military power in the western Pacific, Davidson replied, "A wider base of long-range precision fires ... enabled by all our terrestrial forces -- not just sea and air, but by land forces as well -- is critically important to stabilizing what is becoming a more unstable environment in the western Pacific ... Long-range precision fires delivered by the ground force, I think, are critically important."
Chinese weapons now put precious Navy and Air Force offensive systems, such as aircraft carriers and strategic bombers, at risk. Adm. Davidson understands that a "wider base of fires" means more American firepower coming from more and different places -- "dispersed and distributed positions" is the jargon. The Army programs complicate warfighting for Chinese targeteers while simultaneously threatening China's long-range weapons systems.
In April 2020, Army Chief of Staff James McConville said the Army's ground-based weapons give commanders multiple options and "present multiple dilemmas to someone that we are trying to compete against so they can't focus on just one option that we have."
Davidson and McConville are attempting to defeat China's anti-access/area denial strategy in the Pacific. English translation: If the Navy thinks it might lose a super carrier to a long-range Chinese weapon, it will keep its key offensive task forces, the carrier battle groups, away from the western Pacific and out of range.
Keeping the carrier battlegroups in the central or eastern Pacific has military and diplomatic costs. It could give Chinese forces time to gain regional military superiority and seize Taiwan.
A key weapon in China's anti-access/area denial strategy is the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile, which the Pentagon believes has achieved "initial operational capability," which means it's already a threat to the carriers.
In a nutshell, the Army wants to place mobile, long-range missile and extended-range artillery batteries on Pacific islands and perhaps in Japan and South Korea. The missiles and artillery rounds are "smart" -- meaning precise.
Should China attack, the Army's missile fire would complement other long-range attacks to destroy Chinese ballistic missiles, air bases, coastal defenses and even warships.