|A US-made F-16 aircraft at sunrise|
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.
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.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.