TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale for the continuation of a pilot training program and maintenance and logistics support for F-16 aircraft currently stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona valued at an estimated cost of US$500 million, according to a statement released on Monday (April 15).
According to an announcement issued by the State Department, the request for continued training and support for its F-16 fighters includes the following:
"flight training; participation in approved training exercises; inert/dummy training munitions; supply and maintenance support; spares and repair parts; support equipment; program management; publications; documentation; personnel training and training equipment; fuel and fueling services; engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of program and logistical support necessary to sustain a long-term CONUS training program."
The total estimated cost of the program is US$500 million and the term "CONUS" refers to the training of Taiwanese F-16 fighter pilots in the Continental United States. The State Department emphasized that the sale is meant to improve the defensive capabilities of Taiwan, which the department credits as being a stabilizing force in the region:
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.”
However, the State Department took pains to indicate that the sale will not alter the status quo in terms of the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait: "The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region."
The latest sale follows an announcement last week that a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract has been awarded to Raytheon to refurbish radar for Taiwan's naval vessels for a total cost of nearly US$50 million (NT$1.5 billion) and a US$9 million contract to develop and upgrade Taiwan’s Patriot missile defense system over the next five years.
Taiwan Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) officially confirmed on April 10 that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has submitted a Letter of Request (LOR) to the U.S. to buy a fleet of F-16 Viper fighter planes.