July 18, 2018


Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a state in East Asia neighboring Japan and the People’s Republic of China. When the People’s Republic of China established control over mainland China following the Chinese Civil War, the ROC relocated its government to Taiwan and has remained there ever since. The PRC claims Taiwan as its province and denies its existence as a sovereign state. Due to the PRC’s refusal to maintain diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Taiwan, only 18 nations formally recognize the nation; [i] however, the US is one of the ROC’s main allies and has provided arms and training since 1979. [ii]

Taiwan is of strategic importance to the United States. Sitting just 100 miles from China, Taiwan is China’s closest link to the first island chain. Put differently, a Chinese-controlled Taiwan offers China the opportunity to forcefully assert its domination in Asia. For Taiwan to preserve its independence, it must be prepared to survive a naval and missile attack from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China. Missile defense capabilities are certainly necessary for its security. Still, the United State’s official position is “strategic ambiguity,” suggesting that it will not disclose whether or not it intends to defend the island. But on May 23, 2022, President Joe Biden told reporters that “Yes [I would defend Taiwan]. That’s the commitment we made.” [iii]

Taiwan’s Ballistic Missile Defense Capabilities

SystemOperatorNumber Deployed 
Patriot/PAC-3TaiwanApprox. seven batteries

Taiwan received three PAC-2 systems in 1997 and in 2001, these PAC-2 systems underwent upgrades to the more-capable PAC-3 missile defense system. In 2009, Taiwan procured four additional PAC-3 systems from the United States. Taiwan deploys these air and missile defense systems around the country’s capital, Taipei. In August 2022, the US and Taiwan renewed a missile engineering service contract worth $83 million to improve the combat performance of the latter’s Patriots. [iv] Taiwan’s Patriot-2s would be upgraded to Patriot-3 Guided Missile Enhancement (GEM). In addition, the U.S. edited an existing 2010 contract to include as many as 100 new PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles worth $882 million, to be expected in 2025 and fully operational as early as 2026. [v]

Taiwan’s Air Defense Capabilities

SystemRoleNumber DeployedCountry of Origin 
MIM-104 Patriot/PAC-2Medium- to Long-Range Air Defense (PAC-2/GEM interceptors)Approx. seven batteriesUnited States
Avenger Air Defense SystemShort-Range Air DefenseUnknownUnited States
MIM-23 HAWKMedium-Range Air DefenseUnknownUnited States
Tien-Kung  (Sky Bow)Short- to Long-Range Air DefenseUnknownTaiwan
Sea Oryx

(Not Yet Deployed)

Short-Range Air DefenseUnknownTaiwan
Tien Chien-2 (Sky Sword 2)Medium-Range Air DefenseUnknownTaiwan
MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS)Short- to Medium-Range Defense2United States

Taiwan completed its replacement of dangerously antiquated MIM-23 HAWK systems, of which two battalions were equipped, with Tien-Kung III systems in December 2022. [vi]

On May 19, 2022, it was announced that the Taiwanese military spent $146.14 million to set up 45 anti-drone defense systems around the island. Following reports that Chinese companies dominate the global market for small UAVs, the military saw it necessary to sign an agreement with the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) to develop anti-drone defense systems. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would make use of these drones, so it is imperative that the Taiwanese military has the capability to destroy them. [vii]

Current Developments

Raytheon received a $685.7 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract to provide additional new Patriot missiles systems to Taiwan in 2011.[viii]

In November 2016, the U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon a $26 million contract to supply Taiwan with upgraded missile warning radar centers.[vix]

Raytheon was awarded a contract to provide engineering services for Patriot missile batteries operated by Taiwan, Kuwait, Spain, and Israel in January 2017. Work on the contract has an estimated completion date of December 31, 2018.[x]

The Department of Defense announced, in July 2017, that Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control was awarded a $130.3 million foreign military sales contract for Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missile systems. Taiwan was named one of the recipients of these systems.[xi]

It was announced in the Taipei-based China Times in February 2018 that the MIM-23 Hawk, a medium-range surface to air missile system designed in the 1950s would be deployed by the Taiwanese military. The system would be deployed along the Pacific coastline as a frontline defense against Chinese aircraft. The MIM-23 Hawks will be reinforced by highly mobile MIM-104 Patriots.[xii]

In February 2022, the U.S. approved a $100 million deal for Taiwan to upgrade its Patriot capabilities. The approval came after the U.S. pushed Taiwan to “porcupine” itself by modernizing and improving its defense capabilities. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the upgraded Patriots will “help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”[xiii]

In June 2022, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry signed a $110 million contract to purchase 11 new Bee-Eye radar systems for the island. These new radars will be placed in Dongyin, Quemoy, Pratas, and Taiping. These radars will be used to detect aerial threats from the Chinese military.[xiv]

China’s growing militarism and encroachments on Taiwanese air space demonstrate its intent to militarily take the island. As of May 2022, Chinese jet incursions for the year have totaled 465 incursions; this is a 50% spike compared to last year’s timetable.[xi] Because of these tensions, Taiwan has been holding “missile alert” air-raid exercises (named “Wan An”). On July 25, 2022, sirens sounded throughout the island, notifying people to evacuate to safety. The streets emptied, and people rushed indoors.  The Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je said: “It is necessary to make preparations in the event of a war.” Taiwan knows the prospects of war are rising, and it is preparing accordingly.[xv]

On Tuesday, August 2, 2022, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Taiwan. Believing that Pelosi’s visit promoted Taiwanese independence, President Xi Jinping warned President Biden, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.” In a continued attempt to bully Pelosi off of the island, the Chinese military released footage of a test fire of the DF-17 hypersonic missile and scheduled military exercises from August 4th to 7th that circled Taiwan.

In early December 2022, the US proposed selling Taiwan as many as new PAC-3 MSE missiles for the Patriot system, an update to a previous 2010 sale worth $2.81 billion. [xvii]

On January 30, 2023, in response to steady PLA incursions through the southeast corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ, Sky Bow and Patriot batteries were deployed to the island’s north to strengthen the air defense capability there. [xviii]

Recent News





[iv] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4499660

[v] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3188745/taiwan-and-us-renew-patriot-3-missile-service-contract

[vi] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/12/07/2003790257

[vii] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4543581

[viii] http://investor.raytheon.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=84193&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1640578


[x] https://sputniknews.com/military/201701271050053409-raytheon-maintain-kuwait-taiwan-missiles/

[xi] https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2017/07/17/Lockheed-awarded-1303-million-contract-for-Patriot-missile-foreign-sales/7111500296118/

[xii] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/taiwan-bringing-back-cold-war-missiles-deter-china-24358

[xiii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/08/us-approves-100m-deal-for-taiwan-to-upgrade-patriot-missile-system


[xv] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3181075/taiwan-installing-bee-eye-radars-its-outlying-islands-track-pla


[xvii] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/12/07/2003790257

[xviii] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4794779