The Reagan Administration today notified Congress it has reached an agreement to sell China some special electronics gear that will allow modernization of China’s aging F-8 jet interceptors.
The formal notification, released by the Pentagon, states that the United States is prepared to sell “55 integrated avionics system kits, support equipment, training and system installation . . . at an estimated cost of $550 million.”
The sale, which will go forward unless Congress moves to block it within 30 days, would be only the second government-to-government arms deal negotiated by the two countries and by far the largest.
First Deal Last Fall
The first, involving $98-million worth of technology and equipment to modernize Chinese artillery ammunition plants, was approved last fall.
Citing improved relations, the Reagan Administration authorized China to buy U.S. military equipment in 1984.
The new electronic gear will make it possible for the F-8, a high-altitude interceptor modeled on older Soviet MIGs, to operate in all types of weather. The equipment includes new radar, navigation and fire-control components.
Although Congress did not object to the earlier arms deal, there have been indications the latest transaction may stir controversy. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently suggested he may oppose the sale because non-communist governments in the region have expressed fears over Chinese military power.
Conservatives Oppose Sale
A group of more than 50 conservative leaders, including fund-raiser Richard Viguerie, Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus and Ray Kline, a former deputy CIA director, also sent President Reagan a letter last week expressing concern the sale would upset the military balance between China and Taiwan.
The conservatives suggested the Administration must reverse its policy against providing advanced jet fighters to Taiwan if it wants to proceed with the new arms deal.
The United States has so far refused to provide Taiwan with an advanced jet that could replace that government’s aging F-5E aircraft.
In its formal notification to Congress, the Defense Department argued that the deal “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been an important force for political stability and economic progress in Asia and the world.
“These integrated avionics system kits will be used by the People’s Republic of China to modernize 50 F-8 interceptor aircraft. This sale will provide China with certain defensive capabilities. The sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region.”
The Pentagon added that it would not select a contractor to provide the equipment until later.
If the deal goes through, however, it will “require the assignment of 25 U.S. contractor personnel in the People’s Republic of China for a minimum of nine months; 11 of these 25 contractor personnel will remain in China for three years,” the Pentagon said.
“Up to five U.S. Air Force personnel will be in the People’s Republic of China from one to six years on temporary or continuing assignments,” it added.