The military is seeking to add anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters as a last-minute item to the central government’s general budget before the Cabinet finalises it, people familiar with the matter said.
The total defense budget for 2022 is estimated to be NT$372.6 billion (US$13.34 billion), a 3 percent increase from this year, Liberty Times cited military sources as saying. The helicopter in question, the MH-60R Seahawk, is a procurement case that Taiwan and the US have repeatedly discussed but had never made it past the negotiation stage.
The military has said it hopes the rotorcraft will be included in next year’s budget, as its addition to the Navy would strengthen anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
The Navy currently uses two different types of helicopters to counter enemy submarines: the 500MD and the S-70C. However, they are already very old and outdated.
The military had planned to purchase new ASW rotorcraft as early as 2014 and decided to go with the Seahawks, but they never made it into the national defense because of other new military purchases, per Liberty Times.
Military sources pointed out that since Biden became president, his administration has announced a number of arms sales to Taiwan, but none of them were Seahawks. This is because the Taiwan Navy was never able to include them in the defense budget.
Only after Taiwan includes the choppers in its defense budget can Washington announce a potential sale later down the road, according to Liberty Times. The current plan is to purchase 10 Seahawk helicopters along with advanced sonar and avionics systems, Mk 54 or Mk 50 torpedoes, Hellfire missiles, laser-guided rockets, and machine guns.