Five-Year Bid to Enhance Asymmetric Warfare Capabilities
Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan approved on 11 January an additional NTD236.95 billion ($8.58 billion) in funding over the next five years, to increase the asymmetric warfare capabilities of the island’s air force and navy amid heightened tensions with neighbouring China.
The allocated funds fell NTD310 million short of the 237.26 billion approved by the Taiwanese Cabinet in November, said Taiwan’s Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), pointing out that this was the result of negotiations between ruling and opposition parties.
The ‘special budget for naval and air force enhancement,’ set to be spent 2022-2026, comes on top of the NTD471.7 billion military expenditure planned for this year, and will be spent mainly on acquisition of locally-made anti-air and anti-surface capabilities.
These include air defence systems, shore-based anti-ship missiles, Hsiung Feng IIE surface-to-surface missiles, Wan Chien air-launched standoff missiles, strike-capable UAVs and new vessels – such as the improved Tuo Chiang-class corvettes – plus weapon systems for the Taiwanese navy and coastguard.
The move is part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s strategy to rapidly develop new concepts and acquire asymmetric warfare capabilities to counter the growing capabilities of the PLA.
In its latest National Defense Report, published on 9 November, the MND stated that the strategy is for the island’s armed forces to “employ means of multi-domain deterrence and joint operational capabilities with a thinking of asymmetric warfare to stretch the enemy thin or deter its intents to wage war.”
The sense of urgency to bolster Taiwan’s defence capabilities comes not only from China’s increased military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei, but also from MND’s own admission that, in case of a conflict, the PLA would already be capable of “performing local joint blockades against our critical harbours, airports, and outbound flight routes to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources as well as our sustainability for operations.”
In fact, the latest annual report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) states that the PLA “has already achieved the capabilities needed to conduct an air and naval blockade, cyberattacks, and missile strikes against Taiwan”. It noted that PLA leaders now likely assess they have, or will soon have, the initial capability to conduct a high-risk invasion of Taiwan, pointing out that the PLA’s current sea and air lift capacities could carry an initial landing force of 25,000 or more troops. They also pointed out that China has developed “substantial capabilities to use civilian ships in military operations,” thus providing capacity for the PLA to land additional troops on Taiwan after securing a beachhead.
The report warned that “any near-term PLA invasion would remain a high-risk option,” but also stated that China will continue enhancing its invasion capabilities over the coming years.
Gabriel Dominguez reporting for MON