PACOM chief warns: US bases unprepared to defend Guam against China
Adm. Phil Davidson
China has a "profound advantage" in ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles against the United States, rendering Guam highly vulnerable to any possible attack, according to Adm. Phil Davidson, chief of the Indo-Pacific Command.
On Monday, Reuters reported that China’s air force has released a video showing nuclear-capable H-6 bombers carrying out a simulated attack on what appears to be Andersen Air Force Base.
The video, released on Saturday on the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Weibo account, came as China carried out a second day of drills near Chinese-claimed Taiwan, to express anger at the visit of a senior U.S. State Department official to Taipei, Reuters reported.
"We have to get into that offensive force game as well," Breaking Defense, in an earlier story, quoted Davidson as saying.
Davidson reiterated the warning during an an online talk hosted by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to an article published in Breaking Defense Sept. 18.
"The thin line of defenses aimed at stopping ballistic and cruise missiles from striking Guam has long been a driving concern for Davidson, and he’s asked repeatedly for the Aegis Ashore air defense system to be built on the island. The base’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense battery can only see in a 120-degree range — and it’s looking toward North Korea," the article reads.
“It’s going to require a much deeper, 360-degree persistent capability,” Davidson said. “It is not necessarily about designing or creating a defensive system that is impenetrable or invulnerable against the entire missile inventory of a potential adversary. Rather it is about developing a combat credible deterrent.”
Robert Underwood, Guam's candidate for Congress, said Guam's vulnerability makes it "absolutely imperative" that the Guam Delegate sit on the House Armed Services Committee to actively engage in defense planning. Otherwise, he said, potential economic benefits to Guam is reduced while the island is exposed to risk.
"It is better to be ahead of the curve rather than behind the curve," said Underwood, who represented Guam in Congress from 1993 to 2003.
“Not being on the House Armed Services Committee has cost the island of Guam important oversight for the protection of the island. There is no funding in the House bill for development of missile defense on Guam," Underwood said. "The Guam Delegate has missed critical opportunities to directly shape the future of our island and the necessary protection of our people from the growing threats from China. We need to be at the table to fight for our people.”
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According to the Department of Defense's 2020 annual report to Congress, China's People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLAN Aviation together constitute the largest aviation forces in the region and the third largest in the world, with over 2,500 total aircraft and approximately 2,000 combat aircraft. The PLAAF is rapidly catching up to Western air forces across a broad range of capabilities and competencies.
"The PRC is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that will significantly improve its nuclear-capable missile forces. The number of warheads on the PRC’s land-based ICBMs capable of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years," the report said.
The PRC is expanding its inventory of the multi-role DF-26, a mobile, ground-launched intermediate-range ballistic missile system capable of rapidly swapping conventional and nuclear warheads. This has been nicknamed "Guam Killer."
Davidson has asked Congress to promptly invest $1.7 billion to set up an Aegis system in Guam by 2026.
“We can’t wait for some perfect solution to manifest itself in 2035 or 2040. We are in the threat environment now,” he said.
“The vast capacity that China possesses when it comes to land-based cruise missiles and ground-based conventional missiles and where they are headed with ground-based hypersonic missiles represents an offensive threat throughout the region,” Davidson said.