DN - Defence Notes

Raytheon makes out like a bandit in Taiwan

3rd July 2017 - 07:07 GMT | by Wendell Minnick in Taipei

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There was nothing new in the first arms package released by the Trump administration that Taiwan did not already have in its inventory, beyond some configuration packages. The biggest winner of the programme, however, was Raytheon, which scooped up the entire $1.34 billion package announced by the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency on 29 June.

Though the programme is largely focused on naval items, the timing of the US announcement is sending an ‘unpleasant signal’ to China, said Ching Chang, a former Taiwanese naval officer and a research fellow of the Taipei-based Society for Strategic Studies. 

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of the former British colony to the mainland.

The Raytheon package includes $400 million in support and parts for the Surveillance Radar Program (SRP); an $80 million upgrade for the AN/SLQ-32(V)3 electronic warfare system for four Keelung-class destroyers; $185.5 million for 56 AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon air-to-ground missiles; $250 million for 46 MK-48 Mod 6AT heavyweight torpedoes; $125 million for 16 Standard Missile (SM-2) Blk IIIA; $147.5 million for 50 AGM-88B High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM); and $175 million for conversion and upgrade kits for 168 MK-46 Mod. 5 torpedoes to turn them into MK-54 Lightweight Torpedo (LWT) configuration.

The SRP was procured from the US in 2000 and commissioned in 2003 on Loshan, a mountain along Taiwan’s west coast facing China. Originally projected to cost $800 million, expenses rose dramatically from unexpected problems created by mudslides, thus pushing the total cost of the programme to $1.6 billion before it went operational in 2013. 

The radar can track up to 1,000 cruise and ballistic missile threats. Raytheon sources indicate the radar is the most powerful in the world.

Defence analysts on the ground were disappointed that the package included nothing for Taiwan’s planned Indigenous Defence Submarine programme. Taiwan plans to build eight diesel-powered submarines with help from the US. 

Taiwan’s military is still expecting approval for a long-standing request for M1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBT). There is still debate in the Taiwan military whether the extra tonnage of the Abrams is suitable for Taiwan’s mountainous terrain and low coastal wetlands, plus arguments over the additional expense of 120mm ammunition compared to the 105mm rounds carried by Taiwan’s current MBTs, the M48H and M60A3 TTS.

More details about this arms package and future deals are expected to be revealed at the upcoming August weapons exhibition in Taiwan, the biennial Taipei Aerospace and Defence Technology Exhibition, from 17-19 August. 

It will be a small show with 143 exhibitors and only a handful of US companies: General Dynamics Mission Control, Harris Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins. 

In other news relating to US-supplied equipment, Taiwan’s Army Aviation and Special Command commissioned its first AH-64E Apache Longbow attack squadron on 23 June after two years of training. The first squadron was stood up at the 601st Brigade in Taoyuan’s Longtan district. 

The Apaches were procured in late 2013 after a long and bitter competition with Bell Helicopter’s AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter.

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