Computers Told Taiwan’s Leaders They Could Sink Less Than Half Of A Chinese Invasion Fleet. Now Taipei’s Shopping For New Missiles.
Aerospace & Defense
Aerospace & Defense
- “undigestable porcupine.”
The Taiwanese ministry of defense on May 28 announced it would buy from Boeing BA a mobile, shore-launched version of the company’s Harpoon anti-ship missile.In wartime, the Harpoon batteries would target Chinese ships. The military’s goal, Deputy Defense Minister Zhang Zheping said, is to sink half of an invasion fleet. Zhang told reporters that, in computer simulations, Taiwan’s current arsenal of locally-made Hsiung Feng II and Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles left afloat too many Chinese ships.
The subsonic Hsiung Feng II in its longest-range model can strike targets as far as 150 miles away. The supersonic Hsiung Feng III travels up to 100 miles. Various Harpoon models possess ranges between 70 and 200 miles.
A Hsiung Feng III launches
TAIWANESE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE
Taiwan already has air-, ship- and submarine-launched Harpoons. Zhang rated the sea-skimming Harpoon with its active-radar seeker and 488-pound warhead as being roughly similar to the Hsiung Feng II.
But the Harpoon system is more mobile, Zhang said. Where the locally-made missiles fire from towed trailers, the Harpoon fires from a quad pack mounted directly on an eight-wheel truck.
The Harpoon acquisition accelerates the evolution of Taiwan’s war strategy. For decades, Taiwan could count on its mostly American-supplied ships and planes to outnumber and outclass China’s own ships and planes.
But China, with its 1.4 billion people, always possessed more military potential than did Taiwan with its 23 million people. After two decades of explosive economic growth, Beijing now spends 25 times more on its armed forces than Taiwan does on its own military.
Despite recent Taiwanese purchases of American F-16 fighters, today China has more and better conventional forces than Taiwan. Taipei no longer can count on defeating an invasion fleet far from the island’s shores.
Increasingly, Taipei is investing in defensive systems such as the mobile Harpoon. “The sorts of survivable, low-profile and networked defenses that can survive an initial Chinese attack and be resilient and lethal for weeks or months,” according to Scott Harold, an analyst at RAND, a California think tank.
But that’s not to say Taiwan plans merely to await a Chinese invasion and fight a war on China’s terms. In addition to buying Harpoons, the island country also is developing the Yun Feng supersonic cruise missile, which can travel as far as 1,000 miles and strike targets on the Chinese mainland.
Taiwan wants to be the kind of porcupine that bites.