F-16 fighter jet deal deemed another US provocation amid rising Taiwan Straits tensions

By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/15 15:18:04 Last Updated: 2020/8/15 18:18:04

File photo:China Military 

The island of Taiwan has formally signed an agreement with US arms firm Lockheed Martin to buy 66 F-16V fighter jets, reports said on Saturday, further raising tensions in the Taiwan Straits, and coming just two days after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced large-scale drills in response to US provocations and Taiwan secessionist activities.

While the deal was approved by the Trump administration last year and a formal signing was expected to take place sooner or later, its announcement at this particular time is believed to be yet another US provocation and a step on the red line of the Taiwan question, which further risks confrontation, Chinese mainland experts said on Saturday, adding that the PLA is aiming not only to deter, but also to hone its capability of launching military action when necessary. 

A Pentagon announcement on Thursday said Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $62 billion, 10-year contract for the production of F-16s for foreign military sale, and the initial delivery order is for 90 aircraft. 

The Pentagon did not reveal the buyers of the fighter jets, but media outlets including Bloomberg and AFP reported on Friday that the deal includes Taiwan’s approved purchase of 66 F-16s.

The deal would involve 66 of the F-16V, the latest version of the F-16 fighter jet, costing $8 billion, reports said at that time the deal was initially approved.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command announced on Thursday a series of recent consecutive, true-to-life drills in the Taiwan Straits and its northern and southern ends that featured multiple military branches in multiple directions. This, experts said,  is an obvious response to recent US and Taiwan secessionists’ provocative moves, highlighted by US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's Taiwan visit.

By announcing the F-16 deal has been finalized, the US is attempting to show its tough stance, and the move could be considered as corresponding to the PLA drills, Ni Feng, director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Under these circumstances, the US move is even more dangerous, as it steps on and even crosses the Chinese mainland’s red line on the Taiwan question, Ni said, noting that the risk of a confrontation continues to rise.

Chinese mainland military experts told the Global Times following the announcement of the PLA drills that the PLA has been enhancing and normalizing military drills around the island of Taiwan not only to deter secessionists on the island, but to train the troops and gain the capability of turning the exercises into real military actions if necessary.

The PLA will continue to develop advanced weapons and equipment to boost its overall capability and widen its already-huge gap with the military on the island, and future military drills could see warplanes fly through the airspace of the island if necessary, they said.

Chinese mainland experts said that while F-16V fighter jets could become threats to the PLA forces, the PLA’s J-10B and J-10C fighter jets can rival them, and they are no match for the heavier J-11, not to mention the much more advanced J-20.

If a reunification-by-force operation breaks out, the PLA would destroy Taiwan’s air fields and command centers, giving the F-16Vs no chance to even take flight, and giving those already in the air no place to land, analysts said.

Posted in: MILITARY

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