Tag Archive: f-16


The procurement of F-16 C/D fighter jets from the United States is still an option to beef up Taiwan’s defense capabilities, the Ministry of National Defense said Monday, dismissing a report that the military has decided not to purchase the aircraft.

Source: Central News Agency

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US-Taiwan Business Council Believes that the Obama Administration Remains Committed to Taiwan’s F-16 Upgrade Program

Recent reports have indicated that the alleged defunding by the U.S. Air Force of the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) will negatively impact Taiwan’s F-16 A/B upgrade program. The US-Taiwan Business Council believes these reports to be inaccurate. Should this defunding occur, it will have no impact on the schedule or cost for Taiwan’s extensive upgrade program, including on the development of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

The Council understands that the U.S. Air Force remains fully committed to the Taiwan F-16 upgrade program, and that their assurances are reflected in the signed Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA). That commitment ensures that the cost and schedule put in place by the LOA remains, and that the Taiwan military will not see any changes to their program even if the CAPES program is altered. This extends through the upgrade and into the sustainment of the upgraded equipment.

Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers said, “I am pleased that the U.S. Air Force remains committed to the Taiwan upgrade program and to the assurances that were made in the LOA. This retrofit program is the first of two steps to upgrade Taiwan’s fighter fleet, with the second step – purchase of replacement F-16 C/Ds – still to be approved.

Hammond-Chambers added, “The ongoing impact of tighter U.S. defense spending, and the decisions impacting fighter upgrades for legacy U.S. equipment, merely highlights the need for the U.S. to continue to build capacity among its Asia Pacific security allies, including Taiwan. Taiwan has a legitimate need for additional fighters to meet its sovereign security requirements, and F-16 C/Ds would best fit that need.


US-Taiwan Business Council Believes that the Obama Administration Remains Committed to Taiwan’s F-16 Upgrade Program (PDF file)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/us-taiwan-business-council-believes-that-the-obama-administration-remains-committed-to-taiwans-f-16-upgrade-program/


Republican US Senator John Cornyn is again trying to force US President Barack Obama to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan. He has introduced an amendment ordering the sale to the bill authorizing the US’ defense budget for next year.
“The president shall carry out the sale of not fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan,” the amendment says.
US senator again pushes F16 sales to Taiwan – Taipei Times.

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The US-Taiwan Business Council Releases a Report on the Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap

Report Cover: The Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap

Report Cover: The Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap

Lessons and experiences from previous Taiwan Strait crises have shown that it is imperative for Taiwan to maintain a measure of qualitative superiority over China – not only to attempt to prevail in conflict, but also to reinforce deterrence, to allow Taiwan to negotiate from a position of strength, and to prevent war. However, a careful and objective analysis of the current balance of air power in the Taiwan Strait reveals that Taiwan’s current air defense forces are only marginally capable of meeting the island’s air defense needs, and that it faces real and significant future challenges in maintaining its current capabilities.

The U.S. decision in 2011 to assist Taiwan with the mid-life upgrade (MLU) of its existing fleet of F-16A/B fighters will significantly improve Taiwan’s air defense capabilities. Nevertheless, the upgrade program still does not adequately address all of Taiwan’s legitimate air defense requirements. Without additional procurement programs, a tangible and substantial front-line fighter gap will develop in Taiwan within the next five to ten years, as a significant portion of the Taiwan Air Force (TAF) aircraft inventory reaches the end of its useful service life.

The Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap

Figure 1: Estimated Fighter Numbers Through 2023

Taiwan’s fleet of Mirage 2000s and the F-CK-1A/B Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) both contend with serious availability issues, and may be facing retirement after 2018. The shortfall in front-line fighters will be further exacerbated by the rapidly approaching obsolescence of Taiwan’s fleet of F-5 Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) aircraft. Together, this will reduce the Taiwan air defense force structure to rely primarily on a small fleet of 145 F-16A/Bs whose operational rate takes the number of available planes to approximately 107. During the scheduled upgrade program for these fighters, however, as many as a squadron (24) at a time of F-16A/Bs will be unavailable for service, further reducing Taiwan’s air defense forces.

By 2023, at the expected end of the upgrade program, Taiwan’s operationally-available fighter strength will have declined to a point where the TAF will no longer possess the minimum requisite number of combat aircraft necessary to defend its air space from Chinese aggression or military coercion. Moreover, the quantitative shortfall is certain to also erode the quality of Taiwan’s air force, manifesting in decreased aircraft performance, reduced pilot training opportunities, and lack of pilot experience.

