26th September 2023 – (Taipei) Admiral Huang Shu-kuang, the chief of the general staff and convener of the Indigenous Defence Submarine (IDS) program, has expressed his belief that China will need a minimum of three carrier battle groups to possess the capability of launching an invasion of Taiwan. Huang stated that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) must deploy these battle groups to the northeast, southeast, and southwest of Taiwan to effectively position themselves for an invasion. He further added that the success of such an invasion would also depend on a decline in the military strength of the United States. While Huang predicted that China would be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027, he emphasised that the decision to attack would be influenced by other factors.
Huang’s analysis is based on the scale of previous military exercises conducted by the PLA. He believes that the PLA is preparing three carrier battle groups for future operations. The first group would be positioned in the southeastern waters of Taiwan to counter Guam, the second would be deployed in the northeastern waters to restrict U.S. and Japanese forces, and the third group would be stationed in the southwest waters of Taiwan.
Drawing on this operational assessment, Huang concurs with the 2027 timeline proposed by former Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Philip Davidson. He asserts that China must possess a minimum of three carrier battle groups by then, and the success of an invasion would also depend on the combat capabilities of the United States.
Huang further highlights that China’s military build-up speed, economic growth, and various internal factors will be continually evaluated in light of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s third term. He suggests that the Taiwanese military should significantly enhance its self-defence preparations before 2027, in order to possibly compel Xi to modify or postpone the proposed timeline.
Currently, the PLAN already possesses two carrier battle groups led by the Liaoning and the Shandong. Although China launched the Fujian, its first domestically designed aircraft carrier, in June 2022, it is not yet fully operational.