BREAKING: Army Leader Warns About Potential Land War with China
Textron artworkA future military conflict between the United States and China has traditionally been viewed as primarily an air and naval fight that would most likely occur in the Asia-Pacific. But the Army leader in charge of modernization said his service needs next-generation combat vehicles and other technologies to deter and, if necessary, win a potential ground war with Chinese forces.
The Pentagon views China as the “pacing threat,” Gen. John “Mike” Murray, head of Army Futures Command, said March 17 during remarks at the Association of the United States Army’s virtual Global Force Next conference.
“They're aggressively expanding their influence,” he said. “They have publicly been very clear about not only their modernization objectives, but also their regional and technological dominance objectives.”
Years ago during the Obama administration — which tried to “pivot” the U.S. national security community’s focus to the Asia-Pacific — the Air Force and Navy came up with an Air-Sea Battle concept to overcome enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities such as the arsenal of advanced air defenses and anti-ship missiles possessed by Beijing. Since then, a major role has been envisioned for the Army in a potential U.S.-China war in the region.
The service’s Multi-Domain Operations concept includes using new long-range capabilities such as land-based hypersonic missiles and anti-ship weapons to destroy enemy air defenses and other anti-access systems to enable air and maritime maneuver for U.S. naval and air forces. Although the Multi-Domain Operations concept could be applied to other regions, it is often discussed in the context of a potential shootout in the Asia-Pacific.
Long-range precision fires are the Army’s top modernization priority, and the service hopes to begin fielding new hypersonic weapons by fiscal year 2023.
However, the No. 2 priority is next-generation combat vehicles. The service is pursuing a new Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, a family of robotic combat vehicles, and a new light tank known as Mobile Protected Firepower.
During the Global Force Next conference, Murray was asked what role such systems could play in a potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region, where a land war between great power competitors is not viewed by most Pentagon planners as one of the more likely scenarios.
“If competition, which we're in today, ever went to conflict … I think we look at that fight very, very narrowly,” he said. “We always talk about Taiwan and we always talk about the South China Sea” as geopolitical hotspots where events could lead to a U.S.-China clash.
However, Beijing has a large army, he noted.
“I look at the ability for that conflict, if it ever happened, to become more global and less regional,” he said. “I also believe that the Chinese would use every asset they have in their arsenal, which includes a very large mechanized force. And so I look at, you know, the [U.S. military’s] ability to deter. I look at the assets that China has in place currently [and] their modernization path. I look at ... less of a regional fight and more of a global fight if it came to that. And I just think that we fool ourselves if we look at this too narrowly.”
Murray did not identify the other regions of the world where he could envision a land war breaking out between U.S. and Chinese ground forces.