Deadly Chinese Missile Threats Pt 1
The British Royal Navy appears set on deploying its first ever post World War 2 conventional catapult ships, if all goes well. There is a problem with spending small defense funds on a rather dated notion, that in the future large deck warships will be able to sail close to shore and perform the traditional duty of power projection, given the proliferation of guided missiles around the world. Greg Grant reports on what the Western powers would have to face in any confrontation with the world’s premier missile fleet since the demise of the Soviet Union, China:
China has the “most active” land based ballistic missile and cruise missile program in the world, the DoD report says. The PLA is building a huge missile arsenal for precision conventional strike because it lacks, so far anyway, a stealthy strike aircraft. The vast majority of China’s ballistic missiles are of the short range (under 600km) SCUD type and lack “true precision strike capability.” And the vast majority of those missiles are aimed at Taiwan.
In the anti-access arena, China is building or buying medium-range ballistic missiles (1,000–3,000km): “to increase the range at which it can conduct precision strikes against land targets and naval ships, including aircraft carriers, operating far from China’s shores out to the first island chain.”
The U.S. Pentagon’s just-released report on military and security developments involving China said that by December 2009, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had deployed between 1,050 and 1,150 short-range ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan.
However, local news media cited a Ministry of National Defense (MND) magazine report in July as estimating that the number of Chinese short-range missiles targeting Taiwan will reach 1,960 by the end of this year.
While the West seems to be making progress on numerous anti-missile devices, including some hope with the long-promised deployment of lasers, the Chinese buildup along with historical evidence suggest the odds are stacked in favor of the missiles. It has been 66 years since the first primitive guided missiles were used in warfare, the dreaded V-1 and V2 Vengeance weapons of Nazi Germany. From Wikipedia we get an idea of how difficult it was to contend with these weapons of the future, back when the West enjoyed complete air superiority in traditional manned planes:
Unlike the V-1, the V-2’s speed and trajectory made it invulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and fighters, as it dropped from an altitude of 100–110 km (62–68 mi) at up to four times the speed of sound (appr. 3550 km/h). A plan was proposed whereby the missile would be detected by radar, its terminal trajectory calculated, and the area along that trajectory saturated by large-caliber anti-aircraft guns. The plan was dropped after operations research indicated that the likely number of malfunctioning artillery shells falling to the ground would do more damage than the V-2 itself.
The defence against the V-2 campaign was to destroy the launch infrastructure—expensive in terms of bomber resources and casualties—or to cause the Germans to “aim” at the wrong place through disinformation. The British were able to convince the Germans to direct V-1s and V-2s aimed at London to less populated areas east of the city. This was done by sending false impact reports via the German espionage network in Britain, which was controlled by the British (the Double Cross System).
There is a record of one V-2, fortuitously observed at launch from a passing American B-24 Liberator, being shot down by .50 caliber machine-gun fire. The limitations of any countermeasures can be understood by two facts: 20 seconds after starting, a V2 was out of reach; the time from start to impact in London being merely 3 minutes.
Ultimately the most successful countermeasure was the Allied advance that forced the launchers back beyond range.
In other words, the only really effective defense was to physically occupy the ground where the missiles were launched. That was nearly 70 years ago, however, and times have changed right? Well, even the passage of time hasn’t been able to fully secure the West from rocket and missile attack, as proved during the Gulf Wars. While more accurate than Germany’s V-2 could hope to be, the Scud missiles of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, proved deadly illusive for America’s space age military in 1991. More from Wikipedia:
The USAF organized CAPs over areas where Scud launchers were suspected to operate, namely western Iraq near the Jordanian border, where the Scuds were fired at Israel, and southern Iraq, where they were aimed at Saudi Arabia. A-10 strike aircraft flew over these zones during the day, and F-15Es fitted with LANTIRN pods and synthetic aperture radars patrolled at night. However, the infrared and radar signatures of the Iraqi TELSs were almost impossible to distinguish from ordinary trucks and from the surrounding electromagnetic clutter. While patrolling strike aircraft managed to sight their targets on 42 occasions, they were only able to acquire them long enough to release their ordinance three times. In addition, the Iraqi missile units dispersed their Scud TELs and hid them in culverts, wadis, or under highway bridges. They also practiced “shoot-and-scoot” tactics, withdrawing the launcher to a hidden location immediately after it had fired, while the launch sequence that usually took 90 minutes was reduced to half an hour. This enabled them to preserve their forces, despite optimistic claims by the coalition. A post-war Pentagon study concluded that relatively few launchers had been destroyed by coalition aircraft.
Here is the Rand Report that the above article was based on. Also, there is evidence only about 10% of the Scuds were shot down by the much-herald Patriot missile batteries. You get the idea from recent experience that anti-missile defenses are “feel good weapons”. In other words they aren’t very effective, but gives the impression we are doing something to defend ourselves.
Add the relatively low tech Scuds to modern precision targeting systems, used so dramatically also in that First Gulf War, plus the ability of their launchers to avoid detection and the portent is an ominous one. It could be that the game changer so feared might actually come about. With the West continuing to expend excessive amounts of funds on last century manned airpower, it seems we are missing the boat on the real revolution. UAVs can loiter for days in hunter-killer missions to seek out and destroy missile launchers, without the vast naval and airborne logistical chain required to support manned aircraft.
We could also be restoring our shrinking number of warships by building small ships and submarine which might actually survive the impending missile onslaught. We may also need many fast amphibious craft, carrying Marine Raiders which can destroy coastal missile batteries at the source. Know also that these smaller vessels can also carry missile weapons themselves, allowing for a counterstrike using the same new weapons to threaten our enemies, the same arms we ourselves are threatened by today.
Today-Us finding them.
Tomorrow-Them finding us.
- General Calls Layers Key to Missile Defense Strategy (globalsecurity.org)
- Could Chinese ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missile Reshape Sea Combat? (foxnews.com)
- Pentagon Sounds The Alarm At China’s Military Buildup (patdollard.com)
- Ding Dong, Dong-Feng! (hotair.com)