The media reports that Taiwan is considering purchasing more F-16s to augment its fighter force. Jon Lin over at Taiwan focus points out that the number appears to fit the number of archaic F-5 fighters that will be retired over the same time frame as the purchase.

The acquisition of the advanced model F-16C/D Block 52 fighter jets would be discussed during talks in Washington on May 25-29 between the two countries, the US-based weekly Defense News quoted a US defense source as reporting.

Taiwan’s air force consists of 146 less sophisticated F-16A/B fighters, 128 locally produced Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), 56 French-made Mirage 2000-5s and 60 or so aging F-5 Tigers.

“Taiwan needs to modernize its fleet to counter the advanced fighters the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is fielding now,” the source said.

“Even if Taiwan decides to purchase the aircraft this year, Taiwan won’t see the aircraft until 2011-2012 due to paperwork and production timeline. By that time, the IDFs will be close to 20 years old and the F-16A/Bs will be over 15 years old.”

Regrettably the US side is making the purchase, something Taiwan desperately needs, contingent on the current arms package.

But a source at F-16 maker Lockheed Martin said formal progress toward a Taiwanese purchase of the fighters would likely have to wait until Taipei decides on a weapons package that the United States proposed for sale in 2001.

Taiwan’s opposition parties have blocked the 10-billion-dollar arms purchase bill even though the ruling party has scaled it down from 19 billion dollars.

The bill, proposed by the defense ministry, has yet to win approval by the procedure committee of the opposition-controlled parliament, a necessary step before it can be heard in the full house.

The bill calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines, 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft, and six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems.