Defence of Taiwan

Musashi_kenshin

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Conscription has officially been extended to one year, taking effect from 2024. The pay for conscripts will increase to close to the minimum wage, and they will get more intesive training, which will include training on weapon systems like the Javelin and drones.

Coupled with the changes to training for volunteers, this sounds very sensible and will hopefully increase the effectiveness of the Taiwanese military.
 

OPSSG

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Part 1 of 2: Taiwan has a training pipeline problem that is unresolved

Conscription has officially been extended to one year, taking effect from 2024. The pay for conscripts will increase to close to the minimum wage…
1. Thanks for sharing the news update but there are significant parts of your post that I strongly disagree with — the ROC Army shows no sign of real reform or change — ROC Army reservists are telling me how much the new Tsai implemented reserve training program sucks — it’s all PR but no substance. As I see it, President Tsai has shown the minimum effort to prove to the Americans that Taiwan is making an effort to defend itself.
(a) Recently, China sent a record number of military aircraft into Taiwan's ADIZ warning the US & Taipei that peace isn't possible if the US continues to support Taiwan. President Xi's lesson from Ukraine️: Just as Kyiv drifted from Moscow, so is Taiwan from China. Xi wants to prevent further drift and war.​
(b) Elizabeth Freund Larus points out that Taiwan does not have a lot of options. Let me share a link to a second video that wades into the topic, where 2 speakers argue that Taiwan is defensible (namely, Elizabeth Freund Larus and Elbridge Colby) and 2 argue that Taiwan is indefensible.
(c) Interestingly, Elbridge Colby who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development from 2017 through 2018 (he led the development of the 2018 National Defense Strategy), when speaking on Taiwan, in other venues wants Taiwan to do much, much more. He doesn’t think that President Tsai is making a credible effort.​
(d) Correctly understood, the ROC Army intends to improve its conscript training from can’t shoot to can shoot poorly!?​

…and they will get more intensive training, which will include training on weapon systems like the Javelin and drones.
2. That is not true, when you look a little deeper. Currently, the Taiwanese conscripts are only taught how to shoot in 1 position — prone and no other position — when they should also be taught to shoot at different target exposure sizes, different distances (from 100m to 25m), in day & night conditions, ROE shoot, MTC scenario shooting and also at the following positions:
(a) foxhole;​
(b) kneeling & sitting;​
(c) moving targets;​
(d) standing;​
(e) window; &​
(f) split level shooting (eg. ground floor to 3rd floor & third floor to ground floor).​

3. There is no basic demolition training (to fire even claymore mines), or a shooting test to pass, but the ROC Army intends to allocate 800 bullets per conscript for their shooting? This is less than a 1/4 of the rounds needed to be competent. As it stands on Jan 2023, Taiwan is not serious abt developing military capabilities (MC).

MC = R x W​

The will (or W) to fight is missing & the resources (or R), to train is not there. There is some polling data to suggest that the will to fight, correctly interpreted is weak — the only age group that is hesitant to support extending conscription is between 20-24, an age group of which many male most likely haven't yet fulfil service.
 
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OPSSG

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Part 2 of 2: Taiwan has a training pipeline problem that is unresolved

4. According to Paul, Taiwan has ~500 Stingers (max), they are locked deep in armoury and few ever touched them. These foreign press should know better before copying Taiwanese MND PR rubbish as facts — tells the Americans their plan is asymmetric defence but proceeds to build 4 Yu Shan class LPDs (which does not fit the strategy). When the Taiwanese tell you that their shoot budget is 800 bullets, I suspect that it means they:

(a) won't need to train 600,000 conscripts for a longer duration in 2024, because only 19 years olds are required to do it. Many will be in university and will defer conscription until they graduate;​
(b) they have a morale problem, even before enlistment — 37.2% (29.2% + 8%) in the 20-24 age group oppose conscription compared to 35.6% (15.7% + 19.9%) who support conscription. To make matters worse, the ROC Army intends to spend 1/8 of what Finland or Singapore spends to train an average infantry rifleman & 1/20 of Singapore to train a company marksman; and​
(c) have not built the facilities needed to train with greater intensity in time. That seems to be the scope of change & size of ambition.​

Coupled with the changes to training for volunteers, this sounds very sensible and will hopefully increase the effectiveness of the Taiwanese military.
5. A number of videos from the current Russo-Ukrainian War have demonstrated very poor urban warfare tactics, techniques & procedures (TTPs) from Russian armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs).

