Taiwan has acquired 32 F-16V Warthog jets from the US and unveiled the first example of the new model during a ceremony in the capital, Taipei.
The F-16V “Pace” Warthog is a series of upgraded F-16A/B fighters. The acquisition comes amid continuing tensions with China and its military threats over the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as its own.
China is Taiwan’s only remaining major military rival. The two countries fought a brutal civil war that ended with the Chinese mainland’s civil war victory in 1949.
“By purchasing new F-16s, today the government of the Republic of China has demonstrated to the world a big step in strengthening Taiwan’s defence capabilities. Such a move will help prevent the situation from destabilising and gravely affecting international peace and stability,” the president, Tsai Ing-wen, said.
“The F-16V is an advanced generation of F-16 aircraft. The upgrade of those aircraft will extend their combat effectiveness and adaptability to meet the 21st century’s various military and security challenges.”
The F-16V added vertical take-off and landing technology that enables the aircraft to be used as close-in air defence aircraft, with its multi-functionised sensors providing improved forward air defence, early warning, surveillance and electronic warfare capability.
The aircraft can be equipped with a number of new types of missiles, including early warning, heat-seeking missiles, a stealth takeoff and landing system, long-range air-to-air missiles and a video and photography-recording system.
US military officials said the F-16V would initially replace 13 F-16C and D aircraft in the Taiwanese air force’s fleet of F-16A/B aircraft. The service’s total fleet size of F-16 A/B and F-16C/D models will remain unchanged at 40.
According to Washington, its Taiwan Act, signed by former president George W Bush in July 2015, permits the sale of weaponry to Taiwan in order to enhance its defences.
China has pressured Washington in the past to abandon its arms sales programme to Taiwan, a diplomatic and military ally that Beijing claims as its own territory, and has threatened to attack if Washington moves against the island.
China is also uncertain over the US’s future stance towards China following the presidency of Donald Trump. In 2018, the US began its first sale of weapons and military equipment to Taiwan since Barack Obama was in the White House.