Mon, Jul 28, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan closing in on deal to buy new US defense aircraft

AFP , TAIPEI

Taiwan is closing in on a deal to buy US-made C-27J Spartan anti-submarine aircraft rather than the P-3C Orion and S-3 Viking, Jane's Defense Weekly reported.

The P-3C Orion and S-3 Viking are both out of production and restarting the line would add substantially to the cost of the aircraft.

Spare parts and technical support for the P-3C and S-3 would also be more expensive, the magazine said.

US President George W. Bush offered to sell Taiwan 12 P-3C Orions in April 2001, but reopening manufacturer Lockheed Martin's assembly line would push the cost per plane to US$300 million.

Taiwan's 40-year-old S-2 aircraft fleet was upgraded by Northrop Grumman and entered service as S-2Ts with the Taiwanese navy in 1990.

But many of them are battling the ravages of age, a substantial number are not operational and they are generally unreliable, according to Taiwanese sources.

A source close to purchase talks told Jane's Defence Weekly that a cheaper alternative would be to refurbish P-3B airframes, at an estimated US$66 million per plane.

The S-3 is viewed with some skepticism by Taiwanese sources as an alternative.

"Both the price and the various capabilities of the C-27 make it very attractive," a Taiwanese source said.

The C-27J is a medium-sized military transport developed by Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems that requires only short take-off and landing runways.

Another appeal of the C-27J is that Taiwan's state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp constructs the horizontal and vertical tail assemblies for the aircraft.

Washington, the leading arms supplier to Taiwan, had advised the island to beef up its anti-submarine capabilities as China has acquired an increasing number of Russia-built Kilo-class submarines.

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