Prognosis for China, Page 17, Rev. 4
The Military Threat
4.A The Military Threat [PLA History]
It is generally forgotten that the PLA once achieved an astounding victory over a modern, predominantly American army in the field. The comments of the official U.S. Army Historian of the time are instructive:
On Thanksgiving night, 1950, two armies confronted each other along the valley
of the Chongchon River...Both armies were poised to attack on the morrow...
Deployed in line to the south of the river, the United States Eighth Army was an
open book...Concentrated in a tight maneuver mass, guarded by an entrenched
screen, north of the river, the Chinese Communist Army was a phantom which
cast no shadow. Its every main secret C its strength, its position, and its intention
Chad been kept to perfection, and thereby it was doubly armed.
From these ingredients came inevitable surprise, as complete as any ever put
upon an army. There resulted one of the major decisive battles of the present
century followed by the longest retreat in American history. No course other
than the long withdrawal would have saved the defeated host and preserved its
cause. In the hour of its defeat the Eighth Army was a wholly modern force
technologically, sprung from a nation which prides itself on being as well
informed as any of the earth=s people. The Chinese Communist Army was a
peasant body composed in the main of illiterates. Much of its means for getting
the word around were highly primitive...But they matured their battle plan and
became victors on the field of the Chongchon because they had a decisive
superiority in information. (1)
More contemporary scholarship describes the campaign this way:
Three hundred thousand strong, the Chinese came by night. Moving stealthily
through the snow-covered countryside, they infiltrated UN units and struck
simultaneously from three sides. Stunned and panicked, many UN units gave
ground and stumbled into Chinese roadblocks as they retreated. Americans
and South Koreans alike abandoned their heavy weapons when they realized
the Chinese had them surrounded...Across the peninsula, the UN Command
was coming apart at the seams. (2)
The U.S. Air Force and Navy received a terrible shock in November 1950 when
the Chinese and Soviet air forces intervened in the Korean War...both the Navy
and the Air Force had failed to realize just how far behind most of their aircraft
technology was in comparison to the recent innovations of the Soviets. (3)
Prognosis for China, Page 18, PLA History (Continued), Rev. 4
The reader should know that the 8th Army and the X Corps (not yet under 8th Army command) included A...some 153,000 American troops, 25,000 marines, 20,000 Allied forces (including 11,000 British and 5,000 Turkish troops), and some 224,000 ROK troopsC a grand total of more than 422,000 combat troops, backed by ample air power.@ (4) The PLA Army of about 300,000 troops that attacked that Thanksgiving night did not achieve its success due to an overwhelming numerical advantage. Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch inform us:
...the Eighth Army and X Corps...had over five months to shake themselves into
fighting shape,...had rebounded from the calamities of June and July,...and
participated in a triumphant advance...Why, with the enormous firepower
ranged above and behind them...did the American forces fall back? And why
were some units, in particular the Second Infantry Division in the West and
parts of the Seventh Infantry Division in the East, broken by an army of peasant
light infantrymen? (5)
The answer is that the PLA both achieved strategic surprise and waged asymmetric warfare on the ground combined with the wholly unexpected introduction of superior Mig-15 aircraft in the air. AThe problem is all the more puzzling because the Chinese forces, apparently so formidable, had glaring weaknesses...They had few if any tanks and very little field artillery: For the most part the attacked using infantry mortars, light machine guns, and hand grenades. Short of motor and even animal transport, they divisions lacked staying power...On the other hand, UN forces had overwhelming superiority in material of every kind...@ (6) Part of the surprise was based on an accurate assessment of the equipment of a PLA division. AIntelligence in both Tokyo and the field knew fairly well the table of organization and equipment of the average Chinese division...The Chinese had a meager hodgepodge of captured Japanese and American weapons...The Chinese had barely nine [artillery] pieces, and those were light 76-mm howitzers.@ (7) Cohen and Gooch report: AIntelligence failed to grasp the crucial fact that ...The PLA was [had] unique strengths, weaknesses, tactics and operational preferences...The extreme >lightness= of Chinese divisions...meant that they could hide...No large supply trains clogged the roads...The Chinese...attacked mainly by night, using [light weapons] (which were weapons they had in greater supply) from very close ranges...Operationally, the Chinese had a more subtle approach than the North Koreans: feinting, probing or withdrawing...in order to test enemy reactions or to confuse and intimidate them.@ (8) Cohen and Gooch believe AThe failure of American leaders to understand that the enemy situation and their won bore little resemblance to those they had faced less than a decade before best explains the debacle in North Korea...This overvaluation, however, did not stem from fantasy but from experience in World War II, confirmed by recent operations...@ (9)
The Chinese have had a long time to Amature their battle plan@ for the war to Acomplete the Revolution@ by the forcible occupation of Taiwan. Assertions that such things are Aimpossible@ today are made in ignorance. Consider the AScud busting@ campaign during the Gulf War. Afterwards, Col. Phil Crane, Deputy Commandant of the USAF Academy said AWe learned that >big missiles= are awful small from the air and that while a lot of people think you simply go over there and find those old SCUDS C it=s, in fact, not that easy to do.@ (10)
Prognosis for China, Page 19, PLA History (Continued), Rev. 4
It is also not generally known that the PLA developed a successful conception of combined arms, amphibious warfare in the 1950s. AThe navy reflected a willingness to adopt Western-style tactics and employ proven assault techniques and equipment...the maritime supporters wanted a naval force that could operate beyond the protection of forts ashore...at least a force that could perform limited blue-water operations and reestablish Chinese naval control over the adjacent territorial seas.@ (11) These new tactics were first applied by the invasion of Beijishan and Dalushan Islands on May 29, 1953. A...the communists readied [them] as staging areas for an assault against the larger islands.@ (12) A Nationalist counter-invasion of Dalushan was defeated. A Nationalist raid against Tongshan Island by paratroopers and marines was also defeated. These invasions led the PLA Navy to Aadopt a more active naval policy@ and led to the sinking of three Nationalist junks Aloaded with assault troops.@ On November 14 a Nationalist destroyer was attacked and sunk more than twenty miles from the mainland. (13) Next
air attacks against the Dachens also increased in intensity, culminating in a
well-executed Communist assault against Yijiang Island and the upper and lower
Dachen Islands on 18 January 1955. On the tenth air attacks had been
concentrated in the upper Dachen Harbor, which resulted in damages to four
Nationalist warships. Subsequently, the Nationalist navy withdrew...isolating
the islands for the Communist amphibious assault that followed...On the morning
of the eighteenth, Chinese Communist fighter aircraft commenced a series of
sorties against Yijiang Island, which included horizontal and dive-bombing
operations. Two hundred and fifty sorties were executed. This was followed up
by four hours of artillery fire from nearby islands supplemented with naval
gunfire support. When this barrage was lifted, Chinese Nationalist defenders
observed a landing force approaching the island. This force, estimated at two
regiments, was embarked aboard conventional landing craft and motorized junks.
During the landing artillery support was lifted and PRC soldiers came ashore
under cover of naval bombardment. Air attacks were halted during the landing,
although air cover was maintained over the island. By nightfall the island had
been secured... (14)
This capability to use combined operations to overcome stiff resistance was again demonstrated by the Chinese defeat (with 15 ships including a battalion of Aamphibious assault troops@) of a South Vietnamese naval force (5 ships) defending the Paracel (Xisha) Islands. AMig fighters from Hainan Island...provided air cover...Within a day the islands were in Chinese hands.@ Note that the PRC claims Afishermen-militia@ participated in this operation. (15 & 16) In between these conflicts the PLA participated in air operations, air defense operations, and logistical operations during the Viet Nam conflict. Some of these operations will be examined below.
Prognosis for China, Page 20, Rev. 4
4.B The Military Threat [PLA Amphibious Forces]
According to the Secretary of Defense: AThe PLAN=s amphibious fleet provides sealift sufficient to transport approximately one infantry division.@ (17) Similarly, a Heritage Foundation Report states: AChina has the amphibious lift to move one reinforced infantry division, and another division of paratroopers by air.@ (18) Other western analysts have published similar conclusions. (19 & 20) The small size of such an invasion force would seem to justify the standard conclusion of western analysts. The Heritage report concludes: AChina currently lacks the amphibious and airborne capability to threaten Taiwan credibly with outright physical invasion.@ (18 again)
The real situation is more complex.** At the start of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, Japan had only one specialized amphibious ship completed (the Shiushu Maru) and only three others had been laid down (Mayasan Maru, Akitsu Maru and Nigitsu Maru). (21) At the same time, the only amphibious ship in the US Navy was the converted old destroyer Manley APD-1 (22 & 23). Initial amphibious operations were conducted by using merchant ships outfitted with landing craft. As the Heritage Foundation notes in end note number 24: AChina has the potential to mobilize commercial vessels for invasion purposes...@ (24) Similarly, Defense Secretary Cohen states: A...hundreds of smaller landing craft, barges, and troop transports ...could be used together with fishing boats, trawlers and civilian merchant ships to augment the naval amphibious fleet.@ (25) PLA history (see Section 4.A above) as well as contemporary naval exercises indicates the Chinese will augment their regular amphibious ships in this way.
