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Taiwan Is Getting New American-Made Tanks

July 17, 2019

Via Wikimedia Commons.

In another rebuff to China, the US’ main arms exporting agency published details of a $2 billion deal for 108 “M1A2T” main battle tanks with TECRO or the semi-official embassy of Taiwan. This removes any doubt that Washington, DC is choosing caution over commitment when supporting one of its oldest allies in the Asia Pacific. On top of the 108 M1A2T tanks are 14 M88A2 recovery vehicles, 16 M1070A1 transporters and another 16 semi-trailers to go with them. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) included a detailed list of ordnance and subsystems to go with the tanks and, with no trace of irony, mentioned how “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The ROC Army fields more than a thousand tanks, most of them are aging M48A5 Pattons, and the arrival of M1A2T’s is a strong deterrent against a ground invasion by the PLA.

Aside from the tanks the DSCA published another arms deal worth $223.56 million to supply the ROC Army with 250 Stinger SAMs. When combined, the value of these new pending sales totals $2,223,560,000. When taking stock of US arms sales to Taiwan since 2010 the volume is staggering. By 2013 deliveries of AH-64E Guardian attack helicopters and UH-60M Blackhawks commenced with Taipei footing the entire $5.6 billion cost. Then in 2019 the upcoming sale of 66 F-16V multirole fighters for the ROC Air Force was hyped but never confirmed; the value could reach several billion dollars.

In total, the US is selling more than $15 billion worth of armaments to Taiwan and assisting it in other military-related programs such as the ongoing efforts at designing an attack submarine. As for the mysterious M1A2T battle tanks, they might not be too different from the US Army’s own M1A2 SEPv2, but the DSCA did specify the ammunition to be delivered with the vehicles. These include:

  • 7,862 120mm KEW-AI rounds
  • 1,966 CA38 canister rounds
  • 864 smoke grenade rounds
  • 828 IMHE-T rounds
  • 828 M830AI HEAT rounds
  • 621 M865 rounds
  • 572 M1002 rounds
  • 359 M831A1 HEAT rounds
  • 3.6 million rounds of machine gun ammunition (.50 and 7.62mm)

Of course, China wasted no time expressing its displeasure at the US government for arming a separate country it deems a “rogue province” that must be annexed in the near future. Beijing’s foreign ministry spared no words condemning the arms sales that “violated international law, the basic norms of international relations, the ‘One China’ principle and the three joint communiques between China and the US, and undermined China’s sovereignty and national security.”

The foreign ministry leveled threats too and promised sanctions on the contractors involved– General Dynamics Land Systems, Oshkosh, and Raytheon.

The outpouring of US support for Taiwan is helping the island nation sustain its defensive posture while it develops its own advanced weapon systems for stopping China’s aggression. Three particular efforts stand out: an unnamed diesel-electric submarine, the Sky Bow III, and the Wan Chien. The local shipyard CSBC Corp. is undertaking a lengthy project to design and assemble a class of diesel-electric submarines with input from Japanese advisers. This is aside from separate efforts to build new surface vessels needed by the ROC Navy that includes a landing platform dock (LPD) for amphibious operations and a missile destroyer with robust anti-air/missile capability.

To further secure the country’s borders, the Sky Bow III anti-ballistic missile defense system is supposed to complete Taiwan’s ground-based countermeasures against China’s overwhelming concentration of bombers and missiles. Another asset is the Wan Chien air-launched cruise missile to be carried by the ROC Air Force’s Ching-Kuo and F-16C/D fighters. The subsonic Wan Chien is part of a growing selection of long-range precision missiles allowing Taiwan’s military to hit back at the PLA’s bases in mainland China.

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