Questions emerged at the weekend as to whether Taiwan could afford both a multibillion-dollar upgrade program for its F-16A/B combat aircraft and new F-16C/Ds, amid claims that the price for the upgrade had been inflated since the deal was announced last year.
The air force received a Letter of Answer from the US last week on the US$5.3 billion upgrade package for its 145 F-16A/Bs and is now reviewing the prices of the items on the list, Air Force Command Headquarters said yesterday.
“We will sign an agreement on the deal only after we have completed an overall review and have determined that all the items meet our requirements or demands,” it said in a statement.
Photo: Yu Tai-lang, Taipei Times
About one week before the letter was received, Washington said it would give “serious consideration” to long-stalled efforts by Taipei to acquire 66 F-16C/Ds. A notification to the US Congress in September last year approved the upgrade package, but did not include the new aircraft.
The possibility that the US could agree to upgrade the F-16A/Bs and release the F-16C/Ds might now force the cash-strapped ministry to make a difficult choice. Since 2008, the US has agreed to about US$13 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, which has also embarked on a costly effort to adopt a fully professional military system by 2015.
In an article published on Saturday, Defense News said the US Air Force had been pressuring Taiwan to pay for nonrecurring engineering (NRE) costs related to the research, development, testing and integration of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a key component of the upgrade package. The article said those costs were not included in the September notification.
An unnamed consultant for the ministry told the magazine that Taiwan was “getting a raw deal” from the US, because the additional money Taiwan would need to spend on NRE costs would “break the bank.”
The same day, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the additional NRE costs could make the upgrades more expensive than acquiring new F-16C/Ds.
Preliminary negotiations have already been conducted and the Taiwanese air force is of the opinion that the US price is too high and the government’s finances will simply not stretch that far, Lin said.
The air force yesterday denied that the price for the upgrade package had been inflated, but declined to specify the amount of the deal.
A defense sources told the Taipei Times earlier this year that Taipei could avoid the NRE costs by waiting for South Korea to decide which type of AESA radar it would adopt as part of the upgrade program for its 135 KF-16C/Ds. Two firms, Raytheon Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp, are bidding for the AESA program and Seoul is expected to make its decision this month or next month.
The US Air Force, which is also scheduled to upgrade 350 of its F-16s, could save money by having other countries, such as Taiwan or South Korea, pay for the NRE costs.
In February, the Executive Yuan informed the air force that it would only allow US$3.7 billion for the upgrade program. While the military insists on acquiring the AESA radar, it could lower the cost by opting not to acquire some of the items included in the notification, such as certain types of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) kits.
The letter received last week is said to have reflected the US$3.7 billion ceiling set by the Executive Yuan after Taiwan negotiated for the removal of items it did not seek to acquire.
Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) told the legislature on Saturday that if the capabilities of the F-16C/Ds were no better than those of the F-16A/Bs following the upgrade, the military could consider not purchasing the new aircraft.
Clarifying Yang’s remarks, ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said the air force was preparing to upgrade its -F-16A/Bs and that the capabilities of any future purchases made by the air force would have to surpass those of the F-16A/B.
Yang’s comments were based on practicality and were not a conditional requirement, Lo said.
Additional reporting by CNA
translation by Jake Chung, Staff Writer
A video allegedly featuring retired general Kao An-kuo (高安國) calling on Taiwanese military officers to surrender to China and overthrow the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has sparked outrage and calls for him to be charged with treason. The video, titled “A message to Taiwanese military officers,” allegedly shows Kao saying: “I call on commanding officers of our military troops to stand up for Chinese nationalism, to take up this duty under heaven’s mandate to save Taiwanese from oppression and terrible suffering.” Dressed in military fatigues and a beret, the lieutenant general called on officers to overthrow the “fraudulent DPP regime,”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rejected the claim Beijing has been making about Taiwan’s status, while thanking US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman for raising concerns about Taiwan during her meeting with Chinese officials. Sherman met with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) on a visit to Tianjin on Sunday and Monday, with Wang urging Washington not to infringe on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Taiwan is part of China, a fundamental fact that would never change, and China has the right to take any action needed to restrain Taiwanese independence, Wang said, urging Washington to abide
A solo exhibition by Taiwanese artist Lee Kuang-yu (李光裕) at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay has generated considerable attention since its opening last year, including from Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍). Since the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders early last year, domestic tourism in Singapore has soared at destinations such as the popular Gardens by the Bay, a nature park in the city-state’s Central Region. Since the venue’s reopening in August last year, “A Sculptor’s Secret Garden,” a solo exhibition of Lee Kuang-yu’s work curated by Tan Hwee Koon (陳慧君), has been been especially popular. Originally scheduled to close today, the show
HASTY REVIEW CLAIMS: Medigen’s vaccine, which is to start phase 3 clinical trials later this year, should not have received emergency use authorization, Hau said Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) is to appeal the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of Medigen Vaccine Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine, he said yesterday. The administration on July 19 granted Medigen emergency use authorization, even though the drugmaker had not yet completed phase 3 clinical trials. The government should not authorize the use of a vaccine that has not completed phase 3 trials, Hau said in Taipei on the sidelines of an event to distribute boxed meals with former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Broadcasting Corp of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康). Hau said the government had politicized