The PLA Navy conducted its Alargest co-ordinated drill since 1949" in 1994 under the direction of Vice Admiral Shi Yunsheng, with Athe total number of naval and major armed forces personnel topping 100,000.@ The East Sea Fleet Aco-ordinated vessels from the North and South China Sea fleets...The exercise plan included vessel confrontations, air-sea co-ordination, anti-submarine co-ordination, ocean safeguarding, seaborne refueling, beach landings and sea blockades...The exercise was considered a success@ and the admiral, a career naval aviator, Areceived much of the credit.@ He became Navy commander in November, 1996. (26)
Combined arms exercises were also conducted in the 1995-96 Taiwan crisis. (27, 28 & 29) An official Taiwanese interpretation is that AChina would have invaded a Taiwan-controlled islet near the mainland during the 1995-96 crisis if the weather had permitted.@ (30)
A larger exercise was conducted in September, 1999 during the present crisis. (30 again) The People=s Daily quoting the Xinhua news service says that Athe team on the left, composed of [Army] ground forces and Marines, began attacking enemy forces with missiles, aircraft, helicopter gunships, and naval guns...removing barriers and establishing landing sites. On the right, a landing team of [Army] ground forces and special forces seized the port area quickly
** In a different Report to Congress, Secretary Cohen explains in more detailAChina=s fleet of about 60 amphibious ships...is capable of landing 1-3 infantry divisions, depending on the mix of equipment and stores for immediate resupply.@ (31)
Prognosis for China, Page 21, PLA Amphibius Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
and paratroopers controlled strategic points, while air forces and the artillery and armored corps engaged the enemy...@ (32) One official photograph indicates larger tank landing ships were used to exercise a landing but not an assault landing. (33 & 34) Another photograph appears with the caption ANearly 1,000 fishing boats were mobilized to help move troops and equipment during the war games in Zhejiang province.@ (35, 36 & 37) Since the Zhoushan Islands, located 310 miles North of Taiwan, were invaded, the official Taiwan government assessment is that Astraits crossing@ (32 again) was indeed exercised, as the People=s Daily claimed. (38)
The use of fishing boats is interesting (they were also present during the Paracel Islands invasion). The U.S. Naval Institute Guide to the Combat Fleets of the World lists Aseveral hundred armed fishing trawlers@ as AMilitia-subordinated@ patrol craft. It indicates AMany Chinese fishing trawlers are armed...and perform dual service as fisheries patrol craft and fishing trawlers.@ (39) If only 75% of Anearly 1,000" of these craft carry troops,* it is theoretically possible these vessels could lift (the non-tank) elements of 6 Chinese infantry divisions (assuming each vessel carries about one platoon). This equates to a practical lift of elements of four divisions (light). If the regular landing ships can lift elements of two divisions (including tanks), it appears the PLAN has the ability to land about two Agroup armies@ (i.e., two western corps) on undefended (or lightly defended) beaches and/or ports from oceangoing ships.
Not seen in official photographs of these exercises were any of China=s approximately 274 large (tank capable) LCU landing craft. (40) These landing craft can be used directly against the offshore islands or even over distances greater than crossing the Strait.** Theoretically these craft can land three tank divisions or three corps of infantry. [Because of the need for supplies and support elements, practical lift is no more than 2/3 of these values]. Secretary Cohen=s report also indicates AChina also likely would saturate the Taiwan Strait with a huge number of noncombatant merchant and fishing vessels, with the aim of confusing and overwhelming Taipei=s surveillance and target acquisition systems...(41) Such auxiliary vessels could easily transport 3 or 4 Agroup armies@ (i.e., corps), although they would require an operational port already under PLA control.
The PLA Marine Corps is known to have two active duty Marine Brigades. (42)*** The 31st Group Army (of three divisions) is also trained for amphibious assault. Elements of this Army exercised in 1996. (140 & 155 again) There are also known to be eight reserve Marine Corps divisions and two additional marine tank regiments. (43) Apparently a Marine Division marched in Beijing on October 1, 1999. (44) It=s modern main battle tanks (type T-85II) may indicate it is an active duty division. (45) Whether this division is one of the reserve divisions, an expanded brigade (similar to the creation of the 2nd Brigade from a PLA division) or one of the 31st Group Army divisions transferred to the Marines is not yet understood.
* Assumed to be 720 for purposes of analysis.
** Japan did this over greater distances with smaller LCM type landing craft during World War II. (46)
*** On October 21, 1999, the new edition of the Military Balance was released. For the first time it also lists 2 Brigades of Marines. It gives the organization asA3 marine, 1 mechanized infantry, 1 light tank, 1 artillery battalions.@ (47)
Prognosis for China, Page 22, PLA Amphibious Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
It appears the PLAN can deliver about two Agroup armies@ (i.e., corps) of amphibious units by ships and another two by large LCU type landing craft. In addition, it can deliver at least three or four more by merchant ships to any operating port. Ships surviving these operations undamaged could be used to deliver additional, follow on waves of units, supplies and equipment. Even if severe casualties were taken in the first wave it is probable that at least 3 corps could be delivered as the second major wave if the sea lanes remained open, one of them over-the-beach. If the Chinese were confident of their control of the sea lanes, follow up waves should contain some heavy units.
4.C The Military Threat [The PLA Navy]
Even if the PLA Navy has the ability to move troops to landing sites and ports, and even if the PLA Navy and Air Force are able to achieve air control over the Taiwan Strait, there remain several other aspects of naval operations. For one thing, Taiwan has a significant Navy. Regardless of what happens to its Air Force, the Taiwanese Navy will try to cut the sea line of communications between any PLA forces ashore and the mainland even if it is unable to prevent their landing. Does the PLA Navy have any chance of defeating the well trained and reasonably well equipped Taiwanese Navy? Felix K. Chang studied this question in 1996. At that time the PLA Navy had (by his estimate) 50 submarines (plus 4 building and 27 in reserve), 18 destroyers (plus 3 building), 39 frigates (plus 1 building), 132 missile patrol craft (plus 5 building and 60 in reserve), and 27 minesweepers (plus 8 in reserve). (48) At the same time he estimated that Taiwan had 4 submarines, 13 destroyers (plus 8 in reserve), 11 frigates (plus 18 building or awaiting transfer), 9 ASW patrol craft, 53 missile patrol craft (plus 12 building), and 13 minesweepers (plus 2 building). (49) Although China clearly has superior numbers, particularly in submarines, its advantage in warships is not nearly as overwhelming as its numerical advantages are in land units or combat aircraft. Chang also considers many of the technical capabilities of the warships on both sides in some detail. He concludes AThe relative weakness of Chinese surface warfare and anti-air capabilities, as well as the PLAN=s small number of underway replenishment ships, would preclude Chinese surface forces from assuming an effective role in a blockade of Taiwan=s eastern and southern coasts without risk of substantial losses.@ (50, emphasis added) He also analyzes the submarine threat in some detail. He concludes AAn inexpensive agent, the naval mine offers a way for Chinese submarines to close the approaches to Taiwanese ports passively...Mines proved effective in the Persian Gulf conflict by disabling modern ships like the cruiser Princeton and the amphibious-landing ship Tripoli...Mine-hunting technology lags badly, and American ships operating in the Gulf relied primarily on mine watchers stationed on the bow of each vessel to locate potential mines...the Taiwanese navy=s MCM capabilities are weak...ASW operations have been reported to be particularly difficult in and around the Luzon Strait.@ (51) He notes that Athe best countervailing force to a submarine threat is the submarine itself@ but that AUnfortunately for Taiwan...its efforts to purchase additional [modern submarines] have been frustrated by Beijing.@ (52) What is interesting is what he does not say. The PLA Navy will have trouble maintaining a blockade East of Taiwan, but not West, the South but not the North. This implies the PLA Navy may be able to control the local sea in the Taiwan Strait itself and the Northern and Western coasts of the main island.
Prognosis for China, Page 23, PLA Navy (Continued), Rev. 4
According to Jane=s more current assessment, the PLAN is getting better at hunting submarines: AUntil about 15 years ago@ the PLA Navy Ahad very little anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability...Given a concentrated effort of ASW resources in a limited and shallow sea zone such as the East China Sea, several sources believe that the PLAN could perform credibly.@ (53) The PLAN may be able to defend its transport shipping from the small number of Taiwanese submarines. Also, since AThe Taiwanese navy=s MCM capabilities are weak,@ (51 again) it may find approaching Chinese positions protected by minefields very difficult.
