Op-Ed: America Is Losing Its Technological Edge
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By: Todd Wood
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After Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 in northern Syria, Russia quickly moved to prevent this from happening a second time. In recent months, Moscow has deployed to the Syrian theater the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, and just recently, the SU-35E Flanker air to air fighter. These weapon systems rival NATO equipment and are more capable in some aspects. The bottom line is that during the Obama administration, with reduced funding and importance placed on the military, the United States has lost its technological edge. There will be consequences to this situation if not rectified during the next presidency.
Russia is rapidly building up and modernizing its armed forces, in spite of the near economic collapse of the Russian Federation due to Western sanctions and the collapse of crude oil prices, the lifeblood of the Kremlin’s federal budget. Social services have been cut but the military upgrades continue. Russia estimates that by 2020, seventy percent of its military will be outfitted with modern equipment.
In China, the situation is very similar. China has reformed, reorganized, and modernized its forces in order to project Chinese military power and influence around the world. Russia does not produce much but they do produce very good military weapon systems. China is buying a lot of them, and transferring technology to make the equipment in-country. The Chinese navy is soon, if not already, a blue-water fleet. The American navy has been reduced to the fewest ships in decades and is severely challenged to maintain its responsibilities globally with its current force structure.
Iran is buying a lot of Russian weapons as well. The S-300 anti-aircraft system is being shipping to the Islamic Republic as we speak. Iran is also looking at licensing Russian technology to build Russian T-90 tanks in-country as their armored forces are severely antiquated and non-existent since the Iran-Iraq War. Armed with $150 billion dollars in new-found cash from the recently completed Iranian nuclear ‘deal,’ Iran is on a shopping spree.
It is not just technology that is threatening American military dominance. Asymmetric warfare is an old strategy but one that the Iranians and the Chinese are putting to use when attempting to counter United States military power. Supersonic, anti-ship missiles are one way to oppose American naval hegemony. These type of swarm tactics with relatively inexpensive weapon systems against American carrier groups could very well be mortally effective. It is not at all certain the the U.S. Navy can counter these threats effectively in large numbers.
Another area where American technology is being threatened is not of this earth, but in space. China and Russia are investing a lot of resources into weapons that can defeat U.S. satellites and render the American military blind in a possible future conflict. The U.S. armed forces rely heavily on satellite technology for navigation, communication, and threat detection. Again, asymmetric warfare at its finest.
The next American presidency will have a very difficult time repairing the damage in American hard power reaped by the Obama administration. However, the task is not impossible. Perhaps the Pentagon should use the coming rebuild of the American armed forces to leapfrog our adversaries in technology and strategy to preserve our republic’s security for generations to come.