Tue, Apr 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military to replace its Humvee fleet

DEALERS Officials say they'll get local car manufacturers to build new vehicles rather than buy replacements from abroad despite concerns about maintenance and repairs


Around 7,000 Humvees (high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle) were bought by the military shortly after the Gulf War in 1991, but after having been in use for a decade, the well-known vehicle is scheduled to be retired and replaced by a new model in a few years' time.

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) has announced in recent months a plan to purchase the next-generation medium weight transport vehicle, which he said would be a domestically-built model.

Although the military is still working on the specifications of the new medium-weight transport vehicle, several local car manufacturers have shown a strong interest in bidding for the deal that is expected to be worth billions of NT dollars.

The army is responsible for deciding what specifications the new medium-weight transport vehicles will have, while the combined logistics command is taking care of other details such as preparations for the open bidding on the deal.

The military initially planned to buy replacement vehicles from abroad, but changed tack in accordance with a resolution passed by the legislature two years ago.

This slowed down the process of replacing the Humvee, as the army has had to spend the whole of last year studying the feasibility of buying from local car manufacturers.

The kind of medium transport vehicle that local car manufacturers can produce will be based on design and technology provided by foreign countries, sources said. A local car-making giant is planning to introduce technology from Japan as the basis for its model to compete for the deal.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some car manufacturers might erroneously assume that building such a vehicle is a simple matter.

"If they only have the capability to assemble a medium-weight transport vehicle according to foreign designs, they will run into big trouble. What we want is not just the vehicle itself, but also a sound logistics system backing it up," the official said.

"If we buy them from abroad, it will be less of a problem. Foreign companies that we might contact for the purchase are much less likely to be questioned on their ability to maintain post-sale repair and maintenance."

The Humvee's scheduled retirement has in fact been accellerated by a lot of problems surrounding the logistics system for the vehicle.

The military has used the Humvee since 1992. Around 7,000 of the vehicles have been put into service, most of them going to the army. But, for a variety of reasons, it has been unable to establish a working logistics system.

Among the problems are the lack of Chinese-language operation manuals for the vehicles and Chinese-language instructions for the use of the equipment, an army major said. Another is the failure to maintain on a constant basis a computer-controlled system for the detection of mechanical problems, the major added.

"The detection system is usually not used. Our senior officials insist on this practice for fear of damaging the sophisticated equipment," he said.

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