This morning I read a great and highly informative article from RealClearDefense about how to defeat Chinese military strategy. In short, the strategy involves putting Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles on Navy surface combatants and submarines in order to out-range Chinese missiles. It could be described more simply as putting IRBMs on Navy ships and would, according to the author, help America defeat China in a future naval conflict.
As America’s new cold war with China is growing hotter by the day, mainly because of Chinese aggression, now is the time to start thinking about what easy and cost-effective changes we could make to our force structure and its weaponry to help us defeat China in a future conflict.
The article is called “Fight Fire with Fire” and was written by Sam Tangredi; I highly recommend you read it in full after finishing this article and learn more about the potential efficacy of putting IRBMs on navy ships.
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Summary of Why the US should Put IRBMs on Navy Ships:
I thought this article was a great way to look at an obvious military technology problem through a new lens.
Tangredi begins by describing the problem; currently, the Chinese have anti-ship ballistic missiles that are faster than any current Navy missile, and out-range almost everything in the Navy’s arsenal.
The Chinese have those missiles because of their Anti-Access/ Area-Denial strategy. It bedevils the Navy because their cruise missiles, like the Tomahawk, are too slow to attack the mobile Chinese missile launchers.
Tangredi then provides a solution to that problem. Instead of focusing on some exotic new piece of military technology, the Navy should use preexisting Pershing II IRBMs.
Those were developed during the Cold War, so we know how to make them, could be gradually updated to remain useful for naval combat, and aren’t overly expensive. Furthermore, they are fast enough that they could effectively attack Chinese land forces and defeat China’s Anti-Access/Area-Denial strategy.
Tangredi then gets into the details of his proposal, anticipating future attacks. He counters the arms control argument by stating that the Pershing II is of a similar range as existing Chinese missiles. If they have those weapons, why shouldn’t we? If they have IRBMs that they use to target our naval vessels, why should we not put IRBMs on navy ships?
He then states that although it wouldn’t completely negate the Chinese attack advantage in missile tech, it would still give the US Navy better offensive striking power. That power could be used to blunt whatever current advantage the Chinese may have, and increase the Navy’s deterrence capability.
Finally, because the Pershing II has been built before, there is much less of a startup cost than for other military programs; the military technology is already mature, it just needs to be adapted.
Finally, Tangredi discussed the costs and disadvantages of his “IRBMs on Navy Ships” proposal. One is the potential cost. Pershing II missiles ran in the neighborhood of $20 million each during the Cold War. They’re not cheap, so putting IRBMs on navy ships could be quite expensive.
However, they are still cheaper than a new program would be and are cheaper than the interceptor missiles that the Chinese would need to use to shoot down any IRBMs fired from an American vessel or base. The next is that they wouldn’t fit in current Navy missile “VLS” cells. A new system would have to be designed, which would also be expensive. Finally, there is no study into how China would react to the US putting IRBMs on navy ships. That could create a diplomatic crisis that could lead to war in a similar fashion to how Imperial Germany’s naval buildup led, in part, to the Great War.
But, while America should not seek out a diplomatic row, we cannot let a fear of one deter us from engaging in productive and efficacious weapon deployments, such as putting IRBMs on navy ships.
Analysis: It Is High Time that the US Military Puts IRBMs on Navy Ships
This proposal definitely isn’t completely fleshed out. Crucial details into how it would work, such as what type of ships would be used, what tactics they would use, and how many of them would be are noticeably absent from it. Without those details, it is highly unlikely it will become an accepted program.
However, the general idea is one that I found very interested. The “new Cold War” with China is a topic that I love to research because it is happening as I write. It is new, and the military technology to deal with it will likely be interested to read about and research.
This proposal certainly fit that, it is really interesting to imagine the tactical advantages that a ship equipped with a a few ballistic missiles would enjoy.
Additionally, I liked Tangredi’s idea because it is so novel. Many articles about military technology focus on developing some exotic and highly expensive new technology. Instead, Tangredi focused on adapting currently existing technology to fit a current problem.
I like that because that is an attitude modern military planners will have to adopt. Modern military technology is too expensive to constantly be creating new and increasingly exquisite pieces of equipment. Instead, ingenuity will win because it is cheaper, and the equipment behind it is proven.
I thought that Tangredi did a great job of coming up with a creative solution to a pressing problem and defending his unorthodox idea. Despite reading and thinking lots about military technology and history, I had never thought of this before, and it was certainly interesting to consider. However, I did think the idea wasn’t fully developed and more details will have to be fleshed out before the Navy seriously considers putting IRBMs on navy ships. You should definitely read the article and see what you think.
By: Gen Z Conservative
Read this review of a book about a Cold War turned hot with Russia: https://genzconservative.com/the-red-line/
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