Air Force Plans to Dodge Chinese Missile Barrage


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May 6, 2009
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July 24, 2009

Washington and Beijing are working closely on a range of economic, environmental and security issues. So it might seem strange that U.S. Pacific Air Force’s new annual wargame, “Pacific Vision,” imagines a no-holds-barred assault by Chinese forces on the U.S. military’s Pacific outposts — and how U.S. forces might dodge the attacks. “A key subject was dispersal of aircraft, in particular, during a military emergency since bases in Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii and Alaska are now considered vulnerable to attack by ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, cyber weapons and directed energy such as lasers and high power microwaves,” Ares’ David Fulghum reports.

An October study by think-tank RAND claimed that a volley of 34 Chinese ballistic missiles could damage, destroy or strand 75 percent of aircraft” at Kadena Air Force Base in Japan, pictured. Kadena is the Pentagon’s most important outpost for East Asian air operations. The perceived vulnerability of existing U.S. air bases has had the odd effect of turning the Air Force into a very friendly neighbor to countries like The Philippines. “One of the reasons we’re out there building partnerships throughout the region, in addition to good will, is access” to new bases, said Lt. Gen. Chip Utterback.

All this appears to be a bit at odds with the China-friendly chatter in many American security circles. “There is no political or ideological reason why China should be our enemy. None,” former Navy Secretary John Lehman said recently. Despite occasional spats over China’s lousy human rights record and the occasional squabble between U.S. and Chinese vessels sailing the Pacific, the two countries seem to be getting along fairly well. And those relatively-warm relations are one of many reasons why the Obama administration this week fought to finally end production of the pricey F-22 Raptor fighter, which has been billed by as a counter to China’s expected combat aircraft fleet.

Even Ratpor defenders like retired Gen. “Buzz” Moseley believes there in “an almost zero chance” that the U.S. and China will get tangeled in a major war. But that doesn’t mean the Air Force is taking chances.

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