Mon, Jul 14, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Submarine deal may be put on the back burner


The Taiwan navy's plan to acquire eight conventional submarines from the US, a deal guaranteed by US President George W. Bush, could founder because of budget problems, Jane's Defence Weekly reported.

"The desire of Taiwan for a fleet of eight diesel-electric submarines could be more than a decade away after Taiwanese navy officials told their US counterparts that funding is three years away," the weekly said.

The US has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years and designing an entirely new one would be prohibitively expensive without foreign participation, Jane's said.

It had been hoped that the first submarines could join the Taiwanese navy in 2010 at the earliest.

But a US naval official told the weekly that if money is not available until fiscal year 2006, the process of tendering and selection would push the program to a 2013 to 2014 delivery date.

The US navy would also be looking for US$300 million to US$350 million up front to start the program, but Taiwanese legislators may baulk at the amount without knowing what kind of submarine they are receiving, the weekly said.

"US naval officials note that until Taiwan provides the US with formal assurances that sufficient funds for the multi-billion-dollar deal have been secured, any US military program to design the boats will be left in limbo," the weekly says.

Bush in April 2001 approved the sale of eight conventional submarines to Taiwan as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package to the nation since 1992.

In related news, the first batch of AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) that the US agreed in 2000 to sell to Taiwan is scheduled to be delivered in the near future, military sources told reporters yesterday.

The US government has recently agreed to allow the Taiwan order -- some 200 AIM-120 missiles -- to be delivered in a bid to beef up Taiwan's defensive capabilities in the face of heightening military threats from across the Taiwan Strait, the sources said.

If everything goes smoothly, the Taiwan Air Force is expected to receive the long-awaited US-made AIM-120 missiles in one to two months as shipping, transportation and related affairs are already being arranged, the sources said.

The AIM-120 missiles are expected to be installed on F-16 jet fighters -- which form the backbone of the Taiwan air force -- once they are delivered and test fired, which is scheduled to begin early next year, the sources said.

Taiwan Air Force fighter pilots have been in the US for training, which includes flying practice and firing AIM-120 missiles at various targets.

The AIM-120 AMRAAM is a new generation air-to-air missile.

The guided missile has an all-weather, beyond-visual-range capability and active radio frequency target detection.

A follow-up to the AIM-7 Sparrow missile series, the AMRAAM is compatible with the US F-15, F-16 and developmental F-22, as well as the German F-4 and the British Sea Harrier aircraft.

The missile is faster, smaller and lighter and has improved capabilities against low-altitude targets.

It incorporates an active radar with an inertial reference unit and micro-computer system.

Once the missile closes in on a target, its active radar guides it to intercept, according to the military sources.

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