The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups are conducting rare dual-carrier operations in the Philippine Sea and South China Sea as part of the US Seventh Fleet. The two carriers launched fighter jets “around the clock,” while practicing other skills in tandem, according to a Navy release.
They were joined in the skies by an Air Force B-52 Strato-fortress, a long-range, nuclear-capable bomber from the 2nd Bomb Wing, which took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (an over 24 hour round trip), and took part in the exercises.
Rewind to three months before, and we could see China threatening US fleets with their DF-21D, DF-26 anti-ship missiles, and undisclosed hypersonic weapon platforms in place. While those three months, we saw the supercarriers absent from the South China Seas, compensated by the US Indo Pacific command, which was in high alert, with measured response in the region, including patrolling in the Taiwan Straits.
Large deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, of the type the U.S. Navy operates, seem easy to target. They are over a thousand feet long, 25 decks high, and are made of steel that reflects radar signals, enemy’s delight. They have distinctive optical, infrared and radio frequency signatures.
So what can be so hard about targeting them, using the extensive arsenal of anti-ship, complex missiles that China has accumulated?
Dragon’s Constructed Fog of War
Double Whammy of Coronavirus scare and Hypersonic Weapon Hype
It is a forlorn but apt conclusion, that how much China tried to inject the virus in reaching as many of the countries having US bases, as possible. Initial cases in South Korea having the United States Forces Korea (USFK), Japanese Ports(the Cruise Ship’s ports of call) having United States Forces Japan(USFJ) is a simple example of how China could have tried for the virus to make its reach, as nearest to its arch enemy.
It is important to note, how many cruise ships got contaminated, passing through ports where US Navy sailors are present.
This could well explain, why Xi Jinping refused to declare it a human to human transfer, till beginning of February, by which time US mainland had over 80 confirmed cases, and unaccountable carriers.
With rising cases in these countries, there were reports of cases on carriers Nimitz, Roosevelt and 24 other Warships, by late March. While it proved to be effective to keep US Navy at bay, China since November 2019 has been actively parading its missile arsenal Hypersonic weapon platforms, as well as commissioning of the Aircraft carrier Liaoning. Since March this year, Chinese mouthpieces and media bots have been circulating the advantage of them and how they have rendered the Carried groups obsolete.
However, here they are, in the face of PLAN and PLAAF and the accredited threat mongering. It is interesting to understand, how far have this come about, from three months before, while US was more absent from the South China Seas than ever.
Laws of Inertia
Matter no more for Hypersonic Weapons?
Traveling at high speeds under a lot of thermal pressure, hypersonics are far from invincible. They have a lot of vulnerabilities. US might be able to bring together a mix of different approaches, including cyber or electronic warfare effects, to take one down.
However, one aspect of the flight maneuver of the missile is questionable still. At high speed, how much of maneuver potential can the missile, given the pressure and arc possible to, still maintain at the target.
A missile, powered in the Scramjet phase, at such high speeds, is unlikely to be possessing swift maneuverability, as the inertia the missile shall possess, will be difficult to be overcome, except by geometrically changing course.
This has not been proven by either Russia, China, the US (March 2020 tests), or theoretically by Israel, Japan or India.
Space driven Robust Sensor Layer
Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS)
At 35 miles per hour, the carriers can be anywhere in an area measuring over 700 square miles within 30 minutes. That area grows to over 6,000 square miles after 90 minutes, which is the more likely time elapsed between detecting a carrier and launching a missile from the Chinese mainland.
Considering the multiple hurdles that Chinese attackers would need to overcome to successfully target a carrier, first, they would have to find the carrier; then they would have to fix its location; then they would have to establish a continuous track of its movements; then they would have to actually target the carrier with specific weapons. Then they would have to penetrate the carrier’s multi-layered defenses to reach the target and finally, they would need to assess whether the resulting damage was sufficient to disable the carrier.
The Navy refers to this process as a “kill chain,” and the metaphor is instructive. Because each step must be accomplished sequentially, if any “link” in the chain fails the whole process breaks down.
Using a proliferated constellation of sensors in low earth orbit, HBTSS will be able to detect, track and maintain custody of hypersonic weapons as they traverse the globe, feeding that information to fire control systems that can eliminate the threat.
HBTSS will be consisting of hundred of satellites working together in low earth orbit, to be operational in 2021, however, that could be fast-forwarded with restricted and quantified to work in a designed battlefield much sooner, like right now.
First Day of War Fallacy
Predicament of a Sunk Carrier: Mutual Vulnerability Exposed
Carrier sunk, world’s most powerful military shown the door, and they scamper back to the hole they came from? This is the sweet candy story, that Chinese citizens have been told, during their annual grandiose display of Military might on October 1.
Sinking a carrier is possible only in scenario of a full out war. Can China sustain it? Can Communist Party of China (CPC) afford it?
“The United States is not yet doing all that we need to do to respond to hypersonic missile threats,” Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin told a defense industry conference in 2018. “Our only response,” he warns, “is to let them have their way or go all out like WW-II or nuclear.”
Case in point, of B52 making flight of 28 hours across to South China Seas, is indicative of resolve of the US, just to that effect,
if not the fact of it being on a reconnoitering mission to map the A2/AD environment, along with the Carrier force flotilla .
History has continued to show Weapon systems wrongfully written off time and time again, but when someone develops an “unstoppable Weapon”, enemy comes up with a way to stop it and then they improve that weapon and then comes up a way to defeat the improved version and thus it goes on.
Hypersonic Missiles sound great, but you still have to use a Launch Platform and if you launch from several thousands of kms, then that gives the defence a solid heads up, to throw up a wide range of defences your Missile must be able to defeat, including Radar guided and Heat-seeking Missiles, ECM counter Measures, CIWS systems and Decoy systems that, is a lot of capability to pack into one Missile.
That means also to be able to guide the missile at such speeds, which has not been seen and demonstrated till now.
US has multiple weapon platforms which include Glide Breaker program(to not destroy but significant impact to throw it off balance and off course), guided energy LASERs, RF weapons, and existing air defence.
As such, China is nowhere near overcoming the hurdles required for successful attacks against U.S. aircraft carriers. Whether those carriers are engaged in projecting airpower ashore or maintaining control of sea lanes, Beijing will be hard-pressed to impede their operation in wartime.
And it’s a safe bet that, whatever assets China may have for executing such a mission on the first day of war, will be quickly reduced by the combined efforts of the U.S. joint forces, whether they be deployed on land, at sea, or in the orbit.
Hypersonic will be at their most dangerous, when fired from short range but that means getting the Launch Platform close. US won’t let that happen, unless they decide to send a dare to Xi Jinping, to invite might of US armed forces to let loose, like now.
Hence even if we assume, US Carrier battle fleet lay bare in front of Chinese hypersonic and missile arsenal, present disposition does not give any minutest indication of letting Chinese “having their own way”. What is left is a dare to Xi Jinping, to try out a full-blown war?
08 Jul 20/Wednesday Written By: Fayaz