Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Taiwan Confident of Acquiring F-35B Stealth Jets from the US to Counter China

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(Photo : USMC) An F-35B, the SVTOL variant Taiwan wants.

The Republic of China (Taiwan) in July will seek United States approval to buy an undetermined number of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth jets in an effort to gain air superiority over the numerically superior People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and its fourth generation jet fighters.

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Taiwan appears confident the U.S. will accede to its request on account of the apparently warm relationship between U.S. president Donald Trump and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. China, however, will do all it can to sabotage the deal.

"We will submit our request to the U.S. to purchase jets in July," said Wang Ting-yu, head of the Taiwanese legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee.

"We hope the U.S. understands our needs. Our fighter jets really are too old."

Taiwan specifically wants to purchase the F-35B, the version flown only by the U.S. Marine Corps. The F-35B is notable for its short/vertical take-off and landing (SVTOL) ability and its capability to land practically anywhere there's a flat land surface.

Taiwan will include an offer to buy the fifth generation F-35B -- considered the best stealth jet in the world and superior to China's "stealth" fighters -- in the first weapons purchase it will submit to the Trump administration.

"We hope we can get F-35s," said Wang. "We have been waiting for updated F-16s for too long. Their time has gone. If we buy them now, in 10 years' time they'll be no use."

When it submits its request to buy the F-35Bs, Taiwan will drop a long-standing request for more advanced F-16s to replace its aging fleet, according to Wang.

No U.S. president has sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan since George H.W. Bush in 1992 so as not to irritate China. Former president Barack Obama in 2011 agreed upgrade the Republic of China Air Force's fleet of 140 General Dynamics F-16s Fighting Falcons, a decision that worsened relations with Beijing. The upgrade never occurred.

This anti-Taiwan situation seems to have changed with the ascension of Trump to the U.S. presidency and his phone call to President Tsai in December 2016 before Trump was sworn in as U.S. President.

The F-35s will be deployed by the Republic of China Air Force to support the Republic of China Army and the Republic of China Navy. Taiwan believes the F-35B, the STOVL variant, is necessary for rapid response to threats from the People's Liberation Army.

The stealth fighters will be vital in adding more muscle to Taiwan's strategy of "double-level deterrence," which the defense ministry defines as a strategy of not just defense, but of rapid response to prevent an invasion.

The defense ministry said China has not given up on its plans to invade Taiwan. 

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