A recent study by the U.S. think tank RAND* corporation has shed light on the potential outcomes of a ‘great power war’ in which the United States engaged either China or Russia in a major conflict.
Simulations for this conflict have raised a great deal of concern in the Western world, indicating that America’s naval and air fleets would quickly take heavy losses and have their ability to operate overseas eroded. As RAND analyst David Ochmanek observed: “In our games when we fight Russia and China, the US gets its a** handed to it.”
The analyst summarised the outcome of the war games as follows: “We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary.”
Major setbacks resulted in all five battle domains (earth, air , sea, space, cyberspace.) Repeated attempts to overcome China’s People’s Liberation Army and Russia’s own armed forces saw some of the United States’ most costly new assets play relatively minor roles – rather than serve as the game changers they were intended to be. U.S. military bases were quickly left inoperable, large warships sunk, and cutting edge F-35 stealth fighters such as the F-22 and F-35 were often wiped out on their runways.
Ex-U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary and experienced war gamer Robert Work stated regarding the development: “F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”
RAND’s David Ochmanek noted based on the results of the wargame: ”Things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructure like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time.” He further observed that U.S. satellites and wireless networks were highly vulnerable, and could be left totally ineffective if the PLA were to employ ‘system destruction warfare.’
The vulnerability of U.S. stealth aircraft in a war with Russia or China – or even North Korea which fields an ever larger and more sophisticated missile force, has been noted by analysts in the past due to their considerable maintenance requirements and resulting need to spend a great deal of time at airbases in hangars – vulnerable and highly lucrative targets for enemy air or missile attacks. Missiles in particular were key to neutralising such assets, and the reach and precision of these platforms deployed by U.S. adversaries has increased considerably.
The induction of growing numbers of high-end hypersonic missile platforms by U.S. adversaries increases the danger of this considerably. Whether the United States will respond, possibly with greater investment in more tactical ballistic and cruise missiles of its own and stronger air defences to blunt the effects of large scale attacks, remains to be seen.
Source: Military Watch Magazine
*RAND is a Washington defense think-tank founded by Douglas that is very close to the US Air Force.