MH-60R chopper purchase likely to be canceled due to price
Taipei, May 5 (CNA) A proposal to buy 12 MH-60R anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the United States will likely be canceled due to the high price of the choppers, Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said at a legislative session on Thursday.
The Navy was originally set to allocate NT$34 billion (US$1.15 billion) to buy 12 MH-60Rs to replace its aging anti-submarine choppers.
But a local defense expert in late February told local media that the U.S. State Department had rejected the proposal on the grounds that it "does not conform to the principle of asymmetric combat power."
Asked to comment on the issue by an opposition lawmaker, Chiu confirmed that his ministry was close to dropping the purchase plan but stressed that the reason was not because of U.S. pressure but because the price tag for the procurement was "too high and beyond our capability."
Meanwhile, Chiu also said the military had been pushing the U.S. to honor a contract to deliver 250 Raytheon Technologies Stinger missiles to Taiwan on time after his ministry was recently told that the delivery of the missiles could be delayed, due to high demands from Ukraine for the weapons in defending against Russia.
"It is true that due to the Russia-Ukraine war, we have been told recently that the delivery of Stingers could be delayed," he told lawmakers.
He promised that the ministry would make sure the U.S. would follow all the terms as stipulated in the contract to deliver the missiles on time.
However, the ministry has contingency plans in place to make sure its overall plan to boost the nation's combat readiness would not be jeopardized due to the delay, added Chiu.
The United States approved the sale of 250 Raytheon Technologies Stinger missiles to Taiwan in 2019. Taiwanese media have reported that Taiwan expected the deliveries to be made by 2026.
This is the second time this week Taiwan military has warned of delayed deliveries of U.S. weapons.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Monday that it was recently notified by the U.S. that the M109A6 "Paladin" self-propelled howitzers purchased by Taiwan would not be delivered on time due to inadequate production capacity.
Taiwan's military was originally set to take delivery of the first eight Paladins next year before receiving 16 each in 2024 and 2025.
However, Washington recently notified the MND that it would not be able to deliver the first batch of Paladins to Taiwan until 2026 at the earliest due to inadequate production capability.
Instead, Washington proposed alternative long-range precision strike weapon systems such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which has a strike distance of 300km when carrying M57 Army Tactical Missile Systems.
A local defense expert, Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow with the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, however, said that Paladins and HIMARS are different weapon systems and serve different purposes during war.
HIMARS is a long-range weapon to attack targets behind enemy lines, while the self-propelled howitzers, on the other hand, provide front-line soldiers with close-range attacking ability, he said, adding that the military needs to think carefully before accepting the U.S. offer.
Asked to comment, Chiu said HIMARS was only one of the alternatives being offered by the U.S. to Taiwan to replace the M109A6s and that the ministry was currently evaluating the U.S. proposal before making a final decision, which was expected to be in September.
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