Taiwan stacks up large quantities of ground and air-launched precision strike missiles

The US has approved arms sales to Taiwan worth around $1.8 billion, in a move that is likely to increase tensions with China.

The Pentagon said the deal comprised three weapons systems, including rocket launchers, sensors and artillery.

The US Department of State has approved the potential sale to Taiwan of USD1.8 billion worth of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, 135 air-launched AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, and MS-110 multispectral airborne airborne reconnaissance pods, along with related equipment, training, support, and services.

DSCA approves large quantities of missiles

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced approvals for the sale of each system under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme in three separate notifications issued on 21 October amid increasing tensions between Beijing and Taipei over the status of Taiwan. The Chinese government sees the island as a break-away province and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland.

According to the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND), the HIMARS deal will cost an estimated US$436.1 million, and all related equipment is expected to arrive in Taiwan by 2027. The Army Command is in charge of this contract, CNA reported.

Ground-based Harpoon missile.

On 21 October 2020, the DSCA said that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) – Taiwan’s principal representative office in the country – had requested the sale of 11 Lockheed Martin M142 HIMARS launchers, 64 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMSs) M57 unitary missiles, seven M1152Al Humvees, 11 M240B 7.62 MM machine guns, and 17 International Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (IFATDSs).

Just five days later, Washington allowed Taipei to purchase up to 100 HCDS and 400 RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II surface launched missiles.

Meanwhile, the HCDS sale will be overseen by the Navy Command and cost approximately US$2.37 billion, with delivery of these missile systems to be completed by 2028. No other details about the arms sales were given due to their confidential nature.

The HIMARS is a highly mobile artillery rocket system that can fire six rockets or one ATACMS missile. It is capable of attacking enemy artillery, air defenses, light armor vehicles, and troops, according to Army Technology.

Meanwhile, the HCDS is the land-based version of the Harpoon missile Block II. The missile is capable of eliminating enemy coastal defenses, surface-to-air missile launch sites, aircraft, ports, and docked ships, Naval Technology wrote.

While the US does sell Taiwan arms, and has an implicit security guarantee, it does not have a formal defence treaty with Taiwan as it does with Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Both the HIMARS and HCDS will increase Taiwan’s asymmetric warfare capabilities, per Taiwanese MND.

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