TAIPEI, Taiwan, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A Taiwanese military spokesman denied media reports that Taiwan is pursuing a reduced order for F-16C/D jet fighters after being refused the purchase last year.
The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense said there is no truth that Taiwan recently proposed to the United States that it buy 24 F-16C/D aircraft instead of the 66 it originally sought to purchase.
"There has absolutely been no such proposal," ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou told China News Agency.
Taiwan had been hoping to obtain 66 F-16C/Ds since 2006, despite Beijing's ongoing denunciations of the deal.
However, Taiwan's limited defense budget means it likely will see only 24 of the F-16C/D fighters, the Chinese-language newspaper China Times reported, quoting anonymous senior government sources.
Reports this week suggested high-level Taiwanese officials proposed the 24 aircraft purchase in early August during the annual talks in the United States -- a platform for discussions on military issues.
Instead of the original 66 aircraft purchase, the United States agreed last September to a major retrofit program to upgrade Taiwan's 145 F-16A/B fighters made by General Dynamics, at a cost of around $3.8 billion.
Taiwan operates the most common variant -- the single-seat F-16A and two-seat F-16B.
The F-16C/D variants went into production in 1984 and have improved cockpit avionics and radar which added Raytheon's all-weather capability with beyond-visual-range AIM-7 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles.
A report by Defense News in September after the upgrade announcement was made said Taiwan's F-16A/Bs would be "among the most capable variants of the aircraft, perhaps second only to the APG-80 AESA-equipped F-16E/Fs flown by the United Arab Emirates."
The upgrade would include either Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar or the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar to replace the planes' current APG-66(V)3 radar.
Defense News said either radar would be better than the Northrop APG-68(V)9 mechanical radar previously considered by Taiwan as an upgrade. Also, the new upgrade is intended to soften the blow of denying new planes to Taipei, a Lockheed Martin source said.
The Fighting Falcon F-16 first flew in 1974 and was operational with the U.S. Air Force in 1978. It was made by General Dynamics until 1993 when General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to Lockheed Corp., which became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
Any sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan, as well as the announced upgrade program of A/B variants, is going to be controversial because of Beijing's objections.
"The wrongdoing by the U.S. side will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and cooperation in military and security areas," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun said in September.
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