Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) yesterday confirmed that Taiwan has requested a purchase of M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the US, in a bid to beef up its defense capabilities.
During a hearing of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Yen said that the Paladin has the specifications, such as a quick reload and big firepower, to meet Taiwan’s territorial defense needs.
However, Yen did not disclose how many of the self-propelled M109A6 howitzers Taiwan was hoping to buy from the US.
The deal was first reported by Chinese-language media in July.
Reports said that Taiwan was planning to buy 100 howitzers, but the Ministry of Defense did not confirm the reports.
In response to legislators’ questions, Republic of China Army Chief of Staff Yang Hai-ming (楊海明) said that the army’s rangefinder and positioning systems are partly digitized and that equipment could be upgraded to maximize the capabilities of the Paladin artillery.
Taiwan’s army units have M109A5, M109A2, M114 and M110A2 howitzers in their inventories, with the M109A5 being the newest.
The army ordered the M109A5s in 1996, the year of the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, and took delivery of them in 1998.
Compared with the M109A5, the Paladin is superior with regards to reliability, availability, maintainability, armament and survivability, said a military source, who asked to remain anonymous.
The Paladin can fire a round within 60 seconds while on the move, and its “shoot and scoot” capability enables it to avoid counter-battery fire, the source said, adding that it it has a range of 30km using assisted rounds.
Yen’s confirmation of the plan to buy the Paladin howitzers follows the US’ approval of two arms packages to Taiwan in the past two months, which include 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 66 F-16 Block 70/72 jets.
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