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U.S. Sends Tomahawk Missile Filled Subs to Western Pacific

by Greg on July 9, 2010

A lot of messaging going on in the Western Pacific, by both sides. We’ve pointed to the recent China’s PLA Navy live fire exercises in the East China Sea.

Now, we learn from Time’s Mark Thompson that three former strategic missile submarines converted to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles (SSGNs)  surfaced on the same day, June 28, in the Philippine’s Subic Bay, in Pusan, South Korea and at the naval base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Each converted boomer holds up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As Thompson writes, the alarm bells must have sounded that day in Beijing:

“In all, the Chinese military awoke to find as many as 462 new Tomahawks deployed by the U.S. in its neighborhood. “There’s been a decision to bolster our forces in the Pacific,” says Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There is no doubt that China will stand up and take notice.”

Of course U.S. officials denied that any messaging was intended, but they did make sure news of the SSGN deployments showed up in the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post, on July 4; the same day some analysts expected China to test its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.

RIMPAC, the “Rim of the Pacific” war games also began on Wednesday off Hawaii. For all the attention focused on the Levant and the Gulf, its good to see these encouraging signs that at least some in the military understand that the real strategic competition of this century will play out in the Western Pacific.

Don’t miss Craig Hooper’s excellent post on how to turn the Navy’s surface ships into conventional missile carrying strike ships equivalent to the SSGNs.

– Greg Grant

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