TAIPEI --- Taiwan’s military has abandoned its plan to buy a number of F-35 fighter jets from the U.S., and will instead continue to consider a potential purchase of 66 F-16V fighter jets, reports suggest.
United Daily News (UDN) reported rumors suggesting that the fleet of F-5 fighter jets at Zhi-Hang Air Base in Taitung County will be retired and replaced by 66 F-16V jets to strengthen the region’s defense against Chinese warships and other threats.
The Taiwan military began investigating the potential F16-V purchase in August, and the Ministry of National Defense hopes to request a prospective quote from the U.S. by the end of the year, reports suggest.
The U.S. is open to the possibility of licensing to Taiwan the intellectual property and production line expertise relative to F-16V production, posing an opportunity for Taiwanese industry development and employment, reports suggest.
Air Force Command Headquarters told UDN that any potential weapon procurement is judged against enemy capability and operational needs.
The Taiwan Government is expected to request a quote for the 66 proposed F-16V fighters, with the U.S. expected to confirm price and availability in the middle of 2019. This would then lead to payments taking place through the Ministry of National Defence's budget for 2020.
According to international prices, the sale of 66 F-16V fighters would amount to around US$10 billion (NT$308.98 billion). The price would be greater if Taiwan was to manufacturer the jet in Taiwan, reported UDN.
In January 2017, the Taiwan Air Force began to upgrade its existing fleet of 145 F-16A/B fighters at a total cost of NT$110 billion (US$3.46 billion). The first of these upgraded fighters took to the skies in Oct. 2018, with the project expected to be completed before 2022.