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China Is Freaking Out: There Could Be a Way for Taiwan to Get the F-35

Taiwanese defense industry leaders hope Taipei’s development of an indigenous Advanced Defense Fighter might open the possibility that the island could purchase the F-35. 

F-35 JDF. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.
F-35 JDF. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Taiwanese defense industry leaders hope Taipei’s development of an indigenous Advanced Defense Fighter might open the possibility that the island could purchase the F-35. 

Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) President Ma Wan-june argues that improving Taiwan’s weapons systems development and construction abilities is crucial for the island’s defense and its economy. 

AIDC Chairman Hu Kai-hung told the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Cooperation Forum in Taipei in May that he hoped the U.S. would join it in developing an aircraft akin to South Korea’s next-generation KAI KF-21 Borame fighter. That aircraft was designed and built as a joint venture between South Korea and Indonesia. 

Taiwan Looks to Develop Its Own Stealth Fighter

Ma told a Taiwanese newspaper that Taiwan built its Indigenous Defense Fighter in the 1980s with 55% locally produced parts, and the new Brave Eagle Advanced Trainer Jet with 75% locally produced parts. He argues that Taiwan could produce its own stealth jet using 95% domestic parts. 

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense put out a request for proposal in 2020 to the island’s industries for a next-generation aircraft that combines stealth with high speed. Consequently, Taiwan’s “Angel Project” transitioned from technological development toward developing a prototype Taiwanese stealth aircraft.

“The completion date has been pushed back from 2022 to 2024. After the prototype design is finalized, six aircraft will be produced in 2026 instead of nine aircraft in 2029 for various tests and evaluations,” Joseph Chacko, publisher of the Frontier India blog, wrote. “According to reports, the Angel Project team extensively referenced the configurations of stealth fighters from various nations. In response to the Air Force’s demand for stealth and high thrust, it extensively referenced the configuration of the F-35 fighter aircraft. The final design of the prototype is 90% comparable to that of the South Korean KF-X fighter.”

National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology President Chang Chung-cheng told Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan that his state-owned enterprise is making progress in developing the aircraft, adding that progress is ahead of schedule.

U.S. Blocks F-35 Sale

The U.S. denied Taiwan the ability to buy the jets in May, without giving a reason. The likely concern is the pervasiveness of Chinese spies on the island who would be able to learn its secrets. Taiwan in particular has an interest in the F-35B variant, due to its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.

Such a capability would allow the Taiwanese to operate stealth jets from rough locations and would make it harder for China’s air force to keep them from operating during an all-out invasion. They also would not need to operate from airfields. Sweden developed a strategy during the Cold War of operating its jets from highways where they could take off, land, and rearm in the event of a Soviet invasion and the destruction of its airfields. 

Taiwan’s 2024 defense budget will increase 3.5% year-on-year to a record $18.8 billion. 

But Taiwan will have to settle in the meantime for a potential delivery of 66 F-16Vs.

John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.

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Written By

John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.

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