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Bill paving way for NT$250 billion F-16 purchase passes

ROC Central News Agency

2019/10/29 14:03:36

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed a bill Tuesday authorizing funding for the purchase of a new fleet of 66 advanced F-16 fighter jets from the United States that will boost the country's defense capabilities amid rising threat from China.

The six-article bill stipulates that the maximum cost for the purchase shall be no more than NT$250 billion (US$8.08 billion) and that it shall be funded by a special budget.

The bill, which will serve as the legal basis for the Cabinet to allocate a special budget to cover funding for the aircraft over several years until Dec. 31, 2026, will officially take effect after promulgation by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

Lawmakers also passed four resolutions initiated by opposition parties demanding that the military ask the U.S. side to transfer the technology of some of the new jets' key parts to Taiwanese companies to boost the country's defense industry and ultimately make Taiwan a regional F-16 maintenance hub.

Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗), the caucus whip of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) that initiated the resolutions, told CNA that the party supports the special budget as the new jets will elevate the country's defense capabilities.

It came up with the additional resolutions, however, to make sure the fighter jet purchase will also benefit the local defense industry, he said.

To meet Taiwan's defense needs, the U.S. State Department approved on Aug. 20 the possible sale of 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, known as the F-16V, to Taiwan.

Taiwan's military said last week that it has recently received a draft letter of offer and acceptance (LOA), a contract between the U.S. military and a foreign military sale customer, detailing its offer to sell these fighters to Taiwan.

The military is now confirming the details of the draft LOA before sending it back to the U.S. side.

The U.S. side will later send the official version of the LOA to Taiwan before the latter signs it and returns it to Washington to officially seal the deal, according to the military.

Taiwan's military has said previously that the U.S. will take two years to make preparations before officially beginning mass production of the jets. Taiwan is scheduled to take delivery of all 66 fighter jets between 2023 and 2026.

The last time the U.S. sold Taiwan fighter jets was in 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush announced the sale of 150 F-16 A/B jets.

(By Wang Yu-yang and Joseph Yeh)

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