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A Pentagon report on China’s military capabilities says Japan and Guam might be far more vulnerable to Chinese attack than may have been fully realized.
The recently published Pentagon report, called “Report on Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China,” says People’s Liberation Army Medium Range Ballistic Missiles and Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) are well within range of being able to strike U.S. bases in Japan as well as key areas within the U.S. territory of Guam.
Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM)
As a LACM possibility, the Pentagon report was clear to cite the well-known, land-launched DF-26 anti-ship missile.
At the same time, risk of attack against Guam or Japan not only comes from land, according to the report, but could also be fired from the ocean, a scenario which further compounds vulnerability given the wide range of angles, ranges and geographical locations a surface ship might be able to fire from.
“LACMs will also likely be deployable on surface platforms like the Renhai class guided-missile cruisers,” the report says.
The risk to Japan and Guam also comes from the air, as China’s H-6K bomber patrols in the Western Pacific clearly operate with an ability to place Guam at risk. Further compounding the risk, Chinese sensors and targeting systems are increasingly empowered by over-the-horizon surveillance assets and information sharing technologies, the report says.
“The PLA is investing in reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to provide high-fidelity OTH targeting information for its strike platforms,” the Pentagon report says.
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The stakes are high when it comes to this kind of risk, given the operational importance of the U.S. assets operating out of Guam, which includes surveillance drones, fighter jets and bombers.
Guam is home to many crucial platforms and technologies which would be of great consequence in any kind of military engagement in the Pacific. Also, should U.S. and Japanese bases in Japan be destroyed too quickly, a U.S.-led defensive counterattack could be almost entirely crippled.
This could be especially impactful given Japan’s multi-billion dollar investment in F-35s, should ground stationed 5th-generation platforms be successfully targeted while on the ground by long-range Chinese weapons.
The Chinese threat can be exacerbated by its arsenal of road-mobile ballistic missiles which are able to conceal their launch points.
Not surprisingly, DoD has based a range of missile defense technologies in the Pacific region, including the ballistic-missile intercepting Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
It is therefore also no surprise that the Army is now sending its first cutting edge Iron Dome missile defense technology to Guam.
Army Maj. Gen. Brian Gibson, the director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team for Army Futures Command, told Warrior that the first Iron Dome battery became operational in September of this year and the second one is slated to arrive in December.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.