The USA plans to provide Taiwan with some $80 million worth of military equipment, continuing a surge in defence spending by the government of the contested island territory.

The administration of President Joe Biden approved the arms package and transmitted the required notification to Congress on 29 August. The US Department of State, which reviews weapon exports, confirms the move to FlightGlobal.

Taiwan F-16 - Patrick Aventurier/SIPA/Shutterstock

Source: Patrick Aventurier/SIPA/Shutterstock

Taipei is in the midst of a defence spending spree, upgrading its existing fighter fleet, adding new jets and building up stocks of precision munitions

Notably, the deal marks the first sale to Taiwan of military hardware funded by Washington, under the USA’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. The FMF regime allows the US government itself to pay for defence articles and services supplied to foreign governments, either through loans or non-repayable grants.

FMF sales are only available to “a limited number of partners”, the state department tells FlightGlobal. The US government did not specify if the deal involves loans or grants.

By contrast, most American arms sales are conducted through the broader Foreign Military Sales (FMS) framework, under which the Pentagon acts as an intermediary between foreign governments and US-based defence contractors. Overseas customers, not the US government, pay for sales completed through the FMS process.

“The United States has provided FMS to Taiwan for decades,” the state department notes, downplaying the recent $80 million FMF deal. “FMF simply enables eligible partners to purchase US defence articles, services and training.”

US fiscal year 2024 budget documents indicate Congress approved more than $6 billion in FMF grant funding last fiscal year. The Biden administration requested an additional $71.5 million for the programme in FY2024, which would bring the total FMF budget for non-repayable grants to more than $6.1 billion.

Included in the list of recipient countries are the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and others across the Indo-Pacific region, Africa, the Middle East and South America.

The USA’s top diplomat, secretary of state Antony Blinken, describes his department’s budget proposal as a response to what he calls ”these unprecedented and extraordinary times”.

“The request includes mandatory and discretionary resources to out-compete the People’s Republic of China, strengthen the US role in the Indo-Pacific and advance American prosperity globally through new investments,” Blinken said in March, when the spending plan was submitted to lawmakers in Congress.

The state department does not specify what hardware will be included in the latest package. However, Taipei is in the process of upgrading its existing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, in addition to purchasing new examples of the latest F-16V Block 70 variant.

Taiwan has also in recent weeks been cleared to purchase advanced American-made sensors and long-range precision munitions for its jet fighters.

Despite the recent addition of Taiwan to the FMF partner list, Washington maintains it has not changed its stance on the status of the island, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province and claims as sovereign territory.

Under the so-called “One China Policy”, the USA formally recognises the government in Beijing as the only official Chinese state authority.

“We do not support Taiwan independence,” the state department tells FlightGlobal.

However, that stance has not stopped the USA from selling Taiwan sophisticated weaponry that officials in both Washington and Taipei hope will deter Beijing from attempting to forcibly reclaim the island situated just 160km (100 miles) from its shores.