US probable to forfeit 90 percent of jets in case of China conflict

The vulnerabilities of the American military in the Indo-Pacific region have caught the attention of US lawmakers, sparking deep concern. Based on insights from recent war simulations, these lawmakers envision a troubling scenario in which the US could lose a staggering 90% of its aircraft—not due to air-to-air combat, but while they sit idle on the ground during a conflict with China. 

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The main issue at hand revolves around the absence of sturdy aircraft shelters and inadequate measures for base protection. This alarming situation was emphasized in correspondence dated May 8. In this letter, addressed to the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force, the Republican Representatives outlined the urgent necessity to address these significant lapses in security practices.

Lawmakers have underscored the sobering fact that China’s substantial arsenal could potentially overpower the airborne and missile defenses designed to safeguard US bases. They have pointed out the catastrophic implications of enemy infiltration into these bases, which could incapacitate vital air assets, disrupt logistical operations, and considerably undermine the country’s ability to respond effectively in conflict situations. 

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According to various Congress members, numerous US positions in the Indo-Pacific region remain vulnerable due to deficient fortified infrastructures. To add to the concern, aircraft are often grouped for convenience in maintenance and other auxiliary tasks, thereby turning vital US air assets into attractive targets for potential Chinese invasions. 

These lawmakers further pointed out, “During recent war games simulated to mirror a potential conflict with China over Taiwan, as much as 90% of hits to US aircraft occurred while they were grounded, not as a result of aerial combat.”

Among the lawmakers raising these questions, we find renowned figures such as Rep. John Moolenaar from Michigan, who presides over the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, and Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio. 

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Active defense mechanisms, such as air and missile defense systems, are crucial for protecting our bases and forces. However, their substantial costs and limited availability mean that deploying enough to assure comprehensive coverage presents a significant challenge. 

Highlighting the importance of robust defensive frameworks, all sides of the political spectrum have emphasized the need to increase investment in “passive defenses”. This broad range of passive strategies includes hardened aircraft shelters, underground bunkers, and the tactical dispersion of forces both within and across bases. It also encompasses redundancy in logistical facilities, as well as prompt runway repair capabilities.

Further elaborating on their defensive strategy, the Republicans outlined how the United States could potentially mitigate the impact of Chinese missile onslaughts. They made a case for bolstering base infrastructure with robust passive defenses. They argued that doing this would strengthen the resilience of US forces, enabling them to launch a counterattack, recover rapidly, and maintain operations consistently.

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An opportunity

Emerging reports reveal that many American and allied bases in the region may not be adequately equipped to counter Chinese ballistic missile threats. The critical defense mechanisms necessary to effectively nullify this menace are reportedly lacking. 

The parallel issue is that our munitions and supplies, stationed on the front lines, are not adequately prepared for potential wartime demands. This concurrence with a diminishing logistics capability in the US subsequently amplifies doubts over the readiness status of combat forces in the region. 

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The significant scarcity of structures, capable of fending off a barrage of Chinese missiles, is a worrisome factor. The options available are currently limited, with fortified underground bunkers being the only feasible line of defense. 

Alarmingly, it is China, rather than the United States, that is making substantial strides in constructing reinforced aircraft shelters. Over the past ten years, China has erected more than 400 shelters of this kind. In stark contrast, the US’s efforts culminated in a meager 22, mostly located in Japan and South Korea.

There’s a concerning lack of fortified bases in key regions like the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. These strategic outposts are important for establishing American influence in the Indo-Pacific. The lack of their reinforcement is indeed worrying.  

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While these reinforced bases may not offer absolute safety, their robustness may provide relative resistance against attacks, especially submunitions. Such resilience can significantly increase the survival probabilities of essential air forces.  

U.S. legislature members have been vocal about their concerns regarding the noticeable deficit of investment directed toward enhancing the resilience of these Defense Department bases.  

Despite the urgent need for bolstered defenses and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region, military construction efforts have received minimal resource allocation. An average of merely two percent of the current construction budget is earmarked for resilience projects in this critical region.

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There’s a hard reality we must confront—the potential for US naval forces to be overwhelmed in the face of enemy attacks—especially from China in cataclysmic zones like the Taiwan Strait. Unless addressed, this underinvestment could leave us on shaky ground when it comes to effective deterrence and response. 

Our policymakers are sounding the alarms. They stress the urgent need to address these security gaps immediately, for the ripple effects could jeopardize US safety and its key strategic stakes throughout the region. Their suggestions are strategic and multi-pronged: reinvest in domestic shipbuilding, breathe new life into the US Coast Guard and related entities, and fundamentally strengthen naval forces to guard the open seas unfettered.

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