Tue, Jul 09, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Army to upgrade Patton tanks to build up forces

LEGACY PLATFORMS:The bulk of the nation’s armored forces would be comprised of older tanks even if new Abrams main battle tanks are purchased

By Aaron Tu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A M60A3 Patton tank fires during an exercise on Jan. 17.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The army is to upgrade its M60A3 Patton tanks as part of a five-year plan to build up its combat forces, army generals told Control Yuan President Chang Po-ya (張博雅) at a conference in Kinmen County on June 28.

The conference took place after Chang and members of the Control Yuan National Defense and Intelligence Committee toured an outpost guarded by the Lieyu Defense Team of the Kinmen Defense Command.

When questioned by committee members about the army’s tanks becoming obsolete, the generals told them the military is planning to upgrade its M60A3 tanks, although it has yet to decide the type of upgrades and the number of tanks to be upgraded.

The program is in the early stages of conceptual planning, they said, adding that battle requirements would guide the military in identifying what improvements are needed for its tanks.

Although the Ministry of National Defense plans to buy 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks from the US and has tendered a letter of request to Washington, the bulk of the army’s armored units would continue to be equipped with legacy platforms after the service acquires new tanks.

The army’s frontline tank fleet consists of 480 M60A3s, 450 CM11s, or modified M48 turrets mated to M60 chassis, and 250 CM12s, or C11 turrets mated to M48 hulls, according to the Defense Industry Daily Web site.

The fundamental technology used in the tanks dates back to the 1940s and 1950s, and their 105mm rifled gun is mostly unable to cope with modern battle tanks, while their armor plating does not utilize composite materials used in modern armored fighting vehicles.

The army in 2017 expressed an interest in upgrading its M60A3 tanks with 120mm smoothbore guns, which have replaced 105mm guns in most Western armies, as well as new turrets, turret hydraulics and ballistics computers.

However, the project’s price tag of NT$100 million (US$3.21 million at the current exchange rate) per tank apparently put off top brass and it did not appear in the nation’s defense budget in the years since.

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