US announces potential arms sale to Taiwan

Sale consists of 18 MK-48 heavyweight torpedoes, related equipment

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MK-48 torpedo (U.S. Navy photo)

MK-48 torpedo (U.S. Navy photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. on Wednesday (May 20) approved the potential sale of heavyweight torpedoes to Taiwan.

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs issued a press release on Thursday stating that the State Department has approved a foreign military sale of 18 MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology heavyweight torpedoes and related equipment at a cost of US$180 million, according to CNA.

National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategy and International Affairs assistant professor Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑) pointed out that underwater military strength is the biggest threat to Chinese Navy ships, as it would restrict their movement — something the U.S. would like to see. He also noted that the torpedoes must be launched by submarines.

Therefore, although the sale of torpedoes benefits Taiwan's defense, without effective coordination with the island nation's existing submarines, these new weapons would be of little help, Lin concluded. He stated that the ulterior motive of this sale is to demonstrate that the U.S. can still help Taiwan through arms deals.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a scholar at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the torpedo's low propulsion noise, long-range attack capability, and other characteristics can contribute to Taiwan's strategy of asymmetric warfare and maintain a balance of underwater combat power in the Taiwan Strait.

Su observed that the most important feature of the MK-48 is its large warhead charge, weighing about 1,000 kg, which can destroy large surface vessels such as aircraft carriers. According to Su, the range of an MK-48 torpedo is about 50 kilometers and the maximum speed is approximately 102 kilometers per hour, 2.5 times the speed of large surface ships.

At present, Taiwan’s Dutch-built Sea Dragon-class submarines have been in service for more than 30 years and with a life extension have about 15 years left, the scholar said.

Su believes the fact that the arms sale was announced after Wednesday's (May 20) inauguration ceremony demonstrates Washington's trust in President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) administration.