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US trying to speed delivery of F-16Vs to Taiwan amid increased China threat

66 F-16Vs due in 2026, but Taiwan estimates China will be capable of invasion in 2025

Squadron of Taiwan Air Force F-16s flying in tight formation. (Taiwan Air Force photo)

Squadron of Taiwan Air Force F-16s flying in tight formation. (Taiwan Air Force photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. is seeking to accelerate delivery of F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan as China continues to ratchet up warplane incursions into the country's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and rapidly build up military might for a potential invasion.

Officials familiar with the matter were cited by Reuters as saying they have not yet found a way to expedite the delivery of the 66 F-16Vs. The new version of the 70s-era fighter jet is produced by Lockheed Martin and is presently scheduled to be shipped to Taiwan by the end of 2026.

According to the news agency, a senior Taiwanese official stated that Taipei has pressed the Biden Administration to speed up the delivery of the fighter jets. The request comes as the increasing intrusions by a growing variety of People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft into Taiwan's ADIZ are inflicting wear and tear on Taiwan's aging fleet of fighters.

In 2019, the U.S. approved the sale of US$8 billion in arms to Taiwan, including 66 new F-16V Block 70 fighter jets. Once Taiwan takes delivery of these warplanes in 2026, it will possess one of the largest F-16 fleets in Asia with over 200.

However, Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) on Oct. 6, 2021, estimated that China will have the ability to launch a "full-scale invasion" of Taiwan by 2025. The PLAAF has a huge numerical advantage with 2,800 total aircraft and 2,100 combat aircraft, compared to 741 total aircraft and 288 fighters/interceptors for Taiwan's Air Force.