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.
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 a clandestine PRC effort to place military installations on the Philippine island of Palawan in order to consolidate sea control over the entire South China Sea. 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.
Diplomatic efforts broke off 3 days ago and under request from the Philippine government and in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR1635732, American, Filipino, Malaysian, & Australian Naval, Marine, and Air Force assets under your task force command are directed to use force if necessary to remove the PRC presence from the Philippine Island province of Palawan, and to replace that presence with US Marine ground forces.
Navy SEAL teams under direction of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) have completed the clearing and marking of the landing beach. NSWC assets have also confirmed that PRC forces have erected a FOB (Forward Operating Base), as well as at least 1 S-300 SAM installation in the south central Palawan area
Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace:
Area of Operations (AO): The AO is the subsurface, surface, and air region as shown in Figure 1.
The Area of Interest (AI): The AI is the subsurface, surface, and air region bounded outside this area.
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.
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.
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 action 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 in the Spratly Island chain using the islands air defense and anti-ship missile sites as protection. The second 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 SSN’s have left port in recent weeks.
Having several surface groups and submarines in the region will allow.
The major factors impacting air operations are the distance between bases and the expected operating areas. Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from NAS Keflavik and Andoya AB must transit approximately 300nm to reach their expected patrol areas. (Figure 2) These transit times will reduce on-station time to approximately 6 hours.
The long distances from Soviet airbase to the operating area and the lack of AEW aircraft will make it difficult, but not impossible for Soviet fighters to effectively operate in the AOR outside of Norwegian airspace.
Space, electromagnetic and cyberspace dimensions:
Space: Soviet ELINT satellites are expected to transit the AOR ten or more times per day, significantly impacting the ability of NATO forces to emit radars without detection. Imaging satellites are expected multiple times per day in the AOR. There are no Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSAT) in the scenario, minimizing the Soviet ability to target ships at sea that remain in EMCON A.
NATO has no satellite reconnaissance capability in the scenario.
Electromagnetic: Expected air radar ranges are shown in Figure 3. Both NATO and USSR aircraft operating at altitude over Norway and the Kola Peninsula will likely be detected by NATO and Warsaw Pact forces. NATO enjoys superiority in radar coverage in the maritime regions of the AOR near Iceland. However, there is no coverage of the AOR outside of approximately 200 nm of Iceland, Norway and the Faroes Islands. There are no NATO AWACs in the AOR, so there are significant gaps in NATO air radar coverage in the mid- Atlantic north of the Arctic Circle. There is no known USSR air radar coverage of the AOR.
HF and UHF communications are expected to be unaffected throughout the region.
Acoustic: NATO has excellent acoustic coverage throughout the AOR through the SOSUS network, and should receive good cueing on most Soviet submarines.
Time Dimension: For scenario purposes, 18 hours is allotted to achieve the victory conditions.
Political and Demographic Dimension: Sweden and Finland are “No Fly Zones” for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. This will help channelize Soviet aircraft flights over the North Cape. No other political effects are expected in this scenario.
Battlespace Effects on Courses of Action (COA)
NATO: The large area and 18 hour time limit the utility of MPA barrier operations. With less than two full squadrons of MPA, there are insufficient forces to cover such a large geographical area using barrier operations north of the GIUK gap. The significant NATO advantage in the acoustic detection using the SOSUS network allows for cuing of MPA on specific targets north of the GIUK gap. Surface barrier operations in the GIUK gap are likely to be more productive, especially with the expected CZs. However, such operations are vulnerable to submarines leaking through the GIUK gap and reaching the North Atlantic SLOCs to the south.
USSR: The large geographical area and remoteness from USSR airbases means that there will be little A/A threat to NATO MPA. NATO acoustic dominance also indicates that Soviet submarines will have to rely on superior numbers to saturate NATO ASW coverage and penetrate south of the GIUK gap. Soviet forces will also have difficulty in locating the NATO surface units and must transit through Norwegian air defenses before they can detect and attack NATO surface units.