The Ministry of National Defense is to downsize garrisons on outlying islands and in riverside defense areas, while shoring up and possibly assigning frontline duties to automated defense systems to make up for the smaller military presence, sources said.
All personnel on outlying islands and in river defense zones would be reassigned to maintaining and holding secondary lines of defense, ministry officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The decision was made in response to decreasing rates of childbirth and the diminishing size of the standing army following army modernization programs and organizational reforms, the sources said.
They said the ministry in August approved a NT$725 million (US$23.41 million) budget for the purchase of six automated close-range defense systems and two joint forces management systems, as well as repurposing and new construction of bunkers.
The acquisitions would help maintain long-range precision firepower and allow the military to engage the enemy while at sea, the sources said, adding that such capabilities would otherwise have declined due to aging equipment.
The defense system, developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, was tested in 2014, with live-fire trials conducts at a base on Kinmen County’s Wuciou Island (烏坵) and at the Joint Forces Training Base in Pingtung County.
The army is the first military branch to order the system after four years of assessment, while other branches are still assessing its viability, the sources said.
The system has two variants: one designed for the army and one for the navy, the sources said, adding that its main weapon is the locally made T-75 20mm autocannon and buyers have the option of selecting the single-barrel XTR-101 or the twin-barrel XTR-102.
The turrets can be remotely controlled from within a bunker, making their operation significantly less dangerous for soldiers, the officials added.
The system features a concentrated firing mechanism, allowing one operator to take over operation of several systems at once to aim a concentrated barrage at priority targets, the sources said.
While the system does not use new technology, it is low-cost and employs electro-optic technology, one of Taiwan’s strong suits, the officials said, adding that the system uses weapons systems already in use by the military, greatly reducing costs.
The expenses would be spread out over the 2019-to-2021 fiscal years, the sources said.