US training ground for Taiwanese F-16 pilots to be relocated by 2021

10-May-2019 Intellasia | Focus Taiwan | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The current training ground for Taiwanese F-16 pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona is scheduled to be relocated to nearby Tucson International Airport by 2021, the nation’s air force said Thursday, without explaining why the date is two years later than that previously announced by the US.

The relocation of the 21st Fighter Squadron, where Taiwanese pilots are trained to fly F-16 jets, will begin in 2020, to provide space for new F-35 fighters, R.O.C. Air Force Chief of Staff Liu Jen-yuan told lawmakers in Taipei.

The transfer is scheduled to be completed in 2021 and is expected to cost Taiwan $8 million, Liu added, in response to a lawmaker’s question.

The US Air Force said late last year that the relocation from Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, a Phoenix suburb, to the Arizona Air National Guard facility at Tucson International Airport, was expected to be completed by December 31, 2019.

Taiwan’s F-16 pilots have been training at Luke air force base for more than two decades since the country bought its first batch of the fighter jets from the US in the 1990s.

However, until recently, the US rarely made public such training programmes, though it did so after announcing last month a new batch of arms sales to Taiwan, the third since President Donald Trump assumed office in January 2017.

The $500 million package is meant for “the continuation of a pilot training programme and maintenance/logistics support for F-16 aircraft currently at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona,” according to a statement released by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

A source familiar with national security matters previously told CNA that the US administration’s public announcement that Taiwanese military pilots are being trained in the US is a departure from past practice.

Given that the US usually only trains the standing forces of major allies like NATO members, its decision to make public the training of Taiwan fighter pilots signals its close military ties with Taiwan, the source said.


Category: Taiwan

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