6. Many who support President Tsai have no clue on how to raise, train & sustain a conscript army that is able & willing to fight. If you ask Korea, Singapore or Finland to audit Taiwanese military training methods & hardware, it would get an ‘F’ grade. Like Russia, Taiwan has a serious unresolved training pipeline problem & lack of commitment by MND to reform both their TTPs and method to raise, train and sustain reserve battalions / companies. We should note the following:
(a) Today, the ROC Army is largely professional with advanced TTPs and they operate American weapons that include AH-64Es and HIMARS. It’s just that they don’t integrate their conscripts into the war plans of their active brigades — which are all understaffed.​
(b) Taiwan’s conscripts: (i) are not trained on ROE shoots; (ii) don’t know how to provide an infantry screen for their AFVs (because to do that you need to train them to perform different roles, in each vocation); and (iii) don’t know how to conduct passage of line. The current training levels will ensure the the ROC Army performs more poorly than that Russians in Ukraine. It’s amazing how resistant the ROC Army brass is to reform or apply basic logic to manage and train their conscripts properly.​
(c) Beyond that fact that Taiwan’s TTPs for urban warfare tactics are dated, the Taiwanese conscript can’t even conduct a ROE shoot. The current training program produces idiots with guns.​
Q: What would be an indicator of real change in Taiwan’s conscript training methodology?​
Ans: When pictures emerge of new urban warfare facilities, with a conscript company marksman operating a weapon system like the M110 semi-automatic precision rifle. This is because the company marksman provide force protection for the infantry screen to an armour advance in urban areas.​

7. Not only does China have the world’s largest Navy, the PLAAF has a force structure that makes it difficult, if not impossible for a USN carrier strike group to get close to Taiwan, in the 1st 30 days of a cross-straits war.

8. According to Paul, Ukraine is 16x the size of Taiwan and in an all-out offensive of almost a fortnight Russia only threw 600 SRBMs & MRBMs across this vast landscape. IMO, China's PLA Rocket Force is expected to fire this many at Taiwan's key targets in the first wave of attack.

9. Unlike many air forces or navies within ASEAN or in Taiwan, the JASDF & JMSDF don’t just write a paper strategy, rather, they invest in the correct tools & platforms to win the future battles to come, as their strategy for deterrence.

10. For regional countries watching these developments with concern, there is little scope to move towards picking a side. Let me explain. Team Biden sees US security interests in the South China Sea as being quite limited. Therefore, it does not justify a significantly firmer American policy, which would generate an increased risk of a high-intensity war with China. Given that the Americans are neutral in these EEZ disputes, to some extent, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are on their own. With the growing American domestic consensus for competing more intensively against China, the US will require a clear understanding that its interests are very limited to avoid increasing its military resistance.
 
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Musashi_kenshin

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There is some polling data to suggest that the will to fight, correctly interpreted is weak — the only age group that is hesitant to support extending conscription is between 20-24, an age group of which many male most likely haven't yet fulfil service.
I think that's fairly normal in democracies. Conscription tends to be highly unpopular amongst young people. For example, see South Korea. It would be the same in the UK if it was imposed. It isn't because young people are pacifists, they just don't want a year or more of their lives taken away without a choice. Their - not unreasonable view - is that if they're doing public service, they should be given a generous salary to make them do it voluntarily. That's probably unaffordable, but there you are.

On weapon stockpiles, not sure why Taiwan only has 500 Stingers. A couple of years ago it was said to have around 2,000. Another 250 were approved for sale (delivery pending) in 2019. More may be ordered from the US.

As for the rest of what you've said, I don't have time to look at it in depth. But I suppose the question is, do you think it's better for Taiwan to announce reforms as and when political consensus can be reached on each of them, or put everything together into a "Reform or Bust" package with the risk nothing changes. I think the former is sensible, given Taiwan is a multi-party democracy.
 
