Monday, April 04, 2011

Taiwan faces prospect of non-credible fighter capability within decade

No new fighter aircraft on the way, upgrades on new ones delayed, and hesitancy on the part of the US government to include more advanced radar in the package. This is the state of affairs

Taiwan’s airpower situation is deteriorating and replacement of its tactical aircraft is necessary, justified and not provocative, US Senator Richard Lugar told US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in a letter dated April 1.

“Given the decrepit state of Taiwan’s F-5s, the service life issues associated with its IDF [Indigenous Defense Fighter] and a growing problem … obtaining affordable and sustainable access to spare parts for Mirages, I am very concerned that if the Administration does not act favorably on Taiwan’s outstanding Letter of Request (LOR) for sales of F-16C/D aircraft, Taiwan will be forced to retire all of its existing F-16A/B aircraft in the next decade, leaving it with no credible air-to-air capability,” wrote Lugar, a ranking member of the Committee on Foreign relations.

The Republican also expressed concern over what he characterized as the tenuous nature of Taiwan’s current fleet of fighter aircraft and the urgent requirement to retire obsolete F-5 and Mirage airframes, upgrade F-16A/Bs and IDFs and procure new F-16C/Ds to replace retiring aircraft.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


mike said...

Good stuff.

Hammond-Chambers is surely right on the strategic importance of F-16 A/B upgrades and C/D sales, but I do wonder how worried people at the Pentagon might be about F-16 tech getting leaked to the Chinese via possible moles in Taiwan's Airforce. Would that be something you could comment on Michael?

That aside, I still think this administration (or at least, its leadership) is basically uninterested in foreign policy and that the sooner they are gone the better.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Hi Mike,

When I sat down with Hammond-Chambers for breakfast in mid-February, I asked him that very question. He told me US arms sales to Taiwan had for a long time been made under the assumption that whatever it is they give Taiwan will eventually find its way to China. He said there were times when US officials were actually surprised how long it took for certain technologies to be leaked across the strait. (Software, however, seems to be different, especially systems that link the Taiwanese military to PACOM and other US forces in the region.)

I don’t think there’s anything overly sensitive in the A/B upgrade program that would warrant such fears. If China wants to put its hands on F-16 technology, it can easily do so with the Pakistanis. In my view, China’s red line has yet again be redrawn, and while the C/Ds were for a long time the line that couldn’t be crossed, it now appears to have been lowered to mere upgrades on the A/Bs. That’s one way of making sure the C/D sale will never materialize, as Beijing will already be “angered” by the US passing the A/B program.

By prevaricating so long, the US made it possible for Beijing to redraw line. Not good news for Taiwan.

自由人吳先生 said...
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mike said...

"He said there were times when US officials were actually surprised how long it took for certain technologies to be leaked across the strait."


And yes of course, the Pakistanis have both sets of F-16s too don't they... So, it's basically what's at fault is just a lack of political will, plus chicanery at State and possibly elsewhere in preventing the sale of the C/Ds, no?