Thursday, February 03, 2005

Actions by Taiwan

January 24, 2005: Taiwan is converting its armed forces to an all-volunteer force. Noting the success of other all-volunteer forces (especially the U.S. and Britain), and being able to afford this approach, the conversion will take up to a decade. Some conscription will be retained, mainly to support a reserve force. The reserve troops would be needed if China every tried to invade. Within three years, sixty percent of all troops will be career professionals. By 2008, conscripts will only have to serve one year of active duty. Currently, conscripts serve 33 months, and are paid only $173 a month. Professionals get an average $1,100 a month. The armed forces has found that many military skills take longer than 33 months to obtain. Even skills that can be obtained within 33 months, get better the longer the troops serve. For a long time, Taiwan has been urged by the United States to upgrade the quality of its troops. With China rapidly upgrading its forces, and the success of U.S. troops in the last two decades, Taiwan has finally been convinced. It remains to be seen if Taiwan can carry out this plan. On the bright side, there is the example of Singapore, a Chinese nation that has created a first rate military force. On the down side, there is centuries of Chinese experience with peace time military plans that produce grand ideas, but inept troops.

October 19, 2004: The Taiwanese defense minister announced that China could shut down Taiwan's ports with only 13 submarines, and that China currently has a force of 86 subs (although 46 are quite old.) Taiwan is buying 12 P-3 submarine hunting aircraft, and eight modern subs, to be used for hunting down and destroying Chinese subs. However, anti-submarine warfare technology is changing, with sensors and lightweight torpedoes carried by helicopters and UAVs, seen as the sub killers of the future. But Taiwan still wants eight subs, equipped with superior American underwater sensors, to hunt down the rather noisy Chinese subs. The American technology was well proven during the Cold War against the Russian type subs that currently equip the Chinese navy.

October 17, 2004: Taiwan fears that China is using the flow of visitors between China and Taiwan to plant more spies. Taiwan has detected at least 3,000 Chinese visitors who arrived in Taiwan, but left no record of ever leaving, or applying for a longer stay. China is a much more restrictive environment, and more difficult for Taiwanese to "get lost."

October 15, 2004: Taiwan has decided to reduce it's armed forces to 300,000 (from about 350,000 now) by 2009, instead of 2012, as was the previous plan. Conscription is unpopular, and fewer troops will mean more money for new equipment. Defending the island against Chinese attack is seen more a matter of technology than masses of troops.

October 10, 2004: Taiwan wants to buy American HARM (High speed Anti-Radar Missile) missiles, and will probably get them. In the last ten years, the U.S. has sold Taiwan laser guided bombs, Maverick missiles, and modifications for Harpoon missiles (GPS guidance kits) that turn them into short range cruise missiles. The HARM missiles would enable Taiwan to more easily go after China's increasing inventory of modern anti-aircraft radars. China's latest warships, especially those bought from Russia, contain very capable radar systems. HARM missiles were designed to go after such radars, and destroy them. Taiwan will also probably get JDAM GPS guided bombs. These are more effective than laser guided bombs, especially in cloudy or misty conditions when lasers don't work very well, if at all. China will protest that selling these weapons to Taiwan violates the American promise to not sell Taiwan offensive weapons. But HARM and JDAM are most useful in crippling a Chinese attack force headed for Taiwan, and that's what China is most concerned about, but doesn't want to admit.

September 30, 2004: Taiwan says it believes that by 2006 China will have 800 Dong Feng-11 and Dong Feng-15 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

September 26, 2004: Taiwan has secretly developed and tested a cruise missile, the Hsiung-feng 2E, which can reach targets deep inside China. The missile has a range of up to 300 kilometers. The secrecy of the development program was because Taiwan has long pledged that it would only develop defensive weapons. The Hsiung-feng 2E is a further development of the existing Hsiung-feng 2 anti-ship missile (which weighs 1,500 pounds and has a 500 pound warhead). It was not difficult to make the Hsiung-feng 2 longer, thus allowing for more fuel capacity, and increasing its range. It had long been rumored that this kind of upgrade was underway, but the government never admitted it. But recently, Taiwan said it would retaliate if China attacked, and a cruise missile capable of reaching Chinese cities would do that.

September 22, 2004: Taiwan plans to spend $60 billion on defense over the next five years. Currently, China is spending about that much each year. But China's GNP is only about twice that of Taiwan. China has 2.2 million people in its armed forces, versus 350,000 for Taiwan. China's population is 1.2 billion, versus 23 million for Taiwan. Taiwan's troops are better trained and equipped than the Chinese, and that has prevented China from taking the island for over half a century. But China is spending a lot of money to close the quality gap. An amphibious operation, which is required to take the island of Taiwan, is one of the most difficult of military operations. Currently, and for the next few years, China does not have the shipping and trained troops for an attack. China could try some unconventional tactics to carry out an invasion of Taiwan, but these are more likely to fail in a spectacular fashion. The Chinese government cannot afford the embarrassment of such a failure. So the arms race continues, with China hoping to get far enough ahead of Taiwan in military capability in the next decade to enable a successful invasion. Actually, just the threat of a successful invasion might encourage Taiwan to negotiate a new relationship with China, or to step up its military spending once more. .

September 5, 2004: Taiwan arrested a former air force sergeant and a Taiwanese businessman for stealing data on Taiwan's Mirage 2000-5 warplane and selling it to China. This was not, apparently, an espionage network, but a couple of guys who saw an opportunity, took it and got caught. The espionage war between Taiwan and China is lively, lucrative and dangerous. The Chinese kill spies, and treat badly those they don't.

August 15, 2004: Taiwan has gone public with its fears that China is preparing to start a war with a "decapitation strike" (an attack that attempts to kill Taiwan's leaders). Such attacks are an ancient tactic, but are more difficult today because national leaders have more places to hide. But the Chinese plan is said to rely on it's hundreds of ballistic missiles, and spies inside Taiwan that would provide the exact location of senior military and political leaders.

August 14, 2004: Taiwan's military age manpower continues to decline, with only 178,000 coming of age (18) this year, down 8.3 percent from 2003. Moreover, 61 percent of those turning 18 delay their military service, usually because they are in college.

August 11, 2004: The Taiwanese armed forces announced that a computerized wargame of a Chinese invasion had the Chinese conquering the island in six days. It is widely thought that this is a ploy by the armed forces to get the legislature to spend the large sums of money the military wants to upgrade their weapons and equipment. The legislature is reluctant to spend the money, believing that the U.S. navy will defend the island from the Chinese.

July 21, 2004: For the first time in 26 years, Taiwan included actual use of superhighways, as secondary air fields for combat aircraft, in their military exercises. Two Mirage 2000 fighters landed on a highway, were serviced, and took off again. Parts of Taiwan's system of superhighways were designed just for this purpose, but actual use of the highways during training exercises has lapsed because the Defense Ministry did not want to block traffic. This particular training exercise was done more for diplomatic reasons, to remind China that Taiwan had many defensive capabilities.

June 9, 2004: China is undergoing a transportation crises that has military and diplomatic overtones. As China's economy has boomed in the last two decades, the state owned railroad system has not put money into expanding the railroads to keep pace. As a result, many businesses are forced to cut back their expansion plans until the railroad capacity can catch up. But this problem has resulted in Taiwan's ability to bomb key Chinese economic targets if there should ever be a war with Taiwan. China's purchase of highly capable Russian Su-30 long range bombers has made Chinese generals aware that Taiwan has long had the same capability in its fleet of F-16 aircraft. If was the F-16 that Israel used in 1981 to make a daring, long range attack that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak. Now news stories are appearing describing Taiwanese spies, carrying GPS devices, caught around key Chinese economic targets. And now everyone realizes that Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian has, since being elected in 2000, been preparing a "Scorpion Defense" against a Chinese attack. Such a strategy only works if it is out in the open where the Chinese population and leadership can be properly terrified. Now it's in the open, because of public remarks by Taiwanese officials.

For whatever reason, the story has become a major one in China and Taiwan, with media competing to see who can come up with a more terrifying target list. Taiwan's F-16's, using American smart bombs, are now credited with the ability to quickly take out key bridges and tunnels, crippling China's transportation system, and economy. Even water transport is not immune. A few well placed smart bombs could crack open the new Three Gorges dam, killing over half a million people downstream and making millions more homeless, and jobless.

Taiwan also says it has long range missiles, with special warheads, for cracking open the 300 foot think concrete Three Gorges dam. Chinese generals are angrily denying that the dam or the railroads are vulnerable, but any Chinese with any sense of military history know better. Officially, Taiwan denies that it has any plans to take out Chinese dams. This, despite senior Taiwanese officials being quoted at public meetings talking about such plans.

China plans to spend nearly half a trilling dollars in the next 15 years to expand the railroads, and billions more to buy Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. But Taiwan already has over 140 F-16s, thousands of smart bombs and pilots who know how to use both. Taiwan also has electronic countermeasures for China's new, Russian made, air defenses. Taiwan won't say how effective those countermeasures are, but in the past, Russian anti-aircraft missiles have done poorly against such countermeasures. China's generals now have to consider not just the problems of attacking Taiwan, but the cost to China from Taiwan's counterattack. At the moment, it appears that the cost would be too high to justify the conquest of the lost island province.

April 6, 2004: Taiwanese politicians are beginning to complain about the declining state of military training. Young men are now more prone to complain of the rigors of military training, and parents have more frequently complained to politicians. As a result, basic training has been made "more bearable" and readiness in many combat units has declined. American military observers have been complaining to senior Taiwanese commanders, and now it's become a political issue. One thing spurring this debate is the growing military power of China. By the end of this year, China is expected to have over 200 Russian Su-27 class warplanes in service. The various versions of the Su-27 (like the Su-30) are roughly equivalent to the American F-15. China is allowing its pilots to fly more hours a month and is training more air force maintenance personnel (so that the Su-27s can be used more intensively.) China is buying electronic warfare equipment from Russia that was designed to disrupt the American made radars and electronics.

Taiwan military planners see China having sufficient military power to have a chance at successfully conquering Taiwan as early as 2006. In response, Taiwan is buying new early warning radars and anti-aircraft weapons. Taiwan has only some 330 modern fighters and is planning to upgrade them soon. Many Taiwanese believe that American support, especially military support, is the ultimate guarantor of their freedom from Communist China.

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