Thu, Oct 10, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Former navy chief pans plan to buy expensive missiles

TALKING OF BILLIONS It will cost the navy almost three times more to buy new surface-to-air missiles rather than old ones, because the US will have to re-establish the weapon's production lines

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmaker and ex-navy chief Nelson Ku (顧崇廉) yesterday criticized the navy for planning to buy the US-made Standard SM-II surface-to-air missile at a price of around three times the market value.

The market price for the SM-II missile is NT$14 million apiece, but the navy plans to pay over NT$40 million for each missile, Ku said.

Ku said the SM-II missile will be more expensive because the US does not want to sell any such missiles from its own inventory and will have to re-open production lines to make the missile for Taiwan.

Ku questioned whether the arrangement is a good one since a stockpiled missile is as good as a newly-produced one.

"Because of the decision, the navy will spend a total of NT$13 billion on 248 SM-II missiles that will be deployed on the four Kidd-class destroyers that will be bought from the US," he said.

Ku made the remarks yesterday at a meeting of the legislature's Defense Committee as part of his questioning of the Ministry of National Defense.

In response, deputy defense minister for administrative affairs Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥), who was the highest-ranking defense official to attend yesterday's defense committee meeting, said he accepted Ku's criticism.

Kang asked for understanding from Ku. "The best solution is to have lawmakers with the defense committee meet with defense officials responsible for arms purchase to discuss issues such as the cost of a single arms deal," Kang said. He wished such open discussions of arms-purchase affairs could start as soon as next year, but he said it would not be possible this year.

In addition to the SM-II missile, Ku also warned that if the navy insists on buying the four Kidds, it will be faced with a situation where there won't be sufficient spare parts for the ships.

"The US no longer produces spare parts for the Kidds. They have to restart production to supply us with new ones. It will cost a lot of money," Ku said.

"I fear that some arms dealers might start to stock spare parts for the Kidds so as to monopolize the business. The navy will have no choice but to turn to these arms dealers for an immediate supply of spare parts for the destroyers," he said. "If so, the navy will also have to spend a lot of money on spare parts."

Ku strongly questioned the figure that the navy gave for the projected annual expenditure for repair and maintenance of the four Kidds.

The navy estimates that it will spend only NT$1.6 billion in repair and maintenance costs for the four Kidds each year.

With his past experience in the navy, Ku said the navy will have to spend much more than it currently estimates.

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