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>For scenarios, there are any number. Trade war, geographic dispute (think Spratly Islands, Senkakus, or China’s maritime claims), resource race (undersea oil), regional conflict with an ally, etc. Taiwan is only one scenario, and frankly not the most likely.
Taiwan is the only one where the US is under extreme time pressure, if the PRC invades the island and takes Taipei then the war is pretty much over.
>As for blockading the Chinese mainland, the size of the country makes that essentially impossible. They can easily bring in oil or other supplies from Pakistan on the West or Siberia in the north. It might disrupt things for them, but it wouldn’t be a choke-hold. Plus, for an effective blockade, you need to seal each port, or at the very least each route to the ports, and that means once again operating in their littorals.
80% of China’s oil passes through the Straits of Malacca, even if that shipping decided to go around there are precious few routes. Overland routes wont be able to supply China’s energy and raw material’s needs, furthermore they are easy to disrupt (put a cruise missile into a railyard or into a pumping station). China doesn’t have the capabilities to project power all the way out to Malacca. Banning western energy and commodities shipments to China will also go a long way. China has an export based economy if they don’t ship goods out their economy will suffer. The blockade would severely impact the west, but it would be fatal for China.
>As for using carrier-based aircraft being used to attack their missile boats while in port, it’s a good theory and would absolutely be the way to go in an ideal situation, but we’re leaving out a few important factors. First, in any fight between the US and China, it’s likely that it was instigated by some Chinese action, which means they get the first move and we’re left reacting. So the odds of all the missile boats sitting in port as nice, easily locatable targets are essentially zero. Some portion of their more than 80 hulls (and that’s just from one class) will be at sea. Also, if you plan to launch carrier-based aircraft against any mainland China port, they’re going to be facing Chinese carrier-based aircraft, land-based aircraft, and one of the most sophisticated surface to air battery systems in the world. You’ll need to be prepared to lose a sizable number of aircraft and pilots which will in turn significantly reduce the effectiveness of your carrier (assuming it hasn’t already been sunk or rendered ineffective by land-based missiles or missile boats).
There is usually a period of increased tensions before any conflict. This means that the US can deploy extra CBGs to the Pacific. It can also deploy extra land based fighters to Japan, Korea, and in the future potentially the Philippines. Granted the airbases need some hardening to survive an SRBM barrage. China’s airforce is pretty weak compared to the USAF and USN, since I’m envisioning a far blockade any IADS will be less of a threat.
These fast attack craft stand little chance at evading an E-2D. One aircraft loaded with SDB-IIs can take out at least a dozen of these attack craft. If the CBG is 600 km out at sea and the DF-21Ds are down China has very limited strike options. If you think that Chinese ports may be too well defended (I don’t) you can just wait for them to sortie out, it will take hours for them to get your CBG in range. Of course if you take out the ISR all this is moot.
>We would target their ISR assets, I have no doubt. But each and every missile boat, plane, etc., can also conduct its own ISR. So every single boat or plane represents a very severe potential threat to our capital ships. We simply can’t base CONOPS on the fact that they’re completely blind to our movements; it would be unnecessarily risky. All it takes is one unaccounted for boat being in the right place at the right time and you just lost a $10 billion aircraft carrier and 5,000 US sailors. Plus, if we can put just as many missile boats in the region as they can, then we have as many ISR assets as they do and they have WAY more targets to deal with which further helps our cause. Relying on a handful of DDG’s and a carrier or two to withstand an onslaught of over 80 Type-022 missile boats, land-based bombers, and land-based missiles is just asking to lose.
Not really, the boats have nearly zero useful ISR capability because of their bad radar horizon. You need either Satellites (which can be jammed, dazzled, or shot down), AEW&C (which can be jammed, dazzled, or shot down), or OTH radars (perfect targets for pretty much everything). Simultaneous attack is not a new concept, the USN has tactics and technologies that can counter it. Most land based AShMs have less than 300 km range, the counter is to just stay out of range until you can systematically dismantle the rest of their defenses. Boats are slow, this makes coordinating one giant time on target with aircraft difficult. This is pretty much what the USSR would have done, same tactics apply.
>As for disrupting the DF-21’s kill chain, that’s possible but it is challenging. I’m sure you can find plenty of articles that discuss the difficulty of intercepting ballistic missiles and those should give an idea of how tough it could be. Basically, if you don’t shoot it down right when its taking off then your only option is to hit it while its targeting you on the way back down. If it’s capable of onboard-targeting then there isn’t much left in the kill chain to disrupt. Obviously the missile isn’t perfect and it will require pretty accurate target information that we could probably find ways around, but it still remains a pretty significant threat. Just check out its reported range: http://cofda.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/china-ballistic-missile.jpg
DoD lists the DF-21D’s range at 1500 km, I’m more inclined to believe that figure since the DF-21D is not a major redesign of the DF-21, your not gonna get more range out of it magically.
You would disrupt the kill chain by destroying any OTH radars, jamming radar satellites or dazzling optical satellites (this one is surprisingly easy), and shooting down any ISR aircraft. Just because the missile has an on board radar (speculatively) doesn’t mean it can guide itself the whole way, it needs to roughly know where the target is.
Short range ABM defenses are very effective and proven, the GMD is really the only one still having trouble but that is an ICBM defense. Even the old ass MIM-23 Hawks could perform limited SRBM defense. Even the lowly ESSM may be effective against something like the DF-21D.
Since the DF-21D uses a radar that makes it susceptible to electronic warfare, for example a big ass GaN array operating in a similar frequency could jam the shit out of it. As it turns out Flight III Burkes will come with said big ass GaN arrays operating in the S and X-Bands, unfortunately I don’t know what band the DF-21D’s radar operates in.
I just don’t see operating in the littorals a viable strategy, not just for small ships but large ships as well. Carriers escorted by capital ships at least have the ISR and range to stay somewhat safe. The way I see it is there are only two ways to build a fleet capable of projecting power, a big ass battle group with carriers and capital ships, or SSNs and SSGNs.