U.S. to issue LOA over M1A2T tanks sale next month: MND

The Legislative Yuan last year approved a budget of NT$40.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) for 108 M1A2T tanks. (NOWnews)
The Legislative Yuan last year approved a budget of NT$40.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) for 108 M1A2T tanks. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Ministry of National Defense expressed hopes on Monday that the United States will issue a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) in November over the sale of 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks.

The U.S. Department of State provisionally approved the sale to Taiwan of the tanks, Stinger man-portable air defense systems, and other related equipment worth over US$2.2 billion in July.

Speaking at the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee during a review of the ministry’s budget for 2020, Army Chief of Staff Yang Hai-ming (楊海明) said that bilateral talks over the matter are ongoing and the U.S. side has promised Taiwan will receive the LOA soon.

The Legislative Yuan last year approved a budget of NT$40.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) for 108 M1A2T tanks. According to the most recent budget, the MND plans to order 18 of the new tanks in 2022, 18 in 2023, 28 in 2024, 30 in 2025 and the remaining 14 in 2026.

To this extent, the MND proposed to make an NT$450 million provision in the 2020 budget with finalized payment due in 2027. Legislators, however, decided to freeze NT$250 million in the budget until the MND actually receives the LOA.

According to the ministry, the military expects to receive the first shipment of M1A2T Abrams tanks from the U.S. by 2023, even though it would send personnel to the U.S. to undergo training and accept the tanks in 2022.

In related news, Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said during the same Legislative session that Taiwan’s military and Lockheed Martin, the U.S. company that produces the tank’s main armament — the 120mm cannon — are also in talks to have the U.S. company transfer 12 sets of defense technology to Taiwan.

Among the 12, two involve asking Lockheed Martin to transfer its technology for the production of the 120 mm cannon and its ammunition — 120mm shells — to Taiwanese companies so that they can be produced locally, said Fang Mao-hung (房茂宏), head of the military’s Armaments Bureau.

Based on a list of steps provided by the Defense Ministry that are followed when Taiwan asks the U.S. to sell it weapons, once a request is made, if the U.S. gives it a green light, Washington then sends an LOA to Taiwan detailing its offer.

Taipei then reviews the offer and completes a proposal for the procurement project before sending the LOA back to Washington.

Various U.S. government branches then review the proposal before the U.S. government notifies Congress of the sale and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) under the Department of Defense makes the deal public.

The process is completed once both sides sign the LOA, according to Taiwan’s military.

This is the process in theory, but for the tank sale, the U.S. side notified Congress and the DSCA made the deal public in July before the U.S. side sent an LOA to Taiwan.

The Defense Ministry said the M1A2 tanks are meant to replace some of its aging M60A3 Patton and CM-11 Brave Tiger tanks which have been in service for more than 20 years.

When the purchase is finalized, the 108 battle tanks will all be assigned to the Sixth Army Corps, which is responsible for the security of northern Taiwan, where most central government agencies are located, the military said.

By Carol Kan with CNA