This significant air power shortfall will emerge in Taiwan while China continues to aggressively modernize and expand its missile strike capabilities, and while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is simultaneously and rapidly introducing modern combat aircraft into service in large numbers.

The United States has both a clear legal and moral obligation to respond to the ongoing Chinese intimidation tactics and attempts at coercion of Taiwan. Under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Washington must ready itself and Taiwan to resist that coercion. The germane parts of the TRA make it the policy of the United States:

  • to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States;
  • to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and
  •  to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.[1]

Arguably the mere existence of China’s current large arsenal of ballistic missiles, land attack cruise missiles (LACMs), and fighter aircraft opposite Taiwan is “a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific,” as it is undermining the long-standing, stability-enhancing military balance in the region. Clearly targeted at Taiwan, China’s standing arsenal is certainly a means of coercion even if the missiles and aircraft are never used.

The United States and Taiwan need to craft and implement counter-coercive strategies that undercut the utility of Chinese aerospace power, while demonstrating Taiwan’s ability to defend its airspace in peacetime and wartime.


Report: “The Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap” (PDF, 2.42MB)
Graphic: Report Cover
Graphic: The Looming Taiwan Fighter Gap

[1] Public Law 96-8, “Taiwan Relations Act” Washington, D.C., 96th Congress, January 1, 1979.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/report-on-the-looming-taiwan-fighter-gap/

Special Commentary: Signing of an LOA to Upgrade Taiwan’s F-16 A/B Fighters

The US-Taiwan Business Council congratulates the governments of the United States and Taiwan on their recent signing of a US$3.8 billion Letter of Offer & Acceptance (LOA) to upgrade Taiwan’s 145 F-16 A/B fighters. This deal will provide Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16 A/Bs with important enhancements by means of a contract spanning nearly a decade of work (2012-2021). The agreement provides for Taiwan adding advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to its fighters, as well as for making structural upgrades, improving avionics, and expanding electronic warfare suites.

The future boost in Taiwan’s airpower capabilities represented by this LOA was a long time in coming. It would not have happened without the leadership of Senator John Cornyn. As a result of the Senator’s perseverance, the Obama Administration notified to Congress a US$5.3 billion F-16 A/B upgrade program in September 2011. In the absence of Senator Cornyn’s personal attention to this important Asia Pacific security matter, it is likely that the upgrade program LOA would not have been consummated last Friday, July 13, 2012.

Despite this positive development, however, Taiwan’s very real and urgent requirement for additional fighters remains unaddressed.

Taiwan & the U.S. Re-Balance Towards Asia

The Obama Administration is currently paying increased attention to the Asia Pacific region, and has undertaken a significant effort to highlight its “Pivot to Asia” and its re-balancing of priorities. This is welcome news.

In the context of this re-balancing effort, moving ahead with the F-16 A/B upgrade program is an important initial step in Taiwan’s effort to play its role in the region. However, Taiwan’s requirement to also purchase new fighters is just as serious and urgent as the U.S.-supported modernization programs for Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.

It is important to clearly understand the grave issues faced by Taiwan’s air forces after 2016. In the latter part of that year, the Taiwan Air Force will start to withdraw up to a squadron (24) at a time of F-16 A/Bs to undergo upgrades and modernization. With 16 fighters permanently allocated for training at Luke Air Force Base, and with an operational rate of 70%, Taiwan will then have as few as 73 F-16 A/Bs operational at any one time – half of its existing fleet. In addition, these remaining fighters will not yet have been modernized, and will be required to fly more missions to attempt to maintain control over Taiwan’s myriad defense and security scenarios. This is simply not enough to handle all of Taiwan’s many needs, whether at war or while at peace.

What is the Plan to Fill Taiwan’s 2016-2021 Fighter Gap?

In an April 27, 2012 letter to Senator Cornyn, the White House stated that it is “mindful of and share your concerns about Taiwan’s growing shortfall in fighter aircraft.” The letter also noted that the Obama Administration is deciding “on a near term course of action on how to address Taiwan’s fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new US-made fighter aircraft.”

This important language should be at the center of the next stage of Taiwan’s air force modernization. Neither the U.S. nor Taiwan has the luxury to take several years to determine what to do next. The two governments need to settle on a plan in the coming months, a plan that can be implemented so that while Taiwan’s F-16 A/Bs are being withdrawn from the front line in 2016 and beyond, new fighters are available to fill the gap. This plan could be as simple as a phased approval approach. Phase I could be for a small number of new F-16s (24) to compensate for those existing aircraft out of service during the upgrade program. These new aircraft could be delivered in parallel with the upgrade/modification schedule.

