Taiwan covets best U.S. jet fighters

March 16, 2009 at 9:04 PM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, March 16 (UPI) -- Taiwan's military said Monday the government is eyeing the possibility of buying cutting-edge fighter jets from the United States.

The disclosure came in Taiwan's Quadrennial Defense Review 2009, Kyodo news service reported. The report said Taiwan's military would like to obtain ''next-generation'' fighter jets with stealth and short-takeoff and landing capabilities.

While not specifically mentioned, the U.S.-made F-22 or F-35 fighter jets would fill the bill and officials confirmed in a news conference that the F-22 and F-35 were options.

''Stealth is one of the options we're looking at for our next-generation aircraft. Short-takeoff and landing technology is another,'' said Lt. Gen. Wu Chien-hsing, the air force chief of staff. ''We haven't actually decided on what type of aircraft we need -- probably the F-22, the F-35, the (French-made) Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even a fighter developed by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. that meets our requirements"

Taiwan wanting to buy those jets and getting the United States to sell them, are two different matters, however. Experts point to pressure from China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory.

The United States has already backed of the sale of F-16s sought by Taipei. However, Washington recently said it would deliver Taiwan a dozen marine patrol aircraft in a deal worth $1.3 billion.

The report also said the government plans to reduce its 275,000-strong military to 210,500 by 2014 and turn it into an all-volunteer force, Taipei Times said. The Military Police Command would be eliminated, with some of its personnel transferred to the army, the newspaper said.

The military also said it is proceeding with the development of short- and medium-range missiles as defensive measures.

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