Whatever the correlation of naval forces may have been in 1996, the situation is evolving. According to Jane=s in late 1999, ASubmarines and surface combatants have been fitted with a reverse-engineered version of France=s Exocet missile; frigates and destroyers are equipped with SAM missiles giving them protection against air and missile attacks. Some ships carry indigenously manufactured SAMs, while others have French-made Crotale systems. Ships without integral SAM capability may carry short-range, shoulder-fired SAMs derived from the Strela-2 (SA-7)...@ (54). There is a new indigenous Navy SAM system (the LY60) which replaces the older HQ61. It has 50% more range and can engage three targets simultaneously. (55) There is also an integrated missile-gun point defense system (the PL9C missile with 37 mm guns). (56) The PLA Navy has begun to take Russian Kilo class submarines into service. The initial order for 4 * has apparently been expanded to 10. Procurement of 10 or 12 more has been discussed and may have been approved during the August 1999 arms negotiations with the Russians. (57 & 58) The Navy has also decided to buy Russian Sovremenny class (anti-air warfare) destroyers into service. The initial order was for 4 and a follow up order for 4 more has been placed. (59) An interview with mainland Amilitary expert@ Zhou Guanwu published in a mainland newspaper reports AChina has a lot of anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine missiles that can be guided by satellites and adjusted for a saturated attack in local waters.@ This report indicates Athe mainland has 17 spy satellites that continuously monitor the movements of the US military and which could be used to guide a...missile attack on...warships.@ (60 & 61) A confirming report indicates the number actually is 20 vice 17. (62) All these matters represent important increases in PLA Navy technical capabilities. That both are being purchased in numbers in lieu of unsuccessful domestic projects implies the PLA Navy is unwilling to wait for the technical problems with their own designs to be resolve. This is a departure from the policy of duo yanzhi shao zhuangbei, xinlao bingcum zhubu gengxin (Aold weapons will be kept along side new ones and will only gradually be replaced@). (63) Such a policy change in the context of the current crisis suggests there may be a requirement to be able to conduct real operations in the intermediate future. US Navy and CIA sponsored simulations of a conflict over the Taiwan Strait set in the 2005 to 2010 time frame are all indicating the US/Taiwanese side will lose. (64) For the first time in history, the Russian Navy has begun to train with the Chinese Navy. (65) The JH-7 AFlying Leopard@ ** (first exercised in 1995, claimed in regimental service in 1997) is apparently now fully operational. (66, 67, 68 & 69) It is probably replacing the obsolescent H-5 (about 60 machines) and Q-5 (about 40 machines) naval service. This significant, supersonic aircraft carries two anti-shipping cruise missiles, two anti-aircraft missiles, two 23 mm cannon and two drop tanks (for extended range). (70)
* The first four Kilo class submarines are all in China in 1999 (see Note 71). ** Sometimes designated B-7 in the west.
Prognosis for China, Page 24, The PLA Navy (Continued), Rev. 4
China is seriously interested in aircraft carriers. According to the United States Naval Institute, AChina=s interest in constructing an aircraft carrier continues...A report released by the National People=s Congress in early 1993 stated that two 48,000-ton aircraft carriers >will= be built for the Navy by 205...According to the report, each carrier would embark 28 fighter/fighter-bomber aircraft and be fitted with two steam catapults.@ (72) China actually bought a 20,000 ton aircraft carrier from Australia A...HMAS Melbourne, in 1985 and used the flight deck pattern as a model to construct an airstrip at an air base. That was one of the reasons the U.S. government insisted that the scrapping of its 52,000-tonne carrier, the USS Coral Sea, be carried out in America by domestic firms when it was decommissioned in 1990.@ (73) According to Jane=s, AAfter six years of discussions about a new aircraft carrier, the Russian Nevskoye Design Bureau was given a contract about 1994 to design an aircraft carrier based on Chinese requirements. Preparatory work may have started at Shanghai in August 1996...@ (74) Jane=s also reports A...new facilities at Dalian Shipyard are similar to those at Newport News.@ (75) A September 1999 report says AAccording to US intelligence officials, China will begin building it=s first aircraft carrier at a newly upgraded Shanghai shipyard facility capable of building 3 carriers simultaneously. The first carrier, which is expected to be operational by 2006, is expected to be equipped with about 36...Su-33...@ [a carrier variant of the Su-27 already in production in China]. (76) In the meanwhile, it appears China has obtained ex-Russian aircraft carriers for study, including the Varyag which has arrester gear of the sort used by the Su-33. (73 again, 77, 78, 79, 80 & 81) Reports about Chinese carriers are fragmentary, confusing and somewhat contradictory. If the items selected above are a fair indication of a pattern, it should be expected that China will be operating a carrier in the 2006-2008 time frame. But there are also reports carrier is well advanced and that the first unit will Abe in service@ in 2001. Similarly, it is reported the PLAN will have 200 pilots who have completed Acarrier qualification@ on the Melbourne mocked up flight deck by December 1999.* If these data are correct, they may indicate a Chinese carrier could appear in the 2002-2004 time frame.
If the balance of naval power has not yet shifted in favor of the PLAN, its investment in a more powerful air arm, modern submarines, and surface warships armed with powerful, supersonic anti-shipping missiles means it is only a matter of time until China does have the advantage.** One news agency has already reported the PLAN has A...gained control of the air above the South China Sea, unnoticed.@ (82) It made this analysis on the basis of the appearance of Chinese fighters in naval service equipped with in-flight refueling probes as well as the weak air forces remaining after the U.S. withdrawal from the area. Comments on early drafts of this paper indicated there is a consensus that the PLAN should achieve a clear advantage in the coastal seas near China by the 2005-2006 time frame. During the years before the PLAN achieves this clear advantage, it will have the ability to engage in a serious contest, the outcome of which can not be predicted based on naval strength alone. The Congressional Report of Secretary of Defense Cohen, estimating the outcome of an amphibious invasion, concludes: AThe campaign would likely succeed...if Beijing were willing to accept the almost certain political, economic, diplomatic and military costs that such a course of action would produce.@ (50 again)
* There is also the suggestion that helicopter equipped ships could be an interim substitute for carrier air defense. (83)
** Mine warfare might complicate the naval warfare situation. The capacity of the Taiwanese Navy to engage in offensive mine warfare relative to the capacity of the PLAN to conduct defensive mine-hunting operations is not clear.
Prognosis for China, Page 25, Rev. 4
4.D The Military Threat [The PLA Army and Airborne Corps]
The PLA 15th Airborne Army has 3 divisions (just expanded from brigades in the late 1990s). It isAable to reach any point in China within 10 hours.@ (27 again, 84 & 85) Most of the PLA/AF delivery aircraft are of a highly unusual type: the Y-5 (a Chinese designation for the Russian An-2 bi-plane). (86) The most successful aircraft of all time in terms of production numbers, it is de facto a stealth transport, all but invisible to radar due to its small size and non-metal structure. Still manufactured in the PRC (and in Poland), the Chinese continue to modify it for Air Force special operations missions. If the PLA Marine Corps attempts cross Strait landings, it is reasonable to expect simultaneous landings by elements of this airborne force. (27 again) According to the Defense Secretary=s Report to Congress: AAn airborne envelopment would facilitate amphibious operations by cutting off Taiwan=s coastal defenders from supply lines and forcing them to fight in two directions.@ (44 again) Given the limited number of air transports in the PLA Air Force, it is reasonable to estimate that substantial elements of one division (possibly augmented by a special forces group) might be tasked for initial operations and a second division might follow on an air-mobile basis, perhaps on civil transports mobilized for the operation landing on airfields seized during those operations.
The Airborne has only light equipment. The Marines have some artillery and tanks, but it was thought only light tanks and older main battle tanks which are not well protected by today=s standards. (87) [On October 1st a Marine tank regiment marched in Beijing with more modern T-85II main battle tanks]. (39 again) The mission of these light units (Airborne and Marine) is apparently to seize one or two major ports so that the real strength of the PLA may deploy. The PLA is the world=s largest army. It has 11 Armored Divisions (with an estimated 323 modern main battle tanks each).* There are an additional 13 Armored Brigades.* These heavy units are backed by 2 Mechanized Infantry Divisions, 3 combined arms Rapid Response Divisions and 68 other Infantry Divisions (four of them Category A, nominally ready to deploy), 5 Artillery Divisions, 20 Artillery Brigades and 7 Helicopter Regiments. (85 again) None of this counts the units assigned to Independent Forces [5 Infantry Divisions plus many smaller units] or Local Forces [12 Infantry Divisions plus many smaller units] or the Provincial Reserves [estimated as 80 Infantry Divisions]. Taiwan has 12 Infantry Divisions (2 of them mechanized), 6 Armored Brigades and 2 Airborne Brigades on active duty and 7 Divisions of light infantry in reserve. (88) In short, the PLA is so large it will almost certainly win if it can bring its numbers to bear, if the PLA Navy can keep it supplied, and if the PLA Air Force can deny control of the air to Taiwan. The large Japanese army was never able to drive the Chinese from the field. Even the modern U.S. 8th Army was unable to defeat the PLA Volunteer Army in Korea, to sever its line of supply or even to achieve air superiority over it. Jane=s indicates AThe first...division sized...true rapid deployment units is based in the Guangzhou Military Region.@ (27 again) This unit, with Mi-8, Mi-17 and Zhi-9 helicopters, might be able to conduct a brigade sized assault with its own assets, independent of airborne and amphibious operations. The other two regional Rapid Response forces should be expected to obtain this capability soon, if they have not already.**
* The new Military Balance (October 1999) indicates there are now 10 tank divisions & 12 tank brigades. (89)
** Note both Taiwan and China plan to reorganize some of their units into more modern brigade type formations.
Prognosis for China, Page 26, Rev. 4
4.E The Military Threat [The PLA Air Force and Naval Air Force]
Even if the PLA Navy has demonstrated the ability to move substantial numbers of troops across the strait and land them on a beach, it is not clear that they could establish the air superiority necessary to do so. One analysis compares the problem the PRC faces with the situation between Germany and Britain following the Fall of France in 1940. If the Wehrmacht had been able to close with and engage the British army, they would surely have defeated it. However, the Wehrmacht had first to cross the English Channel...the German=s attempted to first establish air superiority over the channel and southeastern England. The theory was that with air superiority and the use of mines, the Royal Navy would be forced out of the Chanel, opening
the way for an invasion of Britain. (90) This situation is somewhat mitigated in the case of the offshore islands of Quemoy, Wuchau and Matsu. Being only a few kilometers from the Chinese mainland, the battle for air superiority would be conducted at ranges much more favorable to the PLA. Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom is that the PLA will be unable to do this, even over the offshore islands.
