The People’s Liberation Army’s ace stealth jet fighter the J-20 and the Russia-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles recently sent to China have been identified by the Taiwanese military as assets most detrimental to the safety of the self-governed island.
The jet fighter and missiles are being featured in the order of battle of the island’s annual Han Kuang anti-invasion exercise, with its computer-simulated war games starting this week.
Pitting two groups of Taiwanese commanders and troops against each other in mock attack and defense, the annual war game is designed to hone defenses against the PLA assets and devise counter tactics.
The drill will also simulate an amphibious sortie by the PLA under the cover of the J-20 and S-400 missiles to test the military’s responsiveness to stop invading troops from establishing a beachhead.
The PLA has a small squadron of J-20 jets in service, and the S-400 missile systems have also been deployed in southeastern Fujian province which borders the Taiwan Strait.
The J-20 is China’s most advanced fifth-generation air-supremacy fighter whose overall combat capabilities are considered a notch above those of the F-16, the fourth-generation aircraft that is still the backbone of Taiwan’s air defense.
The S-400 is an anti-aircraft weapon system with a 400-kilometer range, and aircraft in disputed areas off the coast could be targeted by it from inland. Theoretically, Taiwan proper would be covered by the S-400 from Fujian, yet analysts say deploying the missiles along the coast at sea level may prevent it from locating low-level aircraft at long range due to the Earth’s curvature.
Taiwan can locate S-400 batteries once activated using its own extensive signals intelligence units and destroy them with stand-off weapons, cruise and ballistic missiles and anti-radiation missiles.
Michael Brady, a former career tactical and strategic intelligence officer for the Pentagon and director of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center at the White House under George W Bush, noted that China could begin any large-scale military campaign against Taiwan by firing hundreds of cruise and ballistic missiles from Fujian.
He said that rather than annihilating the island with missile strikes and causing extraordinary loss of life, the J-20 could be deployed to conduct surgical blitzes against high-value targets including television stations, radar facilities and command-and-control facilities.