Taiwan is planning to boost its defensive capabilities by acquiring long-range artillery pieces from the US, the country’s defence minister has confirmed.
Yen Teh-fa told the country’s defence committee that the armed forces would look to purchase the BAE Systems M109A6 Paladin howitzer from the US.
The purchase would build on a series of arms deals with the US, including the acquisition of Javelin missiles, 66 F-16V fighter jets and 108 M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks.
Weapons sales from the US to Taiwan have repeatedly sparked anger in Beijing, with the China placing sanctions on US defence contractors involved in earlier sales of tanks and anti-tank missiles.
The Taipei Times reported that Taiwan could be looking to purchase as many as 100 howitzers; however, the minister did not confirm any numbers.
Taiwan says it needs the howitzers from the US to maintain its defensive capabilities in response to China developing rocket artillery which could strike the Island.
The People’s Republic of China does not recognise Taiwan – officially the Republic of China – as a separate state but views it as breakaway province. China’s recent national defence white paper reasserted claims of sovereignty and the country has refused to rule out the use of force to reunify the countries.
According Defense News Taiwan’s Armed Forces already operate a range of artillery including M109A2 and M109A5, older variants of the Paladin, along with M110A2 self-propelled howitzers and towed M114 howitzers. Taiwan’s most modern artillery piece, the M109A5, entered service over 20 years ago.
Despite the range of equipment, the M109A6 will deliver advanced capabilities to Taiwan with its increased armour and faster rate of fire. The M109A6 can fire one round a minute while moving with a range of around 30km.
As part of its relationship with Taiwan, the US is mandated to assist the country by supplying defence and military equipment.
The confirmation of the request comes as China gears up to showcase its military power tomorrow as part of the country’s 70th National Day Parade on 1 October.
During the parade, China is expected to unveil new military equipment including the Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) intercontinental ballistic missile and the J-20 stealth fighter aircraft.