The conventional wisdom may be wrong. Certainly the PLA knows it needs to establish air superiority over the operational battle area, both land and sea. Certainly the PLA has had a long time to contemplate how to get the job done. The indications that the PLA Marines are exercising to land on undefended beaches are a clue to how this problem will be solved (because an army fights the way it trains): the attack will come without operational warning, before any U.S. aircraft are in the area, and while substantially all Taiwanese aircraft are on the ground in their peacetime deployment mode.
The analysis cited above concludes: A...the question of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is predicated on China=s ability to suppress air activity originating on Taiwan, to force U.S. naval forces out of effective operational range..., and to render non-Taiwanese based aircraft ineffective...China has only one hope of achieving this goal: anti-ship and surface to surface missiles that can be launched from highly mobile, stealthy land based launchers or from aircraft firing at standoff ranges.@ (91) The analysis is essentially correct, if oversimplified. China can also launch anti-ship missiles from submarines and even from surface craft. China can probably launch raids by special forces units, such as the Flying Dragons described by the South China Morning Post, (92) delivered by aircraft (conventional, stealth bi-planes or even surface skimming wing-in-ground effect machines) or stealth boats (93) or even already on Taiwan.*
There is a modern precedent for a military force that was not previously regarded as technically capable seizing air control with predominantly Russian weapons and operational concepts while it launched a successful land invasion. In 1973 Egypt achieved initial tactical victory over the very sophisticated Israeli Defense Forces, and ultimately won back the Suez Canal, by the unexpected introduction of a range of Russian equipments and tactics.
* Someone is stealing military munitions on Taiwan. On October 3, rifle ammunition was stolen from an Air Force base. About Oct. 13, military pyrotechnics were stolen, also from an Air Force base. (94)
Prognosis for China, Page 27, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
A few moments before 2:00 P.M. on Saturday, October 6, 1973, the armies of
Syria and Egypt simultaneously attacked Israeli forces on the Golan Heights in
the north and along the Suez Canal in the south. Before the war it had been
universally expectedC in Jerusalem, Washington, Moscow, and, to a large
extent, even in Cairo and DamascusC that a future Middle East conflict would
be a short and bloody affair of a few days, leading to a clear Israeli victory.
More to the point, however, most Israeli and American decision makers thought
that war would not come to the Middle East in 1973; the Arabs, having no
serious military option, would not attempt something so clearly beyond their
strength...the Israeli=s had been unable to win the quick and elegant victory
expected by so many and had endured traumatic losses to boot. One senior
general describes the onset of the war as >the most shattering experience in the
history of Israel,= and in her memoirs Golda Meir refers to the war as something
that came very close to utter disaster... (95)
In November, 1972, Sadat decided to go to warC an option long prepared and
studied by the Egyptian military but one in which many officers lacked con-
fidence. Finding Minister of War Muhammed Sadek opposed to war, Sadat
dismissed him in January 1973, replacing him with a more willing general,
Ahmed Ismail Ali...In December, 1972 Sadat restored relations with the Soviets:
The Soviets received renewed access to Egyptian ports, and the Egyptians
began to get vast Soviet arms shipments. By March, 1973, preliminary planning
had been completed...Egyptian objectives...were...subtle and complicated...
Sadat thought it essential to break a diplomatic stalemate intolerable to Egypt
...; by the very act of opening fire the deadlock would break, and fluidity would
return to Middle Eastern politics. Anything short of a catastrophic Arab
failure, and perhaps even that, would force the United States and the Soviet
Union to renew the quest for a Middle East settlement. (96)
Sadat=s second set of objectives were psychological: to end Arab inferiority complexes and to destroy the AIsraeli Security Theory.@ Sadat believed Israel sought to fight on Arab soil a war of less than a week=s duration without significant Israeli casualties. He also thought the Israeli=s sought to Aconvince the Arabs that they could not achieve their objectives by military force@ because of Amilitary and technological superiority@ and interior lines of communications. He explicitly sought to cause a war of longer duration and higher casualties than Israel could afford. The requirement for territory per se was minimized. (97) The Arab plan was crafted to match Arab strengths with Israeli weaknesses in the context of strategic surprise. Although the Israeli=s believed the Suez water barrier could not be crossed, (98) A...the Egyptians managed to bridge the waterway on a broad front on the first two days...@ (99) (an operational surprise using Russian bridging equipment and tactics created for the occasion). This crossing and the consolidation of a defensive line which was able to defeat the anticipated Israeli counterattacks (99 again) was facilitated by was the use of a ASAM belt@ over the critical battle area. China could certainly do this over the mainland and over the offshore islands. (For this reason Taiwan and its allies should avoid an air battle of attrition over those islands).
Prognosis for China, Page 28, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
There are other weapons and tactics China could employ even in a cross-Strait contest. For example, China has developed an anti-radiation missile designed specifically for use against AWACS type aircraft. (100) Taiwan has only four aircraft with this capability. What if this missile, apparently based on the Russian SA-10, is tactically effective? There are new generation of SAMs which greatly complicate the problem of flying in airspace the Chinese want to control. These include the S300PMU1 effective to 30 km altitude at ranges up to 75 km. (101) A review of the impact of modern air-to-air missiles in Air Forces Monthly states: AThe close-in combat arena has changed substantially during the past decade, due to the introduction of the Russian MiG-29/Su-27 with the R-73 dogfight missile (AA-11) aimed by a helmet-mounted sight. With the fall of the Soviet Union...western military planners had widespread access to Russian technology which demonstrated the uncomfortable lead this system had over the American AIM-9L/M Sidewinder...R-73's could acquire a target up to 60 degrees of the centerline...while the AIM-9L had only a 27.5 degree field of view and a 40 degree tracking capability. With the helmet-mounted sight, the R-73 could be cued by head movement to hit a target within 90 degrees of the centerline.@ (102) This is only one example of revolutionary air-to-air missiles reviewed. It is noteworthy that Chinese designs are listed along with those of other nations more recognized for advanced technologies. (102 again) There are simply too many new weapons and too many unknowns to make a confident prediction that an Egyptian type SAM belt will not be effective.
To the uncertainties of SAM and AAM performance must be added a certainty: the problem of numbers. If it is generally true in military affairs that Avictory favors the side with the bigger battalions,@ it is even more true that numbers matter in air-to-air combat. The side with the Aextra@ aircraft gets more opportunities to achieve a firing position. Also, a sufficiently outnumbered aircraft tends to run out of fuel, ammunition and missiles before it runs out of enemies! In this area, at least, the PLA/AF enjoys a decisive advantage. In mid-1997 the PLA had in excess of 4,100 combat aircraft, exclusive of armed helicopters (3,566 in the Air Force and a further 541 in the Naval Air Force). (28 again) At the same time, Taiwan had 560 combat aircraft, also exclusive of armed helicopters (529 in the Air Force and 31 in the Naval Air Arm). (103) In the critical area of fighters and fighter ground attack aircraft, Taiwan can field only 20 squadrons. The PLA/AF fields 180 squadrons of fighters alone, in addition to about 400 fighter ground attack aircraft and about 300 fighters in naval service. (28 & 103 again) Secretary Cohen concludes AThe sheer numerical advantage of older platforms augmented by some fourth generation aircraft could attrit Taiwan=s air defenses sufficiently over time to achieve air superiority.@ (104) If a preemptive attack on Taiwan=s air bases is successful, the sheer numerical advantage of PLA fighters should be able to achieve air superiority from the first day.
One reason analysts are confident of Taiwan=s ability to maintain air superiority is the that the quality of its aircraft and flight crews is quite good. (105) For one thing, the average pilot in Taiwan gets more flying hours than his counterpart on the mainland does. (106) For another, the reputation of the F-16 and the Mirage 2000 is very high, particularly among western analysts.
* The numbers for 1999 are reported to be 4,061 (3,420 air force + 541 navy) for China and 629 (598 air force + 31 navy) for Taiwan. (47 & 107).
Prognosis for China, Page 29, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
But there is another view. Hans Halberstadt states
Despite what many people once assumed, Russian airplanes aren=t crude and
inferior copies of British, American and other Western nation=s products,
although some elements may appear to be crude and sometimes to be copies.
