The US defense company Raytheon has been given a US$1.1 billion contract to supply a new Patriot Air and Missile Defense System to Taiwan.
Former US president George W. Bush approved the sale last year and it took 14 months to reach this stage.
The contract comes just as US President Barack Obama is expected to inform Congress that he has approved a new arms package for Taiwan. That announcement could come at any time.
Raytheon president Daniel Smith said on Wednesday night in Washington: “The Patriot system is a vital element to providing superior integrated air and missile defense capabilities for the protection of Taiwan. Raytheon has provided advanced technology, innovation and support for Taiwan for more than 40 years, and we are honored to continue that partnership today and in the future.”
The contract, issued by the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, is in two parts. The first, for US$965.6 million, covers the missile launchers or “ground-system hardware,” while the second, for US$134.4 million, is for spare parts. The actual missiles will be covered in yet another contract to be issued shortly.
Raytheon has annual sales of US$23 billion.
While details of the Patriot system remain highly classified, the version now being sold to Taiwan is known to be more advanced, more accurate and more reliable than the older system now in use.
It is designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles. China has more than 1,000 such missiles aimed at Taiwan.
Beijing strongly objected to the sale when it was first announced and is expected to raise further objections now that it is definitely going ahead.
The new arms package to be announced soon is expected to include UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and more “advanced capability” Patriot missiles, known as PAC-3 missiles.
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