Key point: Beijing wants the most advanced weapons possible to squeeze Taiwan.
The Chinese military's new S-400 surface-to-air missile system can hit targets more than 150 miles away, if the reported result of the type's first-ever test in Chinese service is accurate.
The Taiwan strait is just 140 miles across at its widest point, meaning that, in theory, Chinese S-400s could target Taiwanese warplanes shortly after they take off.
But the short distance separating China and Taiwan works both ways. At the same time that China is fielding S-400s and other long-range surface-to-air missiles, Taiwan is deploying air-and surface-launched munitions that can target the Chinese missile launchers.
The People’s Liberation Army’s rocket force conducted its first live-fire drill with its first regiment of Russian made S-400s in November 2018, The Diplomat reported, citing Russian sources.
A Russian-style missile regiment usually includes two battalions together possessing 16 launchers. An S-400 launcher packs four missiles at a time.
According to The Diplomat, a Chinese S-400 intercepted a "simulated ballistic target" around 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, away. The Taiwan Strait separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland varies between 81 and 140 miles wide.
Annexing Taiwan is the primary military ambition of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese war plans apparently anticipate a massive air and missile bombardment of Taiwanese defenses followed by an amphibious assault across the strait under heavy fighter cover.
To defend against attack, the Taiwanese air force operates around 330 F-CK, F-16 and Mirage 2000 fighters, a not insignificant force. Taipei is upgrading its F-16s and F-CKs with new sensors and weapons. But at first glance, China possesses the aerial advantage in a cross-strait battle.