Defense minister Yen De-fa said Taiwan expects to learn in July whether it will be allowed to buy the F-16 fighter jets it wants from the United States, amid reports that President Donald Trump may call for a delay in the procurement.
Taipei notified the Pentagon and the State Department of its intention to buy the 66 fourth-generation warplanes in February, triggering an outcry from China. Time magazine reported earlier this month that the White House was wary of scuppering prolonged trade negotiations with Beijing and might hold off on the jets deal.
However, this could mean a congressional fight with manufacturer Lockheed Martin and other US defense contractors, which are looking for big deals to lift sales after a slow start to the year. Forbes said that given Trump’s previous focus on promoting the defense industry, there would be pressure to have the orders approved and sent to Congress.
Washington has not sold fighter jets to Taiwan since 1992 in an effort to appease China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province. Yet the island was still the third-biggest buyer of US military equipment in 2018, including vehicles and weapons, and the ninth-biggest buyer of aerospace equipment like jets and helicopters, according to Standard & Poor’s and Jane’s Defense.
Taiwan will have 150 days to seek an endorsement from Congress on the F16s deal, which is why a formal announcement cannot be expected until July at the earliest. If a majority of US lawmakers give the green light, a letter of offer and acceptance will be sent to Taiwan with details of the deal, including pricing and production and logistic arrangements.
Officials in Taipei will then review the offer and complete a proposal for the procurement before replying to Washington.
The model being sought is in the latest F16V configuration, featuring an active electronically scanned array radar and an electronic warfare suite.