The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney is a university-based research centre, dedicated to the rigorous analysis of American foreign policy, economics, politics and culture.
I don’t think anyone is in doubt on the issues facing the US Military in conducting a near-peer conflict in the region. The lack of real investment over the last 25 years has left the current force aging and costly to maintain. The question is whether the US can either spend the amount required to bridge the current capability gap or if eventually they will withdraw from the indo-pacific region and return to a more isolationist policy likely to the determinant of long term allies in the region.
AVERTING CRISIS: AMERICAN STRATEGY, MILITARY SPENDING AND COLLECTIVE DEFENCE IN THE INDO-PACIFIC
Executive Summary headings
America no longer enjoys military primacy in the Indo-Pacific and its capacity to uphold a favourable balance of power is increasingly uncertain.
Over the next decade, the US defence budget is unlikely to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy owing to a combination of political, fiscal and internal pressures.
A strategy of collective defence is fast becoming necessary as a way of offsetting shortfalls in America’s regional military power and holding the line against rising Chinese strength.
https://www.ussc.edu.au/analysis/averti ... do-pacific
The full report can be downloaded here
https://united-states-studies-centre.s3 ... acific.pdf
To make it relevant to this thread some of the air based recommendations and findings include,
Air power is a critical component of the conventional balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. For America to deter opportunistic aggression by the Chinese military, the US Air Force and carrier air wings of the Navy must be able to project combat power across the vast geographic distances that characterise the regional security environment. This requires bombers, fighters, aerial refuelling aircraft, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms to operate effectively during times of crisis. Beijing’s establishment of sophisticated anti-air and area-denial capabilities, however, means that American air power must develop new ways to surveil, strike and survive in a highly-contested region, and, by extension, hold the elements that comprise China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) network at risk. Unfortunately, the technological advantages that America developed in the 1970s and 1980s — such as stealth technology and precision strike weapons — are inadequate against Chinese systems that can threaten US aircraft at significant distances. Compounding this challenge is the fact that force development, particularly in the 2000s, did not produce the amount or kind of Air Force and Navy aviation platforms that are likely to be required for conventional deterrence in the Indo-Pacific today. Looking to the 2030s, changes will need to be made to the size, composition and capabilities of America’s air power fleet in order to maintain a favourable balance of power in the region.
On basing and hardened infrastructure in the region,
According to some analyses, coordinated attacks by PLA ballistic and cruise missiles on American air bases could destroy “up to 70 per cent” of their aircraft in the opening stages of a conflict. Others have described the damage to runways, maintenance facilities and associated infrastructure that would prevent their use for over a week in certain combat conditions. As air bases close to potential areas of conflict, such as the Taiwan Strait, have come under threat, mastering the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean has become a greater factor in America’s ability to efficiently project military power. Only two air bases — both on Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands archipelago — are located within the 1,000km unrefuelled range of US tactical fighters from the Taiwan Strait. For American land-based air forces to reach the Strait, they would have to operate at longer ranges and rely on vulnerable air-to-air refuelling “that would substantially reduce the sortie generation rate and on-station time of the aircraft employed”
One way to offset this growing challenge is to selectively harden runways, aircraft shelters and other supporting regional infrastructure. As the threat to US basing has grown, military leaders and defence strategists have repeatedly testified on the need to invest in military construction and the hardening of facilities. But the United States has lagged in building resiliency across its bases in the Indo-Pacific. According to a 2014 estimate, the US military had only 207 hardened aircraft shelters across four bases in the Western Pacific, with most located in South Korea — an increase of just 2.5 per cent over the previous 12 years. The Air Force has 15 hardened shelters at Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa; all other bases are either unhardened or shared with allies and partners that may not allow access to their facilities during a US-China conflict. If a major conflict broke out today, the Air Force could operate up to 190 aircraft from Kadena, the vast majority of which would be “parked in the open”. By comparison, between 2000 and 2012, China — which has 39 air bases within 800km range of Taipei — grew its hardened aircraft shelters from 92 to 312, representing an increase of nearly 240 per cent
Lots more in the article.
While the article is critical of US Military forces and overall political will it is important to note that China, the perceived main threat in the area, will have its own issues (economic, military, climate change, domestic unrest and just feeding their population) over the projected timeframes.