Tag Archives: China

History of US Arms Sales to Taiwan

26 Sep

The US has had close ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) since their fight against Japan in World War 2. And American support continued despite the ROC’s defeat by the communist forces of the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Taiwan was an important part in the plan to contain the spread of communism in Asia during the Cold War and offered behind the scenes assistance to anti-communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. After the Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979, it became US law to supply Taiwan with military hardware and to defend them against outside aggression, specifically China. The US has made good on this promise on 3 separate occasions known as the Taiwan Strait Crises in 1954-55, 1958, and 1995-96 when American naval forces in the region were mobilized to deter Chinese military posturing.

As of now, there have been at least 53 separate arms deals reaching an estimated $60 billion worth, not including inflation which could very well raise the deals to over $100 billion. Most sales are for advanced technology such as surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and other hi-tech equipment not easily produced indigenously. I’ve tried to compile all available data I could find so let me know if you notice something that I left out.

1979, July- 48 F-5E, $240 million

1979, November- 500 AGM-65 Maverick, $25 million

1980, January- BGM-71 TOW, MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72 Chaparral, $280 million

1980, July- M110A2, $3.7 million

1982, April- Aircraft parts, $640 thousand

1982, June- Armored personnel carriers, mortar vehicle, command vehicle, $97 million

1982, August- $620 million

1982, November- Vehicles, spare parts and ancillary equipment, $97 million

1983, February- 66 F-104G, no data on dollar value

1984, June- 12 C-130, $325 million

1985, February- 12 F-5, F-100, T-33, T-28 radar and spare parts, $325 million

1985, June- 262 MIM-72 Chaparral, $94 million

1986, August- S-2T, AN/TPQ-37, S-2E/G, Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, $260 million

1989- 88 Standard Missile, $44 million

1990, August- F-5, F-104, C-130 radar, $108 million

1991, September- 110 M60A3, $119 million

1992- 8 C-130, $220 million

1992, July- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1992, August- 207 Standard Missiles, $126 million

1992, September- 150 F-16s, $6 billion

1993, January- 200 Patriot missiles and related equipment, $10 billion

1993, March- 4 E-2T, $900 million

1993, June- Aircraft parts, radar and navigation equipment, $156 million

1993, November- 150 Mk46  Mod5RC torpedoes and related components, $54 million

1994, February- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1994, September- 4 MSO ocean minesweepers, no data on dollar value

1994, October- Rental of 2 Newport class tank landing ships, $2.6 million

1995, May- 160 M60A3, $223 million

1996, August- 1299 FIM-92 Stingers and related equipment, $420 million

1996, September- 110 Mk46 Mod5 torpedoes, $69 million

1997, March- AGM-84A, AH-1W, S-70C, $232 million

1997, May- 700+ DMS systems, $58 million

1997, May- 2 Knox class frigates, no data on dollar value

1998- 4 S-70C, $70 million

1998, March- OH-58, AH-1W and related equipment, $452 million

1998, August- unknown material, $350 million

1998, October- unknown material, $440 million

1999, April- Early warning radar defense system, $800 million

1999, May- Hellfire II, ANVRC-92E, SINC-GARS-based radio systems, intelligence electronic warfare systems, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled and additional equipment, $87 million

1997, July- E-2T and F-16s, $550 million

2000, March- Improved Hawk system and related equipment, $202 million

2000, June- F-16s on-board navigation and targeting pods, AN/ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pods, $356 million

2000, September- AIM-120C medium-range air to air missiles, Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles, 155 mm self proelled artillery and communications eqipment, $1.4 billion

2001, April- incomplete order, $18 billion

2003, November- 200 AIM-120C-5, no data on dollar value

2004, April- 2 Ultra-high frequency early warning radar and remote equipment, $17.8 million

2007, March- 453 AIM-120C-5 missiles, air-to-air missiles, $421 million

2007, 66 F-16 C/D, $3.7 billion

2007, September- P-3C, Standard Missiles-2, $2.23 billion

2007, November- Patriot missile system upgrades, $939 million

2008, October- Patriot anti-missile system, E-2T, Apache helicopters and other weaponry, $6.46 billion

2011, September- Upgrades for F-16s, $5.85 billion

There’s a PDF file on this site with the original details.

The US is required by law to aid Taiwan in developing its military but is loath to sacrifice its increasingly vital relationship with China and the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s older F-16s instead of selling them new ones has shaken the Taiwanese government. They have a few options on the table if they wish to close the ever widening gap between them and the mainland. First, they could see about simply buying the production license for the F-16 if that’s what they really wanted. It’s less diplomatically sensitive and would allow Taiwan to build as many as it needs. Second, they could develop their own fighter program. Such an endeavor is expensive but Taiwan is one of the most developed countries in the region and already has a high technological base from which to work from. How Taiwan handles the situation could very well decide by what terms it eventually rejoins the mainland, of its own free will with special conditions for reunification or by Chinese conquest.


