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Taiwan still in talks with U.S. on F-16 upgrade details: MND

2012/02/07 17:25:07

Taipei, Feb. 7 (CNA) Taiwan's Air Force is still negotiating details of a retrofit package for the country's F-16 A/B fighter jets with the United States, with cost issues and the transfer of technology at the top of the agenda, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Monday.

Denying a media report that Taiwan was slashing items from the package offered by Washington, the MND said its estimated NT$110 billion (US$3.71 billion) budget for the project was based on the Air Force's needs and information on price and availability provided by the U.S.

The U.S. agreed in September 2011 to offer Taiwan a package to retrofit the country's aging F-16 A/B aircraft at an estimated cost of US$5.3 billion, or about NT$160 billion.

The China Times reported Monday that the Taiwanese military planned to lower the cost of the package by NT$50 billion by not replacing the fighter jets' engines with models proposed by the U.S. and acquiring less ammunition.

The MND said the newspaper report was unfounded and the two countries remained in talks in order to craft an optimal upgrade plan because some items in the package were not needed.

The Air Force will also ask Washington to lower the costs in the package allocated to research and development, the MND said.

The MND added that it hoped some of the upgrade work could be conducted locally by Taiwanese companies, such as Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC), to improve their technological capabilities.

An AIDC official said the government-invested company has not received any information regarding the F-16 A/Bs upgrade project, but indicated that the military might be able to negotiate a better deal by teaming up with local companies.

(By Chen Pei-huang and Kay Liu)