The Navy has done two things in recent weeks that should make China take stock amid saber rattling over Taiwan.

The first involved the service's strangest-looking ship, the USS Zumwalt, a destroyer that looks like a stealth bomber landed on a parking garage. The much-maligned Zumwalt is basically a stealthy superstructure above a massive cargo of missiles.

And for the first time, those missiles work.

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The Zumwalt fired an anti-aircraft missile for the first time. That means enemy planes can be killed by what they cannot see.

The Zumwalt can be equipped with dozens of anti-aircraft missiles along with anti-submarine and land attack weapons. It also carries 6-inch guns that can bombard coastlines.

The first ship of its kind, the Zumwalt is virtually invisible to radar, despite its 610-foot length.

Each of the Navy's three Zumwalt ships ran more than $4 billion and can head into hostile waters with the kind of invisibility normally associated with submarines.

“Today’s successful test not only demonstrates the ship’s capability to fire missiles and conduct self-defense, it is also a significant step toward more advanced combat system testing and operations for our Navy’s most technically innovative warship,” Navy Capt. Matt Schroeder said in a statement.

It also means the Navy could take out whole squadrons of enemy fighters before those fighters know the Navy is in the neighborhood.

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But that's not the Navy's most notable accomplishment in recent weeks.

In a joint training exercise with the Japanese, the USS America showed off its ability to conduct air operations with F-35 fighters.

The America, though, is no carrier. It's an amphibious assault ship designed to haul Marines to enemy beaches.

But it also can carry nearly two dozen F-35s configured for vertical take-off and landing. 

“These are the most advanced capabilities to ever sail or fly. America is a fifth-generation amphibious assault platform, built from the keel up to optimize the most advanced capability of the fifth-generation F-35 platform," America's skipper  Capt. Luke Frost said in a statement. "We are forward-deployed to integrate exactly these advanced capabilities with Japan, recognizing the importance of our alliance and working together to maintain regional peace and stability.”

The exercise showed that each American amphibious assault ship is nearly as capable as the aircraft carriers China is now fielding.

China has two rather modest aircraft carriers based on Soviet designs. The United States has 10 amphibious assault ships, which can each pack F-35s if called upon.

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Those ships are backed up by America's fleet of 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

By integrating the amphibious ships, the United States has unrivaled power to control sea lanes and can turn the Pacific into an American lake on demand.

That doesn't mean the Navy should rest easy. China is aggressively pursuing a stronger fleet and getting into a tangle with the People's Liberation Army. And its water arm, the People's Liberation Army Navy, is something to be avoided.

But with the new capabilities the Navy has shown off in recent weeks, that conflict can be deterred.

Because for all its strength, China can't match the Navy.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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