Study Says US Could Fight Two Major Wars Concurrently
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A study prepared for the Air Force says the U.S. military could fight and win two major regional wars on the scale of the 1991 war against Iraq even with the smaller defense force proposed by the Clinton administration.
The study by Rand Corp. released Tuesday said the key to maintaining military superiority into the 21st century is equipping existing aircraft and other forces with new ″brilliant″ munitions and expanding U.S. sealift and airlift.
It also said the B-2 stealth bomber and the B1-B bomber - neither of which has ever been used in combat - would be critical to the mix of forces used in a two-war strategy. The study assumed no use of the B-52 bomber that flew in the Gulf War.
Fred Frostic, a retired Air Force officer who helped write the Rand report, told a news conference the United States could cut its forces below the ″base force,″ or minimum level, proposed by the Bush administration and still be able to prosecute two concurrent wars - assuming U.S. weapons are modernized.
″We think the strategy is executable,″ at a lower level of forces, Frostic said.
President Clinton has proposed cutting $88 billion more from Defense Department’s budget through 1999 than what President Bush had planned, and he has said the armed forces could be reduced by 200,000 more than Bush’s 1.6 million minimum level.
The Rand study comes at the same time Defense Secretary Les Aspin is preparing a comprehensive ″bottom up review″ of U.S. defense policy to match a war-fighting strategy with a shrinking commitment of defense dollars.
Frostic said he saw signs that the Clinton administration is incorporating some aspects of the Rand study’s conclusions in its strategic planning, particularly recommendations to improve the military’s ability to transport equipment and forces to far-off shores and to field more sophisticated munitions.
Of particular importance, the study said, are munitions, such as those designed to penetrate tank armor, which carry their own sensors. The sensors would enable anti-tank warheads to guide themselves, keying to the sound or heat of its target.
Defense Secretary Les Aspin referred to this new generation of ″brilliant″ munitions in a speech last week in which he said ″the most critical″ element of a new U.S. defense strategy was to be able to stop enemy armored attacks in more than once crisis at a time.
″For the first time, it appears possible that air and missile forces will be able to kill large numbers of armored vehicles quickly from the air, land and sea - and that’s the key,″ Aspin said.
The Rand study assessed a U.S. response to two concurrent crises - a large- scale invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by a rearmed Iraq, followed by a North Korean invasion of South Korea. The attacks were assumed to take place after 1997, when U.S. forces would be much smaller in number but equipped with more advanced weapons.
The study concluded that U.S. forces equipped with existing munitions could stop a large-scale Iraqi invasion in nine to 14 days, but not before the Iraqis came within striking distance of Dhahran, the critical eastern Saudi oil port. With advanced munitions, the invasion could be stopped in a few days.
If the Korean invasion came three weeks or more after the start of the Iraqi assault, U.S. air, sea and ground forces not already engaged in the Gulf could link up with U.S. Army forces permanently stationed on the Korean peninsula and halt the Korean onslaught quickly enough to turn it back, the study concluded.