2012-05-08 (China Military News cited from atimes.com and by Jens Kastner) — Much is being said about the Chinese military dramatically improving its combat capability to keep United States forces at arm’s length.
Anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) is the magic slogan, meaning that the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) new shore-based artillery, aircraft and naval assets could deny a rapid deployment by United States forces into the Pacific in the event of a conflict, since the US would face heavy losses. But exactly how concerned is the US?
A US military exercise that took place in April known as Operation Chimichanga provides some of the answers, but if it wasn’t for the journalists David Axe and Noah Shachtman, nobody would have likely taken note of it outside the US army.In an article for the American magazine Wired, the pair described a US Air Force drill in Alaska in early April, during which F-22 Raptor stealth fighters supported by older F-16s paved the way for B-1 bombers, which reduced an imaginary enemy’s air defense into rubble. As this impressive drill was pronouncedly put into a long-range strike context, it was plainly obvious that the exercise was aimed at China, according to the article.
“Officially, Operation Chimichanga was meant to validate the long-range strike capability of the B-1s as well as the F-22s’ and F-16s’ ability to escort them into an anti-access target area,” Axe and Shachtman wrote. “Unofficially, Operation Chimichanga was a proof-of-concept for the air force’s evolving tactics for battling China over the vast western Pacific … the air force would never say that.”
When North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led forces took on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011, there was no such a thing as A2/AD strategy to worry about. Allied warships and submarines could get easily into waters off the North African coast, fire cruise missiles against Libyan commando posts and together with fighter jets destroy that country’s air-defense systems in no time at all. Once the latter was achieved, Gaddafi’s days were numbered as NATO fighter jets and attack helicopters roamed Libyan airspace with near impunity.
In the unlikely event of a US attack on China, things wouldn’t be as simple. One-and-a-half decades have passed since then-US president Bill Clinton ordered the USS Independence and USS Nimitz carrier battle groups into the Taiwan Strait right at China’s doorsteps to stop the Chinese from muscling Taiwan, and such a deployment will not happen again.
Since the PLA was humiliated by Clinton in the mid-1990s, it has honed the A2/AD doctrine to perfection, with the flag weapon of choice being the Deng Feng 21D (DF-21D), the ballistic “carrier killer” anti-ship missile.