USA Releases Radar Upgrades for Taiwan F-16 jets

The U.S. has announced the sale of new radar upgrades for Taiwan'sIndigenous Defense Fighter (IDF). The announcement came during atwo-day tri-service military exercise in southern Taiwan from Aug.24-25.

During the exercise, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) source saidthe radar deal was part of phase two of the IDF's ****-1C/D HsiangSheng upgrade program. Specifics of the deal were not released.

The decision to release was made on Aug. 12, but U.S. State Departmentspokesman Philip Crowley did not make the announcement official untilAug. 24.

"We have notified Congress as required under the Arms Export ControlAct of proposed direct commercial sales between Taiwan and private U.S.companies," he said. Asked about China's potential reaction to therelease, Crowley said, "I'll let China react to this as they see fit."

As of publication, China's Foreign Ministry had not released a statement.

The radar sale involves the release of three U.S. congressionalnotifications on hold since a $6 billion arms release to Taiwan inJanuary. Afterward, the White House reportedly decided to freeze allfurther notifications in an attempt to better ties with China, but theradar release indicates the White House might be re-evaluating itsstrategy on dealing with China.

The IDF ****-1A/B "Ching-kuo" fighter was developed during the late1980s to replace aging Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. The state-runAerospace Industrial Development Corp. built 130 aircraft, which beganentering service in 1994.

The U.S. State Department's decision to release the radar upgrades waswelcomed by the MND and by Taiwan supporters in Washington, thoughthere was some criticism over policies that have resulted in anon-again off-again freeze on arms sales to Taiwan, said RupertHammond-Chambers, president, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, Washington.

"The recent policy under both the Bush and Obama administrations -freezing Taiwan arms sales notifications and then releasing them aspackages - has had the inverse effect of its apparent intent," he said.

"By creating multibillion dollar packages that capture headlines, thepolicy has increased Chinese ire at such sales rather than reducing it."

He said China has cleverly used the situation as a tool to applypressure on Washington's policy of arms sales to Taiwan. Chinaunilaterally canceled military exchanges with the U.S. after theJanuary release, and then canceled a planned trip by U.S. DefenseSecretary Robert Gates to China in June.

"China has rightly deduced that the process is vulnerable to externalpressure, and recently applied such pressure by threatening sanctionsagainst American companies and by denying entry to China for U.S.Secretary of Defense Robert Gates," Hammond-Chambers said.

China is employing a carrot-and-stick strategy with Taiwan, offeringsignificant economic incentives with the recently signed EconomicCooperation Framework Agreement while continuing military modernizationand expanding the material threat represented by the People'sLiberation Army, he said.

The U.S. has held Taiwan's request for 66 new F-16C/D Block 50/52fighters since 2006, but is expecting to release a midlife upgradepackage for its F-16A/B Block 20s in early 2011. Taiwan is anxious toreplace aging F-5 fighters and high-maintenance Mirage-2000 fightersnow slated for retirement.

"The Chinese believe that Taiwan should be denied access to replacementfighters for their aging F-5s and Mirage-2000s, recognizing the seriousdetrimental effect such a denial would have on Taiwan's militaryreadiness; on long-term American support for Taiwan militarymodernization; and on the regional view of America and its willingnessto make difficult decisions in the face of Chinese opposition,"Hammond-Chambers said.

The U.S. Department of Defense is due to submit to the U.S. Congress asecond report by the end of 2010 examining the current balance ofairpower in the Taiwan Strait and making recommendations for U.S.action. This will include consideration of the impact of replacementfighters for Taiwan's Air Force.

In a separate deal, on Aug. 13, the Defense Security Cooperation Agencyannounced a $393,538 contract award to New Jersey-based ITT IntegratedElectronic Warfare Systems for the sale of an upgrade and maintenancepackage for Taiwan's AN/ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer andAN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasure systems. TheU.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., isthe contracting agency. Work is expected to be completed in August 2015.


The Taiwan military displayed and demonstrated a wide array of militaryequipment and skills during a two-day tri-service exercise in southernTaiwan from Aug. 24-25.

On Aug. 24, the military took reporters to the Chiayi Air Base, 455Tactical Fighter Wing, to observe an anti-aircraft exercise. The AirForce's 952 Brigade, 501st Battalion, demonstrated the use of theAntelope short-range air defense missile system and the twin 20mm T-82anti-aircraft guns on four approaching F-16s. The Antelope fires theTien Chien (Sky Sword) missile, first developed as an air-to-airmissile for the IDF. Both are locally developed and produced.

The Army next demonstrated an anti-airborne drill on Penghu Island, offTaiwan's southwest coast. The drill, designed to counter a paratrooperassault on the island, included M-60 main battle tanks and M-113armored personnel carriers along with infantry. The Penghu DefenseCommand also has a small air base and naval facility on the island.

The Navy demonstrated mine-clearing capabilities at the Tsoying NavalBase, Kaohsiung, on the second day of the exercise. The Navy allowedthe press to board the 500-ton MHC-1303 "Yung Ting" coastal mine hunterto observe the use of a Pinguin B3 remotely operated vehicle to searchfor a mine. Taiwan bought four MHC vessels from Germany in 1991.

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