Politicians finally lift budgetary logjam for anti-submarine aircraft and PAC-3 systems

Taiwan is expected to finally move forward with the purchase of 12 Lockheed Martin P-3C anti-submarine warfare aircraft and three Raytheon/Lockheed Martin PAC-3 air-defence systems, but may be forced to delay other major acquisitions until at least 2008.

Legislative approval for the purchase of the P-3Cs and PAC-3s, part of a NT$198 billion ($6.2 billion) special budget, had been delayed for over a year by political wrangling.

Industry sources at last week’s Taipei Aerospace & Defence Technology Exhibition (TADTE) said opposition politicians have now agreed to support the acquisition, on condition that the P-3s and/or PAC-3s are removed from the special budget, which also includes US-built submarines, and are instead funded by the 2006 defence budget.

By moving these items into the annual defence budget other programmes, including new attack helicopters, will not be able to move forward. The army had been planning to select the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow or Bell AH-1Z in 2004 and award a contract for 30 aircraft in 2005. But the ministry of national defence was unable to move forward with any procurement until the special budget was resolved.

Industry sources do not now expect funds to be made available for additional procurements until 2008. An expected increase in Taiwan’s annual defence budget from 2.4% to at least 3% of GDP, however, could result in several long-delayed procurements moving forward at the end of this decade.

Taiwan’s marine corps wants to buy heavylift helicopters for transport and minesweeping missions, although the transport requirement is being questioned. The army also requires new utility helicopters, but this acquisition will not be pursued until the attack helicopters are acquired.

Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Defence Corporation (AIDC) has been trying to drum up air force interest in a new trainer to replace its ageing fleet of Beech T-34s and indigenous AT-3s. AIDC earlier this year visited foreign manufacturers interested in co-developing a new trainer, but the air force is not expected to acquire new trainers for several years.

Sources believe Taiwan no longer has the funds to support indigenous production and other AIDC-proposed programmes, such as upgrades to Taiwan’s Northrop F-5s, are dead. Taiwan will probably acquire aircraft from US manufacturers when the funding picture improves because European manufacturers now focus on the anticipated opening of the mainland Chinese market rather than sales to rival Taiwan.


Source: Flight International