The Taiwanese military staged its largest live-fire military drill in five years on Wednesday morning, sending 20 warships and 22 jet fighters to simulate repelling a Chinese raid on an important military port and dealing with a massive air attack across the Taiwan Strait.
“The warships included two Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, La Fayette-class frigates, Ching Chiang-class patrol ships, Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, and Kuang Hua-class missile boats, while warplanes like F-16s, Mirage 2000s, and indigenous defense fighter jets were also dispatched to take part in the joint exercise,” said the Taiwanese Defense Ministry.
The Perry-class frigates are American-made ships Taiwan commissioned in late 2018. American-made F-16 fighters are a mainstay of Taiwan’s air force.
The drill included the live firing of naval cannons, missiles, depth charges, and anti-submarine weapons. Submarines are assumed to be a major element of any Chinese attack on the island. Taiwanese defense planners wish to convince China that a massive amphibious invasion would result in tremendous casualties, while a swift “lightning strike” to take out Taiwan’s defenses would probably fail.
The U.S. Defense Department said in a report published in early May that despite its belligerent rhetoric and elevated military spending, Beijing does not appear to be developing the assets required to mount a massive invasion of Taiwan. In particular, the Chinese are short on landing craft and well-trained marines.
“We will conduct military exercises regularly at the location where we think the war could be possibly happening. The waters off Taiwan’s eastern coast are the important area where we need to conduct military drills often because this area could be a significant battleground in the future,” a Taiwanese navy captain explained to reporters.
Wednesday’s activities were part of a lengthy annual military exercise called Han Kuang, focused on threats from mainland China. The exercise is still in progress, with future planned drills to include ground forces, armored fighting vehicles, and testing Taiwan’s emergency plan to launch fighter jets using a major highway as their runway. The Defense Ministry stated all of these exercises will be open to the media.