Fri, May 02, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Defense committee OKs payment for US missiles

FINALLY The legislature has allowed the air force to pay for its American-made Harpoon missiles, but only after demanding and getting a lengthy explanation

CNA , TAIPEI

The latest installment payment for US-made Harpoon missiles will be made following more political wrangling in the Legislative Yuan over the use of domestic missiles versus American-made ones.

The legislature's National Defense Committee lifted its freeze on the NT$300 million budget for Harpoon-missile procurement after the air force promised to purchase Hsiungfeng II air-to-sea missiles to equip its IDF planes.

The Harpoon missiles will be installed on its F-16 jet fighters.

While screening the air force's budget for this year during the last legislative session, some lawmakers questioned why the military chose the Harpoons instead of the Hsiungfeng II missiles developed by the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CIST).

The lawmakers demanded that the air force give the committee an explanation before it could use the funds appropriated for the current fiscal year.

Speaking at the committee meeting yesterday, air force Commander-in-Chief General Lee Tian-yu (李天羽) said the entire Harpoon missile order had been delivered.

"We still owe the US contractor some NT$800 million, including NT$300 million to be paid this year. If we default on the payment, our reputation will be at stake," he said.

Air force chief of staff General Ke Kuang-yeh (葛光越) said all the Harpoon missiles will be used aboard US-made F-16 fighters.

"It would take a great deal of time and money to refit the F-16s for the Hsiungfeng II missiles," Ke said.

Moreover, he said, the military cannot modify the F-16 systems without prior US approval.

CIST director Liu Chin-ling (劉金陵) said production costs for a Hsiungfeng II missile are roughly the same as that of a Harpoon missile, about NT$40 million. In future, he said, production costs for the Hsiungfeng could be lowered to NT$25 million.

Liu said that installing Hsiungfeng IIs on the IDF jets would not cause weaponry systems integration problems.

"But it would be costly and difficult to install Hsiungfeng IIs on F-16s," he said.

According to Liu, the military once tried to equip F-16s with CIST-developed Tienchien II air-to-air missiles. The US supplier asked for US$400 million for integration.

"After a cost-efficiency study, we dropped the plan," he said.

After the committee gave a green light to the Harpoon budget, the military promised to test-fire Hsiungfeng II missiles from IDF planes in the near future to speed up the air force's procurement of the missiles for its IDF fleet.

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