China’s Impenetrable Island Fortress

12 Sep

In recent years, a secret military base operated primarily by the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been discovered by Western intelligence on Hainan Island near the city of Sanya, on the island’s southern point. The entire fortress complex is essentially one massive cavern capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines while the harbor outside supports nuclear ballistic missile submarines and jetties long enough to moor an aircraft carrier. The only ways into the base are through the heavily defended submarine entrance or through 11 massive 60 ft high blast doors. It has been suggested that the base may be capable of withstanding multiple nuclear strikes.

The base is a mile stone for China’s mission of building up it’s ability to project force abroad. Current estimates by the US government have determined that China will have 5 Type-094 nuclear submarines by the beginning of 2011, each able to carry a payload of 12 intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. The harbor has two 950 meter piers and 3 smaller ones capable of accommodating 2 carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.  There is also a demagnetization facility to remove the residual electronic fields from a submarine before it’s deployment. This interesting revelation may explain why Chinese subs have been able to occasionally avoid the radar and sonar systems of American vessels in the last few years.

The location of the base, near territory that is disputed with several other countries, has sparked tensions and raised fears about China’s growing assertiveness with its claims. Suspicion of Chinese motives on the part of other countries is well founded. The base is within easy striking distance of the Strait of Malacca, Straight of Sunda and Lombok Strait. These three locations see roughly 50% of all the world’s shipping. A blockade by a capable naval force could be crippling for East Asia, Oceania, and even the Americas.

While already large by military standards, the base is expected to go through a period of expansion as China is believed to be planning on building an additional 6 aircraft carriers and add to its submarine fleet. The Hainan region was chosen specifically for it’s proximity to regional flashpoints, but also due to the deep water just off the coast that exceeds 5,000 meters in  depth in some places, which greatly increases the difficulty in finding and tracking a submarine’s movements.

While China’s wish to defend its interests abroad and assert itself more aggressively is understandable in light of its recent success, its actions have already started a regional arms race with surrounding countries, most notably India. Both are competing to develop more advanced ICBMs and counter measures against each other’s missiles in order to maintain some semblance of a military balance. One thing is for sure, Hainan’s base will have an important role to play should any regional conflict break out. 

NATO and the SCO. Doomed to be Enemies?

6 Sep

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance formed at the beginning of the Cold War to check the influence of the Soviet Union and its allies. Ever since the dissolution of their arch enemy, NATO has been having a bit of an identity crisis with many wondering if the alliance should be dissolved due to the lack of a common enemy. But recently it has taken on the role of a peacekeeping force, engaging in operations around the world and is a counterweight to the Eurasian dominance of China-Russia.

Collectively, NATO accounts for 70% of the world’s military spending and despite the seemingly bleak future of the European Union, the alliance is strong and relatively united despite occasional hiccups. New member states are added every few years after an intensive dialogue process, the newest prospective members being Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and possibly Cyprus once their dispute with Turkey is resolved. NATO also maintains several agreements with surrounding countries including the Individual Partnership Action Plan and the Partnership for Peace.

Member nations are currently wrapping up their operations with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya, peacekeeping in the Balkans, monitoring the Mediterranean Sea,  pulling security in Iraq, combating Somali piracy, and assisting the African Union with peacekeeping missions on the Somali mainland.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is comprised of a soon to be superpower (China) and a shattered shell of a superpower (Russia) along with former Soviet central Asian countries, always state that the organization is not a military alliance like NATO. False. It started out as an economic group somewhat similar to the European Union but it’s slowly taken on a militaristic side, again, similar to the EU. Even Putin denied any similarities to NATO. But in recent years the SCO has raised some eyebrows by staging numerous military exercises and war games involving member countries.

As global economic power begins to shift to the east, and Russia attempts to tag along on the coattail of China’s recent success, the SCO will become an even tighter knit community which seeks an active leadership role in the world. However, if two autocratic, major powers on the UN Security Council with veto power should team up in enforcing their  often shady policies then the regional balance will be thrown into disarray. China will surely use SCO support to push its unfounded claims in the South China Sea and should India fall further under US influence then its admittance into the organization will be unlikely at best and the chances of territorial disputes breaking out into open conflict again will increase.

Russia is currently battling Islamic insurgents in the Caucasus region and is engaged in territorial disputes in the Arctic with several nations. It’s also against former Soviet republics joining NATO or Western alliances and isn’t above bullying them as in the cyber attacks on Estonia, war with Georgia, and politcal meddling in Ukraine.

