For one who does not believe China will invade Taiwan, and the United States cannot engage China in a war in the Asia Pacific, I consider the recent working visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Washington DC, as the only remaining stage where hegemon might be leading.
But only because as today’s titan of the anime industry Masao Maruyama told The Japan Times, “The only reason China hasn’t quite caught up (with Japan) yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there.”
The 81-year-old top producer of fictitious characters fears that Japan is looking more to “kawaii” characters and “money-spinning genres” and that the industry isn’t fostering the next generation of talent, where China is investing hard into young animators.
That is to say that if the playing field were just even, the Chinese donghua could have already overtaken pokemon. In the real existential world, however, both hegemon and pokemon are way behind.
The recent shooting wargames in the Philippines, where the United States sent 16,000 boots on the ground to Philippine beaches oblivious that the doctrine of territorial protection is so World War Two-ish, that our military has forgotten that the Leyte landing of Douglas MacArthur in 1945 was just a copycat of Masauro Homma’s earlier feat at Lingayen Gulf four years earlier.
The Americans had prepared a nasty welcome for any enemy who would attempt to invade Manila where on May 1, 1898, the American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron under Contraalmirante Patricio Montojo.
Of course, the Americans fortified Corregidor Island at the mouth of Manila Bay into Fort Mills, a military station with an elaborate system of artillery emplacements and tunnels preventing any foreign naval intrusion and positioned most of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, estimated to be 100,000 strong, across at Bataan.
But the Japanese instead subjected both Bataan and Corregidor into heavy bombing from the air and outwitted MacArthur by making a beachhead for his infantry of only 45,000 at the Lingayen, Pangasinan.
The rest is history. The siege and defense of Bataan only lasted 93 days.
General Edward P. King surrendered the Bataan command to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. That, with 76,000 soldiers was the largest United States surrender since the American Civil War’s Battle of Harpers Ferry.
Defense forward, not backward
Today’s Balikatan, it appears, still follows a doctrine to prevent a repeat of Homma’s genius invasion. The first question, however is, how are we to protect any beach when the Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands?
Before President Marcos Jr. left for Washington, personally witnessed the Combined Joint Littoral Live Fire Exercise of the Philippines-United States of America armed forces being conducted in San Antonio, Zambales last April 26.
One of the most anticipated weapons from the U.S. arsenal was the HIMARS, which according to the Philippine Information Agency, was a full-spectrum, combat-proven, all-weather, 24/7, lethal and responsive, wheeled precision strike weapons system.
Built to support an expeditionary, lethal, survivable and tactically mobile force, the HIMARS carries one launch pod containing either six Guided MLRS (GMLRS)/MLRS rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile.
The main feature of the U.S. and Philippine weapons platforms was coordinated fires on a target ship, BRP Pangasinan, a decommissioned Philippine Navy corvette towed into Philippine territorial waters.
Six missiles fired from the Himars pod missed the target.
In fact, most attempts from land and air, including by the Philippine Air Force FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter-attack aircraft, failed. It took a state-of-the-art fifth-generation U.S. Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighters to finally sink the stationary BRP Pangasinan.
The US Army Stars and Stripes headlined: “With Marcos watching, US Army HIMARS fires 6 times but misses target in South China Sea”.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Mary Kay Carlson, and Philippine Defense Officer-in-Charge Carlito Galvez Jr. sat beside Marcos.
“Shore-based fire against a ship is exceptionally hard,” Lt. Col. Nick Mannweiler, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
This year’s Balikatan nicknamed “Salaknib”, a local term for “shield”, is way out of whack.
China Hypersonics vs Broken Arrow
Last April 19, Navy Times wrote that House Armed Services Committee members grilled Pentagon leaders on why the U.S. military continues to lag behind China in developing hypersonic glide missiles and defenses that can counter the next-generation ordnance.
The report continued “One of the leaked Pentagon intelligence documents, obtained by Navy Times, shows that Beijing tested a hypersonic missile this year that could hit targets beyond Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam and carry a “high probability” of besting American ballistic missile defenses.
