MELBOURNE, Australia, and WASHINGTON — The U.S. government has asked Taiwan to accept a delay in the delivery of mobile artillery systems caused by a production backlog, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. But instead, the island nation is considering alternatives that it could quickly introduce into service.
However, BAE Systems, which manufactures the M109A6 Paladin, told Defense News it has the capacity to build the systems for Taiwan.
The ministry said the request was to defer initial deliveries of the 155mm self-propelled howitzers to 2026. Deliveries were supposed to start in 2023, with the Taipei Times reporting that Taiwan would take delivery of eight Paladins that year, 16 in 2024 and a similar number in 2025.
The U.S. State Department in late 2021 cleared Taiwan to acquire 40 Paladins as well as associated support vehicles and equipment, in a sale potentially worth up to $750 million. Part of that includes nearly 1,700 M1156 precision guidance kits, which converts standard 155mm howitzer shells into satellite-guided shells capable of highly precise artillery attacks.
“BAE Systems is ready to produce and provide M109 Self Propelled Howitzers for Taiwan once a contract has been finalized by the United States Government. Our production capacity can support the needs of the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense without compromising contract commitments with existing customers,” a company spokesperson wrote to Defense News in an email.
The U.S. Army is reducing its planned buy of the Paladin over a three-year period, which makes more room for other orders on the howitzer’s production line. The service plans to buy 79 Paladin howitzers from fiscal 2023 through fiscal 2025, according to recent budget justification documents. That is 54 less than the Army planned to buy across the same time period in its FY21 books, which was the last fiscal year the service released budget numbers across a five-year period.
The Army had planned to buy 16 more howitzers in FY23, 18 more in FY24 and 20 more in FY25, according to the FY21 documents, but the service scaled that back to what appears to be a return to more normal procurement levels of roughly 45 per year in FY26 and FY27 under the FY23 five-year plan.
While some media reports questioned whether the purported delay for Taiwan is due to efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons as it fights off a Russian invasion, Pentagon’s press secretary John Kirby pointed out that security aid is coming from U.S. military stockpiles.
“That is a different method of providing military articles than what is being provided through to Taiwan, and that’s all being done through the State Department,” he said.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it is considering alternative artillery systems in the wake of the potential delay. These include the truck-mounted M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System made by Lockheed Martin. Taiwan was previously cleared to purchase the HIMARS along with associated Army Tactical Missile Systems.
Taiwan had requested 11 HIMARS and 64 ATACMS, but it’s unclear if Taiwan will now seek additional HIMARS along with the smaller artillery rockets that can be fired by the same system in lieu of the Paladins.
Those 227mm artillery rockets come in both unguided and satellite-guided versions, and are carried in packs of six on the HIMARS.
China lays claim to Taiwan and has vowed to reincorporate the island by force if necessary. The Taiwanese government was founded in 1949 by Chinese Nationalist forces who fled there following defeat on the mainland by the communists in a civil war.
The U.S. is required by the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress in the 1970s, to supply the island nation with weapons needed for self-defense.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.