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AMRAAMs delivered to Taiwan

November 17, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United States has shipped AIM-120C AMRAAMs to Taiwan after China acquired similar Russian-built technology.
The AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles, which arrived last month, are sufficient to counter China's AA-12 missiles and will help maintain military balance in the Taiwan Strait.

The first batch of US-made AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles sold to Taiwan have been delivered in full and on time, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman said yesterday.

Taiwan bought 120 AIM-120s from the United States in 2000 on the condition they would only be delivered if China acquired similar weaponry.

The fact that China had test-fired the Russian-made AA-12 missiles in June 2002 prompted Washington to deliver the AIM-120s to Taipei, the report said.

Air force officials have earlier said the US-built missile, 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.

Air force officers are currently in the United States receiving AIM-120 missile operation training on simulators, and live-fire tests with Taiwanese pilots and F-16s could take place at the White Sand Missile Range in Arizona in the near future.

The missiles will not be immediately test-fired in Taiwan. American authorities made a 'no test-firing' decision.They fear that the "missiles' function keys (and their electronic parameters) would be decoded by China if test-fired here in Taiwan, which would allow the PRC or others to counter the projectiles combat characteristics.

"But if the air force's electronic surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities improve in the future, the missiles can be test-fired in Taiwan," Lee said.

The first lot of AIM-120 missiles destined for Taiwan have long been ready for delivery, but the shipment has been repeatedly rescheduled for various reasons, including the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome earlier this year.