A Chinese admiral said to settle the US “problem” they should maybe sink two US supercarriers, causing up to 10,000 US casualties and the loss of two multi-billion-dollar assets.
Has he considered that it would be an act of war? An act of war against the single most powerful military on the planet? Commanded by a man who would love nothing more than to reply with massive retaliation?
Donald Trump is no Obama. He would not apologize to the Chinese for allowing them to sink two of our carriers. Trump will come out swinging for the fences. Literally anything short of nuclear weapons would be used. Maybe even tactical nukes, if that is how China attacks our carriers. I can’t think of another way they could sink two of them at once. Just because the Chinese admiral could care less about losing 10,000 sailors (there’s plenty more where those came from) does not mean Americans are so cavalier about the lives of our men AND WOMEN in uniform. He totally misjudges what the American response would be to such a dastardly attack. Kill off several thousands of our men and women in uniform in a sneak attack and we as a people begin to foam at the mouth and shout; “Kill ‘em all, and let Satan sort them out!” The last time someone pulled off a huge sneak attack in the Pacific, we firebombed their capital and nuked two off their major cities, as well as sinking most of their fleet. Making Americans so mad they can’t see straight is NOT a good thing. We are not safe to play with when we’re copping an attitude.
How insane is it to contemplate committing an act of war against your largest trading partner? If the Chinese are not liking the current sanctions, they’d really hate a total embargo and blockade of all their ports. No ships in or out. Any naval vessels in port sunk, any naval vessels still at sea when the attack occurs would be sunk. Their merchant fleet would be chained to neutral harbors. Our NATO allies (basically the wealthiest group of nations on the planet outside of China) would be forced to seize any Chinese ships in their ports until the end of hostilities. Merchantmen and naval vessels (not many naval vessels outside of Chinese waters) alike would be impounded in port. Does the good admiral realize how much trade goes by water to both the US and NATO countries? NATO represents the wealthiest “club” on the planet. Trade with the US and Europe would be halted. Trade with UK Commonwealth nations would halt or be severely curtailed. Trade with South Korea, Australia, Japan, Brunei, the Philippines and India would also cease. China could not send goods to or from the Middle East either as the US fleet would see to that. China would suffer from extreme pecuniary strangulation not to mention loss of all imports of energy and raw materials that come by sea, which is something like 90% of their imports.
All China would be able to export would be either overland or by overland air routes that do not cross a US ally’s or Commonwealth member’s airspace. All of their seaborne trade would halt as the US navy still rules the waves, let alone the assistance of Australia, Japan, South Korea, the UK, et al, even if the NATO countries did not intervene militarily. Nothing in, nothing out. That would be a very effective way to ruin their economy and bankrupt them. Remember, the business of America is business. And when total economic war is declared we are very good at it.
AMERICA: China is a paper tiger. In a sneak attack they may do some damage, and their submarines can be troublesome but the US and its allies will have air supremacy in short order. Look at US assets in the Pacific theater. Aircraft, bases, weapons. Strategically place to cut China off in a dozen places. Attacks against China proper can occur from almost any of them.
NATO allies are obligated to respond against an attack on any member. Even Canada responded after 9/11. So, NATO member assets at sea will engage Chinese naval vessels and board and seize Chinese merchantmen. Any “neutral” ships bound for China would be ordered back to their home ports – or else they would also be boarded and seized. Any Chinese made or bound cargo would also be subject to angary, even from neutral shipping.
Sinking a US supercarrier is easy enough to say, but it is incredibly difficult to pull off. The US has not lost a carrier in combat since the Essex class was commissioned during WWII. US carriers are very mobile and very well protected. If one is attacked the rest go on full alert and anything which enters their area is attacked if not positively identified as friendly. That means anything which returns an echo underwater is going to get depth-bombed and/or torpedoed. Sorry, whales.
US supercarriers are designed to absorb punishment and keep on fighting, and their abilities to defend themselves are not to be despised. There are rings of defense that stretch out hundreds of miles in all directions, from the sea floor to the edge of space. Aegis class defenders can take down even the supposed Chinese “ship-killing ballistic missiles”. Lesser missiles pose even less of the threat as they have to pass through rings of aircraft, missiles and dozens of radars and other sensors. Right up to the various close-in last ditch defenses of Gatling guns and Rolling Air Frame missiles on the carrier itself. E2D Hawkeye aircraft are extremely capable in detecting threats and directing assets against them. The new F-35 variants are themselves very powerful detection and tracking platforms who can also fire on threats. The US fleet has very sophisticated counter measures as well.
Now let’s look at the opposing players. A US Carrier Strike Group (and we have eleven of them) commonly consists of (from Wiki):
A supercarrier, which is the centerpiece of the strike group and also serves as the flagship for the CSG Commander and respective staff. The carrier is commanded by an aviation community captain.
- A Carrier Air Wing (CVW) typically consisting of up to nine squadrons. Carrier air wings are commanded by an aviation community captain (or occasionally a Marine colonel).
- One or two Aegis guided missile cruisers (CG) of the Ticonderoga class—a multi-mission surface combatant, equipped with BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles for long-range strike capability, each commanded by a surface community captain.
