"Taipei must admit defeat in the arms race..."

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A coda to the apparent emergence of China’s Type 052D guided-missile destroyer: every new Chinese hull reinforces the case for remaking Taiwan’s naval strategy.

With sixteen frontline DDGs, the PLA Navy will command overwhelming superiority in numbers over the ROC Navy’s four elderly Kidd-class DDGs, which are hand-me-downs from the Cold War U.S. Navy. In all likelihood, quality has also come to favor China’s navy. The Kidd stood at the forefront of fleet air defense for its day. That day, however, dawned in the late 1970s, when the ships were built for sale to the shah’s Iran. They remained credible platforms throughout their service with the U.S. Navy. But they were eclipsed by Aegis-equipped combatants by the early 1980s, when the good ship USS Ticonderoga — “my” ship for Baltic Sea operations in 1989 — took to the briny ocean for the first time.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that the PLA Navy’s latest progeny probably excel the Taiwan Navy’s premier warships in terms of technological sophistication and hitting power. That’s still more true of the lesser ships that fill out the island’s battle line. One need not accept Beijing’s hype about staging a technological leap to “China Aegis” status to believe its new destroyers outclass thirty-year-old, pre-Aegis DDGs. Both quality and sheer weight of numbers, then, are on China’s side in the cross-strait naval competition. An economically outmatched Taiwan that cannot manufacture or import state-of-the-art warships stands little chance of reversing the momentum.

What to do? Taipei must admit defeat in the arms race — and then work around it.

This demands a change of mindset. DDGs are “sea-control” ships meant to clear the seas of enemy fleets before exploiting maritime command. The ROC Navy has always regarded itself as a sea-control force, the stronger party to the naval competition. But the weaker navy still has options — if its commanders and their political masters can bring themselves to admit they are the weaker competitor and devise strategy accordingly. The weak sometimes prevail if they set limited goals and align their meager means to those goals.

What does this mean in concrete terms? Well, relatively inexpensive “sea-denial” assets like missile-toting patrol craft or submarines pack a wallop, even against technologically and numerically preponderant foes. China itself fields an imposing array of sea-denial ships, aircraft, and missiles as part of its anti-access, a.k.a. “counter-intervention,” strategy vis-a-vis the U.S. Navy and its allies. The logic of sea denial is compelling for forces protecting their home turf.

Taipei took some baby steps toward a potent sea-denial capability with its Kuang Hua VI fast patrol boats and is reportedly developing a stealth corvette that looks like a truly impressive warfighting implement. Thus equipped, the Taiwan Navy could turn the logic of sea denial against the mainland, excluding the sea denier from vital waters or driving up the costs of entry to unbearable heights. With swarms of sea-denial assets, the island’s defenders would stand a good chance of giving any cross-strait invasion force nightmares — or, better yet, of deterring the attempt altogether. Taiwan’s chances of defying coercion would brighten commensurately.

Comments
12
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vlhc
September 15, 2012 at 09:16

The level of denial in the US is amazing, Taiwan has lost the arms race, and have accepted it a long time ago, the distance between mainland to Taiwan does not require the navy to be involved at all, Taiwan's land and naval forces can be completely wiped out just by Beijing's shore based aircrafts and missiles, its airforce will have only a few hours at most to get off the ground before the entire island's airfields are destroyed, and even then they are both out-numbered and out-gunned in the air.
This is not the 19th century, there are far more ways to sink a ship than to use another ship with bigger guns, the 052D isn't even an anti-ship vessel, its predessor was primiarly armed with anti-air weapons, and the new APAR, like future American SPY-3, are anti-air and missile defense radars, its safe to say the ship will be far off in the South China Sea during any possible conflict over Taiwan

Mark
September 9, 2012 at 10:54

My question is, why should Taiwan admit defeat in the arms race? Clearly, the strategic control of the South China Seas involves some US Naval Force structure in the calculus that makes the ROC navy is just an afterthought. 
My next question is this, in the coming years it is obvious that the entire US defense establishment is going to be reduced, and the US Navy will probably see another net reduction in force. Should nations like Taiwan expect to see some of the retired US naval equipment transfered to their fleet? Does teh ROC Navy have capacity to expand its inventories of combat ships?  Could a navy like ROC operate Aegis vessels? Can pushing some of the "excess capacity" of the US Navy be a way to maintain the current military status quo?
 
 
 

ACS1138
September 9, 2012 at 04:39

The PLAN has been prepared for sea denial operations longer than the ROC has even considered it and developed units in greater numbers and operational refinement to boot,  so if anything the PLAN even more cards to use than would be apparent.

David Lloyd-Jones
September 7, 2012 at 17:59

Taiwan, like England, is an unsinkable aircraft carrier.  When did it develop a leak?
                                                        -dlj.
 
 

Dan Pendleton
September 7, 2012 at 13:35

I agree the Kidds should be supplemented with the 3 Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers the US Navy has retired.

Morgan
September 7, 2012 at 01:38

I personally think it's all a waste of money. Taiwan is far more valuable to China intact than in ashes, any military action, even one that doesn't reduce Taiwan to ashes will have sevre economic and diplomatic reprecussions. It is in Beijings interests to work with Taipei and they know it; not allowing for an open decleration of independence is probably as big a stick as they need right now, and as the economy grows, the carrot is going to look a lot more attractive. Hopefully they are able to work out a one nation two (three or four) systems bargain like they did with Hong Kong and Macau. As Martin Jaques mentioned, China is more concerned about maintaining the civilization state than the nation state and would probably be willing to tollerate/accomodate such an arrangement. US arms manufacturers might not be happy but I'm a lot less worried about hurting their feelings and profit margins than gambling with the lives of a couple of million people.

J.Smith
September 7, 2012 at 01:37

Submarines are a good idea. However given the proximinity between Taiwan and China I would even think developing their Airforce to counter naval ships would be an advantage. Planes that could disrupt comunications and occupy ships whilst the sea is being denied by their submarines and specialty ships. 

Or

They could just sign some sort of treaty with Japan.

Vic
September 6, 2012 at 20:16

Taiwan cannot withstand the momentum of Chinese history.  As China recovers, it is better for Taiwan to think of a date of reconciliation, however far away.  Better to negotiate now for better terms, than to wait when alternatives no longer exist.  Washington may not be as reliable in the future, as US must also ponder the limits of her vested interests.

Locke_1978
September 6, 2012 at 16:57

Modern submarines would be the greatest benifit to the ROC……but they shouldn't hold thier breath. 

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