Lockheed Martin Corp is helping arm US lawmakers for a renewed push to sell its new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, not just US President Barack Obama’s administration’s planned US$5.3 billion upgrade of old ones.
A Lockheed Martin official last week e-mailed an unsigned memo to lawmakers on Capitol Hill titled “Taiwan — The Benefit of New F-16C/Ds,” two congressional staff members said.
Lockheed’s memo to lawmakers was dated Sept. 22, a day after the administration told Congress that it was offering Taiwan a US$5.3 billion retrofit of 145 F-16A/B models sold in the 1990s. Administration officials said a decision had not yet been made on Taiwan’s five-year-old request for 66 new F-16C/D models valued at US$8.3 billion.
Photo: Reuters, USAF/Staff Sergeant Greg Davis
The Lockheed memo included “rebuttal points” to what Lockheed called the expected conclusion of a Pentagon report that the administration could use to try to defuse criticism of its decision not to release new F-16s to Taiwan.
Lockheed Martin neither confirmed nor denied having circulated the memo, a copy of which was obtained by reporters. It said a sale of F-16s would benefit not only the company, but generate more than 16,000 jobs in the US over five to six years, citing a study it had commissioned.
“Any questions regarding the sale of new F-16s to Taiwan should be referred to the governments of Taiwan and the US,” Laura Siebert, a Lockheed spokeswoman, added in an e-mail.
Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP
The company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier by sales, typically depicts itself as a bystander in the foreign arms-sale process, patiently awaiting government decisions.
The one-page memo highlighted what some experts consider flaws in Obama administration decision-making on the F-16s. The memo raised questions that could put policymakers on the spot at a scheduled US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Taiwan on Tuesday.
The issue is politically sensitive for Obama. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires Washington to provide for Taiwan’s defense without regard to Beijing’s sensitivities on the matter.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused Obama last week of having “caved” to China by denying Taiwan F-16C/Ds, calling this “yet another example of his weak leadership in foreign policy.”
In the US Congress, 47 of the 100 senators and 181 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives have written to Obama since May to urge him to sell to Taiwan at least 66 late-model F-16C/D planes.
Advocates of new F-16 sales say they should be in addition to the upgrade of the old models.
The document distributed on Capitol Hill by Lockheed was based on the “expected conclusion” of the US Department of Defense report on the state of Taiwan’s air power, and sought to refute it.
The classified Pentagon report itself was sent to Congress on Sept. 22, the same day as the Lockheed memo, 20 months after a congressional mandate for its delivery, a third congressional official said
“Taiwan cannot protect their F-16 aircraft or the runways from which they operate from the ballistic missile threat,” the memo summarized the Pentagon report as finding, referring to how China might attack in any cross-strait conflict.
“So, new F-16C/Ds would not contribute to their deterrent capability and are not relevant,” the memo summarized the report as saying.
However, Taiwan has some of the best-protected, hardened aircraft shelters in the region, the memo said.
In addition, Taiwan is advancing the “state-of-the-art in rapid runway repair technology” and routinely practices using open roadway stretches for fighters’ launch and recovery to curb dependence on airfields, it said.
The Lockheed memo also took aim at what it called an expected “red herring” conclusion of the Pentagon report. It described this as the idea that Taiwan needed an aircraft capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings (STOVL) because of the Chinese missile threat to Taiwan’s runways.
Only two STOVL aircraft models have been developed — the BAe AV-8 Harrier, which has been out of production since 1997, and Lockheed’s own F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, which will not be available for export until the later part of this decade, the memo said.
Even if available today, the US administration would most likely refuse the F-35B to Taiwan because of its advanced radar-evading capabilities, the memo said.
The F-35, the memo added, could be construed as introducing a new level of capability, something that would conflict with a joint communique signed by the US and China in August 1982.
“If new F-16s are so irrelevant, why is China so vigorously opposed to their sale to Taiwan?” Lockheed’s memo added in its rebuttal points.
FATAL FIRE: The health department is trying to contact the inspector who visited the site of the illegal nursing home to ask why they did not advise follow-up checks The Taipei City Government yesterday said that a health department inspector last year had visited the site of a long-term care facility in Neihu District (內湖) after receiving a report questioning its status. A fire broke out at the facility on Tuesday afternoon, killing three people. The Taipei Fire Department said that it received a report about a fire on the first floor of a four-story residential building on Kangning Road Sec. 1 at 2:38pm on Tuesday, firefighters arrived at 2:43pm and the fire was put out by 3:07pm. The firefighters found three men in beds and rushed them to hospital for
Taipei City Councilor Wang Hao (王浩) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Monday called for security improvements to the MRT, as fare evasion has increased more than 13-fold on the metropolitan railway system over the past five years. Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has spoken out against fare evasion and other contraventions of MRT regulations, but since he took office in 2015 the number of contraventions has more than doubled, Wang said, adding that there were 537 cases in 2015 compared with 959 last year. A video was posted to YouTube in June showing people how to evade paying a fare,
FEELING MISUNDERSTOOD: Media speculation has fueled confusion about the KMT’s reasons for skipping a Chinese forum and delaying an AIT meeting, party sources said The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Sunday said that it is not seeking to improve relations with the US or China at the expense of the other, and that its relations with the countries would be topic-based. The party has faced questions over its foreign policy after it on Monday last week announced its withdrawal from the annual Straits Forum and delayed planned talks with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). The party has also taken a tough stance on the importation of US meat containing ractopamine, while also lambasting China for increasing its military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait. Following
Yuchi Township (魚池) fishers have appealed to the Nantou County Government for help in dealing with an invasive fish species in Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), where it has devastated the local ecosystem. Fishers at Sun Moon Lake have been using electrofishing in an attempt to eliminate the giant snakehead fish — found in Africa and Southeast Asia — but they have struggled to keep up with the growing population of the species, which breeds during September and October, the county government said on Monday. The county has contacted researchers at National Tsing Hua University, saying it hoped they could come up