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Taiwan to spend $2.5 billion on anti-missile systems

By on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Taiwan plans to spend Tw$74.8 billion ($2.5 billion) in the next nine years to acquire anti-missile systems to boost its aerial defences against China, a lawmaker and media said Saturday.

The defence ministry aims to purchase the locally-made Tien Kung 3 (Sky Bow 3) surface-to-air missile system between 2015 and 2024 to replace the aging Hawk missile systems, said lawmaker Lin Yu-fang of the parliament’s defence committee.

This will be the biggest procurement of domestically-made weapon systems in recent years, Lin said, citing a defence budget plan submitted to the parliament for approval on Friday.

The Tien Kung 3 surface-to-air missile system, developed by Taiwan’s Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, is designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles for air defence missions and missile interception, according to Lin.

The institute reportedly has spent more than Tw$20 billion to develop the anti-missile system since 1996.

Taiwan unveiled the Tien Kung 3 missile to the public at a national day parade in 2007 and tested it at a major missile drill in 2011.

Taiwan’s Apple Daily newspaper quoted former defence minister Kao Hua-chu as saying that the Tien Kung 3 system can help intercept China’s cruise missiles and counter the threats of its J-20 stealth fighter to strengthen Taiwan’s aerial defence capabilities.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have eased markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president in 2008 on a China-friendly platform. He was re-elected in 2012.

But China still considers the self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. The two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Taiwanese experts estimate the People’s Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.

Defence officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Philippines to spend $524mn on military aircraft

By on Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Philippines said Friday it will buy $524.7-million worth of aircraft from South Korea and Canada as part of a military upgrade amid territorial disputes with superpower neighbor China.

The contracts to be signed on March 28 will include the purchase of 12 FA-50 fighter jets from state-run Korea Aerospace Industries for 18.9 billion pesos ($417.95 million), Defence Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told reporters.

State-owned Canadian Commercial Corp. will meanwhile be contracted to supply eight Bell 412 combat utility helicopters worth 4.8 billion pesos, with the first three helicopters expected to be delivered next year, he added.

“This is significant because it will give our armed forces the minimum capability to demonstrate their ability to perform their responsibilities,” he added.

The Philippines has embarked on a 75-billion-peso effort to upgrade its armed forces, particularly units tasked with patrolling disputed territory in the South China Sea.

These units are dwarfed by those of neighboring China, which claims most of the area, including waters and islets much closer to the Philippines.

The Philippines has already acquired two refurbished frigates from the US coastguard as part of its military modernization program.

China said its coastguard on March 9 blocked two Philippine-flagged vessels approaching Second Thomas Shoal, which is guarded by a small group of Filipino marines but is also claimed by Beijing.

The shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets and reefs that sit near key shipping lanes, are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are also believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines has also accused the Chinese coastguard of firing water cannon blasts on January 27 at two Filipino fishing vessels off Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop lies just 220 kilometers off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

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US to Spend $1 Trillion on Nukes, but Payoff Unclear: Study

The United States plans to spend $1 trillion on upgrading and maintaining its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years, but delays in replacing current systems threaten to weaken US nuclear deterrence, according to a new independent study.

“The new procurement schedule still entails significant programmatic risks and will likely result in even higher costs, lower capability, and slower deployments,” according to a study released Tuesday by the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Prior to last year’s wave of across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequestration,” the US administration had planned to replace its strategic systems more rapidly, the authors of the study wrote.

“This situation undermines the credibility of the US nuclear deterrent, and could, in a worst-case scenario, result in the loss of one or both of the Air Force legs of the triad,” according to the study. “US policy makers are only now beginning to appreciate the full scope of these procurement costs.”

The United States is currently on pace to spend 3 percent of its defense budget to replace nuclear platforms and warheads during a four- to six-year window after 2020, comparable to spending levels under US President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s arms race with the Soviet Union, the authors wrote.

Washington “will have to carefully manage its investments given the constrained budget environment,” they said. “The fiscal and strategic reality today is much different from that of the 1980s, and it is an open question whether this level of investment can be sustained along with other national priorities.”

