A US$2.5 billion contract to sell 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters to the Taiwanese Army, sent to US Congress in October 2008 for approval, is on schedule, Defense News reported on Monday.
Since the notification, and especially in the wake of the announcement of a US$6.4 billion US arms sale to Taiwan earlier this year, there had been speculation that Beijing would pressure Boeing Co, the manufacturer of the AH-64, into canceling the deal.
Boeing, a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, was among the US firms singled out by Beijing as facing potential retaliatory sanctions for participating in the deal. It also sold Taiwan US$37 million in Harpoon training missiles.
A letter of offer and acceptance was signed last year between Taipei and Washington and a joint US government-Boeing team is expected to visit Taipei in the middle of next month to finalize the deal, the magazine reported, citing sources in the Taiwanese and US defense industries.
The helicopters are armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles and AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles and are part of efforts by the Taiwanese Army to modernize its aviation capabilities.
US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers told Defense News there was no reason to “believe that the first of the Apaches won’t start arriving [in] late 2012 [or] early 2013 as ordered.”
“While China’s position on arms sales [to Taiwan] is well-known, the position of all contracting parties is this is a government-to-government sale ... [and] therefore there is no reason to believe that Boeing would not follow through on a transaction/order from the US Army irrespective of any pressure China may try to bring,” he said.
While Hammond-Chambers said he was unaware of pressure from Beijing regarding the helicopter sale, a local US defense industry source told Defense News that “I can ... guarantee that Boeing is getting heat in Beijing.”
In September last year, Boeing said China would require 3,770 new airplanes valued at about US$400 billion over the next 20 years. Boeing and its European rival Airbus are vying for a share of that market.