Taiwan is looking to buy National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, from the United States, has seen how well they work in Ukraine, the island’s defense minister said on Tuesday. The system is a networked short- to medium-range ground-based air defense solution that protects against drones, cruise missiles, and manned aircraft. It is jointly developed and manufactured by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace of Norway and Raytheon Technologies of the US.
The system is designed to be integrated with various subordinate weapons systems, such as the RBS 70 laser beam assisted MANPADS or Bofors 40mm L70 AA gun, as part of an Army’s layered defense strategy. It uses the AN/MPQ-64F1 Sentinel X-band 3D radar, Kongsberg’s Fire Distribution Centre, and various effectors to defend against airborne threats. A single NASAMS fire unit can network with other fire units and command centers over a hard-real-time communication system. The radar and FDC can be mounted on light vehicles like the HMMWV or Hawkei, tactical trucks, or on trailer mount.
NASAMS is designed to be modular with a range of effectors to protect against different threats and missions, with the most popular being the AMRAAM air-to-air missile. The rocket flies about 30 miles per second, homing in on energy from the target’s radar signature. The system is a favorite among the dozen countries that still use it for its simplicity, compactness (a single heavy lift helicopter can haul a battery), and ease of upgradability. It is also cheaper than modern SAMs, such as the Israeli Iron Dome.
The Pentagon has pledged to donate around a dozen HAWK batteries with about a hundred launchers to Ukraine, adding to earlier SAM donations. These would replace the older Soviet-vintage batteries that Kyiv has relied on to defend its military bases and airfields. Those 1960s vintage missiles, however, provide little protection against modern cruise missiles and attack drones.
The Obama administration has been keen to get Ukraine running with a new SAM system to tackle such threats. The Army is developing a prototype of a next-generation SAM called Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 that will use a NASAMS-like system called Enduring Shield to defend against cruise missiles and drones.
A US-brokered sale of a few NASAMS fire units for Ukraine could help close a capability gap until that comes into service in 2022.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, has stepped up military and political pressure over the past three years to force the democratically governed island to accept Beijing’s rule. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claim and argues that its international status should be determined by the outcomes of the 1951-52 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which recognized Japan’s cession of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China but left open the possibility for a future referendum on Taiwan’s status. Some 13 countries and the Vatican City/Holy See recognize Taiwan as a country, while most consider it a territory.