Taiwan’s Patriot missile defence systems to undergo a billion dollar upgrade

14 Nov 2007


Washington: The Pentagon has notified the US Congress about a possible sale to Taiwan of an upgrade to its Patriot missile defence systems, estimated to cost nearly one billion dollars.

The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has informed the Congress that the upgrades would involve ground support equipment for three existing missile units, which would allow them to be armed with the most advanced Patriot interceptor missiles.

"The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region," the DSCA said.

According to Pentagon estimates, China has nearly 1,000 short range ballistic missiles deployed within striking distance of Taiwan, and is also developing other capabilities aimed at preventing outside military intervention in the early days of a China-Taiwan conflict.

The Patriot upgrades will enable these units to launch either Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM) or Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles.

The GEM missiles use blast fragmentation warheads to destroy an incoming missile, while the PAC-3 uses a "hit-to-kill" warhead that collides with the target.

Under the upgrade programme, the missile units will get new radios, radars, target identification and remote launch systems, and electric power plants, the DSCA said. Interestingly, the proposed upgrade does not include missiles.

"The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $939 million," the DSCA said in a statement.

The prime contractor will be Raytheon Corporation, of Andover, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the proposed sale was attacked by China as sending a "wrong signal" to Taiwan and its president, Chen Shui-bian, who has rubbed Mainland Chinese sensibilities the wrong way with his insistence on independence for the breakaway island. Chinese leaders are concerned that Chen intends to move Taiwain toward "de jure" independence through a referendum next year on UN membership.

China''s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement that the latest Patriot upgrade violated a US commitment to reduce weapons transfers to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.

"We urge the US side to implement with real actions its solemn commitments on the Taiwan issue... and stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan," he said.

He said the Pentagon announcement constituted "rude interference in China''s internal affairs."

"The Chinese side reserves the right to adopt further measures," he said without elaborating.

Anticipating Mainland Chinese protests, US defence secretary, Robert Gates, had assured president Hu Jintao last week, that the United States was "categorically opposed" to a change of status for Taiwan. He was particular, however, in raising US concerns about China''s military build-up.

China had earlier, in September, protested strongly after the Pentagon announced the possible sales to Taiwan of a dozen P-3C Orion anti-submarine patrol aircraft and SM-2 anti-aircraft missiles, in a deal potentially worth more than $2.2 billion.

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