TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Lost in the daily barrage of speculation about China's planned invasion of Taiwan is the fact that the latter is both acquiring and building a mass arsenal of its own missiles to stymie any attempt by the communist regime to occupy Taiwanese territory.
As fears persist that China could invade Taiwan as it continues to build its military might, an article by Forbes points out that Taiwan has many missiles of its own targeting the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and that it is purchasing and developing many more. The magazine cited American researcher Ian Easton as saying that the HIMARS and SLAM-ERs weapons systems tentatively approved for sale to Taiwan "are cutting-edge technologically and will diversify and improve the capacity of Taiwan's counter-strike missile force."
The Trump administration on Oct. 21 notified Congress it had approved the sale of 11 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) M142 Launchers, 135 AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles and related equipment, and six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods made by Collins Aerospace for jets. The mobile HIMARS launchers will include 64 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) missiles.
ATACMS fired from HiMARS launcher. (Lockheed Martin photo)
The ATACMS are surface-to-air missiles that carry 226-kilogram non-nuclear warheads up to 300 kilometers. Given the fact that the Taiwan Strait is only about 130 kilometers across, Chinese coastal bases, ports, and staging areas in Fujian are well within the range of the weapons.
The SLAM-ER is a precision-guided, air-launched cruise missile that can strike targets in China or its coastal waters, with a maximum range of 270 kilometers. Once mounted on Taiwan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets, they can fire outside of China's air defenses.
Already in Taiwan's arsenal is the Wan Chien (萬劍, Ten Thousand Swords) air-to-ground cruise missile, which entered service in 2018. The missiles are mounted on Taiwan's Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) and can hit targets up to 200 kilometers away.
AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER. (Internet image)
Although the Tien Chi (天戟, Sky Spear), a surface-to-surface missile with a range of only 120 kilometers, it is deployed on Dongyin Island off the coast of Fujian as well as in another undisclosed location, enabling it to reach Chinese territory. The missiles on Dongyin Island are reported to be in silos and defended by batteries of Tien Kung II (天弓二, Sky Bow II) surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, according to Missile Threat.
In terms of longer-range missiles, the new Yun Feng (雲峰, Cloud Peak) land-attack cruise missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers and can be carried on a mobile launch vehicle. The Yun Feng system is capable of striking Beijing or PLA military targets in southern China.
Hsiung-Feng III. (ncsist photo)
When it comes to defending against Chinese warships, Taiwan has the Hsiung-Feng II (雄風二型) and Hsiung-Feng III (雄風三型) anti-ship missiles, which have ranges of 250 and 400 kilometers, respectively, according to Defense News. Further boosting Taiwan's ability to fight off Chinese naval vessels is the recently announced sale of 100 shore-mounted Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
To take out People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft and missiles, Taiwan's military has developed the Tien Kung III (天弓三, Sky Bow III) SAM, with a maximum range of 200 kilometers. For air-to-air combat, Taiwan's IDF's can field the Tien Chien II (天劍二, Sky Sword II) medium-range, radar-guided air-to-air missile.
After the first wave of Chinese missiles hits Taiwan, the apparent strategy is to return fire with ATACMS, SLAM-ER, Wan Chien, Yun Feng, and other weapons. Easton, who is a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, asserts that such a counter-attack would not be pre-emptive and that it would be "fatal not to do so."
Tien Kung III. (Military News Agency photo)
According to the report, the primary targets of Taiwan's missiles would be PLA ports and air bases in neighboring Fujian, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. The first objective would be to hit troops as they marshaled for an invasion.
Once the remnants of the would-be invasion fleet were underway, the longer-range missiles would continue to rain down on logistical infrastructure at the bases from which the force disembarked. The objective would be to choke off the PLA's supply lines to give Taiwanese forces on the ground a better chance at repulsing the invaders.
Meanwhile, anti-ship missiles would pound People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships trying to transport troops to Taiwan, while anti-aircraft missiles would be used to deny the PLAAF air superiority. Easton observed that Taiwan's burgeoning arsenal of missiles means that China will have to raise its expenditures for defense measures, thus leaving fewer funds for offensive operations.
Easton predicted that the sale of these sophisticated weapons is a turning point that “opens the door for future sales to Taiwan of advanced theater ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles."