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April 08, 2005



Hmm an even better fix would be to push for more democratisation in China, which is a tough thing to do, but certainly less tough than going to war with it, and cheaper too.
Also I think that China won't go to war over Taiwan (although I certainly wouldn't want to test that assumption) because it's only benefit to China is as a prestige symbol. Economically it doesn't help China, Taiwan's tax revenues are only about 15% of China's (in 2000, and is almost certainly less now), and a war would almost certainly cut into foreign investment, and it just bad for business. Politically it doesn't really help domestic matters, since taking Taiwan doesn't really fix any of the Chinese peoples major concerns (the economy, corruption, freedom), and it certainly isn't going to help it gain political influence in Asia. It hardly needs to be said that militarily Taiwan is of no value.

Abiola Lapite

These are all very sensible suggestions, but since when did good sense govern the actions of most leaders? If the Communist Party were run by sensible people, it would be carrying out democratization from below of its own accord, rather than trying to use nationalism to distract the populace or waiting for the inevitable mass revolt.


I heard the USAF took a dive in order to build support for its pet projects.

Abiola Lapite

Yes, I've heard that conspiracy theory being touted by anti-defense activists as well, but the truth of the matter is that the restrictions placed on USAF fighters were realistic in the sort of conditions which would prevail in a conflict over Taiwan (far from friendly bases and outnumbered by hostiles, not enough logistical capability to support maintenance-intensive AESA, etc.), while the Indian Air Force also held back its best fighter models (Su-30 MKI) as well as its highly lethal AA-12 missiles. Anyone who says this wasn't a fair fight is deluding himself.

That the MiG 29 has superior handling characteristics to the F-16 hasn't been news since the early 1990s, when the Luftwaffe acquired some with reunification. It also shouldn't surprise anyone that the SU-30 is a better fighter than the F-15; not only was it designed a decade after the American fighter, but it was designed specifically to regain the edge for the Soviets over the Eagle.

PS: Look at the following pages for more info on how US fighters evaluate against the SU-27 and SU-30, as well as European competitors. (triple-click to select the whole line: the original page is down)

The Europeans have no personal interest in seeing the F/A-22 programme receive additional funding, but what they have to say matches what others are saying: that the F-15, the current top-of-the-line US fighter, is outclassed by the SU-27/SU-30, with only pilot training and superior avionics making up the difference. In the hands of a PLAAF which is able to afford plenty of training time and the best equipment the Europeans have on sale, a lot of US airmen are guaranteed to come home in bodybags, with no assurance that the US could even attain air superiority over the straights of Taiwan.


Why does everyone assume that China must remain in one of its strong, centralised Empire periods? Couldn't it just as well be about to enter one of its multi-warlord periods?


Dearieme hit the bulls-eye on that one; that is a possiblity, except that the US threat is likely to keep people all facing in one direction. What is likelier ove rthe long haul is that the two independent Chinese states, Singapore and Taiwan, will exert a loosening effect economically and maybe even politically on Fujian and maybe even Guangdong by extension. It will never be a question of separatism, but the country may become more federal. Those areas have always marched to their own drummer anyway.

Back to the Taiwan fight - our planes are older and less effective. Staging the fight so close to the homeland, China negates one of our strategic advantages, a superior logistics capablity. There are two options - the poison pill, which would destroy taiwan and maybe, maybe deter China. If Taiwan is only symbolic, then China doesn't care if they end up with a scorched rock. Otherwise, they will not want to kill the goose. I think what they really want, and this is natural and reasonable on their part, is just to get the US from hovering offshore so closely. This sure isn't the best approach with us, by the objective is still rasonable.

Then there is another tactic. If their planes are better than ours, then we might want to win the fight before it starts. That is why God made Tomahawks. If we have anything like that with enough of an area capability to take out airfields, and unless China can put that whole huge air formation underground, that option might work. And since and eye for an eye has no deterrent value, since tyou need to take the cheek as well, we should ifdentify soem critical infrastructure targets, say some rail hubs that serve industrial concentrations, low casualty counts, and let everybody know what the stakes really are. Serve them right for threatening to ship an nuke in a container into Long Beach back in the Clinton administration.

