Drone sale will help U.S.-Taiwan wartime information-sharing: expert
Taipei, Nov. 5 (CNA) A proposed maritime drone sale approved by the U.S. Tuesday will pave the way for Taiwan and the U.S. to engage in intelligence-sharing during wartime, a local military expert said Thursday.
The U.S. government announced plans that day to sell Taiwan four MQ-9B Sea Guardian remotely piloted aircraft and related equipment at an estimated cost of US$600 million.
This is the third U.S. arms sale to Taiwan in two weeks and the 10th since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
The deal would also be the first such sale since the Trump administration loosened export rules for military drones amid its trade war with China.
In an article published online by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research Thursday, Hsieh Pei-shiue (謝沛學), an assistant research fellow at the military-affiliated think tank, said the latest decision is the most important arms deal Washington has authorized with Taipei in recent years as part of its ongoing "Fortress Taiwan" plan to enable Taiwan to serve as a military counterbalance to Chinese forces.
According to Hsieh, in recent years, China has built up its anti-access/area denial capabilities with the aim of preventing American and allied military forces from operating freely in the airspace and waters near China's coastline.
As a countermeasure, the U.S. military has been strengthening partnerships in the First Island Chain which involves deploying missiles in Japan's south western islands and islands along the chain to prevent Chinese maritime expansion, according to Hsieh's article.
This is why the U.S. has recently approved a number of arms sale packages with long-range precision-strike capabilities to Taiwan, among them AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) Missiles; HIMARS rocket launchers; Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) M57 Unitary Missiles; and Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems (HCDS).
All of these missile systems, together with locally-made Hsiung Feng II and III missiles, have a range greater than 250 kilometers, meaning they can strike military bases and radars located in Chinese coastal provinces should China attack Taiwan.
They can also serve as deterrent to prevent Chinese military vessels from entering waters off eastern Taiwan, he wrote.
The latest deal, the MQ-9B unmanned aerial drone that comes with MX-20 multi-spectral targeting systems and spares; SeaVue maritime multi-role patrol radars; SAGE 750 electronic surveillance measures (ESM) systems; as well as Ku-Band SATCOM GA-ASI transportable Earth stations (GATES), is an important piece of the puzzle to achieve the goal of preventing Beijing's maritime expansion, according to Hsieh.
The drone is capable of satellite communication links that are shared among U.S. allies, meaning Taiwan military and its U.S. counterparts can instantly share battlefield intelligence, providing opportunities for the two sides to closely cooperate during wartime, according to the article.
For instance, should a cross-strait war break out, Washington could take advantage of anti-ship missile systems deployed along the First Island Chain to prevent People's Liberation Army's (PLA) ships from sailing into waters east of Taiwan to blockade the island.
In addition, MQ-9Bs are capable of long-term long-range surveillance, meaning the drones can fly near Chinese vessels to provide critical intelligence to the U.S. enabling them to be targeted, Hsieh added.
Should PLA forces cross the First Island Chain and begin a blockade of Taiwan, the drones can also provide intelligence to U.S. forces so they can send bombers and aircraft to target PLA ships to relieve pressure on the Taiwanese military units engaging PLA forces, according to the article.
The article concluded by suggesting local armed forces should regularly move the MQ-9B Sea Guardians from one base to another, while ensuring they use different surveillance routes each time to make their movements more unpredictable and harder for Chinese forces to detect.
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