For the first time, Taiwan has said it reserves the right to launch a “defensive air strike” against the mainland following weekend flights of some 40 Chinese warplanes which crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial sea border between the two countries.
Taiwan would not fire the first shot, but it would exercise its right to defend itself and would “definitely fire back if fired upon,” a military source was quoted as saying by Taipei Times.
“In two consecutive days of military drills in the Taiwan Straits, the Chinese PLA conducted nearly 40 sorties featuring air superiority fighters, multirole fighters, bombers and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft intended to gain control of the air over the island of Taiwan,” Global Times reported quoting pro-China analysts.
In light of the Chinese provocations, the Taiwanese military earlier this month defined “first strike” as “the right to launch a defensive first strike.”
Ministry spokesman Major General Shih Shun-wen earlier this month said that in scenarios in which Taiwanese military jets are attacked, the Chinese PLA is preparing to invade Taiwan, or Chinese forces are determined as having made “a clear attacking move and threat,” the military would exercise “the right to launch a defensive first strike,” after the situation has been assessed and authorization has been given.
Due to the growing threat from China, the ministry has held a series of briefings at the Air Force Combat Command to ensure that Taiwan’s fighter jet pilots follow protocol for engaging enemy threats. “The military does not know what China’s intentions behind the frequent incursions are, but Taiwan wants to prevent any actions by its pilots that might accidentally trigger a cross-strait war,” the source told Taipei Times.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday that Chinese military aircraft approaching Taiwan over the past two days demonstrates that Beijing is a threat to the entire region, and has shown Taiwanese even more clearly the true nature of China’s government.
“I believe these activities are no help to China’s international image, and what is more have put Taiwan’s people even more on their guard, understanding even better the true nature of the Chinese communist regime,” she said.
Taiwan lacks long range missiles to attack strategic targets on the mainland besides adequate air defence systems to prevent a massive air attack by China. It has requested the US for sale of PATRIOT missile defence systems and cruise missiles to defend itself against China.
Giving an unusually candid account of the exercise, Global Times reported that the aircraft deployed by the PLA in the exercises is accurate to a real combat situation and covers many different scenarios. The drills show that Chinese aircraft are capable of seizing air superiority and command of the sea over the island of Taiwan, it reported quoting analysts.
"J-10 and J-11 fighters are mainly used in combat against hostile aircraft, H-6 bombers are mainly used to attack warships and ground facilities, J-16 fighters are multirole and can tackle all aerial, maritime and land targets, and the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft can locate and attack enemy submarines."
The simulated missions by the J-10s and J-11s were probably aimed at neutralizing any remaining Taiwan warplanes there that had made their way into the air after surviving potential PLA missile and artillery strikes on Taiwan military airfields, analysts said.
Several J-16 fighters, probably equipped with not only air-to-air missiles, but also anti-ship missiles and ground attack weapons, reportedly operated to the north of the island, near Taipei, Keelung and Yilan, where the political center and some of the naval bases of the Taiwan island are located.
The other J-16s found themselves to the southwest of the island, near the H-6 bombers and the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Analysts expect the J-16s to deal with Taiwan F-16 and F-CK-1 fighters based in Chiayi and Tainan, while also escort and cooperate with the H-6s in eliminating Taiwan warships based in Penghu and Kaohsiung with anti-ship missiles if necessary.
Taiwan has fewer than 30 main battle surface combatants, and the two H-6 bombers each carrying four YJ-12 anti-ship missiles plus the eight to 12 J-16s each carrying two to four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles in addition to air combat armaments can prove to be devastating to the island's naval force, military analysts told global Times.
The Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft could clear the Straits of submarines and, together with PLA minesweeping vessels, it could pave paths for the PLA landing forces, analysts said.