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Republic of China (Taiwan) Armed Forces
Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guójūn
ROCN kang ding class.jpg
ROCS Kang Ding (FFG-1202) patrolling the Taiwan Strait with a Sikorsky S-70C Seahawk.
Service branches

Republic of China Army Flag.svg Republic of China (Taiwan) Army
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China (Taiwan) Navy
Republic of China Air Forces Flag.svg Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force

Flag of the Republic of China Military Police.jpg Republic of China (Taiwan) Military Police
Headquarters Taipei, Republic of China (Taiwan)
Commander-in-Chief President Ma Ying-jeou
Minister of National Defense Yen Ming[1]
Chief of the General Staff Kao Kuang-chi
Military age 19 - 40 years of age
Conscription 1 year compulsory military services for male citizens between the age of 19 and 40
Available for
military service
5,883,828, age 15-40 (2005 est.)
Fit for
military service
4,749,537, age 15-40 (2005 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
174,173 (2005 est.)
Active personnel 290,000 (ranked 16th)
Reserve personnel 1,675,000
Budget $10.5 billion (2008 est.) (ranked 20th)
Percent of GDP 2.5 (2008 est.)
Domestic suppliers Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, CSBC Corporation, 205th Armory
Foreign suppliers United States
 South Africa
Related articles
Ranks Republic of China Armed Forces rank insignia

The Republic of China (Taiwan) Armed Forces (Chinese: 中華民國國軍; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guójūn) encompass the Army, Navy (including the Marine Corps), Air Force and Military Police Force of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It is a military establishment, which accounted for 16.8% of the central budget in the fiscal year of 2003. It was originally the National Revolutionary Army before being renamed as the Republic of China (Taiwan) Armed Forces in 1947 due to the implementation of the Constitution.[citation needed]

Until the 1970s, the military's primary mission was to retake mainland China from the communist People's Republic of China (PRC) through the Project National Glory.[3] The military's current foremost mission is the defense of the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy and Matsu against a possible military invasion by the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China, which is seen as the predominant threat to the ROC[4][5] in the ongoing dispute over the political status of Taiwan.


Politicization of the armed forces

Chiang Ching-kuo, appointed as Kuomintang director of Secret Police in 1950, was educated in the Soviet Union, and initiated Soviet style military organization in the Republic of China Military, reorganizing and Sovietizing the political officer corps, surveillance, and Kuomintang party activities were propagated throughout the military. Opposed to this was Sun Li-jen, who was educated at the American Virginia Military Institute.[6] Chiang Ching-kuo then arrested Sun Li-jen, charging him of conspiring with the American CIA of plotting to overthrow Chiang Kaishek and the Kuomintang, Sun was placed under house arrest in 1955.[7][8]

Rise of mainland China

In the 21st Century as the PRC vastly increased its defense spending, Taiwan registered the lowest growth in defense spending of the major Asia-Pacific powers.[9] These cutbacks where felt as vital land based systems were cut in order to afford an upgrade of aging fourth generation jet fighters (needed to respond to the PRC's fifth generation fighter programs).[10] And even the jet fighter upgrades were cut back in areas such as high performance jet engines.[11][12] The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission found that these defense cuts could jeopardize Taiwan's military preparedness.[13]


The ROC's armed forces number approximately 300,000, and reserves reportedly total 3,870,000. Conscription remains universal for qualified males reaching age 18. Force streamlining programs under way since 1997 are combining redundant institutions and steadily reducing the military to 270,000 personnel by 2012. However, even then there would be compulsory basic training for all males reaching 18. As the size of the force decreases, the ROC intends to gradually expand the number of volunteer soldiers with the eventual goal of forming an all volunteer career force.[14]

The ROC military's officer corps is generally viewed as being competent, displaying a high degree of professionalism. However, as a whole, the culture in the officer corps tends to be very cautious and conservative. The military also faces difficulties in the recruitment and retention of junior officers and NCO's due to competition with the private sector. There are, however, plans to make it a volunteer armed forces.

Because of the historical legacy having once controlled mainland China, the army has traditionally been the most important of the ROC's military forces, although this has declined in recent years with the realization that the traditional army's role in defending against a PRC invasion is limited. As a result, recent force modernization programs have resulted in the reorganization of the Army into smaller units as a quick deployment mobile troops. For the same reason, more emphasis is being placed on the development of the Navy and Air Force, in order to fend off attacks in the Taiwan Strait, away from Taiwan proper.[15]


Yen Ming, Minister of National Defense

Kao Kuang-chi, Chief of the General Staff

Military branches and structure

The following service commands are directly subordinate to the General Staff, headed by the Chief of the General Staff, which answers to the Minister of Defense and the ROC President:[5]

The Coast Guard Administration was created in 2001 from related police and military units and is administered by the Executive Yuan and may be incorporated as a military branch during times of emergency but for the large part remains in civilian control.

