Wednesday, May 23, 2012

War of Wits for Taiwan's Air Force

Lockheed Martin's F-35B in action
The F-35 could become a convenient tool to kill the F-16C/D program while maintaining the illusion that Taipei remains committed to acquiring advanced aircraft 

After years of frustrating efforts to acquire 66 F-16C/D aircraft from the United States, it’s now starting to look like Taiwan might finally get what it wants, with the Obama administration promising that it would give “serious consideration” to the matter, while the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed an amendment to the U.S. 2013 National Defense Authorization Act ordering the sale.

So at long last, the endeavors of two administrations could be close to fruition, and Taiwan might finally be within reach of getting both the upgrades and procuring the new F-16C/Ds.

But there’s a catch: some officials in Taiwan are now saying that Taipei can’t afford the two programs, and that the upgrades would be sufficient – at least for the time being. What they are saying is that rather than spend an estimated $10 billion on F-16C/Ds, whose qualitative edge over the upgraded F-16A/Bs they consider to be marginal, Taipei had better conserve that money for the future acquisition of aircraft with radar-evasive and vertical takeoff/landing capabilities. In other words, the F-35B.

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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