Saturday, August 15, 2009

Random Thought on the Rescue Operations and The Defense Paper by Taiwan Defense Working Group

It is quite coincidental that a defense strategy paper titled Deter, Defend, Repel, Partner was published just a few weeks before this natural disaster. Perhaps because of closeness of their occurrence, it prompts me to think them together...and I think there are some concepts that can be examined or proven with the currently on going relief and rescuing efforts.

I hope those that are really concerned about Taiwan's national defense can examine this paper and the rescuing operations...I think there are actually quite a few things that can be learned from examining them together.

I am no expert, so I might be wrong. But a few things just come into my mind, and I will just blurt them out here. Since this disaster scenario is only closely related to the Ground Domain talked about in the paper, I am only considering the ground domain, not much air and maritime domain. That does not mean air and maritime domains (and perhaps a real good deterrent forces) are not important to Taiwan.

The Limitation of Armor Vehicles and the Importance of Helicopters
I think this time, as with previous earth quake and typhoon disasters, helicopters prove they are indispensable in Taiwan's security. As can be seen in the news, because of Taiwan rough terrain close to the mountain and river area, and because of the twisted landscape after disasters, helicopters are always the first ones that can go near those area and offer some assistance.

Although armor vehicles, especially the amphibious ones, also helped out greatly, their operational area are limited to the plain area. Also, a lot of times it seems their movement are also limited by the narrow streets etc. After the bridges etc are destroyed, I wonder how much use they have. Especially Humvee vehicles this time seem quite useless. This limitation could be due to the lack of mobilization of combat engineers. They have the ability to establish temporary bridges and clear out obstacles etc. Although armor vehicles have their use, I imagine during war time, if the armor divisions are to operate effectively, there have to be enough combat engineers, and they have to work very closely together. Because it can be expected that the bridges, rails, highways and roads to be destroyed during war. Also, those that advocated for mobile land based anti-ship missiles trucks might want to re-examine the scenario as well. (I am not saying it is a wrong concept, but would those destructions of bridges, road and rail effect their operations etc...those are the questions)

The problems with the helicopters are: 1. they are more dangerous (accidents etc) 2. they do not work as well in bad weather. These 2 disadvantages could be remedied a little, although not completely. Modern helicopter carriers such as Black Hawk are specially designed to protect its pilots and passenger during crashes. The helicopters are also quite robust. Also, helicopters have night vision system etc integrated that can help a little during bad weather or night flight. The most important is probably also the pilot training. They should be train to fly during bad weather and night time....although I am not sure if it is feasible to do that now or if they are already doing that, but certainly if Taiwanese helicopters can fly safely and efficiently in all weathers, it would be a big advantages during war and during rescue operations.

Another important thing is...perhaps people, especially those in remote villages, have to be informed on how to establish emergency helicopter landing zone...Because there was a news report that one village was able to have all their survivor transported out by helicopters after they establish a landing zone for the helicopters to land. Without a landing zone, the helicopters can only drop provisions...and the drop might destroy some provisions in the process. By establishing landing zone, provisions can be brought down safely, and those in need can be transported away.

Also, Taiwan needs more heavy lifting helicopters that can lift armors and small bulldozers...

Another thing is of course, the importance of air order for helicopters to carry out their orders effectively, airspace has to be secured. The importance of air forces and SAM cannot be under estimated.

Localization, Communications, Militia, Special Forces and Guerrilla Warfare
As can be seen, the central government performed very poorly and slowly comparing to the previous disaster effort. Local government, although reacted faster, did not have authority to mobilize the military. The troops stationed near the disaster area, ironically, can not react because they did not receive orders. This results in the lack of military resources committed in the rescue operation in the first few days.

If a state of emergency was declared, the local commanders can mobilize the troops under his/her command and offer assistance to the local government without the direct order from MND. But since Ma did not declare a state of emergency, that is not possible.

This shows the advantage of a degree of decentralization and localization in ground domain. In another is vital that each area is well equipped to help itself to a degree, in case the communication to the central command is disrupted. This time, the central government react poorly simply because of incompetence, but during war, the central government might react poorly because the communication are cut or because the command centers got destroyed.

Also can be shown is the value of volunteers...Military are essential in rescue operations, but volunteers from different organizations also help out big time. This might also prove the value of independent and self sufficient militia, as mentioned in the report. Highly trained militia might be as effective as regular military forces in urban and mountain warfare. Of course, it might be a nightmare and the worst scenario to see Taiwan becomes a battle field of guerrilla war, but better be prepared than sorry. Also, even without full scale combat within the towns and cities, one can expect damages from bombing and enemy infiltration etc. In this scenario militia might also be indispensable as well.

As mentioned in the report, and as can be seen in this disaster, it is important to maintain good communication and battle field awareness. It seems Ma's government is really slow at receiving disaster reports etc. They have to rely on news, and even call-in program to locate the disaster areas. There is nothing wrong with getting information from all the different channels, but first of all...a lot of those that call into the TV station because no one answered their calls for many hrs etc, and second thing is during war, how do you know if all these channels have valid information? It is also known that even the online community updates their disaster reports much faster than the government (with Twitter and Google Earth, from what I can see)....this is really ridiculous. The report recommend a multi layered communication capabilities and communications redundancy etc. It is probably just that Ma government's screws are all loose, but certainly communication capabilities in Taiwan can be improved and upgraded.

Special forces also prove their use this time, although perhaps due to Ma government's slowness, a lot of special force units are not even used. Especially in the mountain area, where roads are mostly destroyed, only special forces can operate extensively in those area. (helicopters have to come and go, and usually the pilots cannot see everything up there). They seem to be crucial in scouting and communication.

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