Taiwan Finally Gets its P-3C Aircraft

Following years of financial and political battles within the country, the Taiwanese legislature in June finally approved the purchase of twelve US P-3C aircraft. Taiwan reportedly will also buy updated Patriot anti-missile missiles and is still officially looking for new submarines.

When President Bush assumed office in 2001, one of his first acts in breaking with the previous eight years of Democrat rule was to offer Taiwan an $18 billion weapons deal, including P-3s, Patriots, and tactical aircraft. But since then political infighting in Taiwan has blocked this deal from actually happening. Taiwanese politics is divided between those who insist that Taiwan remain a sovereign nation and those who seek reunification with Red China. The latter have long blocked any efforts to make Taiwan stronger against a potential Chinese invasion.

Formally proposed in 2004, this deal – a “special budget item” – has been blocked nearly every month since.

The submarine issue has been even more contentious. Taiwan was rebuffed by Germany, France, and Holland in its desire to get new subs because Europe is, frankly, a cowardly lot these days and doesn’t want to make Red China angry (a syndrome familiar to police who try to convince battered women to leave their abusers but are told by the women they don’t want to make their men “mad”). The US cannot supply diesel-electric subs to Taiwan or anyone else because the US Navy carefully destroyed the domestic diesel sub base when it decided to go with all nuclear-powered boats. By 2004, the US was quietly suggesting that Taiwan buy some used diesel subs from Spain or Italy until they could procure new ones. Taiwan’s sub fleet consists of two 1980s Zwaardvis-class Dutch submarines and two ex-US Guppy-II subs from the 1950s. One promise that has been fulfilled was Bush’s promise to sell Taiwan the US’ four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers.

At various times since 2002 the following have been named as possible sources for new subs for Taiwan: General Dynamics Electric Boat, teamed with Collins-class submarine maker Australian Submarine Corporation; German company STN Atlas; German shipyard Howaldswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), maker of the Type U-212/U-214; Raytheon; Holland, maker of the Moray-class SSK; Northrop Grumman Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding yards in Pascagoula; Lockheed Martin; and Israel, maker of the Gal-class SSK.

The US Navy’s latest P-3C – the Update III.5 – can carry ten tons of weapons, including the Harpoon and Maverick missiles. It also carries the AN/ALQ-78A Electronic Countermeasures Set, AN/ARC-187 UHF satellite radio set, AN/ARN-151(V)1 Global Positioning System [GPS], AN/ALR-66A/B(V)3 ESM Set with EP-2060 Pulse Analyzer, AN/AAS-36A Infrared Detecting Set [IRDS], AN/AVX-1 Electro-Optical Sensor System, and AN/APS-137B(V)5 Radar. Taiwan is likely to get a less updated version.

As the P-3 saga wound its slow way along, Taiwan, having balked at the cost of replacing its antiquated ASW aircraft with US P-3Cs, looked at getting a cheaper US-made alternative, refurbished P-3Bs. These would reportedly have cost approximately $66 million each, with a total of nine coming to a relatively low $ 595 million. The US Navy operated the last version of the P-3B – the P-3B TACNAVMOD, or “Super Bee,” well into the 1990s, and this final version was superior in performance to earlier model P-3Cs.

This latest iteration of this tale calls for Taiwan to take delivery of its P-3Cs beginning in 2011. Still unaddressed is funding for the new PAC-3 anti-missile batteries and whether Taiwan still intends to somehow find newer submarines for its navy. On the bright side, as the US Navy replaces the P-3C with the P-8A, more P-3Cs will become available for export.

Related articles: http://navlog.org/taiwan_kidds.html, http://navlog.org/taiwan_tech.html, http://navlog.org/northrop_taiwan_subs.html, http://navlog.org/taiwan_f16s.html

(July, 2007)