Taiwan, meanwhile, is retrofitting all of its 145 existing F-16A/B fighters with cutting-edge radar capabilities, advanced electronic warfare suites and other upgrades. Lockheed Martin received a $1.85 billion contract to start the work.
The White House is also mulling options to help plug a growing shortfall in Taiwan’s fighter aircraft versus Beijing’s forces, including a possible sale of advanced F-16C/D models long sought by Taipei.
Army Major General Sampson Lee, who heads the military mission of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, said Taiwan would seek to go on buying defensive systems to meet “persistent military threats.”
China deems self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province subject to a return to the fold, by force if necessary. The United States is committed under a 1979 law to supply Taiwan the arms it needs to maintain a “sufficient self-defense capability.”
Locklear, of the U.S. Pacific Command, said central to his part of the “rebalance” to the Pacific will be to modernize and strengthen U.S. treaty alliances with Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand - work that he said has already begun in earnest.