Taichung-based Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) is to open a maintenance center for F-16 jets on Friday, which is also to service aircraft operated by countries throughout the region, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) scheduled to attend the opening ceremony.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) — a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee — called the opening of the center a “milestone” and said it would be useful for engaging in exchanges with Asia-Pacific countries that are not diplomatic allies of Taiwan.
In the face of China’s military buildup, cooperating with Taiwan on fighter-jet maintenance and repair would be ideal for other countries that are also friendly to the US, he said.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
The new facility would handle all repairs to the 66 F-16V jets that Taiwan last year purchased from the US, as well as handling upgrades on the military’s 142 standard F-16 jets, a source said.
With its fleet of 208 F-16 jets, the nation is very experienced with that model of aircraft and well poised to conduct repairs on it, the company said.
Other countries in the region that use F-16s include South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, while India is mulling the purchase of F-16s, it said.
Lockheed Martin — the US manufacturer of the aircraft — in December last year signed a strategic agreement with AIDC to promote its role as a regional repair center for the model, it said.
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said the center would initially focus on the repair and maintenance of Taiwan’s own fleet of F-16s, but expanding to service other countries’ fleets would be a possible “second-phase” operation.
One of the center’s advantages over those in the US would be its lower maintenance and repair rates, which could be appealing to neighboring countries, he said.
However, the political nature of military cooperation is a potential stumbling block, and agreements with other nations would take time to work out, Lo added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) said she was cautiously optimistic about the chance of servicing other countries’ aircraft fleets, but echoed Lo that cost considerations could work in the nation’s favor.
However, the center would face challenges, as Taiwan’s aircraft maintenance prowess has yet to be proven to other countries, while accidents during defense exercises in the past few years had probably lowered those countries’ confidence in Taiwan, she said.
KMT Legislator Charles Chen (陳以信) said the center should focus on maintaining the nation’s own aircraft, adding that plans on regional cooperation were too lofty.
Singapore and South Korea were capable of repairing their own aircraft and would not risk conflict with China by cooperating with Taiwan, Chen said, adding that India would likely establish its own repair center.
Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) said that the Lockheed Martin deal was proof that the US company had confidence in the nation’s capabilities and trusted Taiwan with the protection of sensitive technology.
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