Boeing Co of the US is negotiating the sale of 60 to 100 AV-8B Harrier vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) fighter planes with Taiwan, according to the latest issue of a local defense magazine.
If the deal succeeds, Taiwan is expected to start taking delivery of the AV-8Bs in 2005, the Defense Technology Monthly magazine said in its October issue.
To sweeten the deal, Boeing has promised to offer terms beneficial to Taiwan, including transferring relevant technology and upgrading the radar system of the AV-8Bs to match that of the F-16 series fighter jets, the magazine said.
Boeing sent a team to Taiwan early this year to brief the military on the AV-8B package it plans to offer Taiwan, according to the magazine. It reported that the total package will include between 60 and 100 AV-8Bs.
The English-language Flight International magazine had an article on the same topic in its Aug. 21 issue.
The Taipei Times printed an exclusive report on Aug. 21 last year on the military's plans to purchase AV-8Bs from the US.
The US initially did not accept the Taiwanese military's request for the AV-8Bs, according to defense sources. It urged Taiwan instead to buy AV-8As, an older version of the British-designed VSTOL aircraft. The military turned down the arrangement saying that the AV-8As could not meet the combat requirements of Taiwan in the 21st century, sources said.
Now the situation seems to have changed in Taiwan's favor, with the US agreeing not only to sell the AV-8Bs to Taiwan but also to provide some lucrative terms as part of the deal.
The Aerospace Industry Development Corporation, a private company and developer of the IDF fighter plane, is expected to win a contract from Boeing to produce the wing parts of the AV-8Bs, according to the magazine.
The contract will give a boost to the struggling firm, which has been awarded very few big contracts since completing the production of 130 IDFs for the air force two years ago.
The purchase of the AV-8Bs is part of the military's effort to build a force of third-generation fighters, according to an air force official.
F-16s, IDFs and Mirage 2000-5s are referred to as second-generation fighters to differentiate them from older fighter jets such as F-5Es and F-104s.
The air force's main demands for third-generation fighters are those with short or vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, the air force official said.
The Joint Strike Fighter currently being developed in the US is also being considered for purchase because of its VSTOL capabilities, the official said, but the chances of Taiwan acquiring the jet are very slim.