02 May 2012

F-16s to Taiwan Back On?

While the Chinese are distracted with internal political issues, will the US push through a fighter sale to Taiwan?

Just as everything was becoming as clear as mud, America has unexpectedly raised the possibility that it might sell Taiwan the F-16 C/D fighter jets that it has been requesting since 2006. The move would infuriate China. Officials in Beijing have in the past voiced strenuous opposition to the sale of F-16 C/Ds, marking it as a line in the sand, of the kind that can’t be crossed.

As it stands, the gesture was remarkably blunt. Days before the arrival of Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state, and smack dab in the middle of confusions to do with the custody of Chen Guangcheng, the boffins in charge of America’s foreign affairs have made things much tougher than they might have done, had they tarried for some weeks or months. It was on Friday that the White House said, seemingly out of the blue, that it is “mindful of...Taiwan’s growing shortfall in fighter aircraft” and “committed to assisting Taiwan in addressing the disparity in numbers of aircraft through our work with Taiwan’s defence ministry.”

Looking at the current Taiwanese air force...
No one in Taiwan doubts that the island needs new jets. China has 2,300 military aircraft in service, to Taiwan’s 490. Of those 490, around 60 are elderly F-5 jets that were sold to Taiwan during the Reagan administration. Another 50-odd are French-made Mirage fighters which are scheduled for retirement over the next several years; their maintenance and spare parts have become too expensive. The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, a lobby group which represents American defence companies, among others, estimates that Taiwan will have as few as 75 usable modern fighters at its disposal from 2016 to 2022, while the F-16 A/B planes are undergoing upgrades.

source: Wikimedia

By: Brant

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