US airbase capacity in a hypothetical conflict with China

Discussion in 'Air Force' started by Totoro, Nov 22, 2018.

  1. Totoro
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    Totoro Captain
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    This thread is a continuation of discussion that started in the J-20 thread. Since off topic stuff isn't allowed there, I thought maybe it could live on here. I do think air force subforum is the right place for this, given the number of views this subforum gets each day. It's definitely not for random topics or world military subforum.

    Here's a RAND study that someone linked, that touches upon the subject:

    https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf

    But it doesn't paint a complete picture when it mentions just active unit USAF bases in Japan.

    Here's what bases US has in total, on japanese soil:

    Misawa, operated by USAF.
    One runway. Four more taxiways capable of serving as provisionary runways.
    Very extensive hardrened shelter network. 64 individual fighter plane sizes shelters. 7-8 larger hardened shelters for fighter sized planes. Approximately 27 more planes. 33 possibly double sized semi hardened shelters, so possibly 66 f-16 sized planes. Or 33 F-15 sized planes. also 30 individual sized semi hardened shelters. 32 non-sheltered hangars for fighter sized planes. That'a total of 186-219 fighter sized planes having some sort of shelter. Plus various other larger hangars for larger planes and a bunch of parking space all around the base. 25 dedicated parking spaces (some with revetments) and a large apron space for 60+ planes.

    closest distance to china, if going over russian airspace: 850 km.
    Closest distance to china, if going over international airspace: 2030 km.


    Yokota, operated by USAF
    One runway. Two more taxiways come runways.
    No hardened shelters. 4+ sheleters for small planes, some larger plane hangars. some 55-60 dedicated and separated parking places. Medium apron space, enough for some 30 fighter sized planes, to be parked with same separation as mentioned dedicated, separated parking places.

    distance to china, over russia: 1090 km
    Distance to china: 1710 km


    Fukuoka airport, used by USAF (as well as JASDF)
    Used for logistics purposes as a cargo hub. If Japan doesn't enter the conflict, it's plausible this would be off limits to the US.

    Distance to china 830 km


    Kadena, operated by USAF
    Two runways. Probably no taxiways that could be of dual use as runways.
    15 semi hardened shelters, individual planes. Some 50 shelters for fighter planes. Some 35 separated parking spaces. Plus some apron space for 30-something fighter sized planes.
    This is only half of the base, though. The other half, norther half, seems to be for large planes only. Various tankers, support etc etc. Bunch of parking spaces there, huge aprons, but only a few large hangars. no hardened shelters of course. If used for parking tactical planes, another 100-150 could be parked there with some decent separation between them.

    Distance to china: 650 km


    Kisarazu Airfield: used by USN (main user is Japanese Army)
    Has one 1800 m runway. Very little other facilities. Most likely not to be used by US air forces, except for perhaps emergency landings or what not.

    Distaince over russia: 1150 km
    Distance to china: 1720 km


    Futenma, operated by USMC
    One runway, one taxiway come runway
    No hardened shelters. Some larger hangars. Some 20 or so parking spaces plus a sizable apron, enough for 30+ more fighter planes.

    Distance to china: 650 km


    Iwakuni, operated by USMC
    One runway, two taxiways come runway
    31 hardened shelters. 40 individual shelters, plus various larger hangars. Apron space for some 120+ fighters, with some separation.

    Distance over russia 980 km
    Distance otherwise: 1010 km


    Atsugi, operated by USN
    One runway. Possible one more taxiway to be used as runway.
    No hardened shelters. No small sized shelters, only larger hangars. Apron space for some 60+ dispersed fighters. But as the base is also used by larger USN planes, it's questionable how many fighter planes would be stationed.

    Over russia 1120 km
    Otherwise 1680 km



    Then there's the US soil airbases.

    Anderson, Guam, USAF
    2 runways, 2-3 taxiways come runways

    15 hardened shelters, 12 small shelters, some large hangars. Some 130 parking spaces and apron space for some 40+ planes.

    Distance to China 2920 km

    Guam Airport (civilian, but would get used by US without doubt)
    2 runways, one taxiway
    apron space for some 40 fighters, separated.

    Distance to China 2920 km


    Rota Airport
    One 2200 m runway. Very little apron space. Would likely be expanded into a bigger facility, so it can hold more planes and equipment.

    Distaince to China 2910 km


    Tinian Airport
    One 2600 m runway, one taxiway, possible runway use. Little apron space. Could be expanded into a bigger facility but even without expansion it's sized enough for a dozen planes to operate from it.


    Old abandoned Tinian airbase.
    Has to be cleared and built into an airbase, but there already are 4 old, 2000+ km airstrips from ww2. Definitely a place US would refurbish ASAP.

    Distance to China 2890 km


    Saipan airport

    One 2600 m runway, one taxiway come runway. Decent apron space. Probably two dozen fighters from the get go, before expansion.

