Sunday, December 30, 2007

Does China have fuels reserves for Taiwan Attack?

Andrei Chang, editor of the Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, offers this assessment of China's ability to wage war on Taiwan for an extended period of time.
By calculating the amount of fuel oil required by the Chinese navy and air force in a large-scale attack across the Taiwan Strait under high-tech conditions, it becomes apparent that such an assault could not be sustained for an extended period.

For an attack on Taiwan, China would likely mobilize 10 fighter divisions of the PLA Air Force. In fact, only one to two regiments under each division are armed with third generation fighter aircraft. According to reliable sources, the total number of Su-27, J-11A and Su-30 fighters now stands at 281.

Each Su fighter can carry up to 9.4 tons of fuel, with a maximum combat radius of 1,500 kilometers. Since the Su series are mostly deployed at second-front airports, it can be roughly estimated that each sortie would consume about 9.4 tons of oil. As a result, sorties by the full third-generation fighter fleet would consume 2,641.4 tons of fuel. In a high-intensity confrontation, if China launched two rounds of large-scale air raids, fuel consumption by the Su aircraft alone would likely double to 5,282 tons.....

After calculating the amounts China's air force, army, and navy might need, the article concludes:

What is the total annual fuel consumption of the Chinese armed forces? A report published by the PLA General Logistics Department in 2007 says that the PLA forces saved 55,000 tons of oil in 2006, approximately 5.1 percent of their total consumption. Based on this figure, the total would be over 1 million tons, about 2,954 tons on average per day. It can be concluded that fuel consumption in a 15-day large-scale assault operation would surpass 20 percent of the annual total consumption of the Chinese military.

The hard fact is that China has only 7 million tons of oil reserves available for a period of conflict. The country has set its 30-day oil reserves at 10 million tons for civilian consumption, an average of 330,000 tons per day. During a 15-day assault, the country would require 4.96 million tons. The conclusion is that China's current oil reserves could sustain a high-intensity assault operation against Taiwan for no more than 15 days.

Thought-provoking? Your comments welcome.


Frankfurter said...

The report highlights one of the big questions: can China really fight a war against Taiwan?

My opinion is very simple: if the Taiwanese want to fight for themself, they can never really loose. The island is too hard to attack and to conquer. My only concern: it looks, like the Taiwanese do not really want to fight for their future. Most are not interested in anything other than a new car, the next meal and a new vcd for ktv.

Maybe they know something important about the chinese army: if you are member of the army in a country, that is corrupt to the bone, you don´t want to fight, too.

We should notice, that the chinese pla just bought systems, that are nearly unable to achive something "usefull" in a war. Short and midrange missiles, nuclear bombs and some new bombers are nearly useless to conquer something like an island: you will need ampibian capability, lots of advanced fighters, even more advanced air-to-air missiles. And ground troops. The result (even if you conquer the small island): you will face very high casualties.

Do you think, the chinese army (who in fact runs the country) will accept this high price?

I think the Taiwanese know by heart, that China is happy to keep the status quo: this way they can focus the hate of their people to the Taiwanese, Japanese and American people.

David said...

My first thought is that perhaps Taiwan's fuel reserves are even more vulnerable and insufficient to defend a Chinese attack. China's fuel reserves might run out after fifteen days, but what if Taiwan's only last ten?

Raj said...

The Taiwanese military think they could last about 14 days without American support - so that would be cutting it close.

Adam said...

My understanding is that any attack on Taiwan would have to be conducted so that the maximum damage was done before US forces could intervene. Surely that would be well under 15 days?

Arty said...

China will most likely try to localize the war. Just like how we really don't feel like that we are fighting an Iraq war other than the recent oil price. Also, the air battle should be over within a week. It is hard for me to believe either side will leave each others' airports intact for that long. Of course, it will be a different story if US was involved.

TicoExpat said...

Guys, do not forget that firepower is only part of the equation. Can you imagine the social pressure one single blast caausing hundreds of casualties can provoke? They will be waving enough white flags to cause a hurricane.

Too much brainwashing about the supremacy of the Mainland, too much fifth column infiltration. The people are sure they will lose, in the same way they are sure "Taiwan will be like Philippines" and other doomsaying profecies.

Kind of like "The Skeleton Key". They can use you because you believe in them.

Benjamin said...


I don't know how effective it would work out to be in real life, but I remain quite impressed by the whole "the freeways can be used as airstrips" thing Taiwan has going on. It'd be pretty tough to take out all of Highway 3 from the top of the island down...

Benjamin Thompson

Anonymous said...

Well, there's >780 missiles pointed at us. I'm not sure how much oil a missile barrage would save PRC though, but it should probably be factored in the analysis.

Also, does anybody remember what the results of the past two Han-Gwong (漢光) military exercises were? I'm sure the military commanders would take something like this into account.

Asi said...