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OPSSG

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Post 1 of 3: Keeping the quality of discussion in DT above MND’s piss poor PR efforts

@Musashi_kenshin, if you have nothing of substance to talk about — maybe you might want to consider reading more, to explore the many reasons why Taiwanese troops are not motivated. Don’t just argue because you don’t like what is being said, especially when it provides important context to the nonsensical Taiwanese MND PR puff being put out.

It isn't because young people are pacifists, they just don't want a year or more of their lives taken away without a choice. Their - not unreasonable view - is that if they're doing public service, they should be given a generous salary to make them do it voluntarily. That's probably unaffordable, but there you are.
Q1: How are pacifists relevant to a conscript army?

Ans: A conscript if he does not serve goes to jail. A solider, be it in Finland, Isreal, Singapore or Taiwan needs to know he is not cannon fodder. This can be done by giving him real military training, and it should not be easy to meet standards. The current stupid type of kindness by letting a conscript just watch war movies in camp instead of training, is what is being done in Taiwan.

1. In my prior posts, I tried to explain what it takes to train a conscript into a soldier, capable of conducting missions (see 3(b) below for a 3 min video, on the basic skills needed).

2. Never mind the fact that 800 bullets is not enough to be minimally competent. And 800 bullets does not automatically result in competence — it may but it also may not — it’s how you use scarce resources to become better. And to train a solider, you need to to invest resources to develop systems and processes — it’s not there in Taiwan. Let me repeat again the basic positions a Singapore infantry conscript is trained to shoot in:

(a) foxhole;​
(b) kneeling & sitting;​
(c) moving targets;​
(d) standing;​
(e) window;​
(f) prone; &​
(g) split level shooting (eg. ground floor to 3rd floor & third floor to ground floor).​

3. But it seems Taiwan wants to only make cannon fodder because they don’t train their conscripts properly to even shoot. The Taiwanese conscript only shoots in prone position. If you shoot 800 bullets in prone position only, it’s a waste of bullets.
(a) People get hurt or die in realistic training because using explosives, bullets & driving with NVGs in the dark is dangerous. In Taiwan, their public wants zero deaths — a goal that can’t be achieved, if there is to be realism in training. And I have attended a military funeral for a training death in my unit — family, friends and platoon mates were all crying. The SAF does vehicle dismount and over turn drills because it’s something we do or it’s a real risk, we need to mitigate.​
(b) Above is a 3 min video of a NSF being trained as a motorised infantry officer — 38 weeks of intense training, explained in 3 mins. In it, these NSFs use hand signals to guide vehicles, use encrypted signal sets (with blue force trackers), fire their vehicle mounted GPMGs at a live fire range, discharge their Terrex smoke grenades (which also means they need to reload them). They show what the Terrex thermal vision and thermal imaging sights can do in the dark to spot the enemy. They engage in map planning and also demonstrate a dismount drill to get into the fight. In the fight, these OCS cadets demonstrate command and control in the fog of war. They execute room clearing drills as they transition from jungle movement into urban ops and are also forced to carry stretchers into mud. Every solider is cross trained on every weapon in the video — that’s basic competence.​
4. Realistic training for a conscript reserve unit is not hard to do; but it does require investment.

(a) By 2028, the realism in training will increase once facilities in Australia and SAFTI city, in Singapore, are built to SAF spec. It’s a multi-billion dollar investment.​
(b) For myself, as a conscript, I have planned and executed combined arms heliborne and coastal hook exercises. In the reserves, I have taken part in military exercises, where UAVs provided over watch as my battalion moved to its objective after a coastal hook — that included deception ops.​
(c) I am trained to operate at least 6 different weapons systems (including 2 types of anti-armour weapons) and have gone to a demolition range and ignited a claymore mine — something a Taiwanese conscript will never do.​

5. Even then, I think the training we receive in Singapore lacks realism. Singapore conscripts don’t shoot enough compared to our Army Deployment Force (ADF), who have deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq. The ADF shoots 10 times more than normal conscripts in the SAF — their shoot budget is fantastic — which is why they are the force of choice (just below the SOF), and they keep refreshing their training to keep the muscle memory.
 
