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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 3, Issue 16


August, 2014

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

F-35B Lightning II Is it right for ROCAF? Liao Yen-Fan

Critical Infrastructure Protection Chung-young Chang

Great-Country Relations Hon-min Yau

US-Vietnam Relations Nguyen Thai Yen Huong

Air-Sea Battle, Offshore Control Michał Pawinski


for Taiwan Security

Volume 3, Issue 16


August, 2014

Contents US pivot seen boosting Washington-Hanoi relations....................4

Nguyen Thai Yen Huong

Foreign lessons in critical infrastructure protection.....................8

Chung-young Chang

Neither Air-Sea Battle nor Offshore Control up to task............... 13

Michał Pawiński

Implications for Taiwan of Xi’s view of Sino-US ties................... 18

Hon-min Yau

F-35 an ideal solution to problems faced by ROCAF...................24

Liao Yen-Fan

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at dkarale.kas@gmail.com before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of a US Air Force F-35A Lightning II navigating toward an Air Force Reserve KC-135R Stratotanker from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron is courtesy of John Nimmo.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu Felix Wang Lipin Tien Laurence Lin Aaron Jensen STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 3, Number 16, August, 2014, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: dkarale.kas@gmail.com. Or by telephone at: +866 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.mcsstw.org. © Copyright 2014 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


elcome to another issue of Strategic Vision. As the summer comes to a close, we are pleased to offer our readers analysis and opinion on some of the more pressing topics taking place right now in the field of regional and cross-strait security. In the wake of the recent gas explosions that rocked the southern city of Kaohsiung, Fo Guang University’s Dr. Chungyoung Chang examines the urgent need for Taipei to make policy on means of securing critical infrastructure protection that will enhance the capacity of the state and society to cope with natural and man-made disasters. We examine the evolving Washington-Hanoi relationship and Dr. Nguyen Thai Yen Huong’s analysis of how, in the wake of President Truong Tan Sang’s official visit to the United States last year, these two erstwhile enemies are being drawn together in the context of the US rebalancing to Asia and the rise of China. Lieutenant Colonel Hon-min Yau of the Air Command and Staff College at the ROC’s National Defense University looks at the Sino-US relationship and how PRC President Xi Jinping’s proposal for a new model of great-country relations is being received by Washington, and what the implications are for Taipei. Michał Pawiński, a PhD student at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University, wades into the debate over Air-Sea Battle or Offshore Control, and finds both wanting as a means of countering China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial strategy. Finally, Liao Yen-Fan mounts a spirited defense of the F-35 and how, despite the criticisms leveled at the fighter itself and at the ROC government’s proposal to purchase them from the United States, the Lightening II represents an ideal solution to the problems confronting the ROC Air Force. We hope you enjoy this issue of Strategic Vision and look forward to continuing to provide you with the very best in reporting and analysis on the issues of concern to security in the Taiwan Strait. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 16 (August, 2014)

A New Chapter

US rebalance to Asia offers opportunity for stronger Washington-Hanoi ties Nguyen Thai Yen Huong

photo: US State Department Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang signs US Secretary of State John Kerry’s guestbook while on a state visit to Washington, DC, on July 24, 2013.


ob Corker, the ranking Republican on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated that Washington may lift its longstanding ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam, signaling an important step forward in growing US-Vietnam relations. Senator Corker made the statement August 5 while on a visit to Hanoi, one of several recent high-level meetings between officials from the two countries on such topics as Asia-Pacific security, Vietnam’s ascension to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Hanoi’s requests that the aforementioned ban be lifted. Relations between the United States and Vietnam

have been in a “special stage” of late, especially compared to what they have been in the past. In the shadow of an official visit by President Truong Tan Sang to the United States last year, and with the 20th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the two countries coming up next year, 2014 has seen the implementation of a truly comprehensive partnership. The improvement of Vietnam-US ties could be considered an added value to the maintenance of US strategic interests in this region, especially after the administration of US President Barack Obama unveiled its “rebalancing” strategy toward the AsiaPacific. Nevertheless, bilateral relations between the

Dr. Nguyen Thai Yen Huong is a Senior Research Fellow and vice president of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV). She can be reached for comment at duongcom2001@yahoo.com.

US-Vietnam Ties  b  5

two erstwhile enemies face many challenges due to a variety of factors that could lead to negative impacts. Therefore, a careful examination is required to determine the most salient driving forces that will compel the two countries to behave like friends and not foes. During his visit to Australia and Indonesia in November 2011, Obama addressed a large audience to speak about the American “pivot”—a term that was later replaced by “rebalancing”—toward Asia. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” Obama assured the assembled. Subsequent pronouncements from other administration officials reiterated the president’s stated commitment to a longterm strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific through the advocacy of freedom of navigation and strong maritime support for regional allies. Unlike the previous administration, whose security policy gathered international public support main-

stand to benefit greatly from the US shift in attention, in which the Obama administration sees a region (the Asia-Pacific), not an issue (terrorism) as the focus of its strategy.

ly through an emphasis on anti-terrorism and was therefore concerned primarily with the Middle East and North Africa, Obama has shifted his focus to the Asia-Pacific. It is not difficult to realize that one of the main factors behind this adjustment was the re-

external expenditures and the primary US responsibility toward its traditional allies. The first issue to examine relates to the consequences of Vietnam’s unique geography: It is located on the

gion’s emergence in recent years as a global economic center. The Asia-Pacific has become a new global geopolitical focal point that has seen sea changes in intra-regional politics, diplomacy, military posture, and institutional and economic development. Given this evolving situation, Southeast Asian countries

