The Ministry of National Defense said it would stick to a plan to buy 120 US-made M1A1 Abrams tanks in an estimated NT$33 billion (US$1.08 billion) deal.
The Republic of China (ROC) Army Command Headquarters Office said the program’s budget allocation would be made in 2017, with delivery expected to begin in 2020.
The army plans to purchase 120 second-hand M1A1 tanks from the US military to replace Taiwan’s aging M60A3 and CM-11 “Brave Tiger” main battle tanks and bolster infantry divisions’ combat strength.
Upon delivery, the 120 tanks are to constitute two battalions for deployment at the main ROC infantry base in Hsinchu County’s Hukou Township (湖口), which is tasked with the defense of the capital, Taipei, and northern Taiwan, army officials said.
The original plan was to buy the newer M1A2 tank, which has enhanced electronics and weapons control systems, but it came at a higher price tag, officials said.
The ministry elected to go with M1A1s for the estimated expense of NT$33 billion.
Officials said this follows the path taken by Australia, which upgraded its infantry with second-hand M1A1 tanks that had been kept in storage.
The US performed complete performance tests and systems checks before delivery, it added.
The ministry said it has already made public its intention to pursue the plan, with a tender announcement — labeled as project TLP04001 and calling for the procurement of new main battle tanks — placed on the government’s official procurement Web site.
However, the tender notice did not include the estimated price, or the total number of tanks by the military.
An army official who requested anonymity said the post served to conform with the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法), and referred to the purchase of US M1A1 tanks.
Top military officials have expressed concerns that Taiwan’s aging tanks are no match for China’s new Type 99 and other advanced main battle tanks deployed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, in terms of firepower, defense and other performance indices.
The Army Command Headquarters had presented plans in recent years to upgrade its tanks and other armored vehicles, it said.
A delay arose because most budget allocations went toward acquiring items with higher priority, including AH-64E Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is aware that Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong has weakened any possible sentiment for a “one country, two systems” arrangement for Taiwan, and has instructed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politburo member Wang Huning (王滬寧) to develop new ways of defining cross-strait relations, Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia reported on Thursday. A former professor of international politics at Fu Dan University, Wang is expected to develop a dialogue that could serve as the foundation for cross-strait unification, and Xi plans to use the framework to support a fourth term as president, Nikkei Asia quoted an anonymous source
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