May 26, 2023 08:19
Taiwan's order of 66 advanced new F-16V fighter jets from the United States will not be completed until 2026 because of software problems, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said Thursday, marking the latest delay in U.S. weapons deliveries since manufacturers turned their attention to Ukraine after Russia invaded last year.
Earlier this month, the self-ruling island's defense minister said the delay was a result of supply chain disruptions, but on Thursday he added that the holdup was due to flight control software issues.
"In principle by 2026 the 66 aircraft will all arrive. There is absolutely no problem with this," Chiu told reporters at parliament.
The United States approved the $8 billion sale of Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in 2019. Once complete, the deal will take the island's F-16 fleet to more than 200 jets, the most in Asia, according to Reuters.
The defense buildup is important to Taiwan because of rising concerns that China will try to take the island -- which Beijing claims as its own -- by force.
Since last year, Taiwan has complained about delays of U.S. weapons deliveries, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Manufacturers have turned supplies to Ukraine after Russia invaded last year.
But to the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, delivering weapons to Taiwan is an urgent priority.
On Wednesday, the committee adopted 10 policy recommendations for Congress, including that the United States should deliver the "backlogged" military equipment Taiwan had ordered. Several other recommendations also related to bolstering Taiwan's defense capabilities.
The first two F-16s in the order were supposed to have been delivered between October and December of this year, but that has been pushed back to between July and September of 2024, Taiwanese officials said this month.
Lockheed spokesperson Liz Lutz told Bloomberg that the company is working "closely with the U.S. government to address challenges in support of U.S. security objectives."
While visiting Taiwan last month, Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was trying to speed up the arms deliveries.
"On the weapons issue, I sign off on those deliveries, and we are doing everything in our power to expedite this," he said.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Chamber of Commerce, told VOA Mandarin that foreign military support for Taiwan is "just one piece of the puzzle."
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