Taipei, May 24 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday he hopes the country's F-16A/B jet fighter fleet, which is being upgraded in the U.S., will have capabilities similar to those of the more advanced F-16C/D model.
Taiwan currently has more than 140 F-16A/B jet fighters, which were purchased in 1992. It has been asking the United States to supply the newer F-16C/Ds, but so far has only managed to secure an upgrade of its current fleet.
The retrofit of Taiwan's F-16A/Bs was included in a US$5.85 billion arms sale to Taiwan approved by the U.S. in September 2011.
In a meeting with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, President Ma said he hopes the upgrade will give the F-16A/Bs the capability to perform on par with the more advanced model.
Jeb Bush is the son of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who approved the sale of F-16 jets to Taiwan, and the brother of George W. Bush, who served as U.S. president from 2000-2008.
The decision by the senior Bush to sell advanced fighters to Taiwan was of "tremendous help" in improving Taiwan's defense capabilities, Ma said.
George W. Bush also approved the sale of an arms package to Taiwan in October 2008, a few months after Ma took office for his first term, a decision that Ma said greatly boosted Taiwan's confidence in its national defense.
"The day I was elected president four years ago, I received a congratulatory message from President George W. Bush, in which he also praised Taiwan as a beacon of democracy in Asia and throughout the world." Ma told Jeb Bush at the Presidential Office.
Ma also recalled that George W. Bush promised as president to do whatever it took to help defend Taiwan, a promise which Ma said "told us that he was a sincere friend of this country."
(By Lee Shu-hua and S.C. Chang)