Sat, Oct 31, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Seahawk proposal likely to get approval

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

A military expert on Thursday predicted that Taiwan’s request to buy 10 Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters would win quick approval in Washington.

“The Sikorsky MH-60R is perhaps the world’s best anti-submarine and naval support helicopter in the 8-tonne class and provides a capability that Taiwan clearly requires,” International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Richard Fisher said.

Earlier this week, navy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Hsiao Wei-ming (蕭維民) revealed that Taipei was planning to purchase the helicopters.

“It is not yet known when they will be formally ordered and delivered, but this is an obvious defensive weapon system that should gain rapid sales approval from the US State Department,” Fisher said.

He said that with the MH-60R the navy could better deter two key threats: China’s growing fleet of about 50 stealthy attack submarines and its large fleet of Type 022 stealthy missile-armed fast attack craft.

“Both of these threats can be used by China to help impose a shipping blockade on Taiwan,” Fisher said.

He said that with the Seahawks, the navy had a better chance of finding Chinese submarines and using “Hellfire” missiles to defend against Type 022 fast attack ships.

The helicopters are estimated to cost between US$700 million and US$800 million.

US-Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers on Thursday declined to comment on the possible helicopter deal, but he told Defense News in July that the MH-60R was “essential” to the nation’s maritime security.

“The main issue is ensuring the budget is suitable for a program of this cost as Taiwan’s ruling party continues to under-invest in the defense budget,” Hammond-Chambers said at that time.

China is almost certain to strongly object to the probable Seahawk purchase, but Washington-based industry sources said that was unlikely to have a significant impact.

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