First of 2 parts
“TALISMAN Sabre” is the codename of a biennial naval exercise conducted by United States and Australian naval forces that started in 2005. The last exercise was in July 2015 which was joined in by Japan and New Zealand. Basically, the exercise involves the naval blockade of China in the Malacca Strait, Sunda Strait, and Lombok Strait; and assault landings on islands. Another of this series of naval exercises is scheduled for July 2017.
With the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruling against China’s claim of sovereignty over those islands in the Spratlys encompassed by China’s “nine-dash line”, and with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson having declared that China has no right to those artificial islands in the South China Sea and that the US will do something about it; “Talisman Sabre” could readily evolve from a mere military exercise into a major war.
A naval blockade of the straits in the South China Sea could force China’s economy to grind to a halt. China’s oil and gas supplies from the Middle East and Africa, and trade to the Persian Gulf, Europe, and Africa pass through these straits. This is the main reason why China built those artificial islands, three of which contain runways that are three kilometers long. Those runways can accommodate more combat aircraft and anti-ship ballistic missiles than all of US aircraft carriers combined—and they are unsinkable.
In the event of a US naval blockade, China can instantly deploy its J-20s, SU-35s, J-11Bs, H6Ks, early-warning, and air-refueling aircraft in those artificial islands with runways; together with medium and intermediate-range anti-ship ballistic missiles (DF21Ds, DF26Cs) and long-range cruise missiles (HN2000s). Newly acquired S-400s air defense system can also be deployed to the islands to defend against adversary missiles and aircraft. The same islands can also host land-based monitoring stations for underwater anti-submarine hydroponic sensors to preclude US nuclear submarines from using the Philippine deep as avenue of approach to launch a first nuclear strike on China’s east coast. These are China’s answer to the US-led “Talisman Sabre”.
So, what would a worst-case scenario in the South China Sea look like? Here are what China and its key allies can possibly do to counter US “Talisman Sabre” and its “Air-Sea Battle” strategy. It will involve not only China in the South China Sea. It is like: “buy one; take two”.
China coordinates a contingency plan with Russia and Iran: Russia to send its nuclear submarines to the US east coast, while China’s nuclear submarines deploy to the US west coast to launch a coordinated attack on the US mainland in the event that US launches a first strike on China mainland, or on Russia or Iran. Russia opens a war front in Ukraine and sends troops to defend Syria; while Iran opens a war front in the Middle East by closing the Strait of Hormuz (where NATO countries get some 60 percent and Japan 90 percent of their oil). The US will then be forced to fight in three major war fronts simultaneously, (with two more being added if US attacks the Chinese mainland) and be weak everywhere. “Never hit with both fists in two directions at the same time” is a time-honoured military dictum.
When the above contingency plan is ironed out, China then prepares its own offense and defense. For offense, China allocates a barrage of medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles to each of the 400 or so US military bases or launching pads (often referred to as “lily-pads”) surrounding China; with priority given to air bases harboring US stealth aircraft and naval bases harboring nuclear submarines. Enough of these missiles (DF21Ds and DF26Cs) are also allocated to US aircraft carrier strike groups operating within 4,000 kilometers of the Chinese mainland. China’s anti-submarine system and anti-satellite system are put on high alert.