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US military's vulnerabilities vs. China, Russia

MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Now the USN's Chief on Naval Operations talks about what might amount to a revolution in naval affairs:

And, to repeat, meanwhile there's that revolution in Marine affairs:

Mark
Ottawa

Start and end of a post on Pentagon's re-assessing role/future of carriers:

US Navy’s Supercarriers (CVN) Slowly to Go the Way of the Battleship (BB)?

Further to this post,

End of the Line Coming for the US Navy’s Supercarriers as they Face the dragon’s Ever-Longer Fiery Breath?

one has to wonder again about their utility in war with China or Russia, however useful (but maddingly costly) they may be for showing the flag–once known as gunboat diplomacy–and taking on much lesser powers such at Iraq. The US Department of Defense is now taking a fairly hard look at their future, and that of the USN’s surface fleet generally:

Defense Department study calls for cutting 2 of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers
...
The Navy is currently developing a family of unmanned surface vessels that are intended to increase the offensive punch for less money, while increasing the number of targets the Chinese military would have to locate in a fight…

One also wonders what high end surface combatants with surface-to-surface, anti-air/missiles and anti subs, are really for these days (other than to provide air and ASW defence to various types of carriers). I don’t think there has been a serious surface engagement between such ships since World War II, there really are not that many carriers to protect, and surely other surface vessels, manned or unmanned, could do a perfectly capable ASW job–cf. the Royal Navy’s Black Swan sloops in WW II.

As for the Marines:

Radically Re-Shaping US Marines to Take on China–e.g. no more Tanks
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/04/21/us-navys-supercarriers-cvn-slowly-to-go-the-way-of-the-battleship-bb/

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Start and end of a post on Pentagon's re-assessing role/future of carriers:

Now a post on USINDOPACOM's worries about its deteriorating position vs China and how to deal with it:

Dragon Facing Down the Eagle in the Western Pacific
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/dragon-facing-down-the-eagle-in-the-western-pacific/

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daftandbarmy

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MarkOttawa said:
Now a post on USINDOPACOM's worries about its deteriorating position vs China and how to deal with it:

Mark Collins

"Indeed, the ability of the U.S. to work with like-minded allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific — such as Japan, Australia, India and Taiwan — to deter Chinese aggression may represent one of the most important challenges of the 21st century."

So, yeah, I guess the US is pretty much doomed, and so are we by extention....
 

CBH99

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I don't know about that daft...


While we can't underestimate China's capabilities, and the sheer volume of fire they can bring down in regards to cruise missiles & naval power, their crews lack a lot of real world experience.

They may have a distinct naval superiority at the onset, but I think the number of surface combatants would be drastically reduced in our favour if open war ever broke out.  (I don't know enough about their submarine programs to really comment)


It'll be a nasty few weeks of conflict for all sides, absolutely. 



I think their distinct advantage is simply geography.  They get to play on their home turf, close to reinforcements & close to supporting fires, able to concentrate forces far more than the US can.  Against China, I think the US would have to concede it'll be 'all assets vs. them' rather than thinking they can keep assets in the Persian Gulf, North Atlantic, etc.
 

Edward Campbell

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Our friend Thucydides often talks about the shark vs the tiger scenario. The idea is that China is like a HUGE tiger, supreme its in own valley, while the USA, the world's greatest ever sea power, greater even than Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, is equally supreme on the oceans. But neither can fight well in the other's domain. Even if America could assemble an army large enough to invade China ~ something that ONLY an Indian led coalition will ever manage ~ it is unlikely to be able to conquer it and it would certainly be unable to govern it for long. Equally, China cannot move America off the high seas.

War is a stupid choice. The Chinese want to get the Americans off the East Asian mainland. They also want the Russians out of East Asia and back behind the Yenesei, at least, maybe all the way back behind the Urals. America wants to hem China in, between the Indians in the West and the US and its allies in the East (Western Pacific, Guam, Japan and South Korea) and South (Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, etc). Both are doable.

