Murphy's Law: The Chinese Lifeline

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January 11, 2008: As formidable as China's armed forces appear, many of their most critical weapons, or vital components of them, must be imported. Take warplanes. While China has been producing MiG clones for several decades, they only have about 350 modern aircraft, most of them based on the Russian Su-27. Most of the clones are based on the half century old MiG-21 design. China can build 15-20 modern fighters (Su-27s) each year, under license, as the J-11. To do that, China has to import engines and electronic systems from Russia. Same situation applies with China's most modern warships.

It's the same with the most potent air-to-air missiles used by these aircraft (the Russian R77). They have only bought about a thousand of these, although a less capable clone is produced locally. Past experience with missiles like this is that several (up to ten for some models) are fired for each aircraft hit. A prolonged air battle over Taiwan, and the Taiwan Straits, would cause losses of ten percent or more a day, depending on how forcefully China pressed its attack, and how quickly U.S., or even Japanese, reinforcements arrived. One reason China has a based a force of over 1,200 ballistic missiles on the coast opposite Taiwan, in an effort to try and destroy most of Taiwan's air force in the first hours of such a war. If the Chinese do not take Taiwan within a week, they are on the slippery slope to disaster.

It's likely that the Chinese generals are telling their political bosses that an invasion is very risky if tried now, but that the risks will decline year by year, as China's modern forces increase.

 


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