July 14, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United States is ready to ship the AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles to Taiwan after rival China acquired similar Russian-built technology, this to ensure military balance in the Taiwan Strait.
The missiles will be shipped to Taiwan
by the next two months and the air force will also take delivery of related fire-control software to be installed on F-16 fighter jets.
A live-fire test of the advanced missile is planned for next year. This would be the first of such tests outside the United States.
Taiwan bought 120 AIM-120C medium-range missiles from the United States in September 2000 under the proviso that they would only be delivered if China acquired similar weaponry. The weapons have been held at the US air base in Guam for three years now to avoid upsetting China.
Last year China had test-fired Russian-made AA-12 air-to-air missiles which now prompts Washington to deliver the AIM-120s to Taipei.
, which has a range of 50 kilometres (31 miles) and is equipped with advanced guidance systems, would be used to arm part of Taiwan's fleet of 150 F-16 fighter jets. The AIM-120
is a new generation air-to-air missile with an all-weather, beyond-visual-range capability and active radio frequency target detection.
Taiwan Air Force fighter pilots have been in the United States for training which includes practice in firing AIM-120 missiles.
China has repeatedly protested to the United States over its policy of selling weapons to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory to be reunified by force if necessary.
Note: Some sources state that Taiwan bought 200 AMRAAMs.