US Navy Must Do This to Defeat Chinese in War

The United States has a problem- the Chinese
Navy has officially become the world’s largest navy. Thankfully, the capabilities of the Chinese
Navy are decades behind that of the American Navy, but in any confrontation with China,
the US Navy will at best only be able to call up on 60% of its fleet, thanks to naval commitments
elsewhere in the world. When forced to face off against just over
half of the US fleet, the Chinese Navy’s chances for victory in any Pacific conflict quickly
escalate. For now though the US Navy doesn’t need to
worry, China is still not a true blue-water navy that’s capable of operating for extended
periods of time far from its own shores, although it has sent task forces to the horn of Africa
to aid in anti-piracy efforts. Overall on a ship-to-ship basis, the Chinese
navy’s technology ranges from a decade to four decades behind the United States, especially
amongst its very noisy submarine forces. Yet the situation is quickly changing. China has in recent years funded a major investment
in its naval forces, which has resulted in a frenzy of ship-building. Currently China out-builds the United States
when it comes to ships, though again it’s important to remember that the capabilities
of each ship so far fails to match up to those of American ships. Also, this is still the initial surge phase
of China’s new, modern navy- after reaching a predetermined target number of ships, the
ship-building frenzy will slow to a rate similar to the US’s. China’s growing naval might is worrying not
just the United States, but many of China’s own neighbors who have routinely been bullied
by China’s growing might. Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam- to name
a few- all have serious disputes with China, which has on numerous times claimed territory
rightfully within their territorial waters for itself. China’s frenzy of island-building in the South
China Sea has also sparked international concerns, and while President Obama’s shifting of naval
power to the Pacific quickly halted the island expansions, China has so far refused to vacate
the five islands it has built. This is in spite of a ruling by The Hauge
which dismissed China’s fanciful claims to the region. Instead, China has fortified its South China
Sea holdings, adding radars, flight lines for combat planes, and missile defense systems. The message is clear: China is not budging. While the US is not seeking a military confrontation
with China, its commitments to defend many of the nations that China is currently bullying
or intimidating may force its hand. In that case, the US may find itself with
its hands full dealing with Chinese naval and ballistic missile power, unless radical
reforms of the American navy take place. The greatest threat to American naval forces
in the Pacific is China’s staggeringly large stockpile of anti-ship ballistic missiles. These giant missiles can be fired from the
heart of China, and guided to their target as far out in the Pacific as Guam, by a system
of space and airborne radar and targeting assets. With thousands of these missiles, the US fleet
appears to be in serious jeopardy. To counter the ballistic missile threat from
China, the US Navy has adopted a doctrine of dispersed operations. While in the past battlegroups would be centered
around an aircraft carrier and fight relatively close together, new doctrine has led the Navy
to widely disperse its battlegroups, so as to make each individual ship harder to hit. New investments in anti-ballistic missile
systems have also added robust capabilities to American fleets, and a new generation of
anti-missile missiles have performed very well in testing. Yet a major problem for the US Navy is the
sheer number of ballistic and conventional missiles China could throw at American ships. While it’s highly unlikely that China would
be able to achieve air superiority against the US Navy, new, extremely long range anti-ship
missiles would see Chinese fighters able to use their weapons against American ships from
hundreds of miles away, and never even get close to American interceptors meant to protect
their ships from this threat. Then there’s the threat posed by Chinese submarines,
which could fire off anti-ship missiles while lurking under the waves- they would need to
be closer to their American targets than Chinese jets, but would still be able to operate far
outside of the traditional security envelope established around American battlegroups. One solution to these twin problems is to
simply push out the radius of the security envelope around a battlegroup. Unmanned refueling tankers are already being
deployed amongst American fleets, and this will allow a carrier’s combat air patrol to
operate much further away than normal, which would let them intercept Chinese aircraft
before getting close enough to fire. To counter the submarine threat, the US Navy,
under its Ghost Fleet Overlord program, has been testing autonomous ships that can assist
manned ships in combat. One of these ships is an anti-submarine warfare
platform, which would patrol the waters around a battle group completely on its own, searching
for Chinese subs and engaging any discovered. Another key to defending American ships in
the Pacific is a heavy investment into technologies and tools to disrupt China’s kill chains-
or a chain of assets required to successfully launch a ballistic missile and accurately
guide it to its target a thousand miles away. This includes space-based and airborne surveillance
and radar platforms as well as communication nodes, and while details remain classified,
the US so far remains confident that it can disrupt China’s kill-chain capabilities enough
to protect most of its ships. For their part, the Chinese have never demonstrated
they have the sophistication to implement, and protect, a kill-chain system that can
successfully target and destroy a ship far out at sea. New plans are calling for a heavy investment
by the US in anti-ballistic missile systems, such as directed energy weapons and kinetic
