Wed, Jul 20, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Refusing to aid Taiwan is illogical

By Reuben Johnson

Additionally, the long-term plan for Brazil is to utilize the technology transfer it receives from building the fighters to create Brazilian-designed fighters sometime after the year 2019.

The long-term result of the Brazilian contract could allow Brazil to compete with the US in the fighter aircraft market. To be fair, the reality is that this is the way most of the international combat aircraft sales work. The purchasing nation is always asking for a very generous set of commercial off-sets and technology transfer, but viewed through a protectionist lens, it seems that long term the US is willing to give up a lot in order to win this sale in Brazil.

In contrast, Taiwan has no such grandiose ambitions. The country simply wants — and needs — the F-16C/Ds for its defense against an increasingly capable and aggressive Chinese military. The fighters would largely be assembled in the US and would provide a considerable amount of work for US aerospace workers.

A report on the economic impact in the US by the Perryman Group found that “the production of these [F-16C/D] aircraft would involve substantial gains in business activity in hundreds of communities across the US through the manufacture of various parts and equipment.”

The report also estimated that the Taiwan F-16 deal could generate about US$8.7 billion in gross product output, and would sustain more than 87,651 person-years of employment in the US. This means roughly 16,000 annual jobs — direct and indirect — over the life of the deal.

The deal would also yield about US$768 million in US federal tax revenues during the course of the program, as well as about US$593.7 million to various state and local governments. This is all something you would think any administration would want — particularly one staring into an abyss of shrinking tax revenues, 9.2 percent unemployment and anemic job creation numbers heading into an election year.

In addition, without the Taiwanese deal, the F-16 production line could be closed within two years, furloughing thousands of US workers and swelling the already swollen ranks of the unemployed. It would also mean that the only single-engine lightweight fighter aircraft left in production for the US to offer to foreign customers would be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The JSF’s stealthy, fifth-generation capabilities are such that it is doubtful that it would ever be offered to Taiwan. China might eventually cool down from an initial (and predictable) acrimonious reaction to an F-16C/D sale to Taiwan, but the backlash from Beijing if Taipei ever took delivery of F-35s would likely verge on thermonuclear.

So, continuing to block the F-16C/D sale and forcing a shutdown of the production line in the US essentially means allowing the Taiwanese air force to wither away and eventually die. It must soon begin to retire aging aircraft and would have nothing to replace them with.

A letter sent by 47 US senators to the White House in May was unequivocal in the consequences of continued intransigence by the administration on this issue.

“Military experts in both Taiwan and the United States have raised concerns that Taiwan is losing the qualitative advantage in defensive arms that has long served as its primary military deterrent against China ... without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” the letter said.

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