The US Is Preparing For China To Invade Taiwan
The US Is Preparing For China To Invade Taiwan

The Mechanics Of War: How The US Is Getting Ready For China To Invade Taiwan

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Washington, D.C. (Reuters) -When U.S. and Australian troops practiced amphibious landings, ground fighting, and air operations last summer, it made news that the allies were working together more on defense to counter China’s growing military ambitions.

U.S. officials told Reuters that the high-profile Talisman Sabre exercises had a much more hidden benefit for war planners in the U.S. who were getting ready for a possible conflict over Taiwan: they helped build up new stocks of military equipment that were left behind in Australia after the drills finished in August.

The US and its allies are getting more and more worried that in the next few years, Chinese President Xi Jinping could tell his troops to take over Taiwan, which China sees as its own territory even though it is democratically run. So, the U.S. military is being very honest about how ready it is and is working hard to catch up in an important area: its supply network.

The Army says that the Talisman Sabre equipment included about 330 cars and trailers as well as 130 containers that were stored in warehouses in Bandiana, which is in the southeast of Australia.

The US military hasn’t previously admitted that there is enough technology to put together three logistics companies with at least 500 soldiers each. Their job is to make sure that supplies get to warfighters.

This is the kind of gear that will be needed in a war, a natural tragedy, or a future drill.

Army General Charles Flynn, who is in charge of the Army in the Pacific, told Reuters in an interview, “We want to do this more and more.”

“We already have agreements to do that with a number of other countries in the region,” he said, but he didn’t name any names.

According to interviews with more than two dozen current and past U.S. officials by Reuters, one of the biggest weaknesses of the U.S. in any possible conflict over Taiwan is the way its military moves around in the Pacific.

According to current and past officials and experts, U.S. war games have shown that China would probably try to bomb jet fuel supplies or ships refueling. This would weaken U.S. air and sea power without having to fight heavily armed fighter jets or sink America’s fleet of surface warships.

In response, officials told Reuters that the US is trying to spread its military logistics hubs across the area. These hubs include warehouses in Australia.

When the Pentagon was asked about what Reuters found, they said that the Department of Defense is working with allies to make U.S. troops more mobile and spread out.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., said that the US should “stop enhancing military contact with the Taiwan region” and “stop creating factors that could heighten tensions in the Taiwan Strait.” The embassy did not directly respond to the Reuters story.

When asked for a comment, the Australian embassy in Washington sent questions to the Ministry of Defense, but they did not answer right away.

Some people say that Washington’s network is still too small and that the government hasn’t given the effort enough money or energy.

To get to the bottom of things, the intelligence community is flashing red for the next five years. And yet, some of these plans (to deal with the risks) are 10, 15, or 20 years out,” said Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, who heads the House subcommittee that is in charge of military readiness and operations.

“There’s A Mismatch There.”

DANGERS FOR THE U.S.

The U.S. Transportation Command (TransCom), which is in charge of supplies for the military, has done a great job. It has sent more than 660 million pounds of equipment and over 2 million rounds of artillery to the Ukrainian military to help them fight Russia.

Supporting Taiwan, which is only 100 miles from China’s coast, would be a lot harder, according to U.S. officials and experts.

The United States hasn’t officially said it would step in if China attacked Taiwan, but President Joe Biden has said many times that he would send U.S. troops to protect the island.

U.S. sources say that Xi has told his army to be ready to take Taiwan by 2027. But a lot of experts think that’s just him trying to get his army ready, not a plan for when to invade.

A senior U.S. military source who did not want to be named said that supplies of ammunition are the most important thing in the Indo-Pacific. Fuel, food, and spare parts for equipment are next on the list. “If we run out of things to shoot, that will be a problem right away,” the official said, adding that plans were already well under way for what to do in case something went wrong in Taiwan.

The United States warns that Navy ships could quickly run out of missile defenses in a major battle.

In April, China practiced a war game for Congress in which they planned to attack Taiwan from both land and sea and launch huge air and missile attacks against U.S. bases in the area. That meant the Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and the U.S. military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Becca Wasser of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which ran the war game, said that the idea of attacks on U.S. logistics hubs like refueling ships and aerial refueling tankers was a “wake up call” for many politicians.

“China is going to purposely go after some of the logistics nodes to make it difficult for the United States to sustain operations in the Indo-Pacific,” said Wasser.

To deal with these problems, the U.S. military is looking to safer places to store weapons, like Australia. At the same time, it is also working more closely with the Philippines, Japan, and other Pacific partners.

In July, the Biden administration said that the US would also set up a temporary logistics center in Bandiana, Australia. The goal is to eventually make another “enduring logistics support area” in Queensland.

A document seen by Reuters that was written by the U.S. military said that the Bandiana facilities had room for 800 pallets and more than 300 cars.

In July, the U.S. Air Force held Mobility Guardian 23, a drill in the Indo-Pacific with Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, and the UK. The exercise included medical evacuations and refueling by air.

The military took the chance to leave behind gear, some of which was in Guam. “That gear would be useful in any future conflict,” said Air Force Major General Darren Cole, who is in charge of operations at Air Mobility Command. It helped the forces there deal with the aftermath of Typhoon Mawar.

Cole said that his command was in charge of more than just crisis relief. They were also in charge of planning for “all the way up to full combat operations, full scale major war.”

‘JUST IN TIME’ TO ‘JUST IN CASE’

The military in the United States has changed the way they think. For many years, the US hasn’t had to worry about another country attacking its logistics sites. That let planners focus on efficiency, so they used the “just-in-time” form of logistics that private manufacturers often use.

That way of thinking led to the choice to build mega-bases like Germany’s Ramstein Air Base in order to save money. Ramstein was safe from strikes by the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Mega sites, like Camp Humphreys near Seoul, could become easy targets in a war with China. Because of this risk, logistics are being changed to a more expensive method that involves spreading U.S. stockpiles and putting supplies in different places around the area ahead of time.

A top logistics officer at the Pentagon, Rear Admiral Dion English, said, “You probably need to plan for effectiveness instead of efficiency, and move from ‘Just in time’ to ‘Just in case.'”

After Russia took over Crimea in 2014, the U.S. did this in Europe by putting stocks in advance and investing in bases and airfields that U.S. troops could use if they were required. Before Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the Pentagon asked Congress for $11.65 billion to store equipment in Europe over the course of five years.

A Reuters review of the Pentagon’s budget request, on the other hand, showed that the military only wants $2.5 billion from fiscal year 2023 to 2027 to store fuel and weapons and improve logistics in Asia. Right now, the Pentagon’s spending for the year is about $842 billion.

The U.S.’s fleet of old supply ships is another problem that costs a lot of money. The ships that bring heavy things like tanks into a war zone are usually 44 years old, but some are more than 50 years old.

According to a harsh analysis by CNAS, “The Department of Defense has systematically underinvested in logistics in terms of money, mental energy, physical assets, and personnel.”

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, said that the Pentagon and Congress needed to pay a lot more attention to bases and logistics in the Pacific.

“Our ability to deter conflict in the Western Pacific over the next five years is not close to where it needs to be,” he said to Reuters.

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(Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali did the reporting, and Don Durfee and Claudia Parsons did the editing.)

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