For the second time in a short span people have seen one of the US military’s newest drones being transported by truck and thought they were witnessing a UFO in transit. No folks it is just the X-47B, a carrier launched stealth drone that is still in the testing phase. Should it eventually join the fleet on active duty it would mark a milestone finally achieved for the US Navy because while the air force has had stealth capabilities for literally decades the navy has been left with conventional aircraft to get the job done. This would be a serious upgrade for the navy greatly increasing their reconnaissance and strike capabilities. Since the US Navy will be in the lead in confronting China this is also something they can’t afford to be without.
There is a great article over at www.foreignpolicy.com that deals with problems the US military faces in confronting China. The article points out the obvious advantages China would have in any engagement, first and foremost it would take place on their turf. Unfortunately Chinese advantages go beyond that because they are playing in their backyard the Chinese will be able to accomplish their objectives, like threatening Taiwan with annihilation, without even leaving their own country by using thousands of land based missiles to literally rain destruction on Taiwan. To counter this America because of the vast distance from the US will have to use naval power to try to prevent this. However, with recent advances in Chinese anti-ship missile technology and because they can just swarm US ships with an unstoppable amount of missiles it will be difficult for the US to protect Taiwan. Have a look at this excerpt from the original article to get a better understanding of the problem.
“But Air-Sea Battle still faces enormous challenges in overcoming the “home court” advantage a continental power enjoys deploying its missile forces from hidden, dispersed, and hardened sites. In addition, the United States faces a steep “marginal cost” problem with an opponent like China; additional defenses for U.S. ships are more expensive than additional Chinese missiles. And China can acquire hundreds or even thousands of missiles for the cost of one major U.S. warship.
Given these structural weaknesses, Air-Sea Battle’s success will rely not on endlessly parrying the enemy’s missiles, but striking deeply at the adversary’s command posts, communications networks, reconnaissance systems, and basing hubs in order to prevent missiles from being launched in the first place. Such strikes would mean attacks on space systems, computer networks, and infrastructure, with implications for the broader civilian economy and society.Some critics of Air-Sea Battle reason that raising the stakes in this manner would make terminating a conflict much more difficult and would escalate the conflict into domains — such as space and cyber — that are particular vulnerabilities for the United States.”
So from reading that excerpt it is pretty clear that our side thinks it can win vs. China, but for this strategy to truly be successful China also needs to think the US will win otherwise they will actually be tempted to test their luck.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today while touring Asia that the US would move the bulk of its navy to the region. While it’s not the first time a US official has spoke of the Asian shift in focus for the US military Panetta’s comments did offer more detail than we had heard before. For instance, Panetta said the US would keep 6 aircraft carriers and their battle groups in the Pacific. Of course Panetta tried to down play the notion that the shift in US forces was meant to counter balance China’s rise by stressing that both countries saw the need for constructive engagement. Link to full story below.
Rumor has it that the Phillippino government might be interested in a return of US troops to the island nation. The Philippines famously forced US bases to close about 20 years ago, but with the rise of China and the constant disputes over territory and fishing rights looks to be enough to have swung opinion back in favor of having foreign troops based there again. Defense Tech has an article saying new details should emerge after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta returns from his Asian trip. The Chinese have already expressed anger about the US basing troops in Australia, one can imagine they would not be to happy about this if it were to happen. Link to story below.
I was a little confused last summer when the debt ceiling deal was announced allowing the ceiling to be raised in exchange for the creation of a bi-partisan commission. The commission was to be tasked with reducing the nation’s deficit that was to have a fail safe enacted of automatic cuts to government programs if an agreement could not be reached. I was confused because I thought republicans had agreed to too many defense cuts in case the commission failed and I also thought because republicans had been so generous with the proposed defense cuts that democrats might just be tempted to allow the commission to fail and go with the automatic cuts. Fast forward almost a year later and that very scenario seems likely to happen with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declaring earlier in the week that unless republicans agree to tax increases he is inclined to forgo a deal and take the automatic cuts. This is a disastrous scenario for the pentagon, which is still fighting a war in Afghanistan, and also needs to fund weapon systems that align with nation’s strategic pivot focusing more on Asia. This deal seems to give the democrats what they always wanted, to break the pentagon’s budget once and for all.
Today US defense Secretary Leon Panetta publicly stated that the US was ready to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The comments by the defense secretary came after talks in Baghdad earlier in the week between Iran, the US and others did not seem to accomplish much. The remarks are also some of the strongest on record clearly warning Iran the US will use military force to stop Iran. Link to story below.