The study, "Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth: Chinese Air Force Employment Concepts in the 21st Century," indicates that China poses a serious threat if it follows through on its defense plans as they are outlined in a number of military publications. The RAND report details how the Chinese military would employ its air forces in a future conflict, particularly in a conflict over Taiwan and a potential clash with U.S. and allied forces.
"Just 10 years ago China's air force was an antiquated service equipped almost exclusively with weapons based on 1950s-era Soviet designs and operated by personnel with questionable training," said Roger Cliff, the study's lead author, in a released statement. "Today, it appears to be on its way to becoming a modern, highly capable air force for decades to come."
"If these doctrinal principles are reflected in actual training and, in the event of a conflict, in campaign and mission planning, the United States could find itself engaged with adversary air forces both qualitatively and quantitatively superior to any it has fought since the end of the Cold War," Cliff said.
The report points out that the conventions of China's air forces have typically focused on defensive operations, but that China is clearly moving in the direction of offensive strategies that will not solely rely on the air force, but in conjunction with conventional ballistic and cruise missiles.
Among the key findings:
- If the United States intervenes in a conflict between mainland China and Taiwan, it should expect attacks on its forces and facilities in the western Pacific, including those in Japan.
- U.S. forces should expect their information systems to be subjected to network intrusions or denial-of-service attacks.
- During a conflict with China, the U.S. armed forces should prepare to deal with electronic jamming on a scale larger than it has seen in any conflict since the end of the Cold War.