Patriot missile maintenance important for Taiwan air defense: experts

04/06/2022 06:18 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 6 (CNA) Defense experts told CNA Wednesday that Taiwan needs to continue to receive equipment and services to maintain its United States-made Patriot missile air defense system, as it is the nation's primary defense against an initial Chinese missile attack should a cross-strait war break out.

The experts' comments came after the U.S. government announced Tuesday that it has approved a US$95 million arms sale package to Taiwan focused on maintaining the Patriot missile system.

Three defense experts told CNA that a deal involving logistic support, maintenance and spare parts is crucial for Taiwan's operation of the missile system, which is the first line of defense for the country in intercepting incoming Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exposed the latter's lack of a mid to long range missile defense system, which makes Ukraine vulnerable to Russian missile attacks.

Compared with Ukraine, Taiwan's Patriot missile system allows the island to intercept incoming missiles, although there is some disagreement as to the efficacy of the system.

In addition to the imported system, Taiwan's Air Force is equipped with indigenous developed Tien-Kung II & III, also known as Sky Bow long range surface-to-air missiles. These complement the Patriot missile system to establish more comprehensive air defenses against China, Su said.

Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow with the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, said Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles are smaller, more agile, more accurate and deploy in larger numbers which makes them highly effective against ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, the indigenous Sky Bow missile is capable of intercepting both incoming enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles, he added.

According to Chou Yu-ping (周宇平) a retired Air Force colonel from the defense ministry's missile defense command, Taiwan currently deploys both the PAC-3 and the upgraded PAC-2 systems.

Both PAC-2 and PAC-3 have shown in battle that they are capable of intercepting missiles, he said.

On March 2021, Taiwan's military confirmed that it has reached a deal with the U.S. to buy an upgraded version of PAC-3; namely, PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles, with deliveries to start in 2025 and deployment the following year.

The latest arms deal announced Tuesday by Washington could also mean the U.S. will send personnel to Taiwan soon to prepare for the upcoming PAC-3 upgrades, Chieh said.

Tuesday's deal was the third arms package approved since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

The first package, in August 2021, cost US$750 million and was for 40 Paladin M109A6 self-propelled howitzers.

The second package, in February, cost US$100 million and included equipment and services to support participation in the Patriot International Engineering Services Program (IESP) and Field Surveillance Program (FSP) for five years.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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