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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Taiwan Buys 400 Harpoon Missiles to Deter China

Taiwan has long been a point of contention between the US and China, with China claiming it as part of its territory. In a move to strengthen its defense against a potential Chinese invasion, Taiwan is set to purchase 400 land-launched Harpoon missiles. The deal, which was approved by Congress in 2020, is worth $1.7 billion and marks the first acquisition of the mobile, land-launched version of the missiles by Taiwan.

The Harpoon missiles, which are manufactured by Boeing Co., have previously been purchased by Taiwan in their ship-launched form. However, this new contract, issued on Taiwan’s behalf by the US Naval Air Systems Command, will provide Taiwan with a new level of defense capabilities. The missiles are designed to be mobile and can be rapidly deployed, making them an ideal defense against potential ground and sea invasions.

The acquisition of the land-launched Harpoon missiles by Taiwan comes amid heightened tensions between the US and China, particularly over Taiwan. In recent months, China has conducted military drills around Taiwan, and tensions have risen following a meeting between Taiwan’s president and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. The US has been vocal in its support of Taiwan’s sovereignty, and this deal is seen as a further step in strengthening Taiwan’s defense capabilities.

“The United States’ provision to Taiwan of defense articles, which includes sustainment to existing capabilities via Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales, is essential for Taiwan’s security, Meiners said.

Members of Congress, including Representative Michael McCaul, who serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have cited the Harpoon contract as part of a potential $19 billion in “backlogged US sales to Taiwan” that need to be accelerated. The list of sales includes not only the Harpoon, but also the F-16 Block 70 fighter, the MK-48 torpedo, the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, and the Stinger missile. The House Armed Service Committee, which is focusing on the Indo-Pacific, is likely to discuss the backlog and the Harpoon sale during a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Last year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies conducted a series of tabletop war games focused on a potential invasion of Taiwan by China. During these exercises, ground-launched Harpoon missiles were used for coastal defense and were found to be highly effective against Chinese invasion forces due to their mobility and ability to range the entire strait. Analyst Mark Cancian, who managed the exercises, noted that the missiles also reduced the need to station US forces on the island. However, Cancian believes that 400 missiles are not nearly enough and that Taiwan needs many more.

In March 2022, a $498 million contract was awarded to Boeing specifically for Taiwan. The contract ordered Harpoon “Coastal Defense System launch equipment” such as mobile transporters, radar, and training equipment. This contract was followed by the $1.7 billion weapons contract for Harpoon missiles.

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