BUYING IS BETTER: Former president Ma Ying-jeou proposed developing personnel carriers in Taiwan, but the nation lacks the capacity to do so, a source said
By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporter, with staff writer
US officials have guaranteed that Taiwan will be able to purchase 36 Amphibious Assault Vehicles （AAV-7） from a reserved stock that is not affected by demand from other buyers, a Ministry of National Defense official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.
A stock of troop carriers was set aside for Taiwan, as demand for the vehicles has exceeded the stock available for arms sales, the official said, citing communications from the US government.
The AAV-7s to be sold to Taiwan would not be withdrawn from active service, but are mothballed units that have been refurbished with new or mint condition engines and transmissions, the official said.
The refurbishment program would improve the reliability of Taiwan-bound AAV-7 units, while production of critical components has been prearranged to ensure expedited delivery when shipments start, the official said.
The nation’s marine corps has a fleet of 54 AAV-7 units in service and the navy has requested that the government purchase 36 more of the vehicles to meet operational needs, including for disaster relief, the official said.
The AAV units are scheduled to be delivered in two batches, one in 2020 and the other in 2021, the official said.
The total cost of the purchase has increased from NT$5.32 billion to NT$5.81 billion （US$178.43 million to US$194.86 million at the current exchange rate） as the New Taiwan dollar weakened between the arms sale’s initial proposal and the formal agreement, the official said.
Then-president Ma Ying-jeou （馬英九） said that the nation should develop an amphibious disaster-relief vehicle as an alternative to the pricey US-made AAV-P7, the official said.
However, internal assessments showed that Taiwan lacks the industrial capability to mass-produce such vehicles, the official said.
The nation’s armed forces operate the AAV-7 alongside older LVT-5s, which were acquired in 1972 and are costly to maintain, difficult to handle and dangerous in operations at sea, the official said.
The procurement of additional AAV-7s is expected to improve the marines’ operational capability, equipment readiness rate and training safety, the official said.