Much has been made of late of the vulnerability of U.S. Navy and Air Force assets stationed and operating in vicinity of the Chinese mainland, where in the event of armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), they would be easily targeted and dangerously exposed to that nation’s land- and sea-based firepower. When exploring ways to mitigate that vulnerability, military planners should heed Sun Tzu’s maxim, “What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.” To that end, the United States should consider deploying prepositioned and mobile expeditionary land forces along the first island chain and developing the maritime and aviation logistics to support such assets.1
PRC maritime strategy is fairly straightforward: develop an overwhelming conventional first-strike and a sustainable area-denial capability in vicinity of what China considers to be its own sphere of influence. This strategy underlines two of China’s most important national policy positions:
1. The value of this effort, explored in detail in Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., Archipelagic Defense: The Japan-U.S. Alliance and Preserving Peace (Tokyo: The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, 2017), can be further assessed through the use of the Hughes salvo equations, which illustrate the tremendous impact land-based missiles can have in naval engagements.
2. Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., “How to Deter China: The Case for Archipelagic Defense,” Foreign Affairs (2015).
3. David B. Larter, “The U.S. Navy’s New Anti-ship Missile Scores a Hit at RIMPAC, But There’s a Twist,” Defense News, 20 July 2018, www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/07/20/the-us-navys-new-anti-ship-missile-scores-a-hit-at-rimpac-but-theres-a-twist/.
4. CAPT Wayne P. Hughes Jr. and RADM Robert P. Girrier, USN (Ret.), Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, 3rd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2018).