- A destroyer squadron (DESRON) commanded by a surface community captain (O-6) who commands the escort destroyers, with two to three guided missile destroyers (DDG), of the Arleigh Burke class—a multi-mission surface combatant, used primarily for anti-aircraft (AAW) and anti-submarine (ASW) warfare, but which also carries Tomahawk missiles for long-range strike capability. A destroyer is commanded by a surface community commander.
- Up to two attack submarines, used to screen the strike group against hostile surface ships and submarines, but which also carry Tomahawk missiles for long-range strike capability.
- A combined ammunition, oiler and supply ship (AOE/AOR), usually Supply-class (T-AOE); provides logistic support.
Currently, six of the United States’ eleven carrier strike groups are located in the Pacific. The US also has four Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) in the pacific. Each of those is also comprised of combat ships, a load of kick-ass Marines, along with attack helicopters and fixed wing, STOVL aircraft. They are transitioning from the Harriers to the new F-35Bs as I write this.
The US Pacific Air Forces are composed of the Fifth Air Force (Japan), the Seventh Air Force (South Korea) and the Eleventh Air Force (Alaska). That does not count long range, US based bombers such as the B1, B2 and B52 which can sortie from their bases worldwide to strike Chinese interests.
US nuclear submarines in the pacific are composed of 16 Los Angeles fast attack submarines, two Seawolf fast attack submarines, eight Virginia class fast attack submarines, two Ohio class guided missile subs and seven Ohio class ballistic missile subs.
And do not forget the navies of both Japan and Australia.
CHINA: They have ONE diesel fueled “aircraft carrier” of the old Kuznetsov class. It’s mostly been a harbor queen with very little blue water experience. Their aircraft are inferior in sophistication and numbers to the US fleet. The unrefueled strike range of a US carrier air wing is about 500 nautical miles. The Chinese carrier is a ski-jump launcher which means their combat jets must carry a reduced load of weapons and fuel to get off deck, reducing both their range and effectiveness.
China has sixty-odd submarines, the vast majority of which are diesel-electric. All of them are noisier than US submarines, making them vulnerable to our fast-attack subs.
China’s land-based air forces are unaccustomed to operating over water (so are their carrier aircraft, actually). They would be mostly ineffective if the US force stays a couple hundred miles offshore, well within the US strike range.
That leaves the much brayed-about Chinese “ship killer” ballistic missile. Its range is less than advertised and they have never tested it over water or against a moving target, let alone against a moving target with sophisticated countermeasures and effective antimissile weapons. Its ability to be guided en route is limited, US carriers are hard to find in the first place and they can steam at well over 40 knots in any direction they choose. Plus, as was mentioned they are defended not just by guns and missiles, but by very sophisticated electronic and other countermeasures.
The US need never strike the Chinese homeland unless they want to show it would be easy to do. An attack against a US carrier Strike Group would put all the US forces on high alert. Also, the naval and air forces of Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Australia. Since the Philippines have been spatting with China over islands, they may even get involved. The US can use Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from planes, ships or subs to decimate the naval forces in Chinese ports, and to mine the ports from 600 miles at sea. The US Navy would immediately engage any Chinese naval forces at sea. They would also sink or capture any Chinese merchant ships and then deny neutral shipping the ability to land cargoes on or near China. Chinese aircraft will not last long. Not only are US naval aircraft superior, the US 5th Air Force in Japan and he US 7th Air Force in South Korea would make life miserable for Chinese combatants and aircraft.
Now, the Chinese could take South Korea out of the fight by forcing North Korea to make some sort of demonstration, trying to widen the conflict. If so, the US can ask ally India to do the same. India and China do not get on well at all and the Indians would probably love an excuse to poke the Chinese while they are mostly busy elsewhere. India may also use the distraction to pimp-slap the Chinese client-state Pakistan a bit while the world is watching the US/China fight. The Chinese could also use the fight to justify an attempted invasion of Taiwan. Good luck getting a fleet of aircraft full of paratroopers or troop ships across the straits with the US Navy still in existence and against the Taiwanese air defenses and land-based sea defenses. Japan is quite capable of dealing with Chinese aircraft. The problem would be non-nuclear ballistic missiles. Doubtful the Chinese would launch nukes against either Taiwan or Japan as they are both under the US nuclear umbrella. But Japan has long range missiles of its own, which it has bought from the US and Norway, to reply to a Chinese barrage, and soon the Chinese would be too busy dealing with a very angry United States to spare much time and effort toward Japan or US bases on Guam.
What would be the limits of the North Korean effort to aid China? The Chinese may find that Kim would make a token effort. No missiles at US bases or at Japan, inviting a devastating reply from US forces. The US has fought a multi-front war before, and won.
Striking US forces on Guam would be an escalation that the Chinese may not want to try. Guam is considered US soil and we would likely react very robustly to an attack on Guam by perhaps attacking Shanghai in retaliation.
It would be a very bad move for China to start a spat they are going to lose, and lose badly. The US would lead sanctions against them which would cripple their economy and return them to 3rd world status again. Trumps victory would almost guarantee him reelection and that means China would suffer harshly in economic sanctions. Their military would be decimated and wholesale executions of commanders would follow. Their vast land army would have made no difference in the short war, and they would be hungry and restless. Ripe for revolt. They would lose Taiwan permanently. There would be nothing to gain and much to lose.
Therefore, I believe the politicians in Beijing will shut this admiral’s mouth for him and no US carriers will be attacked.