China has continually attempted to break through the three island chains to extend eastward into the Pacific. This Chinese strategic naval policy is described as its “Island Chain Strategy.” There are three island chains that China feels it needs to breach to allow its military free access to the Western and Eastern Pacific regions.
China now holds a diverse missile arsenal to block a United States military advance within the second island chain. According to the Pentagon, China has ground-based, intermediate-range missiles and holds a stockpile of around 1,250 such missiles.
Last month, a budget document provided to Congress by the Indo-Pacific Command stated that the United States needs to increased ground-based weapons along the first island chain. It would cost 408 million U.S. dollars or (around 20 billion pesos) in the fiscal year 2022 alone and 2.9 billion dollars (approximately 142 billion pesos) from fiscal years 2023 to 2027.
While the United States has been able to use long-range weapons on ships and aircraft, there were limits placed on it because of an arms control treaty. The United States is banned from using it or deploying it in certain places.
This gap owes to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned the development of ground-based missiles with ranges between 500 km to 5,500 km. But this agreement expired in 2019, and the United States pulled out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia in 2019.
According to the U.S Senator, the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in the Indo-Pacific “is a great and increasingly necessary area of discussion for the United States and Japan to explore. While Japanese official response with a network of missiles countering China in the Indo-Pacific region “would be a plus for Japan,” said a senior Japanese government official.
While the Pentagon favored placing such missiles in the region, allies in Asia have so far appeared to be opposed to the idea of hosting them.
The first island chain consists of the Kuril Islands, the Japanese Archipelago, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern part of the Philippines Archipelagos, and the Malay Peninsula. The nations involved within the first island chain are Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Russia will retaliate if the U.S. deploys intermediate-range
Meanwhile, Russia will react to the deployment of the United States medium-range to maintain its national security. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that if the United States deploys intermediate and shorter-range missiles to the Asia-Pacific Region, it will provoke a new spiral of the arms race filled with unpredictable consequences.
The response happens following Japanese reports that Tokyo and Washington thought plans for considering the possibility of bringing the U.S. ground-based intermediate-range missiles previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The deployment of U.S. intermediate and shorter-range missiles of whatever configuration in various parts of the world, including the Asia-Pacific region, would have an extreme destabilizing effect from the viewpoint of international and regional security. And the emergence of more missile threats will certainly entail our retaliation, she said.
Her remarks came after Japanese media reported that Tokyo and Washington were considering plans for discussing the outlook for the deployment of US-made ground-based intermediate-range missiles in Japan, previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The Japanese government in June last year confirmed the cancellation of a plan to deploy a multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile system in the country, among pressure from local residents complaining about the health risks posed by the project.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman recalled that Russia’s unilateral moratorium on deploying missiles of this class in the regions where this type of weapon of U.S. manufacture was absent remained in force. Zakharova added that Russia kept the door open to equitable and constructive work for restoring trust, international security, and strategic stability following the INF Treaty’s demise.
The Brahmos Philippine Military Procurement!
This month of March 2021, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the acquisition program for the BrahMos would push through after his department and India’s Defense Ministry signed the implementing agreement concerning the procurement of defense material and equipment.
BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia in the early 2000s. It is closely derived from Russia’s P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missile. Widely regarded as the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos system can reach a top speed of Mach 3 (roughly 2300 miles per hour) and boasts a range of around 450 kilometers.
According to Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, the BrahMos Missile and Launching System is the most promising alternative for the Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System as assessed by the Philippine Navy Technical Working Group. The Philippine Navy intends to acquire the Mach 3-capable BrahMos missile for its inventor.
The project is being pursued as part of the Navy’s requirements for a credible defense posture as envisioned in its ongoing modernization program, he added.
The Brahmos, an India Russian joint venture, can receive inertial and GPS guidance and can fly at an altitude of as low as five meters. It can be launched from submarines, a wide range of surface ships, aircraft, and land-based platforms.
Initial versions of the BrahMos go up to the range of 290 km, but last year India tested an extended range of around 450 kilometers, with more versions of higher ranges above 1,000 kilometers.
Succeeding revisions have dramatically expanded the missile’s performance and capabilities, though initially considered an anti-ship missile, later BrahMos variants can engage land-based targets. The most recent Block III upgrade added new navigation features and steep dive functionality to strike targets in mountainous areas. The BrahMos system supports a 200 or 300 kg high explosive semi-armor-piercing warhead, with an additional option for a 250 kg submunitions warhead depending on the use-case.
The procurement details have not been revealed yet, but India had reportedly offered a soft loan of 100 million dollars, around 5 billion pesos, to the Philippines to acquire the missiles in December 2020. Experts believe that if a formal deal is signed, the defense credit line may be extended, which will help the Philippines in the procurement.
In December 2019, Lorenzana announced that the DND was planning to order the BrahMos system in 2020. However, that schedule was disrupted by Covid-19, which forced the Philippine government to repurpose funding previously allocated for military procurements.
The Philippines Armed Forces’ land-based or coastal defense system will surely help the country defend the Exclusive Economic Zone. But as the United States military plan to deploy medium-range missiles in the area located in the first island chain, Russia also warns that they will do the same. If this happens, the U.S and its allies will face China and Russia at the same time. The world will be back in the Cold War era again.