Taiwan’s navy taking asymmetrical approach to counter China’s bigger, more potent fleet

Aware that they cannot hope to counter China’s rising naval power, Taiwanese leaders are taking an asymmetrical approach to countering the People’s Liberation Army Navy: Improving their submarine force.

The Taiwanese navy recently launched a $14.5 billion shipbuilding and force modernization program that includes upgrading the surface fleet but mostly building new, highly capable submarine fleet.

In 2001 the U.S. agreed to build submarines for Taiwan but that fell through after Washington was pressured by Beijing. Now, with no other country willing to supply subs to Taipei — which fields only such vessels, with two dating back to the 1940s — the country has decided it would build eight of its own.

However, analysts are criticizing the decision. They say eight new subs — which will only come to fruition after much delay and cost, since they will effectively be designed from scratch — will pale in capability and comparison to China’s sizeable sub force and anti-submarine warfare assets.

So what’s the answer?

“In the battle for the Taiwan Strait, the best option would be to further develop and expand more modest existing programs. Rather than submarines, Taipei should purchase dozens of upgraded models of the Kuang Hua VI-class fast attack craft fitted with the new extended-range version of the Hsiung-Feng II anti-ship missile. In times of tension, these small craft could be widely spread among Taiwan’s harbours to help ensure the vessels’ survival.”

Read the complete assessment here.

Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2:  What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints?

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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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