The Taiwanese army has shifted the focus of its annual anti-Chinese invasion drill from thwarting possible beach landings by the People’s Liberation Army and setting up beachheads to combating over-the-horizon strikes.
Taiwanese papers reported that almost all of the island’s advanced weapons systems would be featured and tested in a large-scale anti-landing drill in southern Pingtung county, with all branches of the military involved in the annual Han Kuang anti-invasion exercises.
The air-sea war-game in Pingtung mocks a PLA amphibious invasion with air support. The first stage of the drill last week saw the deployment of F-16 fighter jets, plus Apache and Cobra helicopters, Knox-class frigates, as well as the Thunderbolt-2000, a multiple-launch rocket system developed with the island’s indigenous talent.
A number of all-female squads equipped with self-propelled guns were among the 1,000 troops that took part in the Pingtung chapter of the Han Kuang exercise.
A Defense Ministry official told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that over the past few decades the drill has focused on fending off beach landings by the PLA from across the Taiwan Strait. But, that emphasis has now been broadened because China has prioritized naval and airforce expeditionary tactics plus over-the-horizon amphibious assault capabilities that now pose a greater threat along Taiwan’s entire coastline.
He said the navy and air force would get a boost in the overall defense budget, and one example was Taiwan’s bid to procure more than 60 F-16V fighters from Lockheed Martin, a deal under review by the Pentagon and the US State Department.
The PLA’s ace stealth fighter, the J-20, and the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles sent to China recently have been identified by the Taiwanese military as assets that would be most detrimental to the self-governed island.
The jet fighter and missiles will feature in the mock battle in the Han Kuang exercise, and more drills will be conducted off the island’s Pacific coast in the second half.
The Pacific coast may become a potential “Achilles’ heel” – a weak spot – now that Taiwan has effectively fortified the west coast and garrisoned much of its weaponry and defense capabilities there. The possibility of a PLA “attack at the back”, especially with the J-20 and the S-400, cannot be ruled out and future drills aim to help Taiwan beef up its defense on its “strategic rear.”