The implications of a bust up between China and Taiwan
are almost too harrowing to contemplate, especially if the United States and Japan were drawn in. The world's
inter-connected economy would collapse as the world entered the great unknown. The
human toll could be horrendous.
is dead serious about getting Taiwan
back, and force will remain very much on the table. A recent Rand Corporation
report ('Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth') does a good job of
discussing how the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would go about
conducting itself in war for Taiwan.
Including the index the report is an intimidating 308 pages long. The most
interesting section by far is chapter 10: "Possible PLAAF Operational Concepts,
Capabilities, and Tactics in a Taiwan Strait Conflict."
Chapter 10 details how Taiwan's air defences would be
overwhelmed by clouds of Chinese ballistic missiles. USAF bases in the western
Pacific would receive similar treatment, in addition to attention from dozens
of H-6K's carrying long range cruise missiles. Crucially, the USAF has few
backup options owing to simple geography: it is forced to operate from a vast
ocean with scattered, far-apart airfields. China meanwhile has tremendous
strategic depth, with numerous airfields and plenty of space to hide mobile
air defences knocked out and USAF bases disabled, PLAAF fighters would
establish air corridors that its attack aircraft could use to approach Taiwan at low altitude.
Ultimately, the PLAAF would establish aerial supremacy over the east coast of Taiwan using long range fighters such as the
Su-27 copy) as well as the J-10 (which would require aerial refuelling at this
range). This would prevent American AEW&C planes from peering at shipping
in the Taiwan Strait, thus opening the door
for an amphibious invasion.
The report focuses on scenarios between 2015-2030, so it is
disappointing that it does not explore how China's
probable aircraft carrier fleet would likely be employed in the Taiwan
scenario. Fascinating reading though, and it makes me wonder whether the 60
F-16 C/D's Taiwan wants from
would really make much difference in the event of a shooting war - which, with
luck, will never come to pass.