The United States Air Force is actively upgrading its strategies and training to counter the increasing threat posed by the Chinese navy, which has seen a significant expansion in both size and capability. This development has raised alarms within the US military, prompting a renewed emphasis on anti-ship warfare tactics.
Historically, targeting maritime vessels has been a part of US pilots’ training, but the current scenario presents a more complex challenge due to China’s advanced air defense systems. These systems, equipped on both land and Chinese warships, create a formidable barrier, described by US commanders as a “wicked” problem.
China’s naval growth is evident in its frequent launch of new, more sophisticated ships, now constituting the world’s largest navy. These vessels have been increasingly involved in complex operations across the Pacific, notably demonstrated during the large-scale exercises around Taiwan in August 2022 following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.
In the event of a conflict over Taiwan, US forces would first need to address the threat posed by Chinese warships. These ships, equipped with surface-to-air missiles, create anti-access/area-denial zones, complicating US military operations in the region.
The challenge is further compounded by China’s dense and integrated air-defense system along its east coast, forming a key component of its counter-intervention strategy. This strategy aims to prevent US and allied forces from operating effectively in the region.
Despite the untested nature of China’s naval and air forces in combat, their capabilities, heavily influenced by lessons from other militaries, including the US, present a significant challenge. However, China’s current aircraft carriers lack certain capabilities, such as launching airborne-early-warning-and-control aircraft, a gap expected to be filled by its newest carrier, Fujian.
The US Air Force, recognizing these challenges, is refocusing on maritime-strike missions, as seen in recent training exercises and developments in weaponry. Exercises like Green Flag-West and Red Flag have shifted towards scenarios involving maritime surface warfare, reflecting the strategic pivot to a maritime focus.
Additionally, the Air Force is updating its arsenal for maritime operations, testing new weapon systems like the “Quicksink” and exploring the acquisition of new anti-ship missiles. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to ensure readiness against well-defended warships over extended ranges.
In summary, the US Air Force is adapting to the evolving threat landscape in the Pacific, emphasizing the integration of forces and the development of capabilities to counter sophisticated maritime threats, particularly from China.