USA Releases Radar Upgrades for Taiwan F-16 jets

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

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

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



"We have notified Congress as required under the Arms Export Control Act of proposed direct commercial sales between Taiwan and private U.S. companies," he said. Asked about China's potential reaction to the release, 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. congressional notifications on hold since a $6 billion arms release to Taiwan in January. Afterward, the White House reportedly decided to freeze all further notifications in an attempt to better ties with China, but the radar release indicates the White House might be re-evaluating its strategy on dealing with China.

The IDF ****-1A/B "Ching-kuo" fighter was developed during the late 1980s to replace aging Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. The state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. built 130 aircraft, which began entering service in 1994.

The U.S. State Department's decision to release the radar upgrades was welcomed by the MND and by Taiwan supporters in Washington, though there was some criticism over policies that have resulted in an on-again off-again freeze on arms sales to Taiwan, said Rupert Hammond-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 as packages - has had the inverse effect of its apparent intent," he said.

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

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

"China has rightly deduced that the process is vulnerable to external pressure, and recently applied such pressure by threatening sanctions against 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, offering significant economic incentives with the recently signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement while continuing military modernization and expanding the material threat represented by the People's Liberation Army, he said.

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

"The Chinese believe that Taiwan should be denied access to replacement fighters for their aging F-5s and Mirage-2000s, recognizing the serious detrimental effect such a denial would have on Taiwan's military readiness; on long-term American support for Taiwan military modernization; and on the regional view of America and its willingness to 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 a second report by the end of 2010 examining the current balance of airpower in the Taiwan Strait and making recommendations for U.S. action. This will include consideration of the impact of replacement fighters for Taiwan's Air Force.

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

TRI-SERVICE EXERCISE

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

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

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

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

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