News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Excerpts from "Taiwan Faces New Missile Threat "

The anonymous military source added that China's weapons are liquid-fueled, slow and cumbersome. They could attack U.S. ships in the Taiwan Strait because they don't need much in the way of a guidance system: "You just turn the missile on and tell it to go for the big blob," the official said.

But a land-attack cruise missile is harder to build, and expert U.S. defense officials said that China's cruise missile technology is struggling, because of Beijing's inability to build a state-of-the art jet engine. "A jet engine is the heart of a cruise missile," which also includes guidance technology that uses computer-powered in-flight terrain mapping that matches stored images of the ground with in-flight data, according to one official.

Chinese pilots are under strict control from ground controllers, say military experts who spoke with UPI. "Regardless of where they sit, the controller dictates every move the pilot makes," one U.S. defense expert said, much like the old Iraqi and other Soviet-derived air forces.

The Chinese also have no over-the-horizon targeting capability, as the United States does, which severely limits missile effectiveness. The Chinese navy has virtually no anti-submarine warfare capability, which would leave it helpless against U.S. attack subs that are sure to be involved in any conflict over Taiwan.

"The Patriot isn't an anti-aircraft weapon, not an anti-missile missile," he said. "It flies too slowly and has too much difficulty distinguishing between decoys and booster debris to destroy the warhead," he said. Even if it blows up at the right time, it's so low, that "a chemical warhead would be a disaster," dropping back on the defenders, he said.

A U.S. defense expert agreed. The Patriot, he said, is only "marginally effective," good only for defending "what it's sitting on top of." It hasn't the speed required for interception. One U.S. defense expert said that the real issue in any Chinese campaign against Taiwan is how vigorously the Taiwanese resisted ?how much punishment they would be able to take without surrendering. Because all China can do is damage Taiwan, but if the damage "doesn't cause capitulation, that is it," he said. China can't "go beyond punishment to conquest."

Because of this, he said, the Chinese theater missile threat "is not nearly the significant capability as some read it to be." He compared the sheer numbers of warheads the United States dropped on targets in the Kosovo campaign ?30,000 missiles of precision guided munitions "put on a target selected by a very elaborate intelligence and reconnaissance system" costing billions of dollars.

China has no system that can begin to compare, and "one has to not just talk of the missile, but of the numbers of launchers, the number of reloads" and resupply, he said. All told, "China has a couple of hundred missiles to devote to Taiwan."

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