F-16V jetfighter can outclass China's J-20: defense minister

09/23/2019 07:57 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) Taiwan's defense minister said Monday that the U.S.-made F-16V fighter jet can outclass China's Chengdu J-20 in a dogfight.

Yen De-fa (嚴德發) made the comment at a hearing of legislative Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, which completed a preliminary review of a draft bill that would allow the government to create a special budget of up to NT$250 billion (US$8.07 billion) to buy 66 of the F-16V fighters from the U.S.

He was replying to legislators' questions about the ability of the F-16V compared to the Chengdu J-20, a fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by the Chengdu Aerospace Corp., in close aerial combat. The F-16V would have no problem beating the J-20, Yen said.

However, Air Force Chief of Staff Liu Jen-yuan (劉任遠) said that the chance of close-range air combat is slim because aerial battles between fighter aircraft are typically conducted at long range.

In addition, the F-16V is a much more capable weapon due to its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which provides long-range search and track capability against airborne targets, Liu said.

He also confirmed that the F-16V fighters, once purchased, will be stationed at Zhihang Air Base in Taitung County.

Asked whether the defense ministry has plans to buy the F-35 fighter, Yen said the Air Force "will have such a need going forward" to cope with any new threats posed by Chinese military action.

Besides cost considerations, another reason why the ministry decided to buy the F-16V instead of the F-35 is because it could start taking delivery of the F-16Vs from 2023, while it would take 10-15 years to take the F-35, Yen said.

Meanwhile, he denied reports that Taiwan's French-built Mirage 2000 jets will be phased out, saying that the military is assessing an upgrade program for the planes.

(By Matt Yu and Evelyn Kao)

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