The position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Service Forces exists in the Republic of China military. The last known person to hold this position was Muslim Lt. Gen. Ma Ching-chiang.[16]

Arms purchases and weapons development

Acquisitions over the next several years will emphasize modern C 4 ISR equipment that will vastly improve communications and data-sharing among services. These and other planned acquisitions will gradually shift the island’s strategic emphasis to offshore engagement of invading PRC forces. It is hoped that this will serve to reduce civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure in the event of armed conflict.[5]

The ROC's armed forces are equipped with weapons obtained primarily from the United States, examples being 150 F-16A/B Block-20 MLU fighters, 6 E-2 Hawkeyes, licensed produced Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, 63 AH-1W attack helos, 39 OH-58D scout helos and 3 batteries of Patriot PAC-II SAMs.

The ROC has also procured two Hai Lung class class submarines from the Netherlands and 60 Mirage 2000-5Di/Ei fighters from France together with six French La Fayette stealth frigates. The ROC also has four German made minesweepers that were bought under of civilian use[citation needed].

In 2001, the United States approved the sale of a number of weapons systems, including the sale of eight diesel submarines, six Patriot PAC-3 SAMs and 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Out of the items authorized, The ROC currently has four Kidd-class destroyers, M109A5 units, two additional E-2C Hawkeyes 2000 and nine CH-47SD Chinook heavy transport helicopters in service, with the 12 P-3C and 3 PAC-3 batteries being funded. It is unclear if or when the balance of the equipment will be supplied. The delivery of diesel submarines in particular is doubtful, as the United States does not manufacture diesel submarines.

The military budget for 2007 (passed 16 June) included funds for the procurement of 12 P-3C Orion patrol aircraft, 66 F-16 C/D Block 52 fighters, the upgrade of existing PAC-2 batteries to PAC-3 standard and a feasibility study into the planned purchase of conventionally powered submarines offered by the US way back in 2001.

In July 2007 it was reported that the ROC Army would request the purchase of 30 AH-64D II Apache attack helicopters from in the 2008 defense budget.[17] The United Daily News reported that as many as 90 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters would also be ordered to replace the UH-1Hs currently in service.

During August, The ROC requested 60 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, 2 Harpoon guidance control units, 30 Harpoon containers, 30 Harpoon extended air-launch lugs, 50 Harpoon upgrade kits from AGM-84G to AGM-84L configuration and other related elements of logistics and program support, the total value being $125 million. The United States government indicated its approval of the order with notification to the United States Congress of the potential sale.[18]

In mid September 2007, the Pentagon notified the U.S. Congress of P-3C Orion order, which included 12 Orions and three "spare aircraft", along with an order for 144 SM-2 Block IIIA missiles. The total value of the 12 P-3C Orions were estimated at around $1.96 billion and $272 million for the 144 SM-2 missiles.[19] A contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin to refurbish the 12 P-3C Orion aircraft for the ROC on 2009-03-13, with deliveries to start in 2012.[20]

In mid November 2007, the Pentagon notified the US Congress about a possible sale to upgrade the ROC's existing 3 Patriot missile batteries to the PAC-3 standard. The total value of the upgrade could be as much as $939 million.[21] So far 1 battery had finished upgrade and sent back to Taiwan, while the contract to upgrade second battery had been announced.

The US government announced on the 3rd of October that it planned to sell $6.5 billion worth of arms to the ROC ending the freeze of arms sales to the ROC. The plans include $2.5 billion worth of 30 AH-64D Block III Apache Longbow attack helicopters with night-vision sensors, radar, 174 Stinger Block I air-to-air missiles and 1000 AGM-114L Hellfire missiles. Additionally it will include the sale of PAC-3 missiles (330), 4 missile batteries, radar sets, ground stations and other equipment valued up to $3.1 billion. 4 E-2T aircraft upgrade to E-2C Hawkeye 2000 will also be included worth up to $250 million. $200 million worth of sub launched Harpoon Block II missiles (32) will also be available for sale, $334 million worth of various aircraft spare parts and 182 Javelin missiles, with 20 Javelin command launchers.

