News Analysis |
Reuters reported that China has attained virtual supremacy in certain categories of military hardware such as intermediate range ballistic and hypersonic missiles. China’s focus on the aircraft carriers and their ability to destroy has been developed in response to the United States of America which has an edge in the sea – courtesy of its 11 aircraft carriers and has maintained a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which China considers its back yard.
The hypersonic missiles travel at a speed which can be five times or even more than the speed of sound making their detection and interception virtually impossible. Other than China, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that its country has made an ‘invincible’ missile which experts believe is a hypersonic missile.
Admiral Harry Harris, the former head of US Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee in February last year that hypersonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the US military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States started its research and development in hypersonic missile technology long before both China and Russia, but due to a number of reasons, the projects were delayed. In the current scenario, the U.S is looking to catch up to its rivals Russia and China and has outsourced contracts to companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to build a hypersonic arsenal of its own. In 2017, the United States Navy conducted a successful test of a hypersonic missile.
What Allowed China to Move Ahead of the United States of America in Such Technology?
Two important reasons stand out, while the US embroiled itself in wars across multiple fronts in the last 2 decades; resources that would have been crucial for research and development were used instead to wage invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the latter continuing to drain billions of dollars. On the other hand, China with no real enemy to fight against has used its resources to build state of the art weaponry. Chinese defense spending has increased multiple folds in recent years, especially under the presidency of Xi Jinping.
The other reason why China was able to jump ahead in the intermediate range ballistic missile technology is that United States was bound by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces or INF treaty, which prohibited the United States from building and deploying medium-range ballistic missiles.
Under the agreement, both Russia and the U.S could not deploy missile between the range of 500-5,500 Km. But China was under no such obligation, therefore it kept on building and deploying these missiles giving the country a clear edge over the strength of U.S Naval fleet. This is also one factor behind the US recent announcement to walk away from INF treaty.
Missile Defense Systems are Obsolete for Hypersonic Missiles
Most of the existing Anti-ballistic missile defense systems are land-based, and since the probability of land confrontation between both China and the United States is very low, the U.S Naval fleet is becoming vulnerable to incoming missiles.
The U.S Navy has one of the best ABM Defense system, Aegis Naval System, however, even that is insufficient to destroy hypersonic missiles in the air. So far, there is no system in the world which has the capacity to provide cover from hypersonic missiles with a guarantee.