by David Crane
defrev at gmail dot com
April 8, 2008
Updated on 4/10/08.
DefenseReview readers may remember an article we published on September 16, 2007 about our aircraft carriers being vulnerable to attack by our enemies and/or potential enemies employing/deploying the latest supersonic cruise missile and supercavitating torpedo technologies being developed by the Russians and shared with countries like China, India, and Iran. Even before that, in November 2006, we’d published an initial article on the threat posed to the U.S. Navy by the latest Russian and Chinese anti-ship weapons. Well, on March 19 (2007), WorldTribune.com published an article on China’s purchase of Klub-S 3M-54E / SS-N-27B Sizzler subsonic/supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) from Russia. Then, on March 23, Bloomberg published their own piece on China’s Sizzler missile purchase and the U.S. Navy’s lack of a solid plan to defend against it, more specifically to defend our aircraft carriers against it.
be launched from both submarines and surface ships (and possibly aircraft).
Orville Hanson, a 38-year U.S. Naval weapons systems evaluator calls Sizzler a “carrier-destroying weapon.” “Take out the carriers” and China “can walk into Taiwan,” he says. No kidding.
While we like to consider ourselves optimists here at DefRev, we predict that China will get Taiwan back within ten (10) years, and quite possibly in as little as five (5) years. We hope we’re wrong, but it’s most likely really up to China, and how determined they are to take back the island. If they really want–and it seems that they do–they’ll probably get it, since they (and the Russians, for that matter) can most likely sink our aircraft carriers at will.
Now, while some of the more patriotic among you might argue that the above is horsepucky, and our carriers are safe, a recent WorldTibune.com piece contains a couple of quotes from Admiral Tim Keating, the U.S. Pacific Command leader, that are not exactly confidence inspiring. The article quotes Keating as saying “It is of concern to us in the Pacific Command, principally because of People’s Liberation Army [PLA], navy and air force developments,” and that the Sizzler missile is “a very sophisticated piece of hardware and we are currently not as capable of defending against that missile as I would like.” Wonderful (sarcasm). In other words, we most likely can’t defend our carriers against it at the moment. That’s just great (sarcasm).
By the way, the Chinese military developments Keating references apparently include additional area denial weapons and anti-access weapons, not just SS-N-27 Sizzler missile.
And, Keating’s not alone in his concern. Admiral Michael Mullen (Mike Mullen), Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, said the following during a Bloomberg News interview in reference to the Sizzler ASCM that you might find interesting and simultaneously quite alarming:
“I’m concerned about China developing a military capability that we don’t understand, and their intent for using it is not clear.”
I want you to think about that, for a second. He didn’t just say that China and other countries are developing military capabilities that are challenging, although he did say that (Actually, I think he said “very challenging”, but I’d have to listen to the playback, again.). Oh, no. He said a military capability that, and I quote, “we don’t understand.” DON’T UNDERSTAND.
Don’t understand? Wow. Not good. Really not good.
The following excerpt is from Bloomberg:
“This is a very low-flying, fast missile,” said retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, a former U.S. naval attache in Beijing. “It won’t be visible until it’s quite close. By the time you detect it to the time it hits you is very short. You’d want to know your capabilities to handle this sort of missile.”
The Navy’s ship-borne Aegis system [a.k.a. Aegis Combat System a.k.a. Aegis Weapon System], deployed on cruisers and destroyers starting in the early 1980s, is designed to protect aircraft-carrier battle groups from missile attacks. But current and former officials say the Navy has no assurance Aegis, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is capable of detecting, tracking and intercepting the Sizzler.
“This was an issue when I walked in the door in 2001,” Thomas Christie, the Defense Department’s top weapons-testing official from mid-2001 to early 2005, said in an interview.
‘A Major Issue’
“The Navy recognized this was a major issue, and over the years, I had continued promises they were going to fully fund development and production” of missiles that could replicate the Sizzler to help develop a defense against it, Christie said. “They haven’t.”
The effect is that in a conflict, the U.S. “would send a billion-dollar platform loaded with equipment and crew into harm’s way without some sort of confidence that we could defeat what is apparently a threat very near on the horizon,” Christie said.
The Navy considered developing a program to test against the Sizzler “but has no plans in the immediate future to initiate such a developmental effort,” Naval Air Systems Command spokesman Rob Koon said in an e-mail.
So, our naval leaders have had approximately 6 years or more to solve the Russian supersonic anti-ship cruise missile threat problem, and, so far, they haven’t done it. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take them another six years to figure it out, or Taiwan may just belong to China, and the the Middle East may just end up “up for grabs”.
By the way, Admiral Mullen also discussed China’s “lack of transparency” (during his interview) with regard to their (China’s) military intentions, meaning we’re not quite sure what they are. Well, I just told you what they are: taking back Taiwan and (most likely) exerting more influence over the Middle East region.
Let me tell ya’, we’d better figure it out (a viable solution/counter, that is), and right quick, because not only are the Chinese going to try to take back Taiwan in short order, but they’re also most likely going to join Iran in actively challenging our dominance in the Middle East. After all, the way they probably look at it is why should we (the United States), exert more influence in that region than they do. I mean, we can, of course, argue ’till w’ere blue in the face that we should exercise more influence because we’re a more benevolent and magnanimous country than they are, and that we’re a Capitalist country with a rebublican form of government as opposed to a Communist country with a totalitarian form of government (them), but how well is that argument really going to go over with the Chinese? Probably not very well.
Speaking of Iran, with Sizzler-equipped Kilo-class subs, the Iranians might just have a shot at successfully challenging us all by themselves, and they can really challenge us if they team up with China. Imagine a Chinese-Iranian alliance for a second–with the latest and greatest Russian weapons in their respective land and naval arsenals. Not a pretty picture.
The kicker is that some of China’s Sizzler missiles are reported to be nuclear-tipped. Yeah, the story just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
What if Iran successfully develops nuclear weapons technology, and can tip their Sizzlers with nuclear warheads?
Finally, let’s not forget the birthplace of these weapons technologies, Russia. The Russians can also challenge our interests in the Middle East and around the world, if they choose. According to some, there’s a new Cold War brewing with Russia, thanks to Mr. Putin and other elements inside Russia.
Bottom line, we’d better get our act together, pronto.