Taiwan to buy $1.4bn of new fighter jets, likely F-16s produced in South Carolina

Taiwan will spend $1.4 billion on new fighter jet as the island nation announces a modest rise in defence spending for next year.

President Tsai Ing-wen's cabinet has proposed defence industry spending of approximately $16.9 billion for 2022, up from this year’s $16.2 billion budget.

The government did not give details of the fighter to be purchased, but it is likely referring to the F-16. The US approved an $8 billion (£5.8 billion) sale of F-16s to Taiwan in 2019, which would bring the country's total to more than 200 units.

Lockheed Martin's F-16 production line in South Carolina
Lockheed Martin's F-16 production line in South Carolina

The increased defence spending has been triggered by Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and around the border between Taiwan and China.

The new defence budget needs to be approved by Taiwan’s parliament, but approval is very likely as the president’s political party has a large majority.

Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the F-16, opened a new production line in Greenville, South Carolina to support the growing demand for new fighters from partner nations.

The company also reported a £100 million sales boost for the fighter programme in the latest quarterly report due to increased production volume.

The Greenville line is the only production facility for F-16s in the world, opening three years after the company’s long-time F-16 line in Fort Worth, Texas wrapped up production. Greenville will produce Block 70/72 aircraft.

“This new production line is very significant,” said Brian Pearson, integrated product team lead for F-16 foreign military sales, with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate, which is leading the effort to build and deliver the new F-16s. “There are 25 nations operating F-16s today, and they have a lot of expertise with the airframe. The line helps us meet the global demand that a number of nations have for [F-16] aircraft and gives us the additional capability to provide the aircraft to countries interested in purchasing it for the first time.”

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Lockheed Martin

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