With the recent announcement of a whopping $62 billion contract to Lockheed Martin for supplying new F-16 “Viper” jets to Taiwan, China has expressed its concern over the proposed move.
China considers Taiwan as a ‘renegade province’ and has threatened to annex the region using force if the little island nation formally declares independence.
The arming of Taiwan with 66 advanced F-16 “Viper” jets had been on the table since last year when the Trump administration gave a green light to the deal. Arming Taiwan is always seen as a provocation by Beijing, and the recent deal again saw counter-threats via its state-owned news agency, Global Times.
According to an article recently published in Global Times, the PLA’s recent consecutive, “true-to-life” drills in the Taiwan Straits was an obvious reaction to “recent US and Taiwan secessionists’ provocative moves”.
The article also stated that the PLA is aiming not only to deter but also honing its capability of launching offensive military actions when necessary. Recently, the Taiwanese F-16s were also seen on CAPs armed with Harpoon missiles, which was seen as deterrence against Chinese military drills aimed at Pratas Islands.
The new F-16 “Viper”
The latest addition to the F-16 “Falcon”, the “Viper” variant officially known as F-16V Block 70/72 is described as the latest and most advanced F-16 in the market today.
According to its manufacturer Lockheed Martin, “the F-16V configuration includes numerous enhancements designed to keep the F-16 at the forefront of international security, strengthening its position as the world’s foremost combat-proven 4th Generation multi-role fighter aircraft.”
The Viper variant is a significant upgrade from the earlier variants, sporting a new AN/APG-83 AESA radar which gives it ‘5th generation radar capabilities’. It also features upgraded mission computers and improvements to the cockpit.
An upgraded variant, the F-16IN “Super Viper”- now even further upgraded called “F-21” was offered to India for its MMRCA competition, which combines F-16V configuration with advanced F-35 inspired avionics.
Chinese military experts told the Global Times that while F-16V fighter jets could pose a threat to the PLA forces, the J-10B and J-10C fighter jets can challenge them, and they are no match for the heavier J-11 and absolutely no comparison with stealth J-20 jets.
The report also added that if a reunification-by-force operation breaks out, Chinese forces would annihilate Taiwan’s airfields and command centers, giving the F-16Vs no chance to take flight, and giving those already in the air no place to land.