World News

U.S. eyes $2.2 bln aircraft, missile sale to Taiwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon announced tentative plans on Wednesday to sell surplus P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircraft and air-defense missiles to Taiwan in deals potentially worth more than $2.23 billion, including related gear and services.

Taiwan is seeking to buy 12 surplus P-3C maritime patrol aircraft with T-56 turboprop engines, data terminals and a mobile operation command center in a deal that could be worth $1.96 billion, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice to Congress.

It said in a separate notice it was also tentatively planning to sell Taiwan 144 SM-2 Block 3A Standard missiles to defend against cruise missiles and aircraft threats in a package that could total $272 million.

The P-3C is a land-based maritime patrol and submarine warfare aircraft. It is replaced in the U.S. arsenal by the P-6 Multi-mission maritime aircraft due to enter service in 2013.

As part of the proposed P-3C deal, Taiwan also would get help integrating its intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance network, the Pentagon said.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to bring the democracy of 23 million people under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Under a law passed in 1979 when the United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, Washington says it would consider any effort to determine Taiwan’s future other than by peaceful means a “grave concern.”

Taiwan’s current patrol aircraft are reaching the end of their usefulness, the Pentagon said. It said the proposed sale would be to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, Taiwan’s unofficial embassy.

The proposed sale would boost Taiwan’s security and help maintain political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region, the notice to Congress said.

Principal contractors for the P-3C Orion deal include Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins Inc, Raytheon Co, EDO Corp and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc, the Pentagon said.

The SM-2 missiles, which would supplement those already in Taiwan’s inventory, are destined for Tawian’s destroyers. Raytheon would be the prime contractor for this, the Pentagon said.

The notice of a potential sale is required by law. It does not mean a deal has been concluded. Congress can block proposed arms sales but rarely does so.