Taipei: China now has better fighter jets than Taiwan, according to a military report by the island’s defence ministry as the air force Monday renewed its bid to obtain new F-16s from the United States.
Of the three types of fighter jets in Taiwan’s air force, only the F-16A/Bs have a slight edge over the Chinese aircraft, the report by the defence ministry found, the Liberty Times newspaper said Monday.
The island’s Indigenous Defensive Fighters (IDF) and French-made Mirage 2000-5s were both inferior to the Russian-made Su-30s deployed by China, it said.
The report came as Taiwan’s air force command renewed its bid to procure more F-16s from the United States.
“As the Chinese communist air force continues with its military buildup and the military balance has gradually tipped towards the other side, the air force will strive to purchase F-16 C/Ds,” it said in a statement.
Analysts have said they doubt Washington would risk angering Beijing by approving the sale of more sensitive items such as the more advanced F-16 C/Ds.
The United States in January approved a 6.4 billion-dollar arms package to Taiwan, prompting Beijing to halt military exchanges and security talks with Washington.
The deal included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft that Taipei had requested.
In a report earlier this year, the US government’s Defense Intelligence Agency pointed out the weakness of Taiwan’s air force in the face of China’s fast expanding military buildup.
“Although Taiwan has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service, far fewer of these are operationally capable,” said the unclassified report, which was published in January but has only now been leaked to the press.
Taiwan’s air force consists of some 60 ageing F-5s, 126 IDFs, 146 F-16A/Bs and 56 Mirages.
Beijing opposes any arms sales to Taiwan which it insists is part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allow in more Chinese tourists.
Beijing however has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan, which has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949, prompting the island to seek more advanced weapons, mainly from the United States.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979 but is obliged to sell Taiwan weapons for its self-defence.