Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Taiwan wants more than F-16s to replace F-5s, but who's selling?

Photo © Reuters

Taiwan's Defence Minister Kao Hua-chu has said that even if the United States were to soften its stance, Taiwan may not necessarily agree to buy 66 F-16C/Ds from the United States as the island looks for more advanced fighters for the future. Taiwan has been lobbying to acquire the F-16C/Ds for some time, however the United States has baulked at the sale for fear of antagonising China and offered to upgrade Taiwan's current fleet of 145 F-16A/Bs instead.

Which is well and good, but for the fact that with China continuing to successfully isolate Taiwan diplomatically, it is questionable that any of the countries who currently have advanced fighter programs will be willing to sell and risk China's ire. There aren't all that many 4th Gen fighter types available on that market now, and that already small pool shrinks even further once one takes into consideration the political/diplomatic minefield selling weapons to Taiwan currently is.

With the recent announcement that the survivors of the Republic of China Air Force's F-5E/F Tiger IIs are due to be retired in 2019, Taiwan's fighter needs in the face of a strengthening China will become more pressing, yet without a radical change in how the United States and other nations view their relationship with China vis-a-vis Taiwan, the latter will find it extremely difficult to find willing seller of arms.

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