Taipei-The upcoming addition of 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, commonly known as the F-16Vs, to Taiwan's air force, will be posted in eastern Taiwan to boost the military's defense capability against Chinese aircraft carriers, defense specialists told CNA Saturday.
Taiwan announced that day that it officially sealed the F-16V deal with the U.S. earlier this month after the two sides signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for the procurement project.
Military officials said the U.S. is expected to deliver one F-16 C Block 70 (single-seater) and one F-16 D Block 70 (two-seater) in 2023 for testing. Formal deliveries of all 66 of the aircraft to Taiwan will be completed in 2026.
A military source told CNA Saturday that the addition of the 66 F-16Vs will bring the Air Force's fighter jet muster to 350.
The Air Force currently operates a fleet of 46 Mirage-2000s, 105 locally built Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), and another 142 F-16A/B fighters that are being upgraded to the same specifications as the F-16V.
Though the number is still no match for the Chinese People's Liberation Army's (PLA) 2,000 fighters, 700 of which are posted at bases on China's southeastern coast and posting a direct threat to Taiwan, the source said Taiwan will have a better chance of defending itself with 350 fighters plus help from its air-defense systems and joint air-defense operations involving all military branches.
In terms of ammunition, the source said that Taiwan's fighters are better-armed than some older-generation PLA fighters such as the J-10, J-11, Su-30 and Su-35.
They may not match the PLA's latest fifth-generation J-20 stealth aircraft, however, but they can contain J-20s with the help of Taiwan's E-2K early warning aircraft, the source said.
The source added that the 66 F-16Vs will be stationed at the Taitung air base in eastern Taiwan. Among them, 56 are single-seaters and the rest are two-seaters, meaning that the Air Force will need 107 pilots to operate the new fighters.
Commenting on the new F-16V fleet's deployment, Lin Ying- yu (???), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University's Institute of Strategic and International Affairs, said the decision to base the advanced jets in eastern Taiwan is aimed at dealing with the increasing threat from Chinese aircraft carriers.
Most of the nation's military installations and weapon systems have been deployed in western Taiwan for decades, as the most direct Chinese military threat is from the other side of the Taiwan Strait.
With China's increasing military capability to deploy bombers, fighter jets and vessels crossing the "first island chain" into the Western Pacific regularly, Lin said the military threat now also comes from the east of Taiwan.
Recent Chinese defense experts have said that the PLA might send an aircraft carrier southbound along the Taiwan Strait, with another passing off Taiwan's east coast heading north to threaten Taiwan from both sides.
Deploying the F-16Vs and Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles on the east coast will thus serve as determent to Chinese military intimidation, he added.
China commissioned its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, earlier this month.
It is the second carrier in the Chinese fleet. The first, the Liaoning, a retrofitted Soviet-era vessel, was purchased from the Ukrainian government in 1998, and began service in 2012.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel