First F-16V Developed for Taiwan Requirement Takes Flight

 - October 23, 2015, 10:34 AM
Lockheed Martin released this photo of the maiden flight of the F-16V configuration of the fighter. (Photo: Lockheed Martin/Randy Crites)

Lockheed Martin announced that it completed the first flight of the F-16V configuration it is developing for Taiwan’s air force on October 16. The flight from Fort Worth, Texas, marked the first time an F-16 has flown with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire-control radar, the manufacturer said. The competing Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar has also flown on the F-16.

In addition to the Northrop Grumman AESA radar, the Viper-model fighter comes with a new Elbit Systems of America 6-by-8 center pedestal display (CPD) that replaces electro-mechanical instruments in the cockpit. Other features include an upgraded mission computer, a high-capacity Ethernet data bus, and other mission systems enhancements, according to Lockheed Martin.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.85 billion contract in late 2012 to begin the AESA retrofit and upgrade of 145 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters operated by the Republic of China air force. Asked for an update on the program, the manufacturer said it is “not at liberty to provide any updates about the Taiwan F-16 program at this time.”

In September, the USAF said its 416th flight-test squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., would begin flying two AESA-equipped fighters that month through August 2016 as part of the F-16 Radar Modernization Program (RMP). It described the latter program as a risk-mitigation effort “to deliver fully developed AESA radars for integration on foreign military sales and U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft.” Although the U.S. has not approved equipping its own fleet, “the RMP flight-test efforts here will directly affect the AESA radar development for the F-16 Phoenix Rising Project for Taiwan, slated to begin at the end of 2015,” the service said.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin said that it was taking part in discussions with the U.S. and Korean governments to upgrade South Korea’s KF-16C/D Block 52 fighters, a program originally awarded to BAE Systems. The U.S. State Department approved the possible foreign military sale in July, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification to Congress. The notification valued the program at $2.5 billion for 134 aircraft.

In its reply to AIN, Lockheed Martin also provided no new information on the Korean program. “Customer interest in the F-16V remains strong and we expect interest to grow now that we have entered the flight-test phase of the program,” the manufacturer said. “As an option for both new production F-16s and F-16 upgrades, the F-16V offers advanced combat capabilities to both existing and potential new F-16 customers.”