I worry that if things stay the way they are, there need not be a war, most youngsters I meet seem to be undisturbed by the idea of living in a PRC governed place. And the media does a good job of getting people comfortable with being chinese. So if things go on like this, Taiwan will be absorbed rather than taken?

I'm 28, and clueless. But I really dont see a physical confrontation happening, just the slow brain washing done by the media. (I'm not good enough to understand it yet, but what I do make out, sometimes ruffles my feathers a bit.)

MichaelC said...

In purely military terms, Taiwan, the island, is hard to attack and can be hold easily for 14 days or even longer. In WW II, the Japanese remained unfazed when America bombed Taiwan. Whether Taiwan, the nation, will have the mental toughness to last 14 days is a different matter.

1) Patriotism on Taiwan side – Being attacked usually will galvanize a great deal of patriotism. At that point, the stake is much higher for Taiwan not fighting than otherwise. At least that’s the general case. No doubt there will be some segments of population that will support the fight. But now there are many people in Taiwan whose lives are very intertwined with affairs in China. It’s hard to see these people and the pan-blues rooting for Taiwan while their interests in China suffer either by war or by Chinese government’s retaliation. For this one, I don’t have a clear conclusion about which side will prevail.

2) Chinese Nationalism – Judging from the protest against the Japanese a couple of years ago, I think the Chinese state media will whip up a frenzy no mater how great the casualty is. Unlike Taiwan, Chinese politician is undivided on the issue of unification and media offers zero countering points of view.

3) Foreign Intervention – I think that, if nothing else, US would not like to see its military hardware and code book fall into PLA’s hand. As to how open and direct the military assistance will be is debatable judging from the cooling relationship between Taipei and Washington.

It’s a hard call.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous to think any major conflict will be determined in a matter of days, whether it is Taiwan, Korea, or the middle East.

If in fact, PRC is that limited in fuel reserves than we can safely say that such a scenario is not likely.

Fuel could certainly be sourced globally as the U.S. does. The U.S. has been fighting ongoing wars in the middle east for years.

I find this discussion about China's fuel certainly provocative but less than believable.

Toronto Kendo Club said...

Before reading this article I had always thought that American involvement in the middle east distracted the Bush administration from the Taiwan/China ultimately it's all connected and it's about the oil. I have always thought that beyond the Taiwan/China issue is a China hegemony issue and beyond the China hegemony issue is a superpower race between the U.S. and China and that the U.S. would never allow China to become a superpower greater than the U.S. which China could do if they control the oil. So is it possible the Taiwan issue is to distract the U.S. from the middle east? Seriously a war between China and Taiwan would be a loose loose situation for both China and Taiwan. China's economy is too dependent on foreign investment and expertise. Taiwanese investers would pull out and so would other foreigner investers and even if the U.N. doesn't impose sanctions b/c it's a 'domestic' issue who would do business with a country involve in a war, who wants to dodge missiles getting stuff in and out of China? Also don't forget Tibet, the Uighars and 500 million unhappy peasants in China, with the CCP preoccupied in a war with Taiwan they would have the chance to rise up. Taiwan is connected with insurgent factions in Tibet and China. I believe if China starts a war it would fall apart.


taiwanesepride said...

I worry that if things stay the way they are, there need not be a war, most youngsters I meet seem to be undisturbed by the idea of living in a PRC governed place. And the media does a good job of getting people comfortable with being chinese. So if things go on like this, Taiwan will be absorbed rather than taken?

Yeah, that is scarier than losing by war. At least with a war, when you lose, it's like being mugged at gunpoint - it's a choice between surrender or death. When you lose because people are too stupid to even fight for their own country and freedom, it's going to be Taiwan's shame for the rest of history.

Really, the real bad guy isn't China - they're only doing what's in their best interest, which is understandable. Not nice, and unfortunate for Taiwan, but understandable. The real bad guys are the traitors in Taiwan who will sell the country out for nothing but a wet dream, as well as the idiots who simply don't care enough or think that it's an issue.

Before we fight the Chinese army, we need to fight the traitors in Taiwan...

marc anthony said...

Brrr! Calmly discussing the AMD of China and Taiwan...You all sound the cast of "Dr. Strangelove

Arty said...

When you lose because people are too stupid to even fight for their own country and freedom, it's going to be Taiwan's shame for the rest of history.

Man, you should talk to French about WWII :D, and of course their island state Corsica. Who will thought 30 years after France annexed Corsica by force, a so called Corsican became its first emperor.

The real bad guys are the traitors in Taiwan who will sell the country out for nothing but a wet dream

Last time I checked Taiwan still is not a country. Also, vice versa, I can call you a traitor for seeing yourself Taiwanese instead of Chinese. I am an American. All I am stating here is that the definition of a traitor is in the eye of the beholder. Just like one man's terrorists could be another man's freedom fighters.