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US military's vulnerabilities vs. China, Russia


Fallen Comrade
Fallen Comrade
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Not a pretty picture (e.g. carrier vulnerabilities https://milnet.ca/forums/threads/120795/post-1563946.html#msg1563946 ), fixes suggested:

US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed To It’ In Wargames: Here’s A $24 Billion Fix
Warships sink. Bases burn. F-35s die on the runway. Can $24 billion a year -- 3.3 % of the Pentagon budget -- fix the problem?

The US keeps losing, hard, in simulated wars with Russia and China. Bases burn. Warships sink. But we could fix the problem for about $24 billion a year, one well-connected expert said, less than four percent of the Pentagon budget.

“In our games, when we fight Russia and China,” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said this afternoon, “blue gets its ass handed to it.” In other words, in RAND’s wargames, which are often sponsored by the Pentagon, the US forces — colored blue on wargame maps — suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can’t stop Russia or China — red — from achieving their objectives, like overrunning US allies.

No, it’s not a Red Dawn nightmare scenario where the Commies conquer Colorado. But losing the Baltics or Taiwan would shatter American alliances, shock the global economy, and topple the world order the US has led since World War II.

Body Blows & Head Hits

How could this happen, when we spend over $700 billion a year on everything from thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to supersonic stealth fighters? Well, it turns out US superweapons have a little too much Achilles in their heels.

“In every case I know of,” said Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense with decades of wargaming experience, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

Even the hottest jet has to land somewhere. But big airbases on land and big aircraft carriers on the water turn out to be big targets for long-range precision-guided missiles. Once an American monopoly, such smart weapons are now a rapidly growing part of Russian and Chinese arsenals — as are the long-range sensors, communications networks, and command systems required to aim them
[emphasis added].

So, as potential adversaries improve their technology, “things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructure like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said. “Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.”

(That’s why the 2020 budget coming out next week retires the carrier USS Truman decades early and cuts two amphibious landing ships, as we’ve reported. It’s also why the Marine Corps is buying the jump-jet version of the F-35, which can take off and land from tiny, ad hoc airstrips, but how well they can maintain a high-tech aircraft in low-tech surroundings is an open question).

While the Air Force and Navy took most of the flak today at this afternoon’s Center for a New American Security panel on the need for “A New American Way of War.” the Army doesn’t look too great, either. Its huge supply bases go up in smoke as well, Work and Ochmanek said. Its tank brigades get shot up by cruise missiles, drones, and helicopters because the Army largely got rid of its mobile anti-aircraft troops, a shortfall it’s now hastening to correct. And its missile defense units get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming fire [emphasis added].

“If we went to war in Europe, there would be one Patriot battery moving, and it would go to Ramstein. And that’s it,” Work growled. “We have 58 Brigade Combat Teams, but we don’t have anything to protect our bases. so what different does it make?”

Worst of all, Work and Ochmanek said, the US doesn’t just take body blows, it takes a hard hit to the head as well. Its communications satellites, wireless networks, and other command-and-control systems suffer such heavy hacking and jamming that they are, in Ochmanek’s words, “suppressed, if not shattered.”

The US has wargamed cyber and electronic warfare in field exercises, Work said, but the simulated enemy forces tend to shut down US networks so effectively that nothing works and nobody else gets any training done. “Whenever we have an exercise and the red force really destroys our command and control, we stop the exercise,” [emphasis added] Work said, instead of trying to figure out how to keep fighting when your command post gives you nothing but blank screens and radio static.

The Chinese call this “system destruction warfare,” Work said: They plan to “attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and they practice it all the time.”

The $24 Billion Fix — And Cuts

So how do you fix such glaring problems? The Air Force asked RAND to come up with a plan two years ago, and, surprisingly, Ochmanek said, “we found it impossible to spend more than $8 billion a year.”

That’s $8 billion for the Air Force. Triple that to cover for the Army and the Navy Department (which includes the US Marines), Ochmanek said, and you get $24 billion. Yes, these are very broad strokes, but that’s only 3.3 percent of the $750 billion defense budget President Trump will propose for the 2020 fiscal year.

Work was less worried about the near-term risk — he thinks China and Russia aren’t eager to try anything right now — and more about what happens 10 to 20 years from now. But, he said, “sure, $24 billion a year for the next five years would be a good expenditure.

So what does that $24 billion buy?

To start with, missiles. Lots and lots of missiles. The US and its allies notoriously keep underestimating how many smart weapons they’ll need for a shooting war, then start to run out against enemies as weak as the Serbs or Libyans. Against a Russia or China, which can match not only our technology but our mass, you run out of munitions fast.

Specifically, you want lots of long-range offensive missiles. Ochmanek mentioned Army artillery brigades, which use MLRS missile launchers, and the Air Force’s JAGM-ER smart bomb, while Work touted the Navy’s LRASM ship-killer. You also want lots of defensive missiles to shoot down the enemy‘s offensive missiles, aircraft, and drones. One short-term fix there is the Army’s new Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (MSHORAD) batteries, Stinger missiles mounted on 8×8 Stryker armored vehicles. In the longer term, lasers, railguns, and high-powered microwaves could shoot down incoming missiles much less expensively.

The other big fix: toughening up our command, control, and communications networks. That includes everything from jam-proof datalinks to electronic warfare gear on combat aircraft and warships. The services are fond of cutting corners on electronics to get as many planes in the air and hulls in the water as possible, Ochmanek said, but a multi-billion dollar ship that dies for lack of a million-dollar decoy is a lousy return on investment.

In the longer run, Work added, you want to invest heavily in artificial intelligence: not killer robots, he said, but “loyal wingmen” drones to support manned aircraft and big-data crunchers to help humans analyze intelligence and plan.

Of course, you have to find the money for new stuff somewhere, which means either raising the defense budget even further — unlikely — or cutting existing programs. Ochmanek was unsurprisingly shy about specifics, saying only that the services could certainly squeeze out $8 billion each for new technologies.

