Unsinkable No More: China's Hypersonic Missiles Challenge US Navy
By PNW StaffMay 30, 2023
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Chinese researchers are claiming that the world's largest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, could be demolished with absolute certainty using hypersonic missiles.
The researchers conducted a war game simulation, which showcased China's military sinking the carrier fleet by launching a relentless onslaught of 24 hypersonic anti-ship missiles across 20 intense battles. Their findings challenge the previously held notion that the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier fleet is invulnerable to conventional weapons.
The simulation unfolded in the disputed South China Sea, where the US vessels persisted in approaching an island claimed by China, despite repeated warnings. Chinese researchers demonstrated the long-range capabilities of their hypersonic missiles by launching some from distant locations like the Gobi Desert. The outcome of the simulation was bleak for the US, as nearly every surface vessel was shattered and ultimately sank under the devastating attack.
These findings arrive at a time when China is actively exploring strategies to overcome US naval defenses in its quest to take over the Island of Taiwan. One such approach involves the development of advanced stealth submarines like the Type 095 and Type 096. These silent and elusive submarines pose a significant challenge to US anti-submarine defenses, bolstering China's underwater warfare capabilities.
China has also been investing in anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) such as the DF-21D and DF-26. These long-range missiles, equipped with maneuverable warheads, are specifically designed to target and disable aircraft carriers. Their ability to evade interception poses a considerable threat to US carrier strike groups.
In addition to submarines and anti-ship ballistic missiles, China has been actively utilizing drone swarms to overcome US aircraft carrier defenses. By deploying large numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in synchronized attacks, China aims to overwhelm the defensive systems of US carriers. These drone swarms can carry out coordinated strikes, evading interception and overwhelming the carrier's defenses. The sheer volume and agility of the swarm enable them to disrupt operations, inflict damage, and create chaos on the carrier's deck.
To further enhance its military capabilities, China is investing in robust electronic warfare and cyber operations. Electronic warfare techniques, such as jamming and spoofing, are employed to degrade or disable US naval communication systems, sensors, and radars. This disruptive approach reduces the effectiveness of US defensive capabilities.
Moreover, China's navy has rapidly expanded in recent years, now boasting a larger fleet than that of the United States. With over 350 ships, including surface vessels, submarines, and aircraft carriers, China now possesses a naval force that surpasses the US fleet in terms of sheer numbers. This growth in naval strength grants China greater operational flexibility and the ability to project power across the world's oceans, not just in the Taiwan strait.
In the face of China's continuous expansion of its navy, an alarming message has been delivered to American military strategists by a professor at the US Naval War College. According to Sam Tangredi, the Leidos Chair of Future Warfare Studies and a former US Navy captain, history has shown that in naval warfare, the larger fleet almost always emerges victorious.
Tangredi's warning was published in the January edition of the US Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine. He examined 28 naval conflicts, ranging from the ancient Greco-Persian Wars to more recent Cold War proxy conflicts and interventions. His research revealed that superior numbers, rather than superior technology, have been the determining factor in the outcome of most naval wars.
"In only three instances did superior technology defeat bigger numbers," Tangredi stated. "All other wars were won by superior numbers or, when between equal forces, superior strategy or admiralship." He further explained that operating a large fleet enables more extensive training and often indicates that leaders are attentive to strategic requirements.
While the three exceptional cases of technological superiority over numerical advantage in naval warfare were from the 11th, 16th, and 19th centuries, Tangredi emphasized that the instances where numbers prevailed over technology are more recognizable to the general public.
One such example he highlighted was the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s. Despite France possessing superior ship design and construction technologies, it was the overwhelming numbers of the Royal Navy that prevented Napoleon from crossing the English Channel.
The US Navy is struggling to match the rapid expansion of China's fleet in terms of size and based on current production numbers it appears unlikely to catch China, with odds of the gap becoming even greater in China's favor.
To overcome this challenge, US military strategists are relying on technological advancements. A Pentagon document states that victory in future conflicts will be determined by the integration of technology, concepts, partners, and systems, rather than fleet size alone.
Nevertheless, Tangredi points out that the case of World War II in the Pacific refutes the Pentagon's conclusions. At the beginning of the war, Japan possessed superior technology, including the formidable Zero fighter, Long-Lance torpedoes, and aerial torpedoes capable of striking in shallow waters. However, it was the sheer industrial might and the size of the US fleet, particularly its logistics and amphibious ships, that ultimately secured victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy.
As China continues its naval expansion, these historical lessons serve as a cautionary tale for the US Navy. While technological advancements are crucial, the importance of fleet size and numerical advantage cannot be underestimated in determining the outcome of future naval conflicts.
China has also made significant strides in developing space weapons that could potentially neutralize or destroy US satellites in the event of a conflict. These space-based weapons, such as anti-satellite missiles and directed energy weapons, have the capability to disrupt critical US military communications, reconnaissance, and navigation systems. The ability to impair satellites would significantly impact the US military's intelligence gathering and operational coordination, giving China a strategic advantage in potential conflicts.
While China's multifaceted approach to overcoming US naval defenses poses significant challenges, concerns have been raised about the US Navy's focus. A recent US naval recruitment video featuring a non-binary drag queen emphasizing the role of LGBTQ+ individuals in the Navy has drawn criticism. Many argue that the video highlights misplaced priorities, suggesting that the US Navy should be more focused on addressing potential threats rather than diversifying its ranks.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, tweeted a portion of the recruitment clip with the caption, "While China prepares for war, this is what they have our US Navy focused on."