WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of 23 Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, have urged the Pentagon to address the prolonged delay in the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. This comes amidst escalating military hostility from China towards the island nation.
According to a letter dated November 16, addressed to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the lawmakers expressed their concerns over the high-risk delay of two F-16 fighter jet programs for Taiwan. They noted the increasing pressure campaign by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against Taiwan and emphasized their commitment to working with the Pentagon to prevent further delays.
The lawmakers highlighted the urgent need for Taiwan to receive these new and upgraded aircraft to bolster stability across the Taiwan Strait. They voiced their concerns about the potential implications of failing to deliver on promises to key allies.
The letter requested that Kendall provide updates on the overall delivery plan by December 18. The two F-16 programs, as mentioned in the letter, represent $12.7 billion of the total $14.3 billion backlog of military equipment that Taiwan has agreed to purchase from the United States.
The retrofit program, aimed at upgrading Taiwan’s existing 141 F-16 fighter jets, has been delayed for nearly three years due to the unavailability of key parts. The delivery of 66 new F-16 aircraft has also been postponed by over 15 months due to complications in software development. The new jets were initially slated for delivery between 2025 and 2026, but this timeline has been pushed back to 2026-2027.
Despite acknowledging the efforts made by the Air Force and Taiwan to improve delivery timelines and minimize delays, the lawmakers committed to closely monitoring these efforts to resolve the backlog and enhance Taiwan’s defense.
Based on the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States maintains a robust relationship with Taiwan despite not having formal diplomatic relations with it since 1979. This law authorizes the U.S. to provide Taiwan with military equipment for self-defense. In recent years, Washington has made multiple arms sales to the democratically governed island to help counter the CCP’s military harassment.