What Does Sending a Firm Signal to China Look Like?
A lesson as old as the human condition was again proved in February of this year; weakness invites aggression.
From demographers to strategists, a variety of disciplines see the second half of this decade through the first half of the next as a window of exceptional vulnerability for a war with China in the Western Pacific.
We have discussed this emerging threat there for almost two decades and the time is here. Are we ready?
If you agree with this window, then you also must agree with the following: no magic system or capability is going to fight and win this war for us and our allies. There is nothing that isn’t at least IOC today that will be available to the fleet in numbers the first few years of the war (Yes, I said years. This will not be a 3-day or 3-month war when it comes).
We will either lose quickly or claw our way to victory with those weapon systems under production right now. If the war starts later in the window and goes more than three years, then we may see some of those systems still prior to IOC, but not in numbers needed in the early fight.
What can we do?
If we prepare well and ensure the porcupine enough and long quills, the dragon may never bite. If we appear strong and full of resolve, the dragon may never leave its lair. However, if the porcupine’s quills are few and blunt and we are seen as lacking resolve behind a carboard shield – it will be worth the risk for the dragon to head east.
We need something that is actionable. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) gave a speech yesterday at Heritage that fives us that; three steps in the right direction, told with the correct tone and clarity of speech; an adult talking to adults about adult things.
We must put American hard power in Xi’s path before it’s too late. While long-term investments to rebuild American military superiority in general—and maritime superiority in particular—are critical, the reality is that we will not be able to build the Navy the nation needs within the next five years. What we can do within the Davidson Window, however, is build an anti-navy. By anti-navy I mean asymmetric forces and weapons designed to target the Chinese Navy, deny control of the seas surrounding Taiwan, and prevent PLA amphibious forces from gaining a lodgment on the island.
The first step in building this anti-navy does not require us to defy any laws of physics, though technically it is rocket science. Now that we are no longer bound by the INF Treaty, we can surge long range conventional precision fires in three concentric rings across the Pacific: (1) the First Island Chain; (2) the Second Island Chain plus the Central Pacific islands, and (3) the outer edges of the theater including Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia. In the first ring we need shorter range anti-ship and air defense missiles such as the Naval Strike Missile, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, and SM-6.
All three of these lines should be running on three shifts today.
The second step in building an anti-navy is to stockpile munitions before the shooting starts. At current production rates, for example, it will take at least two years to boost Javelin production from 2,100 to 4,000 missiles annually. In many cases Chinese companies are the sole source or a primary supplier for the energetic materials used in our missiles. To fix this the Pentagon should stop buying minimum sustaining rates of critical munitions and start maxing out the capacity of active production lines through multi-year procurement contracts.
I will add this: no active production line for weapons systems shall be allowed to go cold until their replacement is under construction. For example: yes, we must keep the P-8A line open, even under reduced production. Of course, we could convert that to license build ShinMaywa US-2 ... but let's get back to the Gentleman from Wisconsin.
The third step is to turn the talk about arming Taiwan to the teeth into reality. This starts with moving Taiwan to the front of the Foreign Military Sales line and clearing the backlog of $14 billion dollars worth of FMS items that have been approved but not delivered.
The hardest questions sometimes have the most simple answers. Is this perfect? No, but is it good and actionable in an acceptable timeframe?
I would like to leave everyone with this one reminder: when Ukraine found itself in a spot of bother with their larger neighbor to the east, they were able to look to the USA and her allies to help supply her with the weapons she needs to keep fighting.
Should we find ourselves in a fight with our neighbors across the Pacific, we will not have that luxury. There is no other nation that can give us weapons at scale to keep us in the fight. We will be it.
No one is there to rescue us should we fail to properly prepare in time.