Combat Readiness of the US and China is compromised by the Pandemic

Combat Readiness of the US and China is compromised by the Pandemic

A show of force by China: What about social distancing?

The corona virus pandemic also affects the combat readiness and planning.

Combat readiness is the ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions.

States in an anarchistic state system require a certain combat readiness to ensure that their security and other interests can be guaranteed.

Combat readiness of military units is now compromised by the corona crisis pandemic.

This is a sensitive subject, especially for the United States and China; they have many interests to protect and are involved in a shadow war.

Not only businesses and government services struggle with the consequence of the corona virus pandemic. Lockdowns and the need for social distancing – efforts to contain the virus – also affect military units that require close – also physical – cooperation to fulfill their missions.

Teamwork inside a C-130 Hercules of the Royal Netherlands Airforce

On board of a ship, in an aircraft cockpit, and in military units, social distancing is often not an option. In some cases, an enemy must be engaged in close combat.

Close quarter combat training of Second Force Recon / 22

Especially assets like aircraft carriers are vulnerable to the corona virus pandemic. An aircraft carrier like the USS Theodore Roosevelt is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, with a ship’s company of 3.200 and an air wing: 2.480.

The ship is designed as economically and efficient as possible and is certainly not virus-proof.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt was recently in the news because of a coronavirus pandemic on board of the ship. The captain of the ship was dismissed because of an email that was leaked to the press, related to precautionary measures that had to be taken, according to the captain.

The fact that this strategic asset was not combat ready anymore and that this fact was revealed, was part of the controversy.

For obvious reasons combat readiness is always a well-preserved secret.

Military commanders and units struggle with the same issues and questions as businesses: How long will it take to develop, produce and distribute a vaccine? Who is immune, and how long will it last? How must this transition period be managed to ensure that combat readiness is maintained as much as possible? What actions must be taken when an outbreak occurs on a critical asset like a carrier or a fighting unit?

The pandemic complicates military planning – because availability of assets is not guaranteed – preparation, like training exercises, and also war-fighting, if that is required.

All armed forces struggle with this issue. But it especially affects the United States and China, who are already involved in all sorts of rivalries.

In civilian life lock downs cause an accelerated shift to on-line services. My guess is that the same will happen in the military domain: The pandemic will give an extra stimulus to cyber war and the accelerated development of these capabilities. Cyber-fighters can be isolated.

The fact that the planning and preparation of military operations and war-fighting have become more complicated – because of the unpredictable consequences of the pandemic – does not necessarily mean that operations and wars are cancelled or delayed.

To the contrary, the pandemic and the additional uncertainty and unpredictability it brings, will make the United States and China feel more insecure and make them even more jittery.

An Operational HQ: Planning has become more complicated not only because of the close vicinity of HQ-personnel, but als new factors must be taken into consideration.