In the autumn of 2020, the US Air Force held a simulated war game against China, set approximately 10 years in the future.
It began with a biological weapon that quickly dealt with America’s military bases and warships in the Indo-Pacific region.
Then, China staged a massive military exercise to veil a gigantic deployment of an invasion force.
The simulation culminated with Chinese missile strikes raining down on U.S. bases and warships in the region, and a lightning air and amphibious assault on the island of Taiwan.
China won, within a very short timeframe.
This was reportedly part of the classified war game and details are being revealed now.
Around the same time, in real life, in September 2020, actual Chinese combat aircraft intentionally flew over the rarely crossed median line in the Taiwan Strait in the direction of Taipei an “unprecedented 40 times and conducted simulated attacks on the island” that Taiwan’s premier called “disturbing.”
China’s air force released a video showing a bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons carrying out a simulated attack on Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.
The title of the Hollywood-like propaganda video was “The god of war H-6K [bomber] goes on the attack!”
The trend of China getting ahead and the US falling back was accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This month the Council on Foreign Relations released a special report, “The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War.”
It concluded that Taiwan “is becoming the most dangerous flash point in the world for a possible war” between the United States and China.
In Senate testimony, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Phil Davidson, warned that he believes China might try and annex Taiwan “in this decade, in fact within the next six years.”
Separately, a Chinese think tank recently described tensions in U.S.-China relations as the worst since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and it advised Communist Party leaders to prepare for war with the United States.
Apparently, many Americans don’t realize is that years of classified Pentagon war games strongly suggest that the U.S. military would lose that war.
“More than a decade ago, our war games indicated that the Chinese were doing a good job of investing in military capabilities that would make our preferred model of expeditionary warfare, where we push forces forward and operate out of relatively safe bases and sanctuaries, increasingly difficult,” Air Force Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview.
“At that point the trend in our war games was not just that we were losing, but we were losing faster,” Hinote said. “After the 2018 war game I distinctly remember one of our gurus of war gaming standing in front of the Air Force secretary and chief of staff, and telling them that we should never play this war game scenario [of a Chinese attack on Taiwan] again, because we know what is going to happen. The definitive answer if the U.S. military doesn’t change course is that we’re going to lose fast. In that case, an American president would likely be presented with almost a fait accompli.”
The Biden administration recently announced a new Pentagon task force to review U.S. defense policy toward China, to be headed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The deteriorating security of Taiwan will be a major focus of the new task force.
“By the way, three of China’s standing war plans are built around a Taiwan scenario,” Hinote said.
“They’re planning for this. Taiwan is what they think about all the time.”
No matter what, every war game scenario featuring Taiwan ends in the US losing.
“Whenever we war-gamed a Taiwan scenario over the years, our Blue Team routinely got its ass handed to it, because in that scenario time is a precious commodity and it plays to China’s strength in terms of proximity and capabilities,” said David Ochmanek, a senior RAND Corporation analyst and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development. “That kind of lopsided defeat is a visceral experience for U.S. officers on the Blue Team, and as such the war games have been a great consciousness-raising device. But the U.S. military is still not keeping pace with Chinese advances. For that reason, I don’t think we’re much better off than a decade ago when we started taking this challenge more seriously.”
Part of the problem is that China advanced its A2/AD strategy while the Pentagon was largely distracted fighting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades.
Beijing is also laser-focused on Taiwan and regional hegemony, while the U.S. military must project power and prepare for potential conflict scenarios all around the globe, giving the Pentagon what Ochmanek calls an “attention deficit disorder.”
Finally, there is the complacency of the perennial winner that makes it hard for senior U.S. military officers to believe that another nation would dare to take them on.
“My response is that China’s growing military confidence is manifesting itself in an increasingly belligerent approach to its neighbors, the growing frequency of the PLA’s violation of the airspace of Taiwan and Japan, and the bullying of other neighbors in the South China Sea,” said Ochmanek. “Under Xi Jinping there has been a dramatic increase in such provocations compared to a decade ago, and I think it’s grounded in his belief that militarily, China is strong enough now to credibly challenge us.”
In the most recent war game, the Pentagon tested the impact of potential capabilities and military concepts that are still on the drawing board in many cases.
The Blue Team, which represented U.S. forces, adopted a more defensive and dispersed posture less reliant on large, vulnerable bases, ports and aircraft carriers in a conflict with the Red Team, which represented China.
The strategy strongly favored large numbers of long-range, mobile strike systems, to include anti-ship cruise missile batteries, mobile rocket artillery systems, unmanned mini-submarines, mines and robust surface-to-air missile batteries for air defense. A premium was put on surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for both early warning and accurate intelligence to enable quicker decisions by U.S. policymakers, and a more capable command-and-control system to coordinate the actions of more dispersed forces.
“We created a force that had resiliency at its core, and the Red Team looked at that force and knew that it would take a tremendous amount of firepower to knock it out,” said Hinote. The biggest insight of the war game, he said, was revealed when he talked afterward with the Red Team leader, who played the role of the PLA’s top general.
“The Red Team leader is the most experienced and aggressive officer in these war games across the Defense Department, and when he initially looked at the resiliency of our defensive posture both in Taiwan and the region, he said, ‘No, I’m not going to attack,’” recalled Hinote. “If we can design a force that creates that level of uncertainty and causes Chinese leaders to question whether they can accomplish their goals militarily, I think that’s what deterrence looks like in the future.”
On a sober note, Hinote pointed out that the Blue Team force posture tested in the recent war game is still not the one reflected in current Defense Department spending plans.
“We’re beginning to understand what kind of U.S. military force it’s going to take to achieve the National Defense Strategy’s goals,” he said. “But that’s not the force we’re planning and building today.”
Maybe one day the US will win in a simulation against China.