The Executive Yuan is only giving the Ministry of National Defense US$3.7 billion for the upgrade of the nation’s ageing F-16 aircraft, the Taipei Times has learned.
As a result of that decision, the ministry has told the air force that it cannot afford to spend US$5.1 billion on the upgrade package, notified to US Congress in September last year, for its 145 F-16A/Bs.
The Times was also informed that a decision has been made not to replace the aircraft’s F-100-PW-220 engines with F-100-PW-229, work that would have cost an estimated US$1.35 billion.
The air force is currently negotiating with US contractors and trying to determine whether to upgrade fewer aircraft or to limit the items included in the upgrades. Consensus on the best possible plan has yet to be reached.
According to a source close to the negotiations, two scenarios are emerging. The first would involve the upgrade of all 145 F-16A/Bs, but to a lesser standard than that proposed in the Sept. 21 notification, or with smaller quantities of armaments.
Although Washington has yet to commit to selling Taiwan the more advanced F-16C/D, the upgrade included an impressive array of advanced weapons systems, including 176 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars; 176 Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems; 176 ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management systems; 140 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles; 16 GBU-31V1 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits; 80 GBU-38 JDAM kits; and Dual Mode/ Global Positioning System Laser-Guided Bombs — 16 GBU-10 Enhanced PAVEWAY IIs or GBU-56 Laser JDAM, 80 GBU-12 Enhanced PAVEWAY IIs or GBU-54 Laser JDAMs, and 16 GBU-24 Enhanced PAVEWAY IIIs.
The second — and reportedly likeliest — scenario would involve a modest upgrade for only a number of aircraft, with potential for a second round in future. Initial estimates for the upgrade of all 145 aircraft put it at 10 years, a period during which the air force is expected to retire the obsolete F-5 and a number of Mirage 2000s.
Lockheed Martin Corp, the maker of the F-16, appears to be regarded by the air force as the only candidate to perform the avionics upgrades and weapons systems integration, despite a stipulation by the legislature that to ensure the proper use of government public resources, the Letter of Agreement (LOA) for the upgrade package — which is expected to be signed in April — should not specify any supplier and must request that the US team perform an open competition.
BAE Systems is competing with Lockheed for the upgrade, in many ways similar to the one for Taiwan, of 135 KF-16C/Ds for the South Korean air force. Seoul is expected to announce its decision in May or June.
Given that lowering costs appears to be the main consideration for the ministry, industry sources argue that rather than rush into signing the LOA in April and cut back on acquisitions of much-needed weapons to fit the US$3.7 billion mould, Taipei could benefit from waiting to see the outcome of the bidding process in South Korea, which could lead to reduced costs.
Representatives from Lockheed and Raytheon Corp, the other major contractor in the upgrade program and maker of the AESA radar, were unavailable for comment yesterday.
AIMED AT TAIWAN? Institute for National Defense and Security Research research fellow Ou Si-fu said chips can be ‘bought off the shelf’ and then used in weapons The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday said that chips from Taiwanese semiconductor companies were not making their way into Chinese missiles “to the best of our knowledge.” A report in yesterday’s Washington Post alleged that a Chinese company named Phytium Technology Co (飛騰) used chips made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), along with US software, in advanced Chinese military systems. “TSMC has long placed strict controls on their chips. The export of high-tech products from Taiwan is also highly regulated,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said. “According to our understanding, none of the end uses for those products
‘IMPORTANT PARTNER’: The new guidelines aim to encourage US engagement with Taiwan, which reflects a deepening relationship, the US Department of State said The US Department of State on Friday issued new guidelines governing US officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts, a move welcomed by Taipei as turning a new page in bilateral relations. Shortly before leaving office, then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Jan. 9 announced the cancelation of previous contact guidelines, which he said were “self-imposed restrictions” that attempted to appease the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing. However, the status of the guidelines has been unclear since US President Joe Biden entered the White House. Asked about the issue during a legislative session on Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu
Those needing to travel abroad should be able to buy a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this month at the earliest, pending an official announcement next week, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said yesterday. An expected 5,000 to 10,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are to be set aside for purchase by those with a specified need to travel, said Chuang, who is also the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) spokesman. Whether doses would be limited to business travelers or could include leisure travelers needs further discussion, he said, adding that a vaccination timeline is to be
‘IDEAL FIT’: A report on Sunday said that the Canadian government threatened to pull its support and funding from the HFX if the award was given to the president The government would respect the decision of the organizer of the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service on whether it plans to award a prize to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday. The statement was issued after US Web site Politico reported a day earlier that the Canadian government had warned the Halifax International Security Forum (HFX) not to give the award to Tsai for fear of provoking Beijing. “The ministry believes that if the Halifax International Security Forum confers the prize upon President Tsai, it would be an affirmation and honor for both