The US Department of Defense and the Rand Corporation are continuously simulating war between the US and China over Taiwan.
It appears that Washington loses every time, Real Clear Investigations reported.
“Around a large table with a map and icons representing ships, submarines, planes, missile batteries, land-based forces, space-based sensors, and other apparatuses of modern warfare, officials from the Pentagon and the Rand Corp. fight a thus far unimaginable conflict.”
The Red Team, composed of experts on the Chinese military, aims to use all available forces to capture Taiwan.
The Blue Team, made up U.S. military personnel with operational experience — fighter pilots, cyber warriors, space experts, missile defense specialists – must try to defeat the Chinese invasion.
It just goes poorly for the Blue Team, more or less, every single time.
“It’s had its ass handed to it for years,” David A. Ochmanek, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development and now a defense analyst at Rand, told the outlet. “For years the Blue Team has been in shock because they didn’t realize how badly off they were in a confrontation with China.”
Obviously, this is a war simulation, and it is not real world where economic, diplomatic and cultural considerations have a very tangible effect on what takes place.
There’s also one thing most experts on China agree on – it’s not going to war over Taiwan “any time soon.”
The US appears to be causing a sort of deterioration of the situation – the US Secretary of Healthy and Human Services Alex Azar visited Taiwan, in the highest-level visit in 40 years.
To make it worse, the US Congress is to vote on the “Taiwan Defense Act” – it ends the US policy of “strategic ambiguity.” The bill would force the US “to delay, degrade, and ultimately defeat” an attempt by China “to use military force to seize control of Taiwan.”
The bill suggests that both parties in the US Congress strongly support Taiwan.
As China faces more criticism from the US and other Western countries, it is obvious that achieving what Beijing calls the “reunification of the motherland” would be a significant and sought-after achievement for the Chinese Communist Party and its President Xi Jinping.
“As several military analysts put it, the days of unfettered American military superiority in the Western Pacific are over. China has, the analysts say, achieved what’s called anti-access area denial, or A2/AD, which would prevent American forces from being able to penetrate anywhere near Taiwan once a war there started.”
With the A2/AD capability, China has a 2-million-strong military and could directly attack Taiwan, with a standing force of 220,000, hoping that the U.S. would stay out of the conflict. But the U.S. would have powerful reasons for not allowing that to happen.
A Chinese seizure of Taiwan would enormously expand China’s power and position in Asia, especially if combined with its absorption of the entire South China Sea into its maritime territory.
If China felt that the U.S. would intervene, military planners from the Pentagon and Rand who have gamed out scenarios believe a war over Taiwan would most likely begin with a massive attack by advanced Chinese missiles against three American targets: its bases on Okinawa and Guam, its ships in the Western Pacific, including aircraft carrier groups, and its air force squadrons in the region.
Military analysts predict the American side would initially counter with Patriot anti-missile missiles. But the sheer number of Chinese missiles would mean that hundreds of them would reach their targets. American submarines operating near Taiwan would be able to sink some Chinese ships, including amphibious landing craft bringing the Chinese invading force to Taiwan.
Regardless, the number of submarines close enough to take action would still not be enough to deal anything near a crushing blow.
“We’re playing an away game against China,” Rand’s Ochmanek said. “When bases are subjected to repeated attacks, it makes it exponentially more difficult to project power far away.”
“The casualties that the Chinese could inflict on us could be staggering,” said Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at Rand and formerly a China analyst at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii. “Anti-ship cruise missiles could knock out U.S. carriers and warships; surface-to-air missiles could destroy our fighters and bombers.”
China would have its challenges, but in the end it would more than likely achieve victory.
“They are giving off a lot of signals about how this campaign would unfold,” Lyle J. Goldstein, a China and Russia specialist at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, told RCI. “They’re talking a lot about airborne assault in two varieties, by parachute and by helicopters. It’s what’s called vertical envelopment. Amphibious assault is old school. It may be necessary but it’s not the main military effort. The new school is to bring lead elements over by air, secure the terrain and then bring in more forces over the beach. The intensity and scale of training in the Chinese military now for airborne assault is, to me, shocking.
There would be 15, maybe 20 different landings on the island, east, west, north, and south, all at once, some frogmen, some purely airborne troops,” Goldstein continued, saying he was expressing his own views, not official assessments of the U.S. “The Chinese high command would watch these bridgeheads to see which of them is working, while the Taiwan command is looking at this amid decapitation attempts and massive rocket and air assaults. The Chinese would seize several beachheads and airports. Their engineering prowess would come into play in deploying specialized floating dock apparatuses to ensure a steady flow of supplies and reinforcements—a key element. My appraisal is that Taiwan would fold in a week or two.”
In short, China’s strategy would be to get an invasion fleet across the Taiwan Strait before the U.S. could come to its ally’s aid. “And once that happens we’d face an Iwo Jima situation,” Ochmanek said, referring to the small Japanese-held island in the Pacific that the U.S took in one of the most casualty-heavy battles of World War II. “Once Taiwan was occupied, the option of retaking it with an amphibious assault of our own would be very unattractive.”
In order to deter that, the US could move towards defending Taiwan with stand-off missiles and not with aircraft and aircraft carriers.
A second component of such a defense could space-based reconnaissance using artificial intelligence to locate enemy targets, which the long-range anti-ship missiles would strike.
A third would be an American version of flooding the zone, with unmanned undersea drones that could fire torpedoes at Chinese landing craft.
“All of these things are doable,” Ochmanek said. “There’s no magic here, no technological breakthroughs.” He estimates that the Defense Department could make the needed changes if it diverted about 5 percent of its budget— about $35 billion — a year. Taiwan, he said, also needs to move away from the glamorous, showy weapons, like F-16 fighter planes, that it buys from the United States. “The F-16s are not going to get off the ground once the war starts,” Ochmanek said. “They need anti-ship cruise missiles, sea mines, mobile artillery, mobile air defenses, unmanned aerial vehicles. It comes down to sinking about 300 Chinese ships in about 48 hours,” he said.
What else is a possibility between the US and China?
“What both sides can do is turn the sea and air space around Taiwan into a no-go zone,” Heath said. “China could do that, but we could make it very hard for any surface ship to survive near Taiwan, including Chinese transport vessels loaded with troops. That alone might stop an invasion.”
Finally, if all else fails, China would face the risk of a larger war with the United States, which might involve nuclear weapons and an outcome Beijing could not guarantee. “The biggest threat to China is that a regional anti-China coalition forms,” Heath said. “And so if the United States can succeed in building its alliances in Asia, that would be a powerful deterrent, because China can’t afford to go to war with Asia.”
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