I believe (cannot cite a reliable source) that years decades ago China made a back-door proposal to the USA: remove US troops from South Korea and remove US air bases from the Asian mainland and China would reunify Korea under a democratic, capitalist South Korean government. The Americans never believed that was a serious, trustworthy offer. Now, with China under Xi Jinping, I'm not sure the offer is still on the table, but ...
 

Weinie

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E.R. Campbell said:
I believe (cannot cite a reliable source) that years decades ago China made a back-door proposal to the USA: remove US troops from South Korea and remove US air bases from the Asian mainland and China would reunify Korea under a democratic, capitalist South Korean government. The Americans never believed that was a serious, trustworthy offer. Now, with China under Xi Jinping, I'm not sure the offer is still on the table, but ...
Never heard that supposition before but very interesting nonetheless. China would have everything to gain from this. If this proposal had indeed occurred, and there was any consultation, South Korea would likely have vetoed, the repercussion for themselves were enormous.
E.R. Campbell said:
China would reunify Korea under a democratic, capitalist South Korean government.
How would China do this? Given South Korea's likely reticence, this would require a strong arm approach, and concomitant deployment of military force that I am not sure China was even capable of undertaking at this time. Still, fascinated by this as a conceptual approach. When you say decades ago are we talking just after Nixon visited?


 

Edward Campbell

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Weinie said:
Never heard that supposition before but very interesting nonetheless. China would have everything to gain from this. If this proposal had indeed occurred, and there was any consultation, South Korea would likely have vetoed, the repercussion for themselves were enormous.How would China do this? Given South Korea's likely reticence, this would require a strong arm approach, and concomitant deployment of military force that I am not sure China was even capable of undertaking at this time. Still, fascinated by this as a conceptual approach. When you say decades ago are we talking just after Nixon visited?

Later, in the very late 1980s, maybe 1990 or 91 when Deng Xiaoping and then Jiang Zemin were running the show. I was told about this in the hallways at a seminar/conference where the question on enhanced military coordination was raised. My source, about an Assistant Deputy Minister level in. a non-military department of the Chinese government, said the proposal had been made, sub rosa but at a high enough level to be taken seriously. That was the first and last I heard of it.

I reported it back to the ADM(Pol) people and heard nothing from them either. I asked, in about 2005, long after I was retired, if the information was classified and I was told it was not and that, in fact, it was nowhere in our (Canadian) files.  :dunno:

As to how China would do it, I think that about ⅓ of the North Korean generals are on the American payroll, ⅓ are on the Chinese payroll, ⅓ are on the Japanese payroll, and ⅔ are on the South Korean payroll.  :nod: My guess is that the Chinese have a solid plan to kill the North Korean dictator and open the big bridge near Yuanboa (元宝区). By the way, the Yalu River is a formidable obstacle anywhere near Chinese trailhead; an opposed invasion of North Korea will not be a cakewalk. < https://www.google.com/maps/@40.1597282,124.2287155,10.22z >
 

Weinie

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Wow. Can't even conjecture what the current geopolitical construct would look like if this had been realized. Fascinating story. Thanks for the context.
 

MarkOttawa

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Start of a post:

How the US Services Need to Prepare, Jointly, for Conflict with Russia or (and?) China

Further to this post,

Dragon Facing Down the Eagle in the Western Pacific [note links at end]

excerpts from a piece at War on the Rocks on re-learning skills left largely to atrophy during the various conflicts of the Global War on Terror (now labled “overseas contingency operations”):

The Pentagon Should Train for — and Not Just Talk About — Great-Power Competition
...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/05/08/how-the-us-services-need-to-prepare-jointly-for-conflict-with-russia-or-and-china/

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Start and end of a post on Pentagon's re-assessing role/future of carriers:

Mark
Ottawa

Now navy dept. gives up own carrier study, broader Office of Secretary of Defence study of future USN fleet continues:

1)
Navy Scraps Big Carrier Study, Clears Deck For OSD Effort
The study into what kind of carriers the Navy might need in a decade’s time was problematic from the start, and conflicted with the Pentagon senior leadership’s redo of the Navy’s force structure plan. 
https://breakingdefense.com/2020/05/navy-scraps-big-carrier-study-clears-deck-for-osd-effort/

2)
Acting SECNAV McPherson Ends Navy Future Carrier Study; Nominee Braithwaite Gives Full Support to Ford Program
https://news.usni.org/2020/05/12/acting-secnav-mcpherson-ends-navy-future-carrier-study-nominee-braithwaite-gives-full-support-to-ford-program

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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Start of a post:

More US Navy “Jeep” Carriers (LHA) for Marine F-35Bs, what about the USN’s big Carriers?

