President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration have been stepping up Taiwan's campaign to procure an additional 66 F-16s to replace the Republic of China (ROC) Air Force's aging fleet of F-5 E/F fighters (see report below). The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979, requires the United States "to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character."
Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) first submitted a formal letter of request (LOR) for price and availability (P&A) for an additional 66 F-16 fighters as early as March 2006. To date, two successive administrations have refused to acknowledge or act upon the LOR due to fear of Chinese retribution. Released by President George Bush in 1992, the ROC Air Force currently has 146 F-16s in its active inventory. A former senior U.S. Air Force official said in a July 2010 Reuters interview that a positive Obama administration decision on moving forward on an F-16 deal is "way past due."
Concerned over how the China issue could affect re-election prospects in 2012, opposition to release of additional F-16s to Taiwan is said to be concentrated within a small circle of pro-Beijing political advisors around President Obama. As a fully fledged democracy, the ROC on Taiwan has municipal elections scheduled for later this year, and with Presidential elections slated for March 2012.
"Taiwan seeks F-16s to boost defence"
Thursday 19th August, 2010 (IANS)
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou called Thursday on the US to sell F-16s to Taipei to boost the island's defences after the Pentagon said this week that China is gaining military superiority over Taiwan.
'Taiwan people's top concern is Taiwan's security,' Ma said. 'I hope the US can cautiously consider selling F-16C/Ds to Taiwan as the balance of cross-Strait military power is tipping in China's favour.'
Ma made the comment while receiving visiting US Senator Roland Burris. It is the third time this month that Ma had raised the F-16 purchase while receiving US visitors.
Taiwan ordered 150 F-16A/Bs from the US in 1992 but is seeking to buy 66 F-16C/Ds to replace the outdated models.
The US is evaluating Taipei's request after Beijing asked Washington to end arms sales to Taiwan, calling them an obstacle to Taiwan-China unification.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, to be brought back into the motherland one day, by force if necessary.