At a ceremony to introduce the military’s new vice chief of the general staff on July 2, Chief of the General Staff General Chen Pao-yu (陳寶餘) restated the military’s operational defense strategy as: “Force protection, winning a decisive battle in the littoral zone and destroying the enemy on the landing beaches.”
It appeared to be a declaration by Chen that the defense doctrine of “integrated air defense, combined sea dominance and combined homeland defense” has been put out to pasture ahead of the live-fire phase of this year’s Han Kuang exercises.
This strategy was developed and promoted by former chief of the general staff admiral Lee Hsi-ming (李喜明) under the Overall Defense Concept.
However, after Lee’s successor, general Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴), was sadly killed in a helicopter crash in New Taipei City last year, admiral Huang Shu-kuang (黃曙光) assumed the position and a change in direction began.
Taiwanese media started reporting in January on a new “integrated defense operational concept” and described how it would be built around “multi-dimensional defense, multi-layered disruption, defensive endurance and achieving a key breakthrough.”
Next, it was reported that during the computer-assisted wargame phase of this year’s Han Kuang exercises, the Overall Defense Concept would be modified to a concept of “integrated defense operations.”
Then it was reported that the live-fire phase of the exercises, scheduled to take place in September, would be changed to joint-forces integrated defense exercises, incorporating “force protection, integrated air defense, combined sea dominance and combined homeland defense.”
With “integrated air defense, combined sea dominance and combined homeland defense” apparently back in vogue, former National Security Bureau director-general Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) was appointed as Minister of National Defense in a Cabinet reshuffle in February.
In March, Chiu published the ministry’s 2021 Quadrennial Defense Review, which laid out a defense strategy of “engaging the enemy on their home turf, striking the enemy at sea and annihilating the enemy on the landing beaches.” This indicates that the “integrated defense operational concept” has been maintained and Chiu is resurrecting elements of the Overall Defense Concept.
The military’s operational concept has undergone a raft of significant changes over the past few years. At a grassroots regimental level, it has been a challenge for the military to implement training and testing while keeping teaching manuals up to date with the latest war fighting doctrines.
It must be said that implementing rolling revisions to the military’s operational concept is imprudent. If this has happened because of personnel changes at the top and newcomers wanting to make their mark, it does profess a cavalier attitude to military strategy, what Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu (孫子) said was “a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.”
For the US Navy, the textbook Naval Operations Analysis, published by the US Naval Institute, contains the foundational theory and quantitative modeling for search and detection, military tactics and planning; it is a marvelous book.
From a search of Chinese databases, one can easily find discussion articles on military tactics and strategy published in Chinese military journals. The majority of these articles were submitted by the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Central Military Commission, colleges and academies subordinate to the commission, defense contractors and active People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units from China’s five theater commands.
The results of the numerical modeling found within these articles is used by PLA units to verify the effectiveness of their exercises. These articles are not written by armchair generals in university departments, but are serious analyses designed to facilitate the PLA’s conversion to an “informationized” fighting force.
Current US sales of military hardware to Taiwan, whether the General Atomics MQ-9B Sky Guardian drone, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems, place an emphasis on the ability of Taiwan’s military to fight “extraterritorial decisive battles” and “fountainhead strikes” on PLA coastal and island bases.
Various units of the US military, including security cooperation brigades, US Army Special Forces, US Navy SEALs and the US Special Operations Command, have sent personnel to Taiwan to assist with training, specifically the refinement of tactics to achieve “destruction of the enemy on the landing beaches.”
Senior military officers must bury the hatchet over old interservice rivalries and develop a settled national defense policy. They must take a fresh look at military hardware and systems acquisition, conduct a comprehensive review of training and operational manuals, and pragmatically train military personnel to ensure that the military is properly equipped to defend the nation.
Lu Li-shih is a former instructor at the Republic of China Naval Academy and former captain of the ROCS Hsin Chiang.
Translated by Edward Jones
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