A squadron of 66 F-16 fighter jets in their latest “V” configuration will start to fly to Taiwan in batches and reinforce the island’s air force, as the US$8 billion deal comes to fruition.
However, Taiwanese news outlets including the United Daily News have reported that the landmark sale of the fourth-generation warplanes may not include ammunition and other accessories, and that the new fighters may be of “simplified specifications” and Taiwan will have to shell out money on further upgrades, software patches and weapons after the deal.
The net price of the F-16V for Taiwan is reportedly way lower than what Bulgaria was charged, so what Taiwan gets may only be “shells” of fighters that are not combat-ready.
The newspaper also suggested the pricing could be a ploy between Taiwan and US to purchase parts and accessories in a “separate, piecemeal manner” to minimize criticisms of splurging taxpayers’ money, and argued that the overall cost of procuring these jets from the US could be way higher than the amount officially budgeted and negotiated with the US suppliers.
In response, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry stressed that weapons and missiles for the existing fleet of F-16s would be compatible with the new jets, and that the F-16V series features cutting-edge active electronically scanned array radar systems, data links and avionics to suit the need of defending Taiwan’s airspace against the airpower of the People’s Liberation Army.
The ministry added that the “mutual usability” of gear, parts and ammunition between the old and new models of the F-16 meant better economy and flexibility, and could ensure better rotation of aircraft for patrol, combat and maintenance.
It said that other than the 66 fighters, the deal would include 75 GE Aviation F110 engines, data links, 75 Northrop Grumman APG-83 AESA radars and electronic warfare suites, and other equipment, training, and services related to such a large purchase.
Meanwhile, other reports say representatives from Lockheed Martin and Northrop who attended a defense exhibition in Taipei last week met with Taiwanese defense officials.