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OPSSG

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Post 2 of 3: Keeping the quality of discussion in DT above MND’s piss poor PR efforts

On weapon stockpiles, not sure why Taiwan only has 500 Stingers. A couple of years ago it was said to have around 2,000. Another 250 were approved for sale (delivery pending) in 2019. More may be ordered from the US.
6. Again, more Taiwanese MND PR bullshit. THEY CAN’T shoot accurately with a rifle.

Q2: Do you really want to talk about Taiwanese conscripts shooting Stinger missiles at aircraft?

Ans: Who cares if they have 500 or 2,000 Stinger missiles, if that Taiwan conscript can’t shoot (except in prone position). Who cares, when an average Taiwanese conscript has never been to a demolition range. They are not even trained to competent in basic infantry skills. Therefore, the ROC Army’s reserves, when mobilised cannot fight as a battalion, making them less than useful in many island defence scenarios.

Q3: Are the Taiwanese conscript going to be trained to fire anti-armour weapons, like the matador (or it’s equivalent)?

Ans: Conscripts are not stupid, they know when the Taiwanese MND are bullshitting them — every army that went to Afghanistan had to change, to avoid dying. Given that Taiwan’s threat is a PLA invasion, and the ROC Army conscripts are required to defend its cities & beach landing sites, with priority:
(a) given to training conscripts on up-to-date TTPs for urban warfare, but they are not (instead only Taiwanese special forces are well trained in that respect). If the ROC Army was serious about reform, they would have at least conducted a week long CQB class for its current conscripts who serve for 4 months; and​
(b) given to training conscripts on the use anti-armour weapons but they are not even in the training syllabus. This is why the Taiwanese conscript knows they are cannon fodder. In contrast, every Israeli or Singapore conscript in an infantry vocation would have gone for urban warfare training and also for a matador live fire.​

Like Singapore and Isreal, Ukraine uses thousands of matadors — which are anti-structure & anti-armour munitions well suited for urban warfare (due to its small black-blast area and it’s ability to be fired in confined areas). Thus far, Ukraine has used about 13,000 matadors.

As for the rest of what you've said, I don't have time to look at it in depth.
7. Then consider keeping silent until you finish your research.

Q4: How low is the morale of Taiwanese troops or pilots?

Ans: Especially when Taiwan detains 3 active-duty officers and a retired Air Force officer suspected of spying for China. And in the past, LTC Lin Xianshun & Maj. Huang Zhicheng flew their F-5s to defect to China. Dr. Shen Ming-Shih of @INDSRTW says that unity among Taiwan’s people & political parties will be a critical factor in a conflict scenario — if you notice, it’s the lack of unity that is even more pressing than lack of weapons. Many are not willing to fight, as the defections by pilots, to China show.

8. When you don’t know what you are talking about in terms of Taiwanese failure at MND level to enact meaningful reform, not replying is also an option.

But I suppose the question is, do you think it's better for Taiwan to announce reforms as and when political consensus can be reached on each of them, or put everything together into a "Reform or Bust" package with the risk nothing changes. I think the former is sensible, given Taiwan is a multi-party democracy.
9. No pure politics discussion unless it relates to:
(a) the prospects of North East Asian geopolitical stability; or​
(b) the level of support for conscription duration,​

please. Thus far, my focus is engaging in a technical discussion on soldiering and Taiwanese competence at executing urban defence TTPs at battalion level. This is not a domestic politics discussion, politics is mentioned by me only when it relates to defence.

10. President Tsai hasn't been a very good realist, as she has grossly misjudged the will of the Taiwanese youth to commit a year of their life to help the ROC Army regain some of its former military capabilities.
(a) While there is opposition by U.S. allies, like Australia, Europe, Japan and South Korea to China changing the Taiwan Straits status quo by force, the substance of China’s relationship with Europe, Thailand and the Philippines over their One China policy has not changed.​
(b) America’s task is to balance power against China. That means strengthening its military alliances and economic positions. But it also means weakening China's ability to coerce America’s allies, including by degrading its ability to generate and use economic and military leverage.​
11. Opinion polls show that KMT will struggle to gain national support, even though party's candidates swept local elections in Nov 2022. Given that KMT is unlikely to win the 2024 race for the next presidency, VP Lai Ching-te & chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is likely the next leader of Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen steps down. BTW, the next President will be inaugurated on 20 May 2024. VP Lai, is taking a standard DPP stance of trolling the CCP, in the hope that he can benefit politically in the 2024 Taiwan elections.

