This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a contract worth US$68.4 million to a major defense company to develop state-of-the-art air-launched missiles for Taiwan, a department statement said.
The contract to produce and deliver 50 joint standoff weapon air-to-ground missiles (AGM-154 Block III C) over the next four years was given to Raytheon Missile & Defense (RMD), a business segment of RTX Corporation, formerly known as Raytheon Technologies.
Two-thirds of the production will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., where RMD is based.
The contract is part of an arms sale package approved by Washington in June 2017 which included seven possible military sales to Taipei with a total value of $1.363 billion.
The AGM-154 missiles, also called glide bombs, are 1,000-pound air-to-surface precision strike weapons that have been incorporated into several U.S.-made fighter jets, including the F-16s, to enhance its long-range strike capabilities.
Joint standoff weapons if launched at a high altitude can reach targets as far as 110 kilometers (68 miles) away.
Taiwan’s Air Force has the largest fleet of F-16 fighters in Asia, with around 140 units, and has recently upgraded them all to facilitate the integration of the new weapons.
Taipei is also buying 66 more F-16Vs from the U.S. However the purchase has reportedly been delayed due to competing U.S. military commitments across the world.
Beijing has yet to respond to the latest Raytheon contract but it protested strongly when the arms package for Taiwan was announced in 2017.
At that time, China said it was outraged and urged Washington to revoke immediately its “wrong decision.”