Special Report

The Weapons the US Is Supplying Taiwan

From 6 a.m. local time on Christmas Day until 6 a.m. the following morning, China’s People’s Liberation Army sent 71 warplanes and seven warships on operations near Taiwan. Forty-seven of those crossed an unofficial border in the Taiwan Strait, and “some” entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense zone, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. 

The PLA’s actions followed President Joe Biden’s signing, two days earlier, of the annual National Defense Authorization Act for the 2023 fiscal year. Included in the $858 billion defense spending is the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act, specifying that the island nation may receive up to $10 billion over the next five years to modernize its armed forces. The NDAA also includes an additional $2 billion in loans to buy weapons and other military services from the United States. (Here are the bombs and missiles used by the U.S. military.)

In order to receive the $10 billion in foreign military financing grants, the U.S. secretary of state must certify to Congress that Taiwan is increasing its own spending on the country’s defenses. 

Bradley Bowman and retired Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, writing in Defense News last June, noted the “lethargic” U.S. process of delivering military goods to Taiwan: 

“Permitting this meandering and unfocused process to persist would ignore one of the most important lessons of the war in Ukraine: The United States should spend less time worrying about provoking authoritarian bullies and more time urgently helping threatened democracies before an invasion or attack begins.”

The United States and Taiwan, officially, the Republic of China, signed a mutual defense treaty in 1954 that remained in effect until 1980. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter officially established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

Carter authorized U.S. arms sales to Taiwan under the new legislation in 1979 and 1980. Taiwan was authorized to purchase 48 F-5E fighter jets, 500 air-to-ground Maverick missiles, the anti-tank BGM-71 TOW system, Hawk surface-to-air missiles, and the self-propelled Chaparral surface-to-air system. The total cost of these weapons was just over $550 million.  

Not all the weapons authorized, then or now, have been delivered. In some cases, U.S. stockpiles could not be drawn down. In others, the weapons were no longer being manufactured, and in others yet, Taiwan changed its mind, as it did in August of this year. Though some figures may be different, see every airplane in Taiwan’s air force

Here’s a look at eight major weapons systems that have recently been authorized for sale or to provide Taiwan. The list is not comprehensive and does not include activities or items needed to operate and maintain these systems. 

Click here to see the weapons the U.S. sold to Taiwan.

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