To thwart invasion, Taiwan points powerful new missiles at Chinese bases
Taiwan is stocking up on air and ground rockets which, in the event of war with China, could strike invading Chinese forces before they even leave their bases.
Taipei’s possible multi-billion dollar acquisition of American-made products Ranged Ground Attack Missiles – Extended Response and high mobility artillery rocket systems could help counter China’s expanding missile arsenal.
Beijing has long planned to launch hundreds or even thousands of missiles at Taiwan as a prelude to any invasion. Now Taipei is aiming to launch its own missiles right away.
“HIMARS and SLAM-ER are state-of-the-art and will diversify and improve the capability of Taiwan’s counterattack missile force,” said Ian Easton, a Taiwanese expert from the Project 2049 Institute in Virginia.
The US State Department announced in late October the potential sale in Taipei 135 SLAM-ER missiles for $ 1 billion as good as 11 HIMARS launchers for $ 436 million. HIMARS wheeled launchers come with 64 Army Tactical Missile Systems rockets.
The ATACMS rocket can carry a non-nuclear 500-pound warhead over a distance of 190 miles. The SLAM-ER, launched by Taiwan’s F-16 fighter fleet, carries an 800-pound warhead up to 155 miles.
“This proposed sale serves the national, economic and security interests of the United States by supporting the recipient’s continued efforts to modernize its armed forces and maintain a credible defensive capability,” the State Department explained.
The Taiwan Strait is only 110 miles in diameter at its widest point. HIMARS batteries hidden in the mountainous terrain of Taiwan could strike ports and airfields on the Chinese coast. F-16s firing SLAM-ERs could strike Chinese installations further inland.
Taipei’s plan is apparently to wait for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force to launch an invasion with its own missile barrages targeting Taiwanese bases and troop formations.
After this initial barrage, Taiwanese forces retaliation, not only with ATACMS and SLAM-ER, but also with Wan Chien air-launched cruise missiles and Yun Feng land-launched cruise missiles. “It’s not preventive and it would actually be fatal not to do it,” Easton said of the Taiwanese counterattack.
The main targets could be the ports and airfields of the People’s Liberation Army in Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong. At first, Taiwanese missiles could strike PLA troops gathering for an attack across the strait. Once the surviving Chinese troops sailed to Taiwan, subsequent missile strikes could target the logistics infrastructure of the same bases.
“Invasion operations are very time consuming and heavily dependent on fixed bases for logistics,” Easton said. “This is not a short and one-sided business. If the ports and airfields of Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong can be devastated before the PLA establishes itself on the coast of Taiwan and develops to the tipping point, it will be much easier for the forces. Taiwanese land forces to push back the invaders into the sea.
Taipei’s growing arsenal of long-range missiles complicates planning for the invasion of Beijing. “This will force the PLA to invest more in defensive measures,” Easton said. “All defense budgets are limited, even China’s. The more the PLA has to invest in defensive measures, the less it will have for offensive operations.
And it is likely that the SLAM-ER and HIMARS purchases are just the beginning. “A sale like this marks a turning point,” Easton said. “It was unthinkable before. Now that sounds like common sense.
The US defense industry is working on new generations of air and ground missiles with even greater range. Easton said the sale of HIMARS and SLAM-ER “opens the door to future sales to Taiwan of advanced theater ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, which the Pentagon is currently developing in a bid to stop a future Chinese invasion of Taiwan ”.