Russian airplanes are designed, built and operated in a different way, for
somewhat different reasons, than Western aircraft. They need to be evaluated
on their own terms and to their own standards and specifications. These aircraft
are neither copies nor inferior, overall, but are instead quite different. In some
ways they are more advanced and better constructed than in the west. For
example, the Su-27 includes systems (such as the infrared search and track system)
and fabrication techniques (such as the extensive use of titanium) that are highly innovative and offer clear advantages not available on any We ...it was far from one sided stern fighter. (108)
Because the Chinese have elected to put the Su-27 (and it=s multi-role cousin, the Su-30) into production, in addition to buying several batches of both from the Russians, we will also consider Halberstadt=s evaluation of it in detail:
The Sukhoi Su-27 is a marvelous, capable, exotic, innovative weapon system
designed to engage and defeat North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air
forces in combat as part of a limited or unlimited World War III...Some of the
Su-27's design elements are far out of date by Western standards C its engines
have lives far shorter than those of American or British aircraft, it cockpit is far
more cluttered, its radar less capable C but its designers don=t need to be
apologetic. Even with its limitations, it can out-perform many (or possibly all)
of its NATO competitors in many fundamental combat maneuvers. As of 1992,
it holds twenty-seven world records. (109)
In case the reader should think Hans Halberstadt is alone in this view, I will quote British aviation authority Bill Gunston in support of him:
...throughout my lifetime we in >the West= have taken it for granted that our
aircraft are technically superior to those of the USSR...The attitude dies hard.
It is alive and well, and stems entirely from ignorance....Flight International,
staffed by experts...when they saw the first pictures of the Su-27 prototype they
called it >a cross between the F-14 and F-15, with elements of the F/A-18 design
thrown in for good measure=...I hardly need add that when Western pilots were
actually able to fly the Su-27 all thoughts of copying vanished. That=s what
happens when ignorance is replaced by knowledge. (110)
Prognosis for China, Page 30, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
The opinion of a Russian test pilot is instructive: AIlyushin: >Before Su-27 I had flown 142 types, and came to know I was always more intelligent than the aircraft. With Su-27 it was other way around; it always seemed more capable than I was...When I flew first T-10S I understood this was the aircraft for which I had waited all my life...@ (111) Reports that China bought 24 or 50 Su-27s are out of date. Another batch of 60 was ordered in August, 1997 (for 1998-1999 delivery). Production of a further 200 (at least some from Russian kits) began in mid-1999. (112) Since the current Taiwan crisis began Russia has agreed to supply China with a further 60 Su-30 (a multi-role variant of the Su-27) and right to produce it, more Kilo class submarines and high performance SAMs. (113 & 114) Each passing month increases the numbers delivered, manufactured and integrated into the PLA. It is possible that Western analysts are unfamiliar with either the equipment the PRC uses or that the historical record has not always favored Western aircraft in combat.
On the historical record, concerning an earlier generation of Russian aircraft, AThe combat debut of the MIG-15 in Korea in November 1950 proved an unpleasant shock to the West. There was only one Allied fighter in the same class, the North American F-86 Saber@ [none of which were then in Korea] Abut the MIG-15 could demonstrate a better rate of clime, a tighter turning circle and a much better service ceiling; above 10670 meters (35,000 feet) the MIG-15 was even faster than the Saber.@ (115) An American aviation historian records:
The U.S. Air Force and Navy received a terrible shock in November 1950 when
the Chinese and Soviet air forces intervened in the Korean War...both the Navy
and the Air Force had failed to realize just how far behind most of their aircraft
technology was in comparison to the recent innovations of the Soviets...Both
services suffered heavily at the hands of this fearsome new Communist weapon,
but it could have been much worse had the Red pilots been better trained...In the
end only the F-86 Sabrejet could stay in the air with the MiG. Postwar accounts
stress the amazing 7:1 kill ratio that the sleek American fighter scored over its
Communist counterpart. Recent scholarship, however, has shown that this
alleged walkover did not actually take place...when all UN losses to MiGs are
included. (10 again)
Note that the air force flying the MIG-15 in Korea was the Chinese PLA Air Force.
The next generation of Soviet aircraft were also unexpectedly competitive. AAlthough considered virtually obsolete by the Soviet Union in the mid-1960s, the MIG-17 saw considerable and effective use over Viet Nam...@ (116) In fact, while the Vietnamese also had the more modern MIG-19 and, eventually, the MIG-21, they preferred the MIG-17 for combat! It had superior horizontal performance, being able to out-turn any contemporary Western jet. Martin Bowman records A1966 was a bad year for the US Air Forces. Altogether 379 aircraft were lost, including 34 as victims of SA-2 SAM missiles. Some 126 F-105 Thunderchiefs and 42 F-4s were lost in combat. Something had to be done to drive the MIGs from the skies over Vietnam.@ (117) When the MIG-21 was introduced to Vietnam:
Prognosis for China, Page 31, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4
...it was far from one sided. In a seven-month period from August 1967,
MIG-21s shot down 18 US Air Force fighters and lost only five of their own.
The North Vietnamese were almost always handled rigidly from the ground
by a very efficient controlled interception organization, being told where to
fly, when to attack and even when to fire. (118)
The Korean war saw both Chinese and Russian pilots flying MIGs in combat. (10 again) Similarly, some Russians and many Chinese participated in the ground air defense units in Viet Nam. (119) Occasionally they achieved tactical success for a period, as when they used a gunlaying radar to control the SA-2 SAM. (120) In all, 2,317 aircraft were lost in combat (compared with 851 operational losses) by US forces in Viet Nam (121).* AAmerican pilots went into Vietnam thinking they were the best. They were very good. But not as good as they believed. In fact, initially American losses to enemy fighter aircraft were shockingly high. From mid-1964 through 1969... Encounters between MiG-21s and navy fighters were resulting in 1:1 kill ratios, bad enough, were it not for the fact that those between MiG-21s and air force fighters were even worse, running 1:3 in favor of the MiG-21s.@ (122) Given historical events in Korea and Viet Nam, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Russian Avolunteers@ might be helping PLA air defense units and fighter air units during a conflict over the Taiwan Strait.
The PLA/AF has established a Atactics coordination training center and three simulated training centers.@ (123) It has placed three (relatively junior) Lt. Generals the Lanzhou military region as commander and as vice commanders of the PLA/AF. AAnalysts said the Lanzhou region was significant because of its vast, sparsely populated areas where the air force conducts most of its exercises.@ (124) If an increased tempo of flight operations is sustained, the PLA/AF is going to increase its operational capabilities as time passes. Then there is the matter that the PLA/AF appears to being obtaining U.S. Air Force training! On September 14, 1999 the FAA released 577 pages of official documents revealing
that a civil airline modernization program for China was actually a program to
train and equip the People=s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)...The new documents...are official USAF, Commerce and FAA reports on Chinese military
contacts. According to the documents, PLAAF officers toured Edwards Air
Force Base in May 1999 for military purposes. The PLAAF officers were given
training on USAF combat missions, including >bombing and strafing= and >combat readiness.=
Documents indicate related activities since 1993, including information on GPS, radars, avionics, air refueling, and the USAF AWACS aircraft. (125) If the PLA/AF turns out to have significantly better operational capabilities than is generally believed, it may be that years of American training and technical assistance have been effective. Other reports indicates this training is ongoing. (126 & 127)
* In China, as in the historical German Luftwaffe, the primary ground air defense units are assigned to the Air Force. During the Viet Nam war, large numbers of Chinese air defense units served in North Viet Nam.
Prognosis for China, Page 32, PLA Air Forces (Continued), Rev. 4.1
In November the first Russian Il-50 transport aircraft was delivered to Israel for fitting of the conformal, Phalcon AWACS type radar. This phased-array antenna technology is superior to the mechanical rotating domes used by Taiwanese and American AWACS type aircraft. Not only does it have less air resistance (fuel required per unit of distance in flight), it is more flexible and operationally effective for technical reasons. (128, 129 & 130) The contract under which this conversion is being done involves three additional aircraft. (129 again) This is a very significant enhancement to the PLAAF. ADefense Minister Tang Fei said that the capabilities...were much better than those of Taipei=s existing E-2T early-warning system.@ (131; see also 132) In fact, AThe Phalcon, the world=s most advanced Airborne Early Warning, Command and Control (AEWC&C) system, is said to exceed the abilities of the US early warning radar planes, called AWACS, as it uses the Active Phased Array Electronic Scanning Technology rather than a mechanically rotating antenna, or rotodome.@ (133) The unprecedented haste with which this contact has been implemented may also be significant. It may imply that China has an urgent requirement for this technology.
In November AChina...pledged to turn its air force=s mainly defensive role into an offensive one.@ (134) To place this in context, note that ATaiwan=s Defense Minister Tang Tei warned [on 26 October] that the mainland may obtain air superiority in the Taiwan Straits in three to five years. Mr. Tang dismissed reports that Beijing already had the capacity to paralyze the island=s information system and take full control of the skies above the straits within 45 minutes of war breaking out.@ [Which was alleged in a Pentagon study]. (135, 136 & 137) There is also a report China is developing a promising laser air defense weapon. ABeijing has developed state-of-the-art laser defense technology and has recently successfully conducted live tests in intercepting incoming missiles...@ (138) Whatever the capabilities of the PLAAF today, clearly they will increase significantly as time passes.
