Washington-based military sources say that Taiwan may have a great deal to learn from the major defense exercises being conducted by the US and Israel.
The three-week long drills — officially titled “Austere Challenge 12” — began earlier this week to test Israeli defense systems against massive missile attacks.
According to the sources, there are some distinct similarities between the situations that Israel and Taiwan face.
Both fear large-scale missile attacks, both would defend at least in part with US-supplied Patriot anti-missile systems and both would depend on US intervention.
The Israeli exercises, involving 3,500 US troops, will look for weaknesses in the Patriot anti-missile batteries, the best strategies for protecting targets and the most effective methods of fighting back.
“Taipei would be well advised to study Israel’s doctrine and programs for air, missile and civil defense,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, told the Taipei Times.
He said Taiwan could also learn from Israel that it needs not just defensive capabilities, but also offensive capabilities.
“The last 15 years have seen a remarkable turn-around in bipartisan US support to improve and elevate a military relationship with Taipei that is now fairly complex, even if it does not include formal conventional military cooperation,” Fisher said. “A great deal about this relationship remains secret, we still don’t know whether there has been significant pre-planning to respond to an all-out attack from China.”
John Pike, director of the Global Security think tank in Washington, said Taiwan couldy learn from the Israeli exercises what does and does not work in missile defense.
He said the exercises might also reveal problems with the Patriot systems and that Taiwan would want to be fully informed about them if they occur.
US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers also agreed that Taiwan could potentially learn a lot.
Earlier this month, the council released a report on the military situation in the Taiwan Strait, saying that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is likely studying Israel’s 2006 air campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Arguably, the mere existence of China’s current large arsenal of ballistic missiles, land attack cruise missiles and fighter aircraft opposite Taiwan is a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific,” the report said.
The US and Taiwan need to craft and implement countercoercive strategies that undercut the utility of Chinese aerospace power, while demonstrating Taiwan’s ability to defend its airspace in peacetime and wartime, the report said.
“Massed missile attacks can certainly shock Taiwan, damage important military installations and devastate other critical infrastructure,” it said.
However, the report says that the PLA’s offensive missile capabilities, while impressive, are likely not sufficient by themselves to bring about the destruction that the PLA envisions.
“The fact is that missiles, however cheaply they may be produced in China, are a costly means of delivering high-explosive payloads,” the report said.