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Taiwan takes delivery of two E-2T early warning aircraft

AFP | May 20 2005

Taiwan Friday took delivery of two E-2T Hawkeye early warning aircraft from the United States to strengthen its defense capabilities against rival China.

"We will have a total of six E-2T aircraft after delivery of two new ones today," said an air force official without elaborating.

Taiwan's defense ministry has said the aircraft would bolster the island's "protection against naval or air attack from mainland China."

China has deployed at least 700 ballistic missiles facing the island and the number could rise to 800 before the end of 2006, according to the defense ministry.

The new aircraft are expected to expand the surveillance range of radar and carry out all-weather operations to improve Taiwan's airborne early warning system capabilities, it said.

They can also guide fighters to execute interception and control missions, conduct regional air surveillance and electronic reconnaissance.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Beijing has threatened to attack Taiwan should the island declare formal independence.

To counter China's arms buildup, Taiwan's cabinet in March submitted to parliament a reduced arms package to procure 15.5 billion US dollars worth of US-made weaponry, after the previous 20 billion dollar proposal was rejected.

The revised package, pending approval by parliament, calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines, a modified version of the Patriot anti-missile system and a fleet of anti-submarine aircraft over a 15-year period from 2005.

The massive budget proposal has stirred heated debate on the island as critics said the spending could further provoke China and heighten cross-strait tensions.

Tensions have risen since Chen Shui-bian of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency in 2000, ending the Kuomintang's 51-year grip on power. He was re-elected last year.

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