Rebalancing welcome Like their counterparts in other Asian countries, Vietnamese leaders and policymakers have welcomed the US rebalancing strategy. They consider the US presence in the region as a factor that contributes to regional stability and security, especially in view of arising regional developments that might lead to unexpected disputes and conflicts. Vietnam’s policymakers have acknowledged that a cordial relationship with the United States is one of their priorities. Questions remain, however, about the strategy’s sustainability in the face of budget reductions toward

eastern coast of the Indochinese peninsula, standing at the entrance of the Southeast Asian continent. And while it is a country of over 90 million people—and thus a tempting market for any investor—Vietnam is just a middle power in geographic terms, with a level of economic and military might that make it difficult for the big powers to justify making it a strategic pri-


ority. Due to its history, Vietnam has drawn great concern because of its strategic location, where the large powers’ spheres of influence overlap. For most of the 20th century, the superpowers have seen this country as a stepping stone for their ambitions of conquering other countries in the region. At present, some superpowers, especially America, have long been striving to develop and maintain influence in the Asia-Pacific. Therefore, while Vietnam is a country geographically aligned parallel to China, it is increasingly becoming a strategic factor for Washington. Second, the leadership in Hanoi believes that it is

important to take steps forward in relations with America, as these will be crucial to the implementation of a foreign policy of international integration. The leaders of the two nations consider the building of strategic trust an important long-term objective in spite of lingering doubts—on both sides—that continue to cast a shadow on bilateral relations. They would like bilateral ties to move firmly and gradually in line with development of the country’s capacity to

exert national power, which remains far behind that of the superpower. Third, policymakers in both Hanoi and Washington share the belief that Vietnam and America are both looking to see the relationship progress. In the context of a dynamic and fast-changing Asia-Pacific, the two sides share the same strategic interests—not

“The United States is not a party to the sovereignty disputes in the region, but it has declared a vital interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.” only economic ones, but political and security ones as well. “Washington sees Vietnam as the most strategic-thinking of all the ASEAN countries,” according to Ernest Bower, Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The shift in US behavior may come from the shared interests of Vietnam and America, both of which support increased trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The United States is not a party to the sovereignty disputes in the region, but it has declared a vital interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to peaceful resolution of the disputes in accordance with the principles of international law. While China has become more assertive and arrogant, those who enjoy the same vital interests as the United States might become more sympathetic and concerned. Therefore, fully establishing some sort of close economic and military relations with the United States will be very meaningful for Vietnam in the new Asia-Pacific context. Fourth, one of the new elements in the American approach to bilateral relations is to listen to its partners. Unlike in the past, the United States has been more sympathetic to its partners in the region.

US-Vietnam Ties  b  7

photo: US DoD Marine Col. Steven Merrill speaks with Capt. Nguyen Hoang Linh of Vietnam’s Institute for Defense during Exercise Khaan Quest 2011 in Mongolia.

Washington seems to have figured out ways of talking and listening, though its partners do not consider these actions enough. Although it is not often mentioned, for Vietnam and America, this could be a crucial point, especially when it comes to human rights issues. Most of the time, due to different cultural and political viewpoints, the two sides have strongly emphasized their respective perspectives, without paying much heed to the other side’s position. Nowadays, they seem able to listen and discuss their differences without necessarily having to agree upon all points of contention.

Key support Finally, from the US point of view, the comprehensive partnership and diplomatic support it offers Vietnam during the crisis will help strengthen its relations with the communist country. This seems more important considering that the implementation of the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific will require the strong and persistent support of key regional countries, of which Vietnam is undoubtedly one. The warm rapprochement of America to Vietnam

could be considered a reflection of its desire to implement its rebalancing strategy, in which Vietnam may play a significant role. Consequently, close relations with a partner like Vietnam will contribute to America’s being able to consolidate its strategic role and interests in the Asia-Pacific, particularly in the southeastern region. As each year has passed since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1995, Vietnam-US ties have taken great steps forward, from economic and political cooperation to the field of military and cultural exchanges. Especially groundbreaking have been the party-to-party ties that have moved to a new level, as evidenced by a visit to America in July 2014 by Pham Quang Nghi, a member of the Politburo and secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee. The foundations of the relationship are profound and solid, and the individuals involved are committed to the process of furthering the relationship. The bottom line remains, however, that relations are predicated on the very pragmatic fact of having shared interests, and while significant progress has been made, more work in terms of relationship-building remains to be done. n

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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 16 (August, 2014)

Protection Critical Foreign practices in critical infrastructure protection holds lessons for Taiwan Chung-young Chang

photo: ROC MND Soldiers in Kaohsiung respond to a series of underground explosions believed to have been caused by a propene leak from a nearby petrochemical factory.


n the early morning hours of August 1, 2014, a series of gas explosions ripped through the streets of Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung, killing 30 people at last count and leaving hundreds more injured and over a thousand left homeless. The catastrophe highlighted the importance of, among other things, emergency planning and infrastructure protection. Like Taiwan, the international community has witnessed a scourge of threats that, though

earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. While the consequences of these natural and man-made disasters include massive casualties and property damage, they also disrupt the normal functioning of key sectors of the economy, as well as the provision of public services such as energy, water, transportation, and communications. To make matters worse, some NTS events, such as the 9-11 terrorist attack of 2001, the SARS epidemic of 2003, and the South Asia Tsunami

classified as issues of non-traditional security (NTS), are nonetheless serious, life-threatening security threats. These include, but are not limited to, terrorist attacks, disease epidemics, major tropical storms,

of 2004, are impossible to predict and difficult to manage in terms of policy, resource investment, and capacity-building for mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Dr. Chung-young Chang is a professor and chair of the Department of Public Affairs at Fo Guang University. He can be reached for comment at cychang@mail.fgu.edu.tw.

Lessons in CIP  b  9

Hence, it is essential that governments develop a policy agenda that addresses means of securing critical infrastructure protection (CIP) that will enhance the capacity of the state and society as a whole to cope with the threat and impact of contemporary disasters. While the nature and scope of the threats that countries face may differ, lessons learned from international practices in the areas of CIP strategy development, policy implementation, legislation and institutional buildup will offer a comparative perspective that will help outline and strengthen CIP efforts in the Republic of China (ROC) and allow the government in Taiwan to better manage disasters.

