Sunday, July 20, 2008

Twofer on Weapons

Michael Chase, who writes cogently on Taiwan defense issues, has a new piece out in the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief on Taiwan's Defense Budget: how much is enough in the new era of cross-strait lovefesting? Ok, so he didn't title it that excerpt:

Taiwan’s ambitious force modernization goals include procurement of P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, army attack helicopters, army utility helicopters, PAC-3 missile defense systems, F-16C/D fighters, and diesel-electric submarines, and upgrading Taiwan’s existing PAC-2+ systems. Importantly, as proponents of higher defense spending point out, strengthening Taiwan’s defense entails more than force modernization alone. The transformation of the military is an equally important component of Taiwan’s defense modernization program. Indeed, beyond its plans to purchase new weapons and equipment, Taiwan is also trying to move toward a professional, all-volunteer military, and this has important implications for the island’s defense budget because the transition to an all-volunteer military will result in further and perhaps quite substantial increases in personnel costs, which are already high as a share of overall defense spending. Taiwan’s efforts to streamline its military may help offset this to some extent. The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) plans to reduce the size of the military from its current 270,000 members to about 250,000, and then gradually reduce the size of the armed forces further to 200,000 troops (China Post, May 22; China Brief, July 3). Even as Taiwan continues to reduce the overall size of its military, however, it will likely need to spend more money on salaries, benefits, and quality of life improvements to recruit and retain the people it needs, especially highly skilled officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). In a recent testimony before the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan (LY)—Taiwan’s legislature, Defense Minister Chen Chao-min acknowledged that a defense budget equivalent to 3 percent of GDP would not be enough to complete the transition to an all-volunteer military (Taipei Times, May 22). The transition to an all-volunteer military will also increase the costs of benefits for retired military personnel, including education, welfare, and medical care expenses, as Kua Hua-chu, the head of Taiwan’s Veterans Affairs Commission, recently pointed out in testimony before the LY (China Post, June 3).

In other important issues, Kathrin Hille, one of the island's most knowledgeable correspondents, reports in the Financial Times that Taiwan will not be buying the F-16s this year.

The move comes as the Bush administration debates what arms to sell Taiwan given the improvement in relations between Taipei and Beijing. One senior US official said the US was evaluating whether to sell Taiwan a separate $11bn (€6.95bn, £5.5bn) package of arms, but was not currently considering selling F-16s. He added that there was only a "low possibility" that a sale could happen this year.

The official said Taiwan had told the US its priority for now was the $11bn package, but the US expected Taiwan would return to the F-16 issue in the future. He said the US still needed to debate what weapons the US should supply Taiwan given the better relations with China, and whether F-16s were even appropriate.

"That may not be the best way to defend the island against an invasion. Who says F-16s are the best way? Who has made this judgement, Lockheed Martin? Because that is certainly an option for defence, but there are a whole lot of other ways that you protect yourself from an attack," the official said. The Taiwanese move comes
as Admiral Timothy Keating, head of US Pacific command, this week said Washington had suspended arms sales to Taiwan because "there is no pressing, compelling need for at this moment arms sales to Taiwan".

However, Taipei officials said they believed that the US had temporarily put off arms sales in order to secure Beijing's co-operation in tackling trouble in Iran and North Korea.
Bad news for the island. As I have noted in the past, KMT officials publicly and privately have said they want the weapons -- the decision appears to be a unilateral decision by the Bush Administration.


Anonymous said...

Taiwan should go 100% indigenous in weapon systems,even if the costs are high.Indigenous weapon systems should include F-15 class jet fighters, diesel submarines,Aegis ships, light tanks ,medium range ballistic missiles,and many others.

Raj said...

It's easier said than done to go completely indigenous. You need the technology behind those weapons, which isn't easy. For example, the IDF is underpowered because the US wouldn't sell it the high-powered engines it needed. Even China has been importing Russian engines for its J-10. And making its own Aegis? No chance.

Taiwan might be able to get somewhere with more locally-made equipment but it would still have to rely on international co-operation, which is extremely difficult given China's attitude. Taiwan would also have real problems because it would have zero chance of securing big export orders that you need to keep the domestic industry going.

