Detecting, interpreting, and adapting to trends in the strategic environment is seldom easy for big organizations like the U.S. Navy. Consider East Asia, where the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is developing an array of weapons and tactics specifically intended to hold U.S. aircraft carriers and their escorts at bay during a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. One revolutionary weapon under development is an antiship ballistic missile (ASBM). Tipped with maneuverable warheads, the ASBM will reportedly boast the range and accuracy to target warships at sea up to 2,500 km distant.1
Such a technology, used in concert with the sizable submarine fleet and other sea-denial capabilities China is assembling, would cast doubt on the survivability of big-deck carriers in a naval war in Asia. Should Chinese defenses gain the upper hand, the United States would face an unpalatable choice. It could reconfigure the Navy for new realities, bolstering its staying power in a fight. It could choose to muddle through, trusting diplomacy to avert conflict. Or it could abandon its position in Asia.