The navy is planning to send a training group to the US within the next few months to learn how to operate P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, which the US has offered to sell to Taiwan, defense sources said.
The move does not indicate, however, that the navy has decided to buy the P-3Cs, the sources said.
The US government agreed to sell 12 P-3Cs to Taiwan last April during annual arms talks between Taiwan and the US.
The US is offering the training to get Taiwan's navy acquainted with the P-3C, which is superior in many ways to the S-2T anti-submarine aircraft that it uses now.
The military training program is scheduled to last two years, after which it will be cancelled if Tai-wan does not buy the aircraft, the sources said.
The first batch of personnel the navy will send will be made up mainly of technicians, who will learn how to operate and maintain the aircraft. The number of personnel involved in the training is not yet known.
The training could help upgrade the navy's anti-submarine capabilities even if the navy decides not to buy the P-3Cs.
Chief of the General Staff Admiral Li Chieh (李傑), the former commander-in-chief of the navy, was said to be against buying the P-3Cs before he took up his current post on Feb. 1.
Li apparently agrees with some in the navy who say the S-2Ts are still usable and that the longer range and better equipment offered by the P-3Cs are more than Taiwan needs to defend itself.
A plan is being developed to overhaul the S-2Ts, 26 in all, and bring their combat-readiness ratio up to acceptable levels within the next few years.
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