Wednesday, February 1, 2017


China’s policy of militaristic expansion has caused the US to refocus on the Pacific theater and led to “strategies” such as the Pacific Pivot.  The main problem with the Pacific Pivot is the lack of basing.  The closest main US base to the Chinese theater is Guam which is home to Anderson AFB and Apra Naval Base.  The problem with Guam is that it is too close to China to be safe from ballistic missiles or submarine launched cruise missiles and too far away to provide a convenient base of daily operations.  The inability to support daily operations due to distance is the same basic problem that the US faced in WWII while prosecuting the war against Japan.  We solved that problem by sequentially occupying a series of island bases between Pearl Harbor and Japan, each a bit closer to the ultimate target.  Along with that, we built and operated a vast fleet of cargo and replenishment ships so that the warships could remain at sea for extended periods and at great distances from their bases.  We also built an immense fleet of aircraft carriers to provide a forward based, mobile “air force”.

Today, it is highly debatable that we would have access to any non-US bases in the event of war with China.  The Philippines certainly cannot be counted on for basing and leased Japanese bases are problematic.  In fact, we’re slowly pulling back and reducing our presence in Japanese territories.  For example, the US has agreed to remove 9000 III MEF marines from Okinawa and relocate them to Guam, Australia, and Hawaii (2).

Even if we could use Japanese bases in a war with China – and it’s quite likely that Japan would actively side with the US – those bases will be under constant attack due to their proximity to China.  Thus, they would not be the kind of useful base where ships, aircraft, and troops can retire, rearm, and marshal in relative safety.

Despite all that, Guam figures prominently in the US’ stated desire to rebalance towards the Pacific and China.  Currently Guam is home to around 6000 military personnel (1).  Various reports have indicated the added presence in recent years of B-1/2/52 bombers, stocks of air launched cruise missiles, stocks of Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Stand-Off Weapons, F-15/16 fighters, tanker aircraft, long range UAVs, and four nuclear attack submarines (3).  In addition, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense systems have been deployed.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues affecting the use of Guam as a base.

Distance is the main limitation.  For example,

  • Distance from Guam to Taiwan is 1711 miles
  • Distance from Guam to center of the South China Sea is 2047 miles
  • Distance from Guam to center of the East China Sea 1687 miles

Guam (far right edge of map) and the Pacific Pivot

The flight time from Guam to the South China Sea is on the order of 4.5 hours at a cruising speed of 450 mph (around 400 kts).  Of course, that doesn’t take into account time spent flying at a much slower speed while refueling and waiting for other aircraft to refuel and assemble.  Actual transit time is likely to be closer to 7 hours (300 mph average speed when factoring in refueling and other delays).

Wiki lists a combat radius of 500 miles or so for the F-22, depending on configuration and flight profile.  Obviously, this is nowhere near enough range to reach Taiwan or the East/South China Seas without multilple aerial refuelings.  Of course, aerial tankers represent a vulnerability, themselves.  Tankers flying near combat zones are defenseless and if they can be eliminated or forced away from the zone, the offensive ability of our aircraft would be seriously restricted.

Setting aside the long transit time and lack of responsiveness that imposes, consider the physical and mental state of a pilot after several hours strapped into a cockpit, unable to move.  At that point, a pilot is no longer in peak condition to engage in combat.

The surface ship cruise time from Guam to the South China Sea is on the order of 3.7 days at a cruising speed of 20 kts.  From a naval operations perspective, this is quite acceptable which is fortunate since the Navy lacks a robust at-sea replenishment capability.  Of course, this all but rules out the use of the LCS for operations given its mandated requirement to return to port every two weeks for maintenance, its limited 10-14 day supply capacity, and its very limited range at sustained higher speeds.

Another serious consideration is Guam’s susceptibility to ballistic missiles such as the DF-26 and other intermediate to long range missiles.  The DF-26, with a range of up to 3400 miles (1), is capable of reaching Guam from the Chinese mainland and has been referred to as the “Guam Killer”.  Guam’s bases and facilities are all known, fixed targets and, therefore, targeting is not an issue.  To be fair, given the range of ballistic missiles, not many places are secure from such missiles. 

A related concern is the island’s susceptibility to submarine launched cruise missiles such as the YJ-18 which is credited with a range of 330 miles and is believed to be carried on 052D and the coming 055 destroyers as well as the Type 093 Shang II nuclear attack subs.

The cruise missile threat highlights the need for an anti-submarine screen around Guam at ranges out to 500 miles or so.

Another threat to Guam is the possibility of a Chinese “blockade” which would prevent resupply.  It is simply not possible to provide sufficient resupply by air to be viable in war.  A blockade could take any form:  submarine, surface ship, air, or, likely, a combination.  Such a blockade would be all the more effective given the very limited naval and merchant cargo fleet the US possesses.  Any losses would be crippling.

The Guam buildup also contains the risk of creating the next “Pearl Harbor” by concentrating so much of the US’ Pacific military might in one location.  Today, instead of an attack by carrier based air, the GuamPearl Harbor” would come in the form of submarine, air, and land launched ballistic and cruise missiles.  We do not have anything approaching the degree of defensive systems needed to protect Guam.  If Guam is eliminated, our next forward most base is Pearl Harbor which puts us in the exact same situation we faced at the beginning of WWII.

China has begun to focus on the military destruction of Guam.  CRS reports,

“China is believed to have deployed missiles that could target forces on or near Guam, considered by China as part of the “Second Island Chain” from which it needs to break out of perceived U.S.-led “encirclement.” China’s missiles that could target Guam include the DF-3A (CSS-2) medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) launched from upgraded, longer-range H-6K bombers. China also has deployed DH-10 LACMs and DF- 21D anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) to target aircraft carriers and other ships. While the DF- 21D’s initial range could be 1,500-2,000 km (930-1,240 mi), a more advanced variant could extend the range to about 3,000 km (1,860 mi) and reach Guam. The PLA reportedly has the world’s largest force of ground-launched LACMs, with about 100 LACMs entering the operational force each year and up to 500 LACMs by 2014. Moreover, the PRC reportedly has developed DF-25 and DF-26C intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) with a range of 3,200-4,000 km. In 2012, the PLA Navy started to conduct military activities, perhaps suspected surveillance, in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Guam.” (4)

North Korea is also working to develop ballistic missiles with the range to reach Guam although their technical prowess is far from demonstrated.

It is clear that the US will have to devote a significant amount of combat power to the protection of Guam in order to ensure its viability and usefulness in war.  It is questionable whether the US currently has enough combat power to simultaneously protect Guam and conduct offensive operations.  It would likely require dozens of submarines, many surface ships, dedicated anti-ballistic missile Aegis cruisers/destroyers, dozens of maritime patrol aircraft, and dozens of aircraft just to patrol and defend Guam.  This is in addition to whatever land based ballistic missile defenses are needed.

In short, Guam offers significant benefits but only if it can be defended.  We need to be gaming out how to conduct a war with China, decide what role Guam will play, figure out how to defend it, and begin acquiring the necessary assets and resources.


(1)CNN website, “U.S. must beware China's 'Guam killer' missile”, Brad Lenden, 15-May-2016,

(2)Congressional Research Service, “The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ian E. Rinehart, January 20, 2016, R42645, summary page

(3)Congressional Research Service, “Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments”, Shirley A. Kan, November 26, 2014, RS22570, p.2

(4)Ibid., p.9


  1. This is why I have been calling for basing AIP/DE SSK Submarines for ISR, Special ops in the littorals. On top of that I have been a strong advocate in putting a USCG OPC or NSC to be permanently be based in Guam as well.

    1. I have no problem with SSK's and you're certainly not alone in that thought.

      I'm far less clear as to what role a USCG vessel would play. During peacetime there might be some use but they would have no significant role in high end war. What's your thinking on what the USCG vessels would do?

    2. For the USCG in wartime, would be maritime security, port security and escort of the Naval Fleet Auxiliary ships

    3. Do you feel that USCG vessels are adequately equipped for ASW (sonar, towed arrays, ASW helos, torpedoes, Prairie/Masker, internal quieting, etc.) and AAW (radar, SAMs, stealth, CIWS, etc.) wartime roles that would be required for escort and port security missions?

    4. I think so and I think the NSC, if armed right can be a Convoy escort and Maritime security cutter.

  2. So... I'm always hearing about the Chinese MRBM's. They are definitely a threat to our fixed assets; no question. But can't we turn that around? Are there shoals, tiny micro islands, etc. that we have rights to that we could use as bases for our own MRBM's if we developed them? We know where China's naval bases are. We know where their air bases are, etc. If we could develop a 'mobile enough' conventional MRBM system and seed various islands with it (duty would suck... but...) then we make them face the same issue; as well as give them alot more targeting headaches to worry about.

    I totally agree with your post, CNO. I'm just tired of playing their game. How do we threaten their stuff?

    1. Why use micro islands when you can use ships? Coastal fortresses has gone out of vogue for a reason.

    2. Two things:

      1. I'm not sure what the status is for the US as regards the development and use of IRBM/MRBM's relative to the various treaties we've signed. They may be prohibited. Not sure.

      2. I'd prefer to mount ballistic missiles on ships for survivability and flexibility.

    3. Other than subs is there a ship that can launch an MRBM?

      But good point, I hadn't thought about other treaties, to which the Chinese likely aren't signatories.

      I had assumed with the research into prompt global strike we had some leeway, but I don't know.

    4. "is there a ship that can launch an MRBM?"

      Currently? No, unless one could fit into the slightly larger Mk57 VLS but I think that's highly unlikely. A launch system and host ship would have to be developed.

    5. The Chinese have a ton of targets to hit. Sure you might be able to disable some fixed airbases, but you're talking about hitting the Chinese mainland here - too many targets. It is like trying to "target" the US Eastern Seaboard.

      The US has a few fixed islands. That makes it harder to withstand attacks.

