MELBOURNE, Australia - Taiwan is seeking to modernize and lengthen the reach of its artillery with the decision to purchase self-propelled howitzers, even as it weighs acquiring or developing its own long-range artillery rockets.

During a hearing of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa confirmed to legislators that Taiwan will seek to acquire the BAE Systems M109A6 Paladin self-propeller howitzer from the United States.

Yen did not reveal how many howitzers would be sought, although local media reports in July stated that Taiwan was looking at acquiring 100 howitzers.

The Taiwanese army’s artillery units are already operating the older M109A2 and M109A5 variants, as well as the M110A2 self-propelled howitzer and the towed M114 howitzers.

The M109A6 features improved armor and survivability over older variants of the M109, which allows howitzer batteries to fire from dispersed locations as well as reduce the time required to set up and fire its 155 mm (6 inch) howitzer.

Taiwan is also reportedly looking to increase the range of its artillery rockets up to 190 miles, and was said to be weighing between acquiring the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or developing a longer-ranged rocket for its Thunderbolt-2000 truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher.

The National Changshan Institute of Science and Technology, which developed and manufactured the Thunderbolt 2000, has successfully developed a rocket with a range of 63 miles and is confident it can develop an even longer range rocket.

This requirement is in response to China fielding artillery rockets capable of attaining such ranges, which would put Taiwan’s west coast within range from mainland China. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to take back the island.

The Trump administration has ramped up arms sales to Taiwan in recent months, with the State Department clearing the sale of tanks, fighter jets and surface to air missiles. Under the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress in 1979, the U.S. is committed to providing self-defense weapons to the self-governing island off China’s coast.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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