Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) signed a deal with American defense contractor Lockheed Martin on Tuesday to build a maintenance facility for F-16 jet fighters, which Taiwan purchases from the U.S. for defense.
U.S. President Donald Trump approved an arms sale in July that will include 66 more F-16s for Taiwan.
Recent U.S. arms deals also included maintenance items for Taiwan’s warplanes, along with hefty shipments of tanks and Stinger missiles intended to change mainland China’s calculations about how easily Taiwan could be taken once its air force was neutralized.
Research fellow Collin Koh of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University told the South China Morning Post that the planned F-16 maintenance center would both improve the combat readiness of Taiwan’s fighters and make more flying time available for training.
“This does represent a step up. Taiwan is no longer just an end-user operating the American hardware, but will also be empowered to service it. It is designed to help Taiwan achieve better defence self-sufficiency, one of the key pledges by the Tsai administration,” Koh said, referring to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“The Tsai administration cares about what the U.S. thinks but not what Beijing thinks, paving the way for ever-closer ties. That definitely leaves less room for Beijing to get Taipei into its orbit, by using various economic measures,” added senior researcher Tang Shaocheng of National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang praised the partnership between AIDC and Lockheed Martin as a “win-win” for both sides at a ceremony to announce the deal on Tuesday. The chairman of AIDC, Hu Kai-Hung, described ambitious plans to make Taiwan a regional hub for repairing and upgrading F-16s. Updating Taiwan’s older warplanes will be a major function of the repair center.
Once Taiwan takes delivery of the 66 fighters authorized by President Trump, it will have the largest inventory of F-16s in the Asia-Pacific region. The new planes are scheduled to be delivered between 2023 and 2026.