Singapore Airshow 2020: Taiwan pioneers with its F-16V programme
Taiwan has accelerated the transition programme of its F-16V Viper fleet, with nearly two dozen pilots qualified to fly this newest version of the Fighting Falcon.
The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) plans to upgrade its entire 142 F-16A/B fleet and complete the training programme in 2023. This F-16 Peace Phoenix Rising programme started in 2016.
There are not too many operational differences between the F-16 Block 20 and F-16V, so a qualified pilot just needs to finished new combat training inside the cockpit. After familiarity with the new APG-83 AESA fire-control radar and weapon system, he will be verified as an F-16V pilot.
The training programme take place at Chiayi Air Base with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, and Luke Air Force Base in the US with the 21st Fighter Squadron. Pilots train on the APG-83 radar, new flight management system and digitised cockpit. Integrated with the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), Taiwan’s F-16Vs are able to fire AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
Operational capabilities are enhanced through a Link 16 data link, Sniper targeting pod and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). All this will elevate Taiwanese F-16s into the modern era, helping to compensate for the fact that Taiwan could not obtain F-35s from the US.
The F-16V retrofit programme is conducted by the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) in Taichung. AIDC recruits retired ROCAF maintenance crews, and approximately 25-28 aircraft are expected to roll out every year.
In August 2019 the US approved an $8 billion arms sale to Taiwan for another 66 F-16C/D Block 70 fighters. This variant is equivalent to the F-16V configuration, but it has a more powerful General Electric F110 engine.
Delivery is expected to begin in 2023, and these F-16s will help build up the ROCAF’s 8th Tactical Fighter Wing on Taiwan’s east coast.
Taiwan sets an example to all F-16 users, not just in showcasing the newest variant, but also by demonstrating the possibility of modernising old fighters to obtain a modern capability.
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