Tue, Jun 14, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Budget for US arms purchases whittled to ‘symbolic’ level

GIVING UP?A Ministry of National Defence official says that reducing the budget to buy US arms does not mean the ROC has given up buying them

By Lo Tien-bin  /  Staff Reporter

Next year could see changes to the budget allocated to the military for the acquisition of important military equipment such as F-16C/D multi-purpose aircraft and submarines, a defense official said.

A senior military official who requested anonymity said the Ministry of National Defense had been forced to return NT$1 billion (US$34 million) allotted for military equipment purchases to the national treasury because Washington was stalling on a decision to sell the submarine plans and F-16C/D aircraft long requested by Taipei.

Lowest necessity

Because of this, the ministry has decided that starting next year, it would only allocate the “lowest operational necessity” costs for the potential purchase of the submarine plans and F-16C/Ds, the official said, adding that the funding would very likely be lowered to about US$10 million and become symbolic funding rather than actual funding.

This does not mean that the Republic of China government has grown pessimistic about or is no longer interested in acquiring the F-16C/Ds and submarine plans from the US, the official said.

No loose cash

On concerns that the military would have insufficient funds if Washington finally agreed to the sale, the official said the ministry could always ask the Executive Yuan for permission to use an additional budget to cover the first year of purchases, adding that subsequent payments could then be reflected in annual defense budgets.

Aging fleet

In all, Taipei has requested a total of 66 F-16C/Ds to replace its aging fleet of F-5 aircraft and keep up with a modernizing Chinese air force.

Another plan that could be approved late this year or next year is a refurbishment program for Taiwan’s fleet of 146 F-16A/Bs, at an estimated cost of US$4.5 billion.

TRANSLATED BY JAKE CHUNG, STAFF WRITER

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