China’s New Fighter Prompts Renewed F-16 Plea from Taiwan

 - January 21, 2011, 6:40 AM
A military exercise including the ground-launched version of Taiwan’s indigenous Tien Chien AAMs prompted Taiwan to renew its request for more U.S.-built F-16s.

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-Jeou renewed his nation’s plea to the U.S. for more F-16s, citing China’s recent unveiling of the J-20 stealth fighter. Ma spoke after witnessing an air defense exercise that involved the launch of 19 missiles, including indigenous Tien Chien (Sky Sword) AAMs and Tien Kung (Sky Bow) SAMs. The new ground-launched version of the Tien Chien was also fired.

The Republic of China Air Force wants 66 F-16C/D versions to re-equip one of its five fighter wings. But according to a report in The Washington Times last week, the U.S. has decided to offer Taiwan an upgrade for its 150-strong fleet of F-16A/B models instead. This will be less likely to stir opposition from Beijing. The upgrade could provide a valuable launch order for Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, which are competing to refit AESA radars into F-16s that are already in service worldwide.

Meanwhile, AIN has learned that the new Chinese fighter is designated Project 718, possibly indicating that the development was launched on Jan. 8, 2007.