On Aug. 19, after US President Donald Trump approved a deal to sell Taiwan 66 F-16V Block 70 warplanes, nicknamed “Vipers,” Stephen Bryen, a former US deputy undersecretary of defense for trade security policy under former US president Ronald Regan, published an article in the Asia Times titled “Taiwan’s new F-16s boost regional role of US.”
Bryen’s analysis includes an assessment of what could happen in the event of a fourth Taiwan Strait crisis and the significance of the acquisition of the new jets to Taiwan’s national defense.
In 1996, during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, Bryen, former CIA director James Woolsey and US Navy admiral Bud Edney spent two weeks in Taiwan to assess the likelihood of China launching an invasion. They proposed that then-US president Bill Clinton send two aircraft carrier groups to defend Taiwan, which resolved the crisis.
Taiwan’s Phoenix Rising upgrade program for its 144 older F-16A/B aircraft will provide the jets, designed in the 1970s, with the same modern electronic warfare suite as the F-16V variant. This includes active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, cockpit avionics and helmet-mounted display and communication systems, which would allow them to be interoperable with the newer F-16Vs and other modern fighters.
With the upgrade program currently able to convert 24 F-16A/B airframes each year, this means that it would take until 2023 to upgrade the entire fleet, at a cost of NT$164 billion (US$5.28 billion).
However, the F-16V — the latest version of the aircraft — comes with redesigned and enlarged fuel tanks and a built-in electronic warfare pod, and is capable of carrying more missiles. It is also fitted with a new engine capable of providing nearly 30,000 pounds of thrust. The total outlay for 66 F-16Vs is estimated to be NT$248 billion.
The military originally intended to purchase US-made F-35B stealth jets, which are capable of short take off and vertical landing. However, Bryen said in the article that the F-35B is unsuited to Taiwan. Not only is the unit price of the aircraft extremely high, but supporting the new aircraft would present maintenance and logistical difficulties, and the F-35B is not yet a mature platform.
Additionally, as the F-35B is designed as an attack aircraft, its sale to Taiwan would contravene the terms of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, which stipulates that the US may only sell defensive military equipment to Taiwan.
However, this does not mean that the F-35B would not have a role to play in the defense of Taiwan’s airspace. This is because the F-16V’s AESA radar supports network-enabled weapons (NEW), which allows one aircraft to lock on to a target and assign another NEW-compatible aircraft or weapons system to attack it. This means that Taiwan’s F-16s would be able to effectively coordinate operations with US aircraft types operating out of bases in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and F-35.
Furthermore, Taiwanese pilots are to receive training on the new F-16s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona alongside the US’ F-35B pilots. This would mean that Taiwanese pilots will be trained at operating side-by-side with their US counterparts.
Put simply, the US’ F-35B stealth jets would be able to act as airborne forward command posts for Taiwan’s future force of 200 F-16V jets in combat.
The 66 new F-16Vs and the Phoenix Rising upgrade program would allow Taiwan’s military to plan and train for joint combat operations with the US and its regional allies, and Taiwan would be able to effectively integrate F-35Bs into its air defense umbrella, but without paying the eye-watering price tag.
Whichever way you look at it, it is excellent value for money.
Jack Jeng is a US-based retired aeronautical engineer.
Translated by Edward Jones
Taiwan’s status in the world community is experiencing something really different; it’s being treated like a normal country. And not just a “normal” country, more like a valuable, constructive, democratic and generous country. This is not simply an artifact of Taiwan’s successes in combatting the novel coronavirus. It is a new attitude, weighing Taiwan’s democracy against China’s lack of it. Before I continue, I should apologize to the readers of the Taipei Times. I have not visited Taipei since the opening of the American Institute in Taiwan’s new chancery building in Neihu last year, so I was unprepared for the photograph
At a June 12 news conference held by the Talent Circulation Alliance to announce the release of its white paper for this year, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) emphasized that, in this era of globalization, Taiwan should focus on improving foreign language and digital abilities when cultivating talent, so that it stands out from global competitors. I suggest the government should consider building a professional translation industry. If the public believes that there is a relationship between learning English and national competitiveness, then the nation must consider the social cost of language education. This should be assessed to maximise educational effectiveness: Is
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, cities around the world are re-evaluating the importance of accessible green spaces for the benefit of public health and well-being. However, Taiwan’s success in containing the virus might impede opportunities to transform its cities into greener, healthier and more resilient places. Urban vegetable gardens have been highlighted by community planners worldwide during this wave of the green-space movement. Such gardens help enhance food security and also mental health, which in turn fosters social resilience in local communities during lockdowns. Since 2015, Taipei has run the “garden city” program, which allocates vacant land for use as
In March 2011, then-US president Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told the US Senate Intelligence Committee that, considering both its capabilities and intent, communist China presented “the greatest mortal threat” to the US, followed by Russia. In the ensuing years, in the face of faltering US responses, China expanded and intensified its hostile actions against US interests and values. Consistent with US President Donald Trump’s call for a dramatic new approach, within months of taking office, his administration’s National Security Strategy said of China’s multidimensional assault: “China is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations ... implied military