Friday, September 23, 2011

Absent command of the air, Taiwan needs to go asymmetrical

Before the announcement of a US$5.8 billion arms package on Wednesday, Taiwan already had about US$12 billion in procurement in the pipeline. Without proper air forces, however, most of those items will be next to useless, and that money could be better spent elsewhere

The decision by the administration of US President Barack Obama to deny Taiwan the F-16C/Ds it has been requesting since 2006 has implications that go well beyond Taipei’s inability to procure modern aircraft, as it raises questions about the utility of almost every other arms sale the US has agreed to in recent years.

Over the past decade, the balance of air power in the Taiwan Strait has steadily shifted in Beijing’s favor. During that period, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) launched a dramatic aircraft modernization program, with the result that it now enjoys a clear quantitative and qualitative advantage over Taiwan in air combat capabilities.

Meanwhile, the number of short and medium-range ballistic missiles the Chinese Second Artillery Corps aims at Taiwan — including its airbases and airstrips — has also increased, reaching about 1,500 this year. Consequently, the number of Taiwanese aircraft likely to survive an initial volley and be able to take off from operational airstrips has diminished.

As the 66 F-16C/Ds sought by Taipei were to replace aging F-5E/Fs, failure to acquire them means that the Taiwanese air force will find itself with fewer aircraft, a shortfall that the US$5.3 billion upgrade to Taiwan’s 145 F-16A/Bs notified to US Congress on Wednesday will not make up for, even if it includes joint direct attack munition (JDAM) laser-guided bomb kits, more powerful engines and Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

Taiwan can no longer hope to achieve air superiority against the hundreds of increasingly modern aircraft that have been added to the PLAAF in recent years.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


Anonymous said...

Let's be frank. If the Taiwanese wants to be independent and safe,it is a non starter.You can only be safe ie free from PLA attack if you don't declare independence.
If the Taiwanese were to declare independence with or without US backing and supported by the Japs,China need not take the island intact. They will destroy the island.
No amount of US miltary intervention can prevent this. This is the stark but uncomfortable reality facing Taiwan.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@Anonymous: I notice you have been posting a lot of comments on my site lately. While we obviously differ markedly in our assessment of the situation in the Taiwan Strait and the future of Taiwan, I nevertheless welcome your views, if only as a means to show my readers a different perspective on what’s going on, and now strident the rhetoric can get. That being said, if you’re to remain anonymous, I would appreciate if you could state your nationality (I think I can infer this one), location, as well as institutional affiliation, so that we can have an idea who we are dealing with.

Michael Fagan said...

"Let's be frank."

OK then: hello "frank".

"If the Taiwanese wants to be independent and safe,it is a non starter."

Until the PRC collapses, at which point it most certainly becomes a starter, with a main course and dessert to follow.

"This is the stark but uncomfortable reality facing Taiwan."

Passing off a standing threat of violence as "reality" is how a snivelling little coward would go about endorsing the threat - he wouldn't want to say so explicitly.

Come out from under your rock "frank" and tell everyone who you are.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking whether it would make sense, militarily, not politically, to station a battalion of US Marines there to carry out responsibilities and capabilities similar to a MEU. Of course there would be incredible political hurdles to overcome, but politics aside, would this effectively deter China from carrying an attack on Taiwan?