Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military develops prototype for light armored vehicle

AFP , TAIPEI

The country has completed the prototype of a light armored vehicle in a weapons-procurement project that could cost the army up to NT$36 billion (US$1.05 billion), it was reported yesterday.

"The first sample vehicle was finished early last month and a series of tests have kicked off," a Chinese-language newspaper said.

The completion of the eight-wheeled prototype marked an end to a long-standing debate in the army of whether tracked or wheeled armor should be selected as the next generation of armored vehicles, the daily said.

Military experts said if the report is verified, it would suggest that mobility has been given top priority while the army weighs its armaments plan.

In a military reform plan that ended in 2001, the military cut its troop numbers but reinforced their mobility and firepower in the face of what is perceived as a growing Chinese military threat.

The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the report.

The daily said the first models, which are similar in design to the French-made Piranha armored vehicle, would be completed in February.

The new armored vehicles would replace some 700 vintage M-41 tanks, while M48-Hs and M60-A3s would remain the backbone of the army's tank force, the paper said.

An unnamed army general, however, was quoted by the paper as saying that the US-made M1-A2 Abrams heavy tank is on the army's shopping list.

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