Taiwan's Upgraded Radar to Monitor Increasing Chinese Aircraft Flying by Island

Taiwan could purchase a new early warning radar as soon as next year as the country faces escalating military pressure and harassment by Chinese warplanes on a near-daily basis, according to reports from Taipei.

Its Defense Ministry will submit a proposal for a long-range early warning system to be installed in the mountains south of the island, where air bases are routinely responding to Chinese military planes violating Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Liberty Times reported on Tuesday.

If the procurement receives support from the government, lawmakers could see the plans this September, when Taiwan's legislature will review the defense budget for 2022, the newspaper said, citing a senior military source. In the meantime, the specifications of the new radar—first mentioned in a defense report last year—remain undisclosed.

The proposal for a new long-range early warning system had been discussed well in advance and was not linked to the recent visit to Taipei by a U.S. delegation sent by President Joe Biden, the official said.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry spokesperson Alan Shih said the procurement of weapons and equipment is handled according to enemy threats and actual demand. He told the government-funded Central News Agency that he would not comment on media speculation.

Beyond smaller facilities scattered around the island, Taiwan currently operates one long-range radar, the Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System—or PAVE PAWS—at the Leshan radar station atop Mount Lu Chang in the island's northwest.

The Cold War-era system was purchased from the United States in 2000, at a cost of 40 million New Taiwan dollars ($1.4 billion), and put into service in 2013.

PAVE PAWS is said to have an effective range of 3,000 nautical miles, covering an expansive area that includes the internal provinces of mainland China, North and Northeast Asia, as well as South and Southeast Asia. The system can detect ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft and surface vessels.

According to Liberty Times, the Taiwanese government had planned to purchase two of the radars following the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, when the Chinese military fired missiles into the waters surrounding Taiwan. However, budgetary constraints meant Taipei could only afford one.

Analysts say Taiwan's radar stations would be among the primary targets for a missile attack in the event of an armed conflict across the Taiwan Strait. An additional radar station would help spread the risk of losing early warning and tracking capabilities.

Plans to acquire the new system, likely from the United States, will be seen as necessary following a year of increased military pressure from Beijing.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force is now flying sorties into Taiwan's southwest ADIZ with increasing regularity and in larger quantities than ever before. Chinese warplanes set a new record this month with a total of 98 aircraft violating the island's defensive airspace as of April 21. The last time the record was broken was in January, when 81 aircraft violated Taiwan's defensive airspace.

Taiwan to Purchase New Long-Range Radar
Troops conduct drills in defense of radar facilities at Taiwan's northern Hsinchu air base on April 19, 2012. Mandy CHENG/AFP via Getty Images