The USA has announced plans to go ahead with a $6.1 billion arms deal with Taiwan, including the sale of 60 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters and 114 Patriot PAC-3 missiles.
China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province and opposes arms sales to the island, has vehemently protested the deal and suspended military exchanges with the USA. Washington is duty-bound to help Taipei defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act, and its past sales to the island have drawn criticism from China.
For the first time, however, Beijing has also threatened to impose sanctions on the US companies involved in the deal. This includes Boeing, which has significant commercial deals with the mainland, Sikorsky's parent United Technologies, and General Electric, which manufactures the UH-60M's T700 engines.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Department of Defense agency responsible for international sales, notified Congress on 30 January that it intends to proceed with a sale that it says would "contribute to maintaining security and stability across the Taiwan Strait". Congress has 30 days to oppose the sale, a move that is highly unlikely.
However, the DSCA has not said anything about Taipei's 2001 request to buy 66 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds worth $1.3 billion. These, Taiwan says, are needed to bolster its air defence against a rapidly modernising Chinese air force.
The biggest component of the sale is a $3.1 billion deal for 60 UH-60Ms with 120 GE T700-701Ds and 18 spare engines. This deal includes 69 APR-39A(V)2 radar warning receivers, 69 ALQ-144A(V)1 infrared countermeasures sets, 69 AAR-57 common missile warning systems, 69 AVR-2B laser detecting sets, 120 GAU-19/A 12.7mm (0.50-cal) machine guns and 310 AVS-9 aviator night vision goggle sets.
Also included are 12.7mm ammunition, pyrotechnics, cartridges, propellant actuated devices, Po-Sheng communication/data link systems, ammunition, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services and other related elements of logistics support.
"This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and enhance its defensive capability. The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region," says the DSCA.
"The recipient needs these helicopters for self-defence, personnel movement, cargo lifting, and aero medical evacuation capabilities. This procurement will modernise the recipient's rotary wing fleet and provide for the defence of vital installations and close air support for ground forces."
Washington also plans to sell 114 Patriot PAC-3 missiles, three MPQ-65 radar sets, one MSQ-133 information and coordination centrals, one tactical command station, three communication relay groups, three MSQ-132 engagement control stations, 26 M902 launching stations, and other related equipment and services.
This is estimated to cost $2.81 billion, with Lockheed and Raytheon the principle contractors.
It also plans to sell 10 RTM-84L Harpoon Block II telemetry missiles, two ATM-84L Harpoon Block II telemetry missiles, and other related equipment and services. McDonnell Douglas, a Boeing subsidiary, is the main contractor for this $37 million deal.
Other deals that have been approved include a $340 million contract for 35 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems Low Volume Terminals (MIDS/LVT-1) and 25 MIDS On Ships Terminals, and a $105 million deal for two refurbished Osprey class mine-hunting ships. The prime contractors for these will be chosen after a competition.