The possibility of Taiwan acquiring the F-35 fighter jet has generated considerable debate. This potential step, which still needs the approval of the US Congress, raises questions about its impact on existing geopolitical and strategic tensions.
F-35: The 5th generation fighter-bomber that seduces allies
The F-35, a 5th-generation fighter jet, has been quickly adopted by several key US allies. These include Poland, Germany, Finland and Switzerland, showing their growing importance in the global military sphere.
This aircraft could provide Taiwan with a powerful means of countering any potential threat. The F-35s, along with other 5th-generation aircraft, could be a key element in Taiwan’s security strategy while also strengthening deterrence in the Pacific region.
Taiwan has expressed interest in acquiring the F-35, as cited in a 2018 The Diplomat article. This acquisition could put the island in the same league as Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea, all of which are F-35 operators.
The Chinese naval fleet: a growing challenge
The accelerated expansion of the Chinese navy, with new aircraft carriers, high-tech destroyers and submarines, adds a new dimension to the military balance in the region. As the threat to Taiwan increases, these new assets could be vulnerable to a high-tech air platform like the F-35.
While boasting a formidable navy, China has not demonstrated the ability to build a 5th generation air presence of the magnitude necessary to rival the United States and its allies.
China’s advances in stealth aircraft, such as the J-31 and J-20, add an additional layer of complexity to the strategic landscape. However, its ability to provide 5th-generation air support in an eventual assault on Taiwan is debatable.
Air superiority: The ace up the sleeve
In a confrontation with China, the ability of the United States and its allies to deploy 5th-generation aircraft could tip the scales in their favor. This air superiority could neutralize any attempt by China to establish an effective air presence.
The deployment of F-35s by the United States and its Southeast Asian allies reinforces its presence in the Pacific. The US Navy has been strengthening its presence in the area as part of the Pacific Pivot strategy, and Japan has recently announced a massive purchase of F-35s.
To further bolster its air supremacy, the current US fleet of amphibious assault ships can carry up to 13 F-35Bs, adding another layer of deterrence against any attempted aggression by China.
Politics and security: The delicate balance of the sale of F-35 to Taiwan
The deployment of F-35s in Taiwan, while logical from a strategic perspective, could be seen as provocative. The Pentagon may be concerned about the risk of escalating tensions, as well as the possibility of confidential information about the F-35s being released.
Current arms sales to Taiwan, which include missiles, helicopters and Abrams tanks, contrast with the cautious stance on the F-35. The Abrams tanks, in particular, could be valuable in resisting a Chinese amphibious landing.
Deploying the F-35 to Taiwan, despite the potential complications, could be a prudent step. The prospect of engaging Taiwanese F-35s could deter Chinese forces from any aggression against the island.
The F-35 is a 5th generation fighter aircraft that has been rapidly adopted by several key US allies including Poland, Germany, Finland and Switzerland, demonstrating its growing importance in the global military arena.
The F-35 could provide Taiwan with a powerful means of countering any potential threat, being a key element in its security strategy. This acquisition could put Taiwan in the same league as Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea, all F-35 operators.
Despite China’s advances in stealth aircraft, such as the J-31 and J-20, it has not demonstrated the ability to generate a 5th generation air presence on the scale needed to rival the United States and its allies.
In a confrontation with China, the ability of the United States and its allies to deploy 5th-generation aircraft such as the F-35 could tip the scales in their favor. This air superiority could neutralize any attempt by China to establish an effective air presence.
While strategically logical, the deployment of F-35s in Taiwan could be seen as provocative and potentially escalate tensions. However, the prospect of engaging Taiwanese F-35s could deter Chinese forces from any aggression against the island.