Bulletin From The Borderlands Special Report Series - The Invasion Of Taiwan
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The below paper is a first of a series about the various aspects of a potential invasion of Taiwan by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The topics of the individual papers range from the PLA’s Command and Control functions and capabilities to the units the PLA will likely use in the invasion. Additionally, topics such as the capabilities of the PLA to conduct logistical resupply and the notional battle for the port city of Kaoshiung will be expanded to include more information.
During the last twenty years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken efforts to modernize its various service branches to include, most notably, its naval component, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Within this modernization, however, is the increase in amphibious warfare ships of various types from Landing Platform Dock (LPD) to Landing Craft Air-Cushioned (LCAC). The reason why the construction of ships such as LPDs and LCACs are significant is due to their potential utilization in a forced amphibious landing on Taiwan. This net increase of PLAN amphibious warfare capabilities has come when the Republic of China (ROC) relative qualitative decline in its military capabilities.
While the qualitative superiority overwhelming favors the PLAN, it still have some significant difficulties in successfully conducting a forced amphibious landing. These difficulties range from both the Taiwanese and United States intelligence communities seeing indicators and warnings of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) preparing for an invasion to having permissible weather conditions for an invasion to appear. Even then, if the PLAN can establish a beachhead on the western coast of Taiwan, the question of logistics and how the PLA will sustain a beachhead will come into focus. For as of 2018, the PLAN only has around 88 amphibious warfare ships of various types for a forced amphibious landing in Taiwan. The number of ships lost to attacks by the ROC Air Force (ROCAF), or the ROC Navy (ROCN) would be taken into consideration due to the significant impact these losses would have on the PLAN’s resupply capabilities.
Research Question and Key Assumptions
The net assessment as outlined in this paper would examine the PLAN’s logistical capability to resupply its forces in the event of a successful establishment of a beachhead on the island of Taiwan. The examination will focus on the modeling of the PLAN’s ability to use civilian cargo ships that were acquisition (i.e., Ships Taken Up From Trade, or (STUFT) and incorporate these civilian assets to form a quasi-naval flotilla. The following key assumptions will be utilized in the examination to investigate the research question in a scenario that is limited in scope:
PLA preparations for an invasion of Taiwan went mostly undiscovered by either Taiwanese or U.S. intelligence communities.
People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) first strikes consisting of both Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Land Attack Cruise Missiles(LACM) and aircraft by PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Naval Aviation Force (PLANAF), had a 50% success of hitting their targets.
Strikes emphasized the destruction of the ROCN’s and ROCAF’s ships, aircraft, and facilities to completely incapacitate both services.
ROC military planning called for the defense of beach landing sites, disregarding the possibility of the PLA conducting a landing near or at a port city.
PLA will try to conduct the landing in the proximity of or at a port city.
The outlined key assumptions listed above will allow for a notional scenario that should be in favor of the PLAN and thus create legitimacy for a scenario that should allow for examination and analysis of the research question. However, it should be noted that while the notional scenario is in favor of the PLAN, it would still be extremely difficult to conduct resupply operations for a beachhead. The only viable option available to the PLA is to conduct a D-Day like landing on a beach, with the capturing of a medium-sized port occurring in the immediate follow-on operations. The reason is so it can logistically sustain the invasion of Taiwan.
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