US to deploy new ground-based missiles to Indo-Pacific in 2024

    WORLD  03 December 2023 - 12:33

    The US military plans to deploy ground-based intermediate-range missiles in the Indo-Pacific in 2024, a US official told Nikkei, establishing its first arsenal in the region since the end of the Cold War to enhance deterrence against China.

    Rob Phillips, a spokesperson for US Army Pacific, outlined the plan to Nikkei. Options being considered include land-based versions of the Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) and the Tomahawk cruise missile. Ranges of the missiles are believed to be between 500 and 2,700 kilometres.

    The deployment is the first since the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, expired in 2019. The pact, signed with the Soviet Union in 1987, had banned the countries from developing and possessing land-based missiles with ranges of 500 km to 5,500 km.

    China continued to expand its arsenal of medium and intermediate-range missiles while the US was bound by the INF Treaty. Beijing is now estimated to possess 1,500 missiles with a range of 1,000 km to 5,500 km, according to the Pentagon's annual report on China's military power.

    Phillips did not provide details on where and when the American missiles might be deployed.

    Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the US Army will send the intermediate-range missile units primarily to the US territory of Guam, looking for more forward deployment to Asian allies in a contingency.

    "These will be permanently deployed to US territories in the region, primarily Guam," Panda said. "Allies may be open to rotational deployments in crises, but this is very much dependent on future political dynamics."

    Responding to a crisis in the Taiwan Strait or South China Sea will require missiles that can reach targets in those critical waterways or the mainland of China. This means an extended deployment near the so-called first island chain, which stretches from Japan's Okinawa islands to Taiwan and the Philippines.

    Guam has become a strategically critical location for US military operations in the western Pacific and is 4,000 km from mainland China. The intermediate-range missile units could be deployed rapidly from the island to Asian allies in response to emergencies.

    For now, Japan and the Philippines are reluctant to host new American capabilities for fear of becoming an immediate target of the Chinese military in a crisis. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in January that there was no plan to deploy the new land-based missiles to Japan.

    Jennifer Kavanagh, senior fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said having the Philippines host such missiles "would be a bridge too far."

    Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. "has been very clear that the United States is not going to be using the bases in the Philippines for strike operations against China, including the basing of forces that will be used in such a capacity or basing of munitions that will be used in that capacity," she said.

    Washington intends to advance ground-based missile deployment to serve as deterrence against military action by China. Mobile and agile missile units are more likely to avoid detection and enemy strikes than ships or aircraft. They also do not require runways or ports, allowing for greater flexibility.

    The US Army has been shifting focus toward China and Russia from the war on terror in the Middle East. It now plans to engage enemy vessels, and would be the first to the front lines of a potential crisis along with the US Marine Corps.

    Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Chinese missiles "would threaten US [naval] bases in the western Pacific. The United States needs a similar capability so it can strike Chinese bases without risking ships or aircraft."

    https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/https%3A%2F%2Fcms-image-bucket-production-ap-northeast-1-a7d2.s3.ap-northeast-1.amazonaws.com%2Fimages%2F_aliases%2Farticleimage%2F7%2F9%2F6%2F5%2F46915697-1-eng-GB%2F2023-03-31T110803Z_1647861752_RC2P40ATRNL1_RTRMADP_3_PHILIPPINES-USA-DEFENCE.JPG?source=nar-cms

    Cancian sees the Army deploying the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) to existing Army units in Asia. The missile, currently under development, is expected to have a range of up to around 500 km and be compatible with the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System and Multiple Launch Rocket System.

    Despite delays, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) is also in final stages of development.

    Hypersonic missiles, also being developed by China and Russia, travel on irregular trajectories at high speeds, making them difficult to counter. The LRHW missile has a range of 2,775 km.

    Jacob Stokes, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, cautioned that air, sea, space and cyber domains would be more important than land-based assets in a contingency over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

    "That is because of the primarily maritime geography of the areas in question," Stokes said. "Land forces could play a useful role as part of the joint force, especially by operating land-based missiles and missile defences, but the relative value of US land forces in the East Asian context is not equal to forces focused on other domains."

    Caliber.Az

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