World War 3: Taiwan stokes tensions with China as it prepares to deploy F-16 jets

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
By Paul Martin

TAIWAN has taken delivery of the first of a fleet of revamped F-16 Viper jets in a move certain to raise tensions with China after the US sent two warships through a narrow strait which separates the country from mainland China

Tue, Oct 23, 2018

The Taiwanese Air Force received the first aircraft, which have been “retrofitted” by US aerospace company Lockheed Martin, today.

The Asia Times reports the F-16V features enhancements including an active, electronically scanned array radar, a new modular mission computer plus improvements to the cockpit.

The Taiwanese military is the first recipient of the F-16V after setting aside more than £3.2billion to upgrade its fleet of 144 planes to the latest configuration, which the process scheduled to take five years.

A Taiwanese defence official also told the Asian Times the country would be working alongside Lockheed Martin to construct a “depot-level maintenance and repair centre” for F-16s, meaning necessary work could be undertaken there rather than shipping the planes back to the United States.

The country is reportedly ready to invest more than £385million in the project.

The move comes against a backdrop of rising tensions in the region in recent months, most recently illustrated by the US decision to dispatch to ships which sailed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday.

It was the second such operation this year, as the US military increases the frequency of transits through the strategic waterway.

Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, said in a statement: “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it closely monitored the operation and was able to “maintain the security of the seas and the airspace” as it occurred.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province of “oneChina”, had already expressed “serious concern” to the United States, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Tuesday.

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