Michael Turton said...

Good point. All of Taiwan's major "indigenous" programs had significant US input -- ironically some of it is AEGIS-derived. This freeze not only impacts delivered systems from abroad, but also Taiwan home-grown capabilities.


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Anonymous said...

Taiwan's military downsizing comes on the heels of Ma's ascension to the presidency. So does the U.S. refusal of weapons sales. All to placate Beijing. Taiwan doesn't need the expense anyway. Japan is right next door. All of the players here have an interdependency that precludes physical war games.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure, they will continue to buy sophisticated defensive systems in the USA or Europe. But Taiwan will start to develop their own offensive systems - eg. cruise missiles to hit the area along the Taiwan street. Just do it like China: get your own cheap offensive capability - it is easy to scare someone with a cheap conventional warhead. Who needs aircraft carriers or sophisticated fighters? Just play the chinese game and pretend you will go psycho with your cheap 1000+ missile force. And to develop your own short- and medium-range missile system is cheap!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Taiwan's "indigenous" weapons are largely US engineered.

I met one of the key engineers from the IDF project, who confirmed the majority of the design work was American and the construction was Taiwanese.

Anonymous said...

And then there's Taiwan's reliance of foreign countries for other raw materials. Remember Taiwan's aborted attempt to build a nuclear weapon (yes, this is a disputed fact and at times the question comes up if they actually built one or bought one...but on is still a declared "no") ?

And I don't expect the Ma administration to do anything real ballsy on defense. Mr. Ma is not going to be a ballsy ballsy... "Mister". He is the first democratically elected "Mr." in Taiwan's

Anonymous said...

So its looking very definite that its the US side, and that they are doing this for larger reasons, i.e. North Korea and Iran. I have to say that is a tough call to make for the US policy makers, and hard to say its not the correct one as long as NK really does dismantle its bomb program.

I figure that China attacking Taiwan is actually not very likely, and that Taiwan could probably defeat Chinese invasion attempts even with older weaponry.

(Okay, now for a contradictory idea: does anyone really think nuclear proliferation isn't going to happen? Is it worth it to "give up" Taiwan for maybe 10 years grace period? Then again, are they really "giving up" Taiwan.)

I wonder if Taiwan really needs all of these systems. Wouldn't some effective long range anti-ship missiles, lots of anti-aircraft missiles, etc. be a good start? Subs are nice but hard to make without experience, as are jets, and Aegis ships. Obviously, nuclear missiles would be the ultimate in home grown defense and possibly be useful as a "look at me" card to force the international community to take Taiwan more seriously. Scary as hell for warning times, though, and dangerous chance for accidental war.

Red A

Raj said...

I wonder if Taiwan really needs all of these systems. Wouldn't some effective long range anti-ship missiles, lots of anti-aircraft missiles, etc. be a good start? Subs are nice but hard to make without experience, as are jets, and Aegis ships.

The whole reason Taiwan is asking for US help is that the US can sell or build what it needs. And you do need things like the Patriot missile to deal with both Chinese fighters and missiles - otherwise China would have a free hand in bombing Taiwanese taregets from afar.

Taiwan is already developing the HF-IIE cruise missile, and the legislative yuan unlocked the funding for that a few weeks ago (maybe last month). It has also developed the HF-III anti-ship missile, which will probably enter production soon. But you can't rely on that alone, otherwise China may decide to run the "missile gauntlet" to get through to the soft under-belly.

Anonymous said...

I think for own defence Taiwan needs a flexible militia army like Swiss and not profecional forces like US-marines.

Anonymous said...

The nuke would be the best bargaining chip in my opinion. And, whatever happened to this nuclear triggers that were accidentally sent to Taiwan? Oh. They were sent back after sitting around in crates for more than 18 months. Were they sitting in crates? The nuclear trigger is the most sophisticated part of the missile. So, you've gotta wonder about this "mistake". Also, getting back to the bargaining chip issue. It could either turn into a Cuban missile type of crisis or a Pakistan - India issue. Either way, dangerous depending how it is handled. But, probably better than being assimilated by the Borg. Where's the self-destruct button?