However, not included in the arms sale were new F-16 C/D fighters, the feasibility study for diesel-electric submarines or UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.[22] The White House had declined to sell 66 F-16C/D fighter planes as US Pacific Command has felt no need for advanced arms to be sold to the ROC.[23]

The military has also stressed military "self-reliance," which has led to the growth of indigenous military production, producing items such as the ROC's Indigenous Defense Fighter, the Thunderbolt 2000 Multiple Launch Rocket System, Clouded Leopard Armoured Vehicle, the Sky Bow I and Sky Bow II SAMs and Hsiung Feng series of anti-ship missiles.[5] The ROC's efforts at arms purchases have consistently been opposed by the People's Republic of China (PRC).[24] The PRC has also consistently attempted to block co-operation between the ROC military and those of other countries.

On 29 January 2010, the US government announced 5 notifications to US Congress for arms sales to the ROC, 2 Osprey class mine hunters for 105 million USD, 25 Link 16 terminals on ships for 340 million USD, 10 ship- and 2 air-launched Harpoon L/II for 37 million USD, 60 UH-60M and other related items for 3.1 billion USD and 3 PAC-3 batteries with 26 launchers and 114 PAC-3 missiles for 2.81 billion USD, for a total 6.392 billion USD overall.[25][26][27][28][29]

Reforms and development

Civilian control of the military

The modern day ROC military is styled after western military systems, mostly the US military. Internally, it has a very strong political warfare branch/department that tightly controls and monitors each level of the ROC military, and reports directly to the General Headquarters of the ROC military, and if necessary, directly to the President of the ROC. This is a carry over from the pre-1949 era, which KMT and its army were penetrated by Communist agents repeatedly and led to front line units defecting to Communist China. To strengthen their control over the military and prevent massive defection after retreating to Taiwan in 1949, CKS and CCK employed tight control over the military, by installing political officers and commissioners down to the company level, in order to ensure political correctness in the military and loyalty toward ROC leadership. This gave the political officers/commissioners a great deal of power, allowing them to overrule the unit commander and take over the unit. Only in recent years has the political warfare department (due to cutbacks) reduced its power within the ROC military.

Two defense reform laws implemented in 2002 granted the civilian defense minister control over the entire military and expanded legislative oversight authority for the first time in history.[30] In the past the ROC military was closely linked with and controlled by the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). Following the democratization of the 1990s the military has moved to a politically neutral position, though the senior officer ranks remain dominated by KMT members.[31]

Doctrine and exercises

ROCAF AIDC F-CK Indigenous Defense Fighter

The primary goal of the ROC Armed Forces is to provide a credible deterrent against hostile action by establishing effective counterstrike and defense capabilities. Should hostilities occur, current ROC military doctrine centers upon the principle of "offshore engagement" where the primary goal of the armed forces in any conflict with the PRC would be to keep as much of the fighting away from Taiwan proper for as long as possible to minimize damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties. The military has also begun to take the threat of a sudden "decapitation attack" by the PRC seriously. Consequently, these developments have seen a growing emphasis on the role of the Navy and Air Force (where the Army had traditionally dominated); as well as the development of rapid reaction forces and quick mobilization of local reserve forces.[5]

Annually, the ROC Military conducts full exercises called "Han Kuang" which may sometimes include all branches of the military to participate in one or two specific exercises, they show the Taiwanese media the various weapons they have acquired and give special performances from the army, navy and air force. "Han Kuang" exercises are held throughout Taiwan mainly at the main expected invasion areas. In 2007 there was an army exercise simulating a counterattack against PLA forces who have captured Taichung Port. An air force exercise simulating that air bases throughout Taiwan have been destroyed and are forced to use a major highway as an airstrip. ROCN (navy) exercise where an invasion force is heading toward Taiwan, destroyers, frigates and attack boats are called to fire missiles and attack dummy targets.

A series of computer simulations conducted by the ROC Ministry of National Defense in 2004 predicted that, in the event of a full scale invasion by the PRC, Taipei would take at most three weeks to fall. It also showed that the ROC Air Force would be eliminated by about the fifth day. However, the simulation results indicate that the PRC would lose about two-thirds of all its military forces in the process. The results of the simulation are hotly debated since they came at a time when the Legislative Yuan was debating one of the largest arms procurement packages in recent years.[32]

Foreign cooperation


While some reports have also indicated the presence of retired Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) personnel as advisors[citation needed], there is no official cooperation between the ROC military and the JSDF. It is believed that any Japanese involvement in a cross-Straits conflict would be very much contingent upon the US response, due to the nearest US forces in the region being based in Japan and the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.[31]


Starting in 1975, Singapore has sent units from its military to train in Republic of China (Taiwan) due to the lack of space in the city-state under the Starlight training program (星光計畫). Singaporean forces training in Taiwan numbered roughly 3000 as of 2005.[33] As of 2008, Singapore is the only foreign country to maintain permanent military bases on Taiwan.

