The Ministry of National Defense said yesterday that the army has decided to purchase a locally developed eight-wheeled armored vehicle rather than to buy from the US.
"The army has made a breakthrough in the acquisition of expertise on the research and development of a new eight-wheeled armored vehicle under the `Yun Pao' [Cloud Leopard] project," ministry spokesman Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生) told reporters.
Major General Ho Chiang-hai (何江海) also denied a report that the army was lukewarm about purchasing the vehicle and intended to buy combat vehicles from the United Defense Corp of the US.
The local model "should be the army's only option," he said.
Ho said the army has completed several prototypes to be subject to field testing and modification before mass production begins in 2006.
A local newspaper said the new armored-vehicle fleet, which is similar in design to the French-made Piranha armored vehicle, would be used to replace the army's existing armored vehicles and some 700 vintage M41-tanks, while M48-Hs and M60-A3s would remain the backbone of the army's tank force.
The paper said the weapons procurement project could cost the army up to NT$36 billion (US$1.06 billion).
The completion of the eight-wheeled prototype marked an end to a long-standing debate in the army over whether the next generation of armored vehicles should be tracked or wheeled, it said.