A Chinese state-run Defense Times newspaper has said Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defense systems with the capability to discover, identify and attack enemy combat divers had been installed on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.
While Pentagon officials did not wish to specifically comment on this report, saying they do not discuss intelligence matters, officials are clear that the US military “watches the area closely,” Cmdr. Gary Ross, Pentagon spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
While few are likely to view this particular development as extremely provocative. The presence of these weapons are, most likely, not a surprise to the Pentagon. However, the Pentagon has been very vocal in its criticism of China for “militarizing” the region, in some cased placing mobile artillery in disputed areas.
It is not clear how long the weapons have been there, multiple reports say. However the Chinese paper did specify that the rockets were in place to defend against Vietnamese divers from encroaching upon their territorial waters. The anti-frogman rockets could well have been in place since 2014, according to the state-run report, which cited a need to prevent Vietnamese divers from installing fishing nets in the area.
The rockets were placed in the Fiery Cross Reef, a hotly contested area of the Spratly Islands; it is a Reef administered by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, according to a report from Reuters.
Continued tensions in the region come as senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners consider ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky.