A large scale multi day exercise using Command Modern Operations as a simulation of what would take place in the South China Sea region should China attempt to make a larger land grab on another country. We omit Taiwan here as that will be a future exercise on the blog.
Operation Sea Guardian
US Coalition v PRC
Mission and Analysis:
Over the last several years the People's Republic of China (PRC) has unlawfully asserted their claim to the SCS AO (South China Sea Area of Operations) by building permanent marine military structures throughout the area and specifically in the Spratly Island chain. This situation has recently been compounded by an incident between a Philippine naval vessel and a PLA Sansha Maritime Militia vessel off the coast of Palawan. This is the 4th incident in as many months, and it was by far the biggest escalation yet. After several incidents involving the detained crews and ships, the presence of naval ships in the coastal waters off Palawan increased. This led to a naval standoff, where the result was loss of PRC Type 53H2G Coast Guard Cutter after it engaged a Philippine Navy Frigate that was attempting to protect the exclusive economic zone. 143 lives were lost with the ship and another 32 were taken captive by the Philippine government.
Within 72 hours the PRC launched air and anti-ship strikes based from Subi and Mischief Reefs against the Philippine naval garrison in Puerto Princesa. This was followed on by a relatively small airborne assault and amphibious landing on Palawan. PRC forces quickly secured all major infrastructure along with military installations. They then began to fortify the island with air defense and anti-ship batteries. PRC’s stated intent was to protect territorial waters and remove the ability for further attacks to be launched from the island.
Previously the United States policy in the region has been set to avoid military involvement at all costs and rely primarily on diplomacy and sanctions. After an exhaustive two weeks of Diplomatic efforts broke off three days ago. Under request from the Philippine government and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR1635732, American, Philippine, Malaysian, Japanese and Australian Naval, Marine, and Air Force assets are directed to use force if necessary to remove the PRC presence from the Philippine Island province of Palawan. As well as to replace that presence with coalition ground forces.
Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace:
Area of Operations (AO): The AO is the subsurface, surface, and air region as shown in the figure below
US Coalition AO's
Significant Characteristics of the Battlespace Environment:
The Area of Operations is geographically VERY large, resulting in several hour long transit times for fighter and support aircraft. Water depths outside the immediate coastal environment range from approximately 100 feet in the Java Sea to over 16,000 feet in the Celebes Sea. The limited terrain that is involved is very mountainous and provides limited lowlands suitable for amphibious assault.
A moderately strong layer between approximately -400 to -800 feet begins south of 70°latitude, gradually strengthening and deepening moving south. No convergence zones.
The Sea State is 3. Surface temperature is 28° C throughout the AOR. Moderate middle cloud cover from 20-23,000 feet with moderate rain predicted for the duration of the operation.
The weather should have only a moderate effect on expected ASW operations, with the primary effect being a minor reduction in acoustic detection range due to the sea state. It will also have a moderate effect on IMGSAT operations and intel collection.
With the AO and AI consisting mainly of small to large islands, we will see minimal movement of ground forces. China having several bases located throughout the entire South China Sea allows their forces several points of resupply. Close proximity to the mainland allows for quick mobilization of forces. The force they landed on Palawan is not enough to defend the island for any prolonged period of time. Intel shows less than a battalion worth of infantry and supplies are on the island currently. They have however deployed several high level SAM and SSM sites on the island.
The islands and platforms China controls in the SCS will play a factor but will not see much if any ground force movement or amphibious assault of those islands. Intel does show they have been reinforced with SAM and SSM sites. The largest factor and most potent threat are the DF-26 and DF-17 ASBM TEL’s which are deployed on Hainan Island. Their ranges extend past 1000nm and will dictate a lot of actions in the region.
With such a large region of the world in play this operation has been broken up into 3 areas of operations. Those being the North, Central and South AO’s.
The two groups of islands China controls are major factors and allow China to have the sea and air control for most of the SCS. Intel shows at least three PLAN surface groups are active in the SCS. The Liaoning CVN and her escorts are currently somewhere Southwest of the Spratly Island chain. The Fujian and her escorts are patrolling somewhere towards the North of the SCS AO. It carries a mixed airwing of J-35 and J-15 fighter aircraft. The third surface group is South of Hainan Island and consists of a second landing force which intel assumes will be heading to reinforce Palawan Island. The third surface group is located to the Northwest of the Philippines and acts as a screening force for the Northern approach into the SCS. China has deployed many of its SSK’s and at least 4 SSN’s have left port in recent weeks.
Having several surface groups and submarines in the region will allow for a bit of flexibility regarding cruise missile strikes and ballistic missile defense. However most of the fleet's submarine assets will be allocated to ASW as well as hunting the PLAN surface group heading to reinforce the garrison on Palawan. The most dangerous portion of this operation for maritime assets will be the threat of hypersonic ballistic missiles launched from China’s mainland. Avoiding this threat as long as possible will be a main focus, however there will be a point where this threat has to be met. This will be to allow the amphibious assault surface group to get within range of Palawan Island to retake it. Almost all escorts and guided missile ships are carrying SM-6 missiles in their VLS’s which is capable of intercepting the DF-26 and similar systems.
The Aussies have provided a surface group consisting of several frigates and destroyers as well as a helicopter carrier. They will maintain recon, ASW, and support operations in the Southern AO
They have provided a surface group with several destroyers and frigates along with an LHD. Acting as a screening force for any PLAN surface groups or submarines attempting to break out into the pacific. They also will be providing recon, ASW, CAP and support operations in the Northern AO
They have been tasked with covering the Southern approach into the SCS AO and acting as a screen for coalition forces operating to the East. They will be mostly occupied with heavy ASW operations and searching for any PLAN submarines that try to break out to hunt US SAGs.
With the presence of PLA long range ASBM the Philippine SAG has been positioned on the Eastern side of the Archipelago and will provide support to coalition forces attempting land on Palawan to retake the island.
They have also made available a squadron of F-35A aircraft along with 4 E/A-18G EW aircraft and support aircraft including AWACS, tankers and MPA. In addition there are several groups of US personnel at Darwin AB. There was already the 61st FS that was deployed conducting Instructor Pilot training at Tindal AB to the South of Darwin. There are also airborne elements of the US Army along with a squadron of C-17s for transport and airborne assault. The US has also deployed 3 KC-46A Tankers.
A squadron of F-35B aircraft is available based on the CSG along with ASW helicopter support.
Space, electromagnetic and cyberspace dimensions:
ELINT, IMGSAT, RORSAT, SIGINT and several other types of satellites are expected to transit the AOR ten or more times per day, significantly impacting the ability of either side's forces to emit radars without detection. Weather will affect some types like IMGSAT. Synthetic Aperture Radar will play a big factor for both sides as well.
HF and UHF communications are expected to be jammed in various areas throughout the AOR.
Acoustic: The PLAN has excellent acoustic coverage throughout the AOR through the seafloor based acoustic array network, and should receive good cueing on most coalition submarines.
Time Dimension: For scenario purposes, 7 days is allotted to achieve the victory conditions.
Political and Demographic Dimension: