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US Navy adds powerful new missile in Pacific
630  CNN 

Somewhere in the Pacific, a stealthy United States Navy warship is carrying new weapons that analysts say could help to tilt the balance of power in contested areas like the South China Sea. The USS Gabrielle Giffords, a sleek, speedy, low-profile littoral combat ship, left San Diego earlier this month carrying the US Navy's new Naval Strike Missile and a drone helicopter that helps aim it.

The Naval Strike Missile is a sea-skimming cruise missile that is difficult to spot on radar, and can maneuver to avoid enemy defenses, according to Raytheon, the main US contractor for the weapon. It is paired on the Gabrielle Giffords with a MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter drone, which is used to scout for targets.

A Naval Strike Missile is launched from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California in 2014. The weapons will increase the lethality of the US Navy, according to Cmdr. John Fage, a spokesman for the US Navy's 3rd Fleet who confirmed their deployment. "The Pentagon is building a military force that can operate on a more sustainable basis and has a better chance of fighting and surviving within the PLA's deadly anti-access, area denial envelope," said Rand Corp. senior defense analyst Timothy Heath, referring to the mix of ships, aircraft and missiles amassed by China's People's Liberation Army to control parts of the Pacific.

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