Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 4 News List

No decision yet on military aircraft

CNA , TAIPEI

The Ministry of National Defense is still mulling over the plan to purchase US-made P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, Vice Minister of National Defense Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said yesterday.

Lin made the remarks at the Legislative Yuan National Defense Committee meeting where many lawmakers asked whether the ministry will yield to US pressures to buy the P-3C aircraft at extremely exorbitant prices.

In a robust arms sales that was package announced two years ago, the administration of US President George W. Bush agreed to sell Taiwan 12 P-3C anti-sub aircraft.

According to media reports, the US has quoted the total price at US$4.1 billion, which works out to more than US$300 million for each plane.

Lin said that such a price is indeed very expensive, but he added that the procurement plan is still in the works.

"We'll take into account the military's combat demands and our nation's financial status in drawing the plan. We are unlikely to accept unreasonable contract terms," Lin said, adding that lawmakers need not worry about such a scenario.

Speaking on the same occasion, Chang Hsiao-hsing, a division chief with the ministry's strategic planning department, said that the US has already closed its P-3C anti-sub production line and that the price tag of US$300 million per plane was just an initial offer.

"We have not yet accepted the quote and have asked US authorities to furnish us with a more detailed account for evaluation," Chang said, adding that the ministry has also come up with three substitute options.

Chang said that the proposed alternatives are: leasing anti-submarine aircraft from the US, purchasing such planes that may be available on the market, or procuring the type now in service in the US military.

"Anyway, the procurement plan has yet to be finalized. We'll consider cost efficiency and combat effectiveness while making a decision," he added.

In related news, the Navy General Headquarters (NGH) denied media reports yesterday that a Navy submarine had a near miss with a frigate during a recent training exercise.

The Navy made the denial in a news release after a lawmaker quoted media reports at a meeting of the National Defense Committee which was convened to review the military's training programs and its call-up operations for its reserve troops.

NGH Deputy Chief of Staff Yeh Chu told lawmakers that the Navy did conduct a training drill, code-named Operation Sea Shark, earlier this month.

"But there were no accidents, as reported by the media, in the course of the exercise," he stressed.

A navy news statement released later explained that Operation Sea Shark was part of the Navy's routine annual training program, aimed at testing naval personnel's combat and reconnaissance capabilities in a close encounter between submarines and warships at sea.

Throughout the drill, the statement said, the submarine had used sonar to monitor targets on the surface for possible attack and counterattack drills.

The weather, waves and visibility on the day were all fine, it said, adding that the whole drill proceeded smoothly and had no unexpected developments.

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