WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command hopes to have an active Aegis Ashore system in Guam by 2026 as part of a concept he calls “Homeland Defense System Guam.”
Adm. Phil Davidson told reporters Tuesday that his “No. 1 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 in which he requested $20 billion in new investments between fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2026 to bolster capabilities in INDOPACOM’s area of responsibility.
It’s likely Davidson will get at least some of what he is seeking. Since the arrival of the 1253 report — named after the section of legislation that required the 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. The move is based on the counter-Russian fund 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 clearly laid out that he wants 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 [the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system], 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 targeting Guam. But with China now seen as the leading threat in the region, a more robust, permanent capability on Guam is needed 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 up the system by 2026, Davidson said, funding “has to get delivered in ’21.”
Another priority for Davidson is an updated and expanded focus on training and multidomain 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 up funding for FY22.
That money, if approved, would be used to find new ways to use America’s collection of test ranges, which includes locations in Alaska, California, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam. Those could be combined with space around Japan and Australia to 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.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.