F-16 Sale Nixed: KMT Opposition to Taiwan’s Defense Claims Latest Victim
On November 1, 2005, we ran “Taiwan Orders F-16 Training in USA, But Larger Defense Buys Remain in Limbo,” covering the stalled procurement of Patriot PAC-3 air and missile defense systems, P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, and modern diesel submarines to supplement the 2 semi-modern diesel subs and 2 WW2 vintage subs Taiwan has now. These systems are being requested in order to counter China’s fast-growing defense budget and ongoing build up of ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft, submarines, and recent buys like tank-transport hovercraft. The addendum to “Full Steam Ahead for Taiwan Frigate Corruption Investigation” also addressed this issue, noting the changing rationales used by the formerly dominant Kuomintang (KMT) party to block the sale amidst allegations in Taiwan of corruption and worse. Both articles also noted that US patience with Taiwan over their perceived lack of willingness to defend themselves adequately was running short.
That patience has apparently run out. Minister of National Defense Lee Jye has now said that Taiwan’s $4+ billion plan to buy 66 F-16 C/D jet fighters from the USA has been suspended by President George W. Bush. His report to the Legislative Yuan’s National Defense Committee indicated that the U.S. stance is strongly influenced by the long-stalled arms purchase package’s failure to clear the legislature.
Recent reports place Taiwan’s fighter fleet at about 146 F-16 A/Bs, 56 Mirage 2000v5s and 128 F-CK “Ching Kuo” fighters in its current fleet, as well as more than 60 aged F-5E Tiger IIs. Local media reports claim that even if Taiwan is permitted to buy the new F-16s, they will not be delivered until 2011. By that time, Taiwan’s self-developed F-CK fighters will have been in service for nearly 20 years, and their current fleet of Mirage 2000v5 and F-16 A/B fighters procured via 1992 contracts will have been in service for almost as long.