President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has acknowledged Aerospace Industrial Development Corp’s (AIDC) work on refitting the air force’s fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and expressed the expectation that the upgrades would strengthen Taiwan’s national defense.
Tsai on Friday visited AIDC’s Taichung complex and received a briefing on the upgrade plan, the Presidential Office said in a statement yesterday.
Taiwan in 1992 purchased the fleet of older-model F-16s, which have since undergone several upgrades.
Tsai praised the firm’s “great team,” the statement said, adding that two employees of Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer, told her that they thought AIDC’s team was one of the best in the world.
A nation’s sovereignty and peace rely not on compromises or concessions, but on a sound national defense capability, Tsai was quoted as saying, adding that while the path toward developing the nation’s indigenous defense industry is challenging, “we must push ahead in a bid to protect national sovereignty and maintain regional peace.”
Separately on Friday at an event marking Armed Forces Day in Taipei, Tsai said that Taiwan has been “aggressively promoting indigenous national defense” with help from US arms sales.
“We are locally building our submarines and fighter jets, and these are not just slogans,” she said.
She cited planned US sales of M1A2 tanks and F-16Vs to Taiwan as proof that “our determination to defend ourselves has also won support from the international community.”
Blueprints for new submarines, a submarine factory and a jet trainer prototype are all in the works, Tsai said.
China fiercely opposes all arms sales to Taiwan, but has specifically objected to more advanced fighter jets such as the F-16V, whose active electronically scanned array radar is compatible with that of the F-35 stealth fighters operated by the US military.
US President Donald Trump early last month announced his approval of the sale of 66 F-16Vs in an US$8 billion deal, which is pending approval by the US Congress.
The US has in the past several months also approved the sale of 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, valued at US$2.2 billion.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told Fox News late last month that he expected arms sales to Taiwan to continue.
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