Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Taiwanese officers urge government to dump F-16s; go for F-35Bs

Taiwanese newspaper Taipei Times, quoting a Chinese language report in the China Times, has said that "senior military officers" believe that Taiwan should abandon it's bid to buy F-16C/Ds from the United States and instead turn to the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. This is due to rising costs associated with both the F-16C/D purchase and the planned upgrade for the Republic of China Air Force's current fleet of 145 F-16A/Bs.

This piece of news has stirred up a few opinions on our Twitter feed, with Kyle Mizokami from Japan Security Watch pointing out that "if Taiwan didn't like the price of the F-16A upgrades, wait till they get the F-35 quote" (latest news is that Japan's order for 42 F-35s will come to US$238 million per aircraft, and the Japanese are buying the cheaper F-35A variant) while Greg Waldron over at Flightglobal's Singapore bureau reckons F-35s for Taiwan would be a nothing but a pipe dream, suggesting the mainland "would happily bribe a Taiwan pilot to pop over (in an RoCAF F-35)..."

Good points, above, although we would like to add that expecting the RoCAF's current F-16A/Bs (upgraded or not) to soldier on until Taiwan gets it's hands on F-35s (assuming export approval to is given in the first place) without an interim solution in the face of China's growing economic and military clout is a tad optimistic. Remember, China a) views Taiwan as a renegade province b) has not formally ended a state of war with the island, and c) has not ruled out taking back the island by force.

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