MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan has taken delivery of its first locally upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet, according to reports in local media.
The single-seat aircraft is the first of four Taiwanese Air Force F-16A/B fighters currently being upgraded by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) to the F-16V Block 70 standard. The jet was handed over to the Air Force on Friday.
The remaining three aircraft are undergoing flight testing at AIDC and are scheduled to be delivered by the end of this year, according to local media reports quoting company officials. The four aircraft were inducted into the AIDC facility at Taichung for upgrades almost two years ago, with sources in Taiwan telling Defense News that unspecified software issues have delayed the upgrade program.
However, the delivery of the first aircraft to the Air Force’s 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Chiayi will pave the way for Taiwan’s remaining 141 F-16s to be upgraded, with plans for AIDC to upgrade 24 aircraft each year under the $5.3 billion Phoenix Rising program. Two other Taiwanese jets have previously been upgraded by Lockheed Martin in the United States.
The F-16V upgrade sees the installation of the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, an active electronically scanned radar, to replace the older mechanically scanned set; new mission computers; improvements to the aircraft’s electronic warfare suite and avionics; and the integration of new precision-guided weapons.
In addition to Taiwan, regional F-16 operators Singapore and South Korea are upgrading their respective 60 and 134 aircraft to the F-16V standard, along with Bahrain and Greece. Slovakia is also acquiring 14 new-build F-16Vs from Lockheed.
Taiwan is also planning to develop an indigenous sustainment facility to conduct depot-level maintenance and repairs for its F-16 fleet, with the Taipei Times reporting that Taiwan and the U.S. have agreed to prioritize the development of the facility that will allow the island to become self-sufficient in meeting the F-16V fleet’s maintenance needs, as opposed to shipping the jets to the U.S. for major repairs.
The newspaper added that the Taiwanese government plans to allocate $50 million in industrial credit from the United States for its use, with another $450 million in credit reserved for construction planning and preparation. The amount will come from the $800 million industrial cooperation credit agreed upon as part of the Taiwanese F-16 upgrade program.
Correction: the initial version of this story said Slovakia plans to buy 72 F-16V models. The correct figure is 14.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.