Thu, Oct 06, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Retired USAF officials back F-16 sales

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Seven senior retired US Air Force (USAF) officials on Tuesday sent a letter to US senators John Cornyn and Robert Menendez in support of a bill to upgrade Taiwan’s airpower and in favor of selling Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it has been requesting since 2006.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Taipei Times, the signatories expressed “strong support” for bill S. 1539, Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011, introduced by the senators on Sept. 12.

Providing the F-16C/Ds to “our friend and ally, Taiwan” is “in the security interests of Taiwan and the United States alike. As the [US] Department of Defense ... has consistently reported in recent years, the cross-Strait balance continues to shift in China’s favor. At the same time, Taiwan’s aging air force has resulted in an erosion of the qualitative military advantage Taiwan has historically enjoyed and which has long served as a strong deterrent against Chinese military aggression,” the letter says.

The sale of the F-16C/Ds would “significantly help” restore the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, increase stability in the region and decrease the likelihood that the US would one day be forced to intervene in the region, it says.

The letter, signed by Lieutenant General David Deptula, Lieutenant General Michael Dunn, General John Loh, General William Looney III, General Lester Lyles, General Lloyd Newton and former secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne, was issued to coincide with the “Why Taiwan Matters” hearings at the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs the same day.

Then-US secretary of defense Robert Gates fired Wynne in June 2008 over embarrassing incidents involving the USAF, including the shipping by mistake of four classified electrical fuses — designed to trigger nuclear and non-nuclear Minuteman III ballistic missiles — to Taiwan rather than helicopter batteries.

It took nearly two years for the USAF to realize its mistake.

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