Taiwan Forced to Go Howitzer-Free as US Military-Industrial Complex Pumps Out Guns for Kiev: Reports
12:12 GMT 02.05.2022 (Updated: 12:32 GMT 02.05.2022)
© US Army/Lt. Col. Matthew DevivoThe M109 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer standing ready deep in the southern training areas at Fort Bragg. Nine National Guard troops from North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois and New Jersey are attending the 13 Bravo artillery military occupational specialty (MOS) reclassification course and will learn how to be a crew member on the three main “cannon” artillery weapons systems in the U.S. Army: The M119A3 105mm light towed howitzer, M777A2 155mm medium towed howitzer and the M109A6 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Over the course of two days in the field, students will fire hundreds of rounds from all three weapons.
On Saturday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington asked the Biden administration to halt the supply of weapons to Taiwan, warning that the People’s Republic reserves the right to respond to such provocative behaviour. Beijing considers Taiwan an integral part of China destined for eventual peaceful reunification with the mainland.
Taiwanese authorities are searching for a stopgap alternative to US-sourced M109A6 self-propelled howitzers amid delays to the latter’s delivery, the island’s Ministry of National Defence announced Monday.
“In response to media reports on the case of the M109A6 self-propelled guns arms sale, the Ministry of National Defence said today that the M109A6 arms purchase [by Taiwan] was crowded out in the production line. The US side informs us that this system will not be delivered to the Republic of China until 2026 at the earliest”, the ministry said in a statement published on its website.
In connection with this, the MoD said it is “carefully considering” alternatives for long-range systems, such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) – a truck-mounted MLRS. The Defence Ministry stressed that a budget proposal will be submitted to the legislature after a discussion on alternatives is carried out by the military.
The Biden administration approved a $750 million package of arms sales to Taiwan in August 2021, among them 40 M109A6 self-propelled howitzers, also known as Paladins, with the first eight expected to be sent in 2023 and 16 more in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
The US also approved the sale of 11 M142s to Taiwan in late 2020, with those systems also yet to be delivered.
Taiwanese media blamed the delays on the US military-industrial complex’s focus on sending arms to Ukraine, with some outlets going so far as to suggest that the 2021 arms deal had effectively been “cancelled”.
The delay in the delivery of M109A6s follows a report by DefenseNews in mid-April citing US officials and documentation that COVID-related production issues were being blamed for a $14.2 billion backlog in the production and delivery of military equipment to Taiwan which the island ordered as far back as 2019.
Among the delayed equipment are $8 billion-worth of F-16 fighter jets (Taiwan wants 66 of them), as well as $620 million for Taiwan’s Patriot missile system stocks. Other systems Taiwan has already bought and paid for, but has yet to receive, include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, advanced anti-ship torpedoes, and a field information communication system.
Ukraine on the Brain
The Biden administration has approved billions of dollars in military equipment deliveries to Kiev in recent weeks, including heavy weapons such as 99 155mm howitzers, 183,000 shells, and the vehicles to tow the guns, tactical and kamikaze drones, laser-guided rockets, Mi-17 helicopters originally purchased for Afghanistan, 200 M113 armoured personnel carriers, over 50 million rounds of ammunition, and claymore mines.
Last week, the White House requested an additional $33 billion in Ukraine "aid", including over $20 billion for military equipment for Ukraine and replenishing stocks in the US and other NATO allies, plus $8.5 billion in economic assistance, and $3 billion for humanitarian aid – to be paid out to countries taking in Ukrainian refugees. The $33 billion request, which still needs congressional approval, is on top of the $14 billion already authorised to date.
Beijing has repeatedly warned the US against the supply of arms to Taiwan, and has blasted the US Navy and Coast Guard for sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait. The People’s Republic considers Taiwan an integral part of China destined for eventual peaceful reunification with the mainland. On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that the US and the UK had carried out high-level talks about the alleged "Chinese threat" to Taiwan.
1 May 2022, 09:11 GMT
Taiwan, which formally calls itself the "Republic of China", broke off from the mainland in 1949 after the victory of communist forces in the Chinese Civil War. Beijing and Taipei spent the next several decades bickering over which of them has the right of recognition as the one true China. The United Nations formally recognised the PRC as such in 1971, with the US moving to do so in 1979, while continuing to maintain a close diplomatic and military partnership with Taipei.