Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taiwan Army’s Jingjin Effort Seeks Digital, Smaller Force



Taiwan Army’s Jingjin Effort Seeks Digital, Smaller Force


Begun in 2004, Taiwan’s Jingjin Army modernization program is near completion, part of a rocky effort to cut forces, upgrade capabilities, improve training and move from conscription to an all-volunteer force.

This restructuring program was introduced by policy initiatives laid down by the National Defense Act and the Organization Act of the Ministry of National Defense.

“The program started in 2004 and will end in 2008,” said Lt. Col. Wang Rui-Lung of the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND) Military Spokesman’s Office. “The first stage of the program started with restructuring work in 2004. After registering all incoming and existing troops in July 2005, we continued to stage two of the organization reforms.”

The restructuring is designed to create a “digitized, three-dimensional and mechanized” force through streamlining high-level commands, simplifying command hierarchy, integration of doctrine and training systems, and integrated logistics support.

In the end, the Army Command Headquarters will comprise three Corps Commands; four Defense Commands; Aviation and Special Force Commands; and Education, Training and Doctrine Development Commands.

The Army, stationed both in Taiwan and the outer islands of Matsu and Jinmen, is responsible for protecting critical infrastructure bases, facilities and depots, and supporting anti-terrorism missions and disaster-relief efforts.

If there is a war with China, the Army would be tasked with defending the coasts from an amphibious invasion, protecting military facilities, deploying air defense systems to destroy Chinese aircraft and countering airborne drops of Chinese troops.

Disaster relief has assumed a higher profile for the Army over the past 10 years, when it has dealt with earthquakes, typhoons, floods and epidemics, such as SARS. Some critics have argued that war with China is unlikely and that the Army’s primary mission should be focused on natural disasters, in particular earthquakes.

In September 1999, a massive 7.6 earthquake hit the central region of Taiwan. Known as the 9-21 earthquake, it killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed around 10,000 buildings. There are 49 known geographic faults covering the island.

The Army’s Improved Mobile Subscriber Equipment (IMSE) proved instrumental in maintaining communications in the aftermath of the 9-21 earthquake, and the Army played a critical role in recovery efforts. There are plans to expand IMSE capabilities.

Taiwan is also changing the Army’s recruitment program.

“In the past, Taiwan primarily adopted the conscription system,” Wang said. “In response to public opinion and to the Executive Yuan’s four-year, medium-term policy project, the MND is promoting military service system reforms in the direction of a volunteer-oriented enlistment and conscription combination system, in the hope that by 2008, the volunteer force will reach 60 percent with 40 percent still conscription.”

The length of service has also been dramatically reduced. From the 18 months a conscript was required to serve in 2005, it was reduced to 16 months in 2006, 14 months in 2007 and will drop to 12 months in 2008.

Land and Air Procurement

The Army recently added nine new Boeing Chinook CH-47SD heavy-lift helicopters to its aviation arm. The Army has a variety of helicopters in its inventory, including about 80 aging Bell UH-1H utility helicopters, 62 Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and 30 Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed observation helicopters.

The Army is planning to procure 30 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and is in discussions with Sikorsky to buy UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters to replace the older UH-1H helicopters.

The Army’s procurement needs have been largely ignored by the Defense Ministry in favor of high-profile arms programs for the Air Force and Navy. The Air Force is attempting to secure the purchase of new F-16 fighters, and the Navy recently acquired four Kidd-class destroyers. There are fears in the Army that continued procurements for the other services will delay purchases of new attack helicopters and other equipment.

The Army also is preparing to buy indigenously designed and built eight-wheel-drive CM-32 Clouded Leopard (Yunpao) armored personnel carriers from the Ordnance Readiness Development Center in Nantou County. Sources close to the program say the CM-32 is based on the Swiss eight-wheel-drive Mowag Piranha armored personnel carrier.

“The CM-32 will be able to meet the Army’s requirement for a new armored personnel carrier,” Wang said. “It passed many performance tests, for example, the DT&E [development test and evaluation], combat weight, cross trench, endurance and reliability, and acceleration test. Its maximum speed can reach 100 kilometers per hour. The CM32 will gradually replace the aging tracked M113 and four-wheel-drive V150 armored personnel carriers. This year, the Ordnance Readiness Center will produce 14 CM32s and more than 600 CM32s from 2006 to 2014.”

The Army is expected to display its new CM32 at the ninth Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition 2007, scheduled for Aug. 16 at the Taipei World Trade Center.