Tue, Apr 09, 2019 - Page 3 News List

US may approve tank sale by end of April: official

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The US is expected to approve the sale of 108 M1A2X Abrams main battle tanks to Taiwan by the end of this month, despite foreign media reports that US-China trade negotiations would delay US arms sales to Taiwan, a defense official said on Sunday.

As the government has received information that Taiwan’s procurement of battle tanks would not be affected by the trade talks, the military is optimistic that the deal would proceed as scheduled, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), who chairs the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said that he had not heard of any delays to Taiwan’s acquisition of Lockheed-Martin F-16V jets or M1A2X tanks.

According to a recent report to the legislature, the Ministry of National Defense said that it expects to obtain the tanks from next year to 2028 via government-to-goverment arms sales.

The M1A2X is a special export configuration of the M1A2 SEPv3, the latest Abrams line variant, the defense official said.

The new tanks would equip two armored brigades tasked with conducting counter-amphibious operations in northern Taiwan, including the Taipei metropolitan area, the official added.

According to publicly available reports, the M1A2 SEPv3 — lately renamed the M1A2C — possesses an improved thermal imager, fire control system and turret armor, as well as Trophy active protection systems, which shoot down incoming missiles and rockets.

While the M1A2X’s 120mm smoothbore gun offers significant firepower advantages over the 105mm rifle employed by the tanks currently in service, the ministry would have to open new production lines to supply its ammunition, the official said.

The ministry has plans to upgrade the domestic arms industry’s assembly lines with a mixture of domestic and licensed technology to enable the manufacture of 120mm shells, with a view toward becoming self-sufficient in turret and gun maintenance, the official said.

The dimensions and weight of the new tanks would also cause issues on most of the nation’s roads and railways due to legal and technical restrictions regarding clearance and weight loads, necessitating additional procurements of tank transports from the US, the official said.

Taiwan first asked to purchase M1A1/A2 tanks during the administration of then-US president George W. Bush, the official said, adding that the unsuccessful bid was for 200 tanks to fully equip four tank battalions.

The government again asked the administration of then-US president Barack Obama, this time for 120 tanks, but the deal fell through largely due to internal dissent from the military, the official said.

The military briefly contemplated upgrading the M60A3 tanks to modern standards, but abandoned the program after its estimated cost was found to greatly exceed that of buying M1A1/A2s, the official said.

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