MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan is ready to deploy its upgraded Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets for operational missions, with the program to upgrade the entire fleet on track for completion by 2023, according to the Air Force chief of staff.

Lt. Gen. Huang Chih-Wei was addressing lawmakers at Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, when he confirmed that 42 F-16s are upgraded to the F-16V standard. A formal handover ceremony is scheduled for later this month, with President Tsai Ing-wen in attendance.

The upgraded jets, which will be fitted with an active electronically scanned array radar, will go to the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Chiayi on Taiwan’s west coast, where the aircraft will become the Air Force’s most capable combat aircraft.

The upgrade program will see a total of 141 F-16s refurbished by Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation, or AIDC, with support from Lockheed Martin

The upgraded F-16s are equipped with Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-83 scalable agile beam radar, a new mission computer and upgraded electronic warfare equipment. Taiwan originally requested upgrade packages for 145 F-16s in 2011, but that number was reduced due to attrition.

Taiwan is considered a renegade province by China, which had vowed to reunite the island with the mainland by force if necessary. Taiwan currently has 66 new F-16Vs on order with the United States. Taiwan’s Air Force also operates French-built Dassault Mirage 2000 and indigenous AIDC F-CK-1 fighter jets, and has in recent months been heavily engaged in intercepting and investigating Chinese military aircraft crossing into its air defense identification zone.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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