General Mike Minihan, the head of the Air Mobility Command, said the US’s main goal should be to deter “and, if required, defeat” China, in a shocking internal memorandum signed off by him and confirmed to be genuine by the Pentagon.
The memo, which has been circulating on social media, was first reported by NBC News and is dated 1 February of this year. It contains several pointers, including ones titled “end state” and “risk”, and also projects targets from February to April this year .
“I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” General Minihan said in the memorandum and stated his reasoning for predicting a potential conflict.
He said China will be eyeing Taiwan’s presidential elections next year as they would offer Xi Jinping a reason to escalate military aggression in the region, with the US presidential elections in the same year offering up the Chinese president a “distracted America”.
“Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” he said.
Under the “end state” pointer, the general called for “a fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Maneuver Team” to “fight and win inside the first island chain”.
It is unclear exactly which island chain General Minihan is referring to. The US and its regional allies and China have consistently sought to one up each other in the contested South China Sea region.
The memorandum is addressed to all air wing commanders in the Air Mobility Command (AMC) and other Air Force operational commanders.
For February, it orders them to report all major efforts to prepare for the fight against China to the general by the 28th of that month.
The general’s February target also directs all AMC personnel to “fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most. Aim for the head”.
— Donald Standeford (@Don_Standeford) January 28, 2023
All personnel have been asked to update their records and emergency contacts, reported NBC news.
For March, the general asks all AMC personnel to “consider their personal affairs and whether a visit should be scheduled with their servicing base legal office to ensure they are legally ready and prepared”.
Asking personnel to account for some risk in training, the memorandum states: “Run deliberately, not recklessly”, adding that “if you are comfortable in your approach to training, then you are not taking enough risk”.
The AMC has close to 50,000 service members and about 500 planes. The Air Force wing is responsible for transport and refuelling.
General Minihan also indicated the use of commercial drone swarms as a peek into one US capability that is likely to be considered in case of conflict with China.
The KC-135 units have been asked to prepare for “delivering 100 off-the-shelf size and type UAVs from a single aircraft,” according to the memorandum.
The general, in his “commander’s intent”, also claimed this was the “first of 8 monthly directives from me” and added that they were “not up for negotiation”.
The remarks, however, were written off by the Department of Defence, saying they do not reflect the department’s view on China.
This was further backed by its press secretary, Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, who said the National Defence Strategy “makes clear that China is the pacing challenge for the department of defence and our focus remains on working alongside allies and partners to preserve a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific”.
According to an AMC spokesperson confirming the development on Friday, the memo comes from his directions to subordinate command teams.
“His order builds on last year’s foundational efforts by Air Mobility Command to ready the Mobility Air Forces for future conflict, should deterrence fail,” the spokesperson said, according to NBC.