Work was a little harder-edged. He said cutting a carrier and two amphibious ships over the forthcoming 2020-2024 budget “seems right to me.” He argued the US Army has way too many brigade combat teams — tanks and infantry — and way too little missile defense to protect them. And he bemoaned reports the US Air Force will retire the B-1 bomber, one of its few long-range strike aircraft: If the Air Force doesn’t want them, he said, give them to the Navy, revive the old VPB “Patrol Bomber” squadrons, and load them with Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles to sink the Chinese navy [emphasis added].

Pentagon leaders should challenge the armed services to solve very hard, very specific problems, Work said: Sink 350 Chinese navy and coast guard vessels in the first 72 hours of a war, or destroy 2,400 Russian armored vehicles. Whoever has the best solution gets the most money. Those are hardly easy goals, Work said, but they’re also doable with technology now in development.

The immediate problems could be fixed with technology already in production, Ochmanek said. For $24 billion, “I can buy the whole kit,” he said. “It’s all mature technologies and it would scare the crap out of adversaries, in a good way.”

Relevant posts from 2015 and 2016:

Making the Case For the Eagle’s Carriers vs the Dragon: NOT
(links at start no longer work--copy and paste in search box upper right)

USAF “Officers Give New Details for F-35 in War With China”
The Pentagon would spread its fighter jets around the Pacific in small numbers to military and civilian airfields, some as far as 1,000 miles from the battlefield [...those planes would need quite a bit of tanker support to get there and back, 2,000 miles round-trip], to prevent enemy ballistic and cruise missiles from delivering a devastating knock-out blow to a base...

Good novels on the war with China from thread: https://army.ca/forums/threads/32288.1450.html

Re: What book are you reading now?
« Reply #1474 on: December 13, 2018, 12:10:18 »
Currently reading this series of the modern US Navy. Have read all his Dan Lenson books. Just starting ONSLAUGHT. Poyer does a fair bit of research for his books as detailed in the Acknowledgments.

Author: David Poyer’s active (Annapolis 1971) and reserve naval service included sea duty in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and Pacific, and shore duty at the Pentagon, Surface Warfare Development Group, Joint Forces Command, and in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  He retired from the Joint Forces Command as a captain, with the Defense Superior Service Medal as his highest award.

Modern Navy Series

Just promoted to Captain, Dan Lenson's first glimpse of his new command is of a ship literally high and dry. USS Savo Island, which carries a classified, never-before-deployed missile defense system, has run aground off Naples, Italy. Captain Lenson has to relieve the ship's disgraced skipper and deploy on a secret mission—Operation Stellar Shield—which will take his ship and crew into the dangerous waters bordering the Middle East. As a climate of war builds, with threats of nuclear and chemical weapons, Dan has to rally Savo Island’s demoralized crew and confront a mysterious death on board, while learning to operate a complex missile system that has not been battle tested. But when the conflict reaches a climax, Dan is forced to make a decision that may cost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives—or save them, but at the cost of his ship and his career.

TIPPING POINT: The War with China: The First Salvo
Dan Lenson’s under fire both at sea and in Washington. His command of the first antiballistic-missile-capable cruiser in the Fleet, USS Savo Island, is threatened when he's called home to testify before Congress. In the Indian Ocean, Savo cruises off East Africa, protecting shipping lanes from pirates. But this routine patrol turns ominous when an unknown assailant begins assaulting female crew members. At the same time, a showdown starts between India and Pakistan.  Savo Island, with her unique but not yet fully battle-ready ability to intercept ballistic missiles, is all that stands between two nations on the brink of nuclear war.  Dan will have to cope with a deadly tsunami, incoming weapons, and a quickly tilting balance of power, as China finally makes her bid to humiliate and displace America in the Pacific, beginning a deadly war.

ONSLAUGHT: The War with China: The Opening Battle chronicles
Dan Lenson’s latest challenge as the U.S. Navy struggles to hold Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. As Allied computer, satellite, and financial networks are ravaged by cyberattacks, China and its Associated Powers begin to roll up American allies, launching invasions of India, Taiwan, South Korea, and Okinawa. USS Savo Island is one of the few forces left to stop them. But with a crew under attack from an unknown assailant, and rapidly running out of ordnance against waves of enemy missiles and torpedoes, can Dan and his scratch-team task force hold the line? Or will the U.S. lose the Pacific—and perhaps much more—to an aggressive and expansionist new People’s Empire? The most explosive novel yet in the long-running Dan Lenson series, Onslaught presents an utterly convincing scenario of how a global war with China could unfold. 

HUNTER KILLER: The War with China deepens
The United States stands nearly alone in its determination to fight, rather than give into the expansionist demands of the aggressive new “People’s Empire.” The naval and air forces of the Associated Powers – China, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea – have used advanced technology and tactical nuclear weapons to devastate America's fleet in the Pacific, while its massive army forced humiliating surrenders on Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other crucial allies. Admiral Dan Lenson, commanding a combined US–South Korean naval force, and Commander Cheryl Staurulakis of USS Savo Island fight to turn the tide and prepare for an Allied counteroffensive. Meanwhile, SEAL operator Teddy Oberg escapes from a hellish POW camp and heads west through desolate mountains toward what he hopes will be freedom. And in Washington, DC, Dan’s wife Blair Titus helps formulate America's political response to overwhelming setbacks in the Pacific and at on the home front.

DEEP WAR (Dec 18): The war with China and North Korea goes nuclear
The war against China turns dire as the United States struggles to survive in this gripping thriller featuring Navy commander Dan Lenson. After America suffers a devastating nuclear attack, and facing food shortages, power outages, cyber and AI assaults, and a wrecked economy, Admiral Dan Lenson leads an allied force assigned to turn the tide of war in the Pacific, using precisely targeted missiles and high-tech weapons systems. But as the campaign begins, the entire Allied military and defense network is compromised—even controlled—by Jade Emperor, a powerful Chinese artificial intelligence system that seems to anticipate and counter every move. While Dan strives to salvage the battle plan, his wife Blair helps coordinate strategy in Washington, DC, Marine sergeant Hector Ramos fights in an invasion of Taiwan, and Navy SEAL master chief Teddy Oberg begins a desperate journey into central China on a mission that may be the only way to save the United States from destruction and defeat.

