When President Barack Obama paid a visit to Alaska, he spent most of his time viewing a glacier and tramping in the wilderness with reality TV star Bear Grylls. One of the sights he could have seen had he wished to was a flotilla of five Chinese naval vessels which sailed into the Bering Sea, at one point passing through American territorial waters. This oversight irked Alaska’s most famous politician, Sarah Palin, who pointed out that this show the flag cruise represents a more aggressive posture on the part of China, eyeing the Arctic region’s rich natural resources.
Somewhat more concerning than a group of Chinese ships visiting the waters off Alaska at the same time President Obama paid a visit there is China’s development of a group of weapons systems under the rubric of “assassin’s mace.” The term is used by the Chinese to describe a game-changing weapon that is designed to attack an enemy’s weak point. In this case, the enemy is the United States. The weapons under development include anti-satellite, cyberwar technology, and a ballistic missile called Dongfeng 21D.
A recent article in the Daily Caller describes the Dongfeng 21D as an aircraft carrier killer. It has a range of 1,000 miles. It would launch into space and then reenter the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, hitting its intended target 15 minutes after liftoff. Intercepting the Dongfeng 21D would be next to impossible using conventional anti-missile weapons.
Fortunately, the United States Navy is developing its own weapon system that should all but neutralize the Chinese carrier killer. The Navy is currently testing a ship-based laser system that is designed to kill missiles, drones, aircraft, and speed boats used by terrorists to attack Navy ships. Initial tests of the system, mounted on the USS Ponce, have proven to be quite promising,
Using lasers to kill missiles has been a concept for decades, made most famous during the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative. The technology has advanced enough so that the United States military can contemplate building a missile defense system around it. The Chinese can rain Dongfengs down on an aircraft carrier task force. But as long as the laser cannon have energy available, they can shoot them down at about a dollar a shot.
Considering that the Chinese contemplate attacking American space assets in the event of a conflict, the United States might want to consider putting these new laser systems into space. A Japanese experiment on the International Space Station is already planned to use a laser to clear space junk. The United States could defend reconnaissance and navigation satellites using similar technology.
The bottom line is that China or any other enemy can attempt to develop technology that will strike at the United States military with a goal of supplanting America as the sole superpower. But, as long as the United States has the will, it can easily outpace any such development and have a countermeasure available. Technology is America’s great inherent advantage and, as long as it has the will, is going to be crucial for maintaining its superiority over potential enemies such as China.