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Taiwan might give up on F-16C/D, pursue F-35B instead: media

2012/07/10 22:20:46

Taipei, July 10 (CNA) Taiwan might give up attempting to purchase 66 F-16C/D fighter jets and pursue F-35B fighters as an alternative, due to budgeting issues, a U.S.-based media outlet reported Monday.

There are hopes that the U.S. will approve the sale of the F-16C/Ds, but whether Taiwan's budget will be able to stretch to both the purchase of the new jets and upgrades of Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16A/B fighters is another concern, Defense News reported.

Taiwanese defense officials have said Taiwan might give up lobbying for the F-16s, according to the article.

Taiwan might "instead pursue the release of the F-35B short takeoff and vertical-landing fighter, after budgeting issues are solved within the next 10 years," the officials, who were not named, were quoted as saying.

The article said that by 2020, Taiwan's fighter strength will have been reduced by 70 percent without the F-16C/Ds. Even with them, it will have dropped by 50 percent.

The article said the senior Taiwanese defense officials are worried that the nation's falling fighter strength could "tempt" China into military action.

The officials said that "the U.S. will also have to increase fighter patrols from Kadena air base, Okinawa, over areas now patrolled by Taiwan, as its fighter capability grows weaker," according to the article.

The U.S. government formally notified Congress in September last year of its intent to sell Taiwan military equipment and services worth an estimated US$5.85 billion. The package includes upgrades of the F-16 A/B jet fighters and the Active Electronically Scanned Array system.

Taiwan has been urging the U.S. to sell it F-16C/Ds since 2006 but has been denied due to political pressure from China.

(By Tony Liao and Jamie Wang)