This, from David Fulghum of Aviation Week:

Wargaming, including an extensive simulation by Rand, has shown that the U.S. would generate a 6-1 kill ratio over Chinese aircraft, but the Americans would lose. Even if every U.S. missile destroyed an opponent, there would still be enough surviving attackers to shred U.S. tankers, command and control and intelligence-gathering aircraft, says Andrew Davies, program director for operations and capabilities, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in an interview with Aviation Week.

“The reason [the U.S.] lost was because the Chinese sortie rates and persistence carried the day,” Davies says. “Any American aircraft was operating out of Guam or Okinawa because the airfields in Taiwan were taken out in the first half hour [of the conflict]. So [U.S.] time on station over the Strait is quite limited.”

Another issue is where U.S. Navy aircraft would be based. “The issue that the U.S. has is, can the aircraft carrier get close enough to the fight?” Davies says. “The Chinese have been working since the [Taiwan] Strait crises of 1995-6 to deny the approaches to China to a carrier battle group.

One other very interesting comment jumped off the page.

Boosters of modern airpower hold up operations in Kosovo and Iraq as examples of how successful advanced technology is. But Davies questions whether pitting a handful of modern aircraft against minor military powers is a fair test.

“That’s an awful lot of money being spent to be able to kick around third-rate countries,” he says. “The silver-bullet platforms are fantastic . . . where a small number of them can completely overwhelm a relatively small power. ”

But when up against China, a small, high-tech force suddenly does not look as great.

Uh huh. Quantity having a quality all its own, apparently. Who knew? Read the rest here. The we can discuss how lack of land bases affects our ability to protect our allies and interests in the Western Pacific, how we could perhaps project power ashore to establish those bases, and whether or not we will be willing to risk our smallish number of CVNs to penetrate the Chinese ASBM envelope to get at the enemy. Sound familiar? Well, it should.

What was it Mark Twain said? “History doesn’t really repeat itself. But it sure does rhyme. ”

Oh, and hat tip to Masta G.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Books, Coast Guard, Foreign Policy, History, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy

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  • Matt Yankee

    Read this on South Korea’s news website Chosun Ilbo…yet another surprise.

    “The Ming Pao and the Zhongguo Pinglun (China Review), a news website in Hong Kong, posted an article headlined “China succeeds in spacecraft test flight in tandem with U.S. X-37B” until early Tuesday, but no mainland Chinese media websites mentioned anything about it.”

  • Derrick

    Did the simulation take into account this:

    The 5th generation fighter China has been developing.

    Aren’t there US airfields in South Korea?

  • Paul

    What’s the current level of aircraft on one of our carriers?

    Might not be a bad idea for PACFLT carriers to practice cold war era full deck load operations with a full strength air wing embarked. I imagine the sortie generation and maintenance requirements are far more demanding then what’s currently at sea.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Historically, 10-1 in favor is the exchange ratio acheived by US forces. Top Gun exists to make this so when and if required.

    Which is not to say we should rest on our laurels. Or stop building aircraft carriers and developing superior aircraft.

    Never let ’em see you sweat…Ying.
    The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war…Yang.

  • SwitchBlade

    What if we said we would cancel the almost one Trillion or so dollars we owe them?

    Would that make them not take Taiwan? That would be one expensive island.

  • Derrick

    I doubt China would waste money and effort on capturing Taiwan…it’s nothing but a rock with symbolic/sentimental value…not worth sacrificing soldiers for.

    The Spratley Islands, on the other hand…

    Out of curiosity, was the simulation used in this study assuming that the conflict would be fought purely with conventional weaponry, or were weapons of mass destruction included?

  • Navigator

    Overwhelming the defensive screen has been seen in the past. That was the method of the Kamikaze attacks at Okinawa, with serious consequences for the Navy in loss of ships and personnel. Capt. Wayne Hughes goes into this in “Fleet Tactics”. It is attrition warfare…for which we are not prepared nor could be prepared in a limited conflict (e.g. the taking of Taiwan).

  • P

    Taken into context, IF the US Navy were to steam in to protect Taiwan (I’m saying IF here…), then naturally WHAT would the US Navy use to protect it? So it’s obvious…carrier battle groups and submarines.

    Any adversary would’ve known this for years…decades even…and even would’ve prepared for it to counter it. It is kind of obvious.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Do not be surprised if China intends to extend access denial well past Taiwan.

