Taiwan will buy as many as 400 land-launched Harpoon missiles intended to repel a potential Chinese invasion, completing a deal that Congress approved in 2020, according to a trade group’s leader and people familiar with the issue.
Taiwan has previously purchased ship-launched versions of the Harpoon, which is made by Boeing Co. Now, a contract with Boeing issued on Taiwan’s behalf by the US Naval Air Systems Command marks a first for the mobile, land-launched version, according to Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council. Three other people familiar with the deal, including an industry official, confirmed the contract is for Taiwan.
The Pentagon announced the $1.7 billion contract with Boeing on April 7 but made no mention of Taiwan as the purchaser. The deal comes as US-China tensions are high, particularly over Taiwan, the self-governed island that China claims as part of its territory. China held military drills around Taiwan after its president met in California this month with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to say whether Taiwan will be the recipient of the Harpoon missiles but said “we will continue to work with industry to provide Taiwan defense equipment in a timely manner.
“The United States’ provision to Taiwan of defense articles, which includes sustainment to existing capabilities via Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales, is essential for Taiwan’s security, Meiners said.
The Harpoon contract has been cited by members of Congress including Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as part of as much $19 billion in “backlogged US sales to Taiwan that they say need to accelerated. In addition to the Harpoon, the list includes the F-16 Block 70 fighter, the MK-48 torpedo, the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer and the Stinger missile.
The backlog, and the Harpoon sale, are likely to be discussed Tuesday at a hearing of the House Armed Service Committee focusing on the Indo-Pacific.
Ground-launched Harpoon missiles used for coastal defense figured prominently in a series of tabletop war games of a potential invasion of Taiwan by China conducted last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Because of their mobility and ability to range the entire strait, these missiles were highly effective against Chinese invasion forces, said analyst Mark Cancian who managed the exercises. “They also reduced the need to station US forces on the island. However, 400 is not nearly enough. The Taiwanese need many more.
The $1.7 billion weapons contract was preceded in March 2022 by a $498 million contract to Boeing specifically for Taiwan that ordered Harpoon “Coastal Defense System launch equipment such as mobile transporters, radar and training equipment.