Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Does Taiwan NEED The M1 Abrams

TAIPEI — Debate over the practicality of procuring more main battle tanks (MBTs) for Taiwan has intensified since the Ministry of National Defense confirmed last week it was negotiating with the U.S. for surplus M1A1 Abrams MBTs left over from the Iraq War.
The announcement renewed debate over the need for a heavy MBT, said a Defense Ministry source, “but they are cheap and available now.” The deal would include refurbishment, but not an upgrade, he said. In 2011, Vice Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang was quoted by the local media saying the Army needed 200 new MBTs.
Since the 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis, Taiwan has focused on improving air-sea battle capabilities, and the Army has watched its grip on power and influence slip since the end of the Cold War. The Army maintained a large invasion force to retake mainland China during the Cold War.
Local defense analysts argue there are other pragmatic reasons for not procuring bigger and heavier MBTs. The island is composed of rugged interior mountains notorious for landslides. The coasts are either rice paddies, fish farms or are urbanized. Coupled with narrow roadways and anemic bridges, the island seems an unlikely home for a 60-ton tank 12 feet wide.
“The bridge piece of it is a real key, since you only have one shot to get a 60-ton tank across a 35-ton bridge, and then you have no bridge,” a U.S. defense analyst said. The M1A1 limits the choice of routes, but so does the “speed aspect,” he said.
“It is different than planning a route march by M60 [tanks], since the M113 [infantry carriers] cannot keep up with the M1A1s if going 40 mph,” he said. “It is one of those items that causes a revolution in military thought in planning, because you get a capability that is a generation above what you have.”
Also, Taiwan’s MBTs use a locally manufactured 105mm round, not the 120mm round used by the M1A1. Having a standard round for all MBTs is cost-efficient, said a former U.S. military officer who served at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. Embassy here.
     These so-called "local defense analysts" make good points about Taiwan's terrain, infrastucture and the M1's main gun. However, terrain while a concern, is not a major factor as the sheer presence of a few M1A1s will give the Chinese a little something extra to think about. As to small bridges, build new bridges. And the idea that the M1 should not be purchased because of it's main gun, is ludicrous. The M1 Abrams was originally designed to shoot the 105mm round, and could be modified to do so again. 
      In other words, yes Taiwan needs the M1 Abrams

No comments:

Post a Comment