      Sure you could arm a few ships, submarines, and islands with ballistic missiles, but the amount of damage it does to the Chinese mainland would be limited.

    6. "hitting the Chinese mainland here - too many targets."

      That assumes that the goal of a US military effort would be to hit the Chinese mainland in a widespread fashion. Might there not be other strategies that don't require such an approach?

    7. "It is like trying to "target" the US Eastern Seaboard."

      The US doesn't have all that many major Air Force and Navy bases along the east coast. Successful strikes on just a half dozen or so bases would cripple the US military on the east coast.

    8. I would not be against the idea of a selective attack. Keep in mind the Chinese have fortified and dispersed their military assets.

      The other is that ballistic missiles are quite expensive. The problem is opportunity cost.

      So basically we are limited to a few high value targets, while the Chinese have a few airbases and naval bases they have to take out, which are well known.

    9. You're looking at the issue of ballistic missiles in generic terms. My question was, might there not be a strategy that could effectively utilize ballistic missiles without requiring that dozens or hundreds of dispersed bases be destroyed?

      The flip side of having a few bases is that they're easier to mass defensive forces for as opposed to having to try to defend many bases. And, if the argument is made that the greater number of bases allows for reduced or non-existent defenses because no single base is worth the effort, then the corollary is that no single base will require much effort to destroy - a great destructive efficiency!

      Note that I'm not arguing for or against the use of ballistic missiles. I'm just noting that summarily dismissing the possible effectiveness of US ballistic missiles without a bit more thought may be shortsighted.

  3. It seems to me that a strong defence of Guam mainly serves to make things easier for the Chinese. And any scenario where the Chinese are lobbing large numbers of MRBMs at large US force concentrations, will probably end up going nuclear.

    1. Why would either the US or China even consider nuclear weapons over a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific? Too many people are scared witless over the threat of nuclear war and it all seems to be one-sided. They're frightened that we'll sneeze in the direction of the Chinese and they'll respond with a nuclear weapon. Don't the Chinese, by definition, have the same concerns? That's what MAD is and why it works. Both sides refrain because they know that there are no winners. China doesn't want nuclear war any more than we do.

    2. I dont think neither the Chinese nor the US would go nuclear over a tiny pacific Island, but you could say the same thing about lobbing MRBMs at carrier groups, or any large scale millitary confrontation.

      Why would the Soviets risk nuclear war in order to put some ballistic missiles on Cuba? Well it turns out, that they did in fact not want to risk a nuclear war, but they almost managed to start one anyway.

      If all sides behave cooly and rationally, there will be no war in the Chinese sea. Regards

    3. "If all sides behave cooly and rationally, there will be no war in the Chinese sea. "

      China does not seem unduly concerned about behaving cooly and rationally or they would not be constructing illegal islands and making unsupported territorial claims!

      Sadly, I don't think cool and rational will be the chosen option in the South China Sea.

    4. "Too many people are scared witless over the threat of nuclear war and it all seems to be one-sided. "

      I'm not worried about intentions or escalation in that sense. I'm worried about Russia or China seeing an IRBM or 10 flying at them and, with a few minutes to respond, then assuming the worst.

      That to me is the real risk.

    5. "I'm worried about Russia or China seeing an IRBM or 10 flying at them"

      You exactly illustrated my point!!!!!!!!!!

      You're concerned about their reaction while saying nothing about the fact that they are developing ballistic missiles to launch at us!!!!! Apparently, though, they don't have to worry about our reaction and bear no responsibility for any misunderstanding??????


    6. You are right that the US will constantly assess whether any ballistic missile attack is a nuclear attack. However, there are several reasons to expect the US will be for more cautious than China in responding to likely ballistic missile attacks. China has a well known conventional ballistic missile inventory and it is widely expected that China will launch conventional ballistic missiles at US bases and ships. Chinese missiles will be on trajectories towards less sensitive areas such as the sea, Gaum, or allied territory. The US would likely wait to confirm a nuclear attack against its ships, Guam, or Japan before retaliating with nuclear weapons. In contrast, the US would take missiles heading towards the mainland US much more seriously. So too would China. US missiles on trajectories towards the Chinese mainland would be pose a threat to China's population centers and retaliatory capabilities. Although both sides will be aware of the nuclear risk, China is arguably more likely to retaliate against US ballistic missiles than vice versa.

      That being said, I would like to consider potential offensive uses of ballistic missiles for the US. Would it be possible or cost-effective to use ballistic missiles to deliver mines to all of China's harbors on day 1? Obviously, the harbors are fixed positions and no ISR is needed.

  4. Find underwater mountain peaks and start building man-made islands (or enlarging existing ones)

    The chain running down to Iwo Jima will move closer by about 400 miles. Okinotorijima will be 600 miles closer than Guam. Maybe there are some other shadow peaks, heck, the US is not in UNCLOS anyway.

  5. I must disagree with the US developing artificial islands for the will share the same disadvantages all of our land bases have, they are fixed locations that can be attacked or isolated and blockaded, not a to dissimilar tactic that we employed against the Japanese in WW2.

