Sunday 8 February 2009

China's ability to sustain war

Should a conflict break out across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese forces would face a grave shortage of ammunition after just seven days of fighting. Even though China has a much greater stockpile of ammunition than Taiwan, it would also encounter similar problems in a sustained conflict.

The PLA Air Force fleet of third generation fighters comprises 281 Su-30s, Su-27 SKs, J-11A/Bs and 64 J-10As, whereas its bomber fleet includes approximately 48 JH-7As and 117 H-6s. In full-scale warfare across the Taiwan Strait, suppose there were a loss of 20-30 combat aircraft each day, the current fleet of 344 third generation fighters in effective service in the PLAAF could sustain combat operations for only 11-17 days.

Unlike the United States and Russia, China does not yet have the capability to independently manufacture third generation fighters. For instance, in order to produce J-11B fighters, China has to rely on imports from Russia for critical subsystems including engines and infra-red search and track systems.

Furthermore, the manufacturer of J-11 serial fighters, the Shenyang Aircraft Co., has had a production capacity limited to roughly 17 aircraft each year. As for the J-10, it is widely known that production of this fighter aircraft relies heavily on the outside world, as the J-10's AL-31FN engines are imported from Russia, and other large parts are forged following the designs of a certain Western country.

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