Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Nation hopes to buy, build tanks

HIGH DEMAND:The military is in talks with the US to buy tanks and authorize their construction or assembly in Taiwan, with the assessment to be finished by year end

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A Chinese Xian H-6 bomber conducts an “island-surrounding patrol” on the border of Taiwan’s airspace on Thursday last week.

Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense

Officials are evaluating the possibility of procuring M1A2 tanks, but the nation also hopes to build some of the tanks domestically, Minister of National Defense Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday.

Yen made the statement at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, which was scheduled to review the potential effects of proposed pension reform on military personnel once the plan is implemented in July.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) asked if the ministry has a new plan for its tanks, given the new challenges posed by a strategic shift to focus on asymmetric warfare.

While the demand for tanks is high, as they are key in winning decisive littoral battles, the military and the US are in the process of assessing the possibility of a deal, Yen said, adding that the government has not yet made an official purchase request.

However, the government would not obtain the tanks through purchase only, Yen added.

“As we are seeking to build up our defense industry, we hope that we can build our own tanks, as we are doing with submarines and fighter jets,” Yen said.

The government also hopes to form a technical partnership with the US to authorize the tanks’ construction or assembly in Taiwan, Yen added.

The ministry’s Department of Strategic Planning said it aims to finish the assessment by the end of the year.

The ministry has been planning to acquire new tanks to replace old ones, but the plan was postponed several times, as priority was given to the purchase of surface-to-air missiles and attack helicopters.

In February, it was reported that a plan to purchase about 100 M1A2 tanks was again sidelined, as the US said the tanks might not be able to reach full functionality if they are used in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Yen said that the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea could become the new conflict hot spots after an easing of military tension on the Korean Peninsula following the peace agreement reached last week by North and South Korea.

Asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) about military developments across the Strait, Yen said that the Chinese navy is likely to increase long-distance exercises, which would evolve from single to combined exercises.

Yen also explained the change in objective for the first phase of this year’s Han Kuang exercises, which began yesterday and is to end on Friday.

The ministry last year simulated a response to the scenario of China’s People’s Liberation Army attacking Taiwan in 2025, but the simulation this year is focusing on how the nation would defend itself given its current military capabilities.

“Our new combat strategies focus on winning battles at littoral zones and fighting enemies at beachheads. We want to use the annual drill to test these plans,” he said. “Rather than 2025, we want to test them based on where we and the enemy stand at the moment.”

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