Taiwan: The World’s Next Hot War?


Relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), have long been fraught. Tensions have risen in recent years due to increased military activities by the PRC near Taiwan, including air and naval patrols.

More recently, the last few months have seen a ramping up of military sabre-rattling by the PRC as it continues to stress its sovereignty over the island formerly known as Formosa. Taiwan’s defence minister described China’s increased military activities around the island as “abnormal” and warned that it increased the risk of an accidental clash and the situation “getting out of hand”.

By way of historical background, the origins of the tensions being exercised over the Taiwan Strait go back to the Chinese Civil War of 1945-49, during which the Mao Zedong-led Chinese Communist Party (CCP) defeated the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) which was led by Chiang Kai-shek.

The KMT retreated to Taiwan and established the ROC there, whilst the CCP established the PRC on the mainland. However, the PRC still claims Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province, to be an integral part of its territory and seeks “re-unification”. Conversely, the ROC maintains that the island is a sovereign state with its own government, constitution, and military.

The PRC has not rules out using force to effect reunification and has brought pressure on other states not to recognise Taiwan diplomatically. Most countries, including the USA, do not officially recognise as a separate country due to their commitment to the “One China” policy, by which the PRC is recognised as the legitimate government of China.

However the USA, for example, still maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, selling it arms for its defence and supporting its participation in international affairs. Efforts have been made over the years to reduce tensions and promote dialogue between the PRC and ROC but an acceptable resolution to the dispute has yet to be found.

China’s bourgeoning economic and military power threatens to bring matters over Taiwan to a head in the next few years. The present fear is that an accident or unplanned incident might spark an out-and-out conflict. This is always a risk when the military forces of opposing sides manoeuvre and demonstrate their capabilities in an attempt to deter.

More worrying are the predictions that te PRC could start a “hot” war in the not too distant future by attempting a direct invasion and takeover of Taiwan. Does it have the means to do so? Probably yes, although Taiwanese resistance would make it a costly adventure and there’s no guarantee it would succeed. Nobody would relish the sort of stalemate we are currently witnessing in Ukraine.

Does the PRC have the intent to do so? Perhaps yes, but an assault on Taiwan would inevitably result in a wider regional conflict involving the USA and its allies Japan, the Philippines, and possibly Vietnam. China, I suspect, does not yet have the confidence that it could defeat such a powerful alliance by military means and so for now is biding its time.

When might the PRC make its move? US intelligence apparently believes that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has ordered the country’s military to be ready to launch against Taiwan by 2027. Since he came to power in 2012, Xi has stressed that the Taiwan issue “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”.

Some US officials believe a conflict may come sooner. In January, General Mike Minihan, a former deputy commander for US Indo-Pacific command, said his “gut” told him to expect a conflict in 2025. This may prove to be a tad pessimistic, but the truth is that at the moment nobody really knows – except possibly Xi Jingping and his inner circle, and he’s not giving anything away.

So we are back to the old catchphrases of the Cold War in Europe – “be vigilant” and “be prepared”. Vigilance is probably guaranteed given the quantity and sophistication of mainly US-owned surveillance capabilities now focused on the region, although we must almost bear in mind that many such technologies can be jammed, spoofed, and downgraded.

Prepared? I’m not so sure that we ever can be fully prepared. The US is a mighty military power and its allies can bring their own forces to the game, but they are bound to be reactive at best. The PRC, and Xi Jinping, hold the initiative here. Let’s hope that wiser heads prevail and we proceed by jaw-jaw rather than war-war.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

How on earth do you “lose” an F-35

ANYTHING the UK can do the USA can do better. Britain’s Royal Marines recently lost an SA 80 rifle during a training exercise on Dartmoor, so the US Marine Corps lost an F-35B jet over South Carolina. At the time of writing the rifle is still missing but the debris of the plane has now been found.

How on earth do you “lose” an F-35, you may ask? Well, apparently a US Marine Corps pilot ejected safely from his F-35B Lightning II jet over North Charleston, South Carolina, last Sunday afternoon after what was described as a “mishap”, with no further details forthcoming on what that might have been.

Thankfully, the pilot parachuted safely to earth and was taken to a local hospital, where he was declared to be in stable condition. Of his aircraft, however, there was no trace until wreckage was found in a field a couple of days later.

One can only guess he must have put his craft into a safe or autopilot mode before making his exit, and that the F-35 flew serenely on until it ran out of fuel and crashed. Its whereabouts remained a mystery for some time. The US authorities had to asked for the public’s help in locating it, which is a bit embarrassing. It is a stealth aircraft, though, so by design it’s not meant to be easily found!

It’s not the first time one of these state-of-the-art, 5th generation, £85 million (prices may vary) aircraft has been lost. Famously, or perhaps infamously, Britain’s Royal Navy lost one off their aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth when the pilot ejected on takeoff when he didn’t have enough power to continue.

The long-awaited 148-page report into the loss concluded it was caused after one of the air intake blanks designed to protect the engine from foreign objects became stuck in the F-35’s intake and reduced engine power as the aircraft made its takeoff roll.

There then followed a complex and ultimately successful operation to locate and raise the jet from the ocean floor. Unsurprisingly, the plane was a write-off but the cost of recovery was deemed preferable to the possibility of a foreign hostile nation learning its secrets.

