• Altius 600-M. (Anduril Industries)
    Altius 600-M. (Anduril Industries)

The US State Department has announced the approval of three arms packages for Taiwan, giving it the go ahead to purchase two different types of loitering munitions and spare parts for its F-16 fighter jets.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the approval of 720 Aerovironment Switchblade 300 and Anduril 291 Altius 600M unmanned loitering munitions to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in two separate arms sales notifications on 18 June.

TECRO is Taiwan’s unofficial embassy in the US, and is the name used in lieu of Taiwan to skirt around China, which sees the self-ruled island as a rogue province.

The package for 720 Switchblade 300 anti-armour and anti-personnel loitering munitions comes with 35 fly-to-buy All-Up Rounds (AURs). 101 fire control systems (FCS), spares packs, operator and maintenance training, and other support for an estimated cost of $A89.9 million.

The Switchblade 300 and the larger Switchblade 600 has seen action in Ukraine, having been sent by the US as part of a wide variety of systems for the Ukrainians to resist the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile the approval for the 291 Altius 600Ms include extensible warheads and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera, inert training UAVs, the dedicated Pneumatic Integrated Launch Systems (PILS), ground control systems, and associated training, spares and support for an estimated value of $A448.2m.

Anudril says the Altius 600M family “delivers best-in-class loitering time and range, while leveraging autonomy to execute collaborative teaming and coordinated strikes”, adding that it is designed to accommodate multiple seeker and warhead options while doubling the loitering time and range of current market offerings.

The sale of loitering munitions to Taiwan is in line with the island’s efforts in recent years to develop an asymmetric defence capability against China, which has refused to renounce the possible use of force to take back the island.

China’s massive military modernisation efforts has also seen the numerically superior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) increasingly also matching - or even surpassing = Taiwan’s qualitative advantage.

This has left the island scrambling to devise a new strategy to deter a Chinese invasion, with an asymmetric defence seen as a key to enabling it to blunt a PLA invasion, although efforts to acquire capabilities have been stymied by many countries wary of selling arms to the island for fear of antagonising China.

The US is a notable exception, with the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress obligating US governments to sell weapons necessary for Taiwan’s self-defence.

The DSCA has earlier announced approval for Taiwan to acquire a package estimated to be worth $A119.5m of “non-standard spare and repair parts, components, consumables, and accessories” for the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) fleet of Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role aircraft.

Taiwan’s fleet of over 140 F-16s have been upgraded extensively in recent years, with the island also due to take delivery of 66 new-build F-16s in the coming years.

comments powered by Disqus