Streetwise Professor

August 16, 2010

Continuing the Theme

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 6:01 pm

Of US-Chinese naval rivalry.  Last week there were a bunch of breathless stories about the Chinese DF-21 “carrier killer” ballistic missile.  I’m not that worried about it by itself.  The oceans are large, and carriers are small by comparison.  Target acquisition and tracking are daunting challenges: you can’t hit what you can’t find and follow.  Moreover, electronic countermeasures will create further obstacles that the DF-21 has to overcome.  Finally, US shipborne anti-ballistic missile capability is maturing rapidly.  Indeed, the ostensible justification for the termination of the missile defense efforts in Poland and the Czech Republic was that the Navy’s Aegis system could do the job more effectively and cheaply.

So why the sudden spate of stories about something that’s not really news?  I think it has little to do with any change in the perception of the threat posed by the DF-21, but has everything to do with AMD.  I think that the Pentagon wants to make it very clear that ballistic missiles are a growing threat in all theaters, and that missile defenses are a key component of American military strength not to be bargained away in some dreamy deal with the Russians.  Raised in the context of increased tensions in the South China Sea and Yellow Seas, moreover, it signals Pentagon efforts to draw attention to Chinese investment in its naval and sea denial capabilities, and the strategic implications thereof.

I would therefore not be surprised to see a steady stream of stories on DF-21 and other Chinese naval initiatives.  This is the biggest long-term strategic issue the US faces, by comparison to which Russia or even Iran pale in comparison.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig pirrong, Craig pirrong. Craig pirrong said: Updated my SWP blog post: Continuing the Theme ( ) […]

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