TAIWAN: Upgraded Fighter Jets Will Probably Not Deter Airspace Incursions

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Summary: Taipei’s newly renovated F-16V (Viper) fighter jets probably result in minimal advancements to Taipei’s air defense capabilities and will likely not repel Beijing’s incursions into the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

Development: On 18 November, Taipei unveiled its newly renovated F-16 Viper fighter jets, converted from the F-16A/B models. Upgrades included new radar systems and mission computers with the purpose of advancing maneuverability and precision targeting. No reports indicated upgraded weapons systems. China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) historically deployed many J-16 fighter jets during incursions into the Taiwanese ADIZ, an airframe that utilizes similar weapons systems as the F-16V. On 6 October, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen implied that Taipei would only act in self-defense against Beijing.

Analysis: Taipei’s upgraded F-16V fighter jets will probably not deter PLAAF intrusions into the Taiwanese ADIZ. The upgraded jets may provide a marginal air-to-air combat advantage against the PLAAF’s J-16s, however the PLAAF’s fleet volume and highly similar weapons systems make it unlikely that this upgrade will provide a significantly increased threat to PLAAF aircraft. This renovation’s marginal strategic gain combined with Taipei’s strict stance on acting only in self-defense likely indicates that the PLAAF will probably continue incursions into the Taiwanese ADIZ unchecked.

[Brendan Martin]

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