The United States is accelerating delivery of Taiwan’s next generation of new F-16 fighter jets, bolstering the Taiwanese air force’s ability to respond to increasing intimidation by China’s military.
According to the US officials, they are finding a solution on how to speed up delivery of Block 70 F-16s, manufactured by Lockheed Martin and equipped with new capabilities. The aircraft are currently slated to be delivered by the end of 2026.
Taiwan has requested the US President Biden for a faster delivery as the self-ruled island’s air force scrambles jets to intercept increasingly aggressive Chinese military flights.
“It’s all about risk assessment … and it’s clear where the risks are,” the Taiwanese official said, referring to tensions across the sensitive Taiwan Strait separating the island from mainland China. The F-16 is considered a highly manoeuvrable aircraft proven in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack.
Taiwan is on track to field one of the largest F-16 fleets in Asia once it takes delivery of 66 new-build F-16 C/D Block 70 aircraft under an $8bn deal approved in 2019. It would bring the island’s total number of F-16s, including older versions, to more than 200 by 2026.
The Block 70 aircraft are the newest F-16 configuration, with new avionics, a modernised cockpit and an improved engine, according to Lockheed Martin.
A move to accelerate the aircraft delivery would be seen in Beijing in part through a political lens, according to Abraham Denmark, a former senior Pentagon official.