Danger Room on Taiwan arms sales

Wired.com‘s Danger Room blog this week posted about an interesting development related to the Obama Administration’s recently proposed arms sales package to Taiwan.  The sales as currently expressed do not include what is probably Taiwan’s most desired weapon system, F-16 fighter jets.  However, certain constituencies in the U.S. are lobbying quite vigorously for these planes to be added to the list.  Understandably, in the event that the F-16 sales to Taiwan are approved, China would be even more displeased about the transaction than they already are.

The full post from Danger Room is below.

Dogfighting over the Taiwan Strait

By Nathan Hodge Email Author March 19, 2010  | 4:17 pm  | Categories: China

F-16

For national-security dorks who like to read the Defense Department’s 36(b) arms sale notifications, watching the back-and-forth over weapons sales to Taiwan is pure entertainment. It’s partly a question of political spin, but it’s also an interesting look at how the Pentagon sizes up the military balance between China and Taiwan.

Back in January, the Defense Intelligence Agency issued a stark assessment of Taiwan’s air power: Without a serious upgrade, the report said,  Taiwan’s air defenses would not be able to fight off an attack by China. The Pentagon report — which was sent to Congress in January, but only became public last month — noted the growing obsolescence of Taiwan’s fighter inventory, which includes F-5 Tigers, Mirage 2000-5s and some older F-16A/Bs. “Taiwan recognizes that it needs a sustainable replacement for obsolete and problematic airframes,” the unclassified version of the report said.

That came as welcome news to Taiwan, which has been lobbying to buy more advanced F-16s, the F-16C/D model, from the United States. (China, predictably, is opposed to the plan.)

But here’s the catch: The F-16 production line is eventually going to shut down as the United States and its allies switch to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Now members of Congress are now stepping up pressure on the administration to sell the aircraft, in part to keep a production line in Fort Worth, Texas, open.

And that proves the old adage: All politics is local, even when we’re talking about the Taiwan Strait. In a floor statement this week, Sen. Jon Cornyn of Texas appealed for the sale to go through. The reason? Constituent jobs.

“Taiwan needs these F-16 C/D aircraft now,” he said. “… If hard orders are not received for Taiwan’s F-16s this year, the U.S. production line will likely be forced to start shutting down. Once the line begins closing, personnel will be shifted to other programs, inventory orders will be cancelled, and machine tools will be decommissioned. When the F-16 line eventually goes ‘cold,’ it is not realistic to expect that it would be restarted.”

[PHOTO: U.S. Department of Defense]

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2 Responses to “Danger Room on Taiwan arms sales”

  1. More on U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan « Facing China Says:

    […] Facing China Thoughts on Asia-Pacific Security from Taiwan « Danger Room on Taiwan arms sales […]

  2. Taiwan’s Nuclear Ambitions « Facing China Says:

    […] back the Communist hordes, the most recent iteration of arms sales under these auspices I discussed here and […]

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