China’s military drills are a gold mine for all sides in terms of intelligence

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China's military drills are a gold mine for all sides in terms of intelligence

Source: AUN News

Experts and authorities warned that the dozens of jets that fly over the Taiwan Strait’s median line each day and the warships that cruise the coast mark a substantial and alarming change in the status quo that might have far-reaching effects on Taiwan’s future defense.

The real-time interaction that modern militaries spend so much time and effort perfecting have famously baffled the Russians in Ukraine. Pushing those warplanes over the line not only eliminates the previous boundary but does so while coordinating with warships and avoiding the missiles flying nearby. Aligning those systems while monitoring Taiwan’s response would provide crucial information about Beijing’s readiness and capacity should it decide to start military operations against Taiwan or American interests in the Pacific.

As Taiwan activates missile defense radars and sends troops and equipment throughout the island, Chinese military planners are undoubtedly observing the response to their efforts. This provides Beijing with important information on how Taipei may respond during a war.

In the past, China has conducted exercises that have been “more like driving a new car around a lot than bringing it out on the highway,” according to Randy Schriver, the Pentagon’s senior official for Asia affairs during the Trump administration. “The practice that will be more useful for an actual strike is the coordinated bracketing of the island.

The United States has kept quiet about the maneuvers in public and kept its USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, headquartered in Japan, in the area but away from Taiwan. While the amphibious USS America is in the East China Sea, the amphibious USS Tripoli is located close to Okinawa. They both have F-35 fighters.

The views into how China uses and deploys its forces will be more crucial. Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said it would be a “bonanza of intelligence” that may reveal information about “the strengths and vulnerabilities of PLA deployment.”

These sneak peeks, rather than any meticulously organized exercise on the Chinese mainland, “would offer a better image of how the PLA may in future prosecute an invasion of Taiwan, or more generally how it would execute a major military operation,” Koh noted.

Defense officials claimed that although the military has traditionally kept quiet about Chinese moves, they are keenly monitoring the exercises. John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, has reiterated several times this week that the United States is not seeking war with China.

There is no justification for this severe, disproportionate, and escalatory military response, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Cambodia on Friday. He also noted that the Chinese actions “are a significant escalation” in the region.

The Chinese military has tested its missiles for years. Still, the launch teams have never had to deal with the challenges of military and commercial air and sea traffic or make sure their missiles can pass over populous civilian regions and land safely in authorized waters.

Beijing presented a map of six zones where it intended to conduct the drills, making a fictitious ring around Taiwan before the live-fire exercises this week. After the drills started on Thursday, the military fired at least 11 ballistic missiles into the waters to the northeast, east, and southeast of the island. Some landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and one took an unusual flight directly over Taiwan.

According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, on Friday, China sent 30 fighter planes beyond the line that divides the Taiwan Strait. The agency stated that the action “jeopardized the status quo of the strait,” adding that Taipei retaliated by scrambling ships and aircraft and turning on surveillance and anti-aircraft missile systems.

The ministry wrote, “We condemn such action that disturbed our surrounding waters and airspace and continue to guarantee our democracy and freedom are not threatened.

Even though the drills are intended to intimidate, Schriver noted that they are significantly more intricate than past displays of power.

“This is a series of shots timed to different closing regions, so it more closely resembles if they were truly going to employ missiles to strike Taiwan,” he said.

According to Schriver, the Chinese are using the drill to see if Taiwan’s air defenses were able to intercept their missile launches and how the island’s civil defenses would react to an attack.

“They’d probably be able to tell if Taiwan’s air defenses picked us up. Did they use a fire control radar to illuminate us? said he.

It has been possible to test whether China’s ships and planes can effectively blockade the island through military maneuvers and whether their missiles can hit their targets in an actual scenario, thanks to the drills.

The last time China moved this way toward Taiwan was in 1996 when Beijing launched missiles into the Taiwan Strait in response to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-speech-giving hui’s trip to the United States.

The Chinese military of today, which boasts of brand-new missiles, the strongest navy in the world, two aircraft carriers, and fighter planes that compete with Taiwan’s F-16s and American carrier-based fighters, however, bears little resemblance to the force of 1996.

Lonnie Henley, a lecturer at George Washington University and a former defense intelligence officer for East Asia, said, “The PLA then couldn’t execute any of this.”

Henley continued, “What the PLA is regularly doing for the PLA to conduct these days. “They’re executing them all at once around Taiwan, rather than doing them over a few months at various training zones throughout the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” said the source.

However, Taiwan hasn’t done anything during the past few decades either. It has been buying American F-16 aircraft and other weapons for years. In late 2020 it signed a flurry of arms agreements with Washington for highly advanced technologies designed to turn the island into a “porcupine” and better withstand or deter a Chinese invasion. Four armed MQ-9B drones, eleven High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems—the same weapon that Ukraine made famous—and Harpoon ship-killing missiles were also part of the transactions.

However, Taiwan and the American military are already getting their first glimpse of what they might have to combat shortly.

Years of meticulously planned training exercises differ from swift military operations in varying terrain. This most recent crisis is China’s closest encounter with the difficulties of the real world. According to Koh, the quick-reaction exercises “allow the PLA to test and validate the outcomes of its modernization” efforts and reforms carried out over the past few decades.

He continued the most recent Taiwan Strait conflict provides an opportunity to assess their capabilities and pinpoint areas that need improvement. In the process, the PLA “is likely to learn a lot about itself.”

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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