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Republic of China Army (ROCA)

The ROC Army defends Taiwan's territory and ensures the integrity of sovereignty. In peacetime, its mission is centered on defending critical areas of strategic significance on Taiwan and offshore areas and conducting basic training to maintaining capabilities. In war, the Army conducts joint operations with the Navy and Air Force.

Taipei's Army is organized and trained to defend Taiwan and the offshore islands against an invasion. About 80 percent of the Army's combat strength is on Taiwan proper, under the control of three field armies. The three offshore island commands -- Chinmen, Matsu, and Penghu -- have a total of more than 50,000 soldiers.

In the mid-1990s the Republic of China Army (ROCA) was a force of roughly 250,000, with a strategic focus on counter-landing operations. From 1997-2001, the Ching Shih reform initiative down-sized the entire military from approximately 450,000 to around 385,000 personnel, with the Taiwan Army taking a disproportionate reduction. Following the down-sizing, the ROCA was left with about 190,000 to 200,000 personnel organized into combined arms brigades. The counter-landing focus, however, remains unchanged. While significant strides have been made over the past half-decade, the ROCA still has major shortcomings as a fighting force, particularly in the areas of joint war-fighting and development of a professional NCO corps.

In April 2004 Mike Huang noted that "All infantry brigades (1xx) tasked with basic training are transferred outside the regular Army to the Reserve Command. It is not immediately known which particular brigades are affected, but the Reserve Command is reportedly activating 9 brigades. Among them, 902, 904, and 905 Brigades have been activated on 04/06/2004 at Cheng Kung Ridge in Central Taiwan. A number of infantry brigades will still be retained in the regular Army, such as the 2 units in the 6th Army tasked with the defense of Metro Taipei."

Organizational Restructuring

In 1997, the Army began an ambitious restructuring campaign to upgrade its combat effectiveness, emphasizing rapid reaction capabilities, airborne invasion interdiction, and special forces operations. The most extensive force restructuring since 1949, Project JingShi ("Solid Yet Elite") entails significant down-sizing and rationalizations. Taiwan's Ministry of Defense plans an approximately 10% reduction in personnel (from 450,000 to 400,000) by 2001-2003, with bulk of the cuts coming from Army and Marine Corps. Most of the cuts are occurring in the Army, which will number about 200,000. There will also be a dramatic reduction in the ranks of general officers, from about 700 to around 400.

The three existing field armies will remain intact; however, the Army will eliminate divisions as operational units in peacetime. Existing infantry and mechanized divisions will be reorganized into specialized combined arms brigades. The primary reason for this reduction is to create a smaller army with more mobility and firepower. Another reason is the military's competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining highly-trained and technologically proficient personnel to handle modern weapon systems. In August 1998, the General Staff authorized a general stand-down in operating tempo for all units involved in reorganziation, consolidation or rationalization dictated by the JingShi master plan. The ROC Army was directed to maintain at high readiness only the minimum garrison levels necessary for responding to local contingencies.

The Army was previously organized into combat, combat support, and service support troops-all under the command of the Army GHQ, and is organized into the following units:

  • 3 armies;
  • Kinmen, Matsu, P'enghu, and Hualien-T'aitung Headquarters;
  • Tungyin Island Command and Chukuang Island Command ;
  • Airborne and Special Operations Command (2 airborne brigades and 2 aviation groups);
  • 2 mechanized infantry divisions;
  • 10 infantry divisions;
  • 6 armored bridgades;
  • 1 tank group;
  • 7 reserves divisions;
  • 3 mobile divisions; and,
  • 2 air defense missile groups.

With 190,000 personnel, the ROC Army is organized into combat, combat support, and service support troops in the following units:

  • Army Corps
  • Logistics Command
  • Defense Command
  • Aviation and Special Warfare Command
  • Air Cavalry Brigades
  • Armored Brigades
  • Armored Infantry Brigades
  • Motorized Rifle Brigades
  • Infantry Brigades
  • Special Warfare Brigades
  • Missile Command

Specifics about the Army's organizational structure are difficult to come by as the ROC military lacks transparency, presumably for operational security (OPSEC) reasons. Lack of interest may also play a role, as Taiwan's military has received very little attention by academic and expert forums other than reporting on weapons sales and procurement. The military history of the ROC military is practically non-existent as accounts of China's military generally stop referring to the Nationalist military, with any degree of specificity, after 1949. Strangely enough, the degree of information available on People's Liberation Army is of far greater quality, even in comparitive assessments of warfighting histories.

Assessments of the ROC Army in popular resources tend to reflect the old structure and appear to be unaware of recent changes. IISS's The Military Balance 2003-04 still refers to twelve active and seven reserve divisions. Michael Huang (MikeH is his handle on and has compiled the only available order of battle for the ROC Army that includes unit designations. Mr. Huang lists 28 infantry brigades, 3 motorized infantry brigades, 3 armored infantry brigades, and 6 armored brigades. But by April 2004 Mike Huang reported that, alhough spotted on open media previously, the 543 Armor Brigade and 603 Air Cavalry Brigade probably do not exist as they could not be validated through other sources.

Chinese Military Academy

The Chinese Military Academy (CMA), founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1924 at Whampoa, Kwangtung Province, relocated to Fengshan , Kaohsiung County, Taiwan in 1950. The large campus features modern educational facilities and equipment to cultivate future army officers and develop military science. The CMA has a tradition of stringent educational requirements, accepting and training only the most qualified candidates. In 1954, the CMA began placing increased emphasis on education in scientific, technical, and other non-military fields. Cadets are required to complete 130 university-level credits in subjects such as political science, social science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, civil engineering, electrical engineering, information management, and foreign languages over a period of four years. Right after graduation, the young lieutenants receive further training in a branch specialty, such as infantry, armor, artillery (missiles), engineering, transportation, communications (electronics), chemistry, or the military police.

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