Taiwan’s military asks for US$540 million to update Leshan radar system
- Facility kept tabs on missiles fired over the island by the PLA during war games last month, defence ministry says
- Radar array has been up and running for nearly a decade and would need upgrades, analyst says
The ministry sent the budget proposal – to be spread over five years from 2023 – to the island’s legislature for review on Friday, saying the funds were to maintain the operational performance of the air force’s Leshan radar station in Hsinchu county, northern Taiwan.
The proposed spending is in line with a planned arms package the US Pentagon has recently announced for sale to Taiwan.
The rest of the defence items in the deal – the sixth under the Biden administration – include 60 AGM-84L-1 Harpoon Block II missiles, four ATM-84L Harpoon Block II exercise missiles and 100 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder tactical missiles.
The agency said the items were necessary to support Taiwan’s continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability amid growing military threats from Beijing.
A military source said the Surveillance Radar Programme referred to US maintenance and logistics support for the island’s Leshan Radar Station, the sole long-range early warning system in Taiwan.
“The Leshan radar was built at the suggestion of the US with the primary purpose of tracking missiles, drones and ships and other movements of the PLA,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
“It is highly important not only in giving Taiwan much-needed early warning time in countering missile attacks from the enemy, but also necessary PLA movement information to the US.”
Lin Ying-yu, an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said the system had been up and running for close to a decade and a range of upgrades would be needed, including increasing the system’s computing speed, the number of targets it could simultaneously track and ability to link with other systems.
“This would ultimately shorten its response time and boost its accuracy,” he said.
Built by US company Raytheon in 2003, the US$1.4 billion Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System, or Pave Paws, has been fully operational since 2013.
Located at an altitude of 2,600 metres (8,500ft), the giant radar system can detect a missile launched from as far away as 5,000km (3,100 miles) and track projectiles in motion in great detail, even from a distance of 2,000km – a range that covers mainland China, the South China Sea as well as North Korea.
As regional tensions have risen over the years, it has become more important for both Taiwan and the United States.
Most recently, the station played a significant role in keeping tabs on the trajectory and landing points of the 11 Dongfeng series of missiles launched by the People’s Liberation Army in waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan in August, according to the defence ministry.
Washington said the visit by Pelosi – the most senior US politician to travel to the island in 25 years – did not signal a change to its Taiwan policies, but Beijing took it as a show of support for the island’s pro-independence camp.
Beijing sees the island as part of China and has never ruled out the use of force to take control. Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.
Taiwan’s military is also seeking NT$2.64 billion to buy medium size mortars, automatic grenade launchers and other military equipment for the reserve force next year, according to the budget proposal sent to the legislature.
At the suggestion of the US, the island plans to improve the training and combat readiness of its much-criticised reservist system to back up the regular force in the event of an attack from the PLA.