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Ominous Sign China Is Quietly Preparing to Invade Taiwan

China’s flashy displays of combat aircraft and warships circling Taiwan are more about propaganda than practicality. But the quiet practicality of preparing civilian car ferries for war shows Beijing is getting serious about invading.

For months, international military analysts have been connecting the dots.

China’s commercial roll-on roll-off car ferries are enormous. They’ve also shown a strange tendency to abandon their routes and linger about major People’s Liberation Army beachhead assault exercises.

Why?

An August 31 Maxar Techonolgies satellite photo released by the US Naval Institute shows one of these civilian vessels with its stern ramp in the water with several “swimming” tanks behind it. On the nearby beach is a row of amphibious armoured vehicles ready to participate in the practice exercise.

Analyst Tom Shugart told USNI News he had identified the commercial ferry as the Bo Hai Heng Tong. This is a 15,000-ton roll-on roll-off general purpose cargo ship and ferry. It was more than 1500km from its regular route in the Bohai Sea.

And it was just one of seven similar civilian ferries taking part in the war games.

Combined, the ships represent a significant invasion threat as each ship carries three times more than comparable purpose-built US Navy San Antonio-class landing platform docks (LPDs).

“AN LHA or LPD spends a lot of cubic feet [on] Marines able to operate for weeks or months at sea. That’s a lot of wasted space if all you’re doing is making a quick trip across the strait,” Shugart adds.

‘Military-civil fusion’

In the fracas surrounding US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this year, China put on a significant display of its combat abilities.

Aircraft swarmed the skies. Warships ploughed the oceans. Troops and tanks rushed practice beaches.

But, quietly and in the background, three huge commercial ferries strangely veered off course to support these manoeuvres.

Now we know why.

While they weren’t seen in the propaganda display, they were needed to produce it. Their inherent military capability was brought into play.

The PLA’s dedicated troop transport force is unexpectedly small. Though it is growing rapidly.

The first of its Type 075 helicopter-dock assault ships was launched last year. Two more aren’t far off commissioning.

But these, and their smaller amphibious assault ship cousins, are simply too few in number to deploy enough troops and tanks to seize Taiwan’s well-defended beaches.

The lack of this capacity has often been used to argue Taiwan is safe. For now.

But what if China already has a full-scale, military-grade sealift capability ready to go?

Would that put Taiwan at imminent risk of Chairman Xi’s stated goal of completing the Communist Party’s “unfinished business” of the 1949 civil war and assimilating the last outpost of the Republic of China?

Commerce raiders?

US Naval War College Maritime Studies instructor Conor Kennedy published a study with the Jamestown Foundation last year warning of the ferry threat.

Roll-On, Roll-Off (RO-RO) ships were invented by the British navy after the emergency evacuation of Dunkirk proved the need for vehicles to be loaded as quickly as possible. Their solution was to put a retractable ramp on a cargo ship’s bow and/or stern so they could drive on and off.

The idea was quickly adopted by ferry operators worldwide to haul trucks and cars over unabridged waterways.

What makes a military amphibious assault ship different from a commercial RO-RO is the ability of the ramp to be opened while at sea. This enables everything from small boats and hovercraft to landing craft and swimming tanks to slip back and forth between the ship and sea.

Kennedy pointed out that big new Chinese RO-RO ships have strengthened their ramps beyond simple civilian needs. Footage showed the support beams and hydraulic systems necessary to cope with sideways forces produced by interaction with waves. And this would allow the ramp to be dropped directly into the water to load and offload vehicles.

The first evidence of their use in military operations came in 2020 when the 15,000-ton civilian ferry Bang Chui Dao was seen amid a PLA beach assault practice. Typically it carries 1200 passengers with 825 square meters of vehicle parking. While it wasn’t directly observed taking part, Chinese footage of the event showed landing vehicles being launched from a previously unseen ramp style.

If it was the Bang Chui Dao, Kennedy says the RO-RO could have been carrying as many as 50 amphibious assault vehicles – enough for an entire mechanised infantry battalion. And he adds some 62 other Chinese commercial ferries may also have been adapted for similar military use.

Chinese state-controlled CCTV7 media service showed another commercial RO-RO ferry, the Zhong Hua Fu Zing, with main battle tanks filling its 20,000 square metre vehicle bay. The video was later removed.

This enormous ship would likely be part of a second wave of assault forces, delivering its non-swimming tanks directly to a captured dock or beach.

READ 4 COMMENTS
  • 1947 says:

    Who is paying for all this? It is America who is by selling off our nation one part at at time to the Chinese controlled farming, industry, politics, and our rights. Our political leaders are building blind wealth on the shoulders of others due to their greediness.

  • Rhett says:

    Sea Sparrow.

  • Cavalryman says:

    My guess is that they are weighting the geopolitical cost of Russia’s evasion of Ukraine to determine if the ROI for an envision of Twain is worth it.

    Part of that determination will be the results of Novembers election and should the republicans take the house and or senate, I would expect a spring invasion of Twain. China would see Biden as politically impotent. Should that occur with success of the Russians, we could have bigger problems than we currently have since we are subservient to Chinese imported goods.

    Have you ever heard the term, “starving spring?”

  • ThePeopleArePissed says:

    China invading Taiwan….if I could slap one of those Biden stickers “I did this!” on top of this headline, I would.

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