TAIPEI, Sept 6, 2010 (AFP) - Taiwan expects a much-anticipated missile defence shield to be ready next year after buying advanced weapons at a cost of about 300 billion Taiwan dollars (S$12.6 billion), local media reported Monday.
Six batteries of Patriot III missiles forming the backbone of the system will account for roughly half the costs associated with the project, the China Times newspaper said.
A long-range early warning radar system, priced at about 40 billion Taiwan dollars, will allow the military to detect and track incoming ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, it said.
While the Patriot III and radars are US-made, the system will also include locally produced tactical ballistic missiles evolved from existing missiles known as "Tienkung", or Sky Bow, the paper said.
The defence ministry declined to comment on the report.
Military experts estimate the People's Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island.
Ties between Taiwan and its giant neighbour have improved markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang took office in Taipei in 2008.
But China still considers Taiwan to be territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, prompting Taipei to seek more advanced defence weaponry, largely from the United States.
Washington announced in January a weapons package for Taiwan that includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, and equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fighter jets, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.
Beijing reacted angrily to the arms deal, valued at S$8.6 billion, halting military and security contacts with the United States.