  • Byron

    China will first declare a restricted zone to the first island chain. They will use submarines and will probably sink a ship to prove the point. Then we will be forced to ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?” My money says the answer will be “No”. And Grandpa, yes, historicaly, it’s been a 10-1 ratio…but because of restrictions placed on the tactical aircraft and lack of realistic air to air training our ratio was 1-1 for most of the Vietnam War. The other thing to consider is sortie rate. Ask Lex the question, “would we be able to generate a high enough sortie rate to beat back the first two waves of attackers and still have enough aircraft to withstand the second?” Last, but sure as hell not the least, are the Aegis ships trained up and prepared to do their job, because they are always the linchpin to fleet defense.


    Ok, not to put to fine a point on it, but lets remember that RAND is, for all intents, a USAF mouthpiece. Since said USAF really wants a future long range bomber, natuarally the scenarios and assumptions they choose tend to lead to a real need for a future long range bomber.

    A few points to remember.

    In any cross strait scenario, the Taiwanese and, presumably any US forces, will be on the defensive, conducting sea and air denial, not sea or air control. So continuous control of the air and sea around Taiwan will not be required, at least initially. Only enough to deter and or stop the Chinese. How does this change things? Well for one, you can stand off at longer ranges and use pulses of power to deny the Chinese control of the sky, which is required for a successful attack, and attrite them. Instead of reacting to waves of Chinese fighters, which they get to time, by standing and dying when you run out of ammo like in the RAND wargame, you can role them back (using waves of US fighters), and then leave until the next time. Tough on the Taiwanese, but it works.

    Second, US Submarines get to sink Chinese invasion ships in droves. While you can argue that Chinese subs may be able to avoid detection, when we are on the offense, it would be a stretch to think that we can not find and sink surface ships when we are on the defense. They have to come to us, not the other way around. Even 5 or 6 SSNs could have a field day with the Chinese Navy. Given a few weeks, we could have far more than that available.

    While being somewhat like Plan Orange (which assumed the Phillipines would fall and we would have to fight across the Pacific to retake it, it is far more like the initial defense of the Phillipnes with a few significant differences.
    1. The ability of the Asiatic fleet is daratically better, with dramatically more effective submarines against any invasion force. Additionally, the Taiwanese Navy has significant capabilities itself in sea denial.
    2. The USAF forces are both stronger compared to the threat and have the ability to be reinforced dramatically faster (as in we can reinforce them as opposed to 1941 when we could not).
    3. We have the ability to hold at risk the nation wanting to attack. While we may not want to or plan to, the US could easily deliver multiple thousands of cruise missiles if required in a very short period of time against virtually every military facility across the entirety of the China.
    4. Taiwan has a significant retalitory ability of their own to hold the Chinese mainland at risk through missile attack, and it appears to be increasing. Given that most cross straight scenarios assume that China will attack Taiwanese air bases with massive missile attacks, you can figure the Taiwanese will be happy to fire back.

    So not to put to fine a point on it, it does not come down solely to a force on force air fight, as much as RAND would like to think it does. Nor is it a Navy versus Navy battle, a sub versus sub battle, or whatever.

    Look at it from China’s viewpoint.

    1. Taiwan has a pretty effective military that they have to neutralize.
    2. Taiwan has an unknown retalitory capability that they could use against China. Would they attack military targets or economic and political targets?
    3. How would a Taiwan attack play to my neighbors, such as Japan? South Korea? Russia? India? others?
    4. How can I protect myself against a economic blockade which can be imposed with ease by the US?
    5. What would be the result of attacking Guam and other US bases in the area? Would the US retaliate by attacking bases (or even key infrastructure) throughout China?
    6. Are my cool plans to deploy “assassin’s mace” weapons going to work? Can I reliably perdict what the enemy will do?
    7. Am I willing to lose my Air Force and Navy to take Taiwan?
    8. What will be the effect of forcibly reintegrating Taiwan on my own population?
    9. How will my troops fight? Last time I tried in 1978 it didn’t work out real well for me.

    And I could go on. Basically, there are a lot of known unknowns and probably quiet a few unknown unknowns. We face similiar challenges, but we have the advantage of being on the defensive. We only have to deter the Chinese to accept the status quo.

    The whole arguments about a possible war with China remind me of the Soviet Admiral who was asked about how easy it was to not have to worry about protecting Aircraft Carriers. He responded, and I paraphrase, “The only thing more difficult to protecting a carrier is protecting against a carrier”.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Ammo stocks. Submarines have limited capacity magazines, once the Torpedo Room is empty, time to go reload.

    Reload sites. A submarine tender exists (existed) to shorten the transit to and from the patrol area, providing battle damage repair, routine maintenence and resupply and weapons reload as far forward as possible, to shorten turnaround time.

