The US announced on Thursday that it would begin testing a whole new class of previously banned missiles in August, but the US’s chief rival, China, has a miles-long head start in that department.
The US’s new class of missiles are designed to destroy targets in intermediate ranges, or between 300 and 3,000 miles. The US has many shorter-range systems and a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel almost around the world.
A 1987 treaty with Russia banned these mid-range missiles, but the treaty’s recent demise has now opened an opportunity for the US to counter China’s arsenal of “carrier-killer” missiles.
China, as it seeks to build up a blue-water navy to surpass the US’s, has increasingly touted its fleet of missiles that work within intermediate ranges and can target ships at sea, including US aircraft carriers — one of the US’s foremost weapons.
China has suggested sinking carriers and threatened to let the missiles fly after the US checked its unilateral claims to ownership of the South China Sea.
Now, unbound by the treaty, the US can in theory counter China’s intermediate-range missiles with missiles of its own. But the reality is that China holds several seemingly insurmountable advantages in this specific missile fight.