US Navy’s Supercarriers (CVN) Slowly to Go the Way of the Battleship (BB)?

a lot of thinking is still going on but it’s good that people are realizing there likely will have to be major changes to the fleet to deal with the PRC’s rise–by David B. Larter (tweets here) at Defense News:

US Navy upgrades more ships for the F-35 as the future of carriers remains in flux
...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/more-us-navy-jeep-carriers-lha-for-marine-f-35bs-what-about-the-usns-big-carriers/

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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Start of a post--US services planning to cope with "missile gap" with PRC:'

[
Who will be Willing to Host US Intermediate-Range Missiles in the Western Pacific?

(Photo at top of this post: “An experimental version of a new cruise missile is fired from San Nicolas Island, Calif., last August, part of the Pentagon’s effort to develop new intermediate range missiles that could be based in Asia.”)

Further to this post,

Dragon Facing Down the Eagle in the Western Pacific

since the US withdrew from the INF Treaty in 2019, the US military is seeking places to station new ground-based missiles (see what the US Army and US Marines are working on, including cruise, ballistic and hypersonic missiles. They consider this basing is needed to overcome a major land-based missile gap in the area resulting from the fact that the PRC was not limited by the INF Treaty (more on that here). The US services now want to be able to take on both the PLA Navy at sea, and targets on land, with conventional warheads:

U.S. seeks to house missiles in the Pacific. Some allies don’t want them
...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/who-will-be-willing-to-host-us-intermediate-range-missiles-in-the-western-pacific/

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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Start of a post:

Euro NATO Willing to try to Deal with a Growling Bear as US faces the Dragon Ascendent?

Further to this post,

Does US Lose non-Nuclear War with China?
   
Julian Lindley-French (tweets here) worries at his blog over the effects of the US having to focus militarily on the PRC (as the UK was forced to focus on Wilhelmine Germany and its naval menace in the run-up to World War I) at the expense of its NATO commitments...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/euro-nato-willing-to-try-to-deal-with-a-growling-bear-as-us-faces-the-dragon-ascendent/

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Start of a post:

a lot of thinking is still going on but it’s good that people are realizing there likely will have to be major changes to the fleet to deal with the PRC’s rise–by David B. Larter (tweets here) at Defense News:
...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/more-us-navy-jeep-carriers-lha-for-marine-f-35bs-what-about-the-usns-big-carriers/

Mark
Ottawa

Now some really radical thinking about USN's carriers and air wings--excerpts:

The Aircraft Carrier We Need
By Jerry Hendrix

A strategic design update is due

On April 24 the U.S. Navy announced that a fifth weapons elevator had been certified for use onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). (A weapons elevator lifts munitions, such as bombs and missiles, from the storage area to the flight deck.) Six more elevators remain uncertified, requiring additional testing and modifications before the carrier can be deployed. Originally estimated to cost $10.5 billion to build, the ship was officially “delivered” to the Navy in May 2017, some 18 months behind schedule, at an eye-popping cost of $12.9 billion. However, even those cost numbers and dates are misleading, as the ship still does not have all of its essential systems certified, owing to major difficulties with its ship-service turbine generators, electromagnetic aircraft-launch systems, advanced arresting gear (the apparatus that slows down aircraft as they land on deck), and finally its weapons elevators. The upshot of all of these difficulties is that the Navy has been forced to use dollars from its crucial operations-and-maintenance accounts to “repair” a brand-new ship, for which it had already paid $13 billion, that has yet to deploy operationally, despite having officially been in the fleet for nearly three years.