    Thus any harbor with a nearby airfield becomes an available submarine base on very short notice. No airfield? Seabees.

    Otherwise you need more boats to get the same on station time.

    So naturally, get rid of the tenders and the T-AK’s to feed it.

    Because the ship’s engineers and deck rates need to stay in practice getting underway, and that is time you can’t have submarines in refit. And they aren’t doing anything when the tender isn’t underway. Since personnel are the Navy’s greatest expense,a SIMA in Norfolk or San Diego is more cost effective, assuming war will not affect operational deployment patterns. Then you kill the SIMA’s but that is another story.

    A war? In WesPac? Inconceivable! History is over. Hadn’t you heard?

    There is no need for Auxiliaries any more. Much less torpedoes that never get used (in peacetime).

    We haven’t fought a war at sea since the new recruits’ grandfather’s time.

    It shows.

  • How many UAV’s with a bomb or AAM slapped underneath could be purchased for the development cost of a 5th gen fighter?

    Given mass, even if China only used MiG-15s, they could overwhelm the weapon-carrying capacity of all of our air power, even if we managed to sortie everys plane in the inventory. After that, we would have zero air power. But those planes require pilots, which they don’t have enough of to do that.

    However, they do have a very broad and base of dudes who play computer games–and could very easily, with very little training, fly UAVs.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Taiwan carries significant strategic value to the PRC. Bases there will open the entire of the Pacific to them. They would be able to influence things all the way past the “first” island chain, out to the “second”, which includes the Philippines to the north and (*ahem!*) Guam to the south.

    Don’t underestimate what Taiwan means to the PRC, and what, eventually, they may wager to get it.

  • Derrick

    But why would the PRC risk so many lives to capture an island that many here believe they will get anyway? A good portion of Taiwan is supportive of reunification with the mainland…I suspect the PRC will just wait for Taiwan to be delivered back to them, just like Hong Kong.

    I think we will have to swallow the hard pill that eventually, Taiwan and a lot of Asia will fall into the PRC’s orbit. I just hope more of those realistically minded military officers like General Liu ( will be in charge of the PRC’s military well before then.

    One important point to note is that currently, 50% of China lives below the poverty line. Anything that makes that number higher, such as a military adventure, will definitely cause a revolt. So I don’t think the PRC leadership will be stupid enough to start a shooting match anytime soon.

    Plus…any conflict in Asia will eventually get the US involved, and sooner or later, MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) will have to come to play. There’s no way that US conventional forces would be able to hold off those overwhelming numbers at such a long distance from the US for long…we would have to fall back to nuclear weapons pretty quickly.

  • I expect they will secure the rest of their claims to the first island chain first. They are building 30 surveillance cutters, far in excess of their needs. These ships will become a common sight in the vicinity of the contested islands. No one will consider them a threat. One morning we will wake up and all the contested islands will have been occupied because these ships will have been used as APDs, each landing a company of Marines. The Chinese Navy will sortie and their Air Force will be overhead. It will all be over before anyone can react.

    We will then have a period of peace. Surveillance stations will be set up on the islands, missile batteries and runways. When they are ready to take Taiwan they will be in a much better position to prevent interference.

  • Forrest Cantrell

    I think amid all the gnashing of teeth about the appearance of the J-20 and DF-21D, we forget the immense capabilities of U.S.’s real capital ships, the submarines. U.S. attack and SSGN subs have the capability of not only sweeping Chinese surface and submarine forces from the sea, they can deploy hundreds of cruise missiles for attacks on key military sites. Also, China is highly dependent on merchant shipping to export its cheap goods and more importantly, to import raw materials and oil. Can China risk attacks on shipping or mining of its harbors? I think the Chinese leadership is well aware of the risks.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “they can deploy hundreds of cruise missiles for attacks on key military sites.”

    They’d better have many, many times more than that.

  • Matt Yankee

    Should China’s recent warning about them retaliating with nukes against large scale conventional weapons come into our thinking?

    Why not warn them the slightest move against any islands would precipitate our own use of such weapons? Wouldn’t a clear warning help to deter?

    As far as their argument that this whole area(s) is comparable to our Gulf of Mexico and Carribean…the difference is South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philipines, Vietnam and a few others are very serious economic powers whom could say the same thing about the same waters. Cuba and Mexico certainly aren’t comparable to Japan or ROK economicly or militarily. They should have to share just like our influntial allies will. Maybe Japan and ROK should declare some interesting “core interests”.

