The Taiwanese Air Force has announced it is confident the sale of 66 new Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 fighters will be approved by Congress following provisional approval of the sale by the US administration in a submission to Congress.
If approved, the sale would follow the re-delivery of 145 Taiwanese F-16A-Ds following an upgrade to the F-16V configuration, and will likely anger China.
But some analysts believe the US may be using the possible sale as leverage as it seeks to gain concessions in the ongoing and escalating trade war with China. For its part, Chinese state television said in March that any such sale would cross a “red line”.
Taiwan is looking to replace its fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-5s, 60 of which were acquired in 1992 and which have suffered from poor reliability and serviceability in recent years, as well as some of its domestically-built AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuos.
The Block 70 features an AN/APG-83 AESA radar, advanced cockpit displays, a modular mission computer, JHMCS helmet, advanced datalinks, conformal fuel tanks, the AN/APX-126 CIT, the Sniper advanced targeting pod, Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS), an advanced EW systems, and a missionised rear cockpit in the two-seat models. It can also employ advanced precision weapons, although these would be subject to sale to Taiwan separately.
The proposed sale has received support from a number of members of the US Congress, who cite the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. Despite the Act formally recognising the Beijing-based People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of greater China which includes Taiwan, the US reserves the right to sell weapons to Taiwan for self-defence, and has done so for decades.
UPDATE: An August 20 US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification has formally confirmed the requested sale has been submitted to Congress for approval.
The notification states the sale includes 66 F-16V Block 70s, 75 GE F110 engines, 75 AN/APG-83 AESA radars, and numerous other systems and spares. Also included is an electronic combat international security assistance program (ECISAP) support package which includes EW database and mission data file (MDF) development for the aircraft’s AN/ALQ-211 A(V)4 airborne integrated defensive electronic warfare suite (AIDEWS).
Because Taiwan does not have formal diplomatic relations with the US, the sale was requested through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), an informal Taiwanese government trade and diplomatic outpost in Washington DC.