Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Getting Their Foot in the Door

In my old invasion scenario for a Chinese attempt to conquer Taiwan, I assume that the main objectives would be the ports themselves with direct attacks to allow follow-on forces to unload at the docks. There won't be a D-Day style invasion over the beaches.

One of the means I speculated on for doing this was for the Chinese to use merchant ships to carry troops and equipment in before Chinese military forces attakced overtly. By unloading troops from civilian ships in unguarded ports, the Chinese could hold them until their small amphibious forces could race reinforcements in, and then the roll on-roll off ships bring in the heavy equipment to exploit the bridgeheads and link up with airborne forces to seize Taipei:

The actual invasion will have started before the shooting starts. Special forces and intelligence officers will infiltrate Taiwan, placing navigation aids to guide parachutists and missiles, and preparing for direct attacks on Taiwanese strategic assets. They might even stock warehouses with consumable supplies and vehicles to be used by the invaders.

Civilian merchant ships on scheduled arrivals will be loaded with supplies, weapons, and light infantry battalions and will sail into Taiwanese ports on both coasts. ...

The light infantry on the merchant ships in Taiwanese harbors will unload and attempt to seize the ports on the west coast or, on the east coast, sabotage facilities and otherwise prevent the Americans and Japanese from using them to reinforce the Taiwanese. Their very presence will deter or at least delay reinforcements. ...

With light infantry already unloaded from civilian shipping in Taiwan's harbors, the invasion force will sail in to reinforce them. Obsolete warships, either converted into troop ships or just emptied of most ammunition and crammed with troops, will make a high speed dash for the ports. Merchant ships taken into the service of the PLAN will begin lifting 9 divisions of infantry from widely spread ports. Roll on/roll off ships will carry heavy armor and artillery to unload in the ports. From the Pescadores, additional forces will be sent against the beaches of Taiwan with the amphibious warfare assets and air cushion vehicles to spread the Taiwanese out.

Forces will move out as soon as possible to head inland and relieve the airborne assault forces at Taipei.

Recall that the Soviets did this--but with airborne troops on civilian planes--in their initial invasion of Afghanistan 30 years ago.

Strategypage notes China's civilian fleet:

COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Co.) owned the ship that recently tried to deliver a shipment of ammunition to the government of Zimbabwe. COSCO is a $20 billion a year business, owned by the Chinese government, that operates dozens of huge tankers and container transports, as well as ship repair facilities and port operations around the world. It was always understood that COSCO would provide cover for Chinese spy operations, and any "special operations" the Chinese Navy needed help with.

I think we can all agree that China's navy would need help to pull off an invasion of Taiwan. COSCO will be involved in that special operation, I dare say.