30 Dec 2007

China’s Military Capabilities Limited by Fuel Reserves

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Andrei Chang, editor of the Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, thinks that China lacks the capability of conquering Taiwan if an extended military operation is required.

By calculating the amount of fuel oil required by the Chinese navy and air force in a large-scale attack across the Taiwan Strait under high-tech conditions, it becomes apparent that such an assault could not be sustained for an extended period. …

..should high-intensity warfare break out across the Taiwan Strait, the daily fuel consumption of the PLA Air Force would be a minimum of 10,794 tons, taking into consideration only the third-generation fighters and H-6 bombers, JH-7A fighter-bombers and attackers. Actual consumption would be far greater if the large number of J-7E and J-8F serial fighters and Q-5 attackers currently in service are figured in.

The three major fleets of the PLA Navy would have a daily fuel consumption of 1,200 tons. As a result, the navy and air force would consume a total of 11,994 tons of fuel each day on average.

An initial large-scale landing operation against Taiwan would likely involve 20 divisions or brigades of amphibious, light and heavy mechanized troops. If each mechanized division or brigade needed fuel reserves for 500 kilometers, and one division or brigade consumed an average of 200 tons of fuel each day, the daily total of the 20 divisions and brigades would be 4,000 tons. Here, helicopters deployed by the ever-growing Army Aviation Forces have not been included.

The combined fuel needs of all combat forces engaged in an assault on Taiwan would amount to a minimum of 15,994 tons each day, not including the Second Artillery Forces and logistic support troops. These calculations alone indicate that the PLA forces would need a total of 240,000 tons of fuel to sustain 15 days of assault operations against Taiwan.

What is the total annual fuel consumption of the Chinese armed forces? A report published by the PLA General Logistics Department in 2007 says that the PLA forces saved 55,000 tons of oil in 2006, approximately 5.1 percent of their total consumption. Based on this figure, the total would be over 1 million tons, about 2,954 tons on average per day. It can be concluded that fuel consumption in a 15-day large-scale assault operation would surpass 20 percent of the annual total consumption of the Chinese military.

The hard fact is that China has only 7 million tons of oil reserves available for a period of conflict. The country has set its 30-day oil reserves at 10 million tons for civilian consumption, an average of 330,000 tons per day. During a 15-day assault, the country would require 4.96 million tons. The conclusion is that China’s current oil reserves could sustain a high-intensity assault operation against Taiwan for no more than 15 days.


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