Military Capabilities

With all the talk of war, I felt it would be good to get a better idea of the military capabilities on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. Unfortunately, the People's Liberation Army remains mired in the Chinese and Stalinist predilection for secrecy, so I don't trust any sources coming out of China. However, there are at least a couple of web resources that talk about the types of equipment China has, such as China Defense.com and Chinese Defence Today.

On the Formosan side, the liberalization of the '90s has led to more transparency. An equipment list, among other things, can be found at the Ministry of Nationa Defense homepage (and its English language mirror). The Government Information Office also has some data.

According to the data on the GIO site, we derive the following:





































Service Personnel Platforms
Army 190,000 AH-1W Attack Helicopter, OH-58D Combat Search Helicopter, CH-47SD Medium-sized Transport Helicopter, Patriot Air-defense Missile, Hawk Air-defense Missile, Air-Bow Missile, Chaparral Air-Defense (MIM-72) Missile, M60 A3 Tank, CM 11 Tank, M41 and M41D Tanks, T82 double-tube 20mm machine gun
Navy 50,000 Kang Ding (La Fayette) Class Frigates, Cheng Kung Class Frigates (Kwang Hua 1Project), Chin Yang (Knox) Class Frigates, Jin Chiang (Large Patrol Craft) Class, Chuang Ho (Newport) Class LST, Shui Huai (Pensaoda) Class LSD
Air Force 50,000 UH-1H Helicopter, F-5E/F Fighter, Mirage 2000-5 Fighter, F-16 Fighter, IDF Fighter, AT-3 Fighter, E-2T Hawkeye Early Warning Aircraft, C-130H Cargo, T-34C Training, B-1900C Transport
Military Police 10,000 N/A
Missile Forces N/A Ray-Ting 2000 Artillery Multiple Launch Rocket System, Kung Feng VI Multiple Rocket Launcher System, Tien-Kung I Missile System, Tien-Kung II Missile System, Hsiung-Feng I Missile System, Hsiung-Feng II Missile System, Tien-Chien I Missile System, Tien-Chien II Missile System
Reserves 3,450,000 N/A


The Republic of China continues to have the draft, much as Israel and many other smaller states do, in order to ensure that its general populace is able to take up arms in defense of the state in the event of an overwhelming attack. However, as with most drafts, it is not one about which young men are enthusiastic, and many families send their children abroad to fight for work permits and other visas than stay at home and join the military. Justin Bernier and Stuart Gold illustrate in an article in the Naval War College Review that suggests, rightly, that Taiwanese military preparedness leaves a bit to be desired. In addition, the proportion of government budget consumed by defense spending continues to lag behind levels before President Chen took office, as noted by the Ministry of National Defense.



As Bernier and Gold argue, this opens up a window of opportunity, where Taiwanese forces are not at their optimum readiness, and American forces are distracted by the events in the Middle East, for China to invade. That China is probably unwilling to do so before the 2008 Olympics doesn't mean that Taiwan can slack off, however, so there's much work to be done.

[Cross-posted at Naruwan Formosa and Between Worlds]

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