In the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story,” 8-year old Ralphie dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun from Santa. He tries a variety of clever tricks to get his parents to give him one, but continually runs into the same disapproving answer from all: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
This kid never gets the message, which is no different for the Taiwan Air Force. The most recent example was the recent appearance of a collectable patch appearing with the words: “F-35 Lightning II for ROCAF [Republic of China Air Force]” and an image of the fighter aircraft and the ROC flag waving behind it.
The problem? The US never even accepted Taiwan’s letter of request for price and availability for 66 F-16C/D fighters. An effort to get the US to release the F-16s dates back to 2006, without success.
Taiwan tried everything to convince the US government to release the F-16, including playing the “China Threat” card, emphasizing the sale would create jobs in US factories, suggesting the F-16C/D was a “follow-on” sale of the original 150 F-16A/Bs sold to Taiwan in the early 1990s, and pointing out that Taiwan’s air power capabilities would be shrinking as the remaining Mirage 2000 fighters and aging F-5 Tiger fighters would soon retire without replacements.
Like Ralphie, nothing worked. Then the Taiwan Air Force did something strange. It dropped the idea of buying the F-16C/Ds and instead began pushing for the release of the F-35.
Many US and Taiwan defense analysts thought the move was insane and often asked, ‘If the US will not release F-16s, due to Chinese pressure, why in the world would they sale the F-35?’