In July 2018, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense budgeted money to purchase 108 M1A2 tanks from the U.S. government.
China has always insisted that Taiwan is part of its territory, which it has vowed to take back by force, if necessary. While the Chinese Air Force’s intimidation of Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone is at an all-time high, Taipei’s growing proximity to the USA has irked the communist nation. The US will offer its assistance to help Taiwan meet its weapons requirement. Taiwan’s military is said to have spent a large amount of money to buy American tanks.
In July 2018, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense budgeted money to purchase 108 M1A2 tanks from the U.S. government, to replace its aging CM-11 Brave Tiger and M60A3 main battle tanks. The $1.42 billion deal was approved in 2019, under which 108 Abrams tanks would be delivered in four batches between 2023 and 2026. The pact also includes Stinger missiles and other equipment. The first two of these tanks were delivered to Taiwan in September 2022.
M1A2T is a special variant of M1A2C for Taiwan. According to the DSCA statement, it is roughly equivalent to M1A2C, except depleted uranium armor is replaced by FMS export armor. There is no mention of the Trophy APS system. But the question arises, of all the weapons Taiwan needs to defend itself against a Chinese invasion, should the main battle tank top the list?
First, Taiwan is an island. To forcibly conquer Taiwan, China will have either bombard it into submission with missiles and aircraft, or conduct an amphibious and airborne invasion across the 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. If China can land a sizeable force on Taiwan, then it has achieved sufficient air and naval superiority in the face of Taiwanese, and quite possibly U.S. defenses.
Presumably, those 108 M1A2, and the five hundred or so older M60A3 and M48 tanks would counterattack the beachhead. But this is no easy matter: the attacker has surprise and local superiority, while the defender suffered a gauntlet of interdicting air bombardment and naval gunfire. And China will have no shortage of tank-killing weapons, including smart bombs, attack helicopters, and People’s Liberation Army marines and paratroopers that will be armed with plentiful anti-tank rockets as well as amphibious armor and airdroppable light tanks. If that’s not enough, China is developing missile-armed drones that could stalk tanks.
China is beefing up its amphibious capabilities, including the deployment of a new Type 075 amphibious assault ship that can carry 900 marines and their vehicles, as well as helicopters and possibly even vertical-takeoff fighters. More Type 075s are coming, while China also fields three airborne divisions as well as heliborne air assault brigades.
A hundred M1A2s, is a powerful force if massed and used properly. The terrain of the island is rough, there is the hundred-mile Taiwan Strait to cross, and a barrier of Taiwanese and possibly American aircraft and warships to penetrate.