THE NATIONAL INTEREST– The United States Navy will have to live with the proliferation of anti-ship ballistic missiles that have the potential to threaten an aircraft carrier. However, the threat from such weapons is not insurmountable, and in many cases, the danger might be overblown.
“I think there is this long-range precision strike capability, certainly. Everybody says A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial],” Adm. John Richardson, the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, told an audience at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference on June 20. “A2/AD is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution it’s much more difficult.”
While U.S. Navy officials—and many Washington, D.C., think tanks—have talked about the potential threat to the service’s aircraft carrier fleet from weapons such as the Chinese DF-21D and DF-26, the difficulty of developing a true A2/AD capability is seldom discussed.
As Richardson pointed out, A2/AD strategies have existed since the dawn of warfare. What makes the new Chinese capability different is the combination of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability with long-range precision weapons. “The combination ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision strike weapons take that to the next level,” Richardson said. “It demands a response.”
But the threat is not just contained in the South China Sea, Richardson said. The anti-ship ballistic missile threat is increasingly found around the world and will continue to proliferate. Indeed, the hermit kingdom of North Korea has apparently acquired anti-ship ballistic missile technology. As such, the Navy will have to get used to living with the threat of anti-ship ballistic missiles and other similar threats.
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