Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan receives substantial US order for bullets

REVIVAL Taiwan's principle bulletmaker has seen slack times recently with no war in the Taiwan Strait, but the US is about to come to its aid

STAFF WRITER

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken their toll on US artillery supplies, and the US army has put in an order for 300 million 5.56 mm calibre bullets from Taiwan.

The request has meant that the military plants that manufacture these bullets will have to step up this year's production levels from 100 million to 400 million.

The 5.56 mm bullets in question can penetrate steel helmets, and are priced at NT$7 each, compared to the NT$5 pice tag for more conventional bullets.

With shipping and insurance, the order should be worth around NT$2 billion, although final negotiations are still in process and the actual price has yet to be set.

One high ranking officer said that this order was unprecedented, and that the interest made from the deal alone would enable the plant to make a profit on the sales, even if the ammunition was only sold at cost price.

The bullets are mainly produced by the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) Plant 205 in Kaohsiung, which currently has a surplus of ammunition resulting from the lack of any major military engagement across the Taiwan Strait in recent years.

The plant has suffered from falling demand for many years now, leading to staff cut-backs, but this latest order from the US army means that the plant will be busier than it has been for quite some time.

Rifles and ammunition manufactured in Taiwan have gained an international reputation for quality at a reasonable price. There are reports that in recent years the MND has been selling T-91 rifles to Southeast Asia, Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and a number of countries in Eastern Europe.

These inter-governmental deals have included the sale of other military equipment such as night vision goggles. In the past few days the MND has reviewed regulations governing the export of military goods in response to concerns that weapons sold abroad may fall into the hands of terrorists.

A high-ranking officer said that Vietnam has recently approached an international arms dealer to procure weapons from the Taiwanese government, but that the request had been turned down because of these very concerns.

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