    I feel we should develop some kind of modular crane system that could be installed on any commercial grade cargo vessel that could at least transfer munitions and supplies at sea. An ad hoc idea I admit, but something.

    1. To me, the math is the same. It is always X amount of bullets over Y amount of targets: X/Y. If there is one Guam.Sr; why not make several Guam.Jrs. It is no different than the argument of one 12B Ford-class carrie vs. two $6B America-class carriers going into harms way- which one will the defender prefer: facing (and must prepare and spend before hand) 1 carrier, or 2 carriers. Also, in CNO's scenario, China is on the defense, thus these Guam.jrs are the US forward presences, not the bypassed Rabul in WW2.

      Also, China knows 'fixed targets are easy preys', which is same as fixed Y targets demands X amount of very expensive ordinances. And these island is not some small places; for example, the largest one (including its enclosed water body/harbor) is the size of Washington D.C metropolitan area. How many cruise missiles is the US going to dump on it? Without physical occupation, these islands will come back (think of damage control on an unsinkable mega-carrier).

      Also, China built 5 of them in 2+ years. I would say one of these island is much cheaper and easier to build than a Ford-carrier.

    2. "I must disagree with the US developing artificial islands for the will share the same disadvantages all of our land bases have,"

      Fair enough. So, if islands, artificial or natural, are such a bad idea, why do you think China is expending so much effort and money and squandering so much good will internationally to build them? They must see an advantage. What do you think they see? Whatever advantage they see, could we obtain the same benefit?

    3. But, China has the advantage of building their islands close to home, where they can be easily supported by ship or aircraft. At the same time, for us, the cost to build an artificial island could easily run into hundreds of millions, if not over a billion dollars. Remember how much the Navy pays for lawn maintenance and hanger doors?

    4. That is a valid cost benefit but the question was, what is the military benefit of the islands that China sees that outweighs the fixed location disadvantage?

    5. I feel its more politically then military. China has made claims on these disputed areas and the easiest way to justify those claims is by being there. Undoubtly they know these artificial island would not survive an attack, nor would repairs on these islands be easy conducted.

    6. Why not choose Saipan, Rota or Tinian?

    7. Choose them for what? You lost me.

    8. Saipan, Rota or Tinian as the alternate to Guam. Because it's not feasible to use bases in ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea. As for these islands, still remembering the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  6. If Guam cant be resupplied by US, how is China going to get its oil and bulk resources ?
    They come from Brazil, Australia, Middle East. They import $25 bill worth of US food alone. Are they going to copy the UK strategy that worked -barely- in 1939-44 ?

    1. Raw material supply routes are the key vulnerability of China. On the other hand, they can fight for a very long time before shortages would have a major impact.

      Also, as I'm sure you know, China is already taking steps to mitigate any resource shortage issues. For example, they're working on a China-Russia oil pipeline that would be very difficult for us to disrupt (for a variety of reasons both political and military).

  7. I don't disagree with any part of the analysis. The problem is that all of it applies pretty much to any U.S. base, whether in Japan, Guam, Hawaii, or the West Coast. Our forces will need bases. We have to assume the Chinese will throw everything they have at them. Pearl is just as vulnerable to ballistic missiles and SLCMs as Guam is.

    So what is the solution? I think there are two tracks we should pursue. The first is to multiply and harden our bases across the region. The Marianas can support half a dozen dispersal airfields to make life harder on the Chinese. We probably need to be talking to the Japanese along the same lines. Harden the facilities across the board, and deploy Patriots and THAAD across the region.

    The second track is diplomatic. The key to avoiding a long hard slog across the Pacific is securing the Philippines as a major strategic partner. It is time to think about what it will take to do that (and if we need to go old school and think about Coups, assassinations, etc, so be it). With a dispersed, hardened base infrastructure in the Philippines, we can not only threaten China's homeland at will, but contest the South China Sea and keep the PLAN bottled up inside the first island chain.

    This will take some serious interference in Philippine politics and a huge program of foreign aid. If I could take every dollar we are sending to Israel and redeploy it to the Philippines, I would do it. I realize that the Philippine government is as weak a reed on which to lean as the South Vietnamese government was, but if a war is coming, I don't see a choice.

    1. Wow! What an interesting and unorthodox comment. I'm just going to let it stand without agreeing or disagreeing. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful and provocative comment I love to see. Well done!

    2. Britain operates bases in its protectorate Brunei.

      I'm not too sure of the exact terms of our agreement.

      However its at an interesting range from china. And would stretch Chinese forces out a bit.

      Its the next best place to the Philippines, and wouldn't require the often messy intervention of the CIA.

      Its has considerably better infrastructure as well being one of the richest countries in the world in terms of capita per head.


