Wargame predicts costly US victory in imagined Chinese invasion of Taiwan

Posted on : 2023-01-11 15:33 KST Modified on : 2023-01-11 15:33 KST
In most scenarios, the US lost two aircraft carriers and 10 to 20 warships
An operational map for a wargame envisioning a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (courtesy of CSIS)
An operational map for a wargame envisioning a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (courtesy of CSIS)

A recent wargame suggested China would have little chance of winning if it invaded Taiwan.

However, the strategy game also suggested that the US and its allies must be prepared to suffer terrible losses of life and material in stopping China’s invasion, including tens of thousands dead, two aircraft carriers lost, and countless warships and aircraft destroyed.

The US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Monday released a report titled, “The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan,” which included the results of a wargame predicated on a Chinese amphibious invasion to occupy Taiwan in 2026.

The CSIS said it ran the wargame 24 times to confirm how a Chinese invasion of Taiwan — which would instantly upend the existing US-centered international order — would play out and what the losses would be.

The wargame scenario starts with the Chinese military destroying most of Taiwan’s navy and air force with pre-emptive strikes using massive firepower in the first hours of the war.

The Chinese military then mobilizes its navy to surround Taiwan and blockade all sea lanes to the island, after which it lands ground forces on Taiwan’s shores.

Chinese aircraft also drop airborne units deep into Taiwan’s interior.

In every scenario, however, China’s invasion ends in failure.

Taiwanese ground forces mostly survive China’s initial artillery assault and defend the beaches, stopping Chinese forces from pushing inland.

In the meantime, US forces intervene and neutralize Chinese warships and amphibious units.

To prevent this, the Chinese military launches counterattacks on Japanese bases and US warships, causing great damage.

However, the counterstrikes cannot reverse the course of the war.

The report said the scenario is based on the key premise that the Taiwanese military refuses to surrender to the Chinese and holds out.

It also advised that if the US military is to push the Chinese out, Taiwanese ground forces should be strengthened, the Taiwanese military should store up sufficient supplies, the US military should acquire the right to freely use US bases in Japan, and the US military should acquire lots of long-range anti-ship missiles.

However, the wargame predicted losses so great they would negate the joy of victory.

According to the report, in defending Japan, the US would lose “dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and tens of thousands of servicemembers,” and the high losses would damage the US’s global position for many years.

More specifically, in most scenarios, the US lost two aircraft carriers and 10 to 20 warships.

The wargame also predicted the US would lose 3,200 troops in three weeks of fighting.

That would be almost half of what the US lost in 20 years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because of this, the report warned, “The United States might win a pyrrhic victory, suffering more in the long run than the 'defeated' Chinese," and that "victory isn't everything."

More important, it said, was establishing a "strong deterrence" that would prevent the Chinese from miscalculating.

China, too, would suffer terrible losses.

The wargame predicted that China would lose over 10,000 servicemembers and lose 138 major warships and 155 aircraft.

The report wrote, “China also suffers heavily. Its navy is in shambles, the core of its amphibious forces is broken, and tens of thousands of soldiers are prisoners of war.”

The report predicted Taiwan would maintain its independence, but at a terrible cost, including the complete destruction of its economy.

It would lose 3,500 servicemembers and all of its naval warships, including its 26 destroyers and frigates.

The report said, “While Taiwan’s military is unbroken, it is severely degraded and left to defend a damaged economy on an island without electricity and basic services.”

Predicting whether Japan would jump into the war is difficult, but the report said Japan would probably get involved with China likely attacking bases such as Okinawa's Kadena Air Base, a major US launching base.

The report predicted Japan would lose 26 warships and more than 10 aircraft.

The report said the US would likely release two of its four squadrons in South Korea for use in defending Taiwan.

India and Southeast Asian nations would maintain neutrality, with some offering passive support such as permitting overflight by US forces.

US ally Australia, too, would actively support US forces, but would not take part directly in operations.

By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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