Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Military shows off fighter aircraft

AP , CHIAYI AIRFORCE BASE

Taiwanese air force crew members attach an AIM 120 missile to the wing of an F-16 fighter jet during exercises at Chiayi Airforce Base yesterday in Chiayi County.

PHOTO: WALLY SANTANA, AP

The military showed off its aging fleet of F-16 aircraft yesterday, less than a week after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) complained that the US is delaying a deal to provide it with a more modern version of the fighter.

Armed with deadly Amram and Sidewinder missiles, F-16A/B fighter jets roared down the runway at Chiayi Airforce Base after controllers scrambled them in a drill to confront a simulated air attack by China.

Taiwan has 150 such aircraft in its inventory, but it wants to complement them with 66 more advanced F-16 C/Ds.

The older F-16s date back to the 1970s and went into service in Taiwan in the mid-1990s.

On Sept. 6 Chen chided the administration of US President George W. Bush for delaying completion of the F-16 deal until after a new president is sworn in next May.

"If the Bush administration can approve of the deal next year, why can't they do so now?" he asked in a videoconference broadcast to a Washington think tank.

Chen spoke amid rising US concern over a planned referendum on Taiwan's membership in the UN.

The US is also unhappy with the continued refusal of Taiwan's legislature to approve the purchase of a multibillion dollar package of US-made submarines and Patriot missiles.

Chen has tried to push that deal through, but budgetary allocations have been held up by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which says it fears the consequences of getting into an open-ended arms race with Beijing.

Chen says Taiwan needs to modernize its forces because of a decade-long Chinese military buildup and threats by Beijing to attack if Taiwan declares independence.

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