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The US State Department has approved Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Taiwan covering F-16 standard spare and repair parts and related equipment, worth an estimated USD 220 million, and F-16 non-standard spare and repair parts and related equipment, worth an estimated USD 80 million, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 5 June 2024.

Both FMS cases, which have been passed to the US Congress for final approval, are to be fulfilled using equipment transferred from US Air Force stock. They also include various aspects of US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and programme support.

The Republic of China Air Force operates around 137 Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs of 150 aircraft delivered from 1996 (114 A models and 28 B models). An additional 66 new F-16 Block 70s were ordered in 2020, with the F-16A/Bs being upgraded to the near-identical F-16V standard.

Tensions are currently running high between Taiwan and China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, following the election to the Taiwanese presidency in January of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s Lai Ching-te, who has long-championed Taiwan’s sovereignty.

On 23 May 2024 China launched military drills, its largest for more than a year, that encircled Taiwan. Beijing said the drills were “punishment” for “separatist acts” following the swearing in of Lai as president.

The Taiwan Relations Act, which became effective on 1 January 1979, states that “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability” and “shall maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardise the security, or social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan”.

However, as the forces of China’s People’s Liberation Army grow inexorably stronger, any military defence of Taiwan becomes increasingly problematic.

Since 2018 the Republic of China Air Force’s F-16A/Bs have been upgraded to the F-16V standard (shown). (Photo: RoCAF)