interceptors such as rail guns. Currently one of the biggest problems with
protecting American fleets is not an inability to accurately target and destroy incoming
missiles, but simply that China would rely on overwhelming barrages mean to force US
ships to expend all the missiles in their batteries trying to protect themselves. Once each ship’s battery is depleted, it is
for all intents and purposes, defenseless against incoming missiles- specially of the
ballistic variety. A directed energy weapon would have no magazine
size limits, as it would fire off electrical power generated by the ship. It could fire for as long as the ships generated
electricity, and intercept incoming missiles at the speed of light- making it incredibly
accurate. High energy lasers could burn out missile
warheads and guidance electronics, causing them to prematurely detonate or simply fly
out of control. Kinetic railgun interceptors would still need
a magazine of projectiles, but these projectiles are both much cheaper to produce than a modern
missile, and can be made much, much smaller. A single rail gun battery could hold hundreds
of rounds for a fraction of the cost of a traditional vertical launch cell on a big
warship. But even these innovations aren’t enough to
successfully defeat China at sea, because the fact remains that China has invested extremely
heavily in both anti-ship ballistic and traditional missiles. To make matters worse, the US Navy’s current
ship designs are only making China’s job of destroying them easier. For decades US ships were built around extremely
powerful suits of radar and other sensors, which gave them incredible situational awareness
and command of their battlespace, but in a modern war also make them incredibly easy
targets to find for any sophisticated foe, such as China. In essence, US ships and their sensor systems
put out so much electronic noise, that finding them out at sea would be as easy for China
as it would be for you to find a screaming person in a pitch-black room. High energy sensor systems are an absolute
necessity for any naval force, so simply doing away with them is not realistic. Instead, the Navy needs to seriously rethink
its current force structure. At the moment, the US navy is very destroyer
and cruiser-heavy, it’s the biggest, meanest, guy on the block, and packs the strongest
right hook in the world. To defeat China and not suffer catastrophic
losses in doing so, the American navy needs to go on a serious diet and slim down. Rather than relying on traditional concentrations
of big destroyers and guided missile cruisers, the US navy needs to slash funding for these
large ships and invest in a force of mid-range ships. About half the size of a modern destroyer,
these smaller ships would carry less ordnance, but would be cheaper to build, maintain, and
operate, and could be fielded in large numbers versus smaller numbers of bigger ships. These medium-sized ships would be widely dispersed
across a battlespace, and thanks to their sheer numbers and smaller profiles, enough
of them could get close enough to Chinese forces with an acceptable degree of risk that
they could take advantage of passive sensors to track and target Chinese ships and shore
targets. Passive sensor systems put out much less energy
than active systems, and thus a large network of smaller ships could relay targeting data
back to the main battlegroup while remaining relatively undetected. America’s big guns could safely remain undetected
out at sea, and still be able to service targets accurately. New studies call for these smaller ships to
be completely unmanned, or at least optionally manned with crews no greater than 24. In fact, the Navy is looking to adopt unmanned
ships in a big way- literally- and the service is right now testing two large unmanned ships. Under program Ghost Fleet Overlord, the US
navy intends to build several Large Unmanned Vessels- or LUVs- to supplement its traditional
manned forces. The goal of these LUVs will be to offset the
risk of battlegroups being overwhelmed by saturation strikes and expending all of their
missile batteries in self defense. In essence, each LUV will be nothing more
than a seaborne missile battery, housing hundreds of missiles, which could either be fired remotely
at targets or used to resupply battlegroups out at sea. Nicknamed arsenal ships, the concept dates
back to the 1980s, and each individual ship could carry about half the firepower of an
entire battlegroup. That’s a hell of a lot of punch in just one
ship, but many experts fear that that’s exactly the problem. These big robotic missile ships will still
rely on extremely powerful active sensor systems that will be easy for Chinese forces to spot
and target. Arsenal ships also have one other major downside-
they serve no purpose outside of actual war. Unlike traditional manned ships, arsenal ships
could not be deployed on training missions, relationship-building missions with friendly
countries, or counter-terrorism missions. They would have only a single use, in only
a single scenario, giving the Navy a lot less bang for its buck dollar for dollar. Instead, experts are calling for the Navy
to switch from large robotic arsenal ships to the fleet of smaller unmanned, or optionally
manned, ships we discussed earlier. Not only will this give the Navy much greater
survivability against Chinese missile forces, but the ships could still carry out a range
of peacetime missions as well. In fact, a recent study showed that for the
same price, the US Navy could actually get 1.4 times the missile tubes going with a fleet
of smaller ships than the current plan to purchase lower numbers of the big robot arsenal
ships. In the end, hopefully the Navy never needs
to implement any of its plans to defeat China at sea, as nobody wants to see a confrontation
between the two nations. Yet for the US and many of the South Pacific
nations that have found themselves bullied by China in the last decade and a half, it’s
a comforting thought to know that the United States Navy is always preparing for that unfortunate
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