Sat, Dec 16, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Nation should seek F-35s and KC-130 tankers, experts say

By Aaron Tu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taiwan should endeavor to acquire F-35 jets to achieve air superiority over the Taiwan Strait, while recommendations from US experts that the administration of US President Donald Trump sell KC-130 tankers to Taiwan would help extend the flight time of the fighter jets, Taiwanese experts said yesterday.

The KC-130 tanker is a derivative of the C-130 Hercules and is capable of holding 23,000 liters for refueling aircraft and, if necessary, it can be outfitted with armaments such as Hellfire missiles to act as a makeshift aerial gunship, the experts said.

While the Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the suggestion, Taiwanese military expert Chieh Chung (揭仲) said that the nation could only deploy air tankers when it has achieved air superiority because the tankers are relatively fragile.

“If Taiwan had air superiority, Chinese jets would be unable to penetrate deep into the nation’s radio frequency identification [RFID] zone,” Chieh said, adding that any incursion by Chinese jets into the RFID zone would be within the range of the nation’s fighter jets.

The air force’s main goal should be to persuade the US to sell Taiwan F-35 jets, Chieh said.

If such a goal is unattainable, Taiwan should seek to upgrade the efficacy of its surface-to-air missiles systems, while maximizing the chances of its command structure surviving an attack, Chieh said.

Upgrading the Hsiung Feng II-E cruise missile’s accuracy and range is also a possible step, Chieh said.

The air force and the nation’s surface-to-air missile sites should be integrated by installing modern command, control, communications and intelligence (C4I) systems to counterbalance the nation’s comparative weakness in both the number of troops and the quality of its armed forces.

However, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said that the nation’s jets would have access to “friendly” air fields and the air tankers would not be needed.

The air force should prioritize the acquisition of fighter jets with short takeoff and landing capabilities, which would enable jets to scramble quickly should the nation’s airfields come under bombardment, he said.

The Ministry of National Defense should also consider investing in planes equipped with airborne early warning and control systems, allowing the armed forces to retain C4I capabilities should ground-based radars be destroyed, he added.

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