TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In the face of aggressive incursions by China’s Air Force, the United States should help Taiwan by leasing it F-35 stealth jets, a retired Pentagon official wrote in Newsweek Thursday (Oct. 8).
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Stephen Bryen said that Taiwanese pilots’ supposed lack of ability to fly the sophisticated fighters could be helped by training them in the United States. Any fears of China’s reaction could lead to the aircraft being kept on standby in the U.S., though they would either belong to Taiwan or be leased by the island.
Looking at its current fleet of jets, by the end of 2020, 50 of its 140 F-16 jets would be upgraded, but it still would have to wait at least five years for the delivery of 66 new F-16V versions, Bryen said. The lease of stealth fighters would also make more financial sense than the purchase of new jets or the upgrading of all old ones, he added.
In the event of a conflict, Taiwan’s airports would be the first target for a Chinese attack, thus favoring the F-35B, the world’s first supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing stealth jet, as it is “perfect for Taiwan and has sufficient range for the island’s protection,” given that some of them are already based in Japan, Bryen said.
Advantages of not having the jets in Taiwan from the start are that Chinese spies will not have access to training and exercises, while a preemptive attack by China will not be possible, his opinion piece for Newsweek concludes.