Dan Lenson Series

Excerpts from a very thoughtful article by a serving USAF officer (chokepoints and blockade, as vs Japan in WW II):

Shapes, Part II: The Shape of Strategy

This is the second in a two-part series, called “Shapes,” which examines the assumptions behind how the Air Force designs its combat aviation at the enterprise level, rather than at the aircraft level. Culturally, airpower advocates are often captured by the possibilities inherent in a specific piece of hardware, rather than the possibilities inherent in a range of airpower capabilities. In reality, what makes airpower useful is not limited to the shape of a specific aircraft – it includes the shape of the whole. What does airpower need to accomplish, in what portion of the world, and against what adversaries? Part I was titled “The Shape of Airpower [ https://warontherocks.com/2019/07/shapes-part-i-the-shape-of-airpower/ ].”..

No military strategy occurs in a vacuum, and no strategist can afford to rely on an assumption that conditions will remain static. Indeed, the Defense Department has been resting on its post-Gulf War laurels for entirely too long, suffering from an undiagnosed (but severe) case of victory disease. The symptoms are clear — an unwavering commitment to stealth, an inability to recognize failure in Afghanistan, or an unreasonable faith in technology as the key to victory — just to name a few. It’s almost as if Americans believe that they have a right to victory on the battlefield as long as they spend enough money on fancy hardware. Not only is that untrue, but it’s dangerously myopic — adversaries can and do change strategies and adapt to changing conditions, regardless of whether we care to recognize that. A defense strategy has to remain flexible, because threats to that strategy certainly do.

Recently, the Center for a New American Security released a report on the Chinese offset strategy. The article laid out a convincing and well-supported case that China has been engaged in a long-term effort to develop counters to the American warfighting capabilities first exhibited in the Gulf War. But while the paper makes a solid analysis of the problem, its solution is somewhat limited: the “Department of Defense … must develop the operational concepts, systems, and platforms to allow the Joint Force to prevail against concerted Chinese attempts to deconstruct and destroy U.S. operational battle networks.” In short, the report’s recommendations are more of the same “strategic atrophy” that the authors themselves reference. More technology, more money, and more concepts, with nary a thought given to a warfighting strategy (versus an acquisition strategy), training, or personnel. If the United States wants to develop a viable offset strategy, then it would be better to reduce the dependence on ephemeral weapons advantages and center a strategy on attributes that are difficult or impossible to change: geography, cultural attributes, and strategic realities...

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
-“Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The fact that China has invested a great deal of time and money into countering a presumed U.S. strategy based on a direct attack upon the Chinese mainland is a bonus — because it’s the wrong strategy for the United States to execute. Any strategy focused on the Indo-Pacific theater is naturally an air and maritime strategy, and the United States has been overly focused on a high-tech, strategic attack strategy that has never been proven to work. It’s completely unrealistic to assume that the U.S. military can capitalize on an arsenal of short-range fighters based on four bases in Japan and Korea, plus a greatly diminished navy, to fight China in its own front yard. China has long since developed the mass and precision-missile capability to transform America’s four Asian foreign-soil airbases into smoking rubble, regardless of any defenses employed. Even if these bases were left unmolested, a country that survived the Cultural Revolution will not capitulate to the limited number of sorties that four fighter wings can generate [emphasis added--SLCMs noted in post at end].

The airfield density around China is simply not high enough to support a massive American air campaign, and the seas near China are increasingly lethal. In the same way that the Soviet Navy would not have been able to operate between Cuba and Florida in 1986, the United States is unlikely to be able to operate in the Chinese front yard in 2020. That’s fine. The United States does not have to close to knife-fight range to generate a successful warfighting strategy against China. The Chinese “keep out zone” that extends to 1,500 nautical miles or so is nothing more than the fence around the tiger exhibit at the zoo — keeping people out of a place they don’t want to go anyway. If the Chinese strategy is oriented around limiting U.S. strike capabilities up to a distance of 1,500 nautical miles from Chinese shores, then they are doing the United States a favor — making it clear that the approach taken by the Charge of the Light Brigade may be magnificent, but it’s not war. The United States tried this approach in Vietnam during the Rolling Thunder campaigns, throwing men and machines into the mouth of the cat to execute a poorly thought-out strategy that ultimately did not work. America should beware any appetite for a repeat.

China’s interests lie well beyond the 1,500-nautical-mile line. They have to. China is heavily dependent on imported raw materials, including the energy needed to keep its military functioning. It is vulnerable in the same way that Imperial Japan was — land routes notwithstanding. But the argument that the United States can fight China outside “knife-fight range” is ultimately peripheral to an offset strategy. U.S. strategists need to rethink what they mean by “offset” and focus less on hardware and more on people and ideas...

Geography Trumps Technology

Any offset strategy against China should take advantage of three fundamental asymmetries: The United States has a structural advantage in the way it trains its military, a cultural advantage in its approach to problems, and a geographical advantage in that it doesn’t have to go close to China to project power. The United States does need to go close to China to defend treaty partners, but in those cases it has the home-field advantage, which shifts precisely because of those partners. In general, Chinese forces need to come out much more than U.S. forces need to go in. It’s easy to point to technological asymmetries, but those asymmetries are generally short-lived. In order to develop a successful offset strategy, the U.S. military needs to deliberately avoid pitting its strengths against theirs, and look to pitting its strengths against their weaknesses. There are viable offset strategies and the United States should pursue them, but those offset strategies should not be overly focused on technology, or they will fail. America would be far better served by focusing on the “strategy” in “offset strategy,” and not placing faith in technological races.

Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. He is the last American aviator to reach 1000 hours operationally in the mighty Phantom II. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of US Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently assigned to Air Combat Command. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.

