The Buzz

Taiwan’s Best Option for Deterring China? Anti-Access/Area Denial

Today, Taiwan does not have the necessary military equipment, especially air and naval forces, to conduct an effective A2/AD strategy. Despite having talented pilots, the fighter aircraft of Taiwan’s air force are outclassed by new and numerous Chinese aircraft and missile systems. Earlier this week, the RAND Corporation published a study assessing Taiwan’s air defense options. The study recommends reducing the size of Taiwan’s relatively costly, aging, and increasingly vulnerable fighter fleet to invest a limited military budget toward mobile surface to air (SAM) missile systems. The relatively few surface warships in Taiwan’s navy are similarly vulnerable to Chinese weapons systems. James Holmes of the Naval War College recently recommended that Taiwan’s navy acquire more numerous, fast missile boats armed with anti-ship missiles instead of fewer, larger surface warships that would be relatively easy for the PLA to locate and sink.

Getting Taiwan’s military, people, and politicians to accept an A2/AD strategy will be difficult. Capabilities like surface warships and fighter aircraft are symbols of national strength and pride that are hard to do away with even if they are costly and vulnerable in a fight against China. Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen has promised to increase military spending, which could allow the military to keep these weapons while also increasing their arsenal of weapons suited for A2/AD. In any case, Taiwan’s military should start developing the capabilities and doctrine to use A2/AD against China. This will improve Taiwan’s ability to deter China, and defend itself from invasion should deterrence fail. 

This article has been reposted with permission from the Cato Institute blog.

Image: Flickr/See-Ming Lee. CC BY-NC 2.0.

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