Taipei, March 6 (CNA) Taiwan has submitted an official request to the United States to purchase a fleet of new fighter jets to beef up its air defense capability, the Air Force confirmed Wednesday.
The Air Force, however, declined to say when the request was made, what model planes it was hoping to buy from the U.S., or how many.
Asked to comment on an exclusive report published in the Apple Daily earlier in the day, the Air Force confirmed that it had made the request to the U.S. via an official channel and said that its budget would be open to negotiation and would depend on what model aircraft the U.S. decided to sell Taiwan.
According to the Apple Daily, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Feb. 27 made a request to the U.S. to purchase a fleet of 66 F-16V or F-16 Viper fighter jets at a cost of US$13 billion, which would include missiles and related logistics and the training of pilots and maintenance personnel.
Several sources familiar with the matter told CNA that the F-16V would be the preferred model to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-5s.
Taiwan's military is currently upgrading its 144 F-16 A/B jets to F-16Vs as part of a US$3.68 billion project launched by the government in 2016.
The retrofit program includes installing advanced equipment such as the AN/APG active electronically scanning array radar system, which is in use on American F-22 and F-35 fighters.
The comprehensive upgrade of the Air Force's entire F-16 fleet is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, according to the MND.