The news on this ship is mixed. While it is true that the ship recently completed its 1,000th electromagnetic launch and 1,000th “trap” using the ship’s advanced arresting gear, and the newly confirmed secretary of the Navy has endorsed continuing to build the Ford-class design, it is also true that the ship recently experienced five days in which it could not launch aircraft due to problems with its electromagnetic launch system. The bad news is expected to continue as the ship is now scheduled to go through normal shock trials, which involve the detonation of a series of underwater charges near the hull and are known to cause havoc with a ship’s internal systems, in the summer of 2021. This may well set back the ship’s already-delayed initial deployment, scheduled for 2022, still further. The Department of Defense has determined that it is necessary to identify any additional significant faults in the design of the Ford, including ones that may be exposed by the shock trials, before proceeding with the construction of additional ships. Even shock trials, however, will not reveal the Ford’s most glaring problems: It has the wrong design and is built around the wrong type and size of air wing, and it is not optimized for implementing the current National Defense Strategy, which focuses on great-power competition with Communist China and, to a lesser extent, a Putin-led Russia.

The USS Ford was conceived during the late 1990s and emerged from an analysis that examined over 75 designs. The final choice was greatly influenced by then-recent operational experiences in the Arabian Gulf and the Adriatic Sea, as well as a 1998 GAO report that provided rigorous comparisons between nuclear and conventionally powered aircraft carriers during those campaigns. The Ford’s eventual design was predicated upon an assumption that the ship would operate in similar semi-permissive, low-threat environments, such as the Adriatic Sea or Arabian Gulf, staying close to enemy shores to optimize the efficacy of the carrier’s short-range (500 nautical miles) light-attack air wing, which was then dominated by the FA-18 Hornet [emphasis added]...

The combination of dramatically enhanced maritime-domain awareness (enabled in large part by remote-sensing satellites) and land-, sea-, and air-launched anti-ship missiles now makes it possible for the PLA to hold U.S. aircraft carriers (and other surface combatants) at risk well over 1,000 miles from China’s shores — which is well beyond the range of the carrier’s FA-18E/F and F-35C strike fighters unless they are refueled. Moreover, even if these planes were to reach designated target areas with aerial refueling, they would be vulnerable to modern, integrated air-defense systems [emphasis added]. Faced with this intensifying threat, the Navy has started shifting away from the land-attack mission in favor of less daunting sea-control and sea-denial missions.

...To remedy this situation, the Navy should invest in new air wings — much as it did in the years immediately following World War II, when it effectively replaced its entire naval-aviation inventory — that can operate effectively from outside the range of a prospective adversary’s “anti-access/area denial” networks to credibly put key targets at risk.

Such an air wing would necessarily retain some legacy components. It would make sense, for example, for each wing to have combat-search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopters; a squadron of four E-2D Hawkeyes to provide airborne surveillance and command-and-control in carrier-controlled airspace; and a squadron of six EA-18G Growlers to provide jamming and spectrum control around the carrier and its strike group. The new air wing might also have one squadron of ten F-35Cs to perform combat air-patrol missions as well as airborne-coordination roles. Only one squadron should be necessary, since the carrier would be positioned far out to sea, beyond the immediate range of enemy short-range fighters and escorted by cruisers and destroyers capable of providing air and missile defense. Shifting the carrier’s area of operations farther from the enemy’s “anti-access/area denial” forces would make it possible to reverse the modern naval bias towards defensive “anti” missions within the carrier strike group (anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine) and move back towards offensive operations, including power-projection ashore.

As part of this shift, the core of the carrier’s new air wing would be 30 stealthy, heavily armed unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), organized into three squadrons. Individual UCAVs should be capable of carrying 4,000 pounds of ordnance internally to a combat radius of at least 1,500 nautical miles without refueling [emphasis added]. They should also feature broadband, all-aspect stealth design with a much-reduced radar cross-section (RCS). The design should also integrate an infrared-signature-reduction capability and an advanced passive sensor suite. These 30 aircraft — each armed with two 2,000-pound-class direct-attack weapons (GBU-31 JDAM) or stand-off weapons (e.g., JASSM or LRASM), four 1,000-pound-class direct-attack weapons (GBU-33 JDAMs), or up to 16 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs — could deliver sustained firepower against a wide array of enemy targets while their host carrier remained in relative sanctuary at sea.