“Beijing’s February test saw the DF-27 cover 2,100 kilometers, or 1,300 miles, in just 12 minutes. Past Defense Department assessments have warned of even longer DF-27 ranges.”
Navy Times editorializes, “It’s the latest reminder that despite billions of dollars spent, and a defense budget that keeps growing, the U.S. still trails China’s progress developing key cutting-edge weaponry, raising uncomfortable questions about how America would fare in a shooting war in the Pacific.”
Breaking Defense echoed an earlier Bloomberg expose: “After a rocky development and a recent failed test, the Air Force has decided it will not go on to buy the hypersonic Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW)… Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said in a written statement to the House Armed Service’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee.”
The US Air Force asked for some $150 million in its fiscal 2024 budget request for R&D for the program.
Air and Space Forces Magazine revealed “ARRW is a “conventional, air-launched, boost-glide, hypersonic weapon consisting of a solid rocket motor booster, a glider protective shroud, and a glider vehicle containing a kinetic-energy projectile warhead…(that) launched from B-52H aircraft, ARRW aims to provide standoff capability “to destroy fixed, high-value, time-sensitive, land-based targets in anti-access and area-denial environments.”
But as of last January, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in his annual report to Congress that the Air Force’s AGM-183A ARRW’s first reported successful full-up test in December was “flying operational tests without an approved test plan, potentially vulnerable to cyber disruption, at risk of insufficient test range availability, lacking in modeling and simulation capability to properly evaluate the weapon, and behind in warhead testing.”
In the Navy Times update, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command leader Adm. John Aquilino admitted the Pentagon is behind Beijing on hypersonic weapons and the systems to defend against them, agreeing that progress “needs to go faster.” The man charged with potentially leading a war against the ascendant power called the velocity of China’s nuclear breakout “concerning,” but said direct conflict is not inevitable.
The FBI arrested Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman from Massachusetts, on Thursday for allegedly leaking the trove of sensitive information to members of a private Discord chat group. He was formally charged in Boston federal court Friday.
Top-secret documents leaked online in recent weeks. The chilling assessment of the enhanced strike capabilities of Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army is in one of a slew of confidential Pentagon papers uploaded to online message boards since late last year, federal investigators say.
Beyond the Second Island Chain
The Washington Post said that among the documents was a February 28 top-secret report compiled by the Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence directorate that detailed China’s successful test launch of an advanced intermediate-range DF-27 hypersonic glide missile a few days earlier.
In an article by Josh Rogin, the Post pointed out that “the DF-27 is designed to enhance [China’s] ability to hold targets at risk beyond the Second Island Chain”, comprising the area stretching from Japan to the Marianas to Micronesia.
Rogin said a 2021 Defense Department report estimated that the DF27 has a range of up to 8,000 kilometers, or nearly 5,000 miles, putting it within striking distance of most of the Pacific, including the US territory of Guam which is home to the strategic US military bases in the Pacific Ocean.
“If American ships can be held at bay and US forces in Asia can be targeted at will, any allied intervention in Taiwan’s defense would be more difficult and costly,” added Rogin.
The new DF27 missile has a glide vehicle that can travel more than five times the speed of sound and can maneuver in flight making it almost impossible to shoot down.
In a parallel development, Mark Moore wrote in the New York Post “Beyond the development of the DF-27, China is expanding its arsenal as it becomes more aggressive militarily in the South China Sea, launching an improved aircraft carrier, seeking to secure a military outpost in the Pacific, and accelerating the expansion of its nuclear weapons program.
“In March, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said Beijing is constructing roughly 350 new nuclear-missile silos, hundreds of nuclear warheads and bases for mobile missile launchers. China is continuing the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1990s and 2000s, but is expanding it significantly by fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before.”
This is not the first hypersonic test that has unsettled the Biden administration.
In 2021, China tested a nuclear-capable missile carrying a hypersonic vehicle that went around the globe.
WATCH THIS VIDEO: