The US Army is to expand efforts to counter China by deploying a specialized task force to the Pacific capable of conducting information, electronic, cyber and missile operations against Beijing.
The unit, which US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was to detail at an event in Washington yesterday, would also be equipped to hit land and sea-based targets with long-range precision weapons such as hypersonic missiles, possibly clearing the way for US Navy vessels in the event of conflict.
The task force would help neutralize some capabilities China and Russia already possess that are intended to keep US carrier groups away from the Asian mainland, McCarthy said in an interview.
It was not clear how quickly the unit, which would likely be based on islands east of Taiwan and the Philippines, could be deployed.
The move is designed to “neutralize all the investments China and Russia have made,” McCarthy said.
It would be bolstered by a new agreement with the US National Reconnaissance Office, which develops and manages US spy satellites, he said.
Under that accord, army tactical units would be better able to tap information gleaned from existing and future low Earth orbit satellites, he said.
The pivot would help US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper achieve a long-sought US goal of shifting more forces from Europe, the Middle East and Africa to the Pacific, better positioning the US to take on “peer competitor” China and historic rival Russia.
Under McCarthy’s vision, the move would allow the army to create a new paradigm in the Pacific, where ground forces would “punch a hole” in enemy defenses for air and naval forces.
Now, the ground-based unit in those island chains can create the support “for air and sea,” McCarthy said.
China’s military doctrine calls for a so-called “anti-access” strategy, backed by long-range anti-ship missiles and space-based surveillance capabilities, intended to keep US aircraft carrier strike groups well beyond the so-called first and second island chains.
The first island chain extends from the Kuril islands down to Borneo, while the second island chain generally extends from just east of Japan to Guam and down toward New Guinea.
The pivot includes greater army participation in regional war games like the “Defender Pacific” series and deploying a “Security Force Assistance Brigade” next year for the Indo-Pacific theater similar to ones set up and deployed to Afghanistan, he said.
The army started experimenting with the task force in 2018. The 17th Field Artillery Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State conducted nine major training exercises, plus simulations and war games to evaluate concepts.
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