Must read: Rand’s view on PLAAF vs. Taiwan

The implications of a bust up between China and Taiwanare almost too harrowing to contemplate, especially if the United States and Japan were drawn in. The world’sinter-connected economy would collapse as the world entered the great unknown. Thehuman toll could be horrendous.

Nonetheless, Chinais dead serious about getting Taiwanback, and force will remain very much on the table. A recent Rand Corporationreport (‘Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth‘) does a good job ofdiscussing how the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would go aboutconducting itself in war for Taiwan.Including the index the report is an intimidating 308 pages long. The mostinteresting section by far is chapter 10: “Possible PLAAF Operational Concepts,Capabilities, and Tactics in a Taiwan Strait Conflict.”

2010-11-16_08-57-31_840.jpgChapter 10 details how Taiwan‘s air defences would beoverwhelmed by clouds of Chinese ballistic missiles. USAF bases in the westernPacific would receive similar treatment, in addition to attention from dozensof H-6K’s carrying long range cruise missiles. Crucially, the USAF has fewbackup options owing to simple geography: it is forced to operate from a vastocean with scattered, far-apart airfields. China meanwhile has tremendousstrategic depth, with numerous airfields and plenty of space to hide mobilemissile launchers.

With Taiwan‘sair defences knocked out and USAF bases disabled, PLAAF fighters wouldestablish 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 theJ-11B (China‘sSu-27 copy) as well as the J-10 (which would require aerial refuelling at thisrange). This would prevent American AEW&C planes from peering at shippingin the Taiwan Strait, thus opening the doorfor an amphibious invasion.

The report focuses on scenarios between 2015-2030, so it isdisappointing that it does not explore how China‘sprobable aircraft carrier fleet would likely be employed in the Taiwanscenario. Fascinating reading though, and it makes me wonder whether the 60F-16 C/D’s Taiwan wants fromthe USAwould really make much difference in the event of a shooting war – which, withluck, will never come to pass. 


, , ,

Leave a Reply