China Maritime Report No. 17: The PLA Army’s New Helicopters: An “Easy Button” for Crossing the Taiwan Strait?

China Maritime Studies Institute – This report examines the potential roles and missions of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) new rotary wing capabilities in a cross-strait invasion. Looking specifically at the helicopter units of the PLA Army (PLAA), it discusses two possible scenarios in which these forces could serve as the main thrust in a campaign to seize control of Taiwan. In the first scenario, the PLAA would use nearly all of its rotary wing inventory simultaneously to overwhelm Taiwan’s defenses and quickly convince the country’s political leadership to surrender. In a second “unconventional” scenario, the PLAA would risk the destruction of older helicopters in order to launch a sudden attack against the island, thereby achieving the element of surprise while saving its most capable platforms for lengthy follow-on operations to fully subdue the island. Based on analysis of the scale, complexity, and frequency of recent PLAA exercises, this report argues that China is at best a decade away from having the ability to seize Taiwan by either approach.