According to a report in The EurAsian Times, the contract released by the US Department of Defence on August 14, 2020, contract does not mention the country where the sales of the latest F-16V jets are aimed at, experts are sure that it is directed towards Taiwan, following the deal to procure 66 such fighters, which was given a green signal by the Trump administration last year.
The ten-year, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ), fixed-price-incentive contract for new production of F-16 Foreign Military Sale (FMS) aircraft involves 100 per cent FMS to FMS partner nations. The contract is expected to meet its objectives till December 31, 2026, the report said.
The initial delivery order is for 90 aircraft, out of which 66 are said to be for Taiwan while Morocco is also said to be a customer for 24 new jets. As per the report, the deal of 66 F-16s to Taiwan was set to be completed and delivered in stages till 2026, which coincides with the dates mentioned in the DoD contract.
This is likely to ruffle feathers in Beijing as the development comes amid worsening tensions between the US and China over a range of issues including Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Azar's visit was the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979, when Washington switched its official recognition to Beijing and established formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
The contract awarded to Lockheed Martin could probably allow Taiwan to procure additional latest F-16 Viper jets under this continuous FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process instead of waiting to seek diplomatic permission again and again from maybe a less friendly Washington government, The EurAsian Times report said.
The purchase marks the first time since 1992 that the jets have been sold to the island nation. China claims Taiwan as its part and has not renounced the use of force against the island nation.
Taiwan was also one of the first nations to support India after clashes emerged in Galwan valley in Ladakh, which resulted in 20 Indian and unspecified number of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops killed, the report said.
Earlier this month even as Azar was in Taiwan on a visit, Beijing deployed fighter jets that briefly crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait on Monday, South China Morning Post reported citing Taiwan's Defence Ministry.
According to the report, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it had tracked the PLA fighters with its land-based anti-aircraft missiles and had "strongly driven them out". (ANI)