Taiwan Requested New Fighter Jets from the US
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Taiwan Requested New Fighter Jets from the US

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: The file photo of Republic of China Air Force's F-16A Block 20 / Photo by Jason Tu

Image Attribute: The file photo of Republic of China Air Force's F-16A Block 20 / Photo by Jason Tu

On March 7, 2019, Taiwan's  Deputy Minister of National Defense Shen Yi-ming told reporters that his country has officially submitted a "Letter of Request (LOR)" for new fighter jets from the United States (US) to "counter-current enemy threats."

According to local tabloid-style newspaper Apple DailyTaiwan's Ministry of National Defense officially handed its application for  66 F-16V jets from the US for a total price of US$ 13 billion (NT$ 400 billion) on February 27.

"We made the request to purchase (fighter jets) because China has been increasing its military strength and we are starting to have an imbalance of power in our air defense capabilities," Yi-ming said. He further added that the details of the request reported by the media outlets were incorrect.

Ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung said: "the plan for the new fighter jets is about enhancing air defense capabilities, not replacing existing jets."

If the request is granted, the entry of "new American jets" in Taiwan theatre could escalate the tensions between China and the US. Also, the request comes as Chinese premier Xi Jinping has used increasingly strident rhetoric toward Taiwan, a self-governed island which split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification, even though both the countries have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

In recent times, Chinese bombers and surveillance aircraft have begun flying much more regular sorties around the island nation. Since the Beijing-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, China has significantly stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan for reunification (by any means).

Earlier in 2011, the Obama Administration decided against the sale of 66 F-16 C/D fighters, despite several requests from Taipei to modernize its air force. Instead of selling new fighters, the US offered Taiwan a US$ 4.2 billion upgrade of its aging F-16 A/B fighter fleet it bought in 1992. At that time, the U.S. State Department said upgrading the F-16 A/B fighter planes will be able to meet Taiwan's defense needs at the present stage. The American decision not to sell Taiwan the more advanced F-16 C/D jets was considered as a victory for Beijing. 

Lately, in October 2018, Taiwan accepted its first delivery of remodeled F-16A/Bs from the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) as part of its US$ 5 billion projects with the US to upgrade 24 of its jets every year. The program experienced a two-year delay as a result of "unspecified software issues." The expected completion date for this particular project is 2022.

With reporting by Apple Daily, Taiwan News, and Taipei Times