Would the U.S. Ever Launch a Ground Invasion of China in the Event of War?

 In Land, China, Forces & Capabilities, P5

Video Above: Army Research Lab Scientists… Tells Warrior About Engineering New Explosives

But build­ing the abil­i­ty to do so may help deter Beijing and keep the peace.

By Kris Osborn — Warrior Maven

The U.S. Army’s Pacific the­ater strat­e­gy has long main­tained that it does not plan to con­sid­er a land war against China for a number of key rea­sons. 

First and fore­most, per­haps most obvi­ous­ly, deploy­ment would be a prob­lem. How could any kind of mech­a­nized land force, with the req­ui­site expe­di­tionary capa­bil­i­ty, mobi­lize for some kind of large-scale land assault on the Asian con­ti­nent. Where would there be a stag­ing area? Possibly India, a major U.S. ally, could offer some kind of option. Abrams tanks, for exam­ple, need to be shipped, deployed and pre­pared, as do larger infantry car­ri­ers, how­itzers and other weapons sys­tems. For this reason, the U.S. Army has based its approach on the prospect of joint-attack options with force con­cen­tra­tions pos­si­bly launched from Japan, Australia, allied island areas south of China, such as the Philippines or South China Sea area.

Furthermore, China is known to pos­sess a large mechanized force along with as many as one mil­lion ground sol­diers, a sce­nario that clear­ly presents a threat like no other in the world. Then there is the issue of China’s rugged, moun­tain­ous ter­rain, making it almost impos­si­ble for larger mech­a­nized forces to advance. 

But what about the Pentagon’s plan for a fast-emerg­ing modern Army specif­i­cal­ly intend­ed to be more expe­di­tionary, deploy­able and air-empow­ered?

For exam­ple, sev­er­al of the new armored vehi­cles now in devel­op­ment, such as the light tank Mobile Protected Firepower plat­form, are specif­i­cal­ly engi­neered as lighter weight yet heav­i­ly armed, sur­viv­able armored attack plat­forms poten­tial­ly deploy­able by air. 

Also, what about the Army’s emerg­ing Future Vertical Lift heli­copter pro­gram, slated to emerge in 2030?

These air­craft have nearly double the range of Black Hawk, Apache and Kiowa heli­copters, bring­ing an entire­ly new dimen­sion to land-air attack pos­si­bil­i­ties. The new Attack-Scout and Long-Range FVL heli­copters will double combat radius and hit speeds well above 200mph. 

Should ini­tial Chinese air and ground defens­es be soft­ened with a relent­less stealth bomber or car­ri­er-launched air attack, faster, longer-range heli­copters could con­duct air assaults on inland Chinese tar­gets. C‑130s could drop para­troop­ers in close coor­di­na­tion with close air sup­port from F‑22s or F-35s. 

Joint net­work­ing, increas­ing­ly becom­ing longer range, more inte­grat­ed, hard­ened and multi-domain could also easily favor some kind of inland land assault. Fighter jets and sur­veil­lance planes now have new data links, improved higher-fideli­ty sen­sors and more pre­cise much longer range air-to-ground weapons

Land attack-capa­ble destroy­ers such the Zumwalt-class and ship-launched Ospreys and F‑35s would com­ple­ment any kind of major inland attack by hit­ting for­ti­fied defens­es. And sub­marines should not be for­got­ten as well, given that they are armed with land-attack Tomahawk mis­siles increas­ing­ly able to change course in flight to find and destroy moving inland tar­gets such as Chinese armored forces maneu­ver­ing into posi­tion. 

However, none of this means that U.S. land forces would ulti­mate­ly pre­vail in this kind of mas­sive, chal­leng­ing con­fronta­tion. Moreover, the Pentagon does not plan any kind of Chinese inva­sion. The real­is­tic prospect of suc­cess with this kind of oper­a­tion, nonethe­less, could func­tion as some kind of strate­gic deter­rent ulti­mate­ly designed to pre­vent war. 

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn pre­vi­ous­ly served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army — Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air mil­i­tary spe­cial­ist at nation­al TV net­works. He has appeared as a guest mil­i­tary expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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