Nearly 10 years after a RAND study predicted the US side easily beatsChina in an air war over the Taiwan Straits, the think-tank haspublished a new monograph online today that reverses its former opinion.
Now,a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) bristling with a newlyacquired arsenal — including Su-27 and J-10 fighters, AA-12 and PL-12missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles — defeats the US side.Moreover, the PLAAF defeats the US side with or without F-22s, with orwithout access to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and with or without theparticipation of two US carrier battle groups, according to themonograph.
RAND’s analysis “suggests that a credible case can bemade that the air war for Taiwan could essentially be over before muchof the Blue air force has even fired a shot. Threats to Blue air basesand a more evenly matched qualitiative balance combine to paint a verytroubling picture.”
Personally, I would be careful to trust any military analysis that states — on twooccasions — the US Marine Corps flies F/A-18E/Fs (… er, no, not inthis lifetme). But the overall facts in RAND’s air war scenario appearvery persuasive, at least to this observer.
In a war overTaiwan, China may think twice about striking sovereign Japaneseterritory on Okinawa, or sovereign US territory on Guam. But RAND’sanalysts are prudent to assume that the PLAAF’s strategy would seek tomaximize its chances of success in a battle over the future of Taiwan.
Thescenario assumes a 27:1 kill ratio for the F-22, 4.5:1 kill ratio forthe F-15 and a 2.6:1 kill ratio for carrier-based F/A-18E/Fs, whichseems to reflect conventional wisdom. But that’s not hardly enough. Bystriking Kadena and Taiwan air bases with missile attacks, the PLAAFcan generate 3.7 times more sorties than the blue forces. On the firstday, the PLAAF loses 241 jets compared to 147 jets for the Blue forces,including one F-22. But the PLAAF still dramatically outnumbers Blueforces and wins the war of attrition.
Interestingly, the newRAND monograph is not critical at all of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.Last year, John Stillon, a senior RAND analyst was fired after he putthe think-tank in an awkward position. Stillon’s presntation on theresults of the Pacific Vision wargame, which were leaked to the pressand posted on this blog, noted the F-35 “can’t turn, can’t climb andcan’t run”. In the new study, RAND says “the F-22 and the still-to-comeF-35 can expect to offer meaningful aircraft-on-aircraft technologicaladvantages over what the PLAAF will bring to the fight”.
RAND study: Now China wins Taiwan Straits air war
By Stephen Trimble on 4 August, 2009 in Uncategorised
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