US-Taiwan Business Council calls for plan to fill post-2016 air defense gap
By Joseph Yeh, The China PostThe China Post--The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council Wednesday urged Taipei and Washington to immediately come up with measures to solve the grave state facing Taiwan's Air Force after 2016, when some of the country's F-16A/Bs will be undergoing retrofitting, which could leave a huge gap in the nation's air defensive capability.
July 20, 2012, 12:25 am TWN
In a statement posted on its website Wednesday, the U.S.-based council first congratulated both the Taiwan and U.S. governments on the recent signing of a Letter of Offer & Acceptance (LOA) to upgrade Taiwan's existing 145 F-16A/B fighters for US$3.8 billion, calling the move a “boost in Taiwan's airpower capabilities.”
Despite the positive development, however, the council pointed out that it is urgent that the two governments settle on a plan in the coming months to maintain Taiwan's air defense capabilities when Taiwan's F-16A/Bs are being withdrawn from the front line in 2016.
A total of 24 F-16A/Bs are expected to undergo upgrades and modernization, with another 16 fighters permanently allocated for training at Luke Air Force Base starting in 2016, and with an operational rate of 70 percent, Taiwan will then have as few as 73 F-16A/Bs operational at any one time, the council said.
“This is simply not enough to handle all of Taiwan's many needs, whether at war or at peace,” the statement said.
One of the possible solutions proposed by the council is for the U.S. to provide a small number of new F-16s to compensate for those existing aircraft being out of service during the upgrade periode. These new aircraft could be delivered in parallel with the upgrade/modification schedule, it said.
The council also noted that it is unlikely Taiwan will purchase new F-35B fighters any time soon — a move that was proposed by some, since the new jets are too expensive and would cause “greater budgetary pressures for Taiwan's already under-funded defense establishment.”
The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council is a membership-based nonprofit association founded in 1976 to foster trade and business relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Some reports claim the council consists mainly of arm dealers selling weapons to Taiwan.