Note last part here, don't see how conventional weapons only work vs China:

US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Very scary, lengthy, paper from United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney about increasingly parlous US strategic position vs China in a conventional conflict--do have a glance. Onehttps://www.ussc.edu.au/analysis/averting-crisis-american-strategy-military-spending-and-collective-defence-in-the-indo-pacific key take-away:

'Above all, the Pentagon will need to increase the “lethality” and “resilience” of its forward-deployed forces to enable them to “survive, operate and win” inside China’s A2/AD threat envelope'

And for that a lot of unlikely money will be needed.

Averting Crisis: American strategy, military spending and collective defence in the Indo-Pacific

Good graphics.

Very interesting vulgarization of the potential flash point between the US and China : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_keFhXPclns
Story about USSC report above on China vs US (https://milnet.ca/forums/threads/129967/post-1580745.html#msg1580745):

China now strong enough for a surprise move in the Indo-Pacific

MELBOURNE, Australia – China is gaining an increasingly favorable military position in the Indo-Pacific, leaving the United States no longer able to enjoy military primacy in the region, a new report by an Australian think tank has warned.

The Sydney-based United States Studies Centre says the region is now vulnerable to China making a quick move to secure a military or strategic advantage, with the cost of an American counter-move potentially too high to bear.

In its report, analysts also lament the “combined effect of ongoing wars in the Middle East, budget austerity, underinvestment in advanced military capabilities and the scale of America’s liberal order-building agenda has left the US armed forces ill-prepared for great power competition in the Indo-Pacific."

The report, titled, “Averting crisis: American Strategy, Military Spending and Collective Defence in the Indo-Pacific,” adds that over the next decade, the U.S. defense budget “is unlikely to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy owing to a combination of political, fiscal and internal pressures."

Meanwhile, the regional balance of power has tilted in China’s favor, which the report says is also a product of the way Beijing has modernized and postured its armed forces. Central to this is the massive investment in conventionally-armed ballistic and cruise missiles, which analysts consider the centerpiece of China’s “counter-intervention” efforts [emphasis added].

This “growing arsenal of accurate long-range missiles,” some of which are able to reach the critical American air and naval bases located at the U.S. territory of Guam in the northern Marianas from mainland China, “poses a major threat to almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific."

According to a 2017 article by Capt. Thomas Shugart, then a senior military fellow at the Center for a New American Security, open-source satellite imagery suggests that China has been testing its ballistic missiles against mockup targets similar in layout to those found at American and allied bases in the region [emphasis added].

These mockup targets range from vehicles to above-ground fuel tanks, runways, hardened aircraft shelters and moored ships, with Shugart pointing out that the latter are arranged in a “near-mirror image of the actual inner harbor at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka.” He posited that “the only way that China could realistically expect to catch multiple U.S. ships in port ... would be through a surprise attack."

The risk is compounded by the fact that many of the U.S. and allied operating bases in the Indo-Pacific that are exposed to possible Chinese missile attack lack hardened infrastructure, while “forward-deployed munitions and supplies are not set to wartime requirements” even as “America’s logistics capability has steeply declined [emphasis added]."

China’s growing military might in what is known as the “first island chain,” which stretches from Japan and the Ryukyu Islands archipelago down to Taiwan and the Philippines, has now effectively been flipped, according to the think tank. That provides China “with the coercive leverage it would need to quickly seize coveted territory or overturn other aspects of the status quo by pursuing a fait accompli strategy."

This “anti-access, area-denial” bubble that China could activate within the first island chain and beyond will mean follow-on forces coming from Hawaii and the West Coast would have to fight their way into the region, analysts wrote [emphasis added, rather like WW II]. And while the report says the U.S. military “would probably — but not certainly — prevail in an extended war, escalation at this point would be enormously costly and dangerous”.

In response to this shifting regional balance of power, the think tank also calls for a strategy of collective defense to offset shortfalls in America’s regional military power.

Australia, in particular, is urged in the report to beef up its own network of regional partnerships and alliances by pursuing “capability aggregation and collective deterrence with capable regional allies and partners such as the United States and Japan, as well establishing new and expanding its existing, high-end military exercises with allies and partners to develop and demonstrate new operational concepts for Indo-Pacific contingencies."

The report also calls on Australia to rebalance its defence resources from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific, acquire robust land-based strike and denial capabilities as well as increase its own stockpiles and create sovereign capabilities in the “storage and production of precision munitions, fuel and other materiel necessary for sustained high-end conflict."

What platforms best to launch conventional missiles (SLCM, maybe hypersonics) against major foe: submarines? surface ships?

Submarines are poised to take on a major role in strike warfare, but is that a good idea?

The U.S. Navy is preparing to ink one of the largest contracts in its history with General Dynamics Electric Boat and the firm’s partner shipyard Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News that will make the new generation of attack submarines a major force in strike warfare.

The Block V Virginia contract is expected to produce 11 boats with eight Virginia Payload Modules, and will triple the Virginia’s Tomahawk Land Attack Missile capacity to 40 missiles per hull. Experts say that the new Virginia Payload Module will also be large enough to accommodate boost-glide hypersonic missiles like those the Navy is developing with the Army [emphasis added].

But the logic for the Virginia Payload Module has always been about replacing the Ohio-class guided missile submarines retiring in the 2020s. Because submarines have been the Navy’s go-to asset to penetrate areas threated by Chinese and Russian surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles, attack submarines loaded with strike missiles would have to be the ones to get close enough to be able to launch land-attack strikes.

That model upends decades of the surface Navy’s supremacy in the world of strike warfare from the sea, but experts are beginning to question the logic of giving the strike warfare mission to submariners in an era of great power competition
[emphasis added]. With Russia and, to an even greater extent, China investing heavily in anti-submarine technology, does it make sense to give a stealthy asset a mission that will blow its cover?

Bryan Clark, a retired submariner and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, wonders if the surface fleet is the best place inside the force to house the strike mission.

“I think the requirement may be changing,” he said in an Oct. 22 phone call with Defense News. “Over the past 10 years there has been a real emphasis on the submarine as the one tool we have that may be able to get into contested areas — the East and South China seas, up in the north Atlantic, etc.

