Western aerospace firms kept a low profile at the Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition in Taiwan, reflecting concerns about offending China.

The only major Western manufacturers to attend the show were ITT, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and Raytheon.

Boeing and General Electric, which both have significant businesses on the mainland, were absent altogether, as were Europe's major defence companies.

Walt Doran, president of Raytheon Asia, was the highest profile Western defence executive at the show. "Taiwan is an important customer for us, and we're here to make sure they are aware of the systems and capabilities we offer," he said.

If Washington were to approve an upgrade of Taiwan's 166 Lockheed F-16A/B fighters, Doran said Raytheon would be in a position to offer a range of equipment, ranging from new radars and avionics to missiles.

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Both Raytheon and rival Northrop displayed models of their active electronically scanned array radars for the F-16 in their booths.

ITT pitched its ALQ-211 pod, which is designed to add electronic warfare capabilities to legacy combat aircraft.

Representatives at the US manufacturers' exhibits were quick to stress that any sale to Taiwan would be undertaken under the auspices of the US government's Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

"Our customer is the US government," said Doran.

He added that politics, security concerns and licensing will all be issues for the US government to deal with in the event of an F-16 upgrade deal.

Meanwhile, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said she will announce Washington's decision on whether to sell Taiwan 66 new F-16C/Ds on 1 October.

Source: Flight International