US military forces prepare for major, simultaneous conflicts

Like the majority of Western armies, the American armed forces experienced a period of uncertainty after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Not only did they have to face budgetary restrictions, but they were widely used in conflicts with an asymmetrical structure, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. This resulted in a certain disorganization of the military tools which lost, in part, the structural integrity which made the strength of the American armies. In addition, they have ventured into very risky technological projects, having experienced very mixed results, ranging from Sea Wolf to the LCS, from F22s to F35s, from Zumwalts to Comanches.

In the end, the equipment of the US armies today is surprisingly close to what it was 25 years ago, in detail close to various phases of more or less successful modernization. 

Over the same period, two nations have considerably increased the performance of their military forces. Russia has thus succeeded in reconstituting a leading military power, going well beyond the qualification of “regional power”, combining an imposing armored and conventional force with a very dynamic and innovative strategic component. China, for its part, has been able to catch up in two decades the very significant technological gap it had with the West, and is today developing, thanks to its economic, demographic and scientific vitality, a military power capable of making on par with the United States in just over a decade.

It is in the face of this observation, and with the additional financial resources promised by President Trump, that the 4 American armies are working, today, to prepare to respond to new global strategic contexts, such as the possibility of having to be engaged in two major conflicts simultaneously, in Europe and the Pacific, or to see the emergence of a multitude of regional conflicts with very different characteristics. 

For the US Army, this plan is based on a development axis in 5 priority points: the renewal of armored vehicles, the helicopter component, command and control systems, short-range anti-aircraft systems and air defense systems. 'artillery.

The US Navy, for its part, launched the FFG/X escort frigate program intended to replace part of the disappointing Littoral Combat Ship program, to rapidly increase the number of combat vessels. The naval aviation component continues to be renewed with the replacement of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers by the G. Ford class and the increase in their numbers to 12 compared to 10 today, the upcoming entry into service of the refueling drone MQ-25 Stingray, and the development of a new combat aircraft intended to replace the F18, a program which benefits from a budget of $5 billion per year over the next 5 years. The nuclear attack and missile launcher submarines are already being replaced, this component having been particularly well protected over the last 30 years. The replacement of the Navy's cruisers was uncertain, but the General Staff indicated that it was progressing quickly on the definition of a building intended to replace the aging Ticonderoga, and that the first orders should come. in 2022 or 2023. 

The cruiser will be larger than the A.Burke Flight III Destroyers already in production, and will be designed to meet the rapidly changing needs of naval warfare, whether in terms of electrical production, computer processing capacity, corollary cooling from the previous point, and the carrying of weapons and drones.

The description given is reminiscent of that of the Chinese Type 055 heavy destroyers, or the Russian Lider (if the latter actually sees the light of day). Above all, it reveals a return to what made US engineering successful for decades, absolute pragmatism and the search for the best performance/cost ratio.

Finally, let us recall that President Trump is committed to increasing the size of the US Navy, and in particular the number of combat vessels, which must increase from 360 to 450 according to him (Industrial projections give a Chinese fleet of 550 vessels in 2035, with an average tonnage however lower than the US Navy)

The US Air Force, for its part, announced that it aimed to increase the number of its squadrons by 24%, which would increase from 312 today to 386 in 2030. Thus, the strategic bomber squadrons, which will receive the new B-21 Ranger, would increase from 9 to 14, those of refueling from 40 to 54, and those of C2ISR ( Command and Control Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) from 40 to 62. Fighter squadrons would increase from 55 to 62, while those of reconnaissance and attack drones would only increase by 2 squadrons, from 25 to 27. 

It will have to recruit nearly 40.000 new soldiers, increasing from 685.000 to 725.000, while its budget will have to, to cope with such growth, increase by €13 billion, to reach $66 billion in operating costs (excluding equipment acquisitions). .

The other commands of the American armies are in a comparable dynamic, whether it is the US Marine Corps which is undergoing rapid change with the entry into service of the America class LHDs and its F35Bs, or the new Space Command.

All of these capacity increases indicate, without the slightest doubt, that the General Staffs are now anticipating a period of very significant tensions, with the possibility of having to intervene simultaneously and massively in several theaters. We can, therefore, understand, at least in part, the annoyance of the US administration at the Europeans who are reluctant to increase their defense spending, betting on US support if necessary.

Above all, Western capitals should anticipate the fact that US support could be much more constrained than they hope, provided that the situation in the Pacific is also tense. In 2030, the geopolitical situation could more closely resemble that of the Second World War, rather than that of the Cold War.

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