US looking to speed up delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan

Jan 21, 2022: According to a Reuters report, the US is looking for ways to potentially accelerate delivery of Taiwan’s next generation of new-build F-16 fighter jets, the newest F-16 configuration with new avionics, a modernised cockpit, and an improved engine.

The move is aimed at strengthening the Taiwanese air force’s ability to respond to what Washington and Taipei see as increasing intimidation by China’s military.

The block-70 F-16 aircraft are currently slated to be delivered by the end of 2026.

The Taiwanese government has privately expressed its desire to expedite the delivery to US President Joe Biden’s administration, a senior Taiwanese official said, as the self-governing island’s air force seeks to stop wear and tear on the existing fleet from more missions in response to increasingly aggressive Chinese military flights.

Fuel costs, pilot fatigue and wear and tear on Taiwanese aircraft threaten the readiness of the island’s air force if this pressure continues, Taiwanese and US military analysts said.

Under Chinese pressure, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has preferred to modernize the armed forces, which are well-armed but inferior to the Chinese military.

“It’s all about risk assessment; and it’s clear where the risks are,” the Taiwanese official said, referring to tensions in the sensitive Strait of Taiwan, which separates the island from mainland China. The F-16 is considered to be a highly capable aircraft capable of fighting in the air and attacking the surface from the air.

The deal which was finalised in 2019 and the subsequent delivery would bring the island’s total number of F-16s, including older versions, to more than 200 by 2026.

Despite not having formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the US is the island’s largest international supporter and supplier of arms. This defense relationship angers China, which has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure on the island, which it claims as “sacred” Chinese territory.

The sale of F-16s to Taiwan was guided by US law and “based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defence needs and the threat posed by (China), as has been the case for more than 40 years”, a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

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