Taiwan Marines Push for More Vehicles
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI – Taiwan’s Marine Corps is pushing for more money to replace its remaining LVTP-5A1 amphibious assault vehicles.
In 2006, the service replaced the first half of its LVTPs with 54 rebuilt AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles.
Four years later, the Marines are still waiting for the Navy to release funds for 65 more AAV-7s, said a local defense industry source.
A Taiwan defense official confirmed the budget has been delayed, but denied the Navy was doing it intentionally. The entire national defense budget is taking hits to pay for $13 billion worth of new arms and equipment ordered over the last three years, including P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot PAC-3 air defense missile systems, AH-64D Apache attack helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.
The Marines will have to wait if they want more amphibious vehicles, the official said.
However, a local defense industry source warned there are “only about 110 hulls left in the world and there are a lot of countries that are looking at them, so if Taiwan wants them, they need to move on them soon.” The consequence, he said, would force the Taiwanese to procure new vehicles, rather than less expensive refurbished ones.
The need for more amphibious vehicles was underscored by the devastating Typhoon Morakot, which killed 439 people in 2009 and was the deadliest such storm in the island’s recorded history. The Marines with AAV-7s were the only military units able to rescue people in the affected areas.
After the disaster, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou called on the military to be better prepared for future disasters, particularly with Taiwan’s high level of earthquake activity.
The Marines expected the AAV-7s to be released after Morakot, but the Navy postponed it again due to budget issues, said a Taiwan defense official. Expectations are grim for any release in the near future, he said.
The AAV-7s were upgraded by United Defense Ground Systems under a 2003 contract dubbed RAM/RS (Reliability, Availability and Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard). The $156 million upgrade included remanufactured hulls, appliqué armor kits and litter kits, and was performed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Logistics Command depot in Albany, Ga.