Countering an offensive against Taiwan is one of, if not the main preoccupation of the US armed forces today. Unfortunately, the very many wargames made in recent years on this subject are hardly encouraging, the US armies being regularly pushed back and the independent island falling into the hands of Beijing in the majority of cases. Many options and innovations are now being tested in an attempt to respond to this challenge, for example with smaller units, very mobile and better coordinated as recommended by the new doctrines of the Marines et of the US Army, the call to robotic ships and drones for the US Navy, and the use of hypersonic missiles and an “All domain” cooperative commitment doctrine for the US Air Force. But then again, the account doesn't seem to be there.
However, the US Air Force announced last week that it had obtained encouraging results in recent simulations. In a detailed article, journalist Valerie Insinna featured in Defense News all of the choices that led to this result, in particular that of using massively weapons which today are either under development or which simply do not exist. This is the case of the new generation NGAD fighter of the US Air Force, a program in the very early stages of its development, and whose the USAF surreptitiously unveiled a graphic design in its bi-annual report on its acquisitions, but also on the full integration of the “All-Domain” doctrine under development, Skyborg combat drones, long-range hypersonic weapons, as well asa new light mid-generation fighter, demonstrating the limits of certain programs presented as omniscient, such as the F35.
Indeed, the constant threat which the Chinese fighter will exert on the support planes, in particular the tanker planes, will oblige the US Air Force to implement devices endowed with a sufficient range of action. To achieve this, and carry out offensive actions over Taiwan or Chinese soil, the F35A would then have to employ additional tanks, destroying its supposedly most effective asset, namely stealth. In fact, the USAF F35A must have been confined, in this simulation, to long-range attack missions, like the F15EX, or to missions against Chinese ships and planes within the perimeter of the aircraft, forcing them US planners to use other devices to carry out offensive actions, such as the F22, which is not the primary function, and especially NGAD, which is therefore increasingly essential in the medium term to make up for the weaknesses of the American offensive system.
In addition, and to minimize the effects of the Chinese attacks on the Allied military airfields, the USAF decided, in this simulation, to distribute its forces as much as possible on all the available airfields, so as to reduce the effects of a massive strike on one of them. Here again, heavy and complex maintenance devices, such as the F35 and the F22, are easily handicapped, because they simply were not designed to operate in such a degraded and rustic environment. Hence the interest in having a new aircraft, generation 4.5 as envisaged by the USAF, to replace its F16s at this level which are too vulnerable to Chinese defenses, but whose logistical footprint would be much lighter, and greater rusticity, vis-à-vis heavier and more modern devices, such as the F35A.
The use of drones is also a key factor in successfully dealing with Chinese forces in such a scenario. Indeed, even with the technologically advantageous assumptions retained during the last simulations, the simulated losses of such a conflict, in men as in material, are very high, out of proportion with those recorded during the last conflicts which marked the XXth Century, as in operations in Iraq and Serbia. The use of “Loyal Wingman” type drones, whose reduced costs allow them to be destroyed in order to obtain a tactical advantage, is therefore essential, both humanly and economically, in the face of Chinese defenses.
The main objective of this simulation, which is not in its first iteration, is above all to evaluate the different tactical and technological options available to the American armies, in a major conflict and a complex scenario, such as La Défense de Taiwan. These have shown, over the years, that current American military might was not designed for a clash against a country like China, while conversely, Beijing organized and sized its military tool for this sole purpose. The excitement that we have seen for two years at the Pentagon, with the promotion of new doctrines, the acceleration of certain technological programs, and increasingly tense arbitrations between Congress, the Industrialists and the Military, are the result of more than worrying about these wargames.
Because, make no mistake, what is true for China about Taiwan, is just as true about Russia about Ukraine, even the Baltic countries or the Scandinavian peninsula. If a conflict were to arise in Central or Eastern Europe, all NATO military airfields east of a line passing through London and Paris would indeed be the target of Russian missile strikes, forcing to a wide dispersion of aircraft, and to missions carried out from much further afield by the western fighter aviation. Likewise, tankers and aerial surveillance will be the primary targets of Russian Su-35, Su-57 and Mig-31 armed with long-range anti-aircraft missiles such as the R-37M specially designed for this mission. From then on, the numerous F35As acquired by several European air forces, and presented by Lockheed and the US State Department as the ultimate fighter plane, will prove to be just as handicapped in defending Europe as they are in defend Taiwan.
While the European armies are today designed and modeled for commitments unrelated to the high intensity of a conflict between NATO and Russia, the latter on the other hand engaged, as early as 2008 following the war against Georgia , deep reforms to prepare for this type of conflict. With regard to simultaneous development of tensions in Ukraine and around Taiwan these last weeks, it shows that Peking and Moscow are likely to coordinate to handicap the military response of the United States, and thus to ensure a more than significant tactical advantage.
As a result, we can wonder, as we have done many times on Meta-Defense, about the relevance of the major programs in which France and the Europeans are participating today, particularly in terms of timing. Whether they are new heavy armored vehicles capable of meeting the demands of the modern technological battlefield, particularly in the face of drones, stray munitions, and long-range anti-tank missiles, or air combat systems capable of challenging La Russian multi-layered integrated anti-aircraft defense, this equipment is likely to be needed much earlier than 2035 or 2040, as planned today. In this sense, the lessons of the simulations of the US Air Force against Taiwan should serve as an electric shock in Europe as is the case in the United States, and in particular in France, the only nuclear nation on the continent, in the same way as they seem to have been assimilated by Great Britain judging by theThe sometimes radical orientations taken by the new Integrated Strategic Review.