WASHINGTON (AFP) - US defense firm Raytheon said Wednesday it was awarded a contract worth 1.1 billion dollars (S$1.6 billion) to upgrade Taiwan's defensive Patriot missile systems, a deal that has drawn fierce protests from China.
The contract had been in the works since 2007 when the Pentagon notified Congress it intended to allow Taiwan to upgrade the interceptor missile systems despite objections from China, which said it sends a 'wrong signal' to Taiwan.
Raytheon, based in Massachusetts, said it received notification of approval of the contract for ground-system hardware valued at 965.6 million dollars and a spare parts contract valued at 134.4 million.
'The Patriot system is a vital element to providing superior integrated air and missile defense capabilities for the protection of Taiwan,' said Daniel Smith, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems.
'Raytheon has provided advanced technology, innovation and support in Taiwan for more than 40 years, and we are honored to continue that partnership today and in the future.'
In announcing the plans in 2007, Pentagon officials said the upgrades would involve ground support equipment of three existing fire units so that they can be armed with the most advanced Patriot interceptor missiles.
China now has about 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, with no signs that the build-up is about to stop anytime soon, a spokesman for the island's government said recently.
The figure includes short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, the defence ministry spokesman told AFP on condition of anonymity.
China had objected that the Patriot upgrade violated a US commitment to reduce weapons transfers to Taiwan.