Going back to the Marines’ lost F-35 in South Carolina, it is hardly the first aircraft to disappear without trace, although in this case it was temporary. Perhaps the biggest mystery in recent years is the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which vanished from the radar on 8 March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia to its planned destination, Beijing Capital International Airport in China.

Despite the most expensive search in the history of aviation and some debris identified as being from the plane being washed ashore in the western Indian Ocean during 2015 and 2016, a three-year search across 46,000 square miles of ocean failed to locate the aircraft.

Equally baffling was the disappearance of a group of five Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945, after losing contact with base during an overwater navigation training flight.

Flight 19 was the designation of the formation and all fourteen airmen on the flight were lost. A flying boat that subsequently launched to search for them was also lost with all of its thirteen crew members.

A report by US Navy investigators concluded that the flight leader mistook some small islands offshore for the Florida Keys after his compasses stopped working, resulting in the flight heading over open sea and away from land. The report also attributed the loss of the flying boat to an explosion in mid-air while searching for the missing flight.

But perhaps the most famous historical example of an aircraft vanishing without trace is the case of Amelia Earhart. Earhart was an American aviation pioneer, being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

During an attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in a plane in 1937, she and her navigator disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. It is generally presumed that she crashed somewhere into the Pacific during the flight.

It was eighteen months before was officially declared dead. Investigations and significant public interest in their disappearance still continue over 80 years later but no trace of her or her aircraft have ever been found.

So, fantastic though it may seem in this modern day and age, aircraft do and have sometimes vanished without trace. The missing Marine Corps F-35 has been found, eventually, but perhaps not in the location where the authorities were initially looking for it.

Just when we think we know most things, we are reminded that humans are not omniscient. And I think that will continue to be so for a long time yet.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

IronVison looks to the future for Tank Commanders


Situational awareness has long been crucial for tank commanders. Knowing what’s going on a round you in the smoke and noise of battle, and knowing where your enemy is, gives commanders an edge over their adversaries in situations where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

Commanding a tank is difficult at the best of times; noise, dirt, and vibration are ever present. Even with the plethora of periscopes and cameras that adorn modern main battle tanks to aid with vision, there has been no substitute since the beginning of tank warfare for the mark one eyeball. This means fighting your tank with your head out of the turret, and explains why casualties amongst vehicle commanders have been historically high.

Which is why the latest announcement from Israel may be good news for those who ply their trade in armoured fighting vehicles. They have just unveiled their new tank, the Barak, described as a “fifth generation Merkava”. Amongst numerous high-tech improvements, it introduces a “heads-up” helmet display for vehicle commanders.

The tank commander is to be provided with a helmet similar to a fighter jet pilot’s helmet which gives him a full view of their surroundings and displays relevant information about ongoing fighting.

The helmet, dubbed IronVision, “generates an image that enables the crew to ‘see through’ the vehicle’s armour” and will help the soldiers “overcome inherent visibility limitations, while improving mission efficiency and safety.”

This could be a game changer in terms of commander survivability. Is it too much to ask that it be incorporated into Britain’s new Challenger 3 tank which is currently in development?

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

Potential for space-based manufacturing is announced

A collaboration has been signed to manufacture semi conductors in space, a move which will enhance the value of multiple ground-to-space operations. The companies are Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Space Forge, a British space company headquartered in Cardiff.

The global semiconductor industry is anticipated to grow to US$1 trillion in revenues by 2030, doubling in this decade. This growth is expected to require investment in high-end advanced wafer manufacturing materials, equipment, and services. In-space manufacturing offers unique advantages, such as microgravity and vacuum conditions, that can lead to the creation of semiconductors with superior performance and reduced defects compared to those manufactured on Earth.

Craig Brown, Investment Director at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK Space Agency is working to help the industry catalyse investment and improve capabilities. This collaboration between Northrop Grumman and Space Forge is a fantastic opportunity to unlock the potential of a UK space-based manufacturing supply chain to accelerate the development of semiconductor technologies, helping the UK to lead in an expanding global market while paving the way for a more sustainable world.”

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now




Huge leap in wireless communications, using LIGHT WAVES is announced!

LiFi technology represents a ground-breaking leap in wireless communications, utilising light waves to enable wireless communications. With near-zero electromagnetic (EM) signature, LiFi ensures inherently secure data transmission, nearly eliminating the risk of detection and interception. LiFi offers fast, reliable, and undetectable wireless communications in both tactical and office environments and for use cases across applications on sea, land, air and space.

“LiFi technology, is a leap in innovation, that unleashes a new age of secure wireless communications for defence. With light as our medium, we go beyond the boundaries of traditional wireless, providing fast, reliable, and undetectable solutions for the defence industry. At pureLiFi, we have been striving to transform communications for defence since launching the Kitefin System in 2021, and today, we’re excited to bring this game-changing technology to organisations worldwide.” – Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi.

pureLiFi is the global leader in LiFi technology. They are bringing to market the world’s first commercial light antennas—the optoelectronic components which make LiFi possible—for all kinds of devices, from industrial to consumer, and from smart cars to smartphones.

pureLiFi also offers LiFi systems for customers who need to augment, enhance, or transform their wireless networks with the latest in wireless communications technology.

pureLiFi was founded by the “Father of LiFi” Prof Harald Haas and Dr Mostafa Afgani in 2012. Based in Edinburgh, we have customers and partners worldwide.


Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk



Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now




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