Taiwanese airmen walk past an F-16 fighter jet at Taitung Air Force Base. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has finally selected a base for the squadron of new F-16V fighter jets that the self-ruled island is expected to purchase from the US to beef up its defenses against threats from mainland China, according to local media.

Taiwanese newspapers say the Taitung Air Force Base, located on the Pacific coast in the southeastern county of Taitung, will house and service the new F-16V tactical wing.

Military planners chose the site with a view to taking advantage of the rugged mountains that run through central Taiwan, which could serve as a natural shield against S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles that the People’s Liberation Army bought from Russia. The new F-16s will also guard the Pacific coast against any attacks launched by the PLA from the east.

The site is also favored because the hangers at Hsinchu Air Base on the west coast near Taipei – facing China’s Fujian province – are almost full.

A flyover by warplanes based at Taitung Airbase. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

The PLA’s warplanes must cross the Miyako Strait or the Bashi Channel to reach the Pacific. China has frequently conducted drills near or around Taiwan since 2019, demonstrating that it has the capability to attack any point on the island, even from the Pacific Ocean.

A defense official said the air force was in the process of evaluating pilot, technician and other personnel requirements for the new F-16 fighter wing, adding that even if the follow-up of the sale progresses smoothly following Washington’s approval, the new fighters would not arrive in Taiwan until 2023, due to production and logistical constraints.

The new F-16s will eventually replace the territory’s French-made Mirage 2000s, which are expensive to operate and difficult to maintain.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen tries out an F-16 flight simulator at the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition last week. Photos: Handout

Taiwan asked the US in the first quarter of this year to approve the sale of a fleet of advanced F-16s. However, the deal was stalled because the Trump administration did not inform the US Congress of the sale before the start of the summer recess. It was announced on the weekend that the Trump administration has sent Congress an advisory notice that it intends to sell Taiwan 66 new F-16V fighter jets for US$8 billion.

American Institute in Taiwan director Brent Christensen said in a recent speech, “These investments by Taiwan are commendable, as is Taiwan’s ongoing commitment to increase the defense budget annually to ensure that Taiwan’s spending is sufficient to provide for its own self-defense needs. And we anticipate that these figures will continue to grow commensurate with the threats Taiwan faces.”

Also read: Taiwan’s new F-16s boost regional role of US

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