Air Defense: Taiwan Tweaks Its Patriots

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January 31, 2009: Despite vague Chinese promises that it might remove some of the thousand ballistic missiles aimed at it, Taiwan has signed a $154 million contract with a U.S. firm to upgrade the island nations Patriot missile systems. These hardware and software changes will make the Taiwanese Patriot batteries equal in performance to those used by the U.S. Army. That is, the Taiwanese Patriot systems will be able to fire the PAC-3 anti-missile missile, and station the Patriot launchers many kilometers from the system radars. Taiwan has also ordered hundreds of PAC-3 missiles.

Taiwan, increasingly anxious about China's military buildup, boosted its defense spending by about 15 percent last year (to $10.5 billion). China spends over five times as much on defense, to support about two million troops. Taiwan has only 350,000 troops, and a population of 23 million, compared to 1.3 billion on the mainland. Taiwans's GPD is $650 billion, compared to $2.7 trillion for China. Thus the per capital income of Taiwan is more than ten times that of the mainland. Taiwans military is based on the American model, with an emphasis on quality. China based its military on the Soviet model (where quantity has a quality all its own), although for decades the emphasis was on mobilizing a huge force of guerillas. Now China is trying to develop a force that can fight on Western terms (high tech operated by well trained troops.)

While many Taiwanese still see the United States as the ultimate guarantor of Taiwanese independence, they see China as increasingly capable of grabbing the island before the U.S. can intervene. So while the Taiwanese don't have to be strong enough to defeat a Chinese invasion, they do have to be strong enough to hold the Chinese back until American reinforcements can show up.

 


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