The Ministry of National Defense (MND) plans to ask for NT$319.3 billion (US$10.7 billion) in funding next year, mostly to purchase domestically manufactured weaponry, according to the budget plans it submitted to the Legislative Yuan yesterday for review.
The items on the shopping list include NT$74.8 billion for Tien Kung III missile systems to be delivered over the next decade, Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology’s Chung Shyang unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and Red Falcon anti-armor rockets.
The ministry said the impetus to invest in locally made weaponry is the result of a lack of significant development in negotiations toward foreign arms purchases.
The budget proposal for next year is NT$820 million less than this year’s budget, the ministry said.
Most of the savings came through a reduction in the personnel maintenance budget, which used to account for half the ministry’s overall budget. Proposed personnel costs are NT$920 million lower than this year’s, due to programs to make the military leaner and better trained.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the most eye-catching item on the list of proposed purchases is the Tien Kung III (Skybow, 天弓) surface-to-air (SAM) system, which would also be the largest order for domestically manufactured arms in recent years.
The contract is for multiple systems to be delivered over a decade and the ministry has already allocated NT$280 million for next year, Lin said.
The system is the newest in the Skybow series and is a replacement for the MIM-23 Hawk missile system. With a purported maximum range of 20km, the Tien Kung III system is designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
According to the budget proposals, the deployment of the Skybow 3 variant would enhance the nation’s missile shield ability in terms of medium-range missile coverage.
The ministry said it was also looking into ways to further upgrade the capabilities of the Skybow system in terms of mobility and efficiency.
Despite rumors that the Marine Corps would face personnel cuts, the budget proposals showed the marines’ arsenal would be boosted by 36 more US-manufactured AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, Chung Shyang (Red Sparrow, 中翔) UAVs and the Red Falcon close-range anti-armor rockets.
The marines expect to replace its aging LVTP-5 with the AAV-7s, which are expected to cost NT$530 million and be delivered between next year and 2019, the budget plan showed.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it decided to continue the example it set last year by allocating just NT$2 million and NT$500,000 respectively for the potential purchase of US-made F-16C/D jets and the first-stage assessment on diesel-powered submarines. Given the lack of US response to request for such items, the ministry said it did not want to waste resources by allocating more money for them.
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