U.S. Approves SLAM-ER and MS-110 Pods for Taiwan

 - October 22, 2020, 12:38 PM
South Korea was the first Asian air am to employ the SLAM-ER, an example of which is seen here on a ROKAF F-15K “Slam Eagle”, along with AIM-9X and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles. In Taiwanese service the most likely carrier would be the F-16. (Photo: Chen Chuanren)

The U.S. State Department has approved the sales of a series of arms to Taiwan, including a large stock of 135 Boeing AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles and six Collins Aerospace MS-110 reconnaissance pods, along with 11 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket launchers. The total package is worth around $1.8 billion, and will irk China just as Beijing was reported to be positioning ballistic missiles near the Taiwan Straits. 

The SLAM-ER missiles alone will cost Taipei $1 billion, and will make the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) the second Asian air arm to possess the missiles after South Korea, and potentially the first to certify SLAM-ER on the Lockheed Martin F-16. With a maximum range of around 270km (145nm), the SLAM-ER gives the ROCAF improved stand-off capabilities, and could potentially strike targets across the Taiwan Strait, even at its widest point, without the jets having to leave Taiwanese airspace. 

Similarly, Taiwan believes that the MS-110 pods can provide reconnaissance of the Chinese coast at the Strait's narrowest point. The MS-110 is an improved multi-spectral version of the dual-band DB-110 pods, the latter operating in the visible and infrared bands. With six color channels, the MS-110 offers improved image resolution and area coverage by both day and night. 

Four days before the approval of the arms sales, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had deployed the DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missiles in the provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, two of the closest provinces to Taiwan. The DF-17 is reported to have a range in excess of 2,000km, and the ability to defeat modern air defense systems with its speed and ability to change its trajectory.

In response to the U.S. approval, the Chinese foreign ministry said the potential sale would “seriously damage China's sovereignty and security interests, and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces.” It added that it would retaliate with a “legitimate and necessary response.”