Moreover, unlike aircraft flown by human beings, they would not have to cease operation because of pilot fatigue. With refueling, they could remain aloft potentially for days at a time. With no pilots at risk, there would also be no need to prepare for forward CSAR operations. Based on the Navy’s considerable experience in designing and operating two prototype aircraft under the Unmanned Carrier Air System-Demonstrator (UCAS-D) program, an operational UCAV could be fielded both quickly and affordably. For slightly more than the cost of an F-35C, the Navy could have an aircraft with nearly three times the combat radius, significantly more internal payload, and far better survivability. With a UCAV-heavy air wing, the aircraft carrier could get back into the power-projection business...

Accepting the average size of the air wing (the Nimitz and Ford classes were originally designed to support 85 to 90 aircraft but now carry around 65), taking into account new aircraft designs as well as new launch and recovery intervals, and then carefully examining previous carrier designs as well as design studies, suggests that the next carrier should be in the mid-sized range (65,000 to 75,000 tons), with a flight deck approximately 900 feet in length and 135 feet wide and an armor-box hangar deck some 700 feet in length by 95 feet in width by 18 feet in height [emphasis added]...

Jerry Hendrix — Mr. Hendrix is a vice president of the Telemus Group, a retired U.S. Navy captain, and a consultant to the Defense Science Board.
https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/07/06/the-aircraft-carrier-we-need/#slide-1

Mark
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Kirkhill

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Still think it is nuts to put a pilot in harms way to conduct strikes against known targets.

Pilots for recce?  Absolutely.

But pilots just to put ordnance on target when there are alternate delivery options for GPS (or even EO/IR defined methods of comparing targets with datasets)? 

A bunch of  semi-submersibles with a bunch of missiles and a couple of dozen crew each seems a much more cost effective means of overwhelming the enemy's defences.

https://pressfrom.info/au/news/tech-and-science/-24208-china-is-developing-a-warship-of-naval-theorists-dreams.html

It's amazing what can be accomplished when not hindered by institutions and forced to consider alternatives.

In fact - why do you need a pilot over the target in any event?

 

MarkOttawa

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Start of a post:
US Navy’s Position vis-à-vis PRC in Western Pacific, South China Sea, not that Bad after all?

Further to this post and “Comments”,

Does US Lose non-Nuclear War with China?
   
retired Indian Navy Commodore V Venugopal (tweets here) takes a more positive view of the USN’s prospects than quite a few others:

A game of chess? US strategy meets China’s in the South China Sea
...
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2020/06/26/us-navys-position-vis-a-vis-prc-in-western-pacific-south-china-sea-not-that-bad-after-all/

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MarkOttawa

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US services competing with each other for Indo-Pacific roles, funding:

1) Navy:

Biden’s Pentagon Ready To Take Hard New Look At Navy Plans


The Trump administration's belated - and very expensive - plans to reinvent the Navy are about to get a scrubbing by the Biden team.​


2) Army (several things Marines want to do to):

Facing Cuts, Army Chief Touts Pacific Role


Upcoming Pacific Defender wargames will held showcase Army’s investments in long-range missiles, missile defense, logistics, and information warfare, said Gen. James McConville, the Army Chief of Staff.​


3) Marines:

New in 2021: The Corps gets a new unit ― the Marine littoral regiment​

The Marine littoral regiment is one designed specifically to fit within Commandant Gen. David Berger’s plan for the future Corps to fight a dispersed war in the enemy littorals.

The Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force will standup the first three Marine littoral regiments and begin a three-year experiment to figure out how to best build and fight the regiments...

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CBH99

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To be fair, the Navy is probably the most important / useful of the branches in a war against China - and that is not to dismiss the important roles the USAF with undoubtably play, and the capabilities both the USMC and Army can contribute.

The USN should have had their shipbuilding plans objectively analyzed, scrubbed, and re-prioritized a few years ago.



How much money has been spent/wasted on literally a dozen Freedom class LCS, where their propulsion system constantly breaks down? Or they get a hull rupture after a tugboat gets blown into it on a windy day, while docked?

