The Ministry of National Defense could be contravening a legislative directive if it does not request that the US government perform an open competition bidding process for suppliers involved in upgrading its fleet of 146 F-16A/Bs.
In a meeting on Oct. 12 attended by legislators from the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and a representative from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, the legislature stipulated that to ensure the proper use of government public resources, the ministry’s Letter of Agreement for the upgrade package for the F-16A/Bs “shall not specify any supplier and shall request the US team to perform open competition.”
Despite this directive, the ministry appears to have only one supplier in mind — Lockheed Martin Corp — and does not seem to have asked the US to facilitate competitive bids for avionics and weapons systems integration.
This comes as Lockheed Martin is locked in competition with BAE Systems over a program for avionics upgrades and weapons systems integration for 135 KF-16C/Ds for the South Korean air force (ROKAF) worth about US$1 billion.
Representatives from the defense industry describe the program for the ROKAF as “almost identical” to that for Taiwan’s F-16s, which will come at an estimated cost of US$5.3 billion. Not included in the US$1 billion price tag for South Korea is the acquisition of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which is part of the upgrade programs for both South Korea and Taiwan.
Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-16, told Defense News it was unconcerned by the BAE bid and denies the two upgrade plans are identical, adding that the firm has a unique experience in integrating AESA radar.
“We have integrated AESA radars into all of our current fighter programs: the F-16 [Block 60], the F-22 and the F-35,” which gives Lockheed a “baseline knowledge of the aircraft and the experience to ensure that the job is done right and within the cost and schedule that our customer demands,” a Lockheed official told Defense News.
The AN/APG-80 AESA radar used on the F-16 Block 60, also known as the F-16E/F Fighting Falcon, differs from the types proposed for Taiwan’s F-16s — Raytheon Corp’s Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) or Northrop Grumman Corp’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR).
At the heart of the systems integration is the operational flight program, of which two are currently in service in the US Air Force (USAF): Lockheed’s M-Tape, which uses a modular mission computer built by Raytheon using Lockheed software, and BAE’s SCU-Tape, which uses BAE’s fire control computer.
The SCU-Tape, which relies on Ethernet connectivity for the fire control system, passed full USAF operational tests and evaluation in April last year and has been installed on about 270 F-16s in the USAF, BAE says.
The company says Ethernet connectivity is faster and the future for all the traffic involved in on-flight systems.
Lockheed is believed to have offered an Ethernet alternative for the Taiwanese air force, although this would likely involve additional development costs and delivery delays for Taiwan.
BAE Systems International Taiwan president Ralf Persson told the Taipei Times yesterday that the key point is that Taiwan stands to benefit from an open competition bid for systems integration and that regardless of who won the bid, having more than one provider compete for the contract would bring down prices and maximize the value of the investment.
However, he said Taiwan’s air force did not appear to fully comprehend the benefits of doing so, despite lobbying by BAE.
Although BAE has yet to perform AESA integration, Persson said the company was capable of doing so, regardless of which model is selected by Taiwan.
Despite the close institutional ties between the USAF, Taiwan’s air force and Lockheed Martin, BAE was confident it could accomplish systems integration for the upgrade package, pointing to other instances where it did so on airframes it had not designed, such as Boeing’s F-18s used by the Royal Australian Air Force.
Asked for comment, ministry spokesperson David Lo (羅紹和) said the upgrade was “a done deal” and that the military would not comment on whether the European firm is interested in or capable of upgrading Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs.
BAE Systems is the US segment of UK-based BAE Systems PLC.
Lo said F-16A/Bs are a product of Lockheed and should therefore be upgraded by their original maker, Lockheed, “because the company has secrets and owns the technology for the combat aircraft.”
South Korea is expected to announce its decision in the first or second quarter of next year.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
Taiwan might be China’s next target after it has “walled off” Hong Kong from the rest of the world with its new national security legislation, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology fellow Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) said on Thursday. At a seminar organized by the Economic Democracy Union, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Hong Kong Outlanders and the Judicial Reform Foundation, Wu said that the legislation is simultaneously a fig leaf concealing Beijing’s autocratic rule in Hong Kong and a figurative “Berlin Wall,” denying democratic countries access to Hong Kong. Wu said it is evident that Taiwan would be China’s next target. The
YOUNGEST PATIENT: Cases of botulism have been only sporadically reported over the past few years, with two in 2015, six in 2016 and none in the past three years The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported the nation’s first case of infant botulism this year, a four-month-old boy in northern Taiwan, as well as five new cases of Japanese encephalitis confirmed last week. The boy was introduced to homemade solid food in the middle of last month, but began to experience constipation and loss of appetite on June 23, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said, adding that he was taken to the hospital when he developed a fever and shortness of breath on June 25. In the hospital, the boy also experienced a rapid heartbeat, limb
The National Taiwan Museum’s Railway Department Park in Taipei is to open to the public today. The park in Datong District (大同) near the North Gate (北門, Beimen) is one of the museum’s four branches. During the Japanese colonial era, the site housed the railway department of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan’s Bureau of Transportation. After World War II, it served as the headquarters for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for several decades. In 2007, it was listed as a national monument under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法). At an opening ceremony yesterday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung