The US Department of Defense has approved a possible deal for the continuation of a training and support programme for the pilots of Taiwanese Lockheed Martin F-16s at Luke AFB, Arizona.

If accepted by Taipei, the possible $500 million package includes flight training, exercise participation, and other services and equipment consistent with the Luke contingent.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” says a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification.

“This programme enables the recipient to develop mission ready and experienced pilots through (continental USA) training. The training provides a "capstone" course that takes experienced pilots and significantly improves their tactical proficiency. Training is a key component of combat effectiveness.”

The announcement follows recent television footage from Taiwan apparently showing president Tsai Ing-Wen examining the cockpit of an upgraded F-16V. Taipei is in the process of upgrading 113 F-16 A/Bs to the F-16V standard with a new active electronically scanned array radar, avionics, and centre pedestal.

Taipei has recently increased efforts to obtain new F-16Vs from the United States. The sale is apparently supported by the Trump administration, although there has been no formal pronouncement.

Taipei had a long-standing request for 66 F-16 C/Ds in the 2000s, but the Obama administration ultimately let this fall through. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province that needs to be reunited with the Mainland.