On Thursday, Taiwan deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet with the help of the US arms maker Lockheed Martin.
Taiwan commissioned 64 F-16Vs that were upgraded by Lockheed Martin from F-16A/B jets, an older model from the 1990s. In total, by 2023, the US firm plans to upgrade 141 fighter jets for Taiwan.
At an air force base in Chiayi, Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen commissioned the warplanes and said the project was an example of the strength of US-Taiwan relations. “This represents the steadfast promise of the Taiwan-US partnership,” she said.
In addition to the upgrades, Taiwan ordered 66 brand new F-16Vs from Lockheed Martin in 2019. Worth about $8 billion, the new F-16Vs are expected to be delivered beginning in 2023.
Since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979, the US has continued to sell weapons to the island. As the US is more focused on countering China in the region, arms sales have spiked in recent years. The increased tensions mean good business for companies like Lockheed Martin.
China hawks in Congress want to give Taiwan money to purchase more US arms. Earlier this month, two separate bills were introduced by Republicans in the Senate that would give Taiwan billions in military aid each year.