Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen tries out an F-16 flight simulator at the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition held in August. Photo: Handout

A vice-defense minister from Taiwan is lobbying his US counterparts for more logistical, maintenance and tech support, as a landmark arms sales for the self-governed island including F-16V fighter jets, missiles and armored tanks heads toward fruition.

Taiwan’s No. 2 defense official Chang Guan-chung is in the US for the annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Maryland. He has urged the Pentagon to provide long-term logistical assistance on top of warplanes and tanks, to boost Taiwan’s defense capabilities.

Citizens on the island fear a move by China to take over the island, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, and want to entrench the island’s position in Washington’s new Indo-Pacific alliance.

“We expect that our arms acquisition will not be limited to the weapons themselves, but will include long-term logistic support,” Chang told the defense conference in Ellicott City, adding that hardware bought from the US should be covered by tech, personnel and maintenance support for better operational sustainability.

For instance, it would not be economical or strategically wise if Taiwan’s F-16 jets have to go back to the US for midlife checks, retrofits and updates.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where pilots from Taiwan are trained to fly the aircraft. Photo: US Air Force

Taiwan’s Central News Agency also quoted Chang as saying that US defense contractors could also reap benefits from working with the Taiwanese government and companies in building a “lifecycle-integrated, depot-level maintenance capacity” on the island for the Abrams tanks and F-16V jets that will arrive over the next decade.

The CNA said the need for “after-sales” services was key to getting full use of the new assets from the US as Taiwan lacks parts and staff to service advanced imported equipment.

It is understood that contracts regarding the jets and tank purchase contain specific clauses on related maintenance and training, though much of the work will be done in the US.

Taiwan has a dozen pilot cadets in the US, where they are trained to fly the F-16s.

The island is also encouraging domestic manufacturers and institutions to team up with Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Land Systems, suppliers of the fighters and tanks, to build a local supply chain.

Chang said Taiwan aimed to use the Taiwan Strait as a natural buffer and its geostrategic advantages to keep any Chinese invaders at bay, and invest in systems that are mobile, hard to find, agile and economic.

This year’s US-Taiwan defense conference focuses on the future of US defense cooperation with Taiwan, the defense procurement process and Taiwan’s defense and national security needs.

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey headed the US delegation.

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