An F-16 takes off from the Jiashan Air Base in Hualien County on Monday. Photo: Yu Tai-lang, Taipei Times
By Sean Lin / Staff reporter
The nation expects to receive one single-seat and one two-seat F-16Vs from the US in 2023 for testing, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa （嚴德發） said yesterday.
Starting from 2024, the nation would start receiving batches of four to five F-16V jets, and would have received all 66 planes ordered from the US by 2026, Yen told People First Party Legislator Chou Chen Hsiu-hsia （周陳秀霞） during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Asked whether the Ministry of National Defense would be able to recruit the 107 pilots it has said it would need to fly the 56 single-seat and 10 two-seat F-16Vs, Yen told Chou Chen that accomplished pilots from the air force’s 4th and 5th Tactical Fighter wings would be recruited to fly the planes and the recruitment process would commence in 2022 and end in 2025 in time for their deliveries.
Vacancies in the fighter wings would then be filled by trainees who have graduated from military academies, he said.
There would not be a window period in the staffing of pilots, he added.
Yen added that the Ministry of Economic Affairs had signed an agreement on industrial collaborations with US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp prior to signing a letter of acceptance with Washington.
The planned collaborations include 10 plant-level maintenance projects and seven items of technological transfers, he said.
The government will strive to secure technological transfer agreements with the US to realize the goal of establishing an “Asian F-16 maintenance center” in the nation, he said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang （蘇貞昌） said that the F-16V procurement package followed the US Congress’ passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 and the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative, reaffirming that Taiwan has an important role in the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy.
It shows that Taiwan can assist in no small part in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific region, Su said.
The procurement package has the advantages of a swift personnel transition, cost-effective logistics and a short delivery period, which is conducive to forming a timely combat force, he said.
It would also benefit the nation through the accompanying technology transfers, thereby stimulating economic growth and helping it achieve defense autonomy, he said.
Saying that national security is a nonpartisan issue, he called on lawmakers across party lines to approve the special budget, which totals NT$247 billion （US$8.12 billion）.