As the Trump administration ramps up arms sales to Taiwan and with the US State Department clearing the sale of tanks, fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles, the window of opportunity is too great to ignore.
Having secured an order of 66 F-16 Viper fighters, Taiwan is now seeking to modernize and lengthen the reach of its artillery with the decision to purchase self-propelled howitzers, even as it weighs acquiring or developing its own long-range artillery rockets, Defense News reported.
During a hearing of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa confirmed to legislators that Taiwan will seek to acquire the BAE Systems M109A6 Paladin self-propeller howitzer from the United States.
Yen did not reveal how many howitzers would be sought, although local media reports in July stated that Taiwan was looking at acquiring 100 howitzers, the report said.
The Taiwanese army’s artillery units are already operating the older M109A2 and M109A5 variants, as well as the M110A2 self-propelled howitzer and the towed M114 howitzers.
The M109A6 features improved armor and survivability over older variants of the M109, which allows howitzer batteries to fire from dispersed locations as well as reduce the time required to set up and fire its 155 mm (6 inch) howitzer.
Taiwan is also reportedly looking to increase the range of its artillery rockets up to 190 miles, and was said to be weighing between acquiring the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) or developing a longer-ranged rocket for its Thunderbolt-2000 truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher, the report said.
The National Changshan Institute of Science and Technology, which developed and manufactured the Thunderbolt 2000, has successfully developed a rocket with a range of 63 miles and is confident it can develop an even longer range rocket.
This requirement is in response to China fielding artillery rockets capable of attaining such ranges, which would put Taiwan’s west coast within range from mainland China. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to take back the island.
According to Army Technology, the HIMARS system is the newest member of the multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) family.
HIMARS is a highly-mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of MLRS on a wheeled chassis. It was developed in 1996 by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control under an advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) programme.
HIMARS is intended to engage and defeat artillery, air defence concentrations, trucks, and light armour and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. The system launches its weapons and moves away from the area at high speed before enemy forces locate the launch site.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress in 1979, the US is committed to providing self-defense weapons to the self-governing island off China’s coast.