A proposed arms package sale approved by the US Department of State on Wednesday would help Taiwan improve its long-range counterstrike capability in the event of an attack, security analysts said on Thursday.
If approved by the US Congress, the package — which has 135 AGM-84H SLAM-ER, 11 HIMARS M142 launchers and six MS-110 Recce Pods — would also represent a milestone in US-Taiwan military cooperation, the analysts said.
“To date, the US has only sold passive defense systems to Taiwan, but this time, the package includes air-to-ground long-range weapons,” said Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an associate research fellow at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
Previously, such weapons could not be sold to Taiwan as they defined as defensive arms, he said, citing as an example the SLAM-ER, or standoff land-
attack missile expanded-response, which is a precision-guided air-launched cruise missile with an operational range of 270km.
The HIMARS, or high-mobility artillery rocket system, which is difficult for enemy forces to locate because of its mobility, has the capability to launch a second strike and is viewed as a key deterrent to any enemy attack, Su said.
Wednesday’s announcement was made by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which said that it had officially notified Congress that the state department had approved a US$1.81 billion package of three weapons systems.
The proposal requires the approval of Congress before the US can proceed with the sale.
National Policy Foundation research fellow Chieh Chung (揭仲) said that the new weapons systems would increase Taiwan’s firepower at enemy debarking areas.
While the arms deal signals closer Taiwan-US military cooperation, it is also indicative of US efforts to implement its Indo-Pacific strategy, he said.
“The US wants to quell China’s military expansion,” he said. “One of the ways of achieving that without burdening itself is to help countries adjacent to China strengthen their military capabilities.”
Arms sales to such countries would give them a role in countering China’s military influence and preserving the US’ influence, he added.
While the new weapons systems would bolster Taiwan’s long-range striking capability, they need to be properly safeguarded, as an enemy would seek to disable them first, retired air force lieutenant general Chang Yen-ting (張延廷) said.
In preparation for their delivery, the military needs to increase training, revise its tactics and gain intelligence on hostile targets to strike, he added.
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