Strictly defined As a national program, CIP is defined legally in the United States as “the identification, prioritization, and protection of the physical and virtual systems that are so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety.” CIP man-

ages the protection of 18 critical infrastructure (CI) sectors, sub-sectors and critical elements, mainly including energy, water, transportation, information and communications. Also included are emergency

“Almost all international practices stress the importance of promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors.” responders, agriculture, finance and government. According to the US Congress, the significance of CIP can be seen as the lifeblood and backbone of the country that is vital to societal sustainability, economic development, public safety, and national security. The US Department of Homeland Security defines the process of CIP as being carried out in accordance with the principle of risk management as follows: setting goals and objectives; identifying assets, systems, and networks; assessing risks; prioritizing; implementing protective programs and resiliency strategies; and measuring effectiveness.

photo: ROC MND One of the several blasts that struck Kaohsiung created a trench running the length of the road, overturning cars and trucks and uprooting trees.


Judging from international CIP practices over the past decade, many countries have followed a similar pattern in the course of CIP efforts. First, they search for a definition and identification of the nation’s CI sectors, sub-sectors, and critical elements. While definitions of CI may not differ greatly from country to country, the identification of CI sectors does differ among nations. Energy, transportation, information and communications technologies, and financial services are among the most commonly identified CI sectors.

Outlining policy Second, a strategy, program, or initiative is required to outline the framework and course of CIP implementation. The Netherlands released the policy letter Protecting Critical Infrastructure in 2005 and the third progress letter on National Security in 2010. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) of the United States was first published in 2006, and then revised in 2009 and 2013. Canada published its National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure in 2009 and the most current Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure (2014-2017) was released in 2014. These and other similar documents all emphasize the role and importance of, among other things, risk management, public-private partnership (PPP), interagency coordination and whole-of-government arrangements in securing CIP. Third, legislation in the form of new or amended

graphic: NIPP

photo: Alexander Synaptic The Wuchang Temple shows damage incurred by the 921 earthquake.

laws or executive orders is necessary to provide a basis for policy decisions and action. In particular, legislation for CIP needs to, among other things, address the safety and security challenges of a changing environment, equip government to better manage CIP policy, and promote a cooperative relationship between state and society. Fourth, while it is not recommended that nations create new organizations or administrative bodies

Lessons in CIP  b  11

dedicated solely to CIP, governments do tend to designate the task to an integrative organization, or a formal or informal task force in charge of CIP. In the case of the United States, the Office of Infrastructure Protection under the Department of Homeland Security leads and coordinates national policy and programs on CIP issues. In Canada, Public Safety Canada works with five partner agencies, including Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to ensure Canada’s CI will be safe from a range of risks such as natural disaster, crime, and terrorism. The government in the United Kingdom created the Center for Protecting National Infrastructure (CPNI) to provide protective security advice to the public and private sectors. The CPNI works in close collaboration with key partners such as the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, the police unit the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, and the Counter Terrorism Security Advisor network. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of the Interior provides interdepartmental coordination of the central national-level CIP measures, and its Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, Federal Office for Information Security, and Federal Criminal Police Office are in charge of developing threat assessments and analyses regarding CI risks and provide protection advice to Germany’s public and private sectors. It is often noted that, in addition to CIP responsibility, these CIP policy mechanisms may be involved in managing disasters and other national-security events or situations.

Public-private partnerships Lastly, almost all international practices stress the importance of promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors, since a significant portion of the CI is often privately owned and operated on a commercial basis. Therefore, a successful

CIP needs to be based on a business-government partnership marked by trust in sharing the crucial information necessary to securing the national critical infrastructure. For instance, the Australian gov-

“In order to strengthen its resilience against disaster, Taiwan has to further enhance disaster management through better protection for its critical infrastructure. ” ernment has established the Trusted Information Sharing Network as its primary mechanism to build a partnership between business and government for critical infrastructure resilience. CIP efforts in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland all likewise focus on building positive business-government partnerships, or PPP.


photo: public domain The Shihgang Dam, a concrete barrage dam across the Dajia River in Taichung for flood control and irrigation, was heavily damaged in the 921 earthquake.

In view of international CIP practice, it is worth noting that that CIP has been regarded as a crucial aspect of homeland security protection plans that are designed to manage the threat and impact of disasters, focusing on prevention and preparedness and to secure basic functionality and delivery of public services that are vital to economic activity, social order, and public safety and security. As such, CIP is often, or should be, integrated with a national strategy for disaster management and operates best when duplication of resource allocation is avoided.

Identifying priorities As resources are always limited today, target CI sectors and elements needing protection must be identified and prioritized, and the plan for CIP also has to be developed and implemented accordingly. It is clear that almost all countries have identified their CI sectors and published their CIP strategies or action plans. This is of particular interest and importance for the government of Taiwan, since its CIP efforts are still operative without an official document on CIP. While Taiwan has already released several policy

statements, including annual reviews and reports regarding disaster management and response, more effort is required to produce, among other things, a strategic guideline and implementation program that will further integrate disaster management with protection of the national infrastructure. A society that has been affected by disaster will be more resilient if its critical infrastructure is better protected. In order to strengthen its resilience against disaster, Taiwan has to further enhance disaster management through better protection for its critical infrastructure. In addition to the need for a strategy or policy paper on CIP, the government has to designate an organizational unit or a task force to take charge of CIP policy coordination and implementation issues. The Office of Homeland Security under the Executive Yuan would be an ideal choice for this task. In addition to cooperation and coordination among government agencies, the success of CIP depends on active involvement and positive contribution from the private sector as its basis, which would require the establishment and development of mutual trust between government and the business community. n

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Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 16 (August, 2014)