SCO members in dark green. Nations with observer status in light green.


Including active duty, reserves and paramilitary forces, NATO currently has approximately 8,013,809 soldiers and boasts an unprecedented command and control system among all member states that serves to deter the machinations of larger, less friendly countries. Almost all armed forces in the alliance are highly trained and have access to the most advanced combat systems, and equipment available and the industries that produce them are located on friendly soil. NATO maintains a broad network of friendly nations around the world, bound by treaties such as ANZUS with Australia, New Zealand, and the US, and the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the US.

The SCO has around 6,932,300 available soldiers. China and Russia are rapidly modernizing and reforming their militaries but they have been plagued with setbacks. Their effectiveness has yet to be seen and remains suspect. Both nations are developing new fighters, ships, and armored vehicles to replace aging Cold War relics and are on pace to achieve complete modernization by 2020-2025. While NATO generally advocates democracy and the Rule of Law, both China and Russia are notorious for publicly supporting rogue regimes like those of Kim Jong Il, Ali Khamenei, Omar al-Bashir, and Bashar al-Asaad.


The SCO realizes that in the modern world, seeking out dialogue and cooperation with NATO and its allies is necessary and beneficial for all involved but there are numerous disputes, ranging from Russian support for Iran, Chinese support for North Korea, Chinese cyber incursions and Russian espionage in the US among many other issues. At the end of the day there can only be one big kid on the block. However both sides face incredible internal issues that will test their strength. How they handle those problems in the coming years will decide who will reign supreme.

Chengdu J-20

4 Sep

The J-20 is a Chinese built, 5th generation, stealth, twin engine jet fighter prototype developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. It began testing sometime in late 2010 and is expected to enter service in 2017-2019. Development began with the aircraft in Project 718 during the late 1990’s and won endorsement in a 2008 competition against Shenyang.

There is currently little information available regarding the J-20 but there are numerous observations being made. The aircraft is noticeably larger and heavier than other comparable aircraft like the F-22 and Su-50 which means it is capable of carrying more fuel and heavier payloads. It is believed, to have a lower supercruise speed but with a greater range, and less agile than other 5th generation fighters. It is widely believed that some form of cyber espionage aided in the development of the plane. There are numerous reports of Chinese hackers attacking weapons developers such as Lockheed Martin, gaining terabytes of sensitive data.

It’s been fitted with a state of the art fly-by-wire system that’s been fully integrated with engine and fire-control systems. The aircraft features a fully glass cockpit with LCD displays and a holographic HUD which were previously tested on older Chinese jets. The J-20 has a large belly weapons bay capable of storing short and long range air-to-air missiles and two small lateral bays for short range rockets or missiles.

The J-20’s stealth features have been a source of considerable debate. Some defense analysts say that it’s shape is far better than comparable aircraft while others say that it’s worse. Some, in particular Kanwa Andrew Chan, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Military News Agency, called the J-20 a 4+ generation fighter similar to the F/A-18 Super Hornet due to several shortcomings. Many agree that some parts of the design will make it difficult to remain stealthy from all directions. The aircraft’s role, rather than operating as a dog fighter, is likely to be as a heavy interceptor, used to destroy enemy AWACS. Due to it’s low thrust to weight ratio and low agility it’s designed more for range and speed but it’s unlikely that China will be able to develop the deep strike radar necessary to detect command and control planes or advanced stealthy aircraft so the J-20 will likely be relegated to a ground attack role.

It’s been speculated that the J-20 is a project designed to see how far the technological boundaries can be pushed like with the F-22 Raptor. However, it’s practical uses are undeniable. China’s major military competitor, the US, lacks sufficient bases capable of supporting the F-22 in the area to counter any attacks and its allies in the region have yet to deploy their own 5th gen fighters although they are in development by India, Japan and South Korea.

China faces several challenges in the J-20’s development. The most critical issue at present is developing a high tech industry capable of churning out the required parts, especially high performance jet engines. Until then they will be forced to import parts from Russia or use substandard engines from other aircraft. More updates will follow as new information becomes available.

Number Built: 2 (September 2011)

Unit Cost: $110,000,000 (estimated)

Available Characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 70 ft (21.26 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft (12.88 m)
  • Height: 4.45m (14.6 ft)
  • Wing area: 630 ft^2 ()
  • Max takeoff weight: 66,000–80,000 lb (34,000 – 37,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × 117S and WS-10G turbofans (prototypes); WS-15 (production) turbofans
    • Dry thrust: Unknown () each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 31,900 lb (117S); 32,845 (WS-10G); 40,500 (WS-15) (142 kN for 117S; 155 kN for WS-10G; 180 kN for WS-15) each