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Shortly after getting approval to purchase High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) M142 Launchers and 135 AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, Taiwan will receive 100 HARPOON Coastal Defence Systems (HCDS) and related equipment for an estimated cost of US$2.37bn. The U.S. Government has given the go ahead to sell the HCDS, consisting of up to 400 RGM-84L-4 HARPOON Block II Surface Launched Missiles and four RTM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Exercise Missiles. The deal also includes:

  • 411 containers
  • 100 HCDS Launcher Transporter Units
  • 25 radar trucks
  • Spare and repair parts
  • Support and test equipment

Backlash Against Taiwan

All these defence deals come at a time when Taipei faces rising tensions with China, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed, a threat the island has lived with since 1949. Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country will take necessary measures to uphold its sovereignty and security interests after the U.S. approved the potential arms sales. China urged the U.S. to stop the arms sales to prevent further damage to China-U.S. relations, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular news conference in Beijing. China also announced it would sanction Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon and other U.S. companies involved in Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan. This proposed sale will improve Taipei’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing a flexible solution to augment existing surface and air defences.

“With this Taipei will be able to employ a highly reliable and effective system to counter or deter maritime aggressions, coastal blockades, and amphibious assaults. This capability will easily integrate into existing force infrastructure,” a State Department spokesman said.

The principal contractor will be the Boeing Company.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has recently promised to strengthen the country’s defences and work more closely with regional partners on security as she called for ‘meaningful dialogue’ with China. In a speech to mark Taiwan’s National Day, Tsai had said the government would continue to modernise the island’s defence capabilities and enhance its capacity for asymmetric warfare to “deal with military expansion and provocation from the other side of the Taiwan Strait”. Asymmetric warfare is designed to make any Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example, by using smart mines and portable missiles. Analysts feel that if Taiwan gets these defence equipment, it could help thwart a possible invasion by China.

Effective Boeing Solution

According to Boeing, the HARPOON is capable of executing both land-strike and anti-ship missions, using GPS-aided inertial navigation to hit a designated target aim-point. The 500-pound blast warhead delivers lethal firepower against a wide variety of land-based targets, including coastal defence sites, surface-to-air missile sites, exposed aircraft, port/industrial facilities and ships in port.

For conventional anti-ship missions, such as open ocean or near-land, the GPS/INS improves midcourse guidance to the target area. The accurate navigation solution allows users to discriminate target ships from islands or other nearby land masses or ships.

J C Menon