Taiwan has finalized a new defense deal with the US worth $146 million to acquire Volcano Vehicle-Launched Scatterable Mine Systems, seen as crucial for defense of the self-ruled island in the event of a Chinese military invasion. This comes the same week the State Department announced approval for $440 million more in ammo and logistics deals for Taiwan.
The pending Volcano mine-laying systems deal had first been previewed by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in December 2022. It additionally included M977A4 trucks, M87A1 anti-tank mines, as well as M88 and M89 training munitions.
Announcement of the finalized deal is sure to provoke China, at a moment Beijing-Washington relations have hit a recent low point, amid continued fallout over the Chinese 'spy balloon' shootdown in February and Biden's recently calling Xi Jinping a "dictator". Secretary of State Antony Blinken in follow-up days ago said he backed Biden's assessment.
Taiwan's army first proposed acquisition of the US mine-laying system in 2018, as it needed to capability for rapid deployment of anti-tank mines over a large area, in the scenario of an amphibious landing assault.
Among the capabilities of the Volcano system include:
- each vehicle contains 960 anti-tank/anti-personnel mines
- is capable of laying a minefield 1,100 meters long
- ...and can scatter mines 120 meters wide within four to 12 minutes
A review of the system's further specs and capabilities from a US defense industry website details the following:
Ground Volcano is designed to emplace large minefields in depth and tactical minefields oriented on enemy forces in support of maneuver operations and friendly AT fire. The system consists of the M139 Dispenser used for dispensing pre-packaged mine canisters, the dispensing control unit (DCU) and mounting hardware, and is designed to be mounted on either ground or aerial vehicles using the same components except for the mounting hardware, which varies between fitment.
Volcano is designed to be fitted to and removed from vehicles with a minimum of time and labour. The dispensing system is also designed for ease of use, to operated by personnel with a minimum of training. The ordnance used by the system is based upon a modified GATOR mine. Both live and inert (training) ordnance is available; live canisters are painted green while inert canisters are painted blue.
China has meanwhile continued its warnings aimed at Taipei and the US, on Friday sending 24 Chinese PLA jets and five naval vessels near Taiwan, in what has at this point become a weekly and almost daily exercise.
Last weekend, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said that eight Chinese warplanes came close to Taiwan’s contiguous zone, which extends 24 nautical miles off the island’s coast--which was a true rarity and is being widely interpreted as a more severe threat, compared to the somewhat routine breaches of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).