If the PRC decides to attempt to achieve air control over the Taiwan Strait, it will attack at a time there are no U.S. combat aircraft in the area. They will attempt to destroy as many Taiwanese aircraft as possible on the ground. They will attempt to render Taiwanese runways (and highways fitted to double as runways) inoperative as much of the time as possible. They will attempt to knock out Taiwanese ground based radars, control centers and communications equipment which would otherwise be used to help their fighters manage the air battle. These attacks will be initiated by ballistic missiles with conventional warheads (and possibly rocket assisted artillery shells). This initial wave of attacks will be followed by cruise missile attacks, conventional air-to-ground attacks with bombers, and raids by special forces and airborne units. They will also attempt to engage any Taiwanese aircraft which do make it into the air with overwhelming numbers of their own fighters if they are threats to critical Chinese forces. Similarly, they will attempt to prevent any Taiwanese (or American) AWACS type aircraft from operating their radar, engaging them with anti-radiation missiles. [Tactically, it is almost as good to force these aircraft not to use their radar as it is to destroy them]. Finally, they will defend all their surface forces, on land and on the sea, with anti-aircraft guns and missiles. There are altogether too many technical, tactical and political variables to predict the outcome of this battle.
Prognosis for China, Page 33, Rev. 4
4.F The Military Threat [Other Considerations]
To all the above considerations must be added the psychological dimension. The US has a problem sustaining casualties. Taiwan may have problems with sufficient numbers of combat aircraft, SAMs, AAMs, and replacement of critical electronic assets such as air search radars. In the longer term, businesses may conclude that sustaining trade with Taiwan is too risky. There is the problem of surprise. The first blow may come from Amore than 100 M-class missiles in storage that could target Taiwan.@ (139) Since China has obtained technical material related to both US and Russian GPS systems, (125 again) and since this can be used for ballistic missile warheads, these missiles might be able to hit targets of known location with great precision. Even unguided missiles of this type are astonishingly accurate, something the PRC demonstrated in 1996. (140) There is now evidence that as many as 200 ballistic missiles were deployed in the part of China nearest Taiwan by early 1999. (141, 142, 143 & 144) Further, it is reported China plans to increase this number to 650 in coming years. (141 again) According to the Secretary Cohen: ATaiwan=s most significant vulnerability is its limited capacity to defend against the growing arsenal of Chinese ballistic missiles.@ (145)
At the same time missiles attack the PLA may elect to use it=s cross Strait Asupergun@ technology. (146) In the 1980s the Chinese contracted with Gerald Bull to build an ultra-long range 155 mm gun similar to one he had developed for South Africa. This was adopted as the PLA WA 021 field piece. (147) The Chinese then developed other weapons from this basic design. Old Russian guns of 130 mm (Type 59-1) and 152 mm (Type 66) have been converted to 155 mm (Type GM-45) and 152 mm (Type 83) versions of the weapon similar ranges. ** They also designed a 203 mm version (both SP and towed) achieving 11 km more range [enough to reach Taiwan from the Pescadores] (148 & 149) Jane=s News Briefs cites AReports from Hong Kong@ that say the same contractor, NORINCO, has Adeveloped a...=Super range rocket gun=, a range of 360 km@ that Acould hit Taiwan from the mainland@ (150) Western reports indicate this Arocket-gun@ is of exactly 16 inch caliber, is road mobile on the same truck China uses to transport its M-11 missile launcher, and is equipped with an autoloader. The range, however, is Aonly@ 300 km. (151) If the PLA is able to bombard Taiwan=s eight military airfields and other targets effectively with ballistic missiles and/or gun launched rockets, and if those launchers and/or guns do not prove any easier to take out than Iraqi Scuds were, the realization that defense against such attacks is almost impossible may demoralize the Taiwanese public. If casualties and equipment losses are severe enough, the American public may be demoralized at the prospect of a difficult and sustained conflict. The prospect of a sustained conflict may demoralize businesses and shipping companies trading with Taiwan. The point is this: China does not have to actually win a complete military victory to achieve its political and military objectives. It only has to cause people to believe that China is willing to sustain a campaign with unacceptably high casualties. There is every reason to believe it might win because circumstances demoralized its opponents.
* The maximum range of first generation Bull type 155 mm guns is 39 kilometers. (147 again)
** The maximum ranges are 39 km and 38 km respectively.
Prognosis for China, Page 34, Other Considerations (Continued), Rev. 4
The biggest problem faced by the PLA is integration of its many units and its old and new technologies into a functional plan. Joint exercises in 1994, 1996 and now again in 1999 helped address this problem. However, whatever difficulties Taiwan may face, it is hard to believe that many things would not go wrong with China=s plan. There are indications that: AThe big problem with the Chinese armed forces is corruption. The current drive to make the officers divest
themselves of their business interests is but the latest attempt by the government to fix the instrument that supports communist power in China.@ (152) Also: AThe officer corps did not react enthusiastically to the >get out of business= order and many of the most able officers have left the military service as a result...many of the officers that remained in uniform are not happy with their reduced economic prospects. Morale is low and shooting two senior officers for spying is meant as a lesson to shape up or suffer a worse fate than a shrunken net worth.@ (153) More time may make a significant difference in a battle for air control because of delivery, training on and integration of new equipment. These factors may encourage the PLA not to launch a full-scale invasion in the immediate future. On the other hand, the Egyptian decision for war was made less than a year before the Yom Kippur War actually began. (96 again) China has already demonstrated the ability and willingness to conduct naval exercises and missile tests in the Taiwan Strait. (32, 33 & 34 again) China should be able to initiate limited military operations after the election on Taiwan in March, as was reportedly discussed at the Central Committee meeting in Beidaihe. (154) If these operations miscalculate Taiwanese or American reactions, China might not be able to back down, considering the strength of its many pronouncements on Taiwan. In this case, China might find that large scale air operations were required even before it has substantially completed integrating new equipment and operational doctrines into its air forces.
If the U.S. and Taiwan become accustomed to the fact Chinese reserves and militia in the provinces near the strait are mobilized and exercising, they may be unable to detect a cross-Strait invasion when it actually occurs. Since China=s capabilities for littoral warfare appear to be limited and inadequate to force a heavily defended beachhead, creating the opportunity for a surprise landing on undefended beaches seems to be one of the best operational options available. China=s capacity to conduct maneuvers and exercises is almost unlimited. It is a very flexible tool which can be adjusted to take advantage of momentary political opportunities or setbacks.
A variation on the above strategy (a series of exercises leading to a serious attempt to cross the Strait in force) would be a series of exercises which eventually become a de facto blockade of Taiwan. These might begin in a way similar to the 1996 crisis, with the closure of commercial sea lanes to major ports by declaring the waters near their entrances to be target zones for missile tests. Or, as suggested by Chang, they might begin with a series of submarine or ASW exercises in locations that happened to block commercial sea lanes of approach to Taiwan. (155) Chang also suggests ABeijing may...launch an assault on one or more of Taiwan=s island outposts, such as Quemoy and Matsu.@ (156) This was also suggested by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS on August 11, 1999. (157) This may already have been attempted, in 1996. If Taiwan Defense Minister Tang Fei is correct, bad weather foiled the attempt. (156 again) Such strategies would allow the PLA to shake out significant operational problems in some of its units without committing them to sustained operations. However, such strategies carry the grave risk of unintended escalation if either side miscalculates.
Prognosis for China, Page 35, Rev. 4
4.G The Military Threat [Go Beyond the Limit War]
A new book was published in China this year titled Go Beyond the Limit War.
Co-authored by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, both...senior colonels of the
Chinese air force, this book was published by...the Chinese People=s Liberation
Army. This book focuses on how poor countries [can] deal with...hi-tech <sic>
wars launched by the USA. According to...the book...these wars have to result
in zero casualties [or other losses]...According to the book, >go-beyond-the-limit
war= refers to going beyond all [normal] modes of operation. It is...necessary to
break away from all the limitations or restrictions and to resort to all means in
dealing with the USA...so called >GBLW= means...computer hacking, [urban]
guerillas, and...=financial terrorism=...The book states >although China is not
wealthy, it is not a problem for it to spend 100 million US dollars in attacking
an unprepared power. This is enough to create a financial crisis.= The book
also indicates that the >go-beyond-the-limit wars= also include the biochemical
war, the diplomatic war, the trade war, the psychological war, and the resource
war...It is necessary to combine all these wars effectively...this book...can be
looked on as a national terrorist theory in the age of information...this book was
wantonly published [by] China and highly praised by...Chinese military theorists,
openly called the >new military revolution= of China, and lavishly flattered by...
Chinese news media. (Kanwa News Service, 158; see also 159 & 160)
This Anew@ concept in warfare* coincides with Asignificant changes in China=s theory of nuclear deterrence.@ A Chinese military magazine ANaval and Merchant Ship even directly indicates that the best way to destroy...enemy planes on the ground and enemy ships [in] port is to use...tactical nuclear weapons.@ One analysis concludes that this implies China A...has actually given up the policy of >taking no initiative in using nuclear weapons under any circumstances.=@ Under the new theory A...the function of nuclear deterrence is to safeguard...territorial sovereignty, to contain the USA from its involvement in the Taiwan issue through conventional war, or to create a direct deterrent toward the advocates of independence of Taiwan.@ It is suggested this may be a copy of A...the new military theory that Russia proposed in 1993.@ It is also suggested this may be a way to increase A...the ambiguity of its nuclear policy to a certain degree.@ (161)
Historically China has long had a strong policy not to be the first to use nuclear weapons and not to threaten the use of nuclear weapons Ain any circumstances.@ (162 & 163) That China has changed this policy is indicated is also indicated because, in the last few years, China has threatened to use nuclear weapons in a campaign to capture Taiwan: A>Some Chinese lower-level officials told some visiting American officials that we wouldn=t dare defend Taiwan because
* Although described by its authors as new,Athey pieced together...heretical beliefs that [have] long been out of date and called them [a] new theory.@ (158 again)
Prognosis for China, Page 36, Go Beyond the Limit War (Continued), Rev. 4
they=d rain nuclear bombs on Los Angeles,= said Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.@ (164) One analysis is that China=s announcement it possessed neutron bomb technology in July, 1999 was an attempt to intimidate Taiwan with implied nuclear threats. AThe neutron bomb would be the choice weapon of mass destruction for attacking an
area a country intended later to occupy, as there would be minimal infrastructure damage despite the massive loss of life...China=s added emphasis on neutron bomb capabilities at this time, then, is likely a reminder to Taiwan that despite China=s current inability to launch a large-scale conventional invasion of Taiwan...,it still possesses substantial offensive capabilities.@ (165, see also 166) China also specifically threatened to use the neutron bomb on U.S. aircraft carriers in the context of an intervention on behalf of Taiwan on August 20, 1999. (167) There is other evidence China is evolving a new nuclear weapons doctrine which involves nuclear war-fighting called Jinjue he baofu (Afirm nuclear retaliation@). (168, 169 & 170)
This new doctrine is being supported by the development and deployment of a new generation of hardware. According to a RAND report AThis nuclear modernization program is apparently intended to serve two broad goals: (1) the maintenance of a deterrence capability against both nuclear and conventional threats from major powers and (2) the development of a tactical nuclear weapons capability for possible use in limited conflict scenarios.@ (168 again) Finally, there is a Pentagon report that indicates China might use nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in a dispute over Taiwan. (171)
Confusingly, early in September China announced it would not use nuclear weapons on Taiwan. (172 & 173) A librarian pointed out that the statements might not be contradictions. (174) Use of nuclear weapons on a U.S. aircraft carrier (or even on Los Angelus) is not use Aover Taiwan.@ Use of nuclear weapons over the Taiwan Strait to destroy Taiwanese radars and communications equipment is also not Aover Taiwan.@ This scenario has been suggested by some U.S. writers (156 again & 175) and the Heritage Foundation (176). A Chinese General indicates he is aware of this concept in an essay. (169 again)
AIn a news conference on March 16 , the president [Eisenhower] asserted that atomic weapons could be used tactically in Asia without massacring civilians...@ (177) Apparently, the initial mission of Chinese nuclear weapons was to prevent future American threats that it might use nuclear weapons on Chinese targets. According to John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai: A...events in Korea, Indochina and the Taiwan Strait constituted the proximate cause of the Chinese decision to build a national strategic force...in the winter of 1954-55 and gave special urgency to the strategic weapons program in the decade thereafter.@ (178) China took ten years to develop an atomic bomb (skipping the first generation, Agun type@ entirely). It took only three more years to detonate a hydrogen bomb. (179) Chinese missiles were designed A...each with a different range based on a specific imaginary [American] target...Japan, the Philippines, Guam and the Continental United States.@ (180) These are all places that the United States could and did base nuclear weapons that might be used against China. China=s new threat to attack an American aircraft carrier with a nuclear weapon if it enters Taiwanese waters (167 again) might be consistent with this targeting policy: a carrier might be regarded as a nuclear threat to China during a shooting war (which it certainly is). It might be wise to communicate that the United States will not initiate the use of nuclear weapons over Taiwan.
Prognosis for China, Page 37, Go Beyond the Limit War (Continued), Rev. 4
The theory of GBLW was somewhat anticipated by Eliot a. Cohen in his Foreign Affairs essay A Revolution in Warfare published in March/April 1996.
To the extent that information warfare, including the sabotage of computer
systems, emerges as a new type of combat, the first blow may be covert, a
precursor to more open and conventional hostilities. Such attacks C to
which an information-dependent society lie the Unites States is particularly
vulnerable C could have many purposes: blinding, intimidating, diverting,
or simply confusing an opponent. They could carry as well the threat of
bringing war to a country=s homeland and people, and thus even up the
balance for countries that do not possess the conventional tools of long-range
attack, such as missiles and bombers. How such wars...would play themselves
out is a matter of tremendous uncertainty.@ (181)
Similarly, Fred C. Ikle foresaw the potential for radically different political uses of weapons of mass destruction (which include nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons) in his essay The Next Lenin. If he was more worried about a domestic revolutionary than a foreign power radically changing the rules we assume are universal, nevertheless he was exactly correct that we might face an opponent who is not deterred by the doctrine of deterrence.
...America=s future enemies will not necessarily fight according to our Marquis of
Queensberry rules. As A.J. Bacevich has recently written, >those disadvantaged=
by the existing rules of warfare will have a powerful incentive to recast >the terms
of conflict in ways that play to their strengths and exploit our vulnerability.= Bace-
vich anticipates that the >disadvantaged= will use >subversion, terror, and banditry=
and that >in the future, such unconventional methods could be come more effective
still if combined with...weapons of mass destruction. (182)
GBLW doctrine is self-defeating: the primary APearl Harbor effect@ was to unite Americans in a will to fight and win a war that a majority had opposed entry into. The GBLW concept may be thought of as a combination of these two concepts, an international mode of warfare that emphasizes the use of computers, but also includes terrorism and even weapons of mass destruction, targeted in general on American infrastructure and targeted in particular on American financial institutions. This form of warfare is most dangerous if it is waged by surprise, against a defense establishment unable to cope with opposition operating outside the parameters it was expected to operate within. US doctrine re weapons of mass destruction implies the US would respond to use of any such weapons by a larger-scale, strategic nuclear attack. This may not be either appropriate or realistic. The use of nuclear weapons to generate electromagnetic pulse to defeat Taiwanese and/or American radars, the use of a biological weapon to temporarily shut down and terrorize Wall Street, or any of a number of the scenarios suggested by the authors of GBLW neither justify targeting Chinese cities with hydrogen bombs nor do they deal with the problem of Chinese or even Russian retaliation in kind. Even if such an attack could be conducted free from such a risk, the environmental consequences and the effect on the future world political order would probably be unacceptably high. A better doctrine is an imperative.
Prognosis for China, Page 38, Rev. 4
4.H The Military Threat [The PLA Invasion Plan]
The PLA normally has 11 to 15 divisions of rapid reaction troops which do not need a period of mobilization before undertaking operations. (183) No more than 6 of these could actually Ajump from the barracks:@ the three Airborne divisions and the three combined arms regional Rapid Response Force divisions can all move with less than 48 hours notice.* The invasion plan is believed to involve the combined arms Rapid Response division stationed in the Guangzhou Military Region and at least one airborne division. These would be augmented by at least six other infantry divisions and/or reserve divisions of marines (which may have been activated during the current mobilization).** These six divisions would require at least a week of preparation (183 again), a process that might be detected by U.S. or Taiwanese intelligence. At least nine additional divisions (probably including heavy divisions and additional regiments of marine tanks) plus another airborne division would be activated for transportation if the initial attacks succeed. One of these divisions would probably be a Amain force@ armored division. [Movement of this unit might also be detected by intelligence]. To these 18 divisions would be attached a number of smaller units: A Marine brigade, two Marine armored regiments, 3-4 Special Forces groups,*** and units assigned security missions. Three to six additional divisions might be activated for operations against the offshore islands. Most, but possibly not all, of these forces would be from the Nanjing and Guangzhou Military Regions (the eastern and southern coastal areas of China, because that is indicated by unit training and exercises). Given that China has mobilized some of its reserves (used to bring divisions to full strength) there may be sufficient assets to attempt an attack without any further increases in mobilization and without any deployments that could not be covered as mere exercises.
Such an attack will probably first be indicated by massive attacks on Taiwanese and American web sites, both military and civilian. This is because China has created a doctrine for such attacks and this doctrine calls for both military and civilian assets to be committed against a wide range of potentially vulnerable targets. (158, 159 & 160 again, 184 & 185) Such an attack cannot be tested early without compromising its effectiveness. However, if the ongoing cross Strait computer attacks escalate gradually, it may be difficult even to use this indicator a major campaign is immanent.
* Not all of these divisions would be available for operations against Taiwan. China still requires regional and national Rapid Response Forces. At least three divisions, and probably more than that, would be required for such missions. The three airborne divisions are supposed to beAable to reach any point in China within 10 hours.@ (27 again) If this is somewhat ambitious, nevertheless any or all of these divisions could probably be moving (not necessarily by air transport) with 24 hours notice. The number of regional rapid response divisions is supposed to increase. Since China has 7 military regions, (186) presumably there should be 7 regional rapid response forces.
** If the marine division that marched in Beijing on October 1 was a reserve division, its new tanks and other vehicles may indicate that there is a requirement these divisions be ready for combat operations.
***There are apparently 4 special operations groups (in addition to one dedicated to training which may, on the WWII Japanese model, undertake limited operations).
