Take the Patriots. China now has some 1,400 short-range ballistic missiles and scores of cruise missiles aimed at Taiwan. Lin said two or three Patriots are needed to knock out every Chinese missile; last week's package included 114 Patriots.
"It's a continuation of what we've been asking for, but not a great stride forward for our capabilities," says Mr. Lin.
The Blackhawks may be more significant for disaster relief on the typhoon- and flood-plagued island than for military use, he says. The command-and-control software has long been requested by Taiwan, and, according to Lin, "it doesn't make a huge difference."
He says the latest sale was for "legacy" weapons held over from the Bush admin-istration; many of the others were released in 2007 and 2008. The Obama administration added nothing to the list of systems in the pipeline, he says, and left out Taiwan's more sensitive – and militarily signifi-cant – request for advanced F-16 fighters and submarines.
"There was nothing new in the release," says Mr. Minnick. "So the question is actually, 'Will the US continue to back Taiwan's defense needs?' "
US weighs its response
Beijing has warned Washington not to sell the F-16s that Taiwan wants. And the submarines request has now likely been "killed," says Ding, of the CCAPS. For several decades, Taiwan's vastly outnumbered military has counted on its edge in quality over the PLA. The PLA's modernization has erased that advantage, leaving Taiwan more dependent than ever on its chief deterrent: the US Navy's Seventh Fleet.