A US defense contractor yesterday denied local reports that efforts by Taiwan to procure two additional PAC-3 air defense batteries were jeopardized by political bickering and a lack of funds.
The Chinese-language United Daily News on Monday wrote that since the US had agreed to sell two additional Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems in January last year, the military had had difficulty raising enough money to complete the deal, as the cost of acquisition allegedly exceeded the military’s budget by as much as 40 percent.
The report cited military sources as saying that the military had lobbied the Pentagon to lower the price for the two batteries on several occasions, but that little progress had been made, adding that the Ministry of National Defense would have to increase its budget for the acquisition and that delivery could be deferred.
US authorities have warned Taipei that if it failed to make any progress by the end of this year, the purchase price could be -invalidated and subsequent orders could be higher, the report said.
The two firing units are part of the US$6.4 billion arms package agreed by the administration of US President Barack Obama in January last year. In addition to fire units, one training unit and 114 PAC-3 missiles were included in the US$2.8 billion deal.
The two batteries are to complete a total of six PAC-3 defense systems sought by Taiwan following notification in October 2008 of four fire units and 330 PAC-3 missiles for US$3.1 billion.
At the heart of the alleged funding shortfall is the three-year boycott by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of the NT$120 billion (US$4.14 billion) budget for the missile defense program in the legislature from 2004 until 2007, the paper said. When the budget was finally released in 2007, Taiwan discovered that the unit cost for the PAC-3 system had gone up substantially. Legislators later claimed that cost overruns, estimated at US$800 million, were added to a draft of the letter of acceptance (LOA) for the 2008 deal, resulting in further delays.
Contacted for comment, an official at Raytheon, the US defense firm that manufactures the Patriot ground systems, said it was their understanding that the purchase of the two fire units was “on track.”
That position was echoed by a US-based source familiar with the situation, who told the Taipei Times last night that the program was in the final stages and on schedule to be signed this fall.
The ministry on Monday denied the reports and said it was proceeding with the purchase.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp, the maker of the “hit-to-kill” PAC-3 missile, are the two principal firms involved in the sale.
Taiwan is scheduled to field the first four PAC-3 batteries by 2014. Raytheon is also in the process of upgrading Taiwan’s three PAC-2 missile batteries, acquired in the 1990s, to PAC-3 configuration.
The ministry was forced to deny similar rumors in May after KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) claimed that budgetary issues could force delays to three major procurement programs — UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and the PAC-3 batteries.
SURPRISE GUEST: Media reports identified the visitor as Admiral Michael Studeman, director of the J2, which oversees intelligence at the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command A two-star US Navy admiral overseeing US military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan, two sources told Reuters on Sunday. The sources, who include a Taiwanese official familiar with the situation, said the official was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman. They were speaking on condition of anonymity. After initially saying on Sunday night that it had no comment about the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed the visit of an “unidentified US official,” but declined to give more details because the trip “has not been made public.” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) yesterday
AUTUMN STRUGGLE: The KMT and TPP set up stages on the rally’s sidelines, while Want Want boss Tsai Eng-meng said the DPP was curtailing freedom of speech Tens of thousands of people in Taipei yesterday took part in the “Autumn Struggle” (秋鬥) — an annual protest march by labor groups — but with this year’s focus on rejecting the government’s plan to allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine residue. “Against poisonous pork, against double standards, against a party-state,” the protesters, mostly wearing black, chanted in front of the rally’s main stage on Ketagalan Boulevard at about noon, before a parade set off at 2pm. Autumn Struggle spokesperson Lee Chien-cheng (李建誠) said this year’s march was divided into three teams, with the first team urging food safety and labor
DEFENSE: The construction of indigenous submarines will be a testament to the nation’s commitment to safeguard its sovereignty, President Tsai Ing-wen said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday presided over a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine at state-run shipbuilder CSBC Corp’s (台灣國際造船) shipyard in Kaohsiung. “This submarine is an important part of allowing our navy to develop asymmetric warfare and to intimidate and block enemy ships from surrounding Taiwan’s main island,” Tsai said. “With the construction of the submarine to its future commission, we will certainly let the world know our persistence in safeguarding our sovereignty.” Tsai has made boosting the nation’s indigenous defense capacity a central pillar of her defense policy. She recently relaunched the
TIMELINE QUESTIONS: Chen Shih-chung said: ‘If anyone could assure us that we could get the shots in the first quarter of next year, we could set off firecrackers’ Taiwan has secured nearly 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported five new imported infections among travelers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that Taiwan on Monday signed a procurement contract with a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer and paid a deposit to secure 10 million doses. It was the first contract finalized with a manufacturer and negotiations are under way with three other vaccine makers, Chen said. With the more than 4.6 million doses that can be obtained through the COVAX platform —