The U.S. Air Force will struggle to maintain pressure on the Chinese military if conflict erupts around the Taiwan Strait, according to a recent war games analysis.
Other factors, such as advancements in Chinese missile tech, and the sheer distance between the United States' closest airbase in Okinawa and Taiwan, will also hamper the response of U.S. armed forces.
“F-22s and F-35s operating under ideal conditions at sophisticated home bases here in the United States, have an 'operational readiness' rate of about 60 percent,” Joseph Siracusa, adjunct professor of the political history of international diplomacy at Curtin University told The Epoch Times.
Operational readiness describes the ability of a military branch to operate and maintain its systems and procedures effectively.
The rate is critical as military engagements require consistency and precision over days or weeks.
“If you want to run 40 sorties [attacking runs] a day, well, you do the math,” Siracusa added.
The professor, who has worked with war gaming models during the Cold War said, “Fighting a war almost within sight of the Chinese homeland will be a tough slog when the United States has only one land airbase within 700 miles of the battle area.”
Ironically, it will be missiles that play key role in keeping U.S. forces at bay, particularly for the first 60 days.
“F-22s and F-35s have very low radar signatures but the refuelling tankers have the radar cross-section of a large barn, making them very vulnerable to Chinese long-range anti-air missiles,” Siracusa said.
U.S. naval carriers would also be out of the question, given the reach of Chinese ballistic missile launchers the DF-21 and DF-26.
“We learned some lessons in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf where our naval carriers could operate just off-shore from the target areas and never be attacked,” Siracusa said. “That will not be the case in the Strait of Taiwan.”
War Game ScenarioWar game specialists like Siracusa believe the most likely war scenario surrounding Taiwan will begin with Beijing’s annual large-scale, amphibious landing drills normally conducted in October off the south-eastern coast of the mainland.
U.S. surveillance satellites begin picking up unusual activity, more troop movements than usual, and more realistic.
Beijing’s propaganda organs start working overtime to stir up national sentiment and indignation towards Taiwan, particularly at its dogged refusal to recognise CCP rule.
U.S. surveillance pick up more worrying signs of PLA naval craft and amphibious forces marshalling on the opposite coast to Taiwan.
If an attack commences, it likely begins with a naval bombardment and airstrikes targeting Taiwanese airfields and military bases.
The United States retaliates with bombing raids targeting CCP ships, airfields, bases, and missile launch sites.
Beijing Driven by Fear, Not ExpansionismBut the professor concedes that wargaming scenarios are only as “strong as its weakest link.” In this case, the scenario hinges on the willingness of either country to strike or fire the first shot.
“Unfortunately, hubris sometimes trumps common sense,” he said.
Mark Beeson, professor of international politics at the University of Western Australia said the build-up of military forces was increasing the likelihood of a confrontation.
“China is digging itself a big hole, and it is difficult to get out of it without losing enormous amounts of face,” he told The Epoch Times.
“The chances of an accident, misjudgement or miscalculation are increasing by the day,” he added.
Siracusa also says any move by Beijing was “driven by fear and weakness, not strength or expansionism.”
“The expansionist story is a falsehood that the military-industrial complex tells each other as they go onto sell the latest weapon system,” he said.
“Having no control over Taiwan, will in fact, tell the rest of China that the CCP has lost control,” he added. “The Chinese are worried about how the Soviet Union disappeared after 74 years, there’s this old rule that after five generations, it is very hard to pass on communist zeal.”
Mustering the Defence of TaiwanIn recent weeks, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and The Netherlands have dispatched warships to patrol the South China Sea, to accompany existing U.S. naval carriers. While the Philippines have sent fighter aircraft to patrol the skies over hundreds of Chinese fishing ships moored in the area.
Australia has adopted a similar strategy, as a deterrence against military aggression.