There are some who argue that the F-35B – the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the new U.S. fighter – should be the focus of Taiwan efforts to modernize its fighter fleet. In 2011, press reports indicated that a U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress highlighted a STOVL aircraft as the best solution for Taiwan.

Certainly a STOVL variant would meet many of Taiwan’s needs, and if it was available that could be an attractive option. However, the F-35B will certainly not be made available to Taiwan in the next decade. It therefore fails to meet Taiwan’s fighter gap needs between 2016 and 2021. In addition, the F-35B is significantly more expensive than the F-16 C/D – it represents a new airframe and therefore a new supply chain to keep it operational through training, upgrading, and maintenance. The F-35B would therefore create even greater budgetary pressures for Taiwan’s already under-funded defense establishment.

The US-Taiwan Business Council welcomes the signing of the F-16 A/B upgrade and modernization contract this past Friday. Nevertheless, this action does not offer a complete solution. Indeed, removing F-16 A/Bs from the front line to be upgraded actually makes Taiwan’s 2016-2021 fighter gap that much wider. Taiwan will not have enough fighters to patrol its skies.

The Council urges the U.S. & Taiwan governments to put a plan in place as soon as possible to address this destabilizing shortfall.

Special Commentary: Signing of an LOA to Upgrade Taiwan’s F-16 A/B Fighters

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Clear signals needed on F-16C/Ds

Editorial in the Taipei Times.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/clear-signals-needed-on-f-16cds-taipei-times/

US-Taiwan Business Council Lauds House Approval of Granger Amendment to the NDAA, Mandating Selling F-16C/Ds to Taiwan

The US–Taiwan Business Council today welcomed the vote in the House of Representatives approving Rep. Kay Granger’s amendment mandating selling no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan. The Granger amendment was attached to H.R.4310, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013, and was included in a collection of non-controversial amendments that were packaged together and voted upon as a group.

“The bipartisan vote approving this amendment speaks to the tremendous support this sale enjoys in the House,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, President of the US-Taiwan Business Council. “The Taiwan Air Force is nearing an operational crisis point. Within five years more than half of Taiwan’s current fighter fleet will be retired, leaving fewer than 200 aircraft to defend the island. New F-16C/Ds would provide Taiwan – a strong and democratic ally – with the airframes they need to provide a credible deterrent to Chinese adventurism,” he said.

The House action comes on the heels of a White House letter to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), which recognized the urgency and severity of the burgeoning fighter gap between China and Taiwan. The letter stated that the Obama Administration is working on a near-term course of action to address the fighter shortfall, “including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new U.S.-made fighter aircraft.” The Administration has resisted the sale of new fighter aircraft to Taiwan, driven by unsupported concerns over retaliatory responses by China.

Hammond-Chambers commented that “The recent acknowledgement by the White House that Taiwan needs new fighters is a welcome and positive development. The threat from China is real, and we have seen report after report describing Beijing’s massive military buildup across the Taiwan Strait. New aircraft will add to Taiwan’s sense of security, and will allow Taipei to negotiate with China from a position of strength. The next phase of cross-Strait dynamics will require sophisticated, flexible, focused, and determined U.S. engagement and support for Taiwan, and it is absolutely essential that the Administration take the necessary steps to notify the sale of new F-16C/Ds to Congress. It is time to approve this sale and move forward.”

The total U.S. economic impact associated with the F-16 sale is estimated to be just over $17 billion. At a time when America needs every job it can generate, selling new F-16C/Ds to Taiwan would be protecting more than 87,000 person-years of work. “That’s a real shot-in-the-arm to a critical part of our defense base,” Hammond-Chambers said. “In addition, it would serve to protect peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is a core strategic interest of the United States. This is a ‘win-win’ for both Taiwan and the U.S.,” he added.

The NDAA has yet to be taken up by the United States Senate.


Press Note: US-Taiwan Business Council Lauds House Approval of Granger Amendment to the NDAA, Mandating Selling F-16C/Ds to Taiwan (PDF file)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/us-taiwan-business-council-lauds-house-approval-of-granger-amendment-to-the-ndaa-mandating-selling-f-16cds-to-taiwan/

Senator Cornyn Releases Lippert Hold, White House Makes Concessions on Taiwan Arms Sales

Senator John Cornyn has lifted his hold on the Senate confirmation of Mark W. Lippert for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs – the Pentagon’s top Asia official. The hold was lifted in exchange for a White House letter addressing Senator Cornyn’s concerns over Taiwan arms sales, and in particular the longstanding request from Taiwan to purchase new F-16 C/D aircraft. The White House letter included a commitment that forthcoming “near-term” solutions to Taiwan’s fighter shortfall will include new U.S.-made fighter aircraft. Mr. Lippert was confirmed by the Senate last night, before it recessed for a week.

