Taiwan is in price negotiations to buy six Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartans for its armed forces, with industry sources expecting the deal to go ahead in the next year.
Taipei has been assessing the C-27J and EADS Casa CN-235 for its medium tactical airlift capability for several years, and industry sources say that it has decided to go ahead with the Spartans.
The purchase will be made through the US government's foreign military sales mechanism, they add. The US Air Force is buying the C-27J Spartans, an upgraded version of the Alenia G222, under its Joint Cargo Aircraft programme. Alenia and L-3 Communications are partners in Global Military Aircraft Systems, the joint venture that is responsible for marketing the aircraft to the US military.
Any deal is likely to raise a protest from China, which has consistently opposed arms sales to Taiwan. Beijing has regarded Taipei as a renegade province since their split in 1949, and has threatened to attack if the island declares independence. However, given that this is not an offensive weapon, like fighter aircraft, it is unlikely to be a major bilateral issue, say the sources.
The USA, which switched diplomatic ties to Beijing in 1979, is legally obliged to help Taiwan defend itself. However, it has long dithered on Taipei's biggest aim, a 2001 request to buy 66 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds worth $1.3 billion.
In October 2008, Washington approved a $6.5 billion arms package that includes 30 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters, upgrades to four Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and control system aircraft and spare parts for Taipei's Lockheed F-16A/B and Northrop F-5 fighters. Under an earlier $1.3 billion deal, Lockheed will also refurbish 12 P-3Cs that are in storage in the USA.
Industry sources say that Washington is also likely to approve Taiwan's request for 60 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters in September or October.