Third Option Needed Air-Sea Battle, Offshore Control inadequate postures to counter PRC ambitions Michał Pawiński


he military dimension of the US rebalance to Asia has prompted much discussion and debate over the effectiveness of the strategies designed to counter Chinese Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) efforts. So far there are two proposals: the first, Air-Sea Battle (ASB), is more offensive in nature, while the second one, Offshore Control (OC), can be characterized as more of an indirect approach. Both counterstrategies would fail in the event of a conflict over Taiwan due to their focus on war with China itself, rather than seeking ways to interdict the limited political objectives set up by the

People’s Republic of China (PRC). What is more, both counterstrategies largely fail to address the existing challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. It would be irrational to impose a naval and air blockade, as OC describes, or to engage in all-out war with China, for which ASB seems designed, over the rocky islets of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Possible conflicts over territorial disputes between China and Japan, or between China and any of its Asian neighbors, would require a balanced and proportionate response by the United States. As such, there is no single, universal strategy that can address all exist-

photo: Todd Behrman Marines conduct launch and recovery on the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), which is attached to the US 7th Fleet.

Michał Pawiński is a PhD student at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University. He can be reached for comment at m_pawinski@op.pl.


ing potential flashpoints in the region. It is therefore imperative that alternatives, or at least modifications, to Air-Sea Battle and Offshore Control be developed in order to better resolve the region’s complex challenges. The Asia-Pacific of the 21st century is one marked by growing tensions. A key source of friction and argument is the rise of China; a country recovering from its “century of humiliation,” and a former regional hegemon which aims to rebuild the glories of Middle Kingdom. Despite China’s rising power, it still faces numerous challenges which are difficult to overcome. The main competitor and major hindrance to the fulfillment of China’s dream is the United States. Neither country is willing to yield an inch of their sphere of influence. However, both nations claim to seek peaceful cooperation and the maintenance of balance and stability in the region. Even though the chance of armed conflict between the two great powers is slim, it would be a grave negligence not to

prepare for such a scenario. Only irrational and irresponsible actors leave their future in the hands of luck or the good graces of a potential enemy. It is therefore the duty of strategists to design plans for worst-case scenarios. Both China and the United States have already established theoretical foundations for their respective military strategies: The former pursued the A2/AD strategy, while the latter developed Air-Sea Battle and Offshore Control. There is a great deal of debate, and significant disagreement, among American scholars about the potential effectiveness of both ASB and OC as counterstrategies. However, both sides have agreed upon four main goals that any strategy opposing China must fulfill: First, it must deter China; second, it should reassure US allies; third, it should resolve a potential conflict in terms favorable to the United States, and fourth; it should guide US defensive investments. Unfortunately, neither Air-Sea Battle nor Offshore Control would work in the event of a conflict over

map: Yuninjie The Han Empire ca. 87 BC. Analysts interpret the PRC’s recent aggressive pursuit of territory as an attempt to recapture the glories of the Middle Kingdom.

US Military Strategy  b  15

photo: ROC MND ROC commandos take part in a training exercise. If China attacks or blockades Taiwan, the island will have to defend itself until US forces arrive to assist.

Taiwan. There is one major reason for this assessment: American counterstrategies focus too much on war with China itself, while ignoring limited political objectives that Beijing will try to achieve. Therefore, both counterstrategies fail to propose effective ways of interdicting into the political objective of crossstrait unification.

Unintended consequences Offshore control is based on the assumption that establishing two concentric inner and outer blockade rings will not only deter the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from taking any aggressive steps against Taiwan, but in the event of conflict, would protect Taiwan’s integrity. The threat of disrupting the flow of oil and economic commerce might actually have the opposite effect. Beijing has taken serious steps to survive a maritime blockade as long as possible in order to achieve its aims: in 2006, for example, it was estimated that China’s strategic petroleum reserves were sufficient for only seven days. By 2013, China

had increased its reserves to last for 46 days. This clearly suggests that Beijing is serious about preparing for a future blockade. Furthermore, in the face of such a scenario, China would restrict and prohibit the use of private automobiles and ration the sale of all fuel to commercial users. This would further extend the time during which China could hold out during a blockade. Another important factor in the success of Offshore Control is the will and cooperation from other countries. However, there is little evidence to suggest that Russia or many other Asian countries would collaborate in maintaining an energy and economic blockade of China. As China’s chief energy supplier, Russia would be essential to making an energy blockade effective. However, given the strength of Sino-Russian ties, and the tense relationship between Washington and Moscow, it is almost certain that Russia would not cooperate in an energy blockade against China. Perhaps most importantly, China’s burgeoning military capabilities will soon allow it to establish control of the waters within 200 nautical miles from its


photo: Scott Sturkol An E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft in Asia. The PLA is expected to strike first at US C4ISR capabilities in the event of hostilities.

coastline. Taiwan is well within this range, and thus the PRC could effectively blockade Taiwan. Given Taiwan’s limited resources, it is likely that the island would capitulate under a PRC blockade long before China could be compelled to cease hostilities because of an American blockade.

Differences of scale The scope and difficulties facing both powers would be unbalanced, and favor the PRC. China would have to focus solely on traffic destined for Taiwan. With Taiwan’s relatively small size, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy would not have to conduct operations over a large area. In contrast, the United States would have to supervise and control three major channels; the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, and the Lombok Strait. To execute such an enormous operation the United States would have to allocate limited resources between the blockade and other ongoing naval operations. Hence, in a clash of strategies between maritime blockades by the PRC against Taiwan, and the United States against the PRC, the outlook seems grim for Taiwan.

