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DEFENSE/U.S. approves sales of two kinds of suicide drones to Taiwan

06/19/2024 12:00 PM
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A Switchblade 300 (SB300) drone. Image from Wikimedia Commons
A Switchblade 300 (SB300) drone. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) The United States government has approved the potential sales of two types of suicide drones to Taiwan worth an estimated US$360.2 million that would serve as a deterrence to a potential Chinese invasion, Taiwan's military said Wednesday.

It was the 15th time, and the third since Taiwan's Jan. 13 presidential and legislative elections, that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has approved an arms sale to Taiwan.

In a press release, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the latest package includes 720 Switchblade 300 (SB300) loitering munition systems and 101 SB300 fire control systems (FCS).

A loitering munition is designed to loiter around a target area and then attack the target when spotted.

The package also included operator and maintenance training; logistics and fielding support; and technical assistance, field service representatives and other related elements of logistics and program support, worth an estimated US$60.2 million.

Another approved arms package comprised 291 Altius 600M-V systems, consisting of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) loitering munition with extensible warhead and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera.

The package also includes Altius 600 inert training UAVs; pneumatic integrated launch systems (PILS); PILS transport trailers; ground control systems; and other logistics and program support, worth an estimated US$300 million.

The proposed sales will help "improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region" and improve the recipient's "ability to meet current and future threats," it said.

The DSCA said it had notified the U.S. Congress of the potential sale and the principal contractors have been identified as California-based AeroVironment, Inc. and Anduril, located in Atlanta.

A U.S. Marine launches a SB300 drone at a California base in September 2020. Image from Wikimedia Commons
A U.S. Marine launches a SB300 drone at a California base in September 2020. Image from Wikimedia Commons

In thanking Washington for approving the sales, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) described the drones as a new tactical option for militaries around the world that can strengthen deterrence in combination with other precision missile systems.

The U.S.' decision to sell the drones with reconnaissance and immediate strike capabilities will help Taiwan respond more quickly to enemy threats, the MND said in a press release.

The MND also thanked the U.S. government for significantly shortening the related review process leading up to the approval of the two packages for Taiwan, it said.

With the notification of the sales to Congress, they will undergo a 30-day congressional review period, and then if Congress gives the go-ahead, the U.S. government will send the foreign purchaser an official letter of offer and acceptance.

That will lead to a process culminating in the signing of a final contract and delivery terms. There was no indication Wednesday of how long that process could take.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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