Author Topic: Anatomy of a Taiwan Invasion  (Read 1078 times)


  • Timawan
  • Boffin
  • *
  • Posts: 5679
    • View Profile
Anatomy of a Taiwan Invasion
« on: April 04, 2019, 01:01:30 PM »
Anatomy of a Taiwan Invasion: The Air Domain | The Diplomat - April 03, 2019

In any conflict scenario there are various “wildcards” that can be allocated in favor of one faction or the other. Military training and basic competency of troops and officers are perhaps the most immediate confounding factors for assessing combat effectiveness. Military morale and civilian morale can greatly influence a nation’s overall resolve and willingness to fight, and is particularly important for the ROCArF given Taiwan’s defense will likely be significantly dependent on conscripts and reservists. Other factors such as assassinations, sabotage, strategic espionage breakthroughs, and cyberattacks, may also greatly change the political and military coherency and capability of one side if successes are granted in such a conflict scenario. For the purposes of this article, these “wildcards” such as training, morale, assassinations and sabotage, espionage, and cyberattacks will not be considered and no advantage will be granted to either the PLA or the ROCArF from the onset of conflict.

< snipped >

Military Aviation Disposition

Today, it is widely accepted that the balance of cross-strait air power has substantially shifted in the PLAAF’s favor through the last two decades in terms of technology and force multipliers. For the purposes of this conflict set in 2019, we will assume that one third of the PLAAF’s total tactical combat aircraft will be deployed to the ETC facing Taiwan, while the rest are held in reserve or remain at their standard posts at high levels of alert. The majority of the PLAAF’s modern bombers in service as of 2019 (namely the fleet of 90 odd strong H-6Ks) would likely be available for Taiwan contingencies given they field a combat radius capable of launching 1,500+ km LACMs from CTC or even WTC air bases. In terms of force multipliers, half of the PLA’s approximately 30 strong AEW&C aircraft, the majority of their Y-8 and Y-9 ELINT and ECM aircraft, as well as all of their 9 strong Tu-154M SAR aircraft would be deployed to the ETC given many of those aircraft would be most relevant and pressing for a Taiwan contingency.

Military airbases and civilian airbases on the mainland and Taiwan would likely be requisitioned for military use as well, and air defense systems (both fixed and mobile) would be deployed as well.

< snipped >

The Goals of PLA Airpower

The PLAAF and PLANAF would be required to fulfill three main operational roles from the onset of T-day:

First, air superiority. Flanker aircraft and J-10A/B/C would operate simultaneously with PLA strike missions to seize air superiority across the Taiwan Strait but likely not over Taiwan airspace proper (which would require SEAD and DEAD). Air superiority naturally would enable strikes at ROCArF force multipliers such as their limited number of E-2 AEW&C and P-3 MPAs, as well as to prevent ROCAF fighter aircraft from conducting strike sorties against PLA ships, bases and staging areas. The total number of modern 4th and 4+ generation aircraft in theater prior to the onset of T-day would slightly favor the ROCAF; however PLA strike and interdiction will likely greatly reduce the sortie rate of and availability of ROCAF fighters, if not outright destroy airframes on the ground, allowing PLA fighters to enjoy superior sortie rates. PLA fighters would be heavily supported by AEW&C, ELINT, and EW/ECM aircraft to provide superior situational awareness and networking to achieve their mission, a parameter where ROCArF fighters would be greatly disadvantaged.

Second, strike, interdiction, and maritime strikes, to be conducted in conjunction with PLARF SRBM and LACM units for coordinated air and missile strikes against high value targets such as ROCAF/N/A airbases, ROCArF C4I authorities, ROCN naval bases, ROCN ships, ROCA units, and identified IADS and AShM sites with related subsystems such as radar stations. Aircraft fulfilling this mission include H-6Ks carrying KD-20 LACMs and KD-63 SOMs, as well as JH-7/As, J-16s and possibly J-10Cs carrying KD-88 pattern SOMs. DAMs would not be utilized given the prerequisite for attaining air superiority and air control and the limited quantity and variety of DAMs seen in PLA service. JH-7/As and J-16s would also be important for the maritime strike role.

Third, AEW&C and ISR and EW/ECM. PLA medium-large AEW&C aircraft such as KJ-500, KJ-200 and KJ-2000 aircraft would seek to maintain at least two persistent 24 hour orbits within Chinese airspace facing the Taiwan Strait for monitoring air and maritime activity and relaying information to PLA aircraft, ships, air defenses, and building overall situational awareness. Two or more ELINT and SIGINT aircraft would also operate at standoff range within defended Chinese airspace alongside two or more Y-8G/Y-9G standoff ECM aircraft operating against ROCArF air defenses, early warning radars and fighter aircraft.

The pace at which the PLA will seek to apply air power – especially for air superiority and strike missions – will greatly depend on the success of preceding long range conventional strikes from SRBMs and LACMs, as well as the effectiveness of PLA AEW&C aircraft, EW/ECM aircraft, and ISR aircraft. It is unlikely that initial PLA missile strikes would eliminate all ROCAF airbases or fighter aircraft or cripple ROCAF IADS. However, it is likely that ROCAF sortie generation rates and IADS capability will be degraded. The PLA would likely seek to conduct follow-up strikes; however, the ROCAF would naturally seek to sortie as many aircraft as possible into the air to seize air superiority over the Taiwan Strait to provide greater offensive and defensive depth in the air. What will emerge in the initial hours of T-day is a complex air war over the Taiwan Strait as PLA fighters and ROCAF fighters both seek to establish air superiority.