Taiwan may no longer want the F-16C/D it had earlier requested to buy from the United States even if it is granted permission. Taiwan has been seeking 66 F-16 since 2007, but the US has been reluctant to agree to the sale.
Taiwan now wants more advanced fighter aircraft than the F-16, which is probably not such a bad idea considering how the situation has changed in recent years.
China has added hundreds of modern fighter aircraft to its inventory with both the J-11B and J-10A having entered full production. It has begun flight-testing of two fifth-generation aircraft in the J-20 and J-31.
The J-20 may enter service before the end of the decade and against this backdrop, Taiwan may find it hard to compete against China with the acquisition of the F-16C/D.
For a long time, Taiwan held the edge against China in the air with one of the most potent air forces in the world. During the early nineties, it acquired 150 American F-16 and 60 French Mirage 2000-5. It also has 126 F-CK-1 Ching-kuo and 40 F-5 fighters.
During the nineties, it even had the second largest amount of fighters that could fire active radar guided medium-range missiles after it acquired the F-16 with the AMRAAM and Mirage 2000-5 with the Mica.
However, Taiwan has not bought any new fighters since and China has made rapid progress in the years after. The balance of power is rapidly shifting in China's favor.
The old F-5 will have to be retired within 5 years and the 56 remaining Mirage 2000-5 within 5 to 10 years. The new fighter aircraft that Taiwan is seeking will thus not only have to fill a qualitative gap but a quantitative gap as well.
Although the US has not agreed to any new fighters, it has agreed in 2011 to upgrade 145 F-16A/B as part of a $5.85 billion deal. The upgrades include new weapons and a Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
Once these upgrades are done, they will effectively be the equal of the F-16C/D and in some ways, even surpass most of the F-16C/D currently in service around the world.