For today’s naval aviators, air dominance no longer is assured. The eroding U.S. technological edge relative to China means the Navy’s presence in East Asia will be ruthlessly contested in coming years. Two decades of technological investment and theft by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has yielded a robust and growing counterintervention defense network. The PLA is preparing for what it calls “joint antiair raid operations”—offensive strikes on U.S. naval forces operating in China’s peripheries.1 Rear Admiral Lou Yuan of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences went so far as to publicly float the idea of sinking two aircraft carriers in a strike preceding an invasion of Taiwan.2 His hope is that when faced with Chinese aggression, the United States will step back and call it quits, because the cost of intervention would be politically untenable.
1. Ian Easton, “China’s Top Five War Plans,” Project 2049 Institute, 6 January 2019.
2. Jamie Seidel, “South China Sea: Chinese Admiral Wants to ‘Sink Two U.S. Aircraft Carriers,’” News Corp Australia Network, 2 January 2019.
3. U.S. Naval Institute, “Debate on the Future of Aircraft Carriers,” 2015. Sam J. Tangredi, “Antiaccess Warfare as Strategy,” Naval War College Review 71, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 33–52. James Holmes, “Visualize Chinese Sea Power,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 6 (June 2018): 26–31.
4. ADM John C. Richardson, USN, “Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson: Deconstructing A2D2,” The National Interest, 3 October 2016.
5. Bryan Clark et al., Regaining the High Ground at Sea: Transforming the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing for Great Power Competition (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 14 December 2018): 3.
6. Amanda Macias and Courtney Kube, “Chinese Military Conducts Anti-Ship Missile Tests in South China Sea,” NBC News, 1 July 2019.
7. Clark et al., Regaining the High Ground at Sea, 13.
8. Paul Mcleary, “No More ‘Playing Defense’ for U.S. Navy; Offensive Weapons Are the Play,” Breaking Defense, 14 February 2019.
9. Johan Lehman, Oceans Ventured (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), 284.
10. Clark et al., Regaining the High Ground at Sea, 94.
11. Megan Eckstein, “Navy Stands Up Joint Strike Fighter Wing to Oversee F-35C Operations, Training, Manning,” USNI News, 29 November 2018.
12. M. Taylor Fravel, Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 224.
13. Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress,” 19 June 2019, Congressional Research Service, 3.
14. O’Rourke, “Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile,” 38.
15. Ashley Johnson, “Don’t Oversell Directed Energy Weapons,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 9 (September 2018).
16. Megan Eckstein and Sam LaGrone, “Navy Picks Boeing to Build MQ-25A Stingray Carrier-Based Drone,” USNI News, 30 August 2019.
17. Sam LaGrone. “Video: Tomahawk Strike Missile Punches Hole through Moving Maritime Target.” USNI News, 9 February 2015.
18. Jamie Freed, “Boeing Unveils Unmanned Combat Jet Developed in Australia,” Reuters, 27 February 2019.