In the letter, signed by White House Director of Legislative Affairs Robert L. Nabors, the Administration states that “We are mindful of and share your concerns about Taiwan’s growing shortfall in fighter aircraft – as the F-5s are retired from service and notwithstanding the upgrade of the F-16A/Bs. We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490. We are committed to assisting Taiwan in addressing the disparity in numbers of aircraft through our work with Taiwan’s defense ministry on its development of a comprehensive defense strategy vis-a-vis China.” In addition, the letter asserts that “the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the inter-agency and the Congress, will play a lead role as the Administration decides on a near-term course of action on how to address Taiwan’s fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new U.S.-made fighter aircraft.

The language in today’s White House letter differs significantly from the original Administration response to Senator Cornyn’s concerns. In a February 15 letter, the U.S. Department of Defense asserted that “we believe the F-16 A/B upgrade effectively meets Taiwan’s current needs.”

In a statement today, Senator Cornyn said “I commend the Administration for recognizing that our friend and ally Taiwan’s air force is woefully undersized and outgunned by Communist China, and their inability to adequately defend themselves poses a threat not just to their own security, but to that of the United States. I look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Administration and Taiwan as we move forward in this joint effort to ensure Taiwan has the new American-made fighter jets it needs to defend itself.

Senator Cornyn is not alone in expressing his concerns over U.S. efforts to support Taiwan’s legitimate requirement for a modern and fully capable air force. The Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act – bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Cornyn and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), which would require the Obama Administration to sell no fewer than 66 new F 16C/D multirole fighter jets to Taiwan – may be considered in the House later this spring. The issue is continuing to attract attention because as the program to upgrade Taiwan’s 145 F-16 A/Bs begins, and in the absence of new F-16s C/Ds, Taiwan will have as few as 75 usable modern fighters at any given time between 2016-2022.

The US-Taiwan Business Council congratulates Mr. Lippert on his new position, where we look forward to working with him on Taiwan defense issues. The Council also urges the Administration to follow through on this newfound commitment to Taiwan’s defense by announcing the sale of new F-16 C/Ds to Taiwan. At a time when America needs every job it can generate, such a sale would mean more than $17 billion to the U.S. economy, and it would be protecting more than 87,000 jobs. It would also serve to protect peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is a core strategic interest of the United States.


Press Note: Senator Cornyn Releases Lippert Hold, White House Makes Concessions on Taiwan Arms Sales (PDF file)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/senator-cornyn-releases-lippert-hold-white-house-makes-concessions-on-taiwan-arms-sales/

Special Commentary: Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Report Underscores Importance of F-16C/D Sale to Taiwan

In an important new report on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), economist Dr. Stephen Fuller at George Mason University concludes that the U.S. economy is at risk of losing over one million American jobs and over US$1 trillion in economic investment in the aerospace sector as a consequence of projected U.S. defense budget cuts. The report concludes that while all 50 states would be adversely affected, California, Virginia, Texas and Florida all stand to be hardest hit.

The AIA report also notes that the ripple-effect of the proposed cuts on the broader aerospace and defense industry will be immense, given the significant number of subcontractors in the sector. The very existence of some subcontractors – many of which are small and medium sized businesses – is threatened, and once lost the intellectual property and supplier base will be extraordinarily difficult to rejuvenate. This is a serious issue for the United States, and will impact our ability to project our global interests. It will also affect U.S. partners and allies, who will find American defense products less capable and more expensive.

The impending financial tsunami to hit the defense and aerospace sector comes at a time when the Taiwan government seeks to procure 66 replacement F-16C/D fighters for its aging fighter fleet – a purchase that would result in a gross investment of almost US$9 billion into the American economy and which would support over 16,000 jobs in the defense and aerospace sector.

In contrast to the dire consequences of the defense budget cuts as predicted by the AIA report, a follow-on sale of F-16s to Taiwan would have a positive economic impact around the country, generating some US$8.7 billion in gross output and sustaining approximately 16,000 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the program. This would represent a significant economic boost to states such as Ohio and Florida – where unemployment stands at 8.6% and 10.6%, respectively. If approved, the purchase is also projected to yield almost US$768.0 million in Federal tax revenues over the course of the program, as well as about US$593.7 million to various state and local governments.

