Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Taiwan boosting domestic defense industry abilities

By Ralph Jennings  /  AP, TAICHUNG

The Trump administration last month agreed to allow US firms with the technology to build much-needed diesel-electric submarines.

Taiwan’s navy operates just two aging subs bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s.

Analysts say sales of technology are less likely to prompt a strong response from China than those of complete systems such as planes or submarines.

Along with fighter jets and other aircraft, Taiwanese contractors already make anti-ship, surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles, as well as missile boats and Clouded Leopard armored vehicles.

Taiwan has long been known worldwide for its civilian high-tech industry and about 200 small and mid-sized companies work in defense.

AIDC and the National Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology are among the larger contractors.

The aerospace firm reported sales income of US$235 million and a net profit in the third quarter of last year, the most recent made public online.

More than 3,000 people work on new aircraft designs at AIDC’s tree-lined campus, complete with a restaurant and a swimming pool. One of its planes marks a front entrance.

Despite the advances, Taiwan will never be able to quit buying advanced weapons from other countries, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said.

Propulsion systems and engines for ships and aircraft are a particular need, and Taiwan sometimes finds that imports cost less than local production.

Yet such sales carry the risk of being used as bargaining chips to gain concessions from Beijing, particularly on trade.

Ultimately, officials in Washington might help Taiwan’s military again only if they see its capability decline, said Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor of strategic studies at Tamkang University.

“Taiwan worries that there might be a time that we can’t buy the weapon system that we want, so we better build up our indigenous defense industry capability,” Huang said.

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