TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Chinese news outlet SINA Military affairs (新浪軍事) admitted on March 22 that the PLAAF H-6K bomber aircraft face a serious obstacle for missions targeting Taiwan, namely the country’s F-16 fleet.
The news report mentions a training and encirclement mission that happened in April 2018, in which Taiwan F-16s infiltrated and joined the Chinese bomber formation. The F-16 maneuvers showed the "determination" of fighter pilots to deny access, and their ability to shadow the motions of the PLAAF H-6K bombers.
The Chinese report characterized the Taiwanese pilots as tenacious, and claimed they intentionally sought to provoke the Chinese pilots into conflict. The Air Force has refuted this aspect of the report, according to Liberty Times.
The Air Force responded to the China media report by noting that Taiwan’s pilots are quite skilled and operate according to procedure. There was never any worry that the H-6K bombers would penetrate the country’s airspace, according to the Air Force.
A retired F-16 pilot was quoted by the Liberty Times as saying that the operation was a simple task of maintaining proximity and “biting the rear” of the Chinese bomber aircraft, while occasionally adding pressure by taking a flank to stare down the Chinese pilots.
With the implicit admission by the Chinese air force that the F-16 is an efficient deterrent in Taiwan’s national defense arsenal, it is no wonder that the government has requested to purchase an additional 66 F-16 jets from the U.S. to supplement its existing fleet.
Currently, the Taiwan Air Force possesses 114 F-16A model aircraft, and 28 F-16B model aircraft, which are primarily located in Chiayi and Hualien. The fleet is also in the midst of an F-16V upgrade to be equipped with the AN/APG-83 radar.