Taiwan passes special budget allowing purchase of F-16V fighters from US

NT$250 billion deal marks US's largest arms sale to Taiwan in recent years

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F-16V. (Lockheed Martin photo)

F-16V. (Lockheed Martin photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’ s legislature on Tuesday (Oct. 29) approved the multi-billion-dollar special budget to be allocated for the next seven years to purchase 66 F-16V fighter jets from the U.S.

After a consensus was reached between the ruling and opposition parties on Oct. 24, the Legislative Yuan passed the third reading of a special bill drafted for the purpose of purchasing the F-16Vs from the U.S. The estimated NT$250 billion (US$8 billion) deal, which includes 66 F-16V fighters and related equipment and support, is the largest arms sale between Taiwan and the U.S. in years.

The special act stipulates that the total budget for the arms sale cannot surpass NT$250 billion. If the cost of aircraft manufacturing exceeds that amount due to fluctuations in the exchange rate, the government may allocate a portion of its annual general budget to cover the extra expenditure.

Addenda proposed by opposition parties were also passed. These require the technical transfer of key F-16V components from the U.S. and the establishment of an F-16V maintenance center on the island.

The U.S. State Department in August approved the arms sale to Taiwan — the fifth since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) welcomed the decision, saying via Facebook that it marked “the beginning of a new Air Force” that would ensure a secure Taiwan Strait and region.

The decision drew protests from the Chinese government, which has long pressured foreign governments not to sell military equipment to Taiwan. Nevertheless, the U.S. argued that arms sales to Taiwan do not violate its one-China policy but rather fall under the Taiwan Relations Act.

Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) said earlier this week that the ministry had received the U.S.’s letter of acceptance regarding the purchase of the F-16Vs. He added the government would process the case according to the stipulations of the special act and the request of the legislature.

According to reports, a new Air Force wing will be established after the arrival of the new F-16V fighters, which are expected to be delivered between 2023 and 2026. The wing is likely to be stationed at Taitung Air Base.

With the upgrading of Taiwan’s current fleet of 142 F-16A and F-16B fighter jets being completed by 2023, Taiwan expects to have a total of 208 F-16Vs by 2026, reports said.