On Monday, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) dispatched several batches of fighter jets to engage in training exercises over the Taiwan Strait near the median line, the unofficial boundary between the two countries. In a rare move, one batch of Shenyang J-11 and Chengdu J-10 fighter jets crossed the median line, before being driven away by Taiwanese F-16 Fighting Falcons.
On Friday (Aug. 14), Liberty Times cited military sources as saying that over 20 Chinese warplanes had engaged in combat maneuvers over the northern and southwest ends of the median line. They reportedly took off from PLAAF bases in Fujian Province’s Zhangzhou, Wuyishan, and Shuimen.
The majority of the communist warplanes performed their drills to the west of the median line, but one batch flew east and crossed over it. After Taiwanese aircraft swiftly intercepted the PLAAF planes and drove them from Taiwan’s airspace, the remaining Chinese jets continued their exercises to the west of the line.
AIM-120 AMRAAM mounted on wingtip launcher of F-16. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
The Air Force stated that the “PLAAF jets’ deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait have seriously undermined regional security and stability.” The Air Force then emphasized that it was fully aware of the dynamics of the territorial sea and airspace around the Taiwan Strait and “can respond appropriately to changes in the enemy’s disposition to maintain the security of the homeland.”
In recent days, Taiwanese military enthusiasts have captured photos of several F-16 fighters taking off from Taiwan’s Chia Yi Air Base, each of them loaded with six AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). Military officials on Friday did not directly confirm the specific weapons being carried, but they did say that the F-16s’ weapon-carrying capabilities have been enhanced.
In 2017, Taiwan’s aging F-16 fighter jets began undergoing the F-16V upgrade program, which will enable them to counter many of the capabilities of China’s advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet. The Air Force F-16V fighter performance improvement program, codenamed “Phoenix,” will retrofit the existing fleet of 145 F-16A/B fighters at a total cost of NT$110 billion yuan (US$3.46 billion) and will be completed by 2023.
The retrofit kit, dubbed V for “Viper,” includes active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a modern avionics subsystem, a high-resolution screen, a Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, and advanced weapons, among other features.
Taiwan Signs Deal For Large Batch Of US F-16 Jets As China Tensions On Brink
For the first time in nearly three decades Taiwan has signed a deal to purchase F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, in a formal agreement which has been in the works for much of the past year, adding to spiraling relations between Beijing and Washington.
The new contract will be for an initial delivery of 66 jets added to the self-ruled island’s existing fleet of F-16s, the Pentagon indicated. Completion is expected by the end of 2026, though we should note that it’ll be interesting to see whether China in the US have entered military conflict by then, something looking increasingly very possible.
The new jets will have major upgrades over and against the older F-16A/B variant which Taiwan’s Air Force currently operates, especially with advances in radar and electronic scanning capabilities
“Out of the 90 jet ordered, 66 are for the Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) while the remaining 24 F-16s jets are reportedly destined for the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF),” it continues.
China is sure to see it as yet more chipping away at the decades-old ‘One China’ official policy which has preserved the status quo in Taiwan, after warning for years against US military sales to Taiwan.
Add to this the fact it comes a mere two days after the highest level American delegation since met with leaders in Taipei since 1979 in a major symbolic move.