Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan needs missiles, not F-16s, article says

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

US-based Foreign Policy magazine says that Taiwan should “mimic mainland China’s missile program” rather than ask the US to sell it advanced F-16C/D aircraft.

“Mobile launchers, which unlike airfields could evade detection and targeting, could support both -battlefield and strategic missiles that could hold targets on the mainland at risk,” says an article on the magazine’s Web site called “This Week at War: Rumsfeld’s Revenge.”

“Such a program could do a better job of restoring a military balance across the Taiwan Strait than would fixed-wing aircraft operating from vulnerable bases,” said the article by Robert Haddick, who writes a weekly column for the magazine.

Haddrick adds that Taiwan has long been pursuing a variety of indigenous missile types, but that engineers have yet to work all of the bugs out.

“A test last week of a new supersonic anti-ship cruise missile failed to find its target. This followed two more failed tests earlier this year of other missile designs,” he says. “But Taiwan’s struggle to adapt to the immense missile threat from the mainland — over a thousand ballistic missiles are now aimed at Taiwan and a hundred more are added every year — also applies to US military strategy in the region.”

“United States military plans can no more rely on fixed bases and concentrated surface naval forces than Taiwan can. In the meantime, Taiwan could use some missile engineers instead of more F-16s,” he says.

Haddick, managing editor of Small Wars Journal and a former US Marine Corps officer, reports that the administration of US President Barack Obama sold Taiwan a package of exclusively defensive equipment in January last year and that as a result “blew up” the Pentagon’s relationship with Beijing for more than a year.

“An F-16 deal would undoubtedly be even more explosive,” Haddrick’s article says.

It says that both former US president George W Bush and Obama have demurred on Taiwan’s F-16 request “for good reason.” China’s ballistic and cruise missile force is more than capable of crushing Taiwan’s airfields, rendering its fixed-wing air power nearly useless, it says.

“Anticipating this, Taiwan has plans to fly its fighters from highways. But this is no way to generate enough sorties to confront a high-intensity attack from China,” he says. “Fighter aircraft need maintenance, fuel, ordnance and much other support, all of which are efficiently located at modern airbases, not by the side of a highway.”

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