|A F-35 is pictured during a trial flight|
Senior military officers may be considering abandoning a long-stalled bid to procure F-16C/D aircraft from the US because of rising costs and could instead reserve budgets for an eventual F-35B bid, reports said yesterday.
The Ministry of National Defense maintains that the air force remains committed to acquiring 66 F-16C/Ds, but the rising costs associated with the package — now estimated at US$10 billion, from an initial US$8 billion, according to local reports — added to the about US$3.7 billion it expects to pay for upgrades to the nation’s 145 F-16A/Bs, could be shifting the argument in favor of abandoning the bid for the new aircraft.
US President Barack Obama’s administration notified Congress in September last year of a US$5.3 billion upgrade program for Taiwan’s F-16s. A Letter of Answer received from the US last week is believed to represent a trimmed down version of the original list, with associated costs estimated at US$3.7 billion, the sum the Executive Yuan says it is willing to pay for the program.
In a report yesterday, the Chinese-language China Times said “senior military officers” believed Taiwan should abandon the F-16C/D bid, which has been stalled since 2006, and wait until it is possible for Taiwan to purchase the F-35B, a problem-plagued and increasingly expensive fifth-generation aircraft that is under development.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.