Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 4 News List

F16 purchase plan on hold until MND budget gets cleared

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The country's plan to purchase F-16C/D fighter jets from the US will not proceed until next year's defense budget is cleared by the Legislative Yuan, Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Wu Chi-fang (吳季方) said yesterday.

Wu said that Taiwanese delegates once again raised the issue of the nation's plan to procure the US-made F-16C/D fighter jets in recent talks with their US counterparts during bilateral military exchanges in Washington.

However, Wu said that the US stance is that the planned F-16C/D procurement will not be dealt with until the legislature gives the green light to relevant budgets for a long-stalled arms purchase package, which includes six Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, a squadron of 12 anti-submarine P-3C aircraft and eight diesel-electric submarines.

Noting that Taiwan needs the F-16 fighters to upgrade its defense capability, Wu said that despite the fact that the Democrats had won control of both houses of the US Congress in the recent mid-term elections, US policy is expected to remain consistent and Washington's stance on Taiwan's arms procurements is unlikely to change.

Consequently, Wu called on the opposition-dominated legislature to give the green light as soon as possible to the MND's budget plan for next year, saying that the ministry will also continue to coordinate the F-16 procurement deal with the US.

The Ministry of National Defense is hoping to purchase the F-16C/Ds to replace the Air Force's F-5E and F-5F aircraft, which will be phased out over the next few years.

Media reports said that even if Taiwan were permitted to buy the F-16C/Ds, the aircraft would not be delivered until 2011. By that time, Taiwan's self-developed Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft will have been in service for nearly 20 years and the F-16A/Bs purchased from the US will have been in service for more than 15 years.

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