Hardened Shelters and UCAVs: Understanding The Chinese Threat Facing Taiwan

Arlington, VA | November 9, 2022 — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies announces a new entry in its Forum Paper series, Hardened Shelters and UCAVs: Understanding The Chinese Threat Facing Taiwan by non-resident fellow Daniel Rice.

This analysis of unclassified aerial imagery concludes that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) airfields adjacent to the Taiwan Strait are intended for permanent, sustained operations in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Previous analysis of commercial satellite images and public reporting on the airfields closest to Taiwan have overlooked the number of hardened aircraft shelters built at the airfields. Other analysis has suggested that several of these airfields are “deployed locations” and that permanent aircraft and operations are not stationed out of them. However, combining imagery analysis, doctrinal research, and expert opinions, one could conclude that the hardened shelters provide secure facilities for maintenance, refueling, and rearmament in the event of surge operations during conflict. These airfields may also be instrumental in a broader PLAAF strategy to conduct large-scale attack drone operations against Taiwan. In the event of a PLA attack on Taiwan, it would be critical for Taiwan and the United States to suppress these airfields to blunt short-range fighter operations against Taiwan.

The Forum presents innovative concepts and thought-provoking insight from aerospace experts here in the United States and across the globe. As a means to afford publishing opportunities for thoughtful perspectives, Mitchell Institute’s Forum provides high visibility to writing efforts on issues spanning technology and operational concepts, defense policy and strategy, and unique interpretations of changing geopolitical relationships.

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Cover photo courtesy of Ken Allen, 1989.

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