Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Taiwan Needs Weapons and Training Now, Not 2027 or 2030



Taiwan needs weapons and training now, not in 2027, 2030, or a disingenuous timeline. China has repeatedly stated that it is willing to use force to take Taiwan, and that it will be ready by 2027.

Wars in Ukraine and Israel reveal significant shortfalls in weapons procurement and expenditures, which were already deficient for the deterrence and defense of Taiwan against China. It is no longer about cost, but time and years of production.

Air-to Air, Anti-Ship, Surface-Air, and Interceptor Missiles

Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel in April 2024 was successfully thwarted but required the expenditure of approximately 300 counter munitions from the U.S., UK, France, Israel and others. Additionally, since October 2023, a coalition of U.S. and European allies has been defending Israel against Iranian backed Houthi attacks against Israel and shipping in the Red Sea.

A week later the Navy requested an additional $1 billion to replenish its weapon expenditures, especially SM-3 ballistic missile interceptors, and another $1 billion in emergency procurement. Congress then flipped and rushed to pass three supplemental bills for Ukraine, Israel, and the Pacific, that had been waiting for a vote for months. Cross-referencing with Department of Defense budget documents reveals the severity of the situation.

$1 billion is the equivalent of a year’s procurement of SM-3s in 2023. 300 targets intercepted are similar to the number of AIM-120 air-to-air missiles annually for either the Navy or Air Force or combined a year of AIM-9Xs. Similarly, Lockheed and Raytheon have announced double and quadruple annual production of PAC-3 PATRIOT missile interceptors.

Prior to the now multiple wars, AIM-120, PAC-3, SM-3 and other procurement was for normal training and sustainment, and all come from the same three facilities. Not potential wars in the Pacific, on top of Europe and the Middle East.

The majority of the Pacific aid package passed by Congress was allocated to AUKUS development, procurement, and construction. The deterrence and defense of Taiwan against China requires even more.

Minimum 13 Aircraft Carrier Navy, Air Wings, and Drones

The U.S. must expand the fleet to at least 13 aircraft carriers and build 13 combat air wings, funding to extend the retirement of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers through 2030. The current fleet is 11, in various cycles of maintenance, training, and operations. A war with China could realistically result in at least two damaged, reducing the fleet to nine. Shipyard capacity and replacement delays mean they’ll likely never return to service, as demonstrated by the economic loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2020.

This applies to the air wings as well, which particularly the pilots likely won’t be replaced. The Navy and Air Force needs to fund combat drones to just meet attrition. The Department of Defense must stop proposing cuts every year to the F-35s, F-22s, F-15Cs, F-15E/EXs, EA-18Gs, and E-3s required to deter and defend Taiwan against China.

Win, lose, draw, or doesn’t happen; the expansion of China’s military or any change in the balance of power, increases the risk and requirements for conflict in the Indian Ocean in the 2030s.

Joint Exercises, State Partnership Program, and Basic Training

The U.S. and its allies must expand training and exercises with Taiwan’s entire military. Exercises are the foundation of security cooperation, and are the difference between isolated militaries, and those with experience in operations.

It also reveals deficiencies that need to be corrected, which is why training cannot be limited to select units that invariably become vectors of prestige, not capability or capacity. To paraphrase Mao Zedong’s “On Guerilla Warfare”, doctrinally it is impossible for a military to all be special.

Additionally, Taiwan needs to join the State Partnership Program, where countries are partnered with states and the National Guard for regular exchanges and relationships.

Finally, the U.S. needs to supplement Taiwan basic training capacity, by replicating the equivalent of for example Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island or San Diego, each producing up to 20,000 Marines annually. This needs to happen before 2027, not after, as demonstrated by the late training in Ukraine just to meet attrition.

These last policies are the most difficult because unlike procurement, it requires Taiwan to commit to its own defense. The island is divided, there is a passive fear of antagonizing China, denial that war will not happen, that they are too valuable to the world, or that everyone respects their right to exist.

China has said they will invade. Their history mandates unification. It’s probably too little, too late to deter, and 2027 if not sooner is the best chance China will ever have – and so it will.


Matt Quan is a U.S. Air Force veteran and was previously assigned tothe Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs at the Pentagon.

This article was originally published by RealClearDefense and made available via RealClearWire.