Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Official denies change on radar procurement

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said yesterday he saw no sign of change in the government's plan to purchase early-warning radar system from the US, denying a report in the leading defense journal Jane's Defence Weekly that said Taiwan was seriously reconsidering the arms deal.

Jane's Defence Weekly published an article on Feb. 5 that said US defense giant Lockheed Martin has withdrawn its bid to supply Taiwan with an early-warning radar system, and that Taiwan's military was seriously re-evaluating the purchase of an early-warning radar system.

Lee, a military expert, said that since the legislature had approved NT$26.8 billion for the procurement deal in 2003, and the air force has begun planning to build a base in Hsinchu County to house the early warning radar system in 2007, he saw no sign of a change in the government's plan to buy the radar system.

The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the report.

Lee said that the arms deal was controversial because the long-range early-warning radar system was able to detect long-range ballistic missiles, however, he said, it was more likely that China will threaten Taiwan with land attack cruise missiles, rather than ballistic missiles. In fact, he said, a middle-range radar system is considered more fit for Taiwan's defense.

In addition, a large stationary radar system would be an easy target for anti-radiation (which target radars) missiles, Lee said.

Lee added, however, that the purchase of the early-warning system has profound strategic meaning. The operational system would link Taiwan's early-warning system with that of the US, and would therefore help cement the countries' de facto military alliance.

Also, since the government has already committed to buying the early-warning radar system, it would hurt Taiwan's credibility internationally if it withdrew from the arms deal, Lee said.

On the other hand, a military officer, who declined to be identified, said that there have been some opponents in the Ministry of National Defense against the arms deal for several factors, including the system's vulnerability, its inability to detect cruise missiles, and its high price and environmental concerns.

Opponents also think the additional six minutes of warning time that a long-range radar would provide will offer few advantages, the officer said.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were expected to submit proposals this year to supply a radar aimed at countering the ballistic missile threat from China.

Lockheed Martin was offering a modified version of the Medium Extended Air Defense System, while Raytheon would provide a modified AN/FPS-115 Pave Paws radar.

Now that Lockheed Martin has announced it was withdrawing its bid, Taiwan could only buy Raytheon's Pave Paws radar.

However, Jane's Defence Weekly correspondent Wendell Minnick told the Taipei Times that "Lockheed Martin was basically fed up with the myriad of problems the [radar] project entailed, and had opted for subcontracting the project via Raytheon instead. There was opposition within the MND to the EWR, but the decision to move forward was a go."

The US approved the sale of the early warning radar system to Taiwan in 2000.

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