Sunday, October 4, 2009

U.S. Releases Harpoon Rounds to Taiwan

Defense News


U.S. Releases Harpoon Rounds to Taiwan


TAIPEI - The U.S. Department of Defense has announced an $89.7 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract for 60 tactical Harpoon Air Launched All-Up-Rounds for Taiwan.

The contract was awarded to Boeing on Aug. 25 by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command. The Harpoons were released by the U.S. government in 2007 and are not part of a $12 billion arms package now frozen by the Bush administration. The missiles will arm Taiwan's F-16s, but could also be used on the 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft released to Taiwan in 2007.

The Harpoon release is considered a positive development after the Bush administration froze U.S. arms deals with Taipei until after the Olympic Games in Beijing. There have been fears the United States would maintain the hold until after Bush leaves office in January.

There were additional rays of hope on Aug. 21, when Washington released two small FMS contracts - the first to California-based Universal Propulsion for digital recovery sequencers in support of the Cartridge Actuated Device/Propellant Actuated Device, and a second to Florida-based BAE Systems Technical Services for the Instrumentation Radar Support Program.

With the recent announcements, there are high expectations the United States will release a long-stalled $12 billion arms package that includes six Patriot PAC-3 batteries, a feasibility study for eight diesel submarines, submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, 30 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 60 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

For more than a year, Washington has also refused to accept Taiwan's request for price and availability for 66 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters. The new F-16 deal's estimated value is about $5 million. Taiwan needs the F-16s to replace 60 aging F-5E/F Tiger fighters acquired in the 1970s.

There have been concerns that advanced weapon systems sold to Taiwan, such as the Block 50/52s, could end up in China either by defection or as a result of closer relations. However, it has been years since two Taiwan F-5s defected to China in 1981 and 1989, respectively.

During a banquet held by Taiwan Defense Minister Chen Chao-min on Aug. 26, Chen said that China still poses a threat despite improved relations across the Taiwan Strait. Since May, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has moved China and Taiwan closer with direct cross-Strait flights and by relaxing rules on Chinese investment in Taiwan. Ma has openly discussed a peace accord with China and developing confidence-building measures.