American lawmakers have expressed concern that much-awaited deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan could face further delays due to current geopolitical concerns.
Two dozen Republican representatives wrote a letter to US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, pointing out the country’s apparent difficulties in completing the production and transfer of the Fighting Falcons.
While they acknowledged US President Joe Biden’s efforts to speed up deliveries, they said concerns have compounded now that Washington also has military commitments to Ukraine and Israel.
US Representative Rob Wittman, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stressed the importance of prioritizing promises to Taipei as security concerns increase in the island nation.
“We cannot afford to over-promise and under-deliver to our closest friends,” he said.
The lawmakers are expecting a report from Kendall by December 18 to explain the status of the Taiwanese F-16 program.
In 2019, the US State Department approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighter jets and related support equipment to Taiwan for $8 billion.
Initial deliveries were originally scheduled earlier this year, but production issues have halted the transfer until the third quarter of 2024.
Despite technical and supply chain challenges, the self-ruled island expects all aircraft under order will arrive as scheduled in 2026.
However, US lawmakers admitted to seeing a “high risk” of further delays to the troubled program.
They have estimated the deliveries will be completed by 2027.
“Given the defense department’s historical delays in executing these foreign military sales, the complexity of the F-16’s software integration, and logistical delivery challenges, we still assess the execution of these cases to be high-risk,” Wittman told Bloomberg.