New orders from Iraq for F-16C/D aircraft were approved by US President Barack Obama this week, expanding the window of opportunity for a future sale to Taiwan.
The new orders, plus an expected sale to Oman in the next two months, are likely to keep the production line open for another three to four years.
Senior members of the Obama administration have said that a sale to Taiwan has not been absolutely ruled out and now that the production line and order books will not close soon, the president has more time to change his mind.
Or if a Republican candidate should win the US presidential election in November next year, he or she would still be able to change the policy and approve a F-16C/D deal.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has officially informed the US Congress that Iraq will be allowed to buy 18 more F-16C/Ds, plus spare engines, radar and high-tech communications gear, bombs and missiles.
According to US government estimates, the total Iraq package will cost US$2.3 billion.
Lockheed Martin, makers of the plane, said in October when Obama turned down Taiwan’s request to buy 66 of the planes that without any new orders, it would be forced to close the production line.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, told the Taipei Times: “Absolutely, these smaller deals are adding increments of time onto the window to make a decision on Taiwan’s request. That said, these are relatively small deals and are not securing the line for years, which is what the sale of 66 fighters to Taiwan would do.”
Hammond-Chambers has estimated that the sale to Taiwan could help the US generate US$8.7 billion in business and help keep 16,000 jobs in the aerospace industry.
A sale of the F-16C/Ds to Taiwan is favored by many in the US Congress and pundits have said Obama is bowing to pressure from China by failing to approve it.