F-16Vs fit for asymmetric warfare against invasion: ex-U.S. official

08/22/2019 10:50 AM

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) F-16 C/D fighter jets would allow Taiwan to engage in networked defense and initiate asymmetric warfare against possible invasions, a former high-level U.S. defense official said in Taipei Wednesday.

Wallace Gregson, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, made the statement at a lecture titled "Taiwan, INDOPACOM, and the Future of the Global Order" at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR).

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on its website Tuesday that it has notified Congress of the possible sale of 66 F-16C/D fighter jets, known as the F-16V, after Taiwan's request for the planes was approved by the U.S. State Department.

Gregson, a retired commander of U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, described the F-16V as an aircraft that has all the capabilities necessary to Taiwan. And being a single aircraft fleet, logistics can be simplified, thus saving money and maintenance hours.

The F-16V can be a powerful node that enables a networked defense for Taiwan, in which efforts and firing on air, land and sea are all operating on the same picture, Gregson explained.

"So that we're always engaging the enemy from an asymmetric angle where they cannot defend themselves," he further said. "That way, we achieve the capability for numerically inferior forces to defeat superior numbers."

Gregson pointed out that Taiwan's fundamental security threat is political and coercive, with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) always present to show menace and intimidation.

However, asked if China has the ability at present to take over Taiwan militarily, Gregson replied: "How I see it? Very, very difficult."

He cited advantages Taiwan has, among them favorable terrain, magnificent mountains dominating the urbanized lowlands, limited beaches that are assailable by amphibious invasion forces, developing counterstrike capabilities and electronic warfare capabilities.

Unless tempted by a lack of will and capability in Taiwan, China is not likely to initiate an actual conflict but a war of nerves, political warfare or hybrid warfare to subdue Taiwan, Gregson said, adding that strong conventional military deterrence will provide the confidence for Taiwan to counter these gray zone efforts.

On Hong Kong's recent developments, Gregson said it has already seen "a popular revolt against the Hong Kong government and Chinese rule," referring to weekly mass rallies that began two months ago that morphed from a protest against a legislative bill to a democracy movement.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping's prestige is at stake, as well as his continued rule, according to Gregson.

"Even autocratic leaders must worry about their core supporters, but one who has purged so many, and did away with succession, has likely made many enemies. They are quiet for now, but for how long? The pressure is on Xi to act," he said.

He pointed out that China needs Hong Kong commercially now more than ever. However, Beijing also remembers how civil unrest and resistance can spread, therefore "it's hard to see how this ends well."

Gregson pointed out a possibility of a Tiananmen II, or a repeat of a 1956 Hungarian Revolution and a 1968 Prague Spring, or even a November 1989 fall of the Berlin wall.

"However this ends, there will be no return to the status quo," he concluded.

Meanwhile, Gregson also said Taiwan can play an important role in the Indo-Pacific area as Taiwan is a "shining beacon" for democracy, as what Taiwan has contributed to island nations like the Solomon Islands shows that democracy does work.

(By Emerson Lim)


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