A US-made F-16V fighter jet takes off from the freeway in Changhua county, Taiwan, as a crowd takes photos during the annual Han Kuang drill on May 28, 2019. Photo: AFP
The US is moving forward with an $8 billion sale involving 66 F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan, the New York Times reported on Friday.
This is the second time recently that the US indicated it would make arms sales to Taiwan. In July, the US approved sales worth $2.22 billion to the island, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles, CNN reported.
This potential arms deal is more aggressive and provocative than the last one, not only because of its higher value, but also because of the tactical purposes the weapons could serve, analysts said.
Unlike the tanks, which will likely become nothing more than targets for the People's Liberation Army's aircraft and missiles, the F-16Vs could have a chance to threaten the mainland's military forces, as they are equipped with advanced AESA radars that can detect targets farther away and enable the fighter jet to launch mid-range air-to-air and anti-ship missiles, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The Chinese mainland's fighter jets such as the J-10B and J-10C are capable of rivaling the F-16V, not to mention the fact that the F-16V is no match for the mainland's J-11 and J-20, military observers said, noting that the mainland could also destroy Taiwan's air fields and command centers to nullify their fighter jets.
The US intends to add more unstable factors to the Taiwan Straits to pin China down in the game between the two countries, playing all cards available to them, Wei said, noting that US arms companies will also earn large amounts of money from the sales.
If the F-16V sales become a reality, "the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions, and the US will have to bear all the consequences," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Friday.
After the US approved the tank and missile sales in July, China conducted military exercises in waters near the island of Taiwan. China also announced sanctions on US enterprises participating in the sales.
More military exercises and economic measures are also on the table, Wei predicted.
Some Chinese military observers suggested that China should block the shipments, but Wei said it could be "technically difficult" to tell which ships or transport planes are being used to transport the weapons.