14 July, 2024
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Taiwan to acquire more than 1,000 armed drones in new US arms sale


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The United States has approved the $360 million sale of more than 1,000 small armed drones to Taiwan, as the self-ruled island claimed by China aims to strengthen its asymmetrical warfare abilities with an eye on successful tactics used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Taiwan will receive 720 Switchblade missiles and accompanying fire control systems worth $60.2 million, according to a release from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on Tuesday.

The US will also provide Taiwan with up to 291 Altius 600M loitering munitions and supporting components with a price tag of $300 million, the DSCA said.

The proposed sale comes as China increases military pressure on Taiwan, with extensive military exercises around it and almost daily warplane flights near the island.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims democratic Taiwan as its own, despite never having controlled it, and has vowed to “reunify” with the island, by force if necessary.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington is legally required to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and it supplies Taipei with defensive weaponry.

But the arms sales have drawn angry rebukes from Beijing.

In a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore earlier this month, Chinese Defense Minister Adm. Dong Jun slammed “external interfering forces” for selling arms and having “illegal official contacts” with Taiwan, in an apparent reference to the US.

The Switchblade, which looks like a small fixed-wing drone, is an inexpensive lightweight precision-guided missile that can be launched from a variety of platforms within two minutes, stay aloft for 20 minutes and with a range of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles).

Manufacturer AeroVironment says it has performed well in Ukraine’s defense of Russia’s ongoing invasion.

“We have been gratified by overwhelming user feedback and demand for additional systems,” company CEO Wahid Nawabi said in an April post on AeroVironment’s website.

Meanwhile, the larger Altius 600M can carry “multiple seeker and warhead options” while being launched from land, air and sea platforms, manufacturer Anduril says on its website.

Both drones can also be used for reconnaissance.

In a statement Wednesday, Taiwan’s presidential office thanked the US for its security commitments, adding this was the Biden administration’s 15th weapons sale to the island since 2021.

“Taiwan will continue to strengthen our self-defense and asymmetric warfare capabilities to enhance our deterrence,” presidential office spokeswoman Karen Kuo said. “We will firmly defend our constitutional system of democracy and freedom, and we will work with countries with similar ideals to safeguard the rules-based international order.”

The two systems will join a long backlog of weapons and munitions approved for Taiwan that have yet to be delivered.

A June 3 accounting of US military sales to Taiwan shows more than $19.6 billion in weapons and ammo approved but yet to be delivered to the island’s military, according to the Washington-based Cato Institute think tank.

That includes $6.1 billion in asymmetrical weapon systems, including Harpoon missiles, PAC-3 missile interceptors and MQ-9B aerial drones, Cato said.

Many analysts have urged Taiwan to pursue more asymmetrical weapons, which they say would be harder for China to counter than conventional arms in any invasion of the island.

“However, Taiwan’s military has resisted fully embracing an asymmetric defense posture, and 55 percent of the backlog’s dollar value is for capabilities that are both more expensive and less likely to survive long in a conflict with China,” the Cato brief said.

The post Taiwan to acquire more than 1,000 armed drones in new US arms sale appeared first on Egypt Independent.