On the other hand, a major problem with Air-Sea Battle is that, given its offensive nature, it greatly increases the pressure on leaders in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and thus makes it more difficult to predict how the PRC would respond. A variety of scenarios can be envisioned: China could

“Implementing ASB would be out of proportion, and might actually undermine the moral high ground of the US position.” act according to the principles that were conceived to defeat a technologically superior adversary, namely, the need to seize the initiative and employ the element of surprise. According to these principles, the PLA would seek to render US and allied forces “deaf, dumb and blind” by destroying or degrading intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) means, and command-and-control connectivity. Such operations would require ballistic and cruisemissile salvo attacks against US military bases in

US Military Strategy  b  17

Kadena, Misawa, Osan and Guam. The Air-Sea Battle response would be conducted in a similar manner to the PLA’s offensive in that it would seek to eliminate Chinese A2/AD capabilities, as well as ISR and command-and-control ability. Such a conflict would border on the brink of total war, perhaps even to the edge of nuclear war.

Pyrrhic victory The outcome of an offensive campaign between China and the United States would be a coin toss, and the winner would enjoy a Pyrrhic victory. Additionally, Air-Sea Battle might also be ineffective in a scenario where the PRC decides to use a naval and air blockade against Taiwan. In other words, China would act according to the principle of avoiding direct confrontation with a stronger adversary. In such a case, implementing ASB would be out of proportion, and might actually undermine the moral high ground of the US position, from an international-law perspective. At the same time, it could quickly cause an escalation in military response by the PLA against Taiwan. The PRC could increase pressure on Taiwan by launching missile attacks, air offensive operations, and ultimately, an amphibious landing. What is more, direct offensive operations suggested by ASB would create the perfect conditions for the PLA to employ the CCP’s three-warfares concept, namely psychological warfare, media warfare, and legal warfare. These three fronts would support the PRC’s position by making it appear as though China were the less hostile party, and the United States would appear to be the more aggressive actor. As concepts solely and prior to actual implementation, both the strategies of Air-Sea Battle and Offshore Control achieve one goal; they reassure Asian countries that the United States will react in a conflict with China. However, this reassurance is directed toward nations that are not threatened by

PRC invasion per se. It is difficult to imagine a PLA amphibious landing on the main islands of Japan. Thus, it is not essential for the United States to reassure allies over something that has little chance of happening. This is especially true for both ASB and OC since they are not suited for, and are disproportionate toward, the challenges posed by possible clashes over islands like the Paracels, the Spratlys, the aforementioned Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, or any of the islands in the East and South China seas disputed by China and its neighbors. The cost of total war with China, or even a naval blockade over these assets, would most likely outweigh the potential benefits. Secondly, the strategies employed must deter China, and in an event of war, secure the political objectives of the United States. So far, only Air-Sea Battle can effectively deter Beijing, simply because the threat of devastation to China’s territory and economy is a good, powerful deterrence. Offshore Control, on the other hand, invites China to think that unification with Taiwan is possible. The Chinese economy would survive a blockade long enough to achieve its political objectives. Moreover, if necessary, the whole Chinese economy and ordinary life of Chinese people can shift into war mode. The only way for the United States to break a blockade of Taiwan would be to shift to ASB and adopt a directly offensive approach. As some scholars have posited, Air-Sea Battle and Offshore Control are operational strategies that contribute to strategic development, and they are far from being complete. American strategists should also make plans for more specific and likely contingencies that might occur in the Asia-Pacific. Most importantly, these plans and strategies should offer appropriate and balanced responses to a larger spectrum of possible contingencies. Nobody wants to unleash devastation through total war over insignificant pieces of land which have been hyped by nationalistic sentiment. n

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photo: US Embassy The Hague Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, has proposed that a new form of “great-country relations” be adopted to define ties between Beijing and Washington.

Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 16 (August, 2014)

Defining Relations Implications for Taiwan of Xi Jinping’s proposed great-country relations with US Hon-min Yau


n December 31, 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrote an article in which he called on China and the United States to build on past progress to develop a new model of major-country relations. In the article—timed to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Washington’s official recognition of the PRC on January 1, 1979—Wang emphasized the importance of ensuring that Sino-US relations remain “on the right track.” He reiterated PRC President Xi Jinping’s call for building a new model of major-

country relations between the two countries. Should this notion find purchase, it will have an inevitable impact on Taiwan, as the two powers concerned are the greatest benefactors of the Republic of China (ROC)—China for the high degree of economic integration, and America as the sole security guarantor and source of defensive weaponry to the island. Thus Taipei is in the position of examining options for balancing and/or bandwagoning, depending on how the Sino-US relationship develops. This “new model” of major-country relations was

Lieutenant Colonel Hon-min Yau is a military instructor at ROC National Defense University’s Air Command and Staff College. His military background is related to air defense, C4ISR, and information operations. He can be reached for comment at vampirea4@gmail.com.

Sino-US Ties  b  19

first proposed during Xi’s US trip in February 2012 while he was still PRC vice president. The concept was clarified further by Xi while on another trip to America, this one in June 2013. The same wording was used in the latest bilateral meeting between Xi and US President Barack Obama, which took place in March, 2014 during the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Three points During Xi’s June 2013 meeting with Obama at the Sunnylands estate in Southern California, Xi offered three points to help define the concept. The first is “no clash and no confrontation,” the second is “mutual respect,” and the third is “seeking cooperation and win-win.” Following that meeting, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi offered further clarification, explaining that the first item refers to the two nations objectively and reasonably looking at each other’s strategic intent, becoming partners instead of op-

ponents, and handling conflicts through dialogue and non-confrontational means. “Mutual respect” refers to respecting each other’s choice of sociopolitical system, developmental path, core national interests and concerns, and seeking harmony to make progress together. The third asks the two nations to

“A lack of trust will be just the first fundamental problem to the realization of such a relationship.” abandon the mindset of the zero-sum game, and to be considerate of each other’s interests. However, Obama’s White House may not be so keen to adopt this new paradigm. The administration’s new ambassador to Beijing, the former US senator from Montana, Max Baucus, showed a sense of disagreement when questioned during his January 28, 2014, confirmation hearing about China’s idea of a new type of great power relations, using phrases such as

CC-PD-Mark US President Richard Nixon, right, meets Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong. The current Beijing government is seeking to redefine the Sino-US relationship.


photo: SFT HQ An ironic wanted poster for Zhou Yongkang, formerly one of the most powerful men in the PRC’s security apparatus who has been targeted for corruption.

