Airpower Critical to Maintaining Military Balance with China

China has largely succeeded in making forward-deployed US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region more risky and costly in the event of hostilities, said Robert Haddick, a leading military analyst, on Monday. The United States must adjust strategically to this, he said during the Nov. 10 presentation sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The Chinese decided in the aftermath of the March 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis they would not allow the United States to use its expeditionary military power to influence outcomes as it had with aircraft carriers in the crisis, he said. “That was the start of the anti-access, area-denial buildup in the [People’s Liberation Army],” said Haddick. Today, China fields a force of more than 1,800 theater-range, land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, he noted. Most Air Force studies and research show between 30 and 50 missile impacts on a major base are enough to suppress sortie-production rates, giving China “vast capacity” to suppress both forward air and naval bases, he said. As technology and ranges improve, the marginal cost of additional missiles will negate expensive defensive measures to protect forward bases, and will make US long-range airpower more important than tactical assets, said Haddick. He is a former Marine Corps officer and author of the book “Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific.”