Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) confirmed Monday that Taiwan has requested the purchase of M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the United States, in a bid to beef up its defense capabilities.
During a hearing of the legislative Foreign and National Defense Committee, Yen said the Paladin has the specifications, such as a quick reload and big firepower, to meet Taiwan’s needs for territorial defense.
Yen, however, did not disclose how many of the self-propelled M109A6 howitzers Taiwan is hoping to buy from the U.S.
The Paladin deal was first reported in early July in the local media, which said Taiwan was planning to buy 100 howitzers, but the Ministry of Defense did not confirm the reports at the time.
On Monday, Yang Hai-ming (楊海明), chief of staff of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Army, said in response to legislators’ questions that the army’s rangefinder and positioning systems are partly digitized and that the relevant equipment and training can be upgraded in the future to maximize the capabilities of the Paladin artillery.
Taiwan’s army artillery units currently have M109A5, M109A2, M114 and M110A2 howitzers in their inventories, with the M109A5 being the newest model. The Army ordered the M109A5s in 1996, the year when the Taiwan Strait crisis occurred, and took delivery in 1998.
Compared with the M109A5, the Paladin has superior capability in the areas of Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability (RAM), armament and survivability, according to a military source.
The Paladin can fire the first round from the move within 60 seconds, while its “shoot and scoot” capability allows it to avoid counter-battery fire, and it has a range of 30 kilometers using assisted rounds, the source said.
The defense minister’s confirmation of the plan to buy the Paladin howitzers followed the U.S.’ approval of two potential arms packages to Taiwan over the past two months, which include 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 66 new F-16 Block 70/72 jet fighters.