“That’s changing now: These countries are investing in their own anti-submarine warfare systems. China has put a lot of money into ASW systems, they are installing surveillance systems akin to our SOSUS [sound surveillance system]. So the idea that our submarines are our go-to asset to gain access, that may not be true in the next few years as it was in the past 10, so there is a question as to whether we should be investing in submarines to maintain the undersea strike capacity.”

The issue is not just that submarines run the risk of being detected, which is an ever-present risk anytime a submarine leaves the pier, but that it won’t be able to create the volume of fires that the surface fleet could, especially with new concepts in development such as a large unmanned surface vessel that could act as a kind of arsenal ship [emphasis added].

“The surface fleet is likely going to be our best strike capacity asset in the next decade,” Clark said. “Submarines are going to be increasingly vulnerable, so the question becomes: Do I want to take my [Virginia Payload Module]-equipped SSN, put it inside the South China Sea to launch strikes, get counter-detected and harassed for days afterward? I lose it from the fight for a long time just evading attacks.

“Whereas if you used unmanned surface vessel, those can launch just as many cruise missiles as a Virginia class, many times cheaper; they can rotate, get reloaded and just keep launching strikes at a much higher rate of fire as you would ever get out of the SSN force.”

Jerry Hendrix, a retired naval flight officer and analyst with The Telemus Group, agreed that the surface fleet is likely going to be the place to house a strike capability, especially in the era of mass hypersonic fires, because of the cost it would impose on the U.S. to try to match Chinese capabilities on subs.

“I think there is a powerful argument to distribute these weapons across the surface force,” Hendrix said. “If you can create a strike weapon that allows the surface force to stand outside of DF-21 and DF-26 range and shoot three-pointers from outside, then yes. To create mass and volume in the submerged force is twice to three times as expensive as it is to create that volume from the surface force...

Another angle in a earlier post (links to other posts in text no longer work, but do if copy and paste in "Search" box at upper right--"Related" links at bottom do work):

US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Sometimes you end up fighting on equal footing with the other guys.






You can't always rely on technology to give you an edge.  Sometimes it just comes down to a matter of will.
No matter what we do, I can't see the US led west winning the strategic battle against China in the slightest.

Even if full blown war kicks off in the seas around China, and even if we win decisively...what then??

China is the worlds most populous country, and is the 2nd largest economy in the world.  They invest quite decisively and strategically around the world, securing a majority of rare earth metals, etc.  They have a massive military, which is very quickly being modernized - and the PLAN is producing ships of near quality 3 to 4 times faster than the USN.

So war kicks off, and we win.  Okay.  Now what??  China is still a massive country, massive economy, and still has global ambitions.  Best case scenario, perhaps we set them back a decade or so militarily.    :2c:
Best strategy is to have them fight each other, with one side having support from ... uh, Hanoi and the other Uslamabad.
US Navy seriously trying to figure our how carriers can cope with China--things don't look too good these days (further links at original):

With China gunning for aircraft carriers, US Navy says it must change how it fights

Just because China might be able to hit U.S. Navy aircraft carriers with long-range anti-ship missiles doesn’t mean carriers are worthless, the service’s top officer said Thursday.

The chorus of doom and gloom over China’s anti-access weapons is too simplistic, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said, but that doesn’t mean the Navy should refrain from adjusting the way it fights.

“Let’s look at this like a physics problem,” Gilday proposed. “[People will say]: ‘Hypersonics go really fast and they travel at long ranges. Carriers can only travel [‘X’ distance], so carriers are going to have to go away.’ That’s a very simplistic way to look at the problem.

"I’ve been in two big war games since I’ve been [CNO], and I absolutely believe that we have to wring more out of what we have today in terms of how we are going to fight with it.”

Gilday’s comments come as the fleet is gearing up for the first of what it intends to be annual “large-scale” exercises this summer, a major muscle movement that will allow the Navy to test new concepts and play with new technologies. The Navy is shifting from fighting as an aggregated force, clustered around an aircraft carrier serving as the main strike arm of the U.S. fleet, to a more distributed and spread-out force that it hopes can stretch Chinese surveillance assets and frustrate their ability to impose unacceptably high losses on the U.S. Navy.

But to get there, the Navy must come up with new ways of fighting, Gilday said.

“There are alternative concepts of operations that we must develop and we have to test, and we’re not going to do it during the certification phase of a carrier strike group for a combat deployment,” he told the audience at the USNI Defense Forum in Washington. “We have to do that in large-scale exercises, that’s where we are going to experiment with unmanned. That’s where we are going to experiment with new capabilities.”

Gilday acknowledged that his fleet is not optimized today to fight the way it thinks it must to beat China, but that can’t lead the Navy to just throw its hands up, he said [emphasis added].

“Our fleet is too small, and our capabilities are stacked on too few ships that are too big,” he said. “And that needs to change over time. [But] we have made significant investments in aircraft carriers and we’re going to have those for a long time.

“Look, people don’t give us enough credit for the gray matter between our ears, and there are some very smart people we have thinking about how we fight better. The fleet that we have today, 75 percent of it, will be the fleet we have in 2030 So, we have to think about how we get more out of it.”

The CNO’s defense of the carrier comes after two separate op-eds in Defense News by active and former senior Navy officials defending the carrier’s continued utility in the era of long-range anti-ship missiles.


The discussion around making the carrier relevant in an anti-access environment is nothing new, but in the past several months the topic has gained traction because of a recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments that called for the Navy to build its capabilities to fight at extended ranges.

The study called for the carrier air wing of the future to be able to hunt submarines (serving as a replacement for the S-3 Viking aircraft), provide surveillance and targeting, and destroy ships and land targets with standoff weapons, all while fighting at nearly double the range of today’s air wing.

