400 Harpoon missiles to Taiwan is a good development. But clearly more is going to be necessary. A leaked document recounted in WaPo assesses the current military situation.
Taiwan is unlikely to thwart Chinese military air superiority in a cross-strait conflict, while tactics such as China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes have eroded U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion, according to leaked Pentagon assessments that contain troubling details about the self-governed island’s ability to fend off war.
The assessments state that Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can “accurately detect missile launches,” that barely more than half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable and that moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week — a huge problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes.
The classified documents addressing a potential conflict suggest China’s air force would have a much better shot at establishing early control of the skies — a strategy that Taipei itself believes will underpin an attack — than Russia did in Ukraine.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in November that the Pentagon is working to make sure that Taipei can defend itself and that the U.S. military is prepared should the island be invaded.
Milley pointed out that the Chinese military hasn’t seen combat since the 1970s and would be playing a “very, very dangerous game” if it attacks Taiwan. Subduing the 23 million people there and negotiating mountainous terrain would be extremely difficult, he said, and drew parallels to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — an ongoing conflict that has left hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians dead or wounded.
Harpoon anti-ship missiles are then buttressing the increase in Patriot sales to Taiwan announced at the end of last year. For more discussion of the China-Taiwan balance, see this post, recounting the DoD (unclassified) assessment.
Wargaming the conflict (CSIS).