WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is hoping to have an Aegis Ashore system up and running in Guam by 2026, as part of a concept he calls “Homeland Defense System Guam.”
Adm. Phil Davidson told reporters on Tuesday that his “number one priority” is getting that system installed in Guam as soon as possible, stating that “the most important action we can take to rapidly and fully implement the national defense strategy, as a first step, is a 360 degree persistent integrated air defense capability in Guam.”
In early April, Defense News revealed details of a report submitted by Davidson to Congress, which he requested $20 billion in new investments between fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2026 in order to build up the INDOPACOM region.
It’s likely Davidson will get at least some of what he is seeking. Since the arrival of the 1253 report, both chambers of Congress have embraced the idea of creating a Pacific Deterrence Initiative — a pot of money inside the Pentagon’s budget that would be targeted at deterring Chinese actions in the Pacific, based on the counter-Russian funding in the department’s European Deterrence Initiative.
The centerpiece of Davidson’s funding request was described as a 360-degree persistent and integrated air defense capability in Guam, with an estimated $1.67 billion price tag over six years. In the unclassified 1253 report, Davidson did not spell out exactly what that would entail, but his comments on Tuesday laid out clearly that he seeks the Lockheed Martin-developed missile defense system.
“The backbone of Homeland Defense System Guam would be the baseline 10 Aegis Ashore system.” Davidson told reporters at an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group. “The reason I’m a key advocate for that is first, it is technology that is available to us now and could be delivered by 2026, when I believe that the threat will require us to have a much more robust capability than the combination of THAAD, which is deployed there now, and an Aegis ship in response can provide.”
Fundamentally, Davidson said, the THAAD and sea-based Aegis combo is meant to protect against a North Korean missile launch at Guam. But with China now seen as the major threat in the region, a more robust, permanent capability on Guam is needed, in order to protect against both land-based ballistic missiles and air or sea-launched cruise missiles. In addition, he said, the command and control capabilities that come from an Aegis Ashore enables other capabilities to be added and linked together, such as shorter range Patriot systems.
To be able to set the system up by his 2026 goal, Davidson said, funding “has to get delivered in ’21.”
Another priority for Davidson is an updated and expanded focus on training and multi-domain experimentation, which could incorporate partners and allies in the region. In the 1253 report, Davidson requested $2.87 billion over the six-year period; on Tuesday, he said he has already begun “engaging” with Pentagon budget planners about lining funding up for FY22.
That money, if approved, would be used to find new ways to utilize America’s collection of test ranges, which include locations in Alaska, California, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam. Those could be combined with space around Japan and Australia to really experiment and test new weapons and concepts around fifth-generation fighters and integrated air and missile defense systems.
When talking “about long range precision fires the fires from the sea, from the air, from the land, you need a wider network of ranges,” Davidson said.
“And by the way, that network of ranges has got to be able to simulate, you know, a higher capacity and capability of potential opposing forces to you. And then allow you to space the geography, and the networks to exercise and all that going forward.”
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