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This will involve ramping up the construction of an entirely new class of ship, as well as equipping existing boats with hypersonic missiles. It comes as Beijing recently released new footage of its second operational aircraft carrier, the Shandong, taking part in a training exercise.
In October, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien said during a visit to the country’s Portsmouth Naval Shipyard hypersonic missile capability would “hold targets at risk from longer ranges”.
He laid out plans to deploy the missiles – which can fly multiple times faster than the speed of sound and increase range – on Virginia-class submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
However, the US Naval Institute admitted it “would take significant structural work” to upgrade older US destroyers with hypersonic missiles because current launch systems would be too small.
Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien told US military news site Defense News: “We want a strong Navy above all else to protect the country but also to protect the power.
“With sequestration and the lack of attention to the maritime power, in America’s Navy over the years, we became a weaker country as a result, and the president wants to fix that.
“China has gone from being kind of your typical land power country to becoming both a land power and a sea power country. We’re going to face unique challenges we’ve never seen before.”
READ: China steps up flights over Taiwan Straits amid soaring tensions over US weapons deals
Mr O’Brien believes budget cuts and a general decline in US Navy resources since the Cold War have harmed US naval readiness.
The defence adviser recently called for the US to expand its production of Constellation-class ships by a factor of two.
During a visit to Marinette Marine’s yard in the US state of Wisconsin, he said: “We’re going to need two, three, four frigates built a year to get to the numbers of where we want to be.”
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Currently, the US is aiming to produce two of the ships per year, with the first USS Constellation due by 2026 at the latest.
The cost would be huge, however, with each of the new class of ships expected to be worth as much as $1.2 billion.
The US fleet expansion would begin with the 2022 budget, though any such move could be dependent on which president is in office at that time – Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, hypersonic missile systems are also operated by China – such as with the nation’s DF-17 ballistic missiles system.
This year, the US issued an update on its stance towards China’s maritime activity in the contested South China Sea region.
A statement penned by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit out at China’s “claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea” as “completely unlawful”.
Mr Pompeo added: “Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with ‘might makes right.’”
Recently, the Philippines announced it would be building up a sea-based military force in order to defend waters it claims, as the country vowed to “swarm” maritime regions with fishing boats “because that’s the Chinese strategy”.
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