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Taiwan Arms Backlog, May 2024 Update

Eric Gomez and Benjamin Giltner

The backlog of US arms sales to Taiwan did not change in May 2024. Congress was not notified of any new arms sales, and there was no indication that any backlogged arms sales arrived in Taiwan. Per Figures 1 and 2, the backlog remains valued at $19.7 billion, with a majority of the backlog ($10.87 billion) consisting of traditional capabilities.

In Table 1, we have opted to keep the two sales of HIMARS—an original $436 million sale for 11 launchers and $520 million more for 18 additional launchers—as separate items instead of combining the two. The two sales have separate delivery timelines. Disaggregating them makes it easier to track the change in the backlog’s dollar value.

Taiwan was a very busy place despite the lack of change in the arms sale backlog.

Lai Ching‐​te officially became Taiwan’s new president on May 20. Shortly after the inauguration, China conducted large‐​scale military exercises around Taiwan, though Chinese ships and aircraft stayed outside of Taiwan’s territorial waters and airspace. The exercises were similar to those held in August 2022 after then‐​Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan.

Several members of Congress also visited Taiwan in late May to signal US support for the Lai administration and to reassure Taipei that US weapons are on the way. Assuming there are no new delays, Taiwan should receive its first tranches of newly‐​built F‑16s, Abrams tanks, and HIMARS launchers by the end of 2024, which will put a big dent in the backlog.

Additionally, it will be interesting to see what the first US arms sale to the Lai administration will be. Taiwan’s outgoing President Tsai Ing‐​wen frequently stressed the need for more asymmetric weapons and Taiwan’s military made some important investments in these capabilities during her tenure. However, Taiwan’s military has resisted fully embracing an asymmetric defense posture, and 55 percent of the backlog’s dollar value is for capabilities that are both more expensive and less likely to survive long in a conflict with China.

Taiwan Arms Backlog Dataset, May 2024 

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