Access Denied?: Assessing Options for Projecting Airpower into a Contested East Asia

June 2024 No Comments

Speakers: Dr. Nicholas Anderson (George Washington University) and Dr. Daryl Press (Dartmouth College)

Date: 25 June 2024

Speaker Session Summary

China is striving to limit US military power projection in its home region of East Asia by enhancing its own ability to project air and missile power. To ensure that China cannot restrict US power projection in the event of a Taiwan conflict, it is crucial for the United States to identify and fortify its regional vulnerabilities. Dr. Press and Dr. Anderson presented observations and suggestions based on a model they developed to predict the loss of US aircraft in the Pacific if China were to launch a sudden attack. 

The US military can project power through its Navy, Air Force, and Army in many ways; however, its bases in the Pacific are spread across vast expanses of ocean. Additionally, China is increasing its own sensing and strike capabilities, making it easier for it to locate and destroy US aircraft. Dr. Press’ and Dr. Anderson’s model identifies how many aircraft China could destroy in a strike, depending on several factors. These factors include the number of US bases in operation, local jamming of Chinese sensors, ballistic missile defense, and the number of US aircraft parked out in the open. The most significant factor influencing the number of aircraft destroyed was the number of US aircraft stored in reinforced aircraft shelters. Increasing the number of aircraft shelters, combined with effective jamming of Chinese sensors, could decrease the number of US aircraft destroyed by 50%. This reduction would shift the cost-to-benefit ratio in favor of the United States, as China would have to spend much more to destroy a smaller number of US aircraft. 

Dr. Press and Dr. Anderson emphasized the importance of receiving feedback on their model to refine and improve it further. 

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


Nicholas D. Anderson is Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. He was previously a research fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. His first book, Inadvertent Expansion: How Peripheral Actors Shape World Politics, will be published in early 2025. His research and other writings have also been published in International Security, International Interactions, Strategic Studies Quarterly, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, and The Washington Quarterly, among other outlets. He is a co-organizer (with Daryl G. Press) of the Military Force Analysis Seminar Series, a project to revitalize the field of open-source conventional force analysis. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.

Daryl Press is a Professor of Government at Dartmouth and the Director of Dartmouth’s Institute for Global Security. His research focuses on U.S. foreign policy, deterrence, and the future of warfare. He has published two books, Calculating Credibility (2005) and The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution (2020), and his work has appeared in leading academic journals such as International Security and the American Political Science Review, as well as popular outlets including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. Press is the co-founder of the Strategic Forces Bootcamp, in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, which teaches foreign policy professionals about the technical underpinnings of the nuclear deterrence mission.  He is also the co-founder of the Seminar on Conventional Force Analysis, which promotes cutting-edge unclassified military analysis. Press received his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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