The Ministry of National Defense’s total budget of NT$346 billion (US$11.2 billion) for fiscal 2019 is to include, among other items, the purchase of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks from the US, as well as 60 missile attack boats that would be built and furbished by the domestic shipbuilding program, a ministry official said on Friday.
In the first half of the year, the navy demonstrated that it could enter, dock at and exit ports and harbors of all sizes, said the official, who declined to be named.
The missile boats, which are smaller than its existing boats, would be able to navigate fishing ports with greater ease, the official said.
The missile boat concept was first raised by Chief of the General Staff Admiral Lee Hsi-ming (李喜明) and the program hopes to build small boats that are capable of carrying two Hsiung Feng IIE missiles, the official said.
The boats would be about the size of a fishing boat and would be able to freely enter and depart from any port along the coast, the official said, adding that they would be stationed at fishing harbors when not on duty.
Due to their size, the boats would provide the navy with a highly mobile platform for launching missiles that could be used for a surprise attack, the official said.
The Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology would be commissioned to build the boats, the official said, adding that the institute would be tasked with finding an appropriate company to build the hull and overseeing the final hardware installation.
Some in the military said that the boats would be a step backward, as the navy had completely phased out its 64 Hai Ou-class fast-attack boats as of 2012, but the ministry said that the use of small boats could potentially mean an increased firing range of more than 10 nautical miles (18.52km), the official said, adding that this could greatly improve missile interception and countermeasures against ships.
The story and headline have been corrected to reflect that the total defense budget for fiscal 2019 is NT$346 billion, some of which has been allocated for the purchase of Abrams tanks and missile attack boats.
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