Washington, May 20 (CNA) The United States will further evaluatewhether to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16 A/B fighters or make newsales of F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan to help it maintain a viable airdefense, a senior U.S. Air Force official said Thursday.
Bruce Lemkin, deputy under secretary of the Air Force forinternational affairs, acknowledged that Taiwan's air defensecapability will continue to decline in the coming years due to theaging of its F-16 A/B fleet and problems with maintaining itsIndigenous Defense Fighters.
However, further assessment as to how the situation can beimproved is needed, whether by upgrading the F-16 A/B fleet orselling Taiwan new F-16 C/D aircraft, Lemkin said.
He said air defense capability is not solely judged by theavailability of fighters, adding that surveillance radar beingdeployed by Taiwan will greatly enhance its air defense.
Meanwhile, Lemkin said, the export of F-35 fighters is an optionavailable to the United States in seeking to upgrade the combat edgeof its allies or "allies in a broader sense."
The official, however, declined to say if Taiwan has put forthany request to buy F-35 fighters from the United States.
Lemkin made the comment in response to questions from reportersafter attending a hearing on "China's Emergent Military Aerospace andCommercial Aviation Capabilities" held by the U.S.-China Economic andSecurity Review Commission.
Taiwan has repeatedly asked the U.S. government to approve thesale of 66 F-16 C/Ds to replace its obsolete F-5 E/F fighters. Todate, Washington has neither accepted nor rejected the request.
With the fighter's production lines likely to be closed in 2013and Taiwan's air defense capability continuing to decline, members ofthe U.S. Congress and the Washington-based U.S.-Taiwan BusinessCouncil have recently been urging Washington to move more quickly onthe requested sale.
(By Zep Hu and Y.F. Low)