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Delivery of US Howitzers to Taiwan delayed due to Ukraine crisis

An arms contract between the United States and Taiwan is facing severe delays due to “crowded production lines” caused by the war in Ukraine, prompting Taipei to look for alternatives, the island’s Ministry of National Defense has confirmed.

The first batch of U.S.-made M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers will not be delivered in 2023 as planned as the production capacity of the U.S. arms industry has been affected by the ongoing Ukrainian war, Taiwan has been notified.

Instead, the U.S. has offered some alternative long-range precision strike weapon systems such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), the Taiwanese Ministry said, adding that officials are currently evaluating the proposal before making a final decision.

Last August, Washington approved the sale of 40 M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers and related equipment at an estimated cost of U.S. $750 million to Taiwan.

It was part of the first arms sale to Taiwan approved by President Joe Biden since taking office that also included 20 M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles, 1,698 multi-option Precision Guidance Kits, and other related equipment and logistical support.

The first eight units were due to be delivered next year, with another 16 each in 2024 and 2025, but U.S. manufacturers have now said it would be 2026 at the earliest.

Eight weeks into the war, Washington decided to ramp up the delivery of artillery guns including a large number of howitzers to Ukraine as part of an additional U.S.$800-million military assistance package, the Associated Press reported.

The Taiwanese military has been using two older howitzer variants – the M109A2 and M109A5. The “Paladin” is believed to be far superior with increased armor and an improved M284 155mm howitzer cannon.

The proposed alternative – HIMAR – is a multiple-launch rocket system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. It can be mounted on a military truck, is mobile and has a strike distance of 300 kilometers (185 miles) when carrying M57 Army Tactical Missile Systems.

Local media reported that besides the howitzers, a Taiwanese Navy’s plan to purchase 12 MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters from the U.S. may also run into difficulties as the U.S. deemed that the helicopter is not suitable for asymmetric warfare.

Although Washington and Taipei do not have formal diplomatic ties, the U.S. is committed by law to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. Those arms sales have long been an irritant in relations between Washington and Beijing which regards the island as part of China, although Taiwan governs itself.