US supports Taiwan F-16 fighter sale
The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of the sale of 66 F-16C/D fighter-jets to Taiwan in a bid to close a growing military gap with China, with the sale now due for Senate approval.
Commenting on the vote, US-Taiwan Business Council president, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, said: "[The new F-16C/Ds would provide] a credible deterrent to Chinese adventurism."
The proposed sale includes General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft and a $5.85bn upgrade programme for existing planes, which was initially authorised in September 2011.
The measure's main sponsor representative, Kay Granger, said that Taiwan needed more than an upgrade of its aging fleet amidst concerns of China's rapid military growth.
Granger said in a statement: "The sale of F-16s to Taiwan ensures our key strategic ally in the Pacific has the defence capacity to defend its own airspace.
"Our support for a democratic Taiwan is consistent with our national security priorities in the region."
The proposed sale also requires approval from the Republican-controlled chamber, followed by the Senate.
In a report to Congress, the Pentagon noted that China is still 'developing military capabilities to give it the ability to settle the dispute on Beijing's terms.'
The F-16 jets are widely deployed by the air forces of Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand, South Korea, Chile, Poland, UAE, Bahrain, Greece and Singapore.
Image: A US Air Force Block 40 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft flies over Iraq in 2008. Photo: courtesy of Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.