If the Navy wants to counter China’s anti-ship cruise missiles and increasing naval capabilities, it must resurrect the Cold War-era Outer Air Battle concept, which focused on longer-range aircraft to counter Russia’s bombers. However, instead of fighting at 200-plus nautical miles, the air wing will have to fight at 1,000 nautical miles, according to the study’s lead author, retired submarine officer and analyst Bryan Clark.

“The air wing of the future is going to have to be focused less on attacking terrorist training camps and huts in Syria, and more focused on killing ships and submarines at sea — dealing with naval capabilities and island-based littoral capabilities,” Clark said in a telephone interview earlier this year. “Those are the challenges: Range and the mission set is changing.”

In other words, the entire air wing, both the range at which it can fight and the missions it is set up to execute, must be completely overhauled...

“Look, people don’t give us enough credit for the gray matter between our ears, and there are some very smart people we have thinking about how we fight better. The fleet that we have today, 75 percent of it, will be the fleet we have in 2030 So, we have to think about how we get more out of it.”

The CNO’s defense of the carrier comes after two separate op-eds in Defense News by active and former senior Navy officials defending the carrier’s continued utility in the era of long-range anti-ship missiles...

Good flipping grief--here's another vulnerability vs Russkies:

Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among US Troops

Russian efforts to weaken the West through a relentless campaign of information warfare may be starting to pay off, cracking a key bastion of the U.S. line of defense: the military.

While most Americans still see Moscow as a key U.S. adversary, new polling suggests that view is changing, most notably among the households of military members.

The second annual Reagan National Defense Survey, completed in late October, found nearly half of armed services households questioned, 46%, said they viewed Russia as ally.

Overall, the survey found 28% of Americans identified Russia as an ally, up from 19% the previous year.

Generally, the pollsters found the positive views of Russia seemed to be “predominantly driven by Republicans who have responded to positive cues from [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump about Russia,” according to an executive summary accompanying the results.

While a majority, 71% of all Americans and 53% of military households, still views Russia as an enemy, the spike in pro-Russian sentiment has defense officials concerned.

“There is an effort, on the part of Russia, to flood the media with disinformation to sow doubt and confusion,” Defense Department spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Carla Gleason told VOA.

“This is not only through discordant and inflammatory dialogue but through false narratives designed to illicit sympathetic views,” she said, adding, “we are actively working to expose and counter Russian disinformation whenever possible.”

Reagan National Defense Survey

The Reagan National Defense Survey, conducted on behalf of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, questioned just more than 1,000 adults between Oct. 24 and Oct. 30, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Concern among U.S. officials runs deep, partly because other surveys have also found a growing willingness in the U.S. to view Russia positively.

For example, a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults by the Pew Research Center from September 2018 found 35% of Americans wanted more cooperation with Russia.

However, there is more to the fears than just polling data.

U.S. defense and security officials have told VOA that Russia has been targeting U.S. military personnel, specifically, with a ramped-up influence campaign, as far back as 2017 in preparation for the November 2018 midterm elections.

Russia’s goal, they said, was not so much to swing the result of the elections but to seed U.S. military personnel with the right type of disinformation so that they would be predisposed to view Russia and its actions in a more favorable way in the future.

“We know it goes on,” said Ed Wilson, then deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, said at the time. “That’s why we’ve amped up and increased the attention that we’re paying.”

Countering Russia’s efforts, both against the U.S. military and American society at large, has not been easy, according to both analysts and former officials, because of the political climate and the rhetoric coming from the White House...

Age of the carrier vs major powers ending?

Amid a heated aircraft carrier debate, the US Navy sees funding slashed for a next-generation fighter

As questions continue to swirl about the vulnerability and reach of aircraft carriers, Congress has gutted funding for the U.S. Navy’s research effort into a next-generation fighter to replace the relatively limited range F/A-18 Super Hornet, an effort experts say could decide the continued relevance of the aircraft carrier in the 21st century.

The Navy had planned to quadruple funding for research and development of the so-called F/A-XX, which was just $5 million in 2019, with most of the increase going toward research into a “Next Generation Advanced Engine effort,” according to the Navy’s budget submission. The effort was fully authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act but a conference of House and Senate appropriators cut the engine research entirely, saying it was “early to need.”

The Navy’s budget request asked for $20.7 million but was ultimately appropriated just $7.1 million, a 66 percent cut. Congress sent the bill to the President on Thursday, who was expected to sign it.

In May, Defense News reported that the effort to develop a system or “family of systems” to replace the shorter-range F/A-18 Super Hornet is a do-or-die effort that will determine if aircraft carriers remain relevant into the 21st century or will go the way of the chariot and battle elephant [emphasis added, and the battleship].

As the U.S. pivots away from small wars toward squaring off with peer adversaries like China and Russia, the carrier is finding itself out-ranged by investments in long-range anti-ship cruise missiles such as China’s DF-21. And while there has been mounds of commentary dedicated to the carrier’s irrelevance now that there is a missile with the range to challenge it, the Navy hasn’t been ready to give up.

In two separate op-eds in Defense News this year, current and former senior Navy officials, including from two retired four-star fleet commanders, defended the current program of fielding super carriers, even in the face of Chinese and Russian threats.

“Carriers remain relevant and potent year after year and decade after decade because they are adaptable platforms in which flexible payloads deploy,” wrote Naval Air Force Atlantic Commander Rear Adm. Roy Kelley. “Carrier air wings evolve, incorporating improved and revolutionary aircraft like the unmanned MQ-25 Stingray that first flew last week. The weapons carried by those aircraft evolve even faster, keeping carrier strike groups dominant over realized and potential threats.”

Rescue Efforts

But rescuing the carrier from history’s graveyard of superseded military technologies will require an urgent intervention and funding to execute the kind of air wing evolution Kelley called for [emphasis added]. The Navy was planning to ramp up funding every year throughout the five-year budget projections with funding peaking at $372 million in 2024, the final out year in the 2020 budget.

