Taiwan can take over cheap US main battle tanks, left over from the war in Iraq, but that has sparked off an old debate. Does Taiwan need tanks for its defense? Military analyst Wendell Minnick reports in Defense News.
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.
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