The Taiwanese Military has said it plans to acquire the F-35 stealth fighter to maintain air superiority over China as the F-16V it has approved to buy from the US would be a match for the Chinese J-20 stealth jets.
The plan to acquire F-35s was revealed jet during a legislature hearing which approved a draft bill seeking NT$250 billion (US$8.05 billion) in funding to buy 66 F-16V aircraft.
At the hearing of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa said, “according to the military’s projected threat assessment, we will need F-35s in the future.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Liu Jen-yuan said the F-16V is a 4.5-generation fighter, due to the detection capabilities of its active electronically scanned array radar and infrared search and track systems. The (Chinese) J-20’s only advantage is marginally better stealth ability. However, modern air combat is fought between integrated systems, not individual platforms,” Liu said.
Deputies asked officials to explain if the F-16V could prevail against a J-20 in a one-on-one engagement. “I have absolute confidence in the skills of our pilots to shoot down a J-20 one-on-one,” Yen said.
The bill will now be sent to a cross-caucus negotiation following which Taipei and Washington will have to sign a letter of offer and acceptance to finalize the sale, expected by end-2019, Taipei Times reported quoting air force sources.
Taiwan hopes to take delivery of all 66 jets by no later than 2026. The F-16Vs are expected to be deployed at Chihhang Air Base in Taitung County, military sources said.
In addition, the Taiwan air force is upgrading its fleet of 142 F-16A/Bs to the F-16V specifications, with the work expected to be completed by 2022. The first four of the planes, retrofitted by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp, have completed combat flight testing.