The Navy said in its budget submission that the funding this year was directed at maturing technologies and reducing risk in the acquisition process...[read on]


While there is no doubt that aircraft carriers are facing major challenges, the nay sayers never seem to have an answer as to "why" the PLAN, Royal Navy, Indian Navy, Japanese Self Defence Force and the ROK are all building or considering building new aircraft carriers of their own. Obviously there is still utility in the carrier concept, otherwise, no one would be building them.

Blowing a bit of dust off my crystal ball I'll make some predictions:

1. The aircraft carrier is going to evolve into a smaller platform. Testing the USS America as a "Lightning Carrier" and Japan considering the Izumo for that role is the first step. UAV and UCAV's are not going to need massive supercarriers as platforms, and the proliferation of AA/AD weapons suggests that any nation wanting or needing aircraft carrier capabilities will need to be able to produce something similar to the CVE, and at the same sort of speed (along with associated aircraft and systems).

2. I think China is actually playing a different game. The building program calls for as many as 6 carriers, but none of them will be equivalent to a CVN. Rather than the PLAN trying to "break out" of the First Island Chain, they can keep many of their carriers in the South China Sea and establish numeric superiority over the 2 or 3 American carrier battle groups which will have to "break in" in past the First and Second Island chains in the face of Chinese AA/AD and PLAAF attacks supported by Chinese sea power. Having 6 carriers ensures that there are always 2 or 3 on station, and allows the Chinese to "show the flag" in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific from time to time as well

3. While long range missiles, hypersonic weapons and railguns might transition missile ships and monitors as the premier "Capital ships" later in the 21rst century, carriers will still be needed to provide surveillance, outer perimeter defense (imagine UCAV's armed with lasers or missiles engaging enemy missiles well over the horizon from the battle group) and BDA, as well as flexibility in prosecuting or following up difficult targets. The smaller carriers from point 1 will serve very well in this sort of environment.

So aircraft carriers are very likely to remain the center piece of surface naval power for many years to come, evolving into newer forms as conditions change.
Is the US facing a "bastion gap"? What countries would want to host American bastions vs China? Excerpts:

Battle of the Bastions

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, warned by the Walker spy ring — active from 1967 to 1985 — about the vulnerability of its nuclear submarines, concentrated them in the Barents Sea close to the Russian mainland. Later, Moscow did the same on the Pacific coast in the Sea of Okhotsk. With their most precious assets huddled in isolated waters, the Soviets then implemented what became known as the “bastion concept” to protect them. As the nuclear submarines maneuvered within a defined space, they were protected by approximately 75 percent of the Soviet navy’s attack submarines, every surface vessel in its northern and Pacific fleets, and hundreds of aircraft. It was a truly formidable defense, one that NATO spent considerable energy and resources finding counters to.

Well, bastions are back. Worse, they are proliferating and are more formidable than ever. And today, they are being employed for operational and strategic offensive purposes. As such, battling bastions represents the future of naval and probably land warfare. Though China and Russia represent the leading edge of modern bastion development, as advanced weapons technologies — particularly precision missiles — diffuse and become plentiful, other nations — North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Israel, Taiwan — are implementing the bastion concept, either to ward off enemies or as secure bases from which to threaten their neighbors. Even the United States — keen to defend its forward bases in the Pacific and logistics hubs in Europe — is developing concepts calling for the rapid placement of bastions across the globe...

Because of their increasing resilience as well as their capacity to engage distant targets, the role of bastions is changing. While protecting nuclear assets remains a vital mission, particularly for already established bastions, newer installations are taking on other roles. This is clearly visible as strategists examine how China and Russia are employing an offensive bastion strategy to tilt regional balances of power and extend their global influence. Russia, for example, still needing to protect its ballistic submarines, never fully dismantled its northern bastions, which are becoming increasingly strong as Russia’s northern fleet is revitalized. But the mission of Russia’s great northern bastions is no longer exclusively defensive. Rather, they have become the strategic center for Russia to extend its influence throughout the resource-rich Arctic Ocean. Similarly, it is hard to look at Kaliningrad without seeing a bristling defensive bastion in the heart of NATO —one that can easily take on an offensive role as a fortified pivot in support of Russian forces maneuvering in either the Baltic states or Poland. Farther south, Russia appears intent on making the Black Sea a Russian lake, with Crimea rapidly becoming the core of a military bastion capable of employing offensive fires to dominate the surrounding seas.

In the Pacific, American strategists are warily observing China’s accelerating installation of bastions along the mainland, on nearby islands, and, more recently, deep into the South China Sea. Clearly, they are not all needed to protect China’s nuclear systems. Rather, China is repurposing the Soviet-era bastion strategy as the military backbone for its strategic offensive during ongoing great-power competition. If this competition erupts into a conflict, these bastions are already positioned to support Chinese operational maneuver throughout the first island chain and to engage targets beyond the second island chain.

A glance at the map below reveals a new and troubling aspect of these Chinese bastions — they are overlapping and networked together. When NATO was developing plans to deal with Cold War-era Soviet bastions, they had the benefit of there being only two of them, thousands of miles apart. More crucially, these Soviet strongholds were almost totally defensive in character, although the northern bastions could be used as a secure base from which to attempt penetrations of the GIUK gap...

At present, the United States seems most concerned over current and developing Chinese bastions, as these formidable modern fortress zones clearly underpin a strategic offensive. They are just as clearly designed to support potential operational offensives. For instance, the military power assembled on the western shore of the Taiwan Strait is unambiguously designed for a single offensive purpose — a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Similarly, the transformation of Hainan Island into a military fortress was evidently planned as a first step in a series of developing bastions reaching deep into the South China Sea. As each additional stronghold is completed, it becomes part of a string of interlinked bastions increasingly able to dominate the surrounding seas. Moreover, once long-range precision missiles are inserted within these bastions, they take on a sea denial mission that extends hundreds or even thousands of kilometers beyond the bastion’s core...

