Saturday, May 26, 2012

Taiwanese air force faces plane shortage by 2020

A F-16A/B from the ROCAF takes off in Taiwan
Taiwan appears to have had a change of mind on the need to acquire new aircraft, a decision that will have serious repercussions on the balance of air power in the Taiwan Strait 

A US congressional report released this week makes it clear that, without the acquisition of new aircraft, the Taiwanese air force risks being a shadow of itself by 2020 and incapable of meeting the challenge it faces in the Taiwan Strait.

The annual report by the Congressional Research Service, titled Taiwan: Major US Arms Sales Since 1990 — which Defense News has called “required reading inside Taiwan defense circles and among US defense officials working with the island’s military” — provides a detailed analysis of US arms sales to Taiwan over more than two decades. 

The section on F-16 jet sales provides the greatest shock. By 2020, it says, the number of fighter aircraft in the air force would drop by 70 percent without the acquisition of new F-16s as it retires near-obsolete F-5s and some ageing Mirage 2000s, whose spare parts are reportedly extremely costly. Even if Taiwan were to acquire the 66 F-16C/Ds it has been requesting since 2006, the total number of aircraft would still have dropped by 50 percent by that time, the report says. 

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


Mike Fagan said...

There really ought to be protests in the streets about the lack of fighter aircraft. A national government that cannot provide for national defence can hardly be considered a government at all.

As much as certain useful people would love to believe that the Obama administration really is ready to sell the C/Ds to the Ma government, I doubt it was ever anything more than a diplomatic feint to try to wrongfoot the government in Beijing.

A government in Taipei that really wanted fighter aircraft could do worse than to make inquiries at Dassault; the French have so far only managed to close a sale of the Rafale to the Indians and would surely be delighted at the prospect of getting an order for say, 100 planes for Taiwan.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@Mike: The recent optimism regarding a possible release of the F-16C/Ds is probably a bit premature, but according to industry sources in the US, we're closer to seeing this happen than at any point in the past six years.

You're right about how the public should be unhappy with this situation, but I don't think national defense is a subject that captivates the great majority of people. For many of them, it's an abstract, something that will never mobilize them as, say, the government-sponsored theft of personal property and other issues of injustice.

Regarding a possible approach to European arms manufacturers, this makes perfect sense on paper; however, the chance of this materializing in the next little while are practically zero, as France and friends do not want to risk alienating Beijing. Plus, after the Lafayette and Mirage scandals, I'm not sure MND here would want to deal with them again, at least not on big, hugely expensive projects (behind-the-scenes help with subs is another story, and this could very well happen).

Mike Fagan said...

Yes but the situation is deteriorating rapidly - no new fighter aircraft, no new subs and no new long-range missiles. Instead the MND is paying through the nose for Apaches and APVs and other things that have only marginal utility at best. And all the Obama administration can offer is a bunch of "maybes" prior to an election after three years of stonewalling.

I'd take a chance on trying to get something out of the French - Hollande has just been elected and presumably won't want to be embarassed by the corruption that dogged Chirac and, to a lesser degree, Sarko. Dassault taking a major order under his watch without any shenanigans going on might be worth something to his image. Also, I'd imagine his supporters won't be too fond of the Chinese what with the media painting them as "free-market capitalists" week-in, week-out.