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Taiwan military plans to purchase stealth fighters

Ministry of National Defense report says V/STOL and stealth aircraft are necessary for defense strategy


F-35A (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday in “Taiwan's Quadrennial Defense Review" (QDR) that the country plans to acquire stealth fighters and vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft to strengthen its defense forces, particularly as China has announced it will increase its military budget 7 percent to a reported US$147 billion this year.

News of the plans comes after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration officials said it would provide “more and better defensive arms” for Taiwan, based on a US$1 billion arms deal that had been canceled in December by National Security Council staff officials under former President Barack Obama. Whether the stealth fighters will be included in the deal remains to be seen.

The stealth fighters are necessary to combat threats from China, which is countering Trump’s promised 10 percent military budget increase in the U.S. as well as confronting neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the ministry noted. The stealth fighters will help support the navy and ground forces in Taiwan, the report added. The ministry said that V/STOL aircraft are necessary for rapid response to potential threats to Taiwan.

Taiwan’s strategy with the improved weaponry will be that of “double-level deterrence” to ensure security. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that while the report focuses on the DPP defense plans, it does not clearly define “double-level deterrence,” which the ministry has said is a strategy of not just defense, but of rapid response to prevent an invasion.

Kuomintang legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) also criticized the report for not specifically address national defense strategies. He said that the report contained a lot of rhetoric but was light on detail.

The ministry said that it believes military invasion is still China’s goal to reclaim Taiwan; therefore, Taiwan must counter China’s military development.

It was announced earlier this week that Taiwan purchased two decommissioned frigates, USS Taylor and the USS Gary, from the U.S. for about NT$5.5 billion (US$177.21 million). The purchase was made less than a month before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the U.S. for his first meeting with Trump.

Also included in the QDR are plans to strengthen naval capabilities and missile defense systems.

Last week, the Navy revealed plans to build what it calls an "Amphibious Landing Helicopter Dock Ship" at a display as was part of a naval indigenous shipbuilding exhibition that opened that day on the combat support ship AOE 532 Panshi, which was docked in Keelung Harbor. The capacity to house large helicopters could also allow the new warship to carry such proposed V/STOL aircraft.