US to upgrade Taiwan F-16s, not sell new ones
Washington: The Obama administration has
decided to upgrade Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16 fighter
jets but not sell it the new planes it also wants,
congressional staff said.
The administration gave a briefing on Capitol Hill on its
decision on Friday, but has yet to issue a formal notification
of the intended deal. An announcement is expected by the end
of this month.
Two congressional aides confirmed the decision on condition of anonymity as they were not
authorised to make it public.
The decision represents a compromise aimed at improving
Taiwan's ability to defend itself, while assuaging China's
concern over the arms sales. However, Beijing is still
expected to react angrily. It regards the self-governing
island as part of its territory.
There will also be criticism from Republicans and some
Democrats in Congress who have strongly backed the sales of 66
F-16 C/D fighters that Taiwan wants, in addition to the
upgrades of the 145 F-16 A/Bs that the US sold it in the
There were no immediate details on the package of
upgrades the US is providing for the A/Bs. But even if it
includes sophisticated radar, avionics and missile systems,
Taiwan's air force will still lag far behind its Chinese
counterpart, which is equipped with state-of-the-art jet
A Pentagon report issued last year painted a grim picture
of Taiwan's air defence capabilities, saying many of the
island's 400 combat aircraft would not be available to help
withstand an attack from the mainland.
Wang Kao-cheng, a military expert at Taipei's Tamkang
University, said Taiwan's air defences could get some lift
from the upgrade, but the island is still at a profound
disadvantage with Beijing in the number of third-generation
warplanes it has at its disposal.