The NT$47 billion (US$1.69 billion) budget allotted by the air force for fiscal 2022 to 2027 is to be used to purchase assorted US missiles — ranging from the AGM-88 to the AGM-84H — for its fleet of F-16 jets, which can only carry US-made armaments, the air force said yesterday.
The funding of the “Project to Obtain Ranged Precision Armaments for the F-16 Jet” is in line with the military’s strategy of “defense first, layered deterrence” and the Ministry of National Defense’s “Joint Air Denial” program, the air force said.
The goal is to effectively paralyze targets that pose a threat to Taiwan and to reduce the enemy’s anti-air capabilities, it said.
While the air force has only budgeted NT$550 million for the program in fiscal 2022, the budget is between NT$3.3 billion and NT$21.4 billion a year from 2023 to 2027.
A source speaking on condition of anonymity said that it is highly likely the purchased missiles would be the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), the glide bomb AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), the AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response, the B variant of the AGM-99 and the C variant of the AGM-154.
The source said they deduced the list based on past practices in which the Ministry of National Defense formally announces proposed purchases after the Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the US Department of Defense has released details of an arms sale.
The administration of former US president Donald Trump in June 2017 sold Taiwan AGM-88 HARM and AGM-154 JSOW missiles, as well as AGM-84H missiles last year for a total of US$1.41 billion, the source said.
The ministry’s five-year armament plan also says that it intends to acquire the AGM-84H, the AGM-88B and the AGM-154C for the F-16 jet, the source said.
The ministry’s budget also sets aside NT$21 million from fiscal 2022 to fiscal 2025 to acquire four General Atomics Aeronautical MQ-9B drones, which then-minister of national defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) in November last year said were for “monitoring purposes,” although the budget item is listed as “armed” drones.
The Air Force Command Headquarters’ budget proposal says that it intends to establish a fleet of drones that are capable of staying in the air for prolonged periods, have real-time data and image transmission capabilities, can operate in the day and at night, and can be armed.
The drones, if armed, could provide support during a defensive battle, the air force said.
Meanwhile, the navy has set aside NT$43.1 billion to upgrade its Kangding-class frigates’ anti-air and anti-missile capabilities, the most expansive upgrades made to the frigates in their 25 years of service.
The navy has spread the budget across nine years with the upgrades expected to be completed in 2030.
The frigates are currently armed with Hsiung Feng II anti-surface missiles and Sea Chapparal anti-air missiles.
However, the Sea Chapparal missiles have a range of only 8km and the navy wants to replace them with the domestically developed shipborne variant of the Tien Chien II (Skysword) missile system, which has a range of up to 30km.
This story has been amended since it was first published.
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