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5 Weapons Taiwan Needs to Fight China if a War Breaks Out

F-16 Viper
An Air Force F-16 Viper taxis just a few hundred feet from the wall of fire at the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, Oct. 28, 2017 at Fort Worth, Texas. (Courtesy photo by Air Force Viper Demo Team)

Taiwan, whose sovereignty China does not recognize, has always been a geopolitical hotspot. Yet for seven decades, the Taiwan situation held mostly stable – in part, on account of China’s weakness, and in part, on account of the United States’s strategic ambiguity.

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Now, however, both of those stabilizing factors are changing. China, converting its latent power into actual power, is building one of the world’s most awesome militaries

Relatedly, China is becoming more and more adventurous, expanding its presence across Asia (with the Belt & Road Initiative), Africa, and Latin America, and asserting itself with increasingly brazen territorial claims in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and especially, over Taiwan itself. The U.S., effectively deploying strategic ambiguity to keep China guessing, helped deter China from invading Taiwan – without provoking China. However, the U.S.’s Taiwan policy has become muddled of late– especially as a result of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan, which left China sharply antagonized.  

While a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is unlikely to be imminent, the specter of such an assault looms, leaving Taiwan to take stock of its needs and capabilities.

In a conflict with China, the fight would come to Taiwan – and the island nation would be severely outgunned – making symmetrical war a hopeless prospect. Regardless, Taiwan has vowed to defend itself. To that end, “the Biden administration is quietly pressing the Taiwanese government to order American-made weapons that would help its small military repel a seaborne invasion by China rather than weapons designed for conventional set-piece warfare,” The New York Times reported.  

The U.S. is hoping to impart wisdom gained from the Russo-Ukraine War to Taiwan. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine suggests “that a smaller military with the right weapons that has adopted a strategy of asymmetric warfare, in which it focuses on mobility and precision attacks, can beat back a larger foe.”

Here are some of the weapons systems Taiwan would benefit from purchasing.

Stinger Missile

The U.S. has been encouraging Taiwan to stock up on Stinger missiles. The Stinger is an American-made, portable air-defense system, or MANPADS. The Stinger relies upon an infrared homing surface-to-air missile and can be adjusted to fire from a soldier, a variety of ground vehicles – or even a helicopter. In Ukraine, the Stinger has proven itself as a valuable weapon system; the U.S. reported that NATO allies had sent over 2,000 stinger missiles to Ukraine – which have been used to great effect in thwarting aging Russian armored vehicles. Taiwan would benefit similarly from having an inventory of Stinger missiles.     

Javelin Anti-Tank Weapon

The FGM-148 Javelin, or Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System, is an American-made portable anti-tank missile system. The Javelin was designed, very specifically, for use against tanks and armored vehicles. Super easy to use, the Javelin is a “fire-and-forget” system that relies on infrared guidance to track targets,  allowing the soldier who fires the weapon to seek cover immediately while the weapon is still in-flight to its target. 

Delivering a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead, the Javelin has proven effective, whether operating in direct attack or top attack mode. The Javen has proven itself especially useful on the battlefields of Ukraine, against invading Russian armored columns. NATO has provided thousands of Javelin systems to Ukraine, which relatively untrained operators have been able to fire with fantastic accuracy. Taiwan would benefit from having Javelin systems to meet Chinese tanks on the ground.  


Javelin anti-tank missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.


Javelin anti-tank weapons for Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile

Taiwan, an island nation, will need to shore up its maritime security. The Harpoon all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile would certainly help. The Harpoon relies on active radar homing to fly just above the waterline – evading defenses in the process. Launched from either the air, surface, or submarine, the Harpoon is versatile and deadly. Some variants have a range in excess of 150 miles. The weapon would be well suited to hampering the Chinese advance across the Taiwan Strait.   


210123-N-VH871-1123 NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Italy (Jan. 23, 2021) Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Adam Vasquez, assigned to the “Grey Knights” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46, installs an AGM-84D ‘Harpoon’ missile onto a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, Jan. 23, 2021. VP-46 is currently forward-deployed to the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 67, responsible for tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons throughout Europe and Africa. U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national security interests and stability in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin Ingram/ Released)

Switchblade Drone

The AeroVironment Switchblade drone, which comes in two variants, has been turning heads in Ukraine. The “loitering munition” or “kamikaze” drone has proven especially effective against Russian forces. The Switchblade, once launched, is unrecoverable. It ends its mission in an explosion. With a range of 6.2 miles and a window of just 10 minutes, operators do not have much time to guide the Switchblade to its target. Yet, the Switchblade is effective, with its Claymore mine-sized warhead and C-4 explosives matched with hundreds of small metal ball bearings. The Switchblade is best used against enemy troops and light armored vehicles. 

PAC-3 Surface-to-Air Missile

Taiwan will need to prevent China from gaining air superiority – and will need to thwart Chinese missile strikes. While fighter jets can help maintain air superiority, or at least air neutrality, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) are especially effective. The PAC-3 is an exemplary SAM system, an upgrade to the proven Patriot missile defense system. With a range of 43 miles, the Raytheon-made PAC-3 is an air-defense, guided missile designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and advanced aircraft. The PAC-3 uses “hit-to-kill” technology.   

Patriot Missile

The Army test fires a Patriot missile in a recent test. The Patriot missile system is a ground-based, mobile missile defense interceptor deployed by the United States to detect, track and engage unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and short-range and tactical ballistic missiles.

Patriot Missile

Soldiers from 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted Patriot Missile live fire training, November 5, at McGregor Range Complex on Fort Bliss. The live fire exercise was conducted jointly with Air Defense counterparts from the Japanese Self-Defense Force. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Ian Vega-Cerezo)

Patriot Missile

Patriot Missile. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.