Should the Taiwan sale fail to materialize, however, current orders would only sustain the F-16 production line for another two years. The closing of the F-16 production line would simply add further job losses to the sector, impacting the U.S. states already hit hard by the proposed budget cuts.


The Council comments on a report released by the Aerospace Industries Association on the economic impact of reduced DoD spending

Special Commentary: Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Report Underscores Importance of F-16C/D Sale to Taiwan

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/council-comments-on-aerospace-industries-association-report-underscoring-importance-of-f-16cd-sale-to-taiwan/

Special Commentary: The Obama Administration Notifies Taiwan’s F-16A/B Upgrade Program To Congress. Where Are The F-16C/Ds?

The US-Taiwan Business Council welcomes the news that the Obama Administration will proceed with a commitment to upgrade Taiwan’s present inventory of F-16 A/Bs at a possible cost of US$5.3 billion, the continuation of the Luke Air Force Base training program at a potential cost of US$500 million, and a requisition for up to US$52 million in parts for Taiwan’s F-16 A/Bs, F-5s, C-130s and IDFs. The congressional notifications are attached.

The Council welcomes the Obama Administration’s partial commitment to supporting Taiwan’s efforts to upgrade and modernize its air power capabilities. As we noted in our 2010 report “The Balance of Air Power in the Taiwan Strait”, Taiwan certainly needs to implement a robust mid-life retrofit/modernization program for its existing fleet of F-16 A/Bs. The FMS programs notified to Congress today will help Taiwan address diminishing manufacturing sources and obsolescence issues, improve reliability and maintainability, improve survivability, and update aircraft capabilities to remain abreast of current mission requirements.

Upgraded F-16 A/Bs Are Not Enough to Face the Threat from China

A recent U.S. Department of Defense report states that “China has continued to develop a wide range of weapons and capabilities designed to provide credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” The report goes on to note that the military threat posed by China to Taiwan continues to grow rapidly.

The Taiwan Air Force is therefore in dire need of a robust and modern fighter fleet in order to prepare for all possible contingencies. The upgrade of Taiwan’s F-16 A/Bs will go some way towards moving the Taiwan Air Force in the right direction, if the upgraded fighters are equipped with modern systems and munitions.

However, with the Taiwan Air Force retiring its obsolete F-5s and prohibitively expensive Mirage 2000-5s, Taiwan will still fall perilously short of the airframes it requires to maintain an adequate air defense force, even with the scheduled upgrade. This shortfall is inherently destabilizing, and if not addressed it will threaten the military balance in the Taiwan Strait and encourage Chinese adventurism in the coming years.

Unnamed Obama Administration officials have been stating – as they did in the Wall Street Journal yesterday – “Taiwan gets them quicker and they are cheaper than C/Ds”.

This is a false statement. The upgrade program is comprehensive, but spans almost 10 years with the first upgraded A/B coming as late as the 6th year of the program. If the Obama Administration were to accept a Letter of Request for 66 F-16 C/Ds now, the entire tranche of new fighters could be delivered before Taiwan receives any of its upgraded F-16 A/Bs.

Secondly, the Obama Administration is suggesting that the choice was between either the F-16 A/B upgrade or the F-16 C/Ds. Again, this is a false choice. It is not either but both programs that are required. The correct approach would have both programs running sequentially, so that as new F-16 C/Ds are delivered to Taiwan – before Taiwan starts pulling front line F-16 A/Bs out of operations – there will be no degradation of Taiwan’s fighter strength. As presently structured, Taiwan will actually see a reduction in the number of operational F-16s over the next 10 years.

The solution to this shortfall is the sale of 66 F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan, as a follow up and in addition to the announced upgrade of Taiwan’s existing fleet of A/Bs. Together, these two programs would help Taiwan adequately fill the fighter gap, and would ensure that Taiwan has an air force capable of deterring China from provoking or attacking it. A fighter force able to handle all of Taiwan’s many contingencies.

The Council comments on Congressional Notifications for Taiwan Arms Sales:

Special Commentary: The Obama Administration Notifies Taiwan’s F-16 A/B Upgrade Program To Congress. Where Are The F-16 C/Ds?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ustaiwandefense.com/council-commentary-obama-administration-notifies-taiwans-f-16ab-upgrade-program-to-congress-where-are-the-f-16cds/

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