Sell Taiwan the F-35 to Counter Chinese Aggression

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Originally published by National Interest

Beijing still considered Taipei a ‘rogue province.’ It might be time to consider selling Taiwan one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. 

U.S. policymakers should make selling F-35 jets to Taiwan a priority. Taiwan’s government has requested them. Leading U.S. Senators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), have advocated for the sale. Fear of a violent Chinese reaction to Taiwan acquiring the jets and espionage stealing the fighter’s technology has kept that from becoming a reality, as has cost. But perhaps that should change.

The F-35 jet club includes the United States, the UK, Italy, Israel, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

Other nations including Poland, Singapore, Greece, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Poland also have the F-35 jets under consideration. Cost has been a concern for Taiwan, but growing export orders have reduced its price tag. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the most recent nation to submit a request to join the club last month after signing the Abrahamic Accords with Israel.

The People’s Republic of China’s ability to strike any aircraft that takes off in the airspace over Taiwan puts the island’s ability to defend itself from bombers and other attack aircraft at risk.

Currently, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) S-400 missiles can shoot down Taiwan’s F-16 jets, Mirage 2000s, F-5 light-fighter jet and other aircraft from the mainland in the event of any attack. This would assist the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6N bombers and other attack aircraft in striking Taiwanese airfields, bases and other military targets during an invasion.

The F-35B variant would give the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) the option of having lethal stealth aircraft able to operate from roads and other places that likely are off the PLA’s target map. This would be similar to how Sweden’s air force operates. Its SAAB jet fighters are designed to be dispersed across the country and to operate from ordinary roads for decades in case of a surprise attack.

The F-35B also can operate in confined areas due to its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

Adding it to the ROCAF inventory would give it flexibility in contrast with its current F-16 jets, F-5 jets and Dassault Mirage 2000, which are confined to airstrips or large highways.

Taiwan’s airfields would be knocked out by Chinese aircraft and missiles in the case of an invasion.

Recent exercises showed that the F-35 jets achieved a kill ratio against opponents of fifteen to one: more than a match for the PLAAF. Chinese jet fighters pale in comparison with the F-35 jets when it comes to their capabilities due to their engine issues and inferior sensors, not to mention their lack of stealth.

The F-35 jets abilities also exceed those of the PLAAF’s J-20 stealth fighter, which the Indian Air Force tracked on radar during exercises over Tibet near the Indian border.

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