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Abrams Tanks: After Ukraine, Taiwan Set To Receive First Batch Of US MBTs Next Year To Check China

While Ukraine eagerly prepares to receive the first shipment of the much-anticipated Abrams tanks from the United States, Taiwan has also announced that it will acquire its first batch of Abrams MBTs next year. 

During a government budget briefing on August 21, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen revealed that the country will obtain its first shipment of Abrams tanks next year.

The Ministry of National Defense has outlined the tank delivery schedule, with 38 tanks expected to arrive in 2024, followed by 42 tanks in 2025 and 28 tanks in 2026. 

This plan aligns with the US authorization of the sale of 108 Abrams tanks in 2019, amounting to a value of $2.2 billion (approximately NT$70.3 billion).

Furthermore, military officials confirmed that a contingent of Army officers had been chosen to undergo tank training and maintenance in the United States. 

Upon completing their training, these officers will return to Taiwan and take on the role of instructors, contributing to enhancing local tank expertise.

Acquiring the Abrams tanks forms a crucial component of Taiwan’s strategy to fortify its defense capabilities along the northern coast and reinforce its overall national defense posture. 

Given the persistent risk of a potential Chinese invasion, Taiwan needs sophisticated weaponry to dissuade Beijing. This necessity was acknowledged by the Trump administration, which sanctioned the sale of 108 Abrams tanks to Taiwan in 2019. 

The Army Command has previously emphasized that the M1A2T tanks are designed to offer improved maneuverability, ensuring their compatibility with rapid changes on the battlefield. 

This advancement is expected to enhance the overall combat capabilities of the Army and contribute to increased joint combat effectiveness and firepower.

Moreover, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) compared the Abrams and China’s primary battle tank, the Type 99. The evaluation concluded that the Abrams outperforms the Type 99 in terms of firepower, protection, and mobility.

Taiwan’s military is concurrently engaged in constructing bunkers aimed at heightening the survivability of its armored vehicles in the event of a military conflict. 

Why Does Taipei Need Abrams Tanks?

Unlike Ukraine, which is slated to acquire refurbished M1A1 tanks, Taiwan is positioned to receive a more advanced iteration – the M1A2T variant – of the Abrams tanks. 

The United States initially declared its intention to provide M1A2 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. However, this plan was subsequently revised, with the decision to furnish Ukraine with the older tank version. 

At the time, the US official stated that despite being an older model, these tanks would still possess “very similar capability” to the latest M1A2. 

Many experts widely attributed the alteration in the decision to concerns regarding the potential risk of advanced technology falling into the hands of Russia. Additionally, the extended timeframe required to train the Ukrainian Army on the new variant was deemed a significant factor influencing this choice.

That being said, for Taipei, acquiring an advanced tank is a pivotal component of its defense strategy. These tanks are reportedly designated for deployment within the 6th Army Corps, responsible for safeguarding northern Taiwan, where many central government agencies are situated.

An M1A2 Abrams SEP V2 main battle tank, assigned to Cold Steel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, fires an M865 target practice cone stabilized discarding sabot with tracer on December 9, 2021, at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin training area. (Army)

The M1A2T constitutes a tailored iteration of the Abrams main battle tank’s System Enhancement Package Version 2 (SEPv2).

Distinguishing features of the M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams tank encompass an upgraded turret that incorporates a series of enhancements geared towards bolstering survivability.

Notably, it is equipped with dual sights, enabling the gunner and the commander to engage in target acquisition. This configuration enhances the tank’s combat effectiveness, as the gunner engages hostile targets while the commander simultaneously identifies the next potential threat on the battlefield.

If People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces successfully establish a beachhead on the island, the Taiwanese armored units have a strategic mandate to eliminate any temporary lodgments before solidifying into permanent positions.

Recognizing the potential threat, the PLA can launch a barrage of rockets aimed at incapacitating Taiwan’s tanks even before the initial landing craft makes contact with the shores. 

Taiwan’s military has meticulously identified numerous concealed locations for its armored vehicles to counteract this vulnerability, including caves and underpasses. 

This strategic positioning aims to shield the vehicles from immediate rocket attacks and increase their chances of withstanding hostile actions.


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