Taiwanese Getting Best Bang for the Buck

The Obama Administration’s decision to authorize the upgrade of Taiwan’s legacy F-16A/B fleet rather than sell the Asian partner new F-16C/D airplanes makes the most sense right now, asserted two senior Administration officials. “It’s our understanding, our belief, that the F-16 retrofit provides the best bang for the buck at this time. It’s been the higher immediate priority,” Peter Lavoy, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. He said the proposed retrofit of the 145 Taiwanese F-16s would make “a significant contribution to Taiwan’s air power” by giving the Taiwanese “an advanced fighter” configuration with radar and weapons capabilities “comparable to any fourth generation fighter available” to the US Air Force and its allies. Nonetheless, the Administration has “ruled nothing out” as far as the potential future sale of new-build F-16C/Ds to Taiwan, said Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, during the same Oct. 4 hearing. The Taiwanese have requested 66 F-16C/Ds to replace their aged F-5s. “We continuously evaluate the situation across the Taiwan Strait,” said Campbell.