Fri, Sep 06, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Ministry sets NT$9.8bn to buy reconnaissance pods

By Aaron Tu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of National Defense has proposed a budget of NT$9.8 billion (US$313.3 million) for next year to purchase an as-yet-unspecified number of reconnaissance pods for the air force’s fleet of F-16 jets.

The F-16 jets are currently equipped with AN/VDS-5LOROP-EO pods, which were purchased under Project Feng Yen (鳳眼).

The new pods, said to be a derivative of the DB-110 pod, would alleviate strains on the air force’s maintenance of the current pods, the ministry said.

They would give the fleet greater range, reconnaissance capability at all flight levels, day and nighttime imaging capabilities, as well as live image transmission, it said.

They would also fulfill the air force’s needs, regardless of possible combat environment over the Taiwan Strait or during joint training exercises or peace time, the ministry said.

The air force also plans to allocate NT$1.9 billion to purchase and remodel five more Blackhawk helicopters from next year to 2023.

It currently has five Blackhawk helicopters capable of conducting nighttime search and rescue operations, but said it needs at least 11 helicopters with such capabilities for combat training, search-and-rescue missions and contingency purposes.

The purchase would allow it to rotate helicopters for training, battlefield support and civilian rescue missions, it said.

Meanwhile, research on a variant of the indigenous Clouded Leopard armored vehicle — bearing a 105mm gun — is to commence this year, the ministry said.

The ministry intends to research and develop, as well as manufacture, the variant’s turret by improving on the current design of the CM-11.

The research is to focus on how CM-11 turret is assembled and how the improved edition can be paired with the ministry-researched low-recoil gun.

It is to start with weapon systems planning this year, followed by system integrations and technical assistance next year, general testing in 2021, research and development evaluation in 2022 and combat trial assessment in 2023, the ministry said.

The project is estimated to cost NT$778.8 million and has been included in next year’s budget.

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