    3. From what little I know of Brunei (feel free to correct any misconceptions I have!), it is around 600 miles from the center of the South China Sea and 1200 miles from Taiwan. Certainly closer than Guam! Brunei maintains an official policy of non-interference/neutrality with other countries. It is highly questionable that they would join in a war with China or allow the British base to be used in a war (treaty terms, if any, notwithstanding). There may also be Commonwealth defense treaties/terms that impact this - I have no idea. Brunei's self-defense capability is nearly non-existent so, again, it's hard to imagine them entering a war with China or allowing Britain to use them as a base. I doubt that Britain has the resources to protect Brunei in a war with China.


    4. If I were going to seek an alternative to the Philippines, it would probably be Sepangar in Malaysia. A little farther northwest on the coast of Borneo. Still 1200 miles south of China

      There are two problems with this. The first is that bases in Borneo aren't going to help you close the Bashi channel, and if the Philippines enter the Chinese orbit, they will establish bases there that will prevent us from accessing any base in Borneo. Borneo can be an important supplement to the Philippines, but it can't replace the Philippines in a conflict with China.

    5. "If I were going to seek an alternative to the Philippines"

      Good comment.

      Of course, the problem with alternative basing is that the US does not own any of the prospective lands and would have to attempt to lease basing rights. Almost assuredly, such an arrangement would contain clauses prohibiting the use of the base in a war with China since allowing the use would invite destruction of the host country by China.

      Do you see any way the US can obtain basing rights that would actually prove to be usable in war?

    6. I'm afraid that no ASEAN would allow US using their ports in a war against China.
      Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma are all within the strike radius of PLA air force; they are even under the threat of PLA army. Philippines, Borneo, Malaya and Singapore are relatively far from mainland China, but still within the range of IRBMs. Sumatra, Java and Celebes are as far from mainland China as Guam. However, unlike Japan, ASEAN countries lack the capacity to support a large fleet (poor infrastructure, poor economy, etc.). If Guam is not safe, bases in southeast Asia can only be more dangerous.
      Besides, both economy and military of ASEAN countries are so fragile that they cannot afford any revenge from China, during or after the war. They don't have much to lose now, but may suffer severely if join the US in the war. It's not in their interest to pull the chestnuts out of fire; it would be more comfortable to sit on the fence and take a free ride.
      An alternate to Guam? Diego Garcia and Australia are too far away. South Korea and western Japan are too close to China. Hokkaido? If you don't mind its proximity to Russia. Seems the only choice would be Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Or Maybe Yap and Palau?

  8. With respect, the fear of a nuclear exchange is legitimate, and it doesn't matter who starts it.

    It might be easier if President X explained very clearly to the Chinese that we can't see the difference between IRBM's with conventional warheads and those with nuclear warheads after launch. So if you shoot them at us we will assume the worst and respond with nuclear weapons.

    I'd ultimately like to see us enter into a treaty with China to get rid of the damned things.

    In the end, it doesn't matter whose reaction we are afraid of. The downside is catastrophic.

    1. I almost don't know where to begin.

      Let's start with this. You're still looking at this from a one-sided perspective with ALL the responsibility on the US. You suggest what we should do but you ignore what the Chinese should do, what responsibility they bear in this, and what fears they ought to have.

      Next, you don't acknowledge that the Chinese have already made their calculation about the nuclear equation and decided that they have nothing to fear. If they had any fears, they wouldn't be building ballistic missiles as fast as they can, right? And they wouldn't be planning to use them as one of the mainstays of their military strategy, right? But you don't address that or chastise them for PLANNING to risk nuclear war.

      Finally, you are allowing your fear to modify your behavior (or the US behavior). Yes, you are. You're suggesting limits on our military options (no use of ballistic missiles is essentially what you're saying) and you're suggesting a [let's face it] pointless "warning" that the Chinese know we're not serious about. How do we know that they know we're not serious? Because they're already building ballistic missiles and planning to use them (my previous point). That shows that they've already made the calculation that they have nothing to fear (again, my previous point).

      So, barring a billion to one unlikely response to our "warning" in which the Chinese suddenly come to their senses and destroy their entire stock of ballistic missiles, your fear would have us facing hordes of ballistic missiles with none of our own to return fire. That's going to war with one hand tied behind our backs!

      Jim, this is not a personal attack. I'm just illustrating a nuclear fear phenomenon that is all too common in the West. Is nuclear war to be feared? To any sane person, of course it is! But, and this is the key but, we can't ignore the realities or let it affect our behavior to the point it becomes a one-sided negative impact on our military capabilities.

      Here's the question you need to answer: Why isn't China afraid of using ballistic missiles and triggering a nuclear retaliation from us?

    2. I have some thoughts forming for a response, but A) I need to reread and think about things first and B) in going out of town for a few days, so it might be a bit. Just writing this to let you know I didn't take it personally at all, I like this site because it makes me think. If I don't get something out in the next day it's because I'm gone, not offended. :-)

    3. CNO,
      To answer why China is not afraid of using SRBM and ASBM.

      Because, they have been 'educating' you about it by,
      1. Stating their no-first-use policy again and again.
      2. Pre-empt with nuke is suicide-by-homicide.
      3. By inviting US spy-SAT to monitor the signatures of their SRBM, ASBM, and ICBM test launches.

