Great news: China beats U.S. in simulated Taiwan air war

It’s a potentially controversial assertion — and one that might have fueled the (now-resolved) debate over whether the U.S. Air Force should buy more F-22s. RAND found that F-22s flying from the relative safety of Guam could be surprisingly effective in blunting a Chinese air assault.

Still, with or without F-22s, the Chinese air and missile force “dramatically outnumbers [U.S. and Taiwanese] forces and wins the war of attrition,” according to Steve Trimble’s summary of the RAND study. The Chinese lose 241 jets on the first day of fighting, while the U.S. and Taiwan together lose 147, but this lopsided kill ratio doesn’t matter, when China has hundreds more planes to put into the air. Moreover, most of the U.S. and Taiwanese planes lost, are destroyed on the ground by barrages of Chinese ballistic missiles. (It’s not for no reason that the U.S. Air Force is working hard to win new friends, each with juicy new bases, all over the Pacific.)

Before you panic, though, consider the many caveats RAND sneaks into the study — especially in the footnotes.