(MENAFN- Asia Times)
The US Army has acquired its first Typhon land-based missile launcher, marking a significant development in its efforts to create a Pacific missile wall to deter China.
This week, multiple media outlets reported that the US Army had received the first of four prototype Typhon land-based missile launchers as part of its mid-range capability (MRC) program that fills in the service's requirement for long-range precision fires in the Pacific theater.
The Typhon is designed to fire Standard SM-6 or Tomahawk missiles between 500 and 1,800 kilometers, filling in a gap between the US Army's precision strike missile (PSM) and the long-range hypersonic weapon (LRHW), which have ranges of 482 and 2,776 kilometers respectively.
Each Typhon unit consists of an operations center, four Mk 41-derived vertical launch system (VLS) launchers towed by M983A4 tractor trucks, and associated reloading and ground equipment. Four Typhon units will compose one battery, with a battery having 16 missiles.
The Typhon is also expected to deploy the latest Standard and Tomahawk missile variants. The latest standard sm-6 block ib features a redesigned body and larger rocket motor, which, as noted by the warzone , potentially gives it improved anti-air and anti-missile capabilities and a possible secondary land-attack function. Also, the latest tomahawk block v missile features new communications, anti-ship capability, and multi-effect warheads.
The MRC has had a short development time, starting from scratch in July 2020 to having working prototypes in just two years, enabling US and allied forces to train on the system quickly, notes Lieutenant-General Robert Rasch Jr, a senior officer at the US Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technology Office (RCCTO), which oversees the system's development.
Likewise, the US Marine Corps has pursued similar projects to the Typhon. Given that, asia times has previously reported on the USMC's tactical land-attack missile (TLAM) that can be positioned on ships, shores, and islands to provide the Marine Corps with a powerful weapon capable of sinking large enemy warships.
Apart from the TLAM, asia times has previously reported on the US Army's and USMC's OpFires land-based hypersonic weapon project, which possibly marks the high end of the USMC's planned land-based precision-strike missile capabilities.
Land-based launchers may be more survivable than ship-based systems, providing increased effectiveness for less cost. They can also complement air and naval power by providing a constant presence on or near contested areas, providing tactical support and operational cover for US and allied forces.
At the strategic level, their mere presence on allied territory makes a pre-emptive strike against them a significant escalation of hostilities.
The Typhon and other similar projects may signify a change in US strategy from doing things itself to enabling its allies to support its efforts through implementing their own anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubbles.
in a february 2021 article in war on the rocks , Paul van Hooft wrote that overcommitment has always been a pitfall of US grand strategy and that this posture may not be feasible in the Pacific, as China now has the means to inflict massive losses on the US.
Also, the Typhon may be part of efforts to shore up declining US conventional deterrence. In a november 2022 article in 19fortyfive , Mackenzie Eaglen notes that US conventional deterrence is in decline due to bureaucracy, complacency, and underinvestment in military industries.
The short turnaround time of the MRC may be an attempt to shore up the sagging US conventional deterrence posture by integrating already-existing subsystems into a new system.
Further, van Hooft argues that the US should ensure that its allies have access to standoff precision weapons to build their defensive bubbles.
For example, the US and its partners can deploy standoff weapons such as the Typhon in what Josh Heivly describes in a february 2022 article for the us naval institute blog as stand-in forces, featuring small, dispersed units equipped with long-range standoff weapons operating inside adversary weapons ranges.
Moreover, luis simon argues in a june 2017 article in war on the rocks that the US and allied deployment of A2/AD capabilities will not give way to Chinese hegemony in the Pacific. Instead, this deployment aims to achieve a more differentiated pattern of control, wherein neither the US nor China enjoys total wartime freedom of maneuver over contested airspace and waters.
Simon describes this situation wherein the US maintains influence over allied landmasses while China maintains control over its mainland, with a contested space in the East and South China Seas. This situation keeps a tense but stable military balance of power in the Pacific.
In addition, a 2017 study by rand corporation also describes the US and its allies defeating China's A2/AD capabilities using land-based, multi-domain forces with long-range ballistic and cruise missiles to strike at its warships and naval and naval air bases throughout the Pacific theater.
the us pacific deterrence initiative envisages creating a precision strike network in the First Island Chain spanning Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines and an integrated air and missile defense network in the Second Island Chain.
However, this strategy has its pitfalls. a 2022 study by rand corporation notes that finding a US partner willing to host missile systems such as the Typhon is far more challenging than looking for partners looking to host other types of US military presence, such as air and naval bases.
It says it is doubtful that the Philippines, Thailand or South Korea would be willing to host US ground-based long-range missile systems and that Australia and Japan would be less reluctant to do so, albeit marginally.
The report notes that the Philippines' unpredictability as an ally, Thailand's efforts to build better ties with China, and South Korea's susceptibility to Chinese pressure make them partners unwilling or sub-optimal choices for hosting the Typhon.
Likewise, Australia's distance from China and public reluctance to get dragged into a conflict are strong reasons against the deployment of the Typhon.
Similarly, Japan's long-standing reluctance to host explicitly offensive capabilities is a strong argument against the probability of hosting such systems.