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MND considering domestic Patriot missile maintenance

TAIPEI--The Defense Ministry said yesterday it will gradually reduce dependence on the United States for the maintenance of Taiwan's Patriot missiles in order to cut costs and improve efficiency in that area.

Taiwan will gradually move toward domestic maintenance of Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missiles, as was done with the Hawk missile components, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said at a legislative hearing on the country's defense budget.

He said that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2001, the country has strengthened its homeland security, which makes it troublesome to ship weapons back to Taiwan after maintenance.

The minister was responding to ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who noted that a whopping NT$230 million (US$7.85 million) has been allocated this year to send Taiwan's aging PAC-2 missiles to the U.S. for maintenance.

Lin pointed out that some components of the PAC missile system will soon reach the end of their 15-year life cycle and he suggested that the ministry look at doing some of the maintenance on the missiles in Taiwan to save costs.

The lawmaker also raised the issue of Taiwan's Sparrow missiles, which misfired during a military exercise last year.

The U.S. Air Force has asked Taiwan to stop using the Sparrow missiles in live fire military exercises since the solid-propellant rocket motors have reached the end of their life cycle, Lin noted.

In response, Lt. Gen. Chen Tien-sheng said the Defense Ministry will make a decision based on a report by U.S. authorities, which is expected to be released next January after they complete their current evaluation of Taiwan's nearly 500 Sparrows.

Meanwhile, Kao said Taiwan will use its surface-to-air Standard Missile -2 in a live-fire exercise scheduled for the second half of 2013.

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