Retired Admiral Michael McDevitt of the Center for Naval Analyses argues for my point of view, that Taiwan’s best defense lies in air superiority….

Believing Taiwan can deter “through wielding unacceptable punishment” is not only a waste of resources; it is downright dangerous as it could lead to neglecting genuine defense requirements, as well as instilling a false sense of confidence in the political leadership that could lead to a serious miscalculation. And, it could lead down the conceptual slippery slope to a rationale for nuclear weapons.

The only way Taiwan can “deter” China militarily is to convince the PLA that it could never successfully seize the island. Taiwan’s reality is that the PLA can “punish” it through missile attacks, something that Taiwan can mitigate through hardened defenses, but not prevent. But, the PLA cannot capture Taiwan unless it can cross the Taiwan Strait – 100 miles of open water – and seize the island.

The way to make certain that could never happen is to ensure that Taiwan never loses air superiority over the strait. Without air superiority, an amphibious operation of the magnitude necessary to seize Taiwan is not possible. Air superiority was the essential prerequisite for the invasion at Normandy in 1944, and that prerequisite remains today. So long as the Taiwan Strait remains a “moat,” the island is secure from seizure.

McDevitt seems to want to redeem himself for the godawful article on Taiwan-China relations he wrote last year. It should be noted that the vast majority of independent analysts favor Taiwan’s acquisition of submarines. While I am favor of that too, I have more faith in the ability of attack jets, rather than attack subs, to stop an invasion. Taiwan needs to acquire another 200-300 modern fighters, a huge stockpile of ammo and spare parts, and harden and decentralize communications, command and control, and airfields.

However, McDevitt is a retired US Navy admiral, and the Navy has gone out of its way to sabotage the purchase of conventional submarines from the US by Taiwan, since the US Navy does not want the US to have a conventional sub manufacturing capability, lest Congress make them buy conventional subs instead of nukes. Hence, the push for air power has to be judged against the Navy’s desire to avoid selling subs to Taiwan.

(thanks, Alton, for the link).