Abiola Lapite

"If their planes are better than ours, then we might want to win the fight before it starts. That is why God made Tomahawks."

The thing is, the United States will *not* want to look like the aggressor in the eyes of the world, so any cruise missile attacks would have to wait until the fighting had begun, at which point the Chinese Navy would already be out in force keeping the USN busy submarine-hunting; besides, the US experience in Serbia indicates that knowing which airfields are the real ones won't be a cakewalk, nor will being able to determine whether real fighters have been destroyed or mere dummies.

If China decides to grab Taiwan, it's *not* going to be another Gulf War, of that much one can be certain. The Chinese have done their homework, and have the resources to plan accordingly.



You take the analysis one step farther, and you are ight, it will be a cold day in hell before we try anything like that. It would have to be so bad that we didn't care how we were perceived, and sadly for Taiwan, it can hardly ever get that bad (for us).

Besides, stand-off weapons are a lot more effective in the arguments of artillery officers and Air Force generals than they are on the ground. It would take huge luck to deliver a knock-out blow to that amount of air power.

Taiwan is too close to China for us to come out on top. It comes down to how much the Taiwanese are willing to destroy to de-appetize the Chinese.

But time may be ion Taiwan's side. Every day that goes by makes Japan more of an issue, as it wakes up from its pacifist respite. India is not going to stay Gandhian forever either. Even Vietnam, which has a history of handing the Chinese their *ss, is going to be in a position one of these years to make their displeasure matter.

Personal note on the Chinese Navy. They are impressive in the quiet ways that matter. A destroyer and an oiler came to visit here and I got to tag along. I was very impressed with the easy and respectful mentoring approach the oiler skipper had with his ensigns and lieutenants. Obviously he and his ship were one of the best and specially chosen, but that kind of good leadership has to be part of the institutional culture; it cannot really arise as an idiosyncracy. Good for them. They are a world power and desreve a good navy, and frankly the more confident, in a good way, that they are, the less they may feel the need to go in for bravado,


Is Taiwan completely incapable of defending itself? From what I've heard and read, they have fairly decent defensive capabilities, and certainly should be able to hold off the Chinese until we come to help.


Taiwan is not completely incapable of defending itself, and amphibious asaults are extraordinarily difficult to carry off, but I still would not want to be facing off with the PLA in this scenario.

Unitl we came to help. A lot can happen in the meantime. There has to be a better way.


Hmmm, it seems there's a mixed bag here (via WoC):
The reasons for the drubbing have gone largely unexplained and been misunderstood, according to those based here with the 3rd Wing who participated. Two major factors stand out: None of the six 3rd Wing F-15Cs was equipped with the newest long-range, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. These Raytheon APG-63(V)2 radars were designed to find small and stealthy targets. At India's request, the U.S. agreed to mock combat at 3-to-1 odds and without the use of simulated long-range, radar-guided AIM-120 Amraams that even the odds with beyond-visual-range kills.

These same U.S. participants say the Indian pilots showed innovation and flexibility in their tactics. They also admit that they came into the exercise underrating the training and tactics of the pilots they faced. Instead of typical Cold War-style, ground-controlled interceptions, the Indians varied aircraft mixes, altitudes and formations. Indian air force planners never reinforced failure or repeated tactics that the U.S. easily repelled. Moreover, the IAF's airborne commanders changed tactics as opportunities arose. Nor did U.S. pilots believe they faced only India's top guns. Instead, they said that at least in some units they faced a mix of experienced and relatively new Indian fighter and strike pilots.
As for "anti-defense activists," I'm not sure the label fits this fellow:

Abiola Lapite

"As for "anti-defense activists," I'm not sure the label fits this fellow:"

He may not be, but he's swallowed a lot of their propaganda whole. Read the comment made by the following guy for a rebuttal of his remarks:

["Posted by: Observer | March 24, 2005 03:28 AM"]

To repeat myself: in any realistic scenario in East Asia, US pilots *would* be outnumbered, AESA *would* be difficult to use, and the AA-12 *would* be on the table for the opposition. What is more, the USAF did *not* meet with the best fighters in the IAF fleet, so this was not by any means the lopsided contest anti-defense spending types want to make it out to be.


