Tso-Juei Hsu story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur
Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesperson, Major General Shih Shun-wen (史順文) said that the Cabinet is examining the defense budget, MND has no comment on the rumors about the defense budget.
According to UP MEDIA, the 2022 national defense budget will include 4 MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAVs and 8 MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.
Cabinet comptroller Tsu Tse-min (朱澤民) told media that the government has approved the 2022 national defense budget and that any purchase of Seahawk ASW helicopters will depend on the military’s own adjustments and accommodations to the budget (for example, meaning the army or air force would have to cancel programs or make some savings in order to free-up some budget for the procurement of the MH-60R).
The Republic of China (ROC) Navy have been seeking to purchase MH-60R ASW helicopters from the United States since 2014. However, priority was always given to other military procurement, such as the Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) and the new Frigate (FFG) projects since DPP took office in 2016. In 2020, the ROC Navy had to give up MH-60R ASW helicopters procurement again, because the budget was secured for Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and related equipment. Procurement of Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems was an extra urgent issue for both Taiwanese and U.S. top officials.
About MH-60R “Romeo” maritime helicopter
The U..S Navy is the main operator of the MH-60R with 289 units in its fleet. It is the primary anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare helicopter in the fleet.
The MH-60R combines the features of the SH-60B and SH-60F aircraft. Its sensors package includes an MTS-FLIR, the AN/APS-147 multi-mode radar/IFF interrogator, an advanced airborne fleet data link, and a more advanced airborne active low frequency sonar (ALFS). Offensive capabilities are improved by the addition of new Mk-54 air-launched torpedoes and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
So far, the Romeo has been selected by the navies of the United States, Denmark, Australia and Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the U.S. State Department approved similar deals for the ROK Navy (South Korea) as well as for the Hellenic Navy. India became the latest country to place an order for 24 MH-60Rs in February 2020.
Current Taiwanese ASW aircraft fleet
The ROC Armed Forces currently operate 3 types of ASW aircrafts.
P-3C aircrafts were being delivered to Taiwan since 2013, and the squadrons become combat-ready in 2017. The aircrafts were originally planned to be operated by ROC Navy, but MND transferred all fixed wing aircrafts to ROC Air Force in 2013 for the reason of ”resource integration”. Navy P-3C crew were also transferred to Air Force. Some navy flag officers even retire or resign to express their dissatisfaction with the decision at the time.
ROC Navy operates two types of ASW helicopters. 500MD/ASW was purchased from the U.S. in 1977 and commissioned in 1979. ROC Navy had a fleet of 12 500MD/ASW, but only about 9 were still operational as of 2020. 500MD/ASW will be replaced with MH-60R.
Taiwan bought S-70C（M）ASW helicopters 2 times from the U.S., The first time was 1983. The U.S. planned to sale modified land-based S-70C with ASW equipment to the ROC Navy via direct commercial sales (DCS). ROC Navy was not satisfied with land-based S-70C, and have spent years negotiating with the U.S. and finally got a variant of ship-based SH-60. The first batch of 10 S-70C（M）1 (1 means the 1st batch ) was delivered in the U.S. in July, 1990, The helicopters arrived in Taiwan in January 1991.
Taiwan procured a second batch of S-70C（M）2 ( means the 2nd batch ) in June 1997, the first three were delivered in March 2000. All S-70C（M）2 arrived Taiwan and became combat-ready in July, 2001. Taiwanese S-70C（M）1 are equipped with an AN/APS-143(V)3 under-nose radar and AN/AQS 18(V)3 dipping sonar. S-70C(M)-1 has the CT7-2D1 engines, S-70C(M)-2 is uprated with the T700-GE-401C.
Although the ROC Nave have a plan to upgrade the engines of these helicopters, they are considered old and outdated today.
Sources quoted in this article: