May 28, 2015
Taiwan Launches Ambitious Plans For New Weapons In All Fronts, Cleared to Buy C-27J
Some requirements are awaiting sale notification to the US Congress or are still working through the Ministry of National Defense's internal programming process. Those include:
• MH-60R naval helicopters.
• Aircraft-deployed mines, such as the Quickstrike series.
• Shipboard electronic warfare system upgrades, such as the SLQ-32.
• Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
• Tactical datalink systems as part of a follow-on to the Po Sheng C4ISR upgrade program, now more commonly referred to as "Shyun An" or "Xun An."
Among the Chinese programs spurring Taiwan's response are Su-35 fighter aircraft and long-range S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. Chinese efforts in the South China Sea have also driven requirements for more ships and submarines, though these will be largely indigenous build programs.
Defense sources indicate Taiwan is interested in acquiring an additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopter, presumably as replacement for the unit lost in a training accident in 2014.
Taiwan needs to start replacing its fighter trainers in the next few years, but the Air Force has not announced a selection process for new trainers to replace aging F-5 fighters and AT-3 attack trainers, though plans for a tentative budget have been announced by Air Force officials for 2017.
The Air Force uses its F-5E/F fighters and AT-3 jet trainers for training before moving forward to one of three fighters: F-16A/Bs, Mirage 2000-5s or indigenous defense fighters.
The Air Force has said it wants to procure 68 advanced jet trainers for advanced training, lead-in and operations transitioning training, Shih said.
At present, there are three candidates: the US Air Force's T-X program, which is still under development; the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master; and the T-50 Golden Eagle built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin.
Taiwan's Air Force also has a requirement to replace aging single-engine propeller-driven Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor trainers procured from the US in the 1980s. The T-34 squadron has suffered numerous fatal accidents over the past several years. The Beechcraft AT-6 is the most likely candidate.
Taiwan also has been pursuing a procurement for six C27J Spartan medium-transport aircraft, along with an indigenous training and maintenance package, to replace the Air Force's Fokker 50 VIP aircraft. The US government has released the C-27J for Taiwan, but the Air Force is awaiting financing, which has been hampered by the cost of recent upgrades to its indigenous defense fighters and upcoming upgrades to its F-16A/B fighter fleet.