Prognosis for China, Page 39, PLA Invasion Plan (Continued), Rev. 4
Regardless of the breadth or intensity of an Information Warfare campaign, an invasion will A...first use missiles to paralyze Taiwan=s command system and important military targets in order to gain air superiority and command of the sea.@ (170 again; see also 187) These attacks will certainly involve ballistic missiles (as many as 300 may be fired in a short period in 2000, up to 650 after the planned buildup is completed). (141 again) Missile attacks may be augmented by long range artillery firing gun launched rockets. These are of 16 inch caliber and they may are guided by GPS and infra-red. (151 again) This initial wave of attacks would be followed by cruise missiles attacks (about 200 launched mainly from surface ships, but also by submarines, naval bombers, and possibly by land units if there were targets in range). Most cruise missiles would be directed against Taiwanese Navy ships, but in some cases facilities could be targeted as well. [In the medium term China will supplement these ASCMs with Land Attack Cruise Missiles]. These missile attacks would begin at night, perhaps 2-3 hours before dawn. At dawn several hundred aircraft on conventional bombing raids would follow, covered by fighters. Simultaneously with the missile attacks (i.e., pre-dawn), sabotage and raids by special forces units and possibly elements of the airborne division (which trains for raids) would begin. Given Chinese emphasis on seizing airfields, and the small number of elite units, an attempt to seize one airfield is likely (although two is possible). The primary objective of these early attacks will be to destroy a majority of the aircraft, naval vessels and critical electronic equipments vital to an effective defense. A secondary objective will be to avoid making it clear where the main attack is directed. Since the targets will previously have been located, these attacks will begin at night, except that the bombing attacks by obsolescent aircraft will probably follow at dawn. Invasion forces will have crossed during the night, having sailed directly from their bases in all three fleet areas and not having assembled prior to loading (as exercised). Commando raids will also come ashore (or drop) during the night, except for units already on Taiwan. (170 again, 188) Small airborne units will land over a wide area in Western Taiwan during the night. Major landings will occur after daylight (because that is what they practice doing C an Army fights the same way it trains), probably soon after dawn. If an airfield was successfully seized, elements of a rapid response infantry division (or an airborne division) would quickly attempt to air-land on that airfield. Invasions will occur on the offshore islands (if they were not taken earlier), the Pescadores, and probably a long section of the West coast of the main island and possibly at Chi-lung on the North-East coast.** There will probably an attempt to seize one major port and an associated airfield directly. Supporting this operation a corps sized force will land on an adjacent beach. Other invasions will be feints and some probes. It will be hoped this will make the main landing area unclear, complicating where to commit reserves. If the operation is conservative, the port/airfield combination will be Makung on the Pescadores.
The initial invasion objectives might be (1) to turn Makung into a forward operating base for both aircraft and staging amphibius operations; (2) to seize a major port/airfield complex on the main island; (3) to prevent raids from being launched from Quemoy, Wuchau and Matsu. If the initial invasion objectives are achieved, and if effective control of the local sea around the
* Given China=s interest in anti-radiation missiles as a counter AWACS concept, the use of passive terminal radar to engage air defense radars should not be ruled out.
** This is the port which services the capital. Aspects of the invasion drills indicate this may be a target.
Prognosis for China, Page 40, PLA Invasion Plan (Continued), Rev. 4
Taiwan Strait can be established, even if only temporarily, the PLA will attempt to reinforce its light forces forward by transporting in its airmobile rapid response division (or the oldest of these
if others have also equipped with helicopters). Elements of this division apparently can transit the Strait directly on helicopters, not using either conventional aircraft or ships. If the PLA Navy amphibious force remains substantially operational, it will return to the mainland and embark additional heavy elements of the divisions already landed or possibly one additional heavy division. The phase two primary objective might be confined to reinforcing and securing control of the airfield/port complex seized on one end of the main island, or Makung if the main island was not invaded. However, all forces landed will continue to block movement or deny the use of critical facilities to Taiwanese military forces.
If the PLA succeeds in both initial and secondary phases, and particularly if it also succeeds in blockading the Eastern side of Taiwan, it may attempt to negotiate. For one thing, its ability to sustain air operations for a long period is limited. It needs a stand down to maintain its aircraft. For another, the new doctrine expects Arelatively brief conflicts in local environments, for which the major military powers would not have the warning required to mount credible responses.@ (189, see also 190 & 191) Operations can be expected to be phased to be complete their initial phases during the time it would take U.S. policy makers to make a decision plus the time it takes U.S. carrier forces to transit to waters near Taiwan (e.g., not more than ten days).* The PLA Air Force might be forced to cease intensive flight operations after two days due to operational readiness problems. It would use this lower activity period to recover and should be expected to be able to engage in another two day period of intense operations a few days later (i.e., in time to engage US aircraft if they should begin operations in the area in significant numbers).
During the intermediate period of escalating confrontations, possibly including military exercises in Taiwanese waters and airspace, and especially during any invasion operations (even only limited ones), the grave danger is that the U.S. and/or Taiwan, having miscalculated both the intentions of the PRC and its strategic imperatives, will react in ways that cause the conflict to escalate in ways not initially contemplated by China. China can afford to lose an operational battle. This will not cause it to give up its long-range objective of reunification with Taiwan C that objective will only be postponed for a period of several years. A serious attempt to force the issue is a plus for the regime in domestic political terms. But China cannot afford to tolerate even
the appearance of a threat to its survival. Any miscalculation of would lead to Chinese attempts to Apunish@ the United States. Mike Moore, editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, writes AChina=s antiquated force lacks >crisis stability,= because its old, silo-based missiles can so easily be destroyed. In a time of high tension C say over a Taiwan C China might find itself in
a >use-=em-or-lose-=em= situation. That=s a nightmare scenario for both the United States and China...one should never underestimate the capacity of a government C any government C to do the wrong thing. @ (192) Mr. Moore appears unaware that the PRC apparently had about
* This may have been measured during the 1996 exercises.
** Wu Jichuan, the Minister of Information Industries,Aintimated that foreign investment in the Internet was forbidden@ in September, 1999 Abased on several official documents from 1993 and 1996" ChinaOnline put on its web site, both in English translation and in the original Chinese. These included the report of Chinese nuclear weapons. (193)
Prognosis for China, Page 41, PLA Invasion Plan (Continued), Rev. 4
2,350 nuclear weapons around the end of 1995, about 1800 of them strategic and 550 tactical. (194) ** He is also unaware that there is some concern some of these weapons may have been
smuggled into the United States. (195)* The problem is operational as well as strategic. If US Navy carrier battle groups even approach Taiwanese waters while China is attempting to establish or control the sea line of communications across it, China will certainly regard this as Ainterference@ in the Apurely internal matter@ of how it brings a renegade Province to heel. It really might carry out its threat of using Aneutron bombs@ on such battle groups. (167 again)
It is estimated the PRC could operate up to 1200 combat aircraft over Taiwan, the Taiwan Strait and nearby waters. It is estimated an additional 400-600 combat aircraft could be flown in as replacements. It is estimated that the attrition of 800-900 of these aircraft would be tolerated.
The outcome of an invasion across the Taiwan Strait is difficult to predict. Given indications that a PRC victory is likely in the long term, (41 & 63 again) this is probably a period in which the outcome could go either way. What would happen would be determined by operational factors. Any analysis offering a clear outcome is too simplistic to be correct. There are too many unknowns, technical, operational, tactical, meteorological and political. The most critical period would be the first 24 hours: sort of a Chinese ALongest Day.@ If the PLA is unable to damage or destroy the majority of Taiwan=s combat aircraft, naval vessels and critical radar, communications and command facilities; or if the PLA is unable to achieve surprise and land most of the units planned near critical port and airfield facilities; or if the PLA is unable to seize the target facilities before they have been severely damaged; or if the PLA is unable to establish effective control of the local sea in the Taiwan Strait for any of a variety of reasons, the operation will fail. Even if the PLA succeeds in all these matters, the ability of the initial forces to seize and hold critical port and airfield facilities until reinforced is by no means certain. If Taiwanese vehicle parks and armories have not been sufficiently damaged, or if Taiwanese road communications nets have not been effectively disrupted, the possibility of an early effective counterattack is considerable, even in the absence of Taiwanese air control. PLA forces will need to rely primarily on tactical battlefield missiles and a small number of helicopters during such an early battle. It is a battle the PLA could lose. It will take several days to move heavier divisions as complete units into the critical port/airfield complex. It is possible that the Taiwanese, like the Israeli=s in 1973, may regain the initiative and control of the air and/or the local sea. In a race between Taiwanese mobilization and deployment and PLA reinforcement, the rate of delivery of ground troops to the battle area may well be greater for the Taiwanese, at least in theory. In practice, the critical factor may be psychology. If the initial PLA victories were surprising enough to be demoralizing, and if the PLA controls the skies, even if only in the daytime, it is possible Taiwanese defenders will be too discouraged to respond effectively.
* There is no need to send an ICBM or launch a missile from a submarine to attack Los Angelus. COSCO, the China Overseas Shipping COmpany, has purchased the former Long Beach Naval Shipyard, for use as a shipping facility. In a period of crisis, China is capable of sending a thermonuclear device in a freight container. It could be remotely activated by use of the Internet or any of a variety of other methods. It is never safe to assume a nuclear power cannot retaliate even for the most massive of attacks. It is the Chinese observation of our historical threats and actual planning to use nuclear weapons in a variety of wars that have caused them to conclude they are a viable option in a conflict with limited objectives. Whatever happens, we must not forget that it is a limited dispute. (196)
Prognosis for China, Page 42, Rev. 4.1