27 December 2011

Sobering Analysis of an Air War Over Taiwan

Say we commit to defending Taiwan, and the Chinese take a whack at it anyway. There's a pretty detailed analysis about what that fight would look like, and Robert Haddick's synopsis at Foreign Policy is not a pleasant one.

In a Ph.D. dissertation written for the Pardee RAND Graduate School, Eric Stephen Gons provides an exhaustive analysis of a simulated battle between the U.S. and Chinese air forces for the airspace over Taiwan. Gons's analysis takes into account the air bases available to both sides, their aircraft parking capacity, air base vulnerability and hardening, air defense systems, sortie generation rates, aircraft maintenance requirements, crew fatigue, probable weapons effectiveness, time and distance considerations, and other factors.

Even though the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor is far superior to its Chinese opponents, Gons concludes that the "tyranny of distance" will prevent the U.S. Air Force from winning a shootout over Taiwan. The Air Force's base on Guam, a three-hour flight to Taiwan, is the only viable U.S. base for the island's air defense. Although the U.S. has high quality air bases on Okinawa and Japan's home islands, these bases are very close to China and are thus vulnerable to China's massive arsenal of land-attack cruise and ballistic missiles. In addition, Gons asserts the Air Force would not operate its expensive and limited tanker and early warning support aircraft from these Japanese bases since they would be highly vulnerable to Chinese attack. This would preclude F-22 operations to Taiwan from these bases.

That leaves Andersen Air Base on Guam, which even when stuffed to capacity with F-22s and required support aircraft could only provide a continuous combat air patrol over Taiwan of just six fighters. The Chinese attackers, by contrast, operating from at least a dozen hardened and heavily defended air bases in southeast China, could sorties dozens or even hundreds of fighters over Taiwan at will. Six F-22s simply do not carry enough missiles to prevent Chinese fighters from breaking through and shooting down the Air Force tanker and early-warning aircraft supporting the F-22s east of Taiwan. In this case, the F-22s would be lost to fuel exhaustion and the United States would be forced to retreat, at least for the moment. Nor does Gons expect much help from the Navy. He estimates that the relatively short range of the Navy's aircraft carrier-based fighters, combined with the growing Chinese anti-ship missile threat, would dissuade the admirals from risking air operations over Taiwan.

Is it time for Larry Bond and the Persian Incursion crew to put together a Taiwan game?

By: Brant


S O said...

Hundreds of SLCMs against PLAF bases need to be taken into account, too.

Plus there's somthing like a Taiwanese AF.

besilarius said...

There have been reports that Taiwan has built a large network of underground hangars for its planes.
Any possiblity of some being upgraded to support F22?