Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) The goal of upgrading 22 of Taiwan’s more than 140 F-16 A/B jet fighters to F-16Vs in 2020 remains achievable, according to a recent report by Taiwan’s Air Force.
According to the report, which was submitted to the Legislative Yuan for Monday’s hearing on military modernization projects, the Air Force plan to upgrade 22 older F-16s into F-16Vs in 2020 remains on schedule.
Nineteen aircraft have been upgraded as of Dec. 4, the report said.
In 2016, the Air Force launched a program to upgrade all its F-16 A/Bs into F-16Vs, which are equipped with more advanced avionics, including the APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, Helmet Mounted Cueing System, as well as other flight management and electronic warfare systems.
Taiwan’s state-run Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) and the U.S.-based defense firm Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16, were commissioned to complete the program before 2023.
According to media reports, two older F-16s were upgraded by Lockheed Martin in the U.S., while the rest are being modified in Taiwan by AIDC with Lockheed Martin’s technical support.
In Dec. 2019, AIDC and Lockheed Martin forged a strategic partnership to set up an F-16 maintenance center in Taiwan, the main task of which is to carry out upgrades on the F-16 A/Bs.
The NT$110 billion (US$3.7 billion) facility opened in Taichung in August 2020. It will also be given the task of maintaining and repairing the 66 F-16Vs Taiwan purchased from the United States last year when the aircraft are delivered.
Meanwhile, AIDC was only able to upgrade 11 F-16A/Bs in 2019 despite a target of 16 aircraft, the report revealed.
The Air Force blamed the lag to unexpected hitches relating to the fighter jets and a lack of manpower at AIDC, according to the report.
To avoid any re-occurrence, Lockheed Martin has sent more engineers and AIDC increased its production line workforce to 700 in October, the reported added.