The first F-16V to be locally modified by Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and Lockheed Martin in Taichung has been delivered. The jet, single-seater serial 6626, flew to Chiayi Air Force Base on the afternoon of October 19 and was then handed over to the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF).
In a bid to enhance its air defence capabilities, from 2006 Taiwan submitted several requests to acquire 66 F-16C/D Block 52s from the US, but without success. Instead, President Barack Obama’s administration approved an upgrade programme for Taiwan’s existing F-16A/B fleet, announced in September 2011, and known locally as Phoenix Rising.
In response, Taiwan issued a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) request which included 176 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, 176 AN/ALQ-213 electronic warfare management systems and either new AN/ALQ-211 or AN/ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pods or upgrade of 82 existing ALQ-184 ECM pods, all with digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) technology.
The FMS request also included 128 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCSs) and night-vision goggles, 26 new AN/AAQ-33 Sniper or AN/AAQ-28 Litening targeting systems, upgrades for 28 Sharpshooter infrared targeting pods and integration of new weapons – AIM-9X Sidewinders, GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits and GBU-24 Paveway III laser-guided bombs.
The complete package – including avionics upgrades, system integration, training and logistics support – had a total value of $5.3bn. A letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to upgrade Taiwan’s remaining 145 F-16A/Bs (from the original 150 aircraft acquired) was signed by both countries in July 2012.
The US government selected Lockheed Martin to carry out the Taiwanese F-16 upgrade based on the F-16V variant, the core of which is an advanced AESA radar combined with an Elbit Systems multifunctional high-resolution Center Pedestal Display (CPD).
In July 2013 Lockheed Martin selected the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as the F-16V AESA radar. Taiwanese F-16s were also to be equipped with advanced avionics including a Link 16-compatible tactical data link terminal, modernised Modular Mission Computer (MMC), embedded GPS/INS for precision navigation and a ground collision avoidance system (GCAS).
Lockheed Martin upgraded two F-16s (an F-16A and an F-16B) in the US to serve as prototypes, and the remainder are being retrofitted by AIDC in Taiwan. On January 16 last year the first four Taiwanese F-16s to be upgraded locally flew to AIDC in Taichung. Owing to delays in software testing in the US, they were the only F-16s retrofitted in 2017, instead of a planned ten.
Under the deal, Lockheed Martin provides assistance and oversees the whole upgrade process, with AIDC completing the upgrade of the first four jets by last December.
From this year, AIDC will upgrade 24 F-16s annually until the conclusion of the Phoenix Rising project in 2023, when the last of 141 F-16Vs will be redelivered – a quantity reduced by attrition.
The ROCAF is the world’s first F-16V operator, and most of the upgraded F-16s will equip the 4th TFW at Chiayi AFB and the Hualien-based 5th TFW.
Taxi tests of a first locally upgraded jet began in June this year and a first flight test was carried out at the end of August. Peter Ho
See the September issue of AFM for the first part of our Force Report on the ROCAF, including analysis of the F-16V upgrade.