Modern Taiwanese Air Power: The Republic of China Air Force Today

  • Published

Modern Taiwanese Air Power: The Republic of China Air Force Today by Roy Choo and Peter Ho. Harpia Publishing, 2021, 96 pp. 

Roy Choo and Peter Ho’s Modern Taiwanese Air Power: The Republic of China Air Force Today is one of the timeliest studies of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) in the post-Cold War era and a relevant book in the current geopolitical climate of the western Pacific region.

Choo is a freelance aerospace and defense journalist and photographer, whose work has been published in leading online and print media. The Australia-based Singaporean also works for a defense contractor in an aviation support role. He has travelled regularly to Taiwan and conducts frequent research on its defense matters and cross-strait relations. Ho is a Taiwanese aviation photographer and writer born and raised in Miaoli City. He heads the Formosa Military Image Press website as chief editor and has more than 15 years of expertise on the local aviation photography scene. Ho is well attuned to aviation developments in Taiwan and works at an aviation agency.

Compared to the mainland China’s People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), the ROCAF’s primary mission is the defense of the airspace and waters over and around the island of Taiwan. As a result of the nearly 80 years of tensions between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), the ROCAF’s priorities include long-range reconnaissance, integrated command, control, communications, and computers intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance, counterstrike, development of next-generation combat aircraft, and the survivability of airfields and key facilities in the event of a surprise attack.

Officially established as an independent air force in 1920 by the Chinese Nationalist government, the ROCAF was active during the Chinese Reunification (1928), Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), and the Chinese Civil War (1946–48), ultimately relocating to the island of Taiwan after the defeat of the Nationalist forces by the Chinese Communists’ Peoples Liberation Army forces in 1948.

After the move to Taiwan and throughout the Cold War, the ROCAF was involved in several engagements with the PLAAF and served as a testbed for western technologies at that time, including the world’s first successful kill by an air-to-air missile fired from a ROCAF F-86 Saber jet. During the Vietnam War, the ROCAF secretly supported US and Republic of Vietnam forces with civilian and military transport aircraft. Since the 1970’s, the ROCAF, organized and structured after the US Air Force, has operated a force of almost 400 combat aircraft using both foreign and indigenous built airframes and defensive missile systems, primarily as a strategic counter to their PLAAF and PLA Navy counterparts.

Modern Taiwanese Air Power highlights, through high quality illustrations and in-depth analysis, the full spectrum of ROCAF combat aviation power. The authors provide five chapters detailing the ROCAF origins, the ROCAF today, the ROC’s airpower strategy over the Taiwan Straits, ROCAF aircraft, and the future of ROCAF programs. Of particular note to students of the PRC and ROC “Cold War” are the authors’ description of the ROCAF’s transition from exclusively US-made aircraft sold under terms of a mutual defense treaty between the ROC and the United States to the procurement of French Mirage fighters and the development of indigenous built aircraft like the F-CK-1 Ching-ku Indigenous Defense Fighter to address both the age of US-built aircraft like the F-16 Falcon and E-2 Hawkeye and changes in US defense policies that prohibited the sale of aircraft to the ROC.

Like all Harpia Publishing books, the print quality of Modern Taiwanese Air Power is excellent and worth the read. While the chapter on ROCAF aircraft is not as in-depth as some aviation enthusiasts may like, the book provides detailed descriptions of how ROCAF airpower serves an integral part of Taiwan’s role in providing stability to the Asia-Pacific region.

Also, the authors provide an excellent synopsis of the PLA threat, ROCAF employment various war scenarios, PRC’s current “Grey Zone” assault on Taiwan, the evolution of the ROC airpower strategy in dealing with current and future PLA threats and inter ROC civil-military relationships that may hamper the modernization of the ROCAF.  At a time of great geopolitical instability between great powers as seen by the America’s chaotic retreat from Afghanistan and Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, Modern Taiwanese Air Power is a must read.

Jayson Altier

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."