Pentagon gas stations and fuel: An overlooked necessity for war at sea?


The U.S. Navy may or may not have the resources to keep fuel, food, and materiel flowing in ways and at levels that provide uninterrupted direct support for other U.S. Navy vessels at war, should a long term at sea battle take place between America and China. This claim is fundamentally predicated and based on the notion of distance, vast distances, and the absolute tyranny of distance facing the U.S. Navy, when a future hot war breaks out at sea near China. Logistical challenges at sea will quickly mount and may end up being insurmountable for the U.S. Navy in a drawn out at-sea war scenario. 

The American empire is founded on having a strong military. The ability of the United States to properly prepare for worst-case contingencies in the Deep Blue Continent near China may simply not be realistic or adequate. 

If a hot war breaks out at sea near Taiwan for example, the Navy doesn’t have the needed numbers of ships to maintain a constant supply of fuel. If ships run out of gas, food and materiel, a war at sea cannot be fought and won by the United States. 

If fuel becomes a major restraining factor, other Navy vessels that support key battle force ships may experience conditions that may make it even harder to sustain a fight against China. Not having enough support in the form of adequate numbers of ships, the overall ability to anticipate and address all needs of sailors in the fight, and the need to plan for the unplanned, may foretell what will occur offshore of Taiwan should the Chinese government decide to attack Taiwan, provoking a response from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. 

Cooperation from allied militaries throughout Asia may also not be adequate to achieve stated and desired U.S. military outcomes in part because China is a very strong nation in Asia that has tremendous leverage to shape and influence the behaviors of many political leaders throughout the region. 

At-sea questions persist

How will sailors be properly treated for medical care in a fight, if the Navy only has a few hospital ships operating worldwide? How will the Navy manage to tow damaged vessels away from the combat zone area in a quick and effective manner, if at all? How will maintenance work be performed during a major conflict as ship maintenance problems arise? How will ammunition, and weapons be resupplied to warships doing the actual fighting? How will the U.S. Navy perform operations that focus on protecting American flagged commercial shipping interests doing business throughout the western Pacific and Asiatic regions? 

How will the Marine Corps maintain its operations if fuel, food supplies, and maintenance support runs out? Can a military fight undertaken by the Marines be sustained at sea without fuel despite widely distributed force laydowns? How will fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial systems be maintained if jet fuel supplies run out? 

How will the Marianas Islands be affected?

Guam and the Northern Marianas will be greatly affected if a hot war breaks out in the region, using Taiwan as an example. Guam is a key fuel outpost for America’s military aircraft inventories because Andersen Air Force Base is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive gas stations, fueling U.S. and allied military aircraft and select civilian aircraft.

Fuel supplies for the Navy and Marine Corps, however, appear to be a much more complicated logistical and expense item problem should a hot war break out at sea near Taiwan. 

No matter how many Marines come to Guam to train or to be permanently stationed, unless there are gas supplies readily available to use and resupply naval forces and Marines for war near China, these sea-based organizations will not be able to fully execute stated mission sets that are tied to directly supporting naval operations in a fight for Taiwan. 

If the Navy loses its ability to maintain a constant and adequate fuel supply for a hot fight over Taiwan, what may happen to fuel supplies that are imported into Guam and the Northern Marianas? Just how difficult will it be to obtain fuel if a hot war ensues between the United States and China in the Taiwan Strait? How will sea-based fuel shipments originating from the Middle East headed for the Marianas Islands be impacted? Is our Marianas Island chain ready to experience a total shutdown of fuel supplies today, 90 days from now, or 120 days from now? 

Has China already figured it out? 

China may have already figured out that to win a hot war against the United States in its near seas’ region, it simply needs to be successful at stopping the United States from being able to resupply itself at sea during a hot war over Taiwan. 

The Chinese Navy can engage in a game of blocking American military ships by using hundreds of auxiliary and civilian vessels that transit the near seas’ regions. The sheer number of Chinese vessels may be easily able to disrupt, harass and slow down, if not stop, both resupply chains needed to support the American Navy effort to fight, or unleash hundreds of mines onto the ocean’s surface and below the surface areas, to produce a deadly environment for American ships and sailors. 

A hot war in the region will create a host of risks that could potentially result in the delay or near-term total disruption of oil shipments headed to Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands originating from the Middle East, via commercial sea lanes. The first, second and third order consequences of a future hot war against China concerning Taiwan are daunting and will have a tremendous impact on our Chamorro people and Marianas Islands chain.

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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