The Ministry of National Defense should select the Taitung Air Force Base to house its planned F-16V tactical fighter wing, Institute of National Defense and Security Research senior analyst Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said yesterday.

Bases on the west coast are at capacity, while Shihzihshan (石子山) would provide cover for the base from the S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), as well as enable Taiwan’s fighters to respond to PLA air and naval deployments to the east, he said.

Although the air force has already decided that the planned purchase of F-16Vs would not lead to a reduction in its number of Dassault Mirage 2000s, such a reduction should be considered, as it would free up Hsinchu Air Base for F-16Vs, he said.

The Mirage 2000s are expensive to operate and spare parts are difficult to obtain, he said.

The PLA Air Force must cross the Miyako Strait or Bashi Channel to reach the Pacific Ocean and it has frequently held aircraft exercises near or around Taiwan, straining Taiwan’s air defenses, a defense official said on condition of anonymity.

Such actions showed the need for Taiwan to obtain more advanced tactical fighters, they said.

Another defense official who requested anonymity said the air force was in the process of evaluating personnel requirements for the proposed tactical fighter wing, but the location of its home base could not be disclosed now.

Deputy Minister of National Defense Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) in March told lawmakers that the F-16Vs the government wanted to purchase from the US were unlikely to be delivered before 2023.

Information published by the Air Force Command has said the PLA has turned its provocative air and sea drills near Taiwan into a routine practice — which shows it has the potential to attack any point in Taiwan.

Countering China’s growing strength in the air is the main reason for the air force to buy F-16Vs, the document said.

PLA aircraft have flown near Taiwan 55 times since 2015 by flying over the seas north of Taiwan, through the Bashi Channel, or along the north-south axis on the eastern edge of Taiwan’s airspace, it said.