Some years back I toured the USS Nimitz . Somebody in the group
asked the officer showing us around about the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow launcher.
"If it ever gets to the point we need to use that, we're
already dead," he replied.
The same could be said of last week's news that Taiwan
will purchase 30 Boeing AH-64 Block III attack helicopters from the United
States. There is little doubt about the
Apache's effectiveness in combat over the last two decades in conditions where
its western users have aerial supremacy. Providing more Apaches to Taiwan,
however, is somewhat like providing a knife to a man who needs a rifle.
In the (extremely hypothetical) scenario where China
was committed to using force to take the island, it would strive to achieve
aerial superiority, if not outright supremacy, before launching its invasion
fleet across the Straits of Taiwan. This is outlined in a recent Rand Report, Shaking
the Heavens and Splitting the Earth.
How well the Apache would perform its ground attack role in
sky filled with Chinese fighters is questionable. Effective? Perhaps. A game
changer? No way.
really needs (wait for it) from the USA
are the 66 Lockheed Martin F-16 C/Ds it has been seeking since 2006.
Notwithstanding the support of many congressmen for the deal, Washington
is simply too wary of China
to sign off. According to some industry observers Washington
is also concerned about China
gaining access to the technology in these aircraft.
continues building its fleet of J-10s - with photos emerging recently of the
J-10B with what looks like an AESA radar - and J-11s. Last week it confirmed the existence of the
Shi-Lang, its new aircraft carrier. It also has plenty of missiles capable of
airfields. And then there is the developmental Chengdu J-20, which some view as
a long range strike aircraft.
Against all this Taiwan
fields its aging F-16 A/Bs, Mirage-2000s, Ching-kuos, and F-5s. It is a fleet
badly in need of renewal, but what outsider will dare risk China's
A quick browse of the weekend's news shows China
has yet to pound its fist on the table in response to the Apache deal. If it remains true to form it will issue a
blistering response and suspend military ties with the USA
for a while. But behind the bluster its military brass will know that the
Apache deal has done little to change the balance of power in the Taiwan