      They will repeat 1-2-3 until you get it. Your own 'studied and cold rationale and logic'is China's best defense.

    4. "To answer why China is not afraid of using SRBM and ASBM."

      I'm completely missing whatever point you're making. Try again?

    5. Clarification,

      " To answer why China is not afraid of using SRBM and ASBM: because you will believe they are not nuke tipped"

    6. I wouldn't say our lack of ballistic missiles is the issue--between the B-2 fleet and the SSGNs, we've got a pretty robust ability to drop eggs on things.

      Two issues: first is that an attack on the Chinese mainland is an escalation. Fear of nuclear response aside, both nations will think very carefully before attacking the other's homeland. That goes both ways--a preemptive attack on Guam, let alone Pearl, would clearly draw a massive response from the U.S., and the Chinese know that. Still, no getting away from the fact that the Chinese missiles will be heading at the water or small islands, while the U.S. ones will be heading for the Chinese mainland. Sometimes the defender just gets the advantage.

      Second is what do we shoot at? I don't see how any reasonable amount of long range ordnance would protect Guam--mobile ballistic missiles are too difficult a target. The Chinese have made a strategic investment in ballistic missiles--they're practically an entire leg of their armed forces--and it seems like they might be the right tool for the job in the Pacific.

      That said, what is the U.S. strategic goal? If we're trying to maintain sea control of the Western Pacific, we may just have to adjust to the reality that land based air isn't going to be useful.

    7. "That said, what is the U.S. strategic goal?"

      How about if I look at 'what is China's strategic goal' under 3 scenarios:
      1. Continue rise-by-enforcing-Peace until the frog is slowly cooked.
      2. Conventional war slip to nuke exchange...

      Well, we are on a trajectory to 1, and 2 is not yet that leaves to 3

      3. A massive conventional war at westpac if happens. What will China try to accomplish in 3, the price it is willing to pay, and what kind of choice it wants the US to face at the pause.

      3.1. What it will want to accomplish: Taiwan unification and complete destruction of Japanese Navy/AF (and its mil.rebuild infrastructure). I would even go as far as: PLA will make conscious effort to minimize damage to US mils, other than what it must do to complete the two goals, to send a 'hard olive branch' for the aftermath (therefore, PLA might not even launch attacks on US territories)

      3.2. What price it is willing to pay: Destruction of its own Navy and possibly its Hainan Nuke deterrence asset(given that both are at the battle zone), and substantial portion of its AF (but enough modern AF asset, plus its rocket force, will be saved for the long haul).

      3.3 What kind of scenario the US is facing at the pause: Taiwan is gone (unless US wants to retake it in a land war, 100 miles from China shore). Japanese surface Navy/AF is gone. US mils. owns the water/air maybe upto 100 miles offshore of China (but China still retain its long reach conventional missile corps). And most likely both SK and NK kept their heads down and stayed out of fight. Russia is actively supplying China and wants US/China to hurt each other more. Escalate or armistice.

      There is another possibility/scenario, a subset of 1. I called it: LAPD keep the street orderly and safe in a mafia turf- if the 'police and the mafia' has an understanding.

    8. Tim, you're in the vicinity of a great comment, there. This kind of analysis is exactly the kind of discussion I want to see, whether I personally agree or disagree. Well done.

      1. I think I understand the gist of your option 1 but I'm not positive. Your colorful phrasing is possibly obscuring a clear understanding. Maybe try restating option 1 in clearer terms?

      I would disagree a bit about the extent of Chinese actions directed towards the US in a war. I see no possibility that the US would not fully engage against China if Japan were attacked. Therefore, I see no possibility that China could limit its actions against the US without seriously undermining their own efforts against Taiwan and Japan. China would have no choice but to fully engage the US. What do you think?

    9. "Taiwan unification and complete destruction of Japanese Navy/AF"

      That's fascinating. I agree that any military action by China would include the seizure of Taiwan just as a matter of routine. The fascinating part is your suggestion that Japan would be a major goal. Why?

      Yes, there is plenty of hatred and old scores wanting to be settled but kind of see the opposite. I think China would make every effort to keep Japan out of a war with the US (such war being triggered by the seizure of Taiwan). If they could get Japan to remain neutral, the US would lose a powerful and valuable allied fighting force - greatly simplifying China's military strategy - and the US would lose access to many close bases and would have to fall back to Guam - a major coup for China. Such an achievement might be enough, on its own, to discourage the US from pursuing war.

      So, I see the opposite as regards Japan. What do you think?

      Along the same line, what would China gain from targeting Japan? Even if they could eliminate Japan's navy and air force, it would cost them their own. Yes, China could rebuild over time but so would Japan. There would be no net gain for China. What's your thinking about the Chinese rationale for targeting Japan, specifically?

    10. Tim has offered an intriguing analysis of China's goals in the event of war. Anyone else have other ideas?

    11. "and its mil.rebuild infrastructure"

      This alone makes your analysis worthy of serious consideration!