“wary” and “not an approach which makes sense.” Xi’s proposal would certainly redefine the way the United States and China interact, and in a way that would be beneficial to Beijing. However, this new model ignores the fact that each side will still do things that the other will view as contrary to their interests—things that impinge on issues such as human rights, territorial and maritime disputes, and other areas where there is very little equivalence between US and Chinese positions. As such, a lack of trust will be just the first fundamental problem to the realization of such a relationship.

Creating a rift Already, despite Xi’s proposal, China’s aggressive behavior in the East China Sea and South China Sea is creating a rift between the two countries, and threatening to position their respective interests in opposition. China’s assertive brand of diplomacy is not merely passively responding to the fast-paced developments of the neighboring security environment,

but hints at the more actively planned aspirations of a rising power. As the PRC’s so-called comprehensive national power increases, Beijing is engaging its resources toward supporting its various claims to territory in the region. China’s assertiveness in foreign affairs can also be interpreted as being a domestic necessity, at least for Xi as he seeks to consolidate his control over the various factions and power holders in China, including the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This consolidation has had domestic expression as well, as evidenced by the newly established Chinese national security council, which will allow Xi to tighten his control over the government, and the anti-corruption drives that essentially amount to purges of Xi’s potential rivals in the CCP, including Bo Xilai and, more recently, Zhou Yongkang. Many in China believe that now is finally time for the country to rejuvenate its national esteem. The way China’s leaders handle international matters suggests that those leaders are seeking to reclaim its former

Sino-US Ties  b  21

position in the world with this new model of majorcountry relations in order to pursue Xi’s “Chinese dream” of a strong nation with strong military.

sense of historical destiny and is causing great concern among countries in the region. It is clear from this and other similar evidence that the development of major-country relations between the United States

Provocative development The US House of Representatives held a joint hearing January 14, 2014, on China’s aggressive prosecution of its maritime disputes, and attendees giving testimony expressed concerns about China’s dangerous ambitions, stating that the United States may be forced to redeploy forces to the Asia-Pacific theater to provide a counterbalance to China’s actions. On February 1, Evan Medeiros, the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, opined that the PRC is pursuing “provocative and destabilizing development that would result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region.” On February 5, the chief of US intelligence James Clapper said that China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims in the seas of East Asia is driven by a

“The ROC government first and foremost needs to continuously invest in the island’s national defense.” and China is being complicated by Beijing’s assertive behavior toward its neighbors in the region. As one of those neighbors—and one which the economic and military powerhouse has vowed to annex by force, if necessary—Taiwan must contend with the problems of a smaller state. Taipei can either decide to employ a balancing strategy, which would mean allying itself with others against the prevailing regional threat, or it can decide to bandwagon, by aligning itself with the danger, China. Since the ultimate consequences of a bandwagoning strategy

photo: NASA US President Barack Obama speaks on the telephone in the Oval Office of the White House. Obama has not enthusiastically embraced the Xi proposal.


photo: Buddy8d An ROC Indigenous Defense Fighter. Even in soft balancing terms, it is in Taiwan’s interests to maintain a stable security environment in the Taiwan Strait.

with China would include the sacrificing of Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy, balancing would appear to be the only solution. Using terminology that derives from the concepts of hard and soft power as enunciated by Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, the following recommendations are options that Taipei may consider as it seeks to develop a two-pronged strategy of soft and hard balancing. In terms of hard balancing, the ROC government first and foremost needs to continuously invest in the island’s national defense. Since Taiwan has limited natural resources and has no capital for any form of war of attrition, it will be necessary to emphasize the military development of the ROC’s air and naval ele-

United States, it’s only other major-country relationship, to better encourage ongoing US support of Taiwan’s democracy and to keep Taipei’s only conduit for purchasing defensive weapons open and active. Only by showing a determination to defend itself in the face of Chinese aggression will Taiwan be able to win international support for its democracy and its attempts to expand its international space. This can be referred to as an “international hard-balancing” strategy.

ments: stronger air defense and advanced missile and anti-submarine technologies, inter alia, are needed to counter any Chinese attempts to impose a naval blockade or no-fly zone over the island. This can be called an “internal hard-balancing” strategy. Furthermore, Taiwan needs to maintain effective and credible channels of communication with the

Taiwan Strait, since positive progress in the crossstrait relationship will be a positive boost for Taiwan’s international activities. Taiwan needs to implement an “internal soft-balancing” strategy by continuously and intensely promoting civic exchanges with China, consisting of cultural and academic events, and hosting Chinese tourists on Taiwanese soil. This may, in

Internal soft balancing In terms of soft balancing, Taiwan’s best interest is still to maintain a stable security environment in the

Sino-US Ties  b  23

the long run, help to deepen the Chinese people’s understanding of the values of democracy. Moreover, encouraging semi-official communications is also an important step toward establishing mutual trust across the Taiwan Strait, and such trust will be needed for any future cooperation to be successful. Likewise, an “international soft-balancing” strategy is recommended. The Asia-Pacific is susceptible to different types of natural disasters, such as the recent 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami, the 311 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Typhoon Haiyan, and many others. Taiwan actively participates in international Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) activities—part of Taipei’s efforts to act as a responsible member of the Asia-Pacific region. A recent case in point is Taiwan’s active participation in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 by sending two Coast Guard ships and a military C-130 plane to the South China Sea to assist in international search operations. This demonstrates Taipei’s willingness to

contribute more to the international community, and such efforts will also create opportunities for Taiwan to open up new horizons for its international activities. To sum up, both the United States and China have their unique interests in Taiwan, and Taipei will need to live up to China’s new model of major-country relations, be it unilateral (as suggested by China only) or bilateral (viewed concurrently by the United States and China). The ROC government needs to adopt wise strategies to deal with a difficult security environment, and creatively explore more ways of securing greater international space for itself. Furthermore, Xi’s proposed new relationship is a declaration of the new position on the global stage to which China aspires. However, this position will be difficult for the United States to swallow, at least without fully understanding the real intent of Xi’s Chinese dream. At least in the short term, Sino-US relations will still be marked more by competitions than cooperation. n

photo: Chris Wieland A pro-Tibet protestor in Washington, DC. No matter how collegial ties become between America and China, values-based differences will always exist.