    Distance to China 2885 km

    Note, all the Guam area bases are rather far away, so use of fighters from them may not be their main role. Rather, tankers, awacs, recon, maritime patrol, asw and bombers may be the main planes to be used there. Still, a fighter could be used, if need be, though it would probably require some tanking both on trip away and the trip back to base. F-22s in particular seem worth the hassle, as the distance would also protect them more on the ground than if they were stationed in Japan. Though Misawa is also a very likely F-22 home base choice.


    Wake airbase (deployment USAF base)
    One runway, one taxiway come runway. Immediate Apron space for some 30-ish fighters. Though there are other large, clear areas a bit farther away for 25+ more fighters. Due to distance, though, most likely to be used by larger planes. Bombers, tankers etc.

    Distance to china 4600 km.

    There are other countries that could participate (Singapore? Australia? etc) but now we're getting way too much into politics so I'll avoid that.

    Some new bases may emerge. If that co-op Australia-US base on Manus island in Papua NG does happen, as advertised, that'd add another base of unknown size and use, 4250 km from China.

    New bases and airstrips could be constructed on Islands near Guam. That's basically a given.

    existing bases, such as ones in japan, could also be expanded when it comes to certain facilities, like parking spaces, shelters, etc.

    Then there are the carriers and LHAs.

    Japanese bases: shelters and fighter sized dedicated parking places: 450 (apron parking space not accounted for)

    If Japanese base apron space is used: 420 more planes. (though realistically most of those may go to larger planes)

    If Guam area bases are used, 250 more spaces before expansions, new base construction. Realistically, a large portion of those may go to larger planes)

    So, if we add 450 plus 420*0.33 plus 250*0.33 we're somewhere at 670 tactical planes, without the carrier/LHA borne ones. Before any expansions and additions. And providing Japan doesn't change the current status. If it enters the war, then pretty much all of Japan would become one huge base, with dozens and dozens of airpors and airbases. Or on the other hand, if it defies america completely, it may even throw them out from the current bases, in which case US would likely not even try to engage in any sort of a war.
     
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  2. Pmichael
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    Pmichael Junior Member

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    Everything past Japan is plain too far for a high intense conflict, doesn't help that US tactical aircraft outside of the F-35 were designed for the closer European bawl in a hot cold war conflict.

    If the Chinese Navy is capable of pushing American aircraft carriers far enough from the Chinese waters then US will face a not solvable problem regarding projecting air power over possible conflict zones.
     
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  3. Jura
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    Jura General

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    belligerent if you asked me

    did you see this
    ?
     
  4. schenkus
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    schenkus Junior Member
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    A question about the ability of the US to use airbases in other countries: How do the legalities of using an airbase in another country work ?

    If for example the US used an airbase in Japan in a conflict with China about Taiwan, would this need the approvement of the Japanese government ?
    In my understanding the Japanese government couldn't declare itself neutral in the conflict and still allow the US to use bases in Japan.
    I can imagine the politics getting really ugly if Japan were forced to either prevent the US from using their bases or siding with the US in a war about another country.
     
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  5. AndrewS
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    AndrewS Senior Member
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    This is the future strategic point of view

    Basically the areas in RED are bastions where China is expected to have air and maritime superiority.
    Then the SHADED area is where any surface ships will struggle to survive.
    It implies that the handful of Japanese and US bases in the region are under attack from a much superior force based in mainland China.

    It also assumes that Indonesia/Singapore/Malaysia will support the US in a blockade of China, but that is a very questionable assumption.

    And it also places Taiwan as defensible. But Taiwan/China are so close together that I think China's military would overpower Taiwan. Eg. As soon as aircraft take off from Taiwan, they are ALREADY within range of S-400 SAMs hidden on the Chinese mainland. So how can Taiwan maintain any sort of AWACs or fighter cover? But Chinese AWACs and JSTARS can take off from safe airbases, and then maintain constant surveillance with a direct line of sight over all of Taiwan


     
    #5 AndrewS, Nov 22, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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  6. gelgoog
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    In the case of a Taiwan scenario the US could send air force attacks from Okinawa or the Philippines (depends on timeframe). They could also send bomber forces from more distant air bases and bomb targets in the Chinese coastline to blunt the attack. But you are correct that they would not have the time advantage unless they use air bases in Taiwan proper or carriers which would both be extremely vulnerable. You also have to remember that besides the F-35 the USA and its regional partners South Korea and Japan have the F-15 fighter bomber which can be fitted with both conformal fuel tanks and drop tanks.

    I expect in the case of a Taiwanese conflict for Japan to remain neutral and not allow the USA to use its airbases in mainland Japan, with the exception of Okinawa, for fear of retaliation on their major population centers though. Same deal for South Korea. But this is dependent on a lot of variables and could not be the case in the future with a different scenario. I am assuming the current situation.

    About possible bases in the Philippines:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...near-the-south-china-sea-china-isnt-impressed
     
    #6 gelgoog, Nov 23, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
  7. Totoro
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    I don't know if there was a precedent for that sort of thing in history. I don't think legal framework that is currently in place even necessarily covers the issue. There is the current treaty
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treat..._Security_Between_the_United_States_and_Japan
    and it may be interpreted that, regardless of actions of either US or Japan, both sides are obliged to fight the enemy of just of them, if the enemy reaches into Japanese territory.

    In my opinion, several things could happen:
    1. China plays defensively and doesn't attack anything inside Japanese territory.
    2a. China attacks US bases inside Japanese territory. US says Japan is obliged to enter the war against China. Japan enters the war. (maybe it confines itself to defense)
    2b. Japan says "US is on its own. (Maybe it started the war) To hell with US' interpretation of the Treaty. We ask you to leave but we can't force you. So won't interfere with your bases and logistic lines. Even though we oppose it, I guess we cant stop you from using our airspace."
    2c. Japan says "US is out of the line. We will force you out of the bases, no matter the cost. You've got xx hours to leave or our soldiers enter your bases"

    Chinese actions may also influence Japanese decisions. Who caused the war might be an important issue. Who actually shot first might be an issue. Both of those points could very open to interpretation and both sides might see it differently. Who did a large scale attack first (that can be harder to argue over, as it will probably be a clear point)

    What is China doing? Is it attacking just US bases? Which ones? Mainland Japan might be interpreted differently than China attacking just Okinawa, for example. How is it attacking them? Are there civilian, japanese casualties in those attacks? Outside the perimeter of the bases? That's another point that could be contested. US might be doing everything in its power to draw Japan into the war, even if Japanese stance is against it. A simple thing like a Chinese plane being shot down and crashing into Japanese urban area might be an issue.
    Are Chinese ships in Japanese waters? That might be interpreted as more belligerent than China "just" going over Japanese airspace. Are Chinese actually landing troops on Japanese soil? For example Okinawa?

    It will be a very complicated war, if Japan wants to remain neutral. I'd say almost impossible for Japan to remain neutral because US military is so integrated with Japan that there are bound to be japanese casualties. China can't afford to wage war defensively as if it tries to do that - it will lose for sure. And attacking US bases very much means aggravating Japan to a varying degree. When one takes into consideration the US pressure on Japan, both from legal viewpoint ("you signed the treaty, here is how you should interpret it") and from economic/political viewpoint (If you don't help us, we'll crush you economically and isolate your economy as much as we can).

    Basically, I think the chance of Japan remaining neutral is so slim that even the chance of Japan kicking US out is slightly bigger. (Providing China chooses to attack Japanese mainland) Maaaybe if it sticks to just attacking Okinawa, maybe that wouldn't trigger Japan. But realistically that's not enough for China, it would let US have far too much breathing room to organize its forces around Japan.

    This is why I don't usually engage in the politics talk, it requires way too much guesswork.
     
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  8. AndrewS
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    AndrewS Senior Member
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    Have a look at the history of the Napoleonic wars. It literally was a titanic struggle for mastery over Europe, and did force every country to pick a side, even if they were originally neutral and did everything in their power to stay that way.

    But remember that China is more comparable to a unified Roman Empire that spans most of Europe.
     
    #8 AndrewS, Nov 23, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  9. AndrewS
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    AndrewS Senior Member
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    Just keep in mind the interests of each party.

    If there is a US-China conflict, the US will be doing its best to draw all of Japan in.

    1. The benefit is Japanese bases and territory are available to the US military, and these are relatively secure
    2. Japan's military forces would also be drawn into the conflict against China
    3. China would have to divert military forces to attack the Japanese Home Islands. But remember that China's objectives are in the ECS, SCS and Taiwan. The Japanese Home Islands are far enough that can maintain air superiority and are secure from invasion.
    4. And because Japan is an active participant in the war, Trump and Lighthizer would take silent satisfaction in the destruction of Japan's export machine and the resulting US trade deficit. Remember that the Japanese economy is actually more closed and hostile to foreign investment, when compared to the Chinese economy.

    So what does Japan get out of joining the US in a China war?

    And what happens afterwards in the peace?
     
    #9 AndrewS, Nov 23, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  10. Anlsvrthng
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    Anlsvrthng Senior Member
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    Why everyone think that Japan will take the USA side in an USA-Chinese conflict?

    Let see the outcomes:
    1st Scenario : China has not enough resources to win a conventional war . - outcome for Japan : China will nuke the US bases with tactical warheads, JAPAN LOOSE
    2nd Scenario : China has enough resources to defeat USA in a conventional war - outcome for Japan : most probably loose few islands, has to give up the special relationship to USA and loose all export opportunity, and probably has to make peace agreement with China on unfavourable terms.

    Now, the safest way for Japan is if they strictly forbid any usage of the Japanese soil for Chinese war purposes.
    The international law/ treaties doesn't matter, based on the NK example it is better for Japan if they close the airspace , or even if they fight against the USA in the events of an USA -China war. Better to get few nukes .

    I think the nuclear balance simple : if USA / China mainland doesn't get nuke the MAD doesn't start. So, both party can nuke as many middle country as they wish.

    Japan , both Korea, Vietnam in the close proximity of China. The USA far away and in safety.
    Any war with China threatening the sole existence of China , and has no risk for the USA, means China would do anything , but the USA would not do anything.

    The whole global military conflict /war thingy is for money business of USA, with profit from every war, but life or dead for China/ Russia/Japan/Korea, Vietnam etc.
     
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