Singapore being an island surrounded by larger countries found similarity with Taiwan; this might have contributed to its suitability as a training ground. However this became a point of conflict between Singapore and Beijing. Beijing demanded the withdrawal of troops and offered to provide another training ground on Hainan Island. Singapore refused the offer, rather stated it would withdraw its forces and not take part in any confrontation.

United States

Collaboration between the ROC and US militaries began during World War II when both nations were members of the Allied forces, and continued through the Chinese Civil War when ROC forces were supplied primarily by the US until the final evacuation of ROC forces to Taiwan in 1949. Initially the U.S. expected the ROC government to fall and withdrew support until the outbreak of the Korean War when the U.S. 7th Fleet was ordered to the Taiwan Straits both to protect Taiwan from a PRC attack, and to stop ROC actions against the PRC.[34] A formal US-ROC security pact was signed in 1954 establishing a formal alliance that lasted until US recognition of the PRC in 1979.[35] During this period US military advisors were deployed to the ROC and joint exercises were common. The United States Taiwan Defense Command was established in the Philippines for reinforcement of Taiwan airspace. The US and ROC also collaborated on human and electronic intelligence operations directed against the PRC. ROC units also participated in the Korean War and the Vietnam War in noncombat capacities, primarily at the insistence of the United States which was concerned that high profile roles for ROC forces in these conflicts would lead to full scale PRC intervention.[36]

High-level cooperation ended with the US recognition of the PRC in 1979, when all remaining US forces in Taiwan were withdrawn. The US continued to supply the ROC with arms sales per the Taiwan Relations Act, albeit in a diminished role. While ROCAF pilots continued to train at Luke AFB in Arizona, cooperation is still limited primarily to civilian contractors.

In recent years, the ROC military has again begun higher level cooperation with the U.S. Military after over two decades of relative isolation. Senior officers from the U.S. Pacific Command observed the annual Han Kuang military exercises in 2005. The US also upgraded its military liaison position in Taipei from a position held by retired officers hired on a contractual basis to one held by an active duty officer the same year.[37] The US remains committed to protecting Taiwan from PRC attack, though not if Taiwan were to declare formal independence first - Washington has stated it will not back such a declaration with military support.

Military parades

File:Humvees National Day parade.jpg

ROC Humvees en route to the 2007 National Day Military Parade

The Republic of China held their first military parade on 10 October 2007 for National Day celebrations since 1991. Previously parades weren't held as the government tried to ease the tension between the ROC and the PRC and to try and promote peace, however ever since the military balance started to favour Beijing, the ROC government has been under pressure to deter Communist China. The military parade was designed to act as a deterrent to Beijing.

The parade unveiled the ROC's new indigenous Hsiung Feng III Supersonic Anti-Ship missiles, Sky Bow III Surface to Air missiles and a few of the ROC's very own Chung Shyang II UAVs. However the expected unveiling of the Hsiung Feng IIE surface to surface missile which could hit Shanghai was not unveiled as the defense minister stated that it was still under development. Military aircraft including the US made F-16 A/Bs & F-5s, French produced Mirage 2000-5s and domestically made IDFs flew past the parade area in formation. US made AH-1W Super Cobras, CH-47 Chinooks, UH-1 & S-70C Helicopters and E-2 Hawkeye version "K", S-2 Tracker & C-130 Hercules aircraft also flew past. Cadets then filled the main area, and performed various march formation and tricks with their rifles. Military police then drove out in style with their Harley-Davidson bikes numbering in total of around 50. The new CM-32 APCs, AAVP7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, HUMVEEs fitted with BGM-71 TOW 2nd generation anti-tank missiles and FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, Avengers anti-air vehicles, M48 Chaparral anti-air vehicles fitted with Sky Sword I missiles and other various vehicles were driven out in order. Sky Bow I, Sky Bow II & Sky Bow III missiles, PATRIOT missiles and Hsiung Feng II & Hsiung Feng III missiles with their launchers were droven out and showcased in front of the large crowd. Meanwhile, ROC marines, army special forces and counter terrorist units were driven out in vehicles with various new weaponry including the home made T-91 rifle, customised M4A1s and M16s with attachments and the newly purchased MP5s.[1]

