The Obama Administration has acquired an unfortunate reputation for neglecting U.S. allies and not standing up to troublemakers. This year the administration will have a number of chances to improve its image and at the same time enhance U.S. relations with friends and allies. How, you ask? The answer is by actively supporting the sale of U.S. fighter aircraft to India, Japan and Taiwan.
Foreign military sales carry with them a number of benefits to both the U.S. and the recipient country. The most obvious is the enhancement they provide to national and regional security. When friends and allies can defend their airspace deterrence is enhanced and the chance of aggression thereby reduced. Such sales carry important symbolic and, hence, political value, as well. In addition, a web of relationships is created when foreign countries acquire U.S. military hardware. The U.S. military has an increased opportunity to share tactics, training techniques and even spare parts with countries operating the same equipment. Then there are the dollars earned and the jobs created by such sales.
India has a competition underway to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). U.S. candidates for this sale are the Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Boeing F/A-18E/F. Once solely the playing field for Soviet and European defense companies, U.S. aircraft companies have already made major inroads into the Indian defense market with sales of the C-130J, P-8 Poseidon and C-17. Winning the MMRCA competition would mark a new level of Indian-American defense collaboration. The U.S. is also building other systems in which the Indian military could have an interest such as the Stryker wheeled combat system and the Littoral Combat Ship.
Japan is looking for a replacement for its aging fleet of U.S.-made F-4 Phantom jets. The mostly likely choice is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. With China’s unveiling of its new advanced J-20 attack aircraft, Japan’s requirement for improved air defenses is obvious. The F-35 is currently the centerpiece of an international partner program involving eight close allies that includes collaborative development, production and testing of the aircraft. Adding Japan to the F-35 “team” makes sense from the perspective of strengthening Japan’s security, alliance relationships and regional stability.
Finally, there is Taiwan, which recently made a formal request to be allowed to purchase F-16s. China continues an unrelenting military buildup focused first on Taiwan but also on U.S. military forces in the Pacific region. Even as it pursues improved relations with the mainland, Taiwan needs an adequate defense capability to deter the prospects of intimidation by Beijing. Taiwan’s President Ma recently made the point that Taiwan “is a sovereign state — while we negotiate with the mainland, we hope to carry out such talks with sufficient self-defense capabilities and not negotiate out of fear.” Hence the need for additional later model F-16s and upgrades to Taiwan’s current fleet of older F-16s. The Obama Administration must act on this request.
The security situation in the Asia-Pacific region is evolving rapidly. As China’s military modernization continues and North Korea maintains its belligerent posture it is ever more important that U.S. friends and allies have the means to defend themselves and secure regional stability. Selling our friends and allies U.S. military aircraft is an important means of ensuring that this region’s future is a peaceful one.
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