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F-16C/D jet fighters still a consideration: Defense Ministry
Central News Agency
2014-08-11 08:08 PM
Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) The procurement of F-16 C/D fighter jets from the United States is still an option to beef up Taiwan's defense capabilities, the Ministry of National Defense said Monday, dismissing a report that the military has decided not to purchase the aircraft. "The report is not true," the ministry said in a statement in response to the report that appeared earlier Monday in the Chinese-language China Times. The Air Force is currently carrying out a retrofit program of its F-16A/B fighters with the assistance of the U.S. and is also working to upgrade all locally developed indigenous defense fighter (IDF) jets to improve the aircraft's radar, avionics and weapons systems, the ministry said. "As to purchases of the F-16C/Ds or other advanced warplanes, the ministry will make thorough evaluations on the need and take into account the future threats of enemies, national defense budgets and air defense capabilities," the statement said. The ministry stressed its determination to strengthen Taiwan's ability to defend itself and said security in the Taiwan Strait would be enhanced if Taiwan could acquire advanced warplanes with stealth, short-take off, vertical-landing, and supersonic cruise capabilities.

The China Times report said Taiwan's Air Force has decided not to pursue the purchase of F-16C/Ds, citing a senior military official. The official argued that there was no need for F-16C/Ds, as the upgrade of Taiwan's F-16A/B fleet and IDF jets will help bolster the country's defense capabilities, the paper reported. Taiwan has long lobbied Washington to sell it more advanced fighters, but the Obama administration decided in 2011 to offer Taiwan a retrofit package for its aging F-16 A/B fleet rather than new F-16 C/Ds. Since then, Taiwan has been reassessing its need for more advanced jet fighters because some of the functions of the upgraded F-16 A/Bs were better than those of the F-16 C/Ds. The China Times report also said that the Air Force was having trouble maintaining Taiwan's aging Mirage 2000-5 fighters because the French company hired to oversee the work was not being cooperative.

As a result, the report said, the Air Force was cannibalizing parts from one aircraft to use in another.

In Monday's statement, however, the Defense Ministry dismissed the report and said the French-made fighter jets were being well-maintained by the French contractor. The F-16 A/B, the IDF and the Mirage fighters are Taiwan's main combat aircraft. (By Elaine Hou)

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