The creation of such bastions on a permanent basis during our current period of competition is by far the best option. But without the presence of an immediate threat, many of America’s potential allies are unlikely to allow the United States to build installations that may antagonize great state powers in their own backyards. To a large degree, they are also deterred by the fear of creating internal political opposition that will rally against what many will perceive as a provocative move. For example, even a causal examination of a map clearly shows that a NATO bastion centered near Narvik in northern Norway would be an essential element in bottling up Russia’s northern fleet as well as in providing the firepower necessary to successfully penetrate Russia’s Arctic bastions. But despite Norway being a NATO member, it is unlikely that any Norwegian government is going to allow their northern regions to become heavily militarized. Even the Philippines, already encountering Chinese encroachment in waters it claims as sovereign Filipino territory, remains uncertain as to the wisdom of allowing the construction of military installations capable of deterring further Chinese aggression.
This is what makes the Marine Corps expeditionary advanced base operations concept vital to success in any future conflict, as at its core the concept is all about seizing key maritime terrain upon which future bastions are going to be built. The upcoming 2020 Defender Pacific exercise demonstrates that even if the U.S. Army has not formally adopted the Marine Corps’s Pacific concept, it is clearly heading in the same direction.

So, what will a future war look like?..


Dr. James Lacey is the professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College. He recently authored The Washington War, and his book Gods of War will be published in May 2020. The opinions in this article are entirely his own and do not represent those of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Department of Defense.


The surface Navy needs to fundamentally reshape itself to defeat the Chinese threat, study finds


MarkOttawa said:
New commandant wants a sweeping re-do of concept of amphibious operations:


It seems to me that is charitable to describe as "challenging" the logistics, under potential or actual threat, of this this kind of operating:

Marine Commandant: ‘The Farther You Back Away From China, They Will Move Toward You’
The Marine Corps is moving out on a new land-based missile designed to hold Chinese warships at bay.

SURFACE NAVY ASSOCIATION: The Marine Corps are inching closer to buying a ground-based version of a new naval missile recently deployed to sea for the first time, giving the Corps the power to cover ships at sea with precise warheads from over 100 miles away.

The Naval Strike Missile was recently deployed to the Pacific aboard the Littoral Combat Ship USS Gabrielle Giffords, and the Navy’s top acquisition official says he met with the Marines this week to talk about getting it in their hands.

On Tuesday, “we had the team in that has the Naval Strike Missile on LCS working hand-in-hand with the Marine Corps,” Geurts told reporters here on Wednesday. “The Marine Corps does ground launchers, we do command and control…We’ll make that immediately available to the Marine Corps.”

In May, Raytheon was awarded $48 million to integrate the NSM into the Marine Corps’ force structure, following a year-long study the Corps conducted, where it also considered Lockheed Martin’s new Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Boeing’s Harpoon.

The plan, which was spelled out in Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger’s explosive guidance paper released in July [https://breakingdefense.com/2019/07/sacred-cows-die-as-marine-commandant-changes-course-on-amphibs/], is to give Marines the ability to protect the fleet at sea from the ground. Berger wants his Marines to hold enemy ships at bay, buying American ships time and space to maneuver.

The Marines, the thinking goes, could deploy with these ship-killer missiles to small, austere bases for short periods of time to keep a potential foe off balance. Part of the plan would also put Marine-owned F-35Bs on widely dispersed and small ad hoc airfields, making US forces less predictable, and giving them more punch [emphasis added].

The Marines have been testing unmanned platforms to quickly refuel and rearm those forward-deployed F-35s, as war planners recognize that large American bases in the Pacific like Guam and Okinawa are likely to take heavy losses in the first wave of any war in the Pacific against a Chinese foe armed with precise long- and medium-range missiles. 

Berger’s guidance questioned everything from the service’s long reliance on amphibious ships to demanding that the Corps become more integrated with the Navy, an idea the Navy has embraced.

“The thing that has driven us to where we are right now is the paradigm shift by China moving to sea,” Berger said here Wednesday. “We can no longer afford for the Navy and Marine Corps not to be integrated,” he said. “It’s a must-do. Our naval force is unbalanced.”

Berger said he wants his Marines to be able to live and fight within Chinese missile ranges, and to do that, they need to be mobile and fast. Those forces have to be ready to go and not wait around for resupply or help. “We will not be given the chance to swap out that force for another force. A great power competitor will not allow us to do that,” he said.

Berger and Navy chief Adm. Mike Gilday are working on a new force structure plan to begin to provide that kind of depth “all the way forward and all the way back.” If American warships are unable to move across thousands of miles of Pacific waterway due to the Chinese threat, they won’t be able to fight, he said, and that space will immediately be ceded to Beijing. “The farther you back away from China, they will move toward you,” the commandant observed.

USAF has had similar thoughts about F-35A basing:

USAF “Officers Give New Details for F-35 in War With China”

Post illustrating at some length US forces vs China non-nuclear woes:

The Eagle increasingly challenged in case of war with the Dragon in the western Pacific

I have a feeling that if hostilities ever kicked off against China openly, primarily in the SCS - that Russia would be a good ally & neighbour, and keep western forces occupied in the European theatre as to limit the west's ability to reinforce the SCS.

They don't need to invade the Baltics or anything like that.  With substantially increased naval activity, aggressive air activity (most recently demonstrated with a SIGINT aircraft escorted by 2 fighters INSIDE Swedish airspace) - and possibly some open support & aggressive posturing in Crimea - they could effectively keep the Europeans engaged/preoccupied enough that the USN & USAF are essentially on their own in the SCS.

Yes, obvious allies will be there.  Japan and Australia are both professional, capable countries with robust enough capabilities to support American efforts.  However, the Europeans & American forces in Europe - being occupied with whatever it is Russia does to keep them there - wouldn't be able to reinforce the SCS.

America has done a pretty good job of 'forcing' (for lack of a better term) countries like Russia, China, Iran, Syria, etc to rely on each other economically & militarily.  I highly doubt if tensions kick off in the SCS, that Russia won't be a good friend and keep American forces preoccupied elsewhere.  (Same with Iran, possibly keeping the USN busy in the Persian Gulf, even if just by blocking the straight or closing down shipping, etc)

No easy solutions when looked at broadly.