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.