For use as a dedicated ASW platform, it could have made a lot of sense. Use for low-intensity operations in the Persian Gulf, Caribbean, anti-piracy, etc -- and a very fast ASW platform, that would have made sense. But they tried to do too much, somehow turn it into a combatant, failed big time... and now they have a ship that can't really fight anything other than pirates or speedboats, and half the time couldn't keep up with a ferry.



Or the Ford class carriers? I understand that newer systems, redesigned deck, and automation has helped to reduce the crew size by roughly 1000 people, which in and of itself is a substantial step forwards. The EMALS sounds great in theory, except - despite billions of extra dollars thrown at it, and years to work out the bugs - doesn't work remotely reliably enough to be functional. Not with fancy Block 3 Hornets and F-35C's that run the risk of falling into the drink because it malfunctions, or just doesn't bloody work.

The Ford class could have been a fairly affordable, yet still cutting edge Nimitz class replacement. (Once the production catches a steady pace.) Instead, they can't even get the 1st in class operational, despite it currently costing roughly $13B - and that cost is still climbing.

What's worse is that they've already started construction of 2 more Ford class carriers, even though the first one still hasn't been able to effectively function yet. It still can't reliably launch or recover aircraft...so essentially a gigantic money pit (literally) that can't really do anything.


With a pretty solid scrap coming up soon, the USN really can't afford (literally or figuratively) to be failing this badly when it comes to procuring new ships. The only shipbuilding programs the USN has that are able to produce capable ships in a fight against China is their Virginia class submarines, and their Alreigh-Burke class destroyers. (Even then, I'd say their Columbia class SSBN could have funded more efficiently by looking at a modified version of the Virginia class.)

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I personally think US Military thought is caught in a sort of cognitive dissonance where they are continuously looking for solutions to problems that don't exist.

Solutions without problems are a lot like shooting at ghosts. You don’t hurt the ghosts, but you wreak havoc with anyone or anything in your line of fire.

What to do about Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea should start from the premise that you don't fight on terrain that is infavourable to you. So I always question the American logic of basing decisions off wargames that involve the US Pacific Fleet charging head first in to the South China Sea, storming the Spratly Islands and Invading Taiwan with the entire US Marine Corps.

The pivot towards Littoral Ops is dumb and is just the Military Industrial Complex providing a solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist. The US should be focusing on Blue Water Supremacy with the ability to impose Naval Blockade on China and force them to come out in to the Open Ocean and fight where their Fleet can be destroyed in detail.

The US should also focus on strengthening the Militaries of its partners in the Region. The geography of the entire region is very unfavourable for China.
 

Weinie

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I personally think US Military thought is caught in a sort of cognitive dissonance where they are continuously looking for solutions to problems that don't exist.

Solutions without problems are a lot like shooting at ghosts. You don’t hurt the ghosts, but you wreak havoc with anyone or anything in your line of fire.

What to do about Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea should start from the premise that you don't fight on terrain that is infavourable to you. So I always question the American logic of basing decisions off wargames that involve the US Pacific Fleet charging head first in to the South China Sea, storming the Spratly Islands and Invading Taiwan with the entire US Marine Corps.

The pivot towards Littoral Ops is dumb and is just the Military Industrial Complex providing a solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist. The US should be focusing on Blue Water Supremacy with the ability to impose Naval Blockade on China and force them to come out in to the Open Ocean and fight where their Fleet can be destroyed in detail.

The US should also focus on strengthening the Militaries of its partners in the Region. The geography of the entire region is very unfavourable for China.

Perhaps, or maybe the pundits, for lack of anything substantive to opine about, are filling the space.

I am pretty confident that the U.S. has a number of COA's to deal with China in the event of either limited or full on conflict, notwithstanding all the conjecture that has been posed. I am also pretty confident that the PRC knows this, and it may explain why they have been very aggressive in all arenas; diplomatic, economic, informational, regional, when it comes to China/US relations, but have only blustered when it comes to the military.

Several folks on this site have posited that it is only a matter of time before China and the US go at it. That may be true, but I still think it would go badly for the Chinese in the end.
 
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