Sun, Sep 09, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan must rethink naval strategy: expert

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHING

With China now believed to be working on a new guided-missile destroyer, a US military expert is advising Taiwan to rethink the island’s naval strategy.

“Taipei must admit defeat in the arms race — and then work around it,” said James R. Holmes, associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College.

He said that the “apparent emergence” of China’s Type 052D guided-missile destroyer (DDGs) — reported last month in the Taipei Times — “reinforces the case” for revising Taiwan’s naval strategy.

“With sixteen frontline DDGs, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy will command overwhelming superiority in numbers over the ROC [Republic of China] Navy’s four elderly Kidd-class DDGs, which are hand-me-downs from the Cold War era-US Navy,” Holmes said.

Writing on The Naval Diplomat Web site, Holmes said Beijing’s 052D destroyer may “outclass” Taiwan’s ships.

“Both quality and sheer weight of numbers are on China’s side in the cross-strait naval competition,” he said.

In addition, an “economically outmatched” Taiwan that cannot manufacture or import state-of-the-art warships stands little chance of “reversing the momentum.”

He added: “This demands a change of mindset.”

Guided-missile destroyers like the 052D are “sea-control” vessels meant to “clear the seas of enemy fleets.”

However, despite Taiwan’s weaker navy, its commanders and their “political masters” still have options if they admit they are the weaker side and devise strategy accordingly” Holmes said, adding that “the weak sometimes prevail if they set limited goals and align their meager means to those goals.”

Holmes believes that Taiwan should invest in relatively inexpensive missile-equipped patrol craft and submarines that can fight even against technologically and numerically superior foes.

“The logic of sea denial is compelling for forces protecting their home turf,” he said.

According to Holmes, Taipei took some “baby steps” toward sea-denial capability with its Kuang Hua V1 fast patrol boats and is “reportedly developing a stealth corvette that looks like a truly impressive war-fighting implement.”

Equipped with these patrol boats and corvettes, the navy could “turn the logic of sea denial against the mainland” keeping it out of vital waters and driving up the costs of entry “to unbearable heights.”

Holmes added that “with swarms of sea-denial assets, the nation’s defenders would stand a good chance of giving any cross-strait invasion force nightmares, or, better yet, of deterring the attempt altogether and Taiwan’s chances of defying coercion would brighten commensurately.”

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