Military ranks

The ROC military's rank structure is patterned after that of the U.S. Armed Forces. Note that the titles of each rank are the same in Chinese for all four military branches. The corresponding titles in English for each service are also provided.[38]

ROC Officer Ranks
Chinese title Army / Marines / MP Navy Air Force
一級/二級上將 General Admiral General
中將 Lieutenant General Vice Admiral Lieutenant General
少將 Major General Rear Admiral Major General
上校 Colonel Captain Colonel
中校 Lieutenant Colonel Commander Lieutenant Colonel
少校 Major Lieutenant Commander Major
上尉 Captain Lieutenant Captain
中尉 1st Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Grade 1st Lieutenant
少尉 2nd Lieutenant Ensign 2nd Lieutenant
ROC Enlisted Ranks
Chinese title Army / Marines / MP Navy Air Force
一等士官長 Sergeant Major Master Chief Petty Officer Chief Master Sergeant
二等士官長 Master Sergeant Senior Chief Petty Officer Senior Master Sergeant
三等士官長 Sergeant First Class Chief Petty Officer Master Sergeant
上士 Staff Sergeant Petty Officer 1st Class Technical Sergeant
中士 Sergeant Petty Officer 2nd Class Staff Sergeant
下士 Corporal Petty Officer 3rd Class Senior Airman
上等兵 Private First Class Seaman First Class Airman First Class
一等兵 Private Seaman Airman
二等兵 Private Basic Seaman Apprentice Airman Basic

Major deployments, battles & incidents


ROC soldiers marching to the front lines in 1939


ROCN honor guard at the Martyr's Shrine in Taipei.

Nuclear weapons program

The development of nuclear weapons by the ROC has been a contentious issue. The U.S., hoping to avoid escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait, has continually opposed arming the ROC with nuclear weapons. Accordingly, the ROC, although not a member of the United Nations, adheres to the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has stated that it does not intend to produce nuclear weapons. Past nuclear research by the ROC makes it a 'threshold' nuclear state.

In 1967, a nuclear weapons program began under the auspices of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER) at the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology. The ROC was able to acquire nuclear technology from abroad (including a research reactor from Canada and low-grade plutonium from the United States) allegedly for a civilian energy system, but in actuality to develop fuel for nuclear weapons.[41]

After the International Atomic Energy Agency found evidence of the ROC's efforts to produce weapons-grade plutonium, Taipei agreed in September 1976 under U.S. pressure to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Though the nuclear reactor was soon shut down and the plutonium mostly returned to the U.S.

A secret program was revealed when Colonel Chang Hsien-yi, deputy director of nuclear research at INER who was secretly working for the CIA defected to the U.S. in December 1987 and produced a cache of incriminating documents. General Hau Pei-tsun claimed that scientists in Taiwan had already produced a controlled nuclear reaction.[42] Under pressure from the U.S., the program was halted.[citation needed]

During the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, then ROC President Lee Teng-hui proposed to reactivate the program, but was forced to back down a few days later after drawing intense criticism.[citation needed]

With the unbalanced military equation across the Taiwan Strait, Taipei may choose nuclear weapon as a deterrent against the military encirclement by the People's Republic of China.[42][43][44] For more, see.[45][46]

See also


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  6. Jay Taylor (2000). The Generalissimo's son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the revolutions in China and Taiwan. Harvard University Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-674-00287-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
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  9. Isenberg, David. "Shifting Defense Expenditures in East Asia." Time, 26 October 2012.
  10. "Upgrade of F16 fleet squeezes budgets for other weapons: minister."
  11. Cole, Michael J. "Taipei cuts budget for F-16 upgrades." Taipei Times, 10 February 2012.
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  31. 31.0 31.1 Swaine, Michael D.; Mulvenon, James C. (2001). "3" (PDF). Tawian's Foreign and Defense Policies: Features and Determinants. RAND Corporation. p. 65. ISBN 0-8330-3094-9. Retrieved 2006-03-05. 
  32. Shlapak, David; David T. Orletsky, Barry Wilson (2000). "2" (PDF). Dire Strait? Military Aspects of the China-Taiwan Confrontation and Options for U.S. Policy. RAND Corporation. pp. 7–30. ISBN 0-8330-2897-9. Retrieved 2006-03-05.  Example of a simulated wargame of a cross-straits conflict.
  33. "「星光」重要性不如以往". The Liberty Times. 2005-03-10.  (Chinese (Taiwan))
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  42. 42.0 42.1

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