Taiwan will not be getting the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it has been requesting since 2007, a Ministry of National Defense official has confirmed, and fewer of its older F-16s will be retrofitted, news that could strike a blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration as it heads into elections next January.
“We are so disappointed in the United States,” the official told Defense News on the sidelines of the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which ended on Saturday, blaming the decision on pressure from Beijing.
The article, released last night and written by the magazine’s Asia Bureau chief, Wendell Minnick, said a US Department of Defense delegation had arrived in Taiwan last week to deliver the news to Taipei and that as an alternative it had offered to secure the upgrade package for Taiwan’s ageing fleet of F-16A/B aircraft.
“The US Pentagon is here explaining what is in the upgrade package,” a US defense industry source told the magazine. “They are going to split the baby: no C/Ds, but the A/B upgrade is going forward.”
“The switch is meant to soften the blow of denying new planes to Taipei,” a source at Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16, told Defense News.
Part of the deal, which sources said would be made toward the end of this month, would include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Defense News said.
The AESA radar will likely be Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) or the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), although a source told the Taipei Times last week that some components of the SABR may yet to have cleared export licensing from the US government.
According to the magazine, the upgrade would make Taiwan’s F-16s among the most capable variants of the aircraft, “perhaps second only to the APG-80 AESA-equipped F-16E/Fs flown by the United Arab Emirates.”
However, in a follow-up conversation with the Taipei Times, Minnick said it now appeared that, contrary to initial plans to have the entire 146 F-16A/Bs upgraded, fewer aircraft would be retrofitted.
“My sources now indicate the A/B upgrade could be limited to only one of the two F-16 wings” that comprise the Taiwanese air force, he said.
It was unclear whether the limited upgrades were decided by the US or Taiwan. The cost for the requested F-16C/Ds was estimated at US$5.5 billion, while the upgrade program for Taiwan’s 146 F-16A/Bs was set at US$4.2 billion.
The American Institute in Taiwan yesterday denied a decision had been made on the F-16 C/D sale.