Top US Admiral ‘Sidelines’ F-22, F-35 Stealth Fighters; Reveals ‘Master Plan’ To Thwart China’s Invasion Of Taiwan

The United States appears to be working on a strategy to rain hell on China using an army of drones if it were to launch an invasion of Taiwan.

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The plan is simple: Should Taiwan be invaded by mainland China, it might encounter a formidable drone force designed to render its armed forces “miserable.”

This forms the core of the “Hellscape” strategy laid down by the top US admiral in the Pacific. The approach essentially centers around using drones to distract China in the event of a Taiwanese invasion and buy time for the US forces to retaliate.

“The idea is that as soon as China’s invasion fleet begins moving across the 100-mile waterway, the U.S. military would deploy thousands of unmanned submarines, unmanned surface ships & aerial drones to flood the area & give Taiwanese, U.S. & partner forces time to mount a full response,” Admiral Samuel Paparo, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command told The Washington Post at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue Summit.

The comments come days after China launched two-day military drills following the inauguration of the new Taiwanese President. Beijing has progressively intensified calls for what it calls a “reunification” of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland and has been signaling that an invasion is inevitable.

On his part, US President Joe Biden has hinted that his country would aid Taiwan’s military in case of an invasion — a prospect likely to snowball into a bigger US-China conflict involving Washington’s regional allies. This makes it imperative for the US military to devise strategies to counter the Chinese forces in the Taiwan Strait.

The ‘Hellscape’ strategy is based on the extensive use of autonomous systems and may have been influenced by the war in Ukraine, which has changed the nature of modern warfare. Both combatants have employed drones to launch strikes that may not have been dreamt of until a few years ago. For Ukraine, the drones have become symbols of asymmetrical warfare against a much superior military force.

Ukraine has used drones to launch strikes inside Russia and destroyed assets like control and command centers, oil refineries, airfields, and mammoth vessels docked in a shipyard, to name a few. The war in Ukraine has shown that air defenses are not impenetrable, and drones can cause massive damage without being detected. More importantly, nothing is safe in this day and age from a loitering munition or a First Person View (FPV) drone attack.

Analysts have noted over the last year that drone warfare in Ukraine has changed the way modern militaries approach conflicts. The US, much like its adversary China, has focused its attention on autonomous platforms. The first such idea was floated by General Kenneth Wilsbach, Commander of the Pacific Air Forces, in March 2022.

Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie - Wikipedia
Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie designed for the USAF as an ‘attritable’ UAV – Wikipedia

At that time, Wilsbach argued that it would be more appropriate to deploy “attritable” unmanned aircraft against China rather than high-end stealth fighter jets such as F-35s or F-22s. “Attritable” is a design feature that trades reliability and maintenance for low-cost, reusable, and eventually throw-away weaponry.

The top military official stated that in the event of a conflict with China, the US Air Force would be better off gathering attritable systems, such as UAVs or decoys, to gradually wear down the Chinese defenses because they would have more targets to deal with and no idea what the airborne asset was. This, according to him, would be the way to exhaust China’s formidable ‘Anti Area/Access Denial’ (A2/AD) system along Taiwan’s shores.

The US Is Working On Drone Warfare Against China

The idea behind the ‘Hellscape’ strategy is to launch hundreds of autonomous systems—from airborne drones to surface ships and submarines—as a first line of defense to combat Chinese invasion forces as soon as they start to cross the Taiwan Strait. Such a plan would necessitate significant expenditures on low-cost, dependable drones.

According to reports, there have been some indications of activity despite the big plan’s slow pace.

The Pentagon plans to spend $1 billion on the Replicator program this fiscal year. This program is aimed at rapidly scaling capabilities in the face of strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China. Its first task will be to quickly scale and field thousands of attritable autonomous systems within the next 18 to 24 months, leveraging AI, robotics, and commercial technology.

The Pentagon is also collaborating with defense partners to develop and procure these systems, some of which have been identified as critical for the program’s initial drones.

Switchblade 600 has been selected for the Tranche 1 of the US Replicator program (via X)

In response to China’s “biggest advantage,” which is its mass, Hicks stated last summer that Replicator was designed to incorporate more ships and more missiles and more people.

She said, “We’ll counter the [People’s Liberation Army’s] mass with a mass of our own, but ours will be harder to plan for, harder to hit, harder to beat.”

For a while now, reports have indicated that to prevent China from enforcing its territorial claim over Taiwan, the Pentagon is pressing for the quick development of low-cost, disposable drones. Washington claims it is forced to keep up with Beijing. Both sides are relentlessly working on accruing drone supremacy and experimenting with swarms to overwhelm the adversary.

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Additionally, the US Navy is co-opting the defense industry to quickly develop swarming drones, including underwater drones, that will neutralize the numerical superiority that the Chinese PLA Navy enjoys in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to remarks made last year by Admiral Samuel Paparo, the outgoing commander of INDOPACOM (United States Indo-Pacific Command), US unmanned capabilities “will be an asymmetric advantage.” He explained that “operational concepts that we are working through are going to help amplify our advantages in this theater,” stating, “There’s a term, hellscape, that we use.”

However, Paparo’s remarks on the “Hellscape” strategy are more significant now since he warned that the recent Chinese drills appeared to be a rehearsal for an invasion of Taiwan. He said, “We watched it. We took note. We learned from it. And they helped us prepare for the future.

China, however, did not seem to be pleased. As soon as the reports were published, the state-owned Global Times publication took to X to iterate: “The US now recognizes that conventional combat methods can no longer defeat the PLA in the Taiwan Straits. So, in a desperate attempt to cling to their illusion of invincibility, they’ve decided to try something completely out of left field. The “Hellscape” strategy aims to incite secessionist forces and DPP authorities to pursue “Taiwan independence” further.”

It dismissed these strategies as mere ‘wishful thinking.’