12. Taiwan extended Taiwan’s conscription fm 4 months to 12 months — the ROC Army is not ready to fight/deter the PLA by 2024, yet DPP politicians want to inch closer to war. Michael Hunzeker, explains the:

(a) type of reforms; &​
(b) timelines,​

needed for the Taiwan’s MND & the ROC Army to institute change management to move the needle; before it is too late.

13. The hostile bilateral relationship between Taipei & Beijing has created a security dilemma and encouraged a vicious cycle in great power relations between Beijing & Washington, that alarms Jakarta, Manila & their close partners. Details on the low key response, may I suggest that you search for details on these military exercises, including Supergarudashield & Kamandag.
 
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OPSSG

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Post 3 of 3: Keeping the quality of discussion in DT above MND’s piss poor PR efforts

14. As others have noted, diverging definitions of "the status quo" (between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington) have the makings of a casus belli. Correctly understood, the worse enemy of Taiwan is the Taiwanese — but they are so dam good at bullsh!t, it’s hard to see through their ploys without insiders pointing it out.

15. Keep in mind that between 1990 to 2010s, the US DOD and State perspective was that Taipei was a distraction from the real G2 relationship between Beijing and Washington. After 2016, a bunch of Americans pivoted during Trump’s term in office and suddenly they want to do the new convert zealot thing and claim they care about Taiwan.

16. The post by Simon Chen below sounds logical & great, except:

(a) maintaining an amphibious capability for the ROC Marine Corps is not for HADR; &​

(b) amphibious ops only possible with sea control.​
17. While I have upmost respect for @simonbchen & Adm Davidson, I believe that there should be nuance & scope for disagreement in these discussions. I also believe that Taiwan is defendable, if the Taiwanese ‘will it’.

18. Taiwan’s need for reform is a known problem — that the US DoD is trying to partially address. Multiple brigade training teams of the US National Guard will have to rotate into theatre to train them.

19. Thus, through the US National Guard, the US DoD keeps an eye on ROC Army’s progress in transforming itself.

20. The more concrete Taiwan pours, the less M1A2T tanks the ROC Army needs. Right now, the ROC Army is not taking sector defence seriously — by training to emplace at least 1,400 precast blocks within 48 hrs. Right now, no sign of the ‘will’ to fight the PLA has emerged. Keep in mind that Taiwan’s:

(a) Navy is not a sea control navy; &​

(b) Air Force is not capable of air superiority.​
 
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koxinga

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8. According to Paul, Ukraine is 16x the size of Taiwan and in an all-out offensive of almost a fortnight Russia only threw 600 SRBMs & MRBMs across this vast landscape. IMO, China's PLA Rocket Force is expected to fire this many at Taiwan's key targets in the first wave of attack.
Most people don't see this point. But here is the geographical reality of Taiwan, compared to Ukraine. It is no bigger than the Donbas region in Ukraine.

The Tyranny of Geography (TW as an island) a double edge scenario. Most people see the TW straits as natural moat against the PLA, but this moat serves to lock in the defenders as much as medieval castles did.

Pros:

The Straits as the natural moat, which would undoubtly complicate any attempts to land on the island and sustain the expeditionary forces. That edge, however is well known and the PLA are focusing their efforts to negate that.

Cons:
  1. TW is highly susceptible to naval and air blockage; you can't drive over supplies over the borders like how things are done now over the Ukrainian/Polish border
  2. Small size means limited dispersal options. During the initial days, UAF was able to disperse to secondary airfields to avoid Russian strikes. ROCAF options are far more limited because there is a lack of depth. This affects all branches of their armed forces.
  3. Small size also means the PLA has extensively recon and presighted TW positions
  4. Small size also means the PLARF is able to concentrate their firepower instead of spreading it thin. 600 SRBMs & MRBMs is a drop in the ocean when it comes to Ukraine's size, but for TW, it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
A credible resistance for TW would rest on its ability to survive the initial wave of bombardment with a large part of the command and control and combat capability intact, especially ROCA.

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