    12. 1. China-rise (or China rejuvenation) has always been a modern Chinese dream (regardless of parties) since the fall of its last dynasty. The idea was put forward by Sun Yet Sen, the 'George Washington' of modern China. Under current watch of CCP-China, it believes it can manage China-rise without armed conflict- given the natural size/population, or total wherewithal (quantity+quality), of China (unlike past Nazi-Germany or IJ). Personally (and this is where I differ from CCP thinking), I believe China can achieve its rejuvenation without its aggressive-non-violent foreign policy (perhaps due to my 30+ years here, so I understand Americana more than Beijing. Yet, I can also understand why you, CNO, view China as an enemy bec of CCP posture interpreted by your non-Chinese background). CCP has its additional POV due to its past history with the US, yet I believe it does not view the US as intractable enemy; in the end, it also views the world is big enough for both to trade, if not friends, together. The 'frog' is that eventual bilateral relationship (from China's POV), and the 'cooked' part is the US acceptance of such end.

      2. As for why Japan? There are 2 reasons: historical and practical.

      2.1 Historical: Unlike China, the US already flipped several pages past WW2; whereas, to china, 'loss of Taiwan, 1895', Yasukuni-shrine, ww2 revisionism, and Japan's anti-China stance, keep reminding China of its '100-year humiliation/trauma'- majority of which was attributed to Japan. And current Japan/Abe's stance keeps blurting the present from the past, especially when China (and Korea) views themselves as victims (not victor) from WW2. Also, in its long history between Japan/China, it was always Japan invading the mainland/korea. Mongols tried to invaded Japan and failed, but Chinese never did.

      2.2 The practical: as your piece stated- Guam is your forward-est US base..Well, Japan is your forward-est base, period. Take out Japan and Taiwan, the US becomes 'pre-Pax Britanica', a sea power, with the Pacific as space/distance buffer. Or, look this way: the USN/AF is the main front, Japan is your flank; Chi-com always go at the flanks. Also, unless the US is directly attacked (i.e. Pearl Harbor, or 9-11), the Americans is clinical about its warcraft, but its heart is never totally in it to the end. Beside, China will view this as- if it takes a fight to get to know (and learn to live with) each other better, so be it.

      As for 'destroy and rebuild', all of Japan is(or will be) under missile coverage. And since Japan has no nukes, the US will not mistaken Chinese missile rain on Japan as nukes. Whereas China, China probably will retain mil.superiority, and thus aerial mil production, above its landmass.

    13. I like where Tim is going here, kind of agree with the destruction of Japanese naval forces over USN, not sure why but it sounds right.

      Without going into politics, if China were to just go to war with Japan and keep out/away from US forces, would this current administration go to help our ally? Not sure from statements we have seen about allies in Asia and Europe but sounded like: they don't pay, we don't defend.... As a political strategy, trying to separate Japan from USA would be a good thing for China.

    14. NCIO,

      I want to make one clarification: China knows going to war against Japan (or anybody), proactively/or reactively, is its worst option- for it will stop its path to rejuvenation stone cold dead.

      My above scenario only pertaining to an unavoidable war where all Chinese statecraft to avoid one is exhausts (which is not the case now).

    15. "China rejuvenation"

      What China seems not to realize (or not to care about) is that their rise cannot come at the forced expense of someone else. To "rise" by trampling over someone else is a surefire way to ensure the development of enemies. The US didn't start by wanting to conflict/confront China. Consider the Nixonian attitudes and good will. China has spent that good will and continues to spend whatever good will it has left by militaristically and illegally confronting the US and world community. Your non-violent rise theory may sound good on paper but every action China takes is actively driving the rise TOWARDS eventual violence.

      The US has no problem with sharing the world economic community. We've done so with Japan, Germany, and so many others. China, for some reason, insists on trying to dominate rather than share.

      The issue is not whether China is right or wrong but why China is knowingly on a path leading to a violent confrontation? They apparently see the benefits of an eventual war as being worth the cost. Either that or they believe they can bully their way to victory without a war happening - and, to be honest, the US has done nothing to dissaude them of that view.

      I see no other alternative but eventual, inevitable war. Very disappointing.

    16. "China rejuvenation"

      How strange that phrase means different things to different party.

      The first time I heard(or paid attention to) was when I was 12 yrs old in Taiwan, almost 40 years ago. It meant, in sum, China will be prosperous, strong, fair, and not to be bullied again.

      Yet the same phrase to you means a scheming bullying China trying to usurp the steady hand that has brung about 60 yrs of prosperity and stability.

      And to my Japanese co-worker, it means a vengeful China trying to do in his homeland.

      How can all 3 views be so different, so visceral true respectively to each own yet be so construed by others, to the risk of a mistaken war?

      (have you wondered? if you replace 'China' with 'the US', and the other two with, say, Russia/Latin America/or anywhere the US mis-stepped in; how come they don't see the Americana that you saw and brought up in?)

