How America Could Catch China Preparing for a War

David Axe

The U.S. Navy needs better surveillance and reconnaissance systems if it’s to have any chance of detecting a Chinese build-up in the Western Pacific in the weeks or days preceding a possible major war.

That’s the thrust of a new report that seapower experts Seth Cropsey and Bryan McGrath wrote for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

“There is a current lack of appreciation for the critical role of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR/T) capabilities in naval combat success,” Cropsey and McGrath wrote. “This operational blind spot has concrete ramifications for the balance of power in the Western Pacific and the ability of the United States to force a political settlement without conflict.”

China, the experts noted, is expanding its influence across Asia while also continuing to threaten Taiwan. “China’s increasingly modernized armed forces, their continued expansion, new technology such as hypersonic missiles, the growing range of China’s anti-ship missiles, and Beijing’s increasingly robust anti-access/area denial network are just some of the challenges the U.S. faces in deterring conflict in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea.”

If Beijing were to attempt to cement its gains through military force, it must first “neutralize U.S. and allied forces in the region,” Cropsey and McGrath wrote. “Second, it must prevent the United States from reinforcing its allies and forward-deployed assets in a longer conflict, thereby isolating the first island chain [from Japan to The Philippines] from the rest of the Asia-Pacific.”

The U.S. Navy has responded to the Chinese threat by growing its fleet and developing new anti-ship missiles with longer range. But new missiles such as the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, can fly farther than the Navy’s sensors reliably can see.

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