Amid growing threats from China, the US is aggressively equipping its neighbors like Taiwan, Japan and India with the latest, state of art fighters and dangerously encircling the communist nation, experts talking to the EurAsian Times noted.
In view of the growing belligerence by China that has been conducting invasion drills every now and then, Taiwan is planning to buy additional US-made F-16 fighter jets and has earmarked $1.44B for this acquisition.
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In addition to this, the US recently exhibited its prized possession, the F-22 Raptor, at the Singapore Airshow although the stealth fighter jet is not for sale. All this indicates Washington’s bid to showcase its fighter jets equipped with advanced technology in the Asian market and send a clear message to China.
It’s not just Taiwan, major Asian powers such as Japan and India are also acquiring American military aircraft in big numbers to counter an expansionist China.
Taiwan – Biggest Fleet Of F-16 Jets In Asia
Taiwan’s never-ending confrontation with China has increased the demand for American weapons, including fighter jets, in the Indo-Pacific region. The US has thrown its support behind the self-governing island, which China claims as its territory.
Washington, which does not officially recognize the island’s sovereignty, has been strongly opposing the alleged Chinese military aggression in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea on the pretext of promoting freedom of navigation.
Under provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, the US is required to provide weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan. Since 2010, Washington has announced more than $23 billion in arms sales to Taiwan including the most advanced F-16s.
The US had in 2019 approved the sale of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 fighter jets to Taipei for an estimated $8 billion. With this, the number of Taiwan’s ‘Fighting Flacons’ will increase to 200, the largest fleet o F-16 fighter jets in Asia.
Developed by American aerospace giants General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, the fast and agile fourth-generation F-16 combat-proven multi-role fighter jets are considered the most successful cost-effective fighters in the world. There are approximately 3,000 such fighters operational in around 25 countries, according to an earlier report by The EurAsian Times.
The Biden administration also approved a potential $750 million deal earlier this month, which includes the sale of 40 new M109 self-propelled howitzers and almost 1,700 kits to convert projectiles into more precise GPS-guided munitions, according to Bloomberg.
Japan – Biggest Fleet Of F-35s
Lockheed secured a mega-deal to sell its most advanced F-35 stealth jets to Japan. Last year, the United States approved a planned purchase of 105 F-35 joint strike fighters, drawing Japan one step closer to be the biggest foreign customer of the fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.
The approved package includes 63 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft and 42 F-35 short takeoff and landing variants.
Japan will be the second-largest operator of the joint strike fighter after the United States and just ahead of the UK. Soon, Japan will become the fourth largest user of the F-35B variant, capable of short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL). The US Marine Corps, the UK Royal Air Force, and the Italian Navy currently use the F-35B.
Japan and China have contested claims over a group of uninhabited Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) islands that fall in the East China Sea. Tokyo has also indicated its military support for Taiwan in the event of a full-scale conflict with China.
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Nitin J Ticku a strategic analyst and a senior journalist with the EurAsian Times states that the biggest fleet of F-16 and F-35 stealth jets outside the US would be based in Asia. The US’ most advanced F-22 Raptors have also been deployed in Asia at the US military base in Guam.
This clearly indicates that after the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region could be the hub of next global confrontation.
India’s P-8I Aircraft – Biggest Fleet After The US
India, another major power in Asia, is also on a weapons-buying spree in view of a protracted border conflict with China.
New Delhi has signed several defense deals with Washington in the past few years, including an agreement for 22 AH-64E Apache helicopters and 17 CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters — both manufactured by the defense and aerospace giant Boeing.
India is also increasing its fleet of Boeing P-8I Neptune maritime multi-mission aircraft (MMA). The P-8I is the Indian-specific variant of the P-8A Poseidon flown by the US Navy and international customers.
The P-8I differs slightly from the P-8A in that it is equipped with an aft-facing radar (that operates independently of the forward-facing Raytheon AN/APY-10 surface search sensor), providing full-hemisphere coverage and an aerial target-tracking capability.
The Indian Navy currently has 10 P-8I spy planes, including the two that were delivered last year as part of its additional order for four aircraft which it had placed in 2016.
The Indian Navy-operated aircraft was also deployed in Ladakh as a surveillance platform during border tensions with China. The move was intended at building synergy between the three services of Indian armed forces while keeping a hawk-eye on China.
“This proposed sale of an additional six P-8I aircraft will allow the Indian Navy to expand its maritime surveillance aircraft capability for the next 30 years,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said at the time of the approval in April.
The Indian Navy is expected to operate the biggest fleet of submarine-hunting P-8 aircraft outside the United States.
Recently, the Indian Navy received two of the 24 MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine helicopters it ordered. The first batch is expected to land in the country next year. In 2018, the Navy got approval to pursue the acquisition of 24 Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters. The contract was finally sealed in February 2020, during President Trump’s visit to India.
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The $2.6 billion deal includes helicopters, communication systems, weapons systems, eight anti-surface Hellfire missiles, which can be used to hit ships, MK 54 lightweight torpedoes, 50 cannons, and precision rocket systems.
Ticku says – the US defense industry has got a massive boost due to the perceived threat of China. Earlier, it was the USSR, later it was the threat of terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere, then for Saudi’s, UAE and Israel it was the Iranian threat and now the China threat factor is driving the arms sales in Asia.
- Aakash Srivastava is a defense and aerospace enthusiast who was associated with leading Indian media organizations such as CNN-News18, The Statesman, Republic TV, NEWSX / The Sunday Guardian in the past. He is a contributor to the Indian Aerospace and Defence (IA&D) magazine.
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