The CSIS International Security Program for the launch of a new report titled The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan by Mark Cancian, Matthew Cancian, and Eric Heginbotham. This event will feature a presentation by the report’s authors and a panel discussion with Lt Gen David A. Deptula USAF (Ret.), Becca Wasser, and Professor William S. Murray.
This CSIS project designed a wargame to model a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan in 2026 and ran it 24 times in a variety of scenarios. Although Taiwan survived as an autonomous entity in most scenarios, losses to the United States, Taiwan, and Japan were heavy.
Insights across the 24 game iterations included the vulnerability of surface ships, the massive coalition aircraft losses on the ground, the effectiveness of long-range antiship missiles, the critical importance of Taiwanese ground forces, and the need for access to operating bases in Japan. Based on the insights, the project makes a variety of recommendations to strengthen deterrence.
I have seen the wargaming. The wargame assumes that China can pound Taiwan for weeks and months to take out or damage the air and missile defenses in the mountains. They do not mention that global stock and financial markets crash by 50% on the first day or two of this offensive, where the US would be forced to act quickly. It also does not go into how utterly crappy China’s pilots are and have they have no hope of succeeding in taking out air defenses in the mountains.
The conclusion seems to be lets spend hundreds of billions more on smaller ships and air base improvements so the US can keep aircraft carriers further back. Is it a valid set of wargame scenarios or one that wanted to get the conclusion that hundreds of billions need to be spent on procurement for airbase defences and new, different Navy ships and other gear?
They do not discuss just transferring 100-300 older F-16 and F-18 to Taiwan in a prewar phase (one year or more in advance so Taiwan can train up) and loading Taiwan up with more missiles and artillery.
The military and US intelligence would be some kind of massively incompetent to allow planes to get wrecked on the ground. Intelligence got wind of the Russian pre-emptive attempt to take out Ukrainian planes on the ground. Russia tried and they failed via US and UK intelligence.
Taiwan has an eighty to one-hundred-twenty mile ocean moat. Faster military ships take five hours to cross the strait. All of the casual analysts do not consider how much time Taiwan has to sink the ships crossing. All kinds of time for missiles to shoot. How much time? The time for ships to cross the Stait is between the time to watch both Avatar 1 and Avatar 2 and watching all three Lord of the Rings movies.
This is a movie depiction of crossing the 3 miles of the Volga River in WW2 to support Stalingrad.
Here is a picture of part of the Volga river crossing.
Taiwan has access to US and commmercial satellites to watch and target ships crossing the Strait. It would be a shooting gallery.
If China has to pound Taiwan for weeks and months then TSMC and the world financial markets are wrecked while China is trying to take out the missiles and artillery in the mountains.
Here is the problem with China trying to take out each antimissile battery. Normally you would have two planes, one acting as a decoy while the other hits the antimissile battery. This is Tom Cruise-Top Gun level flight missions. This would need to be done for all of the anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles batteries and artillery. China’s pilots have less than one hundred hours per year of flight time. They are barely trained enough to fly at night and in bad weather.
Here is a video descrbing the US using wild weasle tactices to slowly degrade the surface to air missile sites in Vietnam.
Here is some discussion of electronic jamming of defences and hitting SAM missiles in Iraq Desert Storm.
Remember Taiwan missiles can withdraw in hardened mountain caves and can limit any exposure.
Here is an example of bunker busters hitting a cave complex. This is so much harder because you need to launch from a lower, slower and more vulnerable heavy bomber. Each bomb-missile is heavier and more difficult to deliver each shot versus hitting exposed anti-aircraft in a field or just in a forest.
China has not fought a war since the 1979 Vietnam border war and then before that the (1950-1953) Korean War.
We are dealing with the only-child grandchildren of actual veteran soldiers or actual veteran pilots.
The soldiers are experienced with beating up Uyghurs or domestic anti-COVID restriction riots.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.