Taiwan this week unveiled its new batch of updated and advanced F-16 fighter jets, recently upgraded with US help, specifically via Lockheed Martin, which further has plans to upgrade 141 F-16 fighter jets by 2023 for the democratic-run island claimed by China.

A total of 64 upgraded fighters, called F-16Vs, officially went into service for Taiwan’s air force during a ceremony on Thursday attended by President Tsai Ing-wen. She declared that “This represents the steadfast promise of the Taiwan-US partnership.”

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen poses from cockpit, via AP.

The Taiwanese president then urged more countries to follow the US example: “I trust that in holding fast to democratic values, there will definitely be more countries with similar values who will stand with us on this front,” she said.

During the ceremony at an air force base in the city of Chiayi, pilots demonstrated complex maneuvers, including low passes over the area. The Associated Press noted that by the end of 2023 when Lockheed fulfills the contract, Taiwan will become the largest operator of F-16s anywhere in Asia.

The AP described further that: “The F-16V is the most technologically advanced version of the storied multi-role fighter jet, equipped with highly capable radar, allowing it to track more than 20 targets at a time. It also features cutting-edge electronic warfare systems, along with advanced weapons, precision GPS navigation and a system to automatically avoid collisions with the ground.”

Washington has continued to provocatively maintain a very visible presence in Taiwan, following the recent revelation and confirmation that it’s had hundreds of US Marines there training Taiwan’s special forces for more than a year. 

Sandra Oudkirk, the United States de facto ambassador to Taiwan, was in attendance for Thursday’s upgraded F-16 rollout ceremony, despite constant Chinese warnings against the US selling Taiwan more weaponry. Currently Congressional hawks are calling on more money and support to Taiwan’s military.

Predictably, Beijing at the end of the week condemned the continued relationship, warning Washington to be “be cautious with its words and actions on the Taiwan issue, and refrain from sending any wrong signals to the secessionist forces of Taiwan independence,” according to the latest Foreign Ministry statements. 





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