The US military needs to quickly and strategically deploy more anti-ship missiles capable of targeting Chinese vessels coming to invade Taiwan, a former US Navy submarine commander Thomas Shugart has said.
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The US military also needs to ensure that the American assets are adequately dispersed and hardened against a pre-emptive strike to ensure the survival of the vessels, Shugart said during a hearing of the Congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
The US is getting closer to Taiwan amid tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Last year witnessed a growing number of Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s airspace.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway part that will eventually merge with the communist country, where the latter claims sovereignty over all the island groups in the South China Sea and jurisdiction over adjacent waters.
The Eurasian Times reported last December that Taiwan was planning to buy 300 Patriot missile systems from the US to strengthen its air defense against a possible invasion by China.
Shugart, now an adjunct fellow at Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, said that the US and Taiwan should prepare more visibly for a protracted conflict against the Chinese PLA. According to analysts, the threat of a Chinese strike on Taiwan is more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’, as Beijing has repeatedly threatened to attack the island nation in a bid to integrate it with the Chinese mainland.
The former submariner also mentioned the types of anti-ship missiles in the US inventory which should fill the role, naming the LRASM (long-range anti-ship missile) and the NSM (naval strike missile).
However, “[these] will not be delivered in sufficient numbers under current U.S. procurements plans to defeat any attempted landing operation by China’s People’s Liberation Army across the Taiwan Strait,” DefenseNews quoted him as saying.
The Pentagon recently gave orders for additional procurement of the LRASM and the JASSM missiles to Lockheed Martin, giving approval for new production lots of the munitions.
Shugart said that it is important to stockpile essential supplies to Taiwan in case of a Chinese blockade or the declaration of a no-fly zone by the PLAAF over the skies of the island nation. This would counter any attempt by Beijing to seize the initiative by cutting it off from the international system, and sustain the population until international help arrives.
Meanwhile, Shugart also noted that NSM would be deployed on US Navy’s littoral combat ships and amphibious assault ships, stating that “either of whose survivability is questionable within the missile’s roughly 100-mile range from Taiwan Strait.”
For the LRASM, the missile would be carried by the American B-1 Lancer bombers and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, and the F-35s, which would require tanker support to continue their operations over the Taiwanese skies.
During the hearing, he also presented satellite images of the Chinese forces conducting mock attacks on the US military base. The satellite images of August 2020 also showed the mock-up of an E-3 Sentry aircraft at the exercise site, confirming the intention of the drill as the aircraft is not used by any other military in the region except for the US Air Force base in Okinawa.