Ukraine conflict: US sharpens focus on bolstering Taiwan asymmetric capability

by Jon Grevatt

The utility of “unit-level tactical fires” weapons such as Javelin anti-tank systems has been highlighted by the US as important in its efforts to support Taiwan's asymmetric capabilities. (US Army)

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has intensified US efforts to ensure it is supporting Taiwan's requirement to acquire ‘asymmetric' capabilities to respond to any similar military offensive by China.

US government officials have told Janes that military sales to Taiwan in recent years have increasingly been focused on building the island's asymmetric capability and that war in Ukraine has highlighted the value of such assistance.

Other senior US government officials underscored in a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing the requirement for Washington to further strengthen its asymmetric support of Taiwan, which Beijing views as a province and not as a sovereign state.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Defense (DoD) told Janes that the US is increasingly concerned about China's “destabilising” and growing military activities near Taiwan. These include near-daily Chinese military aircraft incursions into Taiwan-claimed airspace and the Chinese navy's now constant presence close to the island.

The spokesperson said the US commitment to supporting Taiwan is “rock-solid”, in line with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) 1979, through which Washington is committed to provide the island with defensive equipment.

“We have also been clear that, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States would regard any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific, and of grave concern to the United States,” said the spokesperson.

The DoD spokesperson also made reference to China's “tacit support” for Russia's war in Ukraine and its potentially wide implications. On 14 March it was reported that China was preparing to provide support to Russia in its war in Ukraine. “We have been clear that [China's] tacit support for Russian aggression is alarming and represents a serious security concern for Europe,” said the DoD spokesperson.

A spokesperson from the US Department of State told Janes that under the TRA the US has authorised, since 2017, about USD18 billion in Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan and Direct Commercial Sales of USD2.3 billion. The spokesperson added that such sales have included asymmetric capabilities.

“The United States also supports Taiwan with training and encourages its innovative and asymmetric security posture,” the spokesperson said. This support also involves “continual dialogue” about how the US can provide Taiwan to develop “self-defence capability”.

Comparing Russia's invasion in Ukraine with any Chinese offensive against Taiwan, the US State Department spokesperson said, “These are very different contingencies, though the utility of unit-level tactical fires such as Stinger [manportable air-defence systems] and Javelin [anti-tank systems] is obvious. We've also seen the immense value that our alliances and partnerships bring to bear, and which magnify and multiply our global security capabilities.”

In comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 10 March, Jessica Lewis, the US State Department's assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said Russia's invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance to the US of providing more asymmetric capabilities to Taiwan to help the island prepare for a potential invasion from China.

Defining asymmetric capability, Lewis said, “It needs to be cost-effective, mobile, resilient, and decentralised defensive systems. We have seen these used to great effect in Ukraine. We are looking [at] ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems, short-range air-defence systems, naval sea mines, and coastal defence and cruise missiles.”

Mara Karlin, US assistant secretary of defence for strategy, plans, and capabilities, added that the US and Taiwan have been holding “very regular consultations” to assess the island's defence requirements.

Karlin added in the hearing, “I think the situation we're seeing in Ukraine right now is a very worthwhile case study for [Taiwan]... about why Taiwan needs to do all it can to build asymmetric capabilities, to get its population ready, so that it can be ready as quickly as possible should China choose to violate its sovereignty.”

Royal Thai Navy unveils FK-3 air-defence system

by Kapil Kajal

The FK-3 air-defence system, an example pictured above in service with the Serbian Armed Forces, was unveiled by the Royal Thai Navy's Air and Coastal Defence Command. The FK-3 is the export variant of China's HQ-22 medium- to long-range semi-active radar homing/radio command guidance air-defence system. (Serbian MoD)

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) has unveiled its Chinese-made FK-3 air-defence system during a visit by Commander-in-Chief Admiral Choengchai Chomchoengphaet to the Air and Coastal Defense Command (ACDC) stationed in Chonburi province.

In a social media post shared by the RTN, the service was seen displaying the weapon to Adm Chomchoengphaet. The FK-3 is manufactured by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC).

The FK-3 is the export variant of the CASIC's HQ-22 medium- to long-range semi-active radar homing/radio command guidance air-defence system. It retains the domestic version's top speed of Mach 6, although its maximum range of 100 km is significantly shorter than the Chinese HQ-22's maximum range of 170 km.

The FK-3 was inducted into the RTN in 2022 and serves as an offensive combat missile and an air-defence shield.

According to Janes Intelligence Review,

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Sweden orders 20 more Mjölner CV90 mortar variants

by Nicholas Fiorenza

The FMV and BAE Systems have signed a contract for 20 more Grkpbv 90 mortar systems for the Swedish Army. (BAE Systems)

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) and BAE Systems announced on 27 January that they had signed a contract modification for 20 more Granatkastarpansarbandvagn 90 (Grkpbv 90) self-propelled mortars for the Swedish Army. The FMV valued the contract at approximately SEK293.5 million (USD28 million) and expects deliveries to take place in 2025.

The contract was awarded to BAE Systems' Swedish joint venture Utveckling, which combines BAE Systems' Hägglunds and Bofors manufacturing capabilities, with production to take place at BAE Systems Hägglunds in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.

The Swedish Armed Forces already operate 40 Grkpbv 90 systems delivered in 2019–21 under a previous contract, and another 20 were ordered in February 2022 for delivery in 2023–25. The FMV also ordered the integration of the Swedish Army's new LSS Mark command support system into all 60 Grkpbv 90s in 2023–25.

The Grkpbv 90 provides Swedish mechanised battalions with indirect fire support.

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IAV 2023: Elbit presents Crossbow turreted mortar

by Nicholas Fiorenza

Elbit presented the Crossbow 120 mm turreted mortar system at IAV 2023. (Elbit Systems)

Elbit Systems presented the Crossbow 120 mm turreted mortar at Defence IQ's International Armoured Vehicles (IAV) 2023 conference being held in London from 23 to 26 January.

The weapon can be installed in a mission module with minimal protrusion, can be easily operated by a single crew member, and is fuzed for fully automatic operation, according to Elbit.

It can fire the company's range of mortar rounds, including those with an extended range and precision guidance. It has a range of 10 km and a rate of fire exceeding 12 rds/min, achieving 16 rounds for the first minute, an Elbit representative told Janes on 23 January. Crossbow is designed to be fired on the move and to shoot and scoot with a multiple round simultaneous impact (MRSI) capability.

A second Elbit representative said it was developed over the last three years based on Elbit's experience in ammunition, fuzes, fire control, and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) integration. It is scheduled to enter service in 2024 with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which financed its development.

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