Taiwan could receive new F-16V jets as soon as 2020

Taiwan could begin to receive 66 new F-16V jets as soon as late 2020

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F-16V fighters. (Image from lockheedmartin.com)

F-16V fighters. (Image from lockheedmartin.com)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan could begin to receive its first batch of 66 new F16V fighter jets from the U.S. as soon as the end of 2020.

Taiwan has made new progress in the purchase of 66 F16V jets from the U.S. On Feb. 27, the Ministry of National Defense officially submitted its application for the fighter jets, according to the Apple Daily.

The U.S. is expected to give an official decision on the request within 120 days, and mostly likely June at the latest. The estimated cost of the new warplanes will be between NT$240 billion (US$7.76 billion) and NT$250 billion (US$8.08 billion), and delivery of the jets could begin by late 2020.

A military official told China Times that the reason why Taiwan is opting for F-16V jets instead of the state-of-the art F-35 fighters is that the U.S. has said it is not willing to sell the advanced aircraft to Taiwan for at least 10 years. In addition, the official said it will take another eight years produce the jets for Taiwan and to train its pilots on the fifth-generation combat aircraft, thus meaning it could be 18 years before Taiwan could fly the F-35.

The official disclosed that if the request for the F-16V fighters goes through smoothly, they will be ready for delivery by the end of 2020 or early 2021. At present, the U.S. has not officially quoted an exact price and it will ultimately depend on the specifications chosen for the jets.

The news comes amid concern about China’s military build-up, including a raise of more than 7 percent in its annual defense budget and the recent stationing of strategic bombers just 450 kilometers from Taiwan. This puts Taiwan in an even more desperate need of new warplanes to replace its aging inventory of fighter jets.

The package not only included the aircraft themselves, but also the training of their pilots, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and two years of “after-sales care,”according to Apple Daily.

The new planes were likely to be stationed at Taichung City’s Chingchuankang Air Force Base, while its Indigenous Defense Fighters would be moved to the east coast to replace the aging F-5E/F which will soon go into retirement, the Apple Daily reported.

In 1992, Taiwan spent US$6 billion (NT$185 billion) on 150 F-16A/B jets.