China Wears Down Taiwanese Air Defenses

There’s more to Chinese intrusions than provocation, analysts say

By: Jens Kastner

With China-Taiwan-US relations having reached lows not seen in decades, Taiwan’s military has in recent months been faced with an ever-greater number of intruding Chinese People’s Liberation Army aircraft as Beijing grows increasingly impatient with what it regards as a renegade province.

While the provocations are mainly regarded as psychological warfare, military analysts believe the PLA’s motivation is actually very much more serious – a campaign to wear down Taiwan’s defenses by forcing the island’s to continually take to the air. Taiwan’s defense ministry in early October revealed that its armed forces have since the start of the year conducted nearly 3,000 military aircraft sorties to intercept and monitor Chinese aircraft and vessels, forcing them to increase maintenance including replacing spare parts and paying for costly fuel, as well as increasing the workload of maintenance crews and military logistics personnel.

According to the Defense Aerospace website, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has intruded into Taiwanese airspace at least 1,711 times in 2020 as the grim confrontation continues. Taiwanese fighter jets have scrambled consistently against the intrusions although its fighter jet fleet dates to the 1990s and suffers from a lack of spare parts, especially for its French-built Mirages and US-built-F-16s.

But assigning military aircraft other than fighter jets to intercept the PLAAF or not intercepting them at all is not among the realistic options.

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