    17. QUOTE
      The issue is not whether China is right or wrong but why China is knowingly on a path leading to a violent confrontation? They apparently see the benefits of an eventual war as being worth the cost. Either that or they believe they can bully their way to victory without a war happening - and, to be honest, the US has done nothing to dissaude them of that view

      If China follows Sun Tzu's thinking they are pointing not to the target they are showing to us, but to a different one.
      And they don't expect to achieve their ultimate goal instantly, but on a step by step approach.

      They want to be THE world power, because, as CNO said, they don't share, they impose.
      I think that sharing requires a democratic viewpoint, in which you respect the one who is in front of you. My understanding is that Chinese don't respect individual people, they respect power.

      With this violent confrontational approach in the SCS, I think they want to intimidate every country out there and they also want to check any reaction that the US may take, because they want to capture and seize the Philippines through a political attempt.

      With the Philippines under their control, China would be much more powerful and the de facto ruler of South East Asia. A big step in becoming THE world power.

      For Sun Tzu, the best battle is the one you win without fighting. And I think that that is what China is trying to do with the Philippines, by pushing the US and Japan to the side and approaching/intimidating phillipines' government who is increasingly going closer to China and away from the US.

    18. I have no doubt that you are correct about the Philippines. That's not their ultimate goal - world domination is - but the Philippines are one of the major steps along that path. Sadly, they are succeeding and the US is failing to stop them.

    19. "How strange that phrase means different things to different party."

      Without getting too deep into the geopolitics of it, it's hard to view China's actions as being anywhere in the realm of friendly, peaceful, and world-neighborly. From any reasonable perspective, their actions are the complete opposite!

    20. " Without getting too deep into the geopolitics of it, it's hard to view China's actions as.." That perspective can be geographical varied & position-swapped (i.e. westpac, ME, Africa, etc.)

      I would add "respective national interest butting up against one another"

      China is not out for world domination because,

      1. It is easy to conquer and difficult to govern the aftermath, especially of dis-similar culture. Mongols left China after 80 years because for them to manage China, they have to be sinitized/assimulated (i.e. read/write Chinese to govern) like later Manchus; and Mongols refused to become Chinese, unlike later Manchus. Or, you can think of Bush Jr/Obama's Iraq/ME.

      2. My wife and I are daughter/son of Chinese and parents of 2 Americans. We can't even ram through 'Chinese way/thinking' when they became teenagers; China won't even try to the rest of the world.

      Given all the above (and this is where west and China thinks differ: Chinese does not believe there is a set of universal human values and rights; only cultures/people evolved differently according to their own sets of circumstances), China believes diplomacy is a set of pragmatic rules-of-engagement without imposition of ones values.

      You know..past POTUS, up to and include Obama, all carried with them the western value of human right & freedom (hence that intractable fatalism you exhibited about US/China future clash), but I (and Beijing for sure) see a shade of 'Chinese statecraft' in Trump that's going to give Beijing a taste of their own craft.

    21. The first gulf war had a big impact on Chinese military thinking. A lot of what they've done since then is explained by them wanting to make sure that can't happen to them.

      As a hypothesis, take one of their national security goals as preventing the U.S. from mounting an extended air campaign over the mainland or Taiwan. What do they need for that?

      (1) prevent carriers from operating within ~600km or so: hence the ASBMs and island building.
      (2) hold nearby airbases at risk: this article
      (3) block the long range bomber force: shows in their semi-stealthy long range interceptor/anti-tanker plane.

      Which seems to fit pretty well. If that's the case, its interesting, because even though they're being offensive it's in service of a fundamentally defensive goal.

      Also suggests more productive ways to approach this than "appease/don't appease"--can we tease out any core Chinese interests that the US can live with? In the best case, trade confidence building measures about U.S. air posture for them backing down the island grabs. Don't think you'll ever get them to agree not to be able to hit an airbase that can hit them.

      Is being able to gain air superiority over the Chinese coast a core national interest for the US? It if is, I agree with CNO's conclusion that war is inevitable.

  9. One big problem with Guam.

    It's very controversial for the locals. Some like it because it helps their economy, but others want the US out. That could be a problem in a war.

    A serious question becomes, it is it "worth" holding on to Guam in a major war. That presents big opportunity costs.

    The US presence on Okinawa is also deeply resented by the locals.

    1. The issue is both Guam and Okinawa is the behavior of the marines over many years. They do not seem to have the same anger toward the navy or the airforce.

  10. "Going to Guam? :)"

    Good Lord no. But if everyone on the forum wanted to chip in I'd be happy to fly out to Pearl and do some on site research.

    1. An extremely generous offer on your part!

  11. Guam is a very interesting question. IRBMs and ASBMs are able to pull the fleets back, as far as 1000 miles off the coast today. Imaging if the Axis and Allies have today's technologies, including IRBMs, ASBMs and long-range bombers:
    UK will surrender. Spain will join the axis. Allied ships will be expelled from the Mediterranean. Portugal, Ireland, Sweden, even Vichy France and USSR would be neutral.
    How could US "defeat" an Axis Europe? Supposing that US has the strongest navy. From Iceland or Azores?