The US Congressional Budget Office said last month that the US administration’s plans for its nuclear weapons complex will cost the nation around $355 billion over the next 10 years, a figure that largely corresponds to the estimate given in the study released this week.

The study, titled “Trillion Dollar Nuclear Triad: US Strategic Modernization over the Next 30 Years,” was co-authored by Jon Wolfsthal, a former director for nonproliferation with the White House National Security Council.

US President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START nuclear disarmament treaty in 2010. Under the pact, Russia and the United States are each required to reduce their deployed nuclear warhead stockpiles to a ceiling of 1,550 by 2018.

Obama has endorsed the total elimination of nuclear weapons, but his administration has said significant funding earmarked for modernization is necessary “to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”

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US to spend billions ‘modernizing’ nuclear arsenal

The United States plans to spend billions to upgrade a decades-old atomic bomb designed to stop a Soviet invasion of Europe, as part of a controversial project to modernize its nuclear arsenal.

Some lawmakers and experts dismiss the effort as a colossal waste of money that could derail arms control talks with Russia.

But top commanders and government officials argue the B61 nuclear gravity bomb needs to be maintained so other weapons can be scrapped and to ensure America retains a “credible” force.

“The B61 is the only weapon in the stockpile that fulfills both tactical and strategic missions,” General Robert Kehler, head of Strategic Command, told a congressional hearing last week.

Designed as a short-range “tactical” weapon to deter Soviet forces from overrunning Western Europe, the bomb has been in service for the US Air Force since the 1970s.

There are five versions of the bomb, which has an estimated yield of 0.3 to 360 kilotons, equivalent to 360,000 tonnes of TNT.

Washington removed thousands of tactical atomic weapons from Europe after the Cold War ended. But 180 of the B61 bombs remain in Europe, the only American nuclear weapon still deployed on the continent, at NATO bases in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

Under President Barack Obama’s planned upgrade, the various models of the bomb would be replaced by a modified version, the B61-12, which would have a smaller yield and more accuracy.

A tail kit would be outfitted for the bomb, which officials say would enable more precision and therefore reduce the quantity of fissile material needed to destroy a target.

The improvements are needed as the weapons are aging and will gradually deteriorate, according to the Pentagon.

“The average B61 is over 25 years old, contains antiquated technology, and requires frequent handling for maintenance,” General Kehler said.

The modernization also will allow the Obama administration to retire the most powerful atomic bomb, the B83, and reduce the overall amount of nuclear material in the arsenal, officials said.

“This approach will allow, in time, reductions in the total number of (nuclear) weapons,” Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told lawmakers.

Obama has called for more progress in scaling back US and Russian nuclear stockpiles and in a speech in Berlin in June, he promised to work with NATO allies “to seek bold reductions” in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

Some members of Congress are wary of the price tag, as the estimated cost for modernizing the B61 bomb keeps rising, from an initial $4 billion to $8.1 billion. And a Pentagon panel has projected the cost could reach $10 to $12 billion.

“The case against the B61 life extension is simple: it is unaffordable, unworkable and unnecessary,” said Kingston Reif of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

For skeptics, the project looks overly ambitious at a time of budget austerity, when the Air Force is already planning major spending on the new F-35 fighter jet, a new long-range bomber and a new cruise missile.

The cost of the program is coming under particular scrutiny because Obama himself is pushing to scrap tactical weapons in Europe, prompting criticism that the whole undertaking is unneccessary.

“To me, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend billions of dollars to extend the life of weapons that the president has already said he wants to get rid of,” said Tom Collina, director of research at the Arms Control Association.

In an editorial, the New York Times denounced the effort as a “Faustian bargain” Obama made with Senate Republicans in 2010, promising modernization of the nuclear arsenal to secure approval of the New Start arms reduction agreement with Russia.

Obama has touted fresh arms control negotiations with Russia as a priority but making improvements to the B61 bomb could undermine prospects for any deal with Moscow, Collina and other experts said.

“Certainly, if the United States puts upgraded B61 bombs that are more accurate in Europe, Russia will probably have a response,” Collina said.

“I don’t know what that would be, but it certainly won’t be very positive.”

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