Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sino-Japanese Wargame Thoughtpiece

Friend of the blog and regular guest on Midrats, Jim Holmes, has an interesting little wargame outline over at Foreign Policy that is an interesting read;
... how would Japan's navy match up against China's?
In raw numerical terms, there is no contest. Japan's navy boasts 48 "major surface combatants," ships designed to attack enemy main fleets while taking a pounding themselves. For the JMSDF these include "helicopter destroyers," or light aircraft carriers; guided-missile destroyers equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis combat system, a combination radar, computer, and fire-control system found in frontline U.S. Navy warships; and an assortment of lesser destroyers, frigates, and corvettes. A squadron of 16 diesel-electric submarines augments the surface fleet. Juxtapose this against the PLA Navy's 73 major surface combatants, 84 missile-firing patrol craft, and 63 submarines, and the bidding appears grim for Japan. China's navy is far superior in sheer weight of steel.

But raw numbers can be misleading, for three main reasons. First, ... Battle, not technical specifications, is the true arbiter of military technology's value. Accurately forecasting how ships, planes, and missiles will perform amid the stresses and chaos of combat thus verges on impossible. ... Open societies have a habit of debating their military failings in public, whereas closed societies tend to keep their deficiencies out of view. ... The PLA Navy could be hiding something as well. The quality of the JMSDF's platforms, and its human capabilities, could partially or wholly offset the PLA's advantage of numbers.

Second, there's the human variable in warfare. ... JMSDF flotillas ply Asian waters continually, operating solo or with other navies. The PLA Navy is inert by comparison.
And three, ... we need to factor in both countries' land-based firepower.
I like towards the end where he outlines a truth for any two nations contesting land near water;
... Japan doesn't need to defeat China's military in order to win a showdown at sea, because it already holds the contested real estate; all it needs to do is deny China access. If Northeast Asian seas became a no-man's land but Japanese forces hung on, the political victory would be Tokyo's.

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