There is no good reason to underestimate the Indian pilots, yet it seesm to have happened. Since respecting your opponent is pretty fundamental in war, just as a survival trait, this needs explaining. My admittedly biased impresion of air people is that they are pilots first and warriors second, and that they are technically oriented even when they have human opponents. This is a stereotype, but descriptions of cultures are by defintion stereoypes. In this case I mean Air Force culture, not US culture. Military organizations are well equipped to change their cultures by conscious choice. The Army is getting ready to require its officers, all officers, to develop some degree of proficiency in either Arabic. Korean, Chinese or Japanese. This will take at least a generation since it will require programmtic changes in the universities where the cadets train - you can hardly start this as a Seond Lieutenant and expect to get anywhere. It represents a tectionic shift in Army culture, as much as getting rid of the horses was. And it wouldn't hurt the Af to develop some respect for peopl they have been ignoring (for good reason) for 50 years.


yeah, but then Observer said:
Most creditable observers admit that its possible that the IAF could suprise a complacent USAF crew which didnt expect high calibre opfor and that the USAF brass would use this "embarassment" to push for the F/A-22.

In real life, a shooting war, it'd be the IAF on the defensive- the USAF has too many long range sensors, networked a/c and BVR shooters for the IAF to overcome..

The IAF knew that and thats why they didnt go to town bragging about the exercise.

The USAF used the exercise to push for the F/A-22 but the F15 jocks were caught off guard and that led to some widespread derision in the competitive fighter jock community.

And you can be sure that the next time the USAF goes to India- they'll be prepared and that kill-loss ratios will be more balanced, as befits two professional air arms duking it out.

Abiola Lapite

Swallowing this line is just another form of complacency: the F-15 has had its day, which is why it is currently losing out on contracts to European and Russian alternatives wherever the US government doesn't have the power to strongarm the locals. Besides, the USAF won't be facing down a threat from India, but a much more aggressively armed and far more militarily sophisticated China.

PS: Take a look at what the following article has to say about the handling characteristics of the SU-27, then take on board the modifications mentioned wrt the SU-30 MKI.

I also suggest doing some reading on the AA-11 Archer (R-73) and AA-12 Adder (R-77) missiles this aircraft and its variants are supposed to carry:

If ever American complacency has been unjustified, it is in the all-too common jaded attitude displayed towards the threat posed by the latest Russian fighters. It's pure madness to expect that the US will easily be able to deploy its full panoply of AWACS aircraft and other electronic toys into a battleground in which it will first have to contest the Chinese Navy for the control of the seas in order to protect the aircraft carriers which themselves are meant to be used to gain air superiority. If PLAAF pilots are up to scratch, the Taiwanese airforce will have been reduced to scrap by the time the US gets into the middle of things, as the F-16 is simply no match for the SU-30 when both planes are flown by pilots of comparable skill; what this means is that the supposedly "unrealistic" scenario provided by the "India Cope" exercise could well turn out to be generous to the American side, at least where the seas around Taiwan are concerned.


The US won't be facing down a threat from India, we will far more likely be counting on them as allies, so thier readiness does matter to us. Their readiness matters, but so does yours. The F-15s have been around for a long time. It may have been the search for joint aircraft, that Holy Grail, that postponed a replacement, or maybe there was some other eason. But it si time to buy MIGs or Sukhois, or build something better.

And contrary to what the pious, witless bumper stickers say "What if the Air Force had to give a bake sale...." what if the Air Force got to buy the aircraft it thinks, in its professional judgement, it needs instead of what Boeing tells Patty Murray to tell the Air Force to buy.

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