FPI / July 12, 2019
By Richard Fisher
As part of a $2 billion weapons sales package, the U.S. Congress has been notified about the sale to Taiwan of 108 General Dynamics M1A2 “Abrams” main battle tanks.
In service with the U.S. Army since 1980, the M1A2 is the latest version, armed with a 120mm smooth bore cannon, a version of the German Rheinmetall L/44.
Taiwan’s Army has had longstanding interest in acquiring the Abrams, but some in that service have been concerned that the tank’s massive 70 ton weight may be less suitable to Taiwan’s terrain, compared to the 54 ton M-60 tanks it will succeed.
Furthermore, because it is powered by a gas turbine engine, the M1A2 presents a new logistic challenge, compared to Taiwan’s longstanding reliance on diesel engine powered M-60 and M-48-based tanks.
Critics in both Taiwan and Washington also question the advisability of Taipei’s purchasing better “conventional” weapons like new tanks, instead favoring “asymmetric” weapons like more anti-tank missiles to attack invading Chinese armor.
In the last decade China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has assembled the range of capabilities necessary to invade Taiwan, which it has not been able to do since the mid-1950s.