Taiwan has upgraded 42 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters to the F-16V Block 70/72 standard. In the first tranche of its F-16V Block 70/72 modernisation effort, the first 42 of its 142 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to the latest standard under the Phoenix Rising programme.
Announced by national media on 17 March, this milestone paves the way for the configuration to enter service with the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF), which plans to allocate these first aircraft to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Chiayi in southwest Taiwan.
RoCAF chief, Major General Huang Chih-wei, was quoted as saying that a formal handover and acceptance ceremony for the newly upgraded aircraft will be held towards the end of March.
Overall, 141 will be upgraded, and a formal handover to president Tsai Ing-Wen will be conducted at the end of March, according to a report by Taiwan’s official news agency.
The work is being undertaken by local airframer AIDC with support from Lockheed. Taipei hopes to complete the upgrade work by 2023 – a year later than originally planned.
The upgrade affects the mission computer, airframe, cockpit instruments, and electronic warfare system. The jets will also receive an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in the form of Northrop Grumman’s (APG-83) Scalable Agile Beam Radar.
The overall cost of the upgrade programme is pegged at NT$110 billion ($3.7 billion).
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In addition, Taiwan has orders for 66 new F-16Vs stemming from a 2019 deal with the US government via the Foreign Military Sales process. Deliveries for this order are expected to run from 2023-2026.
First unveiled at the Singapore Airshow in 2012, the F-16V features the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar (derived from the F-16E/F Block 60 AN/APG-80 and also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar: SABR), a new Raytheon mission computer, the Link 16 datalink, modern cockpit displays, an enhanced electronic warfare system, and a ground collision avoidance system.
News of the completion of the first tranche of F-16V upgrades comes two-and-a-half years after the first aircraft was delivered back to the RoCAF by Lockheed Martin’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) partners in October 2018. Work on the project began in January 2017, with the first four aircraft being inducted into the upgrade programme at AIDC’s Taichung facility in the northwest of Taiwan.