Thursday, October 8, 2009

Taiwan Kidds to Receive Radar Parts

Defense News


Taiwan Kidds to Receive Radar Parts

By Wendell Minnick

Singapore - The Pentagon has released radar components for four Kidd-class destroyers sold to Taiwan in 2003 for $700 million.

California-based Communications & Power Industries won a $12.2 million FMS contract to supply Taiwan with the MK-74 TARTAR-D system traveling wave tubes (TWT) and solenoids.

"The MK-74 TARTAR-D TWT is a component of the MK-74 Guided Missile Fire Control System (GMFCS)," according to a Pentagon contract award notice on May 12. "The GMFCS MK-74 functions as part of the missile weapons system to support the anti-air and anti-surface warfare missions of ships." Contract completion scheduled for 2014.

"The traveling wave tube (TWT) amplifier is a critical component in the radar system," said a former U.S. defense official. "This component is one example of a critical spare part on the Kidds that has gone out of production. So this company needs to replicate the TWT that the original supplier produced decades ago."

The sale is welcome news in Taiwan, where there are fears the U.S. will re-evaluate arms sales as Beijing and Taipei move closer.

However, there is some criticism of the sale, suggesting continued U.S. arms sales discourage indigenous development of weapon systems.

"One of the questions that this raises is why Taiwan industry didn't manufacture these TWTs for the ROC Navy as an alternative to procurement though the FMS system. The component no longer exists in the U.S. Navy inventory. But the specification or blueprint for the TWT is publicly available, and this is 1970s vintage technology," said the former official.

One way to fix the problem is to allow Taiwan access to the specifications for manufacture and include Taiwan as part of the Pentagon's international supply chain.

"Taiwan's status as one of world's most cost effective supplier of information and communications technology (ICT)" should be taken into consideration, "and as weapon systems become increasingly ICT-intensive, the missed opportunities grow," for both Taiwan and the U.S. military.

The best solution is to allow Taiwan to "qualify to serve as a supplier to the Department of Defense."

"At least 21 foreign industries, including a large number of major non-NATO allies, are qualified to supply DoD," said the former official. "Taiwan basically has the same status as China or North Korea, rather than the major non-NATO ally status that Congress granted Taiwan several years ago."

However, continued political issues cloud the issue for both Taiwan and the U.S. China has been increasing pressure on Washington to discontinue arms sales to Taipei. The matter has been further complicated by efforts by Taiwan's new president to enhance relations with China.