Taiwan army set for new firepower with US Abrams tanks

Taiwan will take delivery of 37 new Abrams tanks this year after a five-year wait.

They comprise the first batch of the 108 M1A2T tanks for Taipei announced by the U.S. Department of Defense in July 2019.

The tanks are among the largest items in approximately $19 billion worth of U.S. weapons, parts, and munitions Taiwan is waiting for, according to Cato Institute senior fellow Eric Gomez. The other big-ticket item is the 66 F-16V Block 70 fighter jets Taipei purchased in 2020, set to be delivered in batches by the end of 2026.

Taiwan is also slated to receive 11 HIMARS light rocket launchers this year.

U.S. Army Soldiers move to their objective in an M1A2 Abrams tank at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, on October 4, 2019. Taiwan will take delivery of 37 new Abrams tanks this…

Sgt. Nathan Franco/U.S. Army

U.S. industrial capacity has been stretched thin by arms shipments to Ukraine to aid in its defense against Russia’s invasion, and to Israel amid its offensive in Gaza. This week, the Senate is expected to pass a $95 billion aid package for those countries as well as Taiwan, though the House version of the bill faces an uphill battle.

Some analysts say not enough is being done as China continues to ramp up its military expansion.

China claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory and has vowed to eventually annex it, though the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing has never ruled there. Polling in recent years has shown over two-thirds of Taiwan’s citizens identify as primarily Taiwanese.

Newsweek has reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., with a written request for comment.

“In order to ensure Taiwan’s military security, it’s vitally important that Taiwan receive all the weapons that it needs to defend itself and to deter military aggression,” said Larry Diamond, senior fellow at the U.S. think tank the Hoover Institute, at a Taipei defense summit in November.

Diamond said this applies both to extant undelivered purchases and to “accelerated delivery of future weapons.” He also called for joint U.S.-Taiwan development of weapons systems, saying this would reduce reliance on U.S. arms deals in the event of a Chinese naval blockade of the island.

In the meantime, Taiwan is sending 65 pilots and 114 troops to the U.S. this year for specialized tactical training, and training on Abrams tanks and HIMARS systems, respectively.

A U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson told Newsweek talk of “backlogs” is a “misperception premised on the false assumption” that the date the DoD notifies Congress of intended weapons sales marks the “starting point for production and delivery.”

“In fact, industry does not start manufacturing until defense companies receive a signed contract and initial deposit, which often takes place months or even years after the congressional notification,” the spokesperson said, stressing that the department continued to prioritize timely delivery of Taiwan’s contracted military purchases.