On Nov. 28, Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu (李天羽) said during a question-and-answer session at the legislature that the military would be capable of destroying 60 percent to 70 percent of China's troops in case of an invasion.
But Lee did not include the possibility of a Chinese formation of aircraft carrier battle groups in his analysis of the combat strengths of Taiwan and China.
Taiwan must prepare for the development of Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups.
It is a well-known fact that an aircraft carrier without a battle group is worthless.
With the exception of cruisers, China's military already has all the destroyers, frigates, submarines and support ships it needs.
All it must acquire now are aircraft carriers itself and the fighter aircraft for them.
China is the world's third-largest ship builder and it would not be too difficult for it to build medium-sized aircraft carriers weighing about 50,000 tonnes.
As for carrier-based aircraft, China has already signed a deal with Russia to purchase Su-33 fighters and intends to remodel its Su-30 or J-10 fighters into carrier-based aircraft.
Acquiring the necessary equipment would not be so difficult, despite the fact that China needs to strengthen its training and C4ISR -- command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
With full political and financial support, China could be expected to have initial aircraft carrier battle groups within 10 years.
China is likely to build one aircraft carrier battle group for its East Sea Fleet and another for its South China Sea Fleet.
The task of the former would be to counter US power, with a short or medium-term goal of winning a battle to block access to the region.
The task of the latter would be to safeguard China's marine transport lines in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
In the case of a cross-strait war, the East China Sea battle group would attack from the east while the South China Sea battle group would attack from the south.
In this situation, Taiwan could quickly find itself surrounded by Chinese ships.
As for battle group submarines, most of China's conventionally powered submarines, such as Gato class, Yuan class, and Song class submarines, belong to the East China Sea Fleet.
Within the next 10 or 15 years, China could be capable of amassing as many as 40 to 50 advanced conventionally powered submarines.
In addition to these, China has assigned a nuclear-powered submarine detachment to the North China Sea Fleet and has plans to form another.
If necessary, these two detachments -- one north, one south -- could join an aircraft carrier battle group during an attack on Taiwan.
But because of the continental shelf, the waters around Taiwan are more suitable for small, conventionally powered subs.
Nuclear-powered submarines would likely be responsible for supporting the carrier group attack on the east coast and cutting off US aid.
The People's Liberation Army's military expansion will not end here, however.
In evaluating China's combat capabilities, Taiwan must adopt a strategic viewpoint that is 10 or 15 years ahead. If it makes the mistake of keeping its eyes on the ground, a catastrophe could be waiting around the corner.
Cheng Ta-chen is an independent defense analyst.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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