24  b

Strategic Vision vol. 3, no. 16 (August, 2014)

Top Guns

Despite its critics, F-35 remains an ideal solution to problems faced by ROCAF Liao Yen-Fan

photo: Joshua King US Air Force Major Kevin Hall goes through his pre-flight checks before flying an F-35A at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Major Hall is an F-35 test pilot.


he deteriorating situation in the control of airspace over the Taiwan Strait has, over the past few years, become a major concern for the Republic of China (ROC) Air Force (ROCAF). The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has deployed a significant number of advanced fourth-generation air superiority assets, such as the Chengdu J-10 and the Shenyang J-11, coupled

average of 180 hours of flight time logged per year, they can no longer hope to maintain a favorable air situation, or even air parity with China. Indeed, the ROCAF is fast approaching an unfavorable air situation, with the unpleasant implication of allowing the PLAAF to execute successful air operations over the island in support of an invasion. The failure to acquire advanced models of F-16 C/D

with the acquisition and integration of advanced Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). This means that even with the superior training enjoyed by ROCAF pilots, with a higher-than-NATO-

as an interim measure has further tilted the already dangerous balance toward the PLAAF, and hence as early as 2009, ROCAF Command was actively entertaining the possibility of acquiring the F-35 Lightning

Liao Yen-Fan is a graduate of National Chengchi University and a former intern with the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington, DC. He can be reached for comment at charlie_1701@msn.com.

F-35 Fighters  b  25

II, specifically the short take-off and vertical-landing variant (STOVL), going so far as to include it in the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) TenYear Force Buildup Concept and Five-Year Force Construction Plan. On April 29, 2013, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang, in a conference held jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated that the ROCAF would need advanced fighters with capabilities “beyond the current models of F-16 C/D.” Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu clarified the statement a few weeks later during a legislative session, affirming MND interest in acquiring the F-35 as a long-term objective. The mission of the ROCAF is a defensive one, as reflected in its mission statement: “…During wartime, to gain control of the air to the best of its abilities, to collaborate with the Army and Navy in various

forms of joint operations in order to fully realize its effectiveness in neutralizing invading forces, and to safeguard the integrity of national territory.” The fact that the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) restricts America’s sale of arms to Taiwan to those which are defensive in nature has had severe consequences for the operational doctrines of the ROCAF.

Restricted to defense These restrictions range from the deletion of certain air-to-ground modes in the F-16’s AN/APG-66(V)3 radar to the initial software restrictions on the take-off engine power of the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo, also known as the Indigenous Defense Fighter—Initially the static thrust of the F-CK-1 when landing gears are down were limited by software to 8,350 lb, which indirectly limit the role of F-CK-1 to little more than air de-


fense. Hence, the primary focus of ROCAF has always been air defense, making the F-35 ideally suited to its needs. The most common criticism leveled against the performance of the F-35 is its kinematics—the maneuverability of the aircraft. In most cases, criticism has been focused on various performance metrics, and in some cases, on key performance indicators. Commonly used performance metrics, including the thrust-to-weight ratio, combat radius, maximum instantaneous turn rate, maximum G-load, and wing-loading, do not measure up to the fourth-generation fighters they are replacing.

the isospecific energy of the aircraft—in other words, what the aircraft can do without losing or gaining energy either through decreasing speed and gaining altitude, or increasing speed and energy by diving. Rudimentary calculations on the traditional E-M plot using publicly available information on the Lightning II show that it supports the assertion of Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program, who claimed that the maneuverability of

Metrics problematic The problem of utilizing performance metrics as basis for comparison is that they are used only as proxies for what is important in a weapons system, and are seldom important in and of themselves. They exist only to inform developers and operators on the system’s true versus desired capabilities. In other words, taking indicators out of context would, at best, create a misleading impression resulting in bad policy decisions. Take thrust-to-weight ratio for example; the importance of this particular indicator did not come into being until the energy-maneuverability (E-M) diagram, also known as the doghouse plot, came into vogue partially through the efforts of United States Air Force (USAF) Colonel John Boyd, who devised a way to describe the potential and kinetic energy in a quantitative manner where every line delineates

US pilot John Boyd, here a captain or major, during the Korean War.

F-35 Fighters  b  27

photo: Ken Kalemkarian The first vertical landing of a Marine Corps F-35B outside of a testing environment, at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, on March 21, 2013.

the F-35 would be “at least as good as the F-16.” While the E-M plot is a useful tool for understanding and discussing air combat, the rapid pace of development in weapons capability, such as the increasing importance of beyond-visual-range combat and the advent of all-aspect seeking missiles, has rendered the original interpretation—that an engagement between two fighters will inevitably result in a protracted dogfight, with each competing to gain a rear-aspect position—obsolete. The F-35, as reported by test pilot Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Kelly, has a very similar E-M diagram to the F/A-18, but offers better acceleration at certain points of the flight envelope. The F/A-18 is another aircraft capable of high alpha maneuvers—maneuvers conducted under High Angle of Attack (AoA)—and a 7-G load factor. This is in contrast to the F-16, which could sustain a maximum of 9G but has a dangerous pitch-up tendency that forced designers to limit its AoA to 30 degrees, restricting it

to an inferior Combat Cycle Time (CCT): the time it takes an aircraft to point its nose toward the enemy, unload ordinance, and regain lost energy. This metric perfectly illustrates the superiority of the F-35 within the context of the ROCAF’s potential engagements with the PLAAF, as the lack of any serious Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) capability on ROCAF’s part means that any engagement will quickly degrade into a within-visual-range engagement due to the distance between Taiwan and China, in which the famous poststall characteristics of the Su-27 family and the canard-wing J-10 would allow them to enjoy significant kinematic advantages over the ROCAF’s existing combat assets. While according to traditional E-M analysis the kinematics

