Sun, Mar 28, 2010 - Page 13 News List

The ins and outs of the latest US arms package to Taiwan

By J. Michael Cole  /  STAFF REPORTER


In late January, the US Department of Defense’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the approval of a major arms package to Taiwan. Included in the US$6.4 billion deal were PAC-3 missile defense systems and associated equipment, UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, work on command-and-control systems, and Harpoon training missiles. Also in the pipeline are P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

While Beijing has reacted with anger at news of the sale, threatening economic sanctions against the US defense companies involved, the Taipei Times takes a closer look at each item and its capabilities. To cap things off, we look at what’s missing — and desirable.



QUANTITY: 114 missiles, firing units, training unit, three radar sets and other systems

ESTIMATED COST: US$2.81 billion

CONTRACTORS: Raytheon Corp (systems), Lockheed Martin (missiles)

DESCRIPTION: PAC-3 missiles are high-velocity interceptors that destroy incoming targets by direct, body-to-body impact. In 2008, the US government authorized the sale of four PAC-3 fire units and 330 missiles (delivery scheduled for 2014). The PAC-3s are a significant addition to the PAC-2s already deployed by Taiwan, as 16 can be loaded on a Patriot launcher, compared with four on the legacy PAC-2. The PAC-3s are part of Taiwan’s SAM network of area air defense systems, which include PAC-2s, the domestically made, long-range Tien Kung-I (天弓一, “Sky Bow”), Tien Kung-II (天弓二) and TK-III (天弓三, under development), and the medium-range Improved-Homing All-the-Way Killer (I-HAWK). The missiles will be deployed at key targets to ensure coverage against Chinese ballistic missiles, including the Dong Feng (東風, “East Wind”).


QUANTITY: 60, plus technical and logistics support

ESTIMATED COST: US$3.1 billion

CONTRACTORS: Sikorsky Aircraft (United Technologies), General Electric

Description: A medium-lift utility helicopter, the Blackhawk can serve a number of functions, including air assault, air cavalry and evacuation. It can be configured to carry out medical evacuation, command-and-control, search-and-rescue, armed escort, electronic warfare and executive transport missions. The UH-60s will complement Taiwan’s aging UH-1H Huey utility helicopters, which proved inadequate during Typhoon Morakot in August last year.


QUANTITY: Two, plus refurbishment upgrade and support, overhaul of AN/SQQ-32 sonar

ESTIMATED COST: US$105 million

CONTRACTOR(S): Prime contractor to be determined

Description: Osprey-class ships were the first US Navy ships designed solely for mine-hunting operations. The ships locate mines using high-definition sonar and neutralize mines with a remote-controlled underwater vehicle. The platform has been designed with exceptionally low magnetic and acoustic signatures to protect against mine detonations during mine-hunting operations. The two ships are the Oriole (MHC-55) and the Falcon (MHC-59), both of which were decommissioned by the US Navy in June 2006. The Taiwanese Navy had been waiting for release of the ships since 2001. Once they enter service, the ships would play a key role in a scenario involving a naval blockade by China.


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