A F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where pilots from Taiwan are trained to fly the aircraft. Photo by Airman 1st Class Devante Williams/U.S. Air Force
April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department has approved a $500 million possible contract renewal for training of Taiwanese F-16 pilots and maintenance support.
On Monday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale, to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, as part of the foreign military sales program.
The pilot training program and maintenance/logistics will continue to be conducted at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
The contract renewal will include 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.
"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," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a news release.
The U.S. Air Force will provide instruction, flight operations, maintenance support and facilities. Prime contractors URS Federal Services, Inc. and L3 are among more than businesses involved in the program.
"Today's notification is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and our support for Taiwan's ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," a U.S. State Department official told CNN.
The official said the proposed sale is unrelated to Taiwan's plans to purchase 66 new F-16V fighter jets from the United States.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said approval of the purchase is "timely" and warned that Beijing's actions only "served to strengthen our resolve," South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday morning.
"It came a day after Chinese warplanes once again were flying by to sabotage stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region, and damaging the status quo," she said. "A big country in the region should never act so irresponsibly. In safeguarding our national sovereignty, we will not give up an inch and will continue to uphold democracy and freedom."
Chinese fighter jets, including Sukhoi-30 and Jian-11, flew by the island from the south coast of China headed to military drills in the Western Pacific. Taiwanese warplanes and military vessels shadowed the fighter jets.
On March 31, the island's military scrambled fighter planes after it said two Chinese J-11 fighter jets crossed the border within the waters of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Taiwan said mainland China's actions were "reckless and provocative."
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact and multi-role fighter aircraft that is highly maneuverable, according to the Air Force. General Dynamics, which is now owned by Lockheed Martin, designed the F-16. A single-seat model first flew in December 1976.