  • Lowly USN Retired

    Are those in the Congress as concerned as we are of the potential threat the PRC posses to “To Overwhelm Opponents” in their quest for Asian military dominance and possibly world military dominance? Are these same politicians aware of the ability, capability or inability of the PRC’s principal opponent to deter, counter and defeat the PRC ambition/dream should they act on their ambitions? Rest assured should or when this occurs, the PRC’s comrades to the North, East and for a short distance Northwest, will eventually combine forces with the PLA in their crusade to overwhelm opponents.

    If our leaders are aware of the threat, why has the reduction of U.S. Navy combatants been allowed to decline to the lowest levels since the second decade of the 20th century? Why does the Secretary of Defense believe the United States Marine Corps operates under an antiquated amphibious doctrine with a proposal to eliminate the Marine Corps amphibious force thus allowing a reduction in force of over 20,000 Marines. Ludicrous.

    What our leaders should be concerned with are programs like the F-35, for example. Expected, and unacceptable, is the 382 billion dollars for 2,443 aircraft. The 2,443 F-35’s are very much needed, what is not needed, is appalling and a disgrace is the 382 billion dollar price tag now placing the F-35 project in jeopardy of being jettisoned because of cost overrun.

    Responsible programs management, which must include fiscal management, is needed and those who fail to provide responsible management, from the top down, must be held accountable for their failure to the service and to the country whom they serve. We must, for every weapons platform retired or surveyed, must have a replacement that exceeds the technology of that it replaced at a more efficient cost. If our leaders do not do this, we stand the risk of becoming “Overwhelmed By Our Opponents”.

  • P

    I think Congress and the DoD are kind of aware of the Chinese threat to Taiwan. We often do not sell our best military equipment to Taiwan for risk of capture if the PRC invades or allow our best weapons and technology to fall into the wrong hands.

  • Derrick

    Does America have enough economic influence over the PRC to deter military aggression with economic measures alone?

    Is America willing to foot the bill to maintain a conventional military presence in Asia strong enough to deter PRC military aggression? Are there economical ways of achieving this? For example, is it cheaper and feasible to position US air force fighter wings in eastern Afghanistan as a deterrent, as opposed to South Korea and Japan?

    Also, is there enough room in the South China Sea for another aircraft carrier battle group?

  • P


    China is becoming more self-sufficient. Ironically, according to a Special TV program before the Beijing Olympics, China’s Chinese really like US “luxury” goods such as perfume, fashion, entertainment, Detroit cars, US education, liquor, etc. This doesn’t mean that all Chinese could afford what Americans buy, but they sure do want them. While the US imports cheap products from China, China kind of does the opposite because China already makes the cheap stuff. However, the US is dependent on Asia’s raw materials, minerals, and labor pool. Even most steel is now “Made in China.” We probably need China’s goods more than China needs ours.

    This issue here really kind of boils down to that China could manufacture it whereas the US cannot or didn’t. Already the PRC has a new amphibious armored vehicle whereas the USMC couldn’t even get theirs working. Already the PLA has about 2-3 types of modern tanks to our M1 Abrams. Already the PLN has a missile stealth boat. Already the PLA has multiple mobile SAM systems to just our hardly-mobile Patroit. So in many ways, China could outproduce us or buy what they need. Now the J-20 appears threatening because the US’s F-22 and F-35 programs aren’t really working. Recall that a lot of allied countries are depending on the F-35….and the F-35 is what…about half the size of the J-20?

    The War on Terrorism (WOT) has really taxed and worn down US airpower. If it wasn’t for WOT and “No Fly Zones,” I think the USAF and USN could station around a nation. Now…I don’t know.

    I say it’s not so much if the US DoD could outspend China…more like if the DoD could produce anything worthy and working for the amount of money spent.

  • Derrick

    Does that mean this is true?

    I don’t understand what the concern is regarding the F-35 being half the size of the J-20. I checked wikipedia briefly and noticed the J-20 is guessed to fly at mach 2 whereas the F-35 will only hit mach 1.6+…but is there something I am missing? Would someone please explain why the F-35 being half the size of the J-20 is a concern?

  • P

    Half size typically means less fuel and weapons. The F-35 could only carry two JDAMs and two AIM-120s as weapons internally.

    And yes that URL blog you posted was what I meant. Bear in mind that the then-Soviet Union (now Russia) and China and US non-friendlies only have to sometimes copy in idea and design what the US makes (Buran looks like the Space Shuttle, J-20 looks like the F-22, MIG-29 looks like the F-18, PLA MBT looks like the M1 Abrams, PLA amphib vehicle looks like the EFV, etc). Sometimes all you need is to bring more weapons to a fight.