China Maritime Report No. 18: Chinese Special Operations in a Large-Scale Island Landing

China Maritime Studies Institute – PLA special operations forces (SOF) would likely play important supporting roles in an amphibious assault on Taiwan. Their capabilities and training are geared towards several missions undertaken during the preparatory and main assault phases of the landing, including infiltration via special mission craft and helicopter, reconnaissance and targeting, obstacle clearance, strikes and raids, and extraction missions. While PLA SOF have made progress in recent years, several longstanding challenges could affect their performance in an island landing: integrating advanced special mission equipment for complex and dangerous missions, coordinating their operations with non-SOF supporting and supported forces, and overcoming the Chinese military’s penchant for centralized command. Even if PLA SOF are only partially effective, however, their support to the main assault force could diminish Taiwan’s ability to defend itself from a large-scale invasion.