An F-16V on a runway at an airbase in Taiwan. Photo: Twitter

Taiwan’s air force now expects to take delivery of its first batch of four revamped F-16s by the end of the year. These planes are built around the latest F-16V standard of the all-weather, multi-role supersonic fighter series made by Lockheed Martin.

Taiwan shelled out about NT$129.6 billion (US$4.21 billion) in January 2017 on the Phoenix Rising Project to get the Maryland-based defense juggernaut to upgrade its fleet of 143 F-16A/Bs to the latest configuration, which is dubbed V for “Viper.”

The Diplomat reported earlier this year that delays in software testing in the US had reduced the number of the initial upgrades from 10 to four. The first F-16 fighter jet in its V configuration for Taiwan’s army took flight in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2015.

The Taiwan Defense Ministry wants the first F-16V squadron to be combat-ready by no later than 2019 to form a bulwark against the armada of mainland Chinese bombers and spy planes that pierce the island’s airspace almost on a daily basis.

Taiwan’s remaining F-16s are to be upgraded in separate batches of 20 to 24 per year in the central city of Taichung, in joint collaboration with Taiwan’s state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp, Lockheed Martin’s local partner on the island.

Some of the aircraft will also be flown to Texas for retrofitting.

With a set of standards and specifications that can be retrofitted to suit and upgrade most in-service F-16s, the F-16V configuration features advanced avionics including an active electronically scanned array fire-control radar, new modular mission computer, electronic warfare suite, automated ground collision avoidance system as well as at least twice the situational awareness capability of the F-16A/B.

The upgraded fighters will also have a helmet-mounted cue system linked to the AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles, giving pilots the ability to “see and shoot,” according to available specifications of the latest variant.

The J-20 jet fighter of the Chinese air force. Photo: Reuters

The new radar will enable Taiwan’s F-16s to detect and engage stealth aircraft including the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s J-20 fighters, according to former Taiwanese defense minister Feng Shih-kuan.

Other advanced weapons the F-16V is rated to carry and are likely to be included in future US arms sales are the AGM-154C joint standoff weapon – or glide bomb – and the AGM-88B high-speed anti-radiation missile.

IHS Jane’s has also noted that based on a 75% operational rate as well as maintenance and/or other life cycle support, Taiwan’s air force would have 79 F-16A/Bs operational at any given time for the duration of the upgrade.

Taiwan initially wanted to procure 66 new F-16s, but then-US president Barack Obama decided against it in 2011 and offered instead an upgrade to avoid a major rift with mainland China. The current administration of President Donald Trump could revisit this decision.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

10 replies on “F-16V to beef up Taiwan’s air defense against China’s J-20”

Comments are closed.