Tue, Dec 24, 2019 - Page 3 News List

F-16V jets to be stationed on east coast: specialists

PINCER MOVEMENT:China might dispatch its aircraft carriers to attack Taiwan from two sides, so having jets on the east coast would be a deterrent

Staff writer, with CNA

The 66 F-16C/D Block 70 jets Taiwan is purchasing from the US would be stationed in eastern Taiwan to boost the military’s defense capabilities against Chinese aircraft carriers, defense specialists have said.

The government on Saturday announced that it had officially sealed the deal with the US earlier this month after the two sides signed a letter of offer and acceptance.

Military officials said that the US is expected to deliver one F-16C Block 70 single-seater jet and one F-16D Block 70 two-seater aircraft in 2023 for testing.

All 66 aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2026.

A military source on Saturday said that the addition of the F-16Vs would bring the air force’s total number of fighter jets to 350.

The air force has a fleet of 46 Mirage 2000s, 105 locally built Indigenous Defense Fighters and 142 F-16A/B jets that are being upgraded to have the same specifications as the F-16V.

Although the number is still no match for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) 2,000 fighter jets, 700 of which pose a threat to Taiwan, as they are stationed on China’s southeastern coast, Taiwan would have a better chance of defending itself with 350 fighters and air-defense systems, the source said.

Taiwan’s fighter jets are better armed than some older-generation PLAAF jets such as the J-10, J-11, Su-30 and Su-35, they said.

They might not be a match for the PLAAF’s fifth-generation J-20 stealth aircraft, but they could contain J-20s with the help of E-2K early warning aircraft, they added.

The new F-16Vs would be stationed at the Taitung Air Force Base, the source said, adding that 56 of them would be single-seaters and the rest two-seaters, meaning that the air force would need 107 pilots to fly them.

Commenting on the new aircraft’s deployment, Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, said that the decision to base the advanced jets in eastern Taiwan aims to deal with the increasing threat from Chinese aircraft carriers.

Most of the nation’s military installations and weapons systems have been deployed along the west coast, as the most direct Chinese military threat was through the Taiwan Strait, he said.

However, with China now deploying bombers, fighter jets and vessels beyond the first island chain and in the Western Pacific, Lin said that the threat also comes from the east.

Chinese defense experts have said that China’s navy might send an aircraft carrier south along the Strait, with another heading north along Taiwan’s east coast to threaten Taiwan from both sides, he said.

Deploying the new F-16Vs and Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles on the east coast would thus serve as deterrent to Chinese military intimidation, Lin added.

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