USAF Lieutenant General Christopher C. Bogdan

of the F-35 is at least “as good as the F-16,” with far superior CCT, the true strength of the Lightning II lies in its unique approach to Situational Awareness (SA). SA has been an important part of air combat since the days of


target acquisition: Initial acquisition in all quarters but the rear results in US aircraft gaining most of the first firing opportunities (at a ratio of 132:23), while rear-quarter acquisition resulted in enemy MiGs gaining first-firing conditions (at 7:37). Target acquisition usually relies on what pilots call mark-one eyeball, or using unaided vision (i.e. no radar, binoculars, etc…) to spot the enemy. However, the limitations of human attention were discovered during the Air Combat Evaluation and Air Intercept Missile Evaluation conducted by the US Defense Department from 1974 to 1978, which found that in any four-on-four engagement, pilots would quickly lose the ability to keep track of each other’s relative position. On the F-35, these two issues were approached through the incorporation of the AN/AAQ-37 electro-optical Distributed Aperture System (DAS), which provides

graphics: VegaKosmonaut

Manfred von Richthofen (80 kills), René Fonck (75 kills), and Billy Bishop (72 kills), all of whom discovered that being able to spot the enemy first is often the deciding factor in victory. Quantitative studies conducted in the Vietnam war by USAF Project Red Baron support the significance of SA with regard to initial

the pilot with a real-time unobstructed spherical view around the entire aircraft—both day and night— through helmet-mounted displays, essentially allowing the pilot to “see through” the aircraft. The DAS also provides aircraft, threat-detection, tracking and

F-35 Fighters  b  29

cueing using both visual and audio cues. The cockpit itself is dominated by one 8 x 20-inch configurable touch-screen multifunction display that allows the pilot to focus on the task at hand. The display filters all the intelligence gathered by friendly assets and displays this in a coherent, easy-to-com-

“Of all the characteristics of the Lightning II, stealth is probably the least understood yet most criticized.” prehend format. Link-16 compatibility allows the Lightning II to communicate and share intelligence with other assets such as ROCAF F-16s, E-2Ts, and Kidd-class destroyers, among many other platforms, while Multifunction Advanced Data Link capability between the F-35s allows them to act as intelligencegathering platforms by synchronizing the information gathered by all onboard instruments, from DAS to the active electronically scanned array radar, effectively acting as a local force multiplier. Of all the characteristics of the Lightning II, stealth is probably the least understood yet most criticized. Incorporating his experience during the Korean War, Colonel Boyd came up with the concept of the OODA loop: observe, orient, decide, and act. While the interpretation of the loop varies with application, the implication for air combat is rather straightforward: observe the incoming threat; orient yourself according to

The Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35

your training, personality, and even culture; make a decision on the maneuver you are going to take; and act on it. Merging the concept of SA with the OODA loop, a lower signature—be it radar cross-section, thermal, audio, or visual—allows the pilot to cut into the enemy pilot’s OODA loop, and continue to interfere with his observation and orientation process. Any given day, the ROCAF dispatches two to three

photo: Ahunt A mockup of the F-35 instrument panel is on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.


sorties of combat patrols consisting of two flights in a two-ship formation over the island, with additional five-minute and 15-minute standby aircraft on the tarmac. Considering the strategic initiative possessed by the attacker, and the relatively limited endurance of combat aircraft, especially the F-CK1, the importance of each and every airborne asset cannot be overstated. Moreover, limited manpower, reflected in a cockpit ratio (the ratio of the number of active-duty pilots divided by the number of available aircraft) of less than 1.5, compared to the cockpit ratio of 2.5 enjoyed by the USAF, could spell serious problems in the form of insufficient sortie generation down the road. The limited airspace, as represented by both the physical space and the PLAAF’s practical capacity to direct attack waves, provide a greater benefit to the defender than the attacker, as the attacker enjoys relative freedom of movement unimpeded by escort/ SEAD duties or ordinance load. Even if Taiwan were to order F-35s today, the horizon for delivery remains distant at 10-15 years, depending on negotiation and the decision made by partners such as Singapore and Australia. This could actually work to Taiwan’s advantage by allowing for prices as low as US$85 million per aircraft in 2019

dollars (for the Australian Air Force), and since the F-35 has consistently come in under the estimated budget, one could expect a total program cost of 60 aircraft at somewhere around US$5.5 billion for the ROCAF. A very reasonable amount considering the F-16 A/B program cost US$60 billion in 1992 dollars spanning over 9 years of special budgets. Concerns for the Lightning II’s potential offensive characteristics violating the Taiwan Relations Act originate from a fundamental misunderstanding of the spear and shield paradox. As with previous examples mentioned in this article, sensitive characteristics can be limited through software modifications, while the stealth technology was always considered fit for potential export. The above-mentioned factors influencing the crossstrait air balance all point to a qualitative improvement with a quantitative reduction in ROCAF combat aircraft. With the difficult situation Taiwan faces on the international stage, the F-35 remains the only viable option possessing fifth-generation capabilities. While the timetable for F-35 development might not be compatible with the immediate needs of the ROCAF, there is little doubt that the F-35 Lightning II would be an indispensable asset to the ROCAF order of battle. n

photo: Lockheed Martin An F-35B Lightning II aircraft lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. The ROC has expressed interest in purchasing this STOVL variant.


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Strategic Vision, Issue 16  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Issue 16  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

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