Taiwan Receives First F-16V Upgrade

 - October 23, 2018, 5:06 AM
The first F-16V fo Taiwan is seen on the runway at Chiayi. (photo: courtesy of Formosa Military Image Press)

The Taiwanese Air Force, or the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), has taken delivery of its first upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16V Fighting Falcon. The first aircraft, serial 6626, was spotted landing at Chiayi airbase on October 19. The aircraft sports a new coat of paint, but no squadron markings were worn on the tail.

The first four F-16A/B Block 20s began refurbishment at the state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) facility in Taichung in January 2017, and 6626 entered flight test in August this year, flown by Lockheed Martin test pilots.  

Under Project Rising Phoenix the island state is upgrading 144 F-16A/Bs with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, new mission computer, embedded inertial navigation system/global positioning system, and the Terma ALQ-213(V) electronic warfare management units. The upgraded jets will also be certified for the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile, AGM-154 joint standoff weapons, and the AGM-88B anti-radiation missile.

Modifications will proceed at a rate of 20 to 23 aircraft annually and the program is expected to be completed by no later than 2023. The government also increased the budget for the program from NT$129.6 billion ($4.2 billion) to NT$140.2 billion ($4.5 billion) in September, factoring in the acquisition of new missiles and a ground proximity warning system.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force has also contracted Lockheed Martin to upgrade three squadrons of F-16C/D/D+ Block 52 to F-16V standards. The Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) program began in 2016, and it is likely that the first platform will be rolled out soon with testing and certification of the prototype aircraft averaging around two years.

Greece is the latest air arm to commence its own F-16 MLU program, which began in mid-September. The Hellenic Air Force will upgrade 85 F-16 C/D Block 52+s for around €1.1 billion ($1.33 billion) and has struck a deal with the United States to pay €110 million annually over a decade to assist the debt-ridden country.