Artillery: They Didn't Get The Memo

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February 17, 2009:  Taiwan now believes that China has 1,500 ballistic missiles aimed at them. That's up from 200 in 2000, 800 five years ago and 1,300 last year. Most of these are Dong Feng DF-11 and DF-15 models. The DF11 (also known as the M11) has a range of 300 kilometers and carries a one ton warhead. The DF15 (M9) has a range of 600 kilometers and carries a half ton warhead. From the Chinese coast, to targets in Taiwan, it's about 200-300 kilometers (across the Taiwan Straits).

There are also over a thousand Chinese warplanes and over 100,000 troops (including several brigades of paratroopers) available for an attack on the island. The missiles would use high explosive or cluster bomb warheads, and would basically be bombs that could not be stopped. Well, that's not exactly the case. Taiwan is investing in an anti-missile system that would negate a large number of the Chinese missiles.

If used, perhaps 75 percent of the missiles would actually hit their target (the others would suffer failures in propulsion or guidance systems.) Each missile is the equivalent of a half ton or one ton aircraft bomb. But currently, the missiles have primitive guidance systems, meaning that the warheads will usually hit up to 500 meters from the target. The Chinese are believed to be equipping the missiles with GPS, although the Taiwanese can jam this. Guidance systems that are more difficult to jam are in the works, as this technology has been much sought after by Chinese spies in the United States over the last few years.

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. While China has recently said they would not use force to take Taiwan, and might reduce the number of missiles deployed against Taiwan, the people moving additional missiles to the Taiwan Straits apparently didn't get the memo.

 

 


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