SAN DIEGO: The Navy is shifting the focus of its surface and submarine fleets from defending against missile attacks to developing new weapons and tactics that prioritize hitting first and fast, service leaders said Wednesday.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the past years playing defense,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare, said at the West 2019 conference here. “Waiting for them to come to you, waiting for the missile to come, for the airplane to come. The best defense is a good offense, and the idea that we will go after the threat — at range — is something that we have to be able to do.”
The admiral’s comments come as the Navy — and the Pentagon — braces to meet the new challenges presented by modern Chinese surface ships, submarines, and aircraft in the Pacific, and similar, if far fewer, Russian assets in the waters around Europe and the Arctic.
One of the changes in recent years is the presence of the growing Chinese fleet, which keeps a close on on what the Americans are doing, and where they’re going. Every time a US ship travels in the western Pacific, “we have a dance partner,” said Vice Adm. John Alexander, commander of Third Fleet, referencing the Chinese warships and aircraft that shadow American vessels.
While those encounters are generally professional, more concerning are Chinese medium to long-range missiles that can reach out to hit US bases and ships in the region. Beijing is also speeding ahead with with tests of hypersonic ballistic missiles, which would be difficult to track and shoot down before they hit a US ship or bases in Japan, Guam and Okinawa.
Last month, a Chinese government-run newspaper made huge waves when it claimed the PLA was ready to deploy its “ship killer” DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile which is thought to have a range of roughly 2,400 miles. In December, Chinese Rear Admiral Lou Yuan told an audience that disputes in the South China Sea could be solved by sinking two US aircraft carriers.