Taiwan expects to sign LOA finalizing M1A2 tank sale next month

Taipei-Taiwan expects to sign a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA), a contract between the U.S. military and a foreign military sales customer, officially sealing the sale of M1A2 tanks next month, Taiwan's defense ministry said Monday.

Lieutenant General Yang Hai-ming (???), chief of staff of the Republic of China Army, made the remarks during a Legislative session when asked by lawmakers about the timetable for the M1A2 deal.

The U.S. Department of State provisionally approved the sale to Taiwan of M1A2 Abrams tanks, Stinger man-portable air defense systems, and other related equipment worth over US$2.2 billion in July.

However, Taiwan's military has not yet received the LOA for the deal, leading to questions from opposition lawmakers on Monday as to whether the sale remains on schedule.

Asked to comment, Yang said bilateral talks over the matter are ongoing and the U.S. side has promised Taiwan will receive the LOA soon.

Asked if it is possible the LOA could be signed next month, Yang answered in the affirmative.

Meanwhile, separate from the upcoming signing of the LOA, Taiwan's military and Lockheed Martin, the U.S. company that produces the tank's main armament -- the 120mm cannon -- are also in talks to have the U.S. company transfer 12 sets of defense technology to Taiwan, said Defense Minister Yen De-fa (???) during the same Legislative session.

Among the 12, two involve asking Lockheed Martin to transfer its technology for the production of the 120 mm cannon and its ammunition -- 120mm shells -- to Taiwanese companies so that they can be produced locally, said Fang Mao-hung (???), head of the military's Armaments Bureau.

The remaining technology involves teaching local companies how to maintain the tanks once Taiwan receives them, he added.

Based on a list of steps provided by the Defense Ministry that are followed when Taiwan asks the U.S. to sell it weapons, once a request is made, if the U.S. gives it a green light, Washington then sends an LOA to Taiwan detailing its offer.

Taipei then reviews the offer and completes a proposal for the procurement project before sending the LOA back to Washington.

Various U.S. government branches then review the proposal before the U.S. government notifies Congress of the sale and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) under the Department of Defense makes the deal public.

The process is completed once both sides sign the LOA, according to Taiwan's military.

This is the process in theory, but for the tank sale, the U.S. side notified Congress and the DSCA made the deal public in July before the U.S. side sent an LOA to Taiwan.

The Defense Ministry said the M1A2 tanks are meant to replace some of its aging M60A3 Patton and CM-11 Brave Tiger tanks which have been in service for more than 20 years.

When the purchase is finalized, the 108 battle tanks will all be assigned to the Sixth Army Corps, which is responsible for the security of northern Taiwan, where most central government agencies are located, the military said.

The Army is scheduled to take delivery of its first batch of M1A2 tanks in 2022 in the U.S., the military said, adding that the first batch of around a dozen of tanks will arrive in Taiwan in 2023.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel