The risks to U.S. Navy ships in any conflict in that region are so severe that the United States is left with two undesirable options, according to researchers at RAND Corporation, a think tank that has run a series of war game exercises for the Pentagon.
If the Navy ships choose to approach China, many will be hit by Chinese missiles and damaged if not destroyed, resulting in lost U.S. ships and casualties on a scale unseen since World War II, the war games repeatedly concluded.
“We lose a lot of people, we lose a lot of equipment, we usually fail to achieve our objective,” David A. Ochmanek, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who now works at RAND, said during a public discussion of some of the research, a summary he reiterated in a recent interview.
Alternatively, the ships will stay hundreds or even thousands of miles from the area, making it much harder for Navy aircraft or missiles to reach their targets and leaving the initial engagement largely to Air Force bombers, Navy submarines and some long-distance Navy strikes, the war game exercises concluded.
“What it